LETTER from Lucas Rodenburch, vice-director of Curaçao, to the directors at Amsterdam

Scanned Document:

Honorable, Wise, Prudent and very Discreet Lords.

My Lords.

Our last letters ] were sent to their honors aboard ’t Hoff van Cleeff [1] , the copy of which goes herewith; since then we have received by this ship, De Goede Hoope, out of Nieuw Nederlandt, your honors’ letter of 14 December 1652[2] which served solely to register their honors’ displeasure over the previously submitted returns because I omitted on their honors’ report the names of the soldiers being shipped out of Brazil, and that it seemed strange to their honors that we referred them to the supercargos, because ] if they had the names or had known them, and did not make them known to their honors but rather directed their honors to find it out from the supercargos, this would be a strange and insolent act of disobedience, and cause for their honors to bring charges against us. However, they were not put ashore either here or on Bonnairo, having been transported by the ships Salomon and Samson and brought to Nieuw Nederlandt, and as we have informed their honors previously by way of the honorable lord Stuyvesant, we could not send their honors the names because they were unknown to us. However, we did write to the honorable lord Stuyvesant about it in order to have them supply the names ] to their honors. The names of the four men brought here by Abrahams Offerhande, I sent to their honors aboard Het Hoff van Cleeff and send again herewith. I would have sent them aboard the same ship, but when we were in the fort, they helped the skipper load salt at St. Jan, [3] and when we arrived at St. Cruys [4] in order to send off the skipper, they had gone from St. Jan to the fort, and the skipper complained so much about the danger of the place, they dared not detain them, as your honors can see by the enclosed note from Hendrick Martensz [5] who delivered the salt to him at our salt location ], which you shall still find now with the letter written to your honors at that time; therefore, the skipper Cornelis Sijmonsen said that the Negroes have only put the salt in the wheelbarrows and that the gantry was made by his own people and his own nails, and the salt lay only 8 to 10 paces from the gantry and the gantry is only 5 Northern planks long.[6] In order to wheel the salt into the boat he had 3 Negroes and the 4 discharged persons, whether he let them work with the wheelbarrows or stand and watch, we gave them to him in order to do work; it can be that he brought 50 to 60 nails to the gantry, which we cannot deny with certainty, and it can also be that one or two men who went on ahead with the boat (in order to find the most suitable place to drop anchor) lent a hand; however, the Indians cut all the wood from the forest anyway (except for your honors’ planks which were furnished from here) and our carpenter was there to construct it. Nevertheless, the gantries of St. Jan are of little importance, being made only of 15 to 16 supports and 7 to 8 cross-beams cut in the forest nearby and 20 to 22 planks. He had his own wheelbarrows; however, when he saw the honorable Company’s wheel-barrows, of which 2 or probably 3 of his could be used, he did not want to use his own, having let them out to the Jews. Some skippers here think that having just a salt permit from their honors allows them everything, and when they return to the fatherland and see the contrary, they do not know what they are supposed to bring in; and that is then our thanks, that these brutes then stick together and help expedite one another as much as possible; however, we shall have them come to us at the fort the next time in order to obtain their leave.

Our brother’s bond which was executed for the owners of the ship St. Niclaes, we find among those which we still have here, clearly specified under the year 1652; if it is not with the first ones then it must not have been copied, which can still be seen in the receipt signed by the skipper for the cargo of 40 lasts of salt and 20 horses (sent therewith to their honors). Why the closing balance is reflected in the bond, in place of the origin of debt, is because something was delivered on it here and we ordered it to be paid; why our brother pledged himself, next to the signature of the skipper, for the payment is because the other owners pledge themselves to us, by their letters, for the payment, but no more than each his share; they are certainly sufficient but we would rather look for one than four; and because the payment in sugar is not as highly regarded as a good bill of exchange at the Barbados, about which we have instructed our brother and ordered him to let none of the others do anything until they had a firm security of payment for their honors. We certainly wished that nothing had come here, not because their honors’ loss for his 1/4 share would accrue to us if it were not paid but because of the presumption that we had allowed it to come here (or with our knowledge), which I shall be able sufficiently to prove otherwise if the need arises; and I knew nothing more than that it was in the service of Mr. Gabry before his letters were received in Nieuw Nederlandt aboard De Waterhont.

I have sent their honors the account aboard Het Hof van Cleeff, and it is accompanied again by a receipt signed by the skipper and a letter and a copy of the others written by the owners, the one original containing mostly whether their honors were dissatisfied about being of service to us about it if the occasion arose to require the same. The owners were then at the Barbados; however, they had most of their resources at Hamborgh (with the exception of Marcus Munnick). Also being sent to their honors is a letter to our oldest brother with a power of attorney to demand the money if their honors were not satisfied. May their honors be pleased to include one of the letters with them; however, we fervently hope and trust that it has already been paid.

While checking the receipts here, I found three from the ships Goudeman, De Stapel and Roode Leeuw, which were set up just as their honors write, with the directors also mentioned therein, which afterwards their honors wrote about in such detail that it seemed to their honors to have been done with premeditation and indicated to them that we intended to ascribe a certain co-trusteeship of the land to ourselves. This we never considered much less intended nor contested the honorable Company’s rights, other than to receive what belonged to their honors, or that it did not rightfully belong to the Company. It has never been our custom to mention our name in the receipts signed here by the skippers; however it was done in those receipts executed at Bonnaire when we were not there ourselves if we had any goods left over which were needed here. The reason that it was done in this manner we believe happened because the ships only came here with their half loads earlier than we were expecting the same and at first requested their departure, being five of them demanding ] the attention of the secretary just when he had so much work with business between us and the patroon’s colonists and other documents for us as well as for the Jews; in addition to completing an extensive power of attorney, he let the receipts be copied by a supercargo after they were brought over from Bonnaire, apparently without comparing them any more than checking the totals or without noticing that the names of the directors were also mentioned therein. They were then referred to the secretary for signature without once having been read over again by us, which occurred more than when we reckoned it with the skippers; and whenever the receipts were read, seldom were they read further than the totals. The more advanced style, which we ought to have, is sufficiently known from the outside, and it is also well-known to the secretary, having served in these places 11 to 12 years. That the same has come about because of this mistake, your honors can easily judge from the receipts themselves because those people have executed on Bonnaire what the skippers have signed here; and they are dated 27 and 29 May which ought to be 12 June, and that only two identical receipts ] were drawn up; therefore, we still do not know whether they have already sent two of each to their honors. Herewith go the third copies so that they can be compared with those already sent to their honors, from which their honors can judge that it was not done on purpose, and we shall be more careful here about it in the future.

Concerning the horses delivered to Jan Dyllan,[7]we see here a slow process for payment, because we can hardly take something where there is nothing. If I had known that his company had sufficient means in the fatherland and that their honors would not attach the goods sent home with Mr. Joris, I would have held the same here as security. We owe him about 2500 to 3000 guilders for flour and clothing given out to the Company’s servants, which we shall hold back, and seek the remainder when the opportunity arises. We cannot conceive anything special to be accomplished here other than the exhaustion of the Company’s servants who mostly would have to serve them if only they had goods to sell ]; selling old curtains and other old scraps of cloth for three times higher than they would now cost in the fatherland. The patroon recently asked us to pay on the account of the Captain of the Indians 150 rixdaalders which they had extended to him in goods. When we investigated what had been received, its equivalent value in the fatherland was estimated to be 29 guilders, 19 stivers by the officers and two newly arrived skippers. I had intended to relate more of such dealings but they are mostly the same. His term of 4 years shall soon expire by which he must have 50 settlers or be deprived of all his privileges. He now has no more than 10 to 12 settlers for his colony who would gladly be discharged by him to farm for the honorable Company outside the colony; however, I have not wanted to take them on before receiving orders from their honors thereon.

That their honors have been informed that supposedly so many horses have been exported from Aruba to the islands and that we have sold some of them, is certain, as their honors can see by the accompanying account; however, that there are supposedly no more left there than nags and plugs, is untrue, unless all of those bred there are to be named nags and mongrels. So far we have lacked none for Nieuw Nederlandt, and assure their honors, if the island is not taken over by others, that we shall be able to accommodate any ships that go there for horses, and more than shall be desired by Nieuw Nederlandt; and that if their honors remain by their resolution, they shall find in the period of 3 to 4 years that nothing more has come of the horses sold by us than the net profit of the hides’ value, which I would easily be able to show if it were necessary; however, it shall certainly demonstrate itself. We have no other concern than what their honors desire to have done in the matter. We have only to follow their honors order which we shall in any case obey, and henceforth neither sell nor transport any more except to Nieuw Nederlandt, as desired. If we had had the order earlier, we would have observed it earlier.

The desired lists of the Company’s servants, Negroes and Indians have been sent to their honors with this, together with the inventory of what little there is left here in the country. Their honors can easily judge what is needed here. We have no doubts that everything shall be put into good order and it depends on their honors what they desire to send, without making work for their honors with lists or otherwise. This shall serve as a response to their honors’ letter of 14 December and what follows shall communicate the further state of this government.

Concerning this island: it is in a reasonably good state, except for the lack of goods, ammunition and soldiers; and the fort, which resembles a rockpile, has collapsed in many places because it was laid up of loose stones in clay below and without clay above; and the clay below has been washed out by an incessant rain which has fallen these two years. In many places the upper works have collapsed, with the gabions and all the beams and planks of the batteries rotted away so that the wheels of the gun-carriages have fallen through, making almost all the cannon unserviceable. The carriages are also in such poor condition that they cannot be repaired for lack of materials, such as planks and spikes; as a result the houses and magazines also cannot be maintained and shall shortly fall into total ruin if they are not taken care of. Together with the concerns over the walls of the fort, I have deliberated on whether I should put the Negroes up there on the pile; because we have so few soldiers and so little gunpowder, we could not defend it if we were visited by any enemy, and therefore I thought it to be all the same whether it lay in ruins or was rebuilt. However, because we already have a shipload of dyewood on hand, we have turned our attention to the fort and hope to have a considerable amount of lime before the coming of the rainy season; therefore we think that the builders could have done it just as easily this way as in clay, if a Negro, who could lay such stones as the fort was laid up with, had not run away from here to the mainland with a canoe, we believe we would have little trouble, or if the fort had received a coat of lime one foot thick this year, it would not keep collapsing, which now causes us much work every year.

I have had no news from the island of Bonnairo since last September; last year there was no salt from the pans, as well as nothing else of importance, and I fear that there shall be none this year or hereafter until it is cleaned and the earth, which was washed into the pan when the sea broke in, has been removed, if it has not been completely ruined by the torrential rains and sea water which washed into the pan with such force that its passage caused a leak therein. No proper investigation can be made of it, because we have no vessel with which we can get there; nor can we help or assist the poor men standing guard there (who were almost running around naked); likewise with those on Aruba, from whom we have heard nothing in 17 months, nor do we know its condition. The commander informed us at that time that he had just had the Indians make a general hunt and had rounded up 600 mares and about 300 horses, stallions as well as geldings, from which he would be able sufficiently to supply Nieuw Nederlandt, if the island has not been invaded by others and the horses taken away. We cannot say that it already has not happened; during one week towards the end of August we saw three ships from below sailing near to the wind, two to the south and one to the north of us here. From this your honors can easily determine what a detriment the lack of a proper vessel is. Year after year the honorable lord Stuyvesant has given us hope and promises for one: first to have one made for us, and then to buy one; however, nothing ever came of it. If he was unable to accomplish anything before, I believe much less can be done at this time. Therefore, when a certain Claes Jansen den Engel passed through here from Guinea last September 18th, we bought from him for the sum of 1500 guilders a yacht of about 40 tons which he had seized from the Portuguese. It is to be deducted by your honors from his recognition duties. We hope that your honors are not ill disposed to it (but consider it well done), because it was urgently needed here, not only with which to visit Bonnairo and Aruba, but I also had hopes to fetch planks with it from the stranded fluyt at Bonnairo and from ’t Wapen van N. Nederlant, as well as some at Cleyn Curaçao, in order to repair the batteries.

However, just after we had bought the yacht, the ship De Goede Hoope came over from Nieuw Nederlandt by which the lord Stuyvesant so earnestly requested salt from us that we could not disregard sending the yacht with about 10 lasten of salt, which departed the 24th of October. We had hoped that it would be returned to us before winter; however, we have still heard nothing. If it has arrived there with the salt, it shall have realized what it has cost; we understand that salt can be sold there for almost 8 guilders a skipple.

Thanks to God we are well provided with those provisions which this land yields until that time when more can be harvested from the earth. May the Lord God just continue to grant us such a rainy season as we have now had for two years, both for farming and the raising of livestock. We herewith send your honors all the books and papers up to this year ‘54, except for the books of provisions, personnel and equipment, for which we are sending inventories of them. We would have sent more, but we have no paper for it. The paper for the books which we are now sending, had to be taken from the backs of old books. If your honors do not receive these, we shall not be able to copy them again until we are furnished with paper.

In the list of the garrison book, Borgert Stammen is entered as lieutenant and Gerrit Doeman as ensign whom your honors, I trust, shall judge to be lost expenses because it was not necessary to have a lieutenant and ensign for this small garrison. We had to do this because the person of Borgert Stammer had served the Company here, that is to say, in the position of cornet of the horsemen for six years and we had to compensate him for that. Therefore, when the ensign, Pieter Hendricksen, departed, he was the next in line for ensign; however, I could not put him in the fort because he could not be spared in the countryside. I had no one who was fit to command the Negroes and Indians and to keep them well in hand; also no one who had any knowledge of the saltpans or how to manage the cutting of dyewood. When we were in Nieu Nederlandt[8] (where Sergeant Denman’s wife also was and petitioned for an ensignship for her husband) we spoke with the lord Stuivesan ]t about the matter, who approved of giving the cornet the title of lieutenant at 40 guilders per month, and the sergeant the title of ensign at 30 guilders per month, which we have done; however, they have been left open in the garrison book because they adamantly insist on the full salary. This is not completely beyond reason, especially for Borgert Stammer who must continually be on horseback either with the Indians or with the Negroes, whereby an unbelievable amount of clothes are worn out, especially while cutting dyewood; and the ensign must always take care of the watchword and similar duties. He is a man of 66 to 68 years old and has previously served the fatherland as lieutenant. Nevertheless, I cannot involve myself in it any further and leave it to your honors’ discretion.

By the bearer of this, Jochem Jansen skipper of the lost ship ‘t Wijnvat, is going a package for your honors in which there are some specimens which the Indians consider to be minerals, on the advice of a Spaniard who found them before our time. Whereas the colonists’ patroon, Jan Dyllan, has also become involved in it through the cunning of some of our Indians, we hereby send your honors a sample thereof in order to determine what should be done with it. We have not dared to open the mine further (if there is one) and shall do nothing until further orders from your honors. Otherwise we have nothing more to relate at this time.

Honorable, wise, prudent and very discreet lords, after cordial greetings and wishes for God’s blessing in all their undertakings and for a prosperous government, we commend your honors to His protection, and meanwhile remain,

Done 2 April 1654
in Fort Amsterdam
in Curaçao.

Your honors’ humble, obedient
and devoted servant,

L. Rodenburch

Obverse: ]No. 4


According to a 18 May 1654 letter from the West India Company directors to Petrus Stuyvesant (see 12:265, translated in NYCD, 14:263) the ship, ‘t Hof van Cleefwas captured by the English during the 1652-1654 Anglo-Dutch war.
This letter has not survived.
Small shallow bay on the northwest coast of Curaçao.
A bay northwest of St. Jan
This note has not survived. The underlining was probably done in Amsterdam.
Probably a Norwegian deel, measuring eight feet long by one foot wide.
Jan de Yllan, the Jewish patroon.

Lucas Rodenburgh was in New Amsterdam in 1651. See 3:96b (translated in NYHM, 3:309) a contract of sale signed by Rodenburgh at New Amsterdam on 23 September 1651.


Translation: Gehring, C., trans./ed., Curaçao Papers, 1640-1665 (New Netherland Research Center and the New Netherland Institute: 2011).A complete copy of this publication is available on the New Netherland Institute website.