INSTRUCTIONS given by Petrus Stuyvesant to Matthias Beck, vice-director of Curaçao

Scanned Document:

Copy of the instructions left on the island of Curaçao.[1]

Instructions given by the honorable lord Petrus Stuyvesandt, director-general over N. Nederlandt and the islands of Curaçao, Bonnairo and Aruba, for the honorable lord Matthis Beck, vice-director over the aforesaid islands, by which his honor and the adjoined council are to regulate themselves.

The aforesaid lord vice-director shall have and hold the supreme authority and command over the aforesaid islands of Curaçao, Bonnairo, Aruba as well as the present vessel and those ships or yachts which might be sent to him from time to time, over all military, naval and civilian personnel, of whatever capacity they might be, as well as over the freemen, natives and bonded blacks, and have the prominent seat and vote at all meetings.


These meetings shall be convened and conducted only by order of the vice-director, where he shall make all proposals concerning civil matters, justice, trade, war, and the rights and privileges of the Company, to be decided by a majority of votes; and in case of a tie, he shall have a double vote.


The council shall consist of the aforesaid lord vice-director, the lieutenant, commissary and ensign, if the matters are considered purely military or concern the Company and its officers; if they are considered civil or involve freemen or are between freemen, the honorable Company and its officers then, in place of the commissary and ensign, he may adjoin to himself and the lieutenant two of the most sincere and capable freemen. Furthermore, the aforesaid lord vice-director shall be allowed to adjoin thereto the most capable and qualified officers or persons as the circumstances of the cases and the service of the Company shall require, for better and more exact accountability.


If any offences are committed, the lord vice-director shall then, whether it be considered strictly military or a mixed case, convene the council according to the circumstances of the case and form it to the number of five persons, who shall judge and adjudicate the matter, and move the indictment, made by the examiner, or whoever fills the office, against the offender.


And so that the opportunity does not allow that the criminals might come to forfeit their life and limb by sending them the long distances from there to N. Nederlandt or elsewhere in our territory, and also because criminals are usually punished as an example to others where they committed the crime; therefore, the aforesaid vice-director and council is hereby authorized to mete out corporal punishment here according to the merits and exigencies of the case.


In these meetings Aernouet Verellen, as secretary, shall make note of all cases, propositions, resolutions, complaints, defaults, arrests with the reasons thereof; also, precisely to note, record and register all judgments, sentences and decisions; and, in addition, to keep an accurate journal and daybook of everything which occurs on land and sea, what ships arrive here, what they bring, pick up and transact; just as he also shall record, confirm and register the last wills and testaments of the soldiers and all others, private as well as public documents, contracts and all other papers; and to send over to us by every ship, at every opportunity, copies of all resolutions, journals and other registers of the honorable lord vice-director and signed by himself.


The aforesaid Verellen, as examiner, shall also obtain reliable and pertinent information and written declarations of all misdeeds, whether criminal, civil, military or maritime according to his best ability; and pursuant to the regulations and Company’s orders request and demand justice according to his ability and knowledge therein without any respect of persons, favor or private friendship, and then to await thereof the further judgment and sentence of the honorable lord vice-director.


If some diversity of votes should occur among the aforesaid councilors, the minority shall follow the majority in all ways without any disputation, and outside the meeting neither reveal nor make known that they there have been different opinions; however, they shall be allowed to record or have recorded immediately in the book of resolutions their opinion or decision.


The commissary of provisions, stores and goods shall also keep an accurate book and register of all the Company’s materials, trade goods, importations and effects here; also clear the accounts of those land and sea personnel who die and record the inventory and sale of the personal effects left behind, as well as to record it in the book of copies of wills, which the secretary shall make accessible to him, and to send copies thereof over to us at least once a year which are signed by him and the director.


In the fortification, where the vice-director resides, the keys to the fort and the magazine shall be entrusted to his care; he alone shall give out the watchword and have all general and special authority, power and command. And the lesser officers shall look to no one else but the vice-director for orders, and accordingly the captain-lieutenant, who commands the soldiers on campaigns and guard duty, drills and exercises them at arms, shall be commanded by the vice-director for the service of the Company.


The proclamations and ordinances previously established that no one shall be allowed to destroy, despoil or rob any gardens, fruit trees and whatever pertains thereto; kill or take possession of any wild or domestic animals, whatever kind or quality they may be, without the honorable director’s express order and permission; that no one shall be allowed to use or ride any horses except for the senior officers and those who are so allowed for the service of the Company or the protection of the island; and in addition, in no way shall any Negroes or Negresses be allowed any worn out horses except for necessary services and the hauling of provisions or other produce; that no one shall be insolent or fraudulent with the natives of the island or otherwise in their persons, wives or goods, or treat the women or female blacks dishonestly, much less have unchristianlike intercourse with them. These and similar ordinances and regulations previously published, the aforesaid director and council are to maintain in strict observance.[2]


Also, he shall not allow that the senior or junior officers, whether free or in service who fall under his command and ordinarily reside in the fort, remain outside of it at night without his special consent and order; also, on the other hand not to allow those ordered to remain outside to stay overnight within the fort, or to let the forts be frequented too much by foreigners.


He is particularly to observe the above-written upon the arrival of foreign ships in alliance with us such as the English, French and those of the Hanseatic League; although they are to be viewed and treated cautiously as allies, they are upon first arrival to be instructed to let only a reasonable number come ashore, unarmed and no more than three, four or five persons in the fort at one time.


Also, he may provide them with some excess refreshments and necessaries in return for their money, provided that he keep a separate account thereof and in the meantime always beware that he does not deprive himself of too much, but that the soldiers and the Company’s ships, which might put in there, be taken care of first.


He is always to accommodate the Company’s ships first and speedily, and not allow them to remain there any longer than necessary, but rather urge and exhort them to execute their instructions and perform their service.


The vice-director is instructed in particular to keep all the persons and servants, already in his employ and to be employed hereafter, in good order and discipline, and to hold them to their duty; and to obey and follow the written regulations and our other orders, instructions and regulations. Therefore, no persons, regardless of their positions, shall be allowed to transfer, depart, come or go without the previous knowledge and special order of the aforesaid vice-director; but rather they shall remain obligated to let themselves be employed, dispatched and used wherever the service of the Company and the order of the director demands them.


He shall not treat the natives of the island severely as slaves or in an unchristianlike manner, but through appropriate persuasion and promises encourage them to perform service, particularly in cutting dyewood, transporting bundles of branches for renovating the gabions whenever possible, in driving the horses, maintaining and cleaning the wells, and other ordinary services conformable to what they have been accustomed to do.


By means of a vigilant and honest person already employed thereto or yet to be employed, he shall induce the bonded blacks, without severe or unchristianlike treatment, to perform such services from which the Company shall be able to draw the most benefit; in particular, by continually cutting dyewood or improving salt production whenever possible, whether here or on Bonnairo, wherever the most can be accomplished according to the condition of the magazines and seasonal circumstances; always keeping, if possible, a good supply of dyewood and 2 to 3 shiploads of salt on hand and ready for the arrival of provision ships, whether from the fatherland or Nieuw Nederlandt.


Any turtle catchers, also those who ship manatee or sea cow meat, ought to be charged no less than 5 to 6 pounds Flemish for a last of salt, as well as those who intend to ship it to N. Nederlandt or the Virginies; however, those who promise to bring it to the fatherland in large quantities can be treated according to the regulations and instructions as follow:

Any licensed ships from the fatherland or elsewhere, coming for a whole cargo, have to pay for it until further orders from the Company: two rixdaelders per last, only if the skippers take the salt from the pans with their own people and equipment and then transport it to the ship from their own pile; however, if they take just as much from the pile or piles produced by the Company’s officers or negroes, then it is f 10 per last. However, it should be noted that no private traders are to be granted salt from the pile as long as there is suitable salt to be produced in the pans.

Private skippers and licensed traders may load salt with their own equipment and their own people and materials by just paying the aforesaid recognition duty on the condition that all the equipment and materials be left for the benefit of the Company and the promotion of the salt production; however, if the loading is done with the honorable Company’s equipment and with the Company’s materials and wheelbarrows, one must pay:

one ship of 50 to 100 last f150 }

one ditto of 100 to 150 f200 }

} for equipment tax

one ditto of 150 to 200 f250 }

one ditto of over 200 last ƒ300 }

For the use of each wheelbarrow, four guilders, and if the same are broken, six guilders; for the use of a Company black, one rixdaelder per day at the skipper’s expense.


So that our reformed religion and the knowledge of the trinity and the true God is more revered, esteemed and regarded by the blind Indians[3] and so that the edifying and necessary work of instructing and teaching the children our language as well as religion may be better promoted, he is strongly advised to urge the parents to maintain their children with the schoolmaster thereto ordained.


Whereas everything is fruitless and useless without fear of the Lord and His divine blessing, the director is instructed to hold Him in the highest esteem and for all those under his command, and to promote the declaration of God’s word on Sundays among Christians and heathens by the reading aloud of a public sermon and on other days by usual prayers, taking care that he and those under his command attend and participate in the same.


The honorable lord director with the advice of the council may reduce and increase the ration according to the state of the magazines and seasonal circumstances.


For the increased promotion of agriculture, his honor may assign as much land to the old Company servants, as well as to the freemen already arrived or still to come, as these petitioners are capable of improving and cultivating whether it be to own or rent, according to their own capacity or the number of their servants; also he may increase and enlarge these assigned farms according to the industriousness of the people, as well as reduce the size of those showing neglect after the second or third warning, thereby benefitting those who show more industriousness. These assigned farms shall be granted and awarded in equitable and true ownership according to such exemptions and privileges enjoyed by the private colonists and inhabitants of N. Nederlandt; whereupon each shall be issued at the proper time a patent and title of ownership in proper form, conformable to the patents and titles of ownership used in N. Nederlandt, of which examples will be sent to the vice-director at the first opportunity.


His honor may also, for the promotion of breeding and advancement of the country, furnish Company’s livestock to the private colonists and freemen, who so request, or buy on the Company’s account from the natives 4, 5, 6, goats, more or less, in order to lease them out to private persons for half the increase; also, upon request, for the third or fourth calf, such as his honor shall deem best for the Company and the continual advancement of the country.


The remaining or excess cattle and goats of the Company, his honor can distribute into various corrals or enclosures among two, three or more herdsmen or overseers according to the amount of animals, and to move them according to the season, such as his honor shall find periodically necessary; taking care, as much as possible, that always the majority of the animals be brought into common corrals in order to prevent thereby that on the one hand they grow wild and on the other they be destroyed or stolen by malevolent persons.


Concerning the horses, the increase of which, until further orders, are to be reserved for the Company, which is to be promoted as much as possible, his honor is to take care most attentively therein that horses are neither used by private parties nor ridden unless specifically required for the service of the country or Company, then only with his honor’s previous awareness and definite knowledge. However, in case one of the free colonists should have need of one, two or more horses, then his honor shall be allowed to sell and convey the same to such people upon payment from the fruits and products of the country which the buyers produce. Such horses may also be sold and conveyed again by the buyers upon departure or other circumstances to other colonists, except that the horses may be neither transported nor exported to any of the other islands or other places outside the government of N. Nederlandt, unless by special order and consent of the honorable Company.


Whereas the horses are more secure and useful for the Company here on this island than on Aruba, because, in addition to the danger of rattlesnake bites, there is a tendency for less water there than here, it would be of service to excuse the selling and exporting of horses from this island as much as the extreme necessity, which suspends all orders, can bear; therefore, his honor is advised, if the opportunity arises, to trade horses for Negroes who are urgently needed here and in N. Nederlandt for the promotion of agriculture, or for needed provisions for the maintenance of the garrison; and so that on such occasions the horses be delivered from Aruba, his honor is also to remember to transport with every opportunity as many horses, particularly mares, from Aruba to here[4] as he can obtain proper vessels for in order to carry out the same.


Whereas it has been reported that the natives of Aruba have a good quantity of small animals and trade them for a civil price, namely, one goat or buck for one crown or rixdaelder; therefore, his honor is advised, whenever possible, to dispatch there a sloop or yacht with some linen in order to trade for some animals from the Indians, so that the young stock and cows can thus be preserved as much as possible.

Finally, all further matters, which may confront his honor and are not covered in these instructions, are commended to his honor’s wisdom and discretion, trusting that he shall nevertheless be mindful of the service of the country and Company.

This done and concluded in Fort Amsterdam on the island of Curaçao 8 June 1655.[5]


Endorsement on cover.
See 17:1 and 17:2d.
i.e. New Netherland.
Blind in the figurative sense to the Reformed religion.
Instructions drawn up by Petrus Stuyvesant on his last trip to Curaçao since returning to the Netherlands in 1644.


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.