LETTER from Matthias Beck, vice-director of Curaçao to Petrus Stuyvesant

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Noble, Honorable, Wise,

Prudent and very Discreet Lord. My Lord. My last letter was sent to your honor on the 24th of December aboard the fluyt De Liefde by way of Amsterdam, together with and under cover of letters to the lords-superiors, which letter I hope has been duly received before the receipt of this one. By failure thereof I am sending a copy of it to which I shall refer.[1] Besides the aforesaid fluyt De Liefde, which went first from here to Aruba on the 26th of December, I also sent the Company’s bark to that place with instructions to load as much of the dyewood, which the Indians have cut there, aboard the aforesaid fluyt as quickly as possible, and so that the trip is productive for the bark to negotiate there at once for some sheep and goats, on the Company’s account, in trade for some parcels of goods. In order that everything is carried out quickly and efficiently, I also sent there, besides the skipper Willem Pietersz Smitje, the cornet Balthasar van Essen, who did not return here with the empty bark until the 2nd of February, because after their departure from here the wind and current changed to such an extent that although they did their best two times to come up here by way of the nearest passage along the mainland with the aforesaid bark and cargo of animals, consisting of 94 sheep and 29 goats which were acquired in trade there, they were nevertheless forced by strong contrary currents and wind to return to the island of Aruba; and with 20 sheep and one goat already having died, and for lack of water barrels and for fear of a long trip, they unloaded the aforesaid animals and left them under the supervision and care of the commander and Indians there. They then set sail from Aruba with the empty bark on the 18th of January, and arrived here on the 2nd of February, as already stated, by the back way around past Spanijola.[2] They reported that on the 28th of December the dyewood, which was cut on Aruba by the Indians and amounted to no more than 23,100 pounds, was loaded aboard the fluyt, De Liefde, for which one receipt was sent to the honorable lords-superiors under an enclosed cover aboard the aforesaid fluyt with Skipper Anne Douwesz and the other two, also signed by the aforesaid skipper, were delivered to me. After the aforesaid fluyt De Liefde took on some water and firewood, it set sail from there on the 2nd of January. May God grant that it has reached the lords-superiors in Amsterdam to their honors’ satisfaction with good success and without misfortune.

After I was able to have the aforesaid Company’s bark reprovisioned here, it was necessary for me to have it go out another time to the Cariby islands,[3] because, contrary to all hope, the crops planted here on the island were not able to develop and ripen on account of the drought which has continued since my last letter; therefore, the freemen in the countryside for the most part will not have enough produce to sustain themselves, to say nothing about whether the garrison will derive any benefit therefrom. The Company’s and the Negroes’ gardens are so dried up that there will not be enough seed produced in order to replant in the coming season; and as a result it has been necessary for me to give the Company’s Negroes sustenance, besides some freemen who have nothing, in order to prevent any further losses from the stealing and slaughtering of the Company’s horses and cows. In addition, it has been very difficult with the loss of our blacksmith, as related in my last letter. We were hoping somewhat, pursuant to your honor’s last letter received with the fluyt De Uefde that the ship Den Dolphijn would arrive timely with some provisions; however, we have as yet heard nothing of it. Therefore, and for reasons stated above we dare no longer delay sending the Company’s bark to the islands, in hope that in trade for sheep and goats, which will be picked up while passing the island of Aruba, it shall bring some return, at least some bread and pottage, which will be of assistance to us until we can be assisted either by your honor from N. Nederlandt or by our honorable lords-superiors from Holland.

Upon reaching this point in the letter, a ship from the Barbados named Constant Anna arrived here on the 18th of February on behalf of some Jewish merchants who reside there on the Barbados, claiming to be destined for Jamaycka, unless the aforesaid ship’s cargo can be traded here upon passing by this place. The skipper of the aforesaid ship is an Englishman named Ritchert Lhomle and the merchant is a Jew named Isaeck da Fonseco, bringing letters of introduction and recommendation from Mr. Marcus Monnincx, Henrico de Castro, Simon Devale and even one from the lord governor of the Barbados. It is therein mentioned that if the favor is extended to the bearers, the same will be done under similar circumstances, and because Mr. Marcus Monnincx informs me that your honor is acquainted with a certain Captain Mannincx, Englishman, who has an interest in the ship and cargo together with the aforesaid Jews. For as much as I have been able to understand from the letters, it is my opinion that the ship was more destined to come here to trade than to go to Jamaycka. Although it would have departed from here without doing any business, nevertheless, in consideration of the grave condition of the Company’s magazine here and because we have no certainty when any provisions for our relief might reach us from N. Nederlandt or Holland, and in consideration of the judgments which your honor can see by the appended extract and copy from our minutes here, I have, for the Company’s account on behalf of the garrison here, negotiated with them for over 4000 pounds of unbolted meal, one large barrel of hard bread and around five to six hundred guilders worth of parcels of goods; in addition to one pipe of brandy and six barrels of beer, amounting together to over three thousand guilders. In payment for which I have delivered fourteen horses which can easily be spared here, at 150 Carolus guilders according to the Company’s valuation, and the remainder in dyewood at ten guilders per hundred pounds, being wood cut here by a Jew on the Company’s account for the value established by your honor there at thirty stivers per hundred pounds. However, the wood is so poor that I would not dare send it to your honor in Nieuw Nederlandt or to the lords-superiors in the fatherland, as one is familiar with here. Nevertheless, whereas the aforesaid merchants wanted to buy it, and especially whereas it was cut by a Jew as previously stated, I made an agreement with them at the aforesaid price. It is in my opinion better to use it beneficially on the aforesaid occasion and for the maximum profit of the Company than to send it to the fatherland with a loss on the Company’s account.

On the 11th of this month I dispatched the Company’s bark to Aruba in order to pick up sheep on the way and to take them on to Martenicque with the purpose, if it is possible, of acquiring a blacksmith there, which we urgently need here, and at the same time to make the best deal in trading the sheep there for provisions; bringing back in return for them chiefly pottage, which we no longer have in supply here, and if the aforesaid ship had not arrived we would also have soon been out of bread. Otherwise everything goes well here, praise God. Your honor’s livestock is increasing well under the supervision of brother Wilhelm Beck and Nicolaes Hack; however, this year will cause more loss than gain with the cultivation. Three to four Jews have petitioned to leave the island; because they are more of a liability than an asset in the countryside, I have granted their request. And whereas the ship which will carry this is ready to depart, I shall herewith close until the next one from here, God willing, reports further news. In the meantime, honorable, valiant, wise, prudent and very discreet lord, I commend your honor, after our most obedient respects together with all who are so dear to your honor, to the merciful protection of the Almighty and remain,

My lord,
Your honor’s obedient and devoted servant,

M. Beck

Curaçao in Fort Amsterdam, 21 March 1656.


See 17:23 for a copy of this letter.
i.e., Hispaniola.
i.e., the Caribbean Islands.


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.