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This webpage reproduces an article in the
American Historical Review
Vol. 6 No. 1 (Oct. 1900), pp1‑18

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!

p1 The English and Dutch Towns of New Netherland

In the small trading stations which the Dutch established at Fort Orange and on Manhattan Island it would be useless to look for political conditions. The houses were purely commercial stations occupied during the summer's trading season and deserted in the winter. It was only by an accident to their vessel that a few sailors were compelled to stay on Manhattan Island during the winter of 1613‑1614, but from that time the country was never entirely deserted. The company of traders who received a charter under the name of the New Netherland Company obtained exclusive commercial privileges, but no governmental powers. Quite different, however, was the charter of 1621 to the West India Company. This elaborate patent granted political as well as commercial privileges, and had in view the permanent settlement of the country.

The charter gave to the Company the exclusive right to trade upon the west coast of Africa, the entire coast of America from the Straits of Magellan to the extreme north, and all places situated between Africa and America. Within these bounds the Company was to have almost sovereign powers; it could make alliances with princes and natives; it might build forts; it could appoint and discharge civil and military and other public officers "for the preservation of the places, keeping good order, police and justice, and in like manner for the promoting of trade;" and it could "advance the peopling of fruitful and unsettled parts." The stock of the Company was apportioned among the provinces of the Netherlands and its affairs were to be directed by a representative Council of Nineteen. The States General retained some control over the Company and its colonies by commissioning the governors, and approving their instructions, and by requiring reports from time to time.

p2 Naturally the government established by such a trading company was one which served the ends of immediate commercial necessity, while the ultimate benefit to be derived from increased population and permanent settlement was lost from sight. In 1624, Peter Minuit, the first Director under the Company, arrived, and called together his council of five persons, which, with himself, was to have supreme executive, legislative and judicial powers.1 For several years Company offered few inducements to emigrants and as a consequence the colony grew slowly in numbers, although its trade prospered. In 1629 a step was taken by the publication of thirty-one articles of "Freedoms and Exemptions granted by the Assembly of the XIX of the Privileged West India Company, to all such as shall plant any colonies in New Netherland."2

The familiar provisions of these "patroon" concessions need no analysis here, but reference may be made to some of the minor articles concerning individual colonies, which interest us, in the study of the origins of popular government, much more deeply than the elaborate feudal provisions of the patroon system. The articles, in addition to granting to patroons extensive commercial and political privileges, also provided that individual settlers might take up as much land as "they shall be able properly to improve," giving them also the right of fishing and hunting near their settlements, and promising them the protection of the Company against internal and external disturbances. Further, the colonies lying along each river, or on each island, were to appoint deputies to give information of the condition of their colonies to the Commander and Council. These reports were to be made annually and the deputies were to be newly appointed every two years.3 Thus imbedded in the mass of feudalism of the patroon concessions were two elements which in course of time might have overthrown both the patroon system and the arbitrary government of the Company — the encouragement of the small independent landowners, and the development of representative government. But neither of these results followed immediately. A few of the directors of the West India Company hoped to use the patroon concessions in building up their private fortunes, and establishing for themselves princely estates upon the Company's lands. Thus for a time little encouragement was given to individual settlers.

For nine years the Company continued its narrow policy, and the growth of the colony was retarded by the feudal patroon governments p3and by the Company's trade monopoly.4 Information of the feeble state of the settlement was brought to the States General, who, on April 26, 1638, directed the Assembly of the XIX of the West India Company to take effectual steps in the settlement of their colony by inviting all good inhabitants of the Netherlands by suitable inducements to populate those parts.5 This action upon the part of the States General had a most beneficial effect upon the future policy of the Company and the welfare of their colony. In the following September trade with the colony was thrown open to all inhabitants of the Netherlands and their allies. Each settler was promised as much land as he and his family could cultivate,6 while the new freedom of trade made it possible for him to stock his farm and secure supplies from Europe. In these orders, however, there was no provision for local popular government, for all political power, except upon the patroon estates, still remained in the hands of the Company's officials.

The first step toward local self-government came shortly after the orders of 1618. In 1640 the patroon concessions of 1629 were materially modified by a curtailment of the powers and the territory of the patroons, by the addition of inducements to smaller colonists, and by the promise of local political privileges.7 The provisions respecting town government were based upon the customs of Holland, where the form prevailed of nominating a double or triple number of candidates for the village offices, from which the local lord or authority selected a single number to fill the positions. The new provision reads;

"And should it happen that the dwelling-places of private colonists become so numerous as to be accounted towns, villages or cities, the Company shall give orders respecting the subaltern government, magistrates, and ministers of justice, who shall be nominated by the said towns and villages in a triple number of the best qualified, from which a choice and selection is to be made by the Governor and Council; and those shall determine all questions and suits within their district."

This order was subsequently modified so that

"the qualified persons of such cities, villages, and hamlets shall, in such case, be authorized to nominate for the office of magistrates a double number of persons, wherefrom a selection shall seasonably be made by the Director and Council. . . . And justice shall be administered therein according to the style and order of the province of Holland, and the p4cities and manors thereof, to which end the courts there shall follow, as far as the same is possible, the ordinances received here in Amsterdam."8

The order of 1640 marks a decided change in the policy of the Company. For the future, instead of encouraging the establishment of there estates, the officers of the Company were directed to further the growth of towns and villages composed of independent settlers. The old concentration of all governmental authority in the Director and Council at New Amsterdam was abolished, and in its place was put the Dutch system of local government. Almost at the same time, owing to difficulties with the Indians, the Director was compelled to have recourse to a representative political system. Thus from this time, the political history of New Netherland shows two tendencies, one leading to the extension of local governmental privileges and the other to a system whereby the localities might be represented in the central conduct of affairs. For the present it is our purpose to trace the course of the first tendency, leading to development of town institutions.

Within the jurisdiction of the New Amsterdam authorities there arose two forms of town government. One was based upon the customs of the Netherlands and developed in the towns settled by the Dutch, while the other was brought into the Dutch territory from New England by English settlers. In one the aristocratic institutions, the local customs and the political lethargy of Holland were reproduced. In the other the democratic spirit of the New England town was dominant. The reason for this division of local government into two forms will become more apparent as we glance at the political practice of the Dutch and the English towns under the New Netherland jurisdiction.

Considering first the Dutch towns, it is interesting to notice the manner of their settlement. Almost all the early land-grants of the West India Company were made to single individuals.9 There was little preconcerted immigration to the colony by organized bodies of settlers, except to the patroon estates. The settlers rarely had agreements and understandings with one another before settling, and it is doubtful if any community, either of political power or of lands, existed until about 1645.10 Accident, or ties of blood or race,11 or the situation of desirable land, or the friendship of individuals were usually the causes which led to the concentration of population in any locality. Throughout all the early period there p5was no conscious settlement of communities by the Dutch agricultural colonists.12

The individualism of the Dutch was in strong contrast to the social spirit shown in the English towns. Under the new privileges of 1640 each man could take as much land as he could cultivate, and naturally the result was the separation of farms and homesteads from one another. This made the defence of the scattered plantations so difficult that action was called forth from the home authorities, who saw the advantages of the close settlement of the English towns. In the instructions of July 7, 1645, sent to the Director and Council at New Amsterdam,13 occurs the significant clause:

"They shall endeavor as much as possible, that the colonists settle themselves with a certain number of families in some of the most suitable places, in the manner of villages, towns and hamlets, as the English are in the habit of doing, who thereby live more securely."

But the policy was a difficult one to impose upon the colonists. They had no common interest in the land, no local political powers, and although most of the settlers professed a common religious belief, they had but scant opportunity, perhaps little desire, for common religious worship.14 Thus the early Dutch settlements lacked three controlling forces which among the English contributed to the development of the towns.

What the colonists would not voluntarily agree to, the Director and Company tried to accomplish by rules and ordinances. Orders were passed in 1656 and 166015 providing that the inhabitants of each locality should build forts and towns. At Cummunipaw, the settlers who had been driven out by the Indians in 1655 were required by Stuyvesant in 1658 to build their houses in one village.16 On the Esopus, the settlers showed such reluctance to dwelling in a village, that Stuyvesant was compelled to visit Wiltwyck in person, and there superintend the building of a fort and the apportionment of town lots.17 In the same year a patent was issued to all who should settle in a new village on Manhattan Island, granting certain lands to each settler, and a local court when the village had obtained a population of twenty or twenty-five families.18 More than two years passed, however, before a p6population was obtained large enough to entitle them to the political provisions of the patent.19 It will thus be seen that the town was by no means a spontaneous natural growth among the Dutch. Often it required all the force of Stuyvesant's arbitrary government to compel the colonists to concentrate their settlements. And when the concentration was accomplished, the town does not appear to have developed the autonomous democratic government which arose in the English towns.

By granting lands in severalty, town development was seriously retarded, just as in New England the granting of lands in common encouraged that development. In New Netherland, contrary to the usual New England method, many years often elapsed after the original settlement of a locality, before it obtained political privileges. With the exception of New Haarlem mentioned above, none of the Dutch towns received corporate political rights until a considerable period after settlement.20

Having seen that town life developed late and with difficulty among the Dutch, we must now look at the institutions which were finally established in the towns of New Netherland. Following the directions of the Exemptions of 1640, when political privileges were granted to towns, they were based upon the customs of Holland. The first charter granted to a Dutch town, was that to Brooklyn in 1646.21 From the preliminary recital given therein, it appears that the settlers of Brooklyn had met in May 21, 1646, in accordance with the Exemptions, and had unanimously elected two persons to act as schepens. The election was followed by a unanimous written agreement that if any one would refuse to submit to the lawful authority of the two schepens, he should forfeit the rights he claimed to land in the allotment of the town. In June the Director and Council confirmed this election, and gave the schepens power to select two more persons from the inhabitants to act as additional schepens, if the work of the original officers should be too heavy. In the fall of the same year, the schepens complained to the Director of the onerous nature of their duties, and suggested the name of a person to act as schout. On December 1, the Director and Council gave to Brooklyn a separate schout, and confirmed the nominee of the schepens to that office. These details p7are given because they illustrate the manner of election of the local officials; the first two schepens were elected by those having a share in the lands of the town; the schout, on the other hand, was selected by the schepens and confirmed by the Director and Council. Popular election was permitted only in the first choice of officials; thereafter the officers named their successors. We will note this system in detail.

The schout and schepens mentioned in the first charter to a Dutch town are the officers of the local court. The schout corresponded in the main to the modern prosecuting attorney,22 although at times his duties partook of the nature of those of the sheriff, and at other times he presided over the court.23 The schepens, whose title is sometimes translated magistrate, exercised both judicial and administrative functions. In the town of Wiltwyck they were to hold fortnightly courts, except during harvest-time, at which they were empowered to try without appeal civil cases where the value in controversy was below fifty guilders. They had jurisdiction of petty criminal offences, i.e., those in which there was no letting of blood, and in matters of greater moment they could apprehend criminals. But in addition to those judicial powers, the schepens had authority similar to those of the New England selectmen or the town-meeting. They could advise the Director and Council to pass orders concerning roads, the enclosure of lands, and the regulation of churches and schools;24 and in certain cases could make and enforce orders without waiting for the consent of the Director.25 But no provision was made in the charters granted to the Dutch towns for the direct action of the people in town affairs. There was no recognition of the town-meeting as a local political organization, but all ordinances, even of a local nature must receive the approval of the Director and Council after they had been passed by the local court.26

p8 We are more intimately concerned with the election of officers than with their powers. The charter of Brooklyn27 of 1646 shows that the earliest magistrates of that village were elected by those interested in the lands of the town. The same method of electing the first magistrates was adopted in New Haarlem in 1658,28 and in Bushwick in 1661.29 In the latter case the inhabitants asked Stuyvesant for lands and political privileges, and were directed to select six persons from whom the Director might select three as magistrates. In other cases, however, the first schepens seems not to have been elected by the people, but to have been named in the charter itself. This was true of the charters of Wiltwyck,30 Bergen,31 and Staten Island.32

The popular suffrage thus sometimes allowed to the Dutch settlers in the choice of their first magistrates under the town charters, was not continued in subsequent elections. In all cases which I have been able to find, a two-fold restriction was placed upon the towns. First, the magistrates, when changed, were to be elected by the Director and Council at New Amsterdam from a double number of candidates presented to them; and secondly, this nomination was made not by the townspeople, but by the magistrates already in office. A few citations from the many instances in the records will illustrate these restrictions.

In April, 1665, the magistrates of Brooklyn petitioned the Director and Council to be permitted to send in a double number of candidates for new magistrates. The Council in reply directed the magistrates to inform them, "as far as it is necessary in their power, of the character, manners, and expertness of the most respectable individuals of their village and places in its vicinity under their jurisdiction." The magistrates accordingly sent in nominations, from which the Director and Council selected three to act as schepens for the future.33 In all this transaction there is no mention made of popular election; the magistrates now, instead of the people, make the nominations to the Director and his Council. The Wiltwyck charter contained this provision:

"Whereas it is customary in our Fatherland and other well-regulated governments, that annually some change take place in the magistracy, so that some new ones are appointed, and some are continued to inform the p9newly appointed, so shall the Schepens, now confirmed, pay due attention to the conversation, conduct, and abilities of honest and decent persons, inhabitants of their respective village, to inform the Director-General and Council, about the time of the next election, as to who might be sufficiently qualified to be then elected by the Director-General and Council."34

Again there is no mention of popular election; the magistrates nominate, the Director and Council elect. Similar provisions were inserted in the charters of New Haarlem, Bergen and New Utrecht. Still more limited were the local political powers granted by Governor Colve after the Dutch re-conquest in 1673. The Governor issued an order for the reorganization of the government of the towns of Midwout, Amersfoort, Breuckelen, New Utrecht and Gravesend, in which he reinstated the old form of nomination and confirmation of magistrates:

"Previous to the annual election, the Sheriff and Schepens shall make [a list], in nomination for Schepens, of a double number of the best qualified, honest, intelligent, and wealthiest inhabitants (but only those belonging to, or well affected toward, the Reformed Christian Religion), and shall present it [to] the Governor, who shall then make a selection, and, if he deem it best, confirm some of the old Schepens."35

In accordance with the provisions of these charters, the magistrates of the Dutch towns were accustomed to send their nominations to the Director. No reference is made in their letters or in the action of the Director and Council to any elections by the townsmen. The nomination are said to be "made and presented," or "made and submitted" by the schepens, by the commissaries, by the magistrates, by the schout and schepens.36 These words are quite significant when compared with the letters from the English towns making their double nominations, in which there is usually internal evidence of the suffrage in town-meetings.37 The Dutch letters give no hint of such popular action, and in place of town elections, the close-corporation system of the Holland towns prevailed.

The conclusion we must come to from all the evidence obtainable is that there were no regular town-meetings among the Dutch, no popular elections for magistrates, and that the magistracy was of the nature of a close corporation, some retiring annually,38 and their p10places being filled by a selection made by the Director and Council from a double nomination by the acting magistrates.

Turning from the Dutch towns, let us look at the government of the English settlements which grew up under the New Amsterdam jurisdiction, and in which an entirely different political atmosphere existed. The earliest mention of settlement by the English within the Dutch territory is in 1640, when eight Englishmen settled near the present site of Hempstead, having bought title to the land from Farret, the American representative of Lord Stirling.39 The English intruders were arrested by the Dutch and imprisoned in New Amsterdam; but they were subsequently released upon their promise to leave the jurisdiction.40 The next year, 1641, in response to an inquiry from some Englishmen as to terms of settlement, the reply was made that they would be allowed to select four or five of their ablest men, from whom the governor of the Dutch would select a single magistrate.41 This exaggerated form of the multiple nominating system would have given the English less liberal government than that later granted to the Dutch towns; but the terms were not accepted.

Soon, however, a marked immigration set into the Dutch territories from New England. In 1642 and the years immediately following, a number of English settlers reached western Long Island.42 They were well received by the Director Kieft, who gave them tracts of land, and authorized the establishment of town governments. Before Brooklyn received its separate local court in 1646, Kieft had granted charters of incorporation to four English towns: Mespath (Newtown),43 Hempstead,44 Vlissingen (Flushing)45 and Gravesend.46 These charters, granted almost immediately after the settlements were made, defined the territory of the patentees and provided for their political organization. All four antedated the earliest Dutch town charter, and this fact is strong evidence that the communal spirit was more intense among the English than among the Dutch. Ten or twenty years might elapse in the life of the Dutch settlements before they received incorporation or any local government p11whatever. With the English the corporate town life began before or immediately after settlement. In the same way the communal ownership of lands and common interest in religious worship date, in the English towns, from the time of settlement, while in the Dutch towns they developed long after the original settlement.

Further, the charters of the English towns differed from the ordinances which established local government in the Dutch settlements in several important particulars. The English charters were granted to companies of individuals who had usually formed an agreement before their settlement, while the Dutch settlers were often forced into an agreement, and compelled to take up lands in common,47 at the dictation of the Director and against their own will. The English charters gave the settlers power to form "a bodye politique and ciuill combination,"48 to which they, and their associates, heirs and successors were to belong. In the case of Gravesend, the power was also given "to make such civill ordinances as the Maior part of the Inhabitants free of the Towne shall thinke fitting for theyr quiett and peaceable subsisting," thus recognizing the town-meeting as an integral part of the local government.

The local officials provided for by these charters were called by varying names — magistrates, "some of theirs," schepens — but their duties corresponded to the judicial duties of the officers of the Dutch local court. All the charters required the officers to be named to the Director and Council for confirmation. No direct mention is made of a double nominating system, such as was given to the Dutch towns, but by subsequent practice three of the towns always presented double nominations to the Director and Council; while Gravesend alone was permitted the privilege of presenting a single number of candidates.49 We have seen that the candidates in the Dutch towns were selected by the outgoing magistrates. In the English charters, the patentees, their associates and successors are given that power; thus vesting the election of officers in the people.50

In addition to the features in which the English town charters differed from the Dutch, there were of course points of similarity. p12Both were granted freedom to practise the Reformed Christian religion; the same system of appeals to the Director and Council was provided for; towns must be built; fortifications erected; allegiance must be given to the West India Company and the States General; and after a period of years, taxes were to be paid to the Company.51

A perusal of the records leads one to the inevitable conclusion that all this democratic political development was peculiarly English. Kieft, indeed, granted these charters, but their terms are so evidently English that we cannot doubt they were dictated by the incoming New Englanders.54 As the Holland town customs were reproduced in the Dutch towns, so the New England town furnished the model for government in the English towns under Dutch influence. The spirit of popular government came from the English and not from the Dutch settlers.

One of the necessary concomitants of popular government is the suffrage question. For no sooner are elections vested in the people, than the question arises as to the meaning of the word people. In these English towns the New England customs were closely followed in this respect. By the charters, the privilege of the suffrage was conferred upon the original patentees and their associates, and p13thus by implication, if not by express grant, the original settlers were given power to add to their numbers. These associates, upon receiving their lots and the rights in the common lands, obtained at the same time a voice in the town-meeting.55 The same privilege might be gained by those who purchased land from the original owners, and to prevent by this means the influx of undesirable inhabitants, it was customary to place restrictions upon the sale of land.56 In Hempstead, "quakers and such like" were excluded; and letters of commendation and approbation must be brought by persons coming from other towns.57 Once possessed of land within the town, the owner had an indisputable right to a voice in the town affairs.58 In all these respects the customs of the New England colonies were closely followed.

It has been mentioned that all four of the early charters to English towns were granted by Kieft. His successor, Stuyvesant, showed no such favorable disposition, but evinced an unremitting opposition to popular government, both in the towns and in representative political institutions. His opinions on the subject are preserved in his correspondence concerning the assembly of 1653. Under the influence of the English delegates,59 the representatives who met at New Amsterdam in 1653 drew up a remonstrance on December 11, in which, among other charges against the government, they say that "Officers and Magistrates, though by their personal qualifications deserving such honor, are appointed, contrary to the laws of Netherland, to divers offices without the consent or nomination of the people whom the matter most affects or concerns."60 To this demand for popular elections, Stuyvesant answered by admitting the right of the English to nominate their own magistrates, but stated also that some of them even usurped "the election and appointment of such Magistrates, as they please, without regard to their religion. Some, especially the people of Gravesend, elect libertines and Anabaptists, which is decidedly against the laws of the Netherlands."61 The Director further questioned the advisability of popular elections, for "if it is to be made a rule, that the selection and nomination shall be left to the people generally, whom it most concerns, then every one would want for Magistrate p14a man of his own stamp, for instance a thief would choose for Magistrate a thief, and a dishonest man, a drunkard, a smuggler, etc., their likes, in order to commit felonies and frauds with so much more freedom."62 Early in the next year the Director and Council, following out their policy of opposition to popular government, required the magistrates and inhabitants of Gravesend to prove by their charter their right to nominate and elect magistrates and to continue them in office.63

The evils of popular government as he saw them must have influenced Stuyvesant in his grants to the two new English towns patented in 1656. Thomas Wheeler and the other English settlers at Westchester (Vreedland) had informed the New Amsterdam authorities that they would submit to the Dutch jurisdiction if they could have the privilege of choosing their officers, of making laws for the good of the township, of distributing lands, and of making choice of new inhabitants. To these demands they received the reply that they might have the "conditions and patents" of the Dutch villages of Middelburg, Amersfoort, Midwout and Breuckelen, and also the right of nominating a double number of candidates for office.64 The English remained, however, and seem to have interpreted their rights under this grant to suit themselves.65 In the same year Rustdorp (Jamaica) on Long Island was incorporated "under the same privileges and exemptions and special grants, as the inhabitants of New Netherlands generally enjoy, as well in the possession of their lands, as in the election of their Magistrates on the footing and order in use in the villages of Middelburg, Breuckelen, Midwout and Amersfoort."66 In this case, also, the English held their town-meetings, and we have left to us some very interesting town orders concerning the allotment of the town lands and the reaping of the common meadow.67 Both charters of Stuyvesant show his determination to give no more special privileges to the English settlers.68

p15 One other illustration of Stuyvesant's policy in local government is to be found in his negotiations with a party of Milford Englishmen, who proposed leaving their homes rather than agree to the union of Connecticut and New Haven. The intending settlers asked permission to control their own civil affairs, elect their magistrates, and make such laws as seemed to them suitable. Stuyvesant at first replied that they might have privileges equal to those of the Dutch towns; the double nomination of magistrates, and the passage of laws by the magistrates with the consent of the Director and Council; but he refused the power to choose their own inhabitants. The answer was not satisfactory to the New Englanders, for it did not state the manner of election of the magistrates, did not grant legislative powers to the town-meeting, and refused the privilege of admitting their own inhabitants. But the West India Company was at this time favoring the immigration of English dissenters, and accordingly, in May, 1662, Stuyvesant modified his former proposition, and granted practically all the demands of the English.69

Stuyvesant's policy appears essentially different from that of Kieft. The latter encouraged English immigration and allowed the settlers to choose their own form of local self-government, although at the same time he was governing all the Dutch settlements on the Delaware, on the Hudson, and on Long Island arbitrarily, and without a hint of popular control in local affairs. Stuyvesant, on the other hand, incorporated many of the Dutch villages, but according to the Dutch, and not the English model. A close corporation was established in each of the Dutch towns, which reproduced in miniature the aristocratic organization of the Netherland towns of that day. There was naturally an inconsistency in allowing the English strangers greater liberty than the native Dutch citizens, and this may account in part for Stuyvesant's opposition p16to the English towns.70 But there must have been other reasons as well. Stuyvesant's own words criticizing popular government have already been given; and we must also remember that the English were beginning to demand a total separation from the Dutch, and a combination with the English of Connecticut and New Haven.

We have thus far traced the features of local government in the two classes of towns under the Dutch government, but in closing, mention must be made of the local government of New Amsterdam itself. From the first settlement of Manhattan Island down to the year 1649 the records show no demand upon the part of the inhabitants of New Amsterdam for local governmental powers distinct from those of the Company's officials. In 1649 the representative body of the Nine Men sent a letter to the States General depicting the "very poor and most low condition" of the province, and asking for a redress of their grievances. Among the reforms which they thought would encourage population and promote prosperity was the establishment of a "suitable municipal government."71 A commission of three men was appointed to take this petition and a lengthy remonstrance against the government of Kieft and Stuyvesant to Holland.72 After an elaborate investigation by the States General, a committee of that body reported a "Provisional Order respecting the Government, Preservation and Peopling of New Netherland."73 Among the reforms there proposed, we find the first mention of municipal government for New Amsterdam: "XVII. And within the city of New Amsterdam shall be erected a Burgher Government, consisting of a Sheriff, two Burgomasters, and 5 Schepens." This report was not adopted, but the fear of its passage forced the West India Company to make concessions to the inhabitants of New Amsterdam, and on April 4, 1652, Stuyvesant was directed to "erect there a Court of Justice formed, as much as possible, after the custom of this city" [Amsterdam]. The court was to have the officers named in the former provisional order, who were to be chosen from the "honest and respectable" persons of the settlement, the Directors expressing the hope that some of such persons could be found among the burghers.74

Ten months passed after the dating of this instruction to Stuyvesant before the latter inaugurated the new city government. p17When he was ready to take that sep, he allowed no popular election of the officials, but appointed the two burgomasters and five schepens and directed that the Company's sheriff should act as schout for the city.75 In 165476 and 165677 the burgomasters and schepens of New Amsterdam petitioned for the privilege of nominating a double number of candidates as their successors. In January of the latter year, Stuyvesant agreed to such a double nomination upon the condition that the acting magistrates should always be considered as in nomination; that the nominees should be well qualified persons, favorable to the Director and Council; and that a member of the Council should be present at the meeting when the burgomasters and schepens made the nominations.78 Under this arrangement the local officials were annually elected until the coming of the English.

Here again the influence of the Holland customs is seen. In the Middle Ages the towns and cities of the Low Countries had acquired democratic governments, but by the seventeenth century these had been gradually undermined by aristocratic classes. Popular elections had given way to close corporations and systems of double or triple nomination.79 And these were the institutions which were now established in New Amsterdam. There was no popular election, but the outgoing magistrates nominated a double number for their successors; and even this nomination was not free, for a member of the Director's council must be present at the election.

Shortly after this, the Director introduced another of the features of Dutch conservatism, in the establishment of a greater and a lesser "burgerregt." The greater burgerregt was held by those who had held, or whose ancestors had held high civil, military or ecclesiastical offices in the city, or who had purchased the right for fifty guilders. The second class, holding the lesser burgerregt, was composed of all born in the city, or who had been resident and kept fire and light for a year and a half, or who kept shop and paid twenty guilders.80 Only those who possessed the greater burgerregt were eligible to the municipal offices. Thus the government of New Amsterdam was based upon the aristocratic and hereditary features of the constitution of old Amsterdam. There was no place in this scheme for popular government. It provided for a selection p18by the outgoing magistrates of a double number of candidates from a very small class of the citizens, and an election by the Director and Council of the requisite number from these candidates and from the old officers. In principle it was the same system as that which we have seen was established in the Dutch towns of New Netherland.

From the facts here given, the following conclusions may be drawn concerning the local government of New Netherland: (1) The Dutch settlements showed slight communal feeling; were with difficulty concentrated into towns; developed little political activity or interest; and finally received (rather than demanded) a form of government which gave scant room for popular control. (2) The English settlements under the Dutch jurisdiction showed a common interest from the first; received land-grants in common; undertook political functions almost unconsciously; demanded and usually received far greater privileges from the Director and Council than were given to the Dutch towns. (3) Although Director Kieft granted liberal charters to the English, Stuyvesant was opposed to this policy, and attempted to cut down the privileges which his predecessor had conceded. After the favoritism shown in the first few years to the English, the attitude of the New Amsterdam authorities changed, and under Stuyvesant there was a continuous opposition to popular government in Dutch and English towns.

Albert E. McKinley


The Author's Notes:

1 O'Callaghan, History of New Netherland, I.100.

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2 O'Callaghan, I.112‑120.

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3 Article XXVIII.

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4 O'Callaghan, I.200.

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5 Documents relating to the Colonial History of New York, I.106. Quoted hereafter as N. Y. Col. Doc.

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6 O'Callaghan, I.203.

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7 N. Y. Col. Doc., I.119‑123.

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8 O'Callaghan, I.392‑393.

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9 See N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII and XIV, passim.

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10 The first grant of political privileges to a Dutch town was made to Breuckelen (Brooklyn), in June, 1646, See Stiles, History of Brooklyn, I.45‑46.

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11 The Walloons on the present site of Brooklyn, 1623.

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12 Thompson's Long Island (second ed.) I.107; Wood, Long Island, 81.

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13 N. Y. Col. Doc., I.160‑162.

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14 Brodhead, History of the State of New York, I.614.

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15 Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 206, 234, 368.

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16 Brodhead, I.642.

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17 Ibid., I.648.

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18 Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 335.

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19 O'Callaghan, II.428.

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20 Bergen settled, 1617; incorporated, 1661. Brooklyn settled, 1623; incorporated, 1646; Flatbush settled, 1623; incorporated, 1654. Beverwyck settled, 1634; incorporated, partially, 1652. Amersfoort settled, 1645 (?); incorporated, 1654. New Utrecht settled, 1657; incorporated, 1661; Wiltwyck settled, 1656; incorporated, 1661. Haarlem settled and incorporated, 1658. Bushwyck settled, 1660; incorporated, 1661.

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21 Stiles, History of the City of Brooklyn, I.45‑46.

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22 Brodhead, I.453‑454.

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23 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.196; Instructions for Schout of New Amsterdam, April 9, 1660, N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.463.

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24 Charter of Wiltwyck, N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.196‑198.

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25 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.369, 370.

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26 The records are not wholly void of evidence of legislative or administrative activity exercised directly by the people in the Dutch towns before the English conquest. But in the few cases recorded, it appears to have been on extraordinary occasions, and not as an integral part of the local government.

In school and church matters there is some slight evidence of local action. See for Bergen, N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.232 and 319. In Brooklyn, on August 30, 1660, the magistrates, "pursuant to an order from the Honble Director-General", "convened all the inhabitants of the village of Breuckelen, talked to them and investigated, how much they could together contribute to the salary of Dr Selyns" (N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.479). This sounds little like the independent action of the English town-meetings only a few miles distant from Brooklyn on the Long Island shores.

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27 Stiles, History of Brooklyn, I.45.

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28 Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 335; O'Callaghan, II.428.

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29 Thompson, History of Long Island, second ed., II.155.

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30 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.196‑198.

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31 Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 403.

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32 Ibid., 458.

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33 Stiles, Hist. of Brooklyn, I.111.

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34 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.196.

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35 Stiles, History of Brooklyn, I.162.

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36 See N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII and XIV, passim; e.g.XIII.231, 336; XIV.257, 344, 414, 510, 520, 522, 23.

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37 See postp12.

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38 I have been unable to find the principle underlying this practice of partial retirement. See N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.314, 344, 412, 473, etc. For instance of removal for cause, see N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.336.

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39 N. Y. Col. Doc., II.145‑150; Flint, Early Long Island, 120. Lord Stirling had received from the Plymouth Company a patent for Long Island, and his agent, Farret, sold patents for land on the island to New Englanders. Stirling's patent is printed in N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.29, note.

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40 Subsequently they settled Southampton in eastern Long Island.

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41 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.8.

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42 In N. Y. Col. Doc., I.181, is a Dutch statement of the causes of this English immigration.

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43 March 28, 1642.

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44 November 16, 1644.

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45 October 10, 1645.

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46 December 19, 1645.

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47 This was true at Cummunipaw, at Wiltwyck on the upper Hudson, and was attempted without success among the conquered Swedes on the Schuylkill at Passayung.

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48 Gravesend charter in Documentary History of New York, I.629‑632. Simple provision in Hempstead charter; Thompson, History of Long Island, second ed., II.4‑6.

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49 This extraordinary feature was carried out in practice; see N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.130, 329, 343, 422, etc.

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50 True of the first charter granted to an English town, Mespath, in 1642 (four years before a Dutch town received local government). N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.38. See the other charters as well.

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51 In 1656 two other groups of English settlers were given town privileges similar, not to the English, but to the Dutch towns; Vreedland (Westchester), N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.65‑66; and Rustdorp (Jamaica), Col. Doc., XIV.339‑340.

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52 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.329, 343, 346, 425, etc.

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53 See N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV, passim; e.g., 189, 296, 300, 329, 343, 345, 422, 424.

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54 The Gravesend charter has been called a "veritable Dutch charter of civil and religious freedom" (Elting, Dutch Village Communities on the Hudson River, Johns Hopkins University Studies, IV.26). It is Dutch in little else than the fact that a Dutch governor granted it.

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55 In Hempstead, N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.529.

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56 In Gravesend, owners of land desiring to sell must first offer the land to the town; and after the town's refusal to purchase, they could sell to an outsider if he were not an infamous person or a disturber of the common peace. N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.128‑129.

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57 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.529.

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58 See the demands of some Dutch landholders in Gravesend, N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.329.

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59 N. Y. Col. Doc., I.553.

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60 Ibid., I.552.

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61 Ibid., XIV.235.

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62 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.235.

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63 Ibid., 253. In 1655 objections were made to a town election of Gravesend by some Dutch landholders in the town because votes were cast in the names of persons in prison for crimes, of persons who had left the town, and those who had conspired against the government of the country. Ibid., XIV.330.

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64 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIII.65‑66.

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65 Bolton, History of Westchester County, revised ed., II.279‑281.

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66 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.339‑340.

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67 Ibid., 504‑506.

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68 In Flushing, owing to the large number of Quakers who had settled there, Stuyvesant found a good opportunity to repress popular government. Town-meetings were forbidden, and their place was to be taken by seven tribunes elected once and for all, who were to act as counsellors of the schout and magistrates. Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 338.

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69 Stuyvesant's second letter is a curious document: "The Governour and Counsel doe give Consent that the aforesaid English Nation beinge setlet vnder this government shal have power by the most vote of the Churches members, to nominate their owne Magistrates, in such a quantity as they shall thinck most meete and needfull for their towne or Townes, which Magistrates with the freemen shal be Impoured, to make such Lawes and Ordinances, as occasion shal require, which lawes and ordinances after Examination beinge found not oppugnant to the general Lawes of the Vnited Belgick and this Province shall by the Governour and Counsel be Ratified and Confirmed vnto them, only the Governour and Counsel doe Reserve the Appeale of Criminel and Civil Sentences above the Sum of fifty pound Sterlinge, without Reformation or appeale to that Sum, for all such Inhabitans as therevnto shall Subscrybe and the Confirmation of the Magistrates out of dubbel Number jearly to be presented vnto them, out of which dubbel Number with advyce or Communication of the old Magistrates or their deputies the followinge Magistrates by the Governour and Counsel then beinge shal be Confirmed." Col. Doc., XIII.222. The projected removal did not take place until after the English occupation.

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70 In one of his letters, Stuyvesant says: "It ought to be remembered that the Englishmen . . . enjoy more privileges than the Exemptions of New Netherland grant to any Hollander." N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.233.

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71 N. Y. Col. Doc., I.260.

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72 Brodhead, I.506‑507.

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73 Doc. Hist. of N. Y., I.598; N. Y. Col. Doc., I.387‑391.

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74 Doc. Hist. of N. Y., I.599‑600.

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75 O'Callaghan, II.212‑216; Brodhead, I.548‑549.

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76 N. Y. Col. Doc., XIV.244.

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77 O'Callaghan, II.311.

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78 Records of New Amsterdam, II.16, 24‑29, 282‑286; O'Callaghan, II.370. A separate schout for New Amsterdam was not appointed until 1660.

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79 J. F. Jameson, Mag. Amer. Hist., VIII.321.

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80 Laws and Ordinances of New Netherland, 299‑301.


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