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Redress of the Abuses and Faults in the Colony of Rensselaerswyck, 1643
Redress of the Abuses and Faults in the colony of Rensselaerswyck
Though the patroon of the colony of Rensselaerswyck, in founding said colony, has had an eye to the enjoyment of the products of the country and of his labor and to the profits of his investments, he has nevertheless also had in especial view, by means of settling the country and the practice of godliness, to have the Christian Reformed religion proclaimed there in order that the blind heathen also might be brought to the knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ, and has now already for many years past sent over many people, officers and goods, together with a godly and learned minister in the hope that by the exercise of justice and order as well as by teaching and admonition, he might attain his aim and object.
It is therefore to the deepest grief of his heart that he has learned that the contrary is the case, namely that things there are in such a state that hardly any semblance of godliness or righteousness is to be found.
As to godliness, whereas the wordof God ought to have softened and opened their hearts to accept not only all consolations and admonitions but also all reproaches. for their sins and to
govern themselves accordingly, there are many who, having become hardened and calloused, absent or hide themselves so as not to hear the word of God; as to the righteousness, which consists in keeping the commandments of the Lord and in the humble obedience to their lord and master as regards fulfilling their oaths and promises, executing their contracts and settling and paying their debts, all of these duties the majority of the people scarcely think of, much less observe, the reason for which, as far as the patroon can discover, must be ascribed to the following circumstances:
First, to comfort and abundance, neither of which the majority of the colonists were accustomed to in the fatherland as they sailed
Thereupon Arent van Corler shall make an accurate list and inventory of all merchandise and wares previously received that remain in his charge, as well as of all the skins, seawan, goods sent away or remaining in the charge of others and of all the property belonging to the patroon, and continue the same from day to day, without fail, noting down everything in proper form in a book and not on scraps of paper; [noting] also his expenditures, transactions and matters connected with them, without fail, on pain of losing his office and incurring the extreme displeasure of his patroon, who hereby warns him for the last time. Concerning the goods formerly received by Arent and those which are no sent to the colony by the ship, he shall distinguish according to the blank between goods used for the fur trade and goods needed by the people. Of the goods employed in the fur trade Arent van Corler shall be commis and have the administration, and the skins which he shall receive in exchange he shall turn over to no one else under any circumstances, but forward them hither. Thereafter he shall specify which goods are suitable for the people in the colony to be exchanged against wheat, without lending, but merchandise against merchandise. Of these goods Anthoni de Hooges shall be commis and have the administration, though he must submit his accounts to Arent van Corler. As regards the daily wages or pay of the laborers, separate accounts shall be kept by Anthoni de Hooges, satisfaction to be given either in goods not used in the fur trade or in wheat or otherwise.
Officer Adriaen vander Donck shall also promptly render ac-count to Arent van
Corler. Asfor the farmers whose accounts have not been settled, they must liquidate the same at once on pain of forfeiture'of the remaining years of their lease, the latter to be given to the foreman or other competent person in the colony when the time for settling the first year's accounts shall have arrived, everything, both at the time of leaving and of reoccupying the farm, to be duly inventoried without concealment, it being the patroon's intention to leave no one in possession whose account shall remain unsettled for longer than one year and in case any one should object to this measure the same shall be forcibly ejected by the commander, Nicolaes Coorn. In the same manner shall actually be removed from their farms all those whose terms of lease shall have expired and who have obtained no new leases from the patroon and this also without connivance, for otherwise the patroon is not master of his own property, and if, in spite of this, any one should still stay on his farm \without lease the same shall not be allowed to reap any profits from his labor, said action constituting a form of violence. Those whose leases expire and who are ready to accept the condition of one third, before mentioned, must give the patroon timely notice thereof, while all freemen whose lease is up and who have not settled their accounts or obtained a new contract must actually be made to leave, or otherwise reap no
profits from their land, such as Willem Juriaensen backer, whose term has long since run out and whom the patroon deems unfit to remain any longer in the colony, and who after liquidation of his accounts shall be discharged and removed from the colony, inasmuch as he has neither made nor obtained a new contract with or from the patroon. Symon Walichsen is to be definitely notified that he must leave his farm at the expiration of his term, as the patroon has had no gain
but great loss through him and that he must liquidate and settle his accounts, the patroon not wishing to continue him in service any longer. Albert Andriesen, whose term has also long ago expired without his having made or obtained a new lease or contract, shall nevertheless be continued for the present but shall not own any livestock otherwise than according to the general rule of one half of the increase belonging to the patroon and of the right of preemption and, in case he does not accept this, his cattle shall immediately be sent back to the place whence they came, with this understanding however that half of the increase bred in the colony shall go to the patroon in consideration of the pasturage and hay which they have used; and as to his accounts he shall also be obliged to close, liquidate and settle the same; and as far as the conditions after the expiration of his lease are concerned, the patroon adopts for him as well as for all others this fixed rule, of which they must all be notified and if they do not wish to continue under it must immediately leave the colony, namely, that every freeman who has a house and garden of his own shall pay an annual rent or five stivers per Rhineland rod and for land used in raising tobacco, wheat or other fruits 20 guilders per Rhineland morgen, newly cleared land to be free for a number of years, more or less, according to the amount of labor required in such clearing, said number of years to be fixed by agreement with the patroon's commissioners; all of which stipulations tend in no wise to impair but confirm the right of levying tithes, and by this means the patroon shall know what his revenue will be and they on their part shall know what they are entitled to, the right of preempting grain being also reserved; and as to the trade in furs, this is generally forbidden, being reserved for such as have obtained a license from the patroon on condition that they pay promptly what has been stipulated and not otherwise. Officer van der Donck shall diligently inquire respecting those who have formerly exported wheat and other goods, as well as furs, out of the colony without entering the same and to this end he shall with the consent of the patroon's commissioners or any two of them order all servants and others who may have had knowledge of the facts to be examined regarding such persons as appear in any way implicated, the patroon having been specially advised that Cornelius Theunissen van Breuckelen has often done the same, wherefore his former and present servants must be examined under oath, it being the patroon's firm intention to renew and reassert his smothered rights against those who imagine them already forgotten and no longer to permit the license practised by certain farmers, who hold great banquets served with an abundance of wines and meanwhile do not close their accounts, consequently, use what belongs to the patroon, as no man, no matter who he is, can have any property of his own as long as he has not rendered proper accounts and returns, not according to his avarice but to justice. Moreover, the money which Pieter Cornelisz and Cornelis Theunisz owe the patroon under the name of Dirrick Corssen and withhold under pretext of their note of hand (notwithstanding they know full well that it was the patroon's property), if they refuse to hand it over to him willingly under his promise of indemnification, the officer shall force them to deposit with the court, and he shall especially prosecute Cornelis Theunisz, who was not allowed to trade in furs, in such manner as shall lead to the confiscation of these. Coming to the question of the wages of those laborers who have served the individual farmers and who were engaged here by the patroon, if they are not paid yearly by said farmers, the said wages shall be made good separately in the annual account to the patroon in wheat or skins or seawan, so that the farm hands may know definitely where they are finally to seek their payment, which ought to be with the farmers unless the same have turned it over separately to the patroon, of which the farm hands must be notified in order to govern themselves accordingly, as otherwise in coming here they could obtain no satisfaction, for if the amount were charged to the accounts of the farmers it would not be paid till the whole account had been cleared and settled. Concerning the newcomers in the colony, they must be supplied with wheat for seed and domestic use, as well as with other articles stipulated by contract, and those who are industrious and faithful be assisted, care being taken to ascertain at the annual settlements who is the least in debt and who has accumulated the largest store of produce, in order to see whether the patroon can be sufficiently certain of ultimate restitution, but no further loans are to be made to those who have been three years in the colony, unless, at the settlement of accounts which is to take place every year in January, it is found that there is a good supply of wheat in the barn on which a further small credit could be allowed, provided that the wheat immediately after it is thrashed be delivered to the patroon to pay for his share. With regard to the tithes, the same shall no longer be commuted but lawfully collected, unless the commissioners deem it advisable to sell the same publicly to the highest bidder, either for cash or on short-time payment, when the wheat might be thrashed and the buyer pay therewith, the wheat to remain as the patroon's security, with this understanding that a farmer may not be the buyer of his own tithe but one farmer may buy the tithe of the crop on another man's land; and in case it shall seem better for the patroon to have his own hay barracks or barns built in which to thrash, the two carpenters who go over now may be employed on this work and a strong fellow added to assist them, care being taken to have the barracks and barns strongly built and erected in the most convenient places where many farms are found close together and to put in them the crops of at least three farms, as the expense would otherwise be too great, also to look out for the third part, which the patroon has reserved for himself. And inasmuch as wine and spirits are the cause of God's wrath, of the patroon's loss and of allevils, no one whose account is open and unpaid shall be allowed to have the same till he has discharged his debt, unless the commissioners and councilors think fit to make a small allowance for family as occasion requires, for which a license must be given them, as otherwise without showing such license to the commander the wine would not be permitted to pass Rensselaers Steyn; with regard to those whose accounts are settled and who owe the patroon nothing, in order that they may not pass their lives in drunkenness and dissipation, it is the patroon's desire that the commissioners and councilors allow each family, according to its station, so much wine or good beer as will suffice them for all honest purposes and not lead to drunkenness, on which heavy fines shall be imposed and proceeds thereof go to the same objects as those of other fines and one third to the officer, but if the officer himself be found guilty of drunkenness, he shall pay a double fine to the behoof of the commander as Rensselaers-steyn; and all of the persons living there, from the humblest to the highest, shall be subject to the same restriction. Coming now to the unchastity with heathen women and girls, whoever is found to have intercourse with them shall pay the first time a fine of 25 guilders, if the woman becomes pregnant 50 guilders and if she gives birth 100 guilders, leaving it to the discretion of the minister and the consistory to decide what the obligations of the offender are with regard to the baptism of such children; and if he continues to have illicit intercourse a yearly fine of 50 guilders and according to circumstances banishment from the colony, one third of which fines shall go to the officer, another third to the commander at Rensselaers-Steyn and the remaining third to the patroon for the benefit of the building of the church. All those adults or youth who do not attend Divine service at least once a week, unless prevented from so doing by sickness or other important cause, shall forfeit for the use of the church now in course of erection, the men each week 92 stivers the women stivers, the servants
stivers, and since the people are quite widely dispersed the minister shall devise the best means [of reaching all], the patroon wishing to suggest to him whether it would not be well to preach occasionally at Rensselaers-Steyn in order to be nearer the people who live in that quarter, or else on some week day to offer them more opportunity and less excuse; another thing that must be taken into consideration is that of the families who live farthest off, members can only attend in turn so as not to leave the houses entirely without supervision, consequently that husband and wife shall only count in the fines for one if both stay away; but in other cases if either the husband alone or the wife alone stays away, each to pay his share; and may God grant that they have to pay few fines, as this will tend to their salvation, there being greater reason than ever for leading a godly life in such distant countries. As the patroon intends to send a large quantity of wheat to Virginia by this ship, it is necessary to take along as much well ground meal as the mill can grind and to this end instructions have also been given to Supercargo Pieter V/ijncoop to treat with the inhabitants of the colony regarding this matter in accordance with the above stipulations. Since Andries de Vos and Cornelis van Nes have each written for two servants, the four men from Hilversum will be allowed them, but as one is a shoemaker and another understands wagon making, the shoemaker, if he wishes to be free and to repay the patroon for his advance and expenses, shall be permitted to earn something toward this by making shoes, which he could well do at the house of van Nes while assisting him at other times on the farm; likewise the wheelwright at the house of de Vos and, since Lubbert Ghijsbertsen the wheelwright lives near there, this servant could' help both the said Lubbert and de Vos, the latter to reach some agreement with each other in regard to the matter, but if Lubbert should not want this, the young wheelwright may come to some understanding with de Vos as to what he shall earn with the tools which he takes with him at the expense of. the patroon, and shall at the same time assist him on the farm, for some means must be found whereby the patroon shall be repaid for his disbursement for the tools together with the advance of 10 for on the same. As the patroon is in every way inclined to benefit the inhabitants of his colony, he would have sent a great many more supplies than he did, but seeing that everything he sent was charged year after year on accounts without end and that no payments were made, while on the other hand all goods furnished by private individuals, especially wines, were promptly paid for, and that the patroon misses therefore both his returns and his goods, he has been unable to do more, no matter how much he would have liked to; but he assures the people hereby that if they will duly pay him and render prompt returns and if he shall receive satisfactory profits from the colony, he will in the future take more pains and send sufficient supplies in anticipation of prompt payment, either in skins or in wheat, and shall expect to that end an annual list showing Probably Jacob Lambertsz van Dorlandt (Gojer), shoemaker, Jacob Adriaensz, wheelwright, Claes Andriesz van Hilversum and Dirck Hendricksz van Hilversum. The kinds and quantities of things needed in the colony with indication of the sort of payment and statements regarding the furs to be delivered to his commis upon conditions minutely described above. All persons who leave the colony and possess any houses or property there may sell the same to whomsoever they please at their own price, but shall in no wise force the same upon the patroon, at an appraised valuation, as such valuation is derogatory to the rights of the patroon, who reserves unto himself in case of sale the right, which belongs to him, of preemption at his pleasure, in which respect his commissioners have not well watched his interests, as such property must be sold at public auction and the price honestly made known to him or his commissioners, who are then at liberty to accept or to refuse the same, but under no circumstances must the present commis or his successors accept such property in discount of the person's debt, except what he or they seize directly in the patroon's name or is of no importance or consequence, and this may serve as a warning for the future, as they will be obliged, in case of refusal by the patroon, to keep things for themselves and therefore should be careful as to what they do seize. Coming now to the conclusion, inasmuch as the patroon is not able to remedy everything at once, he refers for other matters to his commissioners (reservingthe final approbation to himself as he .has always done, still does and will do in the future) ; it being understood that he has never given, nor gives, nor will give in the future, any unlimited power to his commissioners, his councilors or anybody else, but on the contrary well defined authority to supplement provisionally such regulations as may here be wanting, all to his service and profit according to their discretion and to justice. In like manner the patroon reserves to himself the right of interpretation, extension, decrease, increase or alteration of anything herein written, allowing on the one side as well as on the other all reasonable complaints or grievances of those who may feel themselves hereby unjustly reproached either through lack of knowledge of the exact circumstances or owing to wrong information without however in any way opening the door to unfounded or selfish claims, leaving and commanding every one, the commis-qenerael, the commissioners, the officer, the commander, the respective commisen in the colony and on Rensselaers-Steyn, as well as to councilors and others, and every one whom it may concern, each one in his respective sphere of duties, collectively or individually, to govern themselves accordingly, under the penalties and fines herein provided or to be provided hereafter. In testimony of the truth of which the patroon has signed these with his own hand and affixed the seal of the colony. At Amsterdam, this fifth of September 1643. Below was written: Kiliaen van Rensselaer, patroon of the colony of Rensselaerswyck.