Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

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the schout-fiscal or court of that jurisdiction; therefore, the proceed-
ings were informal. It appears that Stuyvesant, who had claimed in
July that all territory within range of cannon shot belonged to Fort
( )range, now reduced the circle to the range of a musket ball, witliin


which he purposed stopping building, although, as the record states,
" he permits whole streets to be filled with houses in view of Fort Am-
sterdam." Fort Orange having been badly damaged by freshets in
the previous w-inter, the commissary of the West India Company re-
ceived orders to surround it with a wall instead of the former wooden
fence, but the work was scarcely begun when Van Slechtenhorst for-
bade Carl Van Brugge, "in an imperious manner," from quarrying stone
within the colony and from felling a tree for either timber or firewood.
The West India Company was thus deprived of actual necessities unless
they were humbly requested, or paid for. at what the company called
"enormous prices." The work on the fort had to stop, while A'an
Slechtenhorst continued building "even within pistol shot of Fort

Stuyvesant now resolved to employ force to accomplish what he
had thus far failed in. Six soldiers were sent up to Van Brugge's
aid, with orders to demolish a house built by Van Slechtenhorst; to
arrest that gentleman "in the most civil manner possible," and de-
tain him until he delivered over a copy of his commission and in-
structions. He was finally summoned to Fort Amsterdam to answer
for his conduct. At the same time orders were issued prohibitin.a- the
importation of guns into Rensselaerwyck without license from the
Lords-Majors; if any were imported they were to be sold only to the
West India Company at the price of two beavers each. Beverwyck
was excited when the armed posse arrived. Peace had ever reigned in
tlie little hamlet, and the only guns seen there were those which were
traded to the Indians for furs at a profit that made the thrifty Dutch-
men smile. The invading army was small, to be sure, but when it
came with orders to demolish a dwelling and arrest the vice patroon,
excitement ran high. The record intimates that these soldiers were
not suited to their mission; that they were zealous when the patroon's
timber was to be cut or his deer killed, while they insulted the com-
mander " when walking the public street " in company with his deputy,
Andries de Vos, cursing them .because " they had not bade them good

vStuyvesant. had received from the inhabitants at Fort Orange anel
from the Indians the abusive epithet of "Wooden Leg." Now, the
conduct of the six soldiers aroused the indignation of the Indians as
well as of the white settlers, and all gathered at Beverwyck and de-
manded to know if "Wooden Leg" intended to tear down the houses


which were built for their shelter in stormy weather. When they
learned that all the strife was over a few rods of land, they invited Van
Slechtenhorst to accompany them and they would give him plenty of
land in the " Maquaas country"; so, he says, "more kindness was
evinced by the unbelieving- savages than by our Christian neighbors,
subjects of the same sovereign, bound by their oaths to protect us
against insult and outrage."

It will probablv never be known how imminent was a savage out-
break at this time. It was natural that the Indians should favor the
interests of those with whom they had come in direct contact and from
whom they had received the much-prized guns and rum. When the six
soldiers fired a salute over what they were pleased to term a victory, the
Indians came together a second time and angrily inquired if "Wooden
Leg's" dogs were still there and nothing averted bloodshed but the assur-
ance of the inhabitants that the houses were not to be pulled down.
It is recorded that "the Director-General's rash conduct had well nigh
caused an outbreak, and the ruin, not only of the colony, but of the
Manhattans and of the Christians within this land, who are all at the
mercy of the savages. "

Van Slechtenhorst now gave expression to his indignation at this
violent encroachment in another protest. In reply to the demand for
his commission., he called upon Stuyvesant for a written copy of his
demands and complaints. He eloquently portrayed the contempt of the
patroon and his court shown in Stuyvesant's demand, the illegality of
which was rendered the more flagrant by the unusual and insolent
manner in which it was made. "The noble patroon," said he, "had
obtained in his possessions and immunities, was invested by the States-
(leneral with high and low jurisdiction and the police of the most priv-
ileged manors ; and were he, as his agent, now so base as to crouch be-
fore the present unwarrantable proceedings, and to produce his com-
mission, before he had received orders to that effect from his lords and
masters, not only would they be injured, but he be guilty of a violation
of his oath and honor, a betrayal of his .trust and a childish surrender
of the rights of his patroon." He fortified his position by saying that
some who had been guilty of similar infractions of law and custom in
the Fatherland " had often been apprehended, and condemned to bread
and water for the space of five or six weeks ; yea, were sometimes brought
to the block." As justification for his order forbidding cutting timber
he asked, " Is the patroon not master on his own land? Is he not free


t(i cut his timber as well as his corn, and can he not arrest these, when
cut by others without his ])ermission?"

The response from Stuyvesant was again a long' dissertation up(jn his
authority and his rights. His power, he maintained, " extended to the
colony of Rensselaerwyck, as well as to the other colonies. " Orders
were sent to his workmen to hasten the repairs of the fort, and to pro-
cure timber for the purpose anywhere in New Netherland, to quarry
stone wherever they could be found, excepting upon farms and planta-
tions which were fenced and cultivated. The " ancient and uninter-
rupted ivse of the gardens and fields near the fort " was to be strictly
held and the destruction of buildings thereon to be proceeded with.
Van Slechtenhorst was summoned to New Amsterdam, as stated, and
it was claimed that he could have obeyed the summons without difficulty,
as "the river remained open, the winter pleasant, and several vessels
.sailed up and down during the whole month of November. " But to
place the whole responsibility upon Van Slechtenhorst's shoulders, the
summons was now renewed and the commander peremptorily ordered
to appear at Fort Amsterdam on the 4th of April following, to hear the
complaint against him.

It is claimed that the colonists at Beverwyck and Van Slechtenhorst
himself cared little for the mere land in dispute near Fort Orange, but
that the commander was strenuous in clinging to what he believed to
be the rights and dignity of the patroon, while the settlers were merely
exercising what they contended was their right to locate near the fort
for better security. On the other hand the claim to the land on which
stood Fort Orange was absurd, for the fort w^as built and garrisoned by
the West India Company fifteen years before there was a Rensselaer-
wyck; and, moreover, that company had up to 164-1 an exclusive mo-
nopoly of the fur trade, which it intended to reclaim " whenever it
shall be able to provide its magazines with a sufficient store of goods."

Van Slechtenhorst never ceased his operations in Rensselaerwyck in
the interest of the patroon. He extended its limits by the purchase of
more lands to the southward from the Mohegans, acquired in 1648 the
tract called Paponicuck for goods of trifling value and in the same
spring, the events of which have just been recorded, purchased Kats-
kill and Claverack. Meanwhile Van Twiller on the other side of the
ocean was boldly claiming the monopoly of the traffic of the upper Hud-
son, and publishing his determination to allow no vessels to pass Beeren
Island or to trade near Rensselaerwyck. He went farther than Van


Slechtenhorst and asserted that Fort Orange was built on the patroon's
territory, and that not even the West India Compan)' could yrant the
right to build houses or trade near by. In short, feudal privileges in
the broadest sense of the term were claimed by the patroon's agents.

The director now determined to enforce his sovereign right and sent
orders to remove all obstructions to free navigation of the river and to
free trade at Fort Orange. If passage of the river was interfered with
by arms, the guns were ordered seized; if tolls of any kind were ex-
acted on any river, island or harbor, within the company's territory, to
the injury of trade, they were to be opposed and abolished, by force if
necessary. Already 'Van Slechtenhorst had granted a few leases for
land at Katskill. The director refused to recognize his pretensions in
that direction, as the land had already been granted to another. Stny-
vesant protested against these leases and announced his purpose of op-
posing encroachment in that region. To this action the Rensselaer-
wyck authorities demurred, insisting that they were only fulfilling in-
structions from their superiors in Holland. They requested the direc-
tor-general to defer action until they could communicate with their
superiors, pledging that meanwhile no settlement should be made on
the disputed territory.

A petition was sent to the States-General from New Netherland ask-
ing for a burgher government (which was secured in 1()53); freedom
from customs, tenths and other burdens, the abolition of the e.xport
duty on tobacco, and other commercial reforms. This action may have
been inspired by the fact that the New England colonies paid no cus-
toms duties, but they were assessed directly for all government pur-
poses. The only tax paid in New Netherland was upon tapsters, and
that was returned to them by their patrons, while any individual could
own as much wine or beer as he pleased free of excise. All the papers in
this connection were turned over to a committee which reported April
11, 1650, recommending a liberal policy, the remedying of all griev-
ances, and promising the recall of Stuyvesant. The patroons were to
be compelled to "settle their colonists in the form of villages; the Nine
Men were to be given broader judicial functions; the patroons or their
agents, and delegates from the commonalty, were to choose represent-
atives in the council, and a judicial system was to be established."

In 1651 a call for a subsidy from Rensselaerwyck inaugurated an-
other collision with the government at New Amsterdam; the latter had
already demanded the excise on liquors in the patroon's territory, and


been refused. It was justly set forth that the patroon had paid from
liis own resources the salaries of the minister and other servants and
paid the general expenses of settlement of the colony. In June, IfiSO,
these amounted to the equivalent of more than fllO.OOO, which was the
ground for refusing further contribution. The commander, Van Slech-
tenhorst, was authorized by the people to proceed to New Amsterdam
and protest against the payment demanded. He arrived there late in
April, Kiol, and met his opponent, Stnyvesant. Both were unyield-
ing. After they separated and before \'an Slechtenhorst had finisheil
his dinner, he was summoned before the director-general and council.
Upon his appearance sentence was pronounced upon him, his conduct,
especially regarding the Katskill settlement, being strongly con-
demned. The commander was not abashed and demanded if a man
was to be condemed unheard. The answer was his prompt arrest. He
was detained there four months, during which he protested against his
confinement and the Rensselaerwyck authorities repeatedly asked for
his release. He finally escaped to Fort Orange on a sloop, guarantying
the skipper against harm for carrying him. The skipper was fortunate
in his guaranty, for on his return he was lined two hundred and fifty
guilders and his vessel was held.

Thus the struggle had continued three years since Stuyvesant set up
his claim for separate jurisdiction for Fort Orange, independent of
Rensselaerwyck; and still the matter was unsettled. As the gun shot
limits, finally estimated by him to be one hundred and fifty rods, in-
cluded the hamlet of Beverwyck, which was constantly becoming more
populous, that settlement would be severed from the remainder of the
colony, and as this would inevitably give the West India Company prac-
tical control of the fur trade, it will be seen that the outcome of the
matter was of much importance to the patroon's colonists.

While this controversy was at its height, Jean Baptiste Van Rens-
selaer, the first of that family who is known to have visited this coun-
try, was elected one of the magistrates, and soon afterward an order was
issued that all the freemen should take an oath of allegiance to the
patroon. Troubles of minor character continued. On a New Year's
night several soldiers armed with matchlocks came out of the fort and
fired a number of shots at the patroon's house, upon the roof of which
the gun wadding fell and the dwelling would have been destroyed but for
the efforts of the inmates. The next day the younger .Slechtenhorst
was assaulted by soldiers in the street, who beat him and dragged him


through the mud, in presence of the company's commissary, Johannes
Dyckman, who encouraged the assault by crying out: " Let him have
it now, and the deval take him! " Philip Pietersen Schuyler, son-in-law
of the elder Slechtenhorst, endeavored to save the young man, where-
upon Dyckman drew his sword and threatened to run Schuyler through
if he interfered. Other members of the commander's family were in-
sulted and beaten by the soldiers. When friends of the family threat-
ened revenge, Dyckman ordered the fort guns charged with grape and
threatened to fire upon the patroon's house. At this juncture Stuj'vesant
sent up some placards relating to the Fort Orange limits, which he
ordered published in the colony. With these Dyckman, six others,
and three soldiers, armed with guns and pistols, repaired to the house
where the magistrates were sitting and commanded Van Slechtenhorst
to make a minute of what was to be required. As it was contrary to the
law for any man to enter another's jurisdiction with an armed body,
without consent of the local authorities, this movement on Dyckman 's
part was protested against by the commander, who ordered Dyckman
to leave the room. He retired, but came back with a larger force and
demanded that the placards should be published throughout the colony
by the sound of the bell. " It shall not be done so long as we have a
drop of blood in our veins, nor until we receive orders from their High
Mightinesses and our honored masters," exclaimed the court. Dyck-
man now proceeded to the fort and ordered the bell to be rung three
times; he then returned to the patroon's court house, ascended the
steps with his followers and directed his deputy to proclaim the placards,
while the excited burghers gathered around. As the deputy was about
to obey, Van Slechtenhorst rushed forward and tore the placards from
his hands, "so that the seals fell on the ground." When the news of
these occurrences reached New Amsterdam, Stuyvesant sent anothei-
placard to Dyckman, again defining the jurisdiction of Fort Orange lo
extend to a circumference of six hundred paces from the fort, and con-
tinuing as follows:

In order tliat no man shall plead ignorance, we further charge our Commissary,
after publication hereof, to erect on the aforesaid limits, north, south and west of the
aforesaid fortress, a post, marked with the Company's mark, and to affix, on a board
nailed thereto, a copy hereof.

Within those bounds it was ordered that no house should be built,
unless authorized by the director and council, or their agents. This
illegal act, which violated rights of property as well as the charter of


1639, separated forever the settlement of Bevervvyck from Yan Rens-
selaer's colony. The patroon's officials ordered the obnoxious posts
removed at once, protesting "before Almighty God and the States-
General against all open force and violence, and insisting on reparation
for all losses and damages which might accrue or be caused thereby."
The patroon's court on the some day drew up anothpr protest "against
the unbecoming pretensions and attacks of the Dire'ctor and Council of
New Netherland," denying again the authority of the latter and insist-
ing that the settlers on the manor had never sworn allegiance to the
company, and much less to Rtuyvesant, and owned no masters but the
States General and their own immediate superiors. In return this
document was declared by the director and council " a libellous cal-

The vexatious question of jurisdiction now came up in another form.
A negress, the property of Sander Leendertsen Glen, was charged with
theft and caused several "decent persons" to be prosecuted as receiv-
ers of the stolen goods. Her arrest being ordered, Dyckman proceeded
to execute his warrant, but her master refused to surrender her that
evening, upon which Dyckman informed him that he had power to send
him and all his family to jail, and to pull his house down about his
ears, " as it was erected on the Company's soil." Glen replied that he
had nothing to do with Dyckman, and said, "I cannot serve a new
master until I am discharged from the one I live under." Dyckman
now threatened Glen with the wrath of Stuyvesant, when Glen retorted
that he would fare as well with the director as with Dyckman. There-
upon Dyckman drew his sword and threatened the burgher with death,
while the latter caught up a club with which to defend himself. Next
morning (ilen was placed under arrest in the fort. Rumors were now
circulated that Stuyvesant was soon to visit Beverwyck and Dyckman
asserted that a new gallows was to be erected for "\'an Slechtenhorst,
his son and young Van Ren.sselaer.

But Stuyvesant was busy at New Amsterdam in ridding himself of
the last of his opponents there, in the person of Attorney General \'an
Dyck. This official had been ill treated by Stuyvesant from the time
of his appointment and excluded from the colony for two years. Later
he was charged with menial duties and otherwise humiliated. In
the same spring of the year a lampoon .ippeared directed toward
Stuyvesant, and Van Dyck was charged with being its author. The
council was called together to consider the momentous matter and


actually adopted a resolution dismissing \'an Dyck from office "on ac-
count of the multitude of his misdemeanors and connivances." While
it was claimed that this proceeding- had the sanction of the Nine Men,
they repudiated it, declaring that it was adopted wholly on Stuy-
vesant's authority and that they were not aware of any complaints
against Van Dyck. Cornelius Van Tienhoven was appointed to the
office, while Carl Van Brugge succeeded Van Tienhoven as provincial
secretary. Van Dyck defended himself by a written accusation against
Stuyvesant in which he bitterlj' condemned the dii'ector and denounced
the appointee to the office as the perjured secretary, a reproach to the
country and the main scourge of both Christians and heathens, "with
whose sensualities the Director himself has been always acquainted."

Stuyvesant now turned his attention to Van Slechtenhorst. For
this purpose he visited Fort Orange and called the authorities of Rens-
selaerwyck together to define what they claimed as their boundaries.
The director expressed his consent to allow them four miles on one
side or two miles on both sides of the river, but warned them against
claiming more. They replied that they had no authority to act in the
]) and again asked for delay until they could communicate with
Holland, which was granted. The question of supremacy over Bever-
wyck was not so readily disposed of. Sergeant Litschoe and a squad
of soldiers approached the door of the patroon's house and ordered
Van Slechtenhorst to lower the patroon's flag, and upon his refusal
"fourteen soldiers armed with loaded muskets, entered the enclosure,
and, after firing a volley, hauled down the lord's colors." This
high-handed act was followed by a proclamation from Stuyvesant
erecting at Fort Orange a Court of Justice for the village of Reverwyck
and its dependencies, apart from and independent of that of Rensse-
laerwyck. The placard bearing this proclamation was posted on the
court house and immediately torn down by Van Slechtenhorst, who at
the same tinie posted another card asserting the patroon's rights and
denouncing those of the opposition, which was torn down by inmates of
the fort. Stuyvesant's proclamation erecting the court was dated April
10, 1052, and authorized the first legal tribunal in what is now Albany
county. (See chapter on the Bench and Bar.)

And now, after four years of strife and vain struggle against powers
that were two strong for him. Van vSlechtenhorst's term of power drew
near its close. Nine armed soldiers forcibly entered his dwelling and
without showing authority for their act, dragged him out, a jirisoner, and

took him to the fort "where neither his children, his master nor his
friends were allowed to speak to him, and his furs, his clothes, and his
meat were left hanying- to the door posts." Taken on board a sloop he
was conveyed to New Amsterdam, "lobe tormented, in his sickness
and old age, with unheard-uf and insufferable prosecutions by those
serving a Christian government, professing the same religion, and
living under the same authority." He was succeeded in his official
|)osition by Jan Baptiste Van Rensselaer, with Gerrit Swart as sheriff
(schout-fiscaal) of Rensselaerwyck.

When information of Stuyvesant's operations reached the patroon
and his partners, they sent to the Amsterdam Chamber a long remon-
strance, of which the following is the substance:

1st, That the Director-General had dared to intrude in their colony, and had
commissioned the patroon's flag to be hauled down.

2d, That he had caused timber to be cut on the complainant's lands witlmul
either their knowledge or their permission.

lid, That he had claimed for the West India Company the right of jurisdiction
and property over all the land within a circumference of 150 rods of Fort Orange,
where he had erected a court of justice, notwithstanding the soil had been purchased
from the right owners by the patroon, with the jurisdiction thereunto belonging,
whereby the colonists were reduced to a state of dependency, absolved from their
oaths, "transformed from freemen to vassals, and incited to disregard their former
solemn compacts and their lord and master."

4th, He had, moreover, discharged Sheriff Swart from his oath of ofHce, and
obliged him to swear allegiance to the Company;

5th, Demanded copies of all the rolls, protocols, judgments, resolutions and papers
relative to the colony and its affairs;

6th, Ordered his Commissary to force Van Slechtenhorst's house, and lo toll the
bell at the publication of his illegal placards;

7th, Arrested by force and arms the Director of the Colony, had him conveyed
to the Manhattans, where he illegally detained him in custody ;

8th, Taxed the colony to swell the Company's revenues, licensed those who c|uit
the patroon's service to sell articles of contraband to the .savages, and, in addition to
the exaction of the tithes, had raised a tax by farming out the excise on wines and
beers, "thus, in every respect and everywhere using violence and infringing rights,
jurisdictions and pre-eminences, apparently determined to take our goods and blood,
contrary to all laws, human and divine; declaring, over and above all this, that he
is continued in his administration solely in the hope and consideration that before
his departure he should ruin this colony."

The document closed with avowals of their intention to maintain and
preserve their rights and privileges, and demanding that if their op-
ponents thought they had 'just cause of complaint, they should appear
in any court and make good their claims.


The replv by the directors was vaj^iic and unsatisfactory, and, there-
fcjre, the patroon and his friends addressed a memorial directly to their
High Mightinesses, the States-Creneral, demanding justice for their
cause. After some delay a reply was received referringtoa part of the
charges against Stuyvesant, and denying all knowledge of many of
them; they knew nothing of the insult to the patroon's flag, of his

Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 2 of 138)