BEVERWIJCK PROCLAMATION

Conjectured limits of the town of Beverwijck as defined by Stuyvesant in 1652

Map created by Bernie Gerling of Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc.


INTRODUCTION *

When Kiliaen van Rensselaer purchased the land for his patroonship on the upper Hudson in 1631, Fort Orange—the Dutch West India Company's permanent trading post in the region—was seven years old. As the main supplier of furs in New Netherland, the region was of great strategic importance and would become the most important population center in the colony next to Manhattan.

The location of Fort Orange within the boundaries of the newly established and "private" Rensselaerswijck created the potential for a jurisdictional conflict, but Kiliaen van Rensselaer realized the importance of congenial relations with the Company. Van Rensselaer's primary objective was to profit through agricultural endeavors and leave most of the fur trade to the Company, exchanging agricultural support for protection from the fort. The Company's militia could also be of assistance in suppressing agrarian discontent. To this end, he planned to construct the patroonship's center—known as the bijeenwoninge (literally 'living together')—on the river's east side.

After Van Rensselaer's death, however, the guardians of his young heir altered his plans and moved the site of the bijeenwoninge to the river's west side, near Fort Orange. Renssealerswijck's new director Brant van Slichtenhorst refused to recognize the authority of Petrus Stuyvesant, who was in the employ of the Company as Director-General of New Netherland. Van Slichtenhort's encouragement of building near Fort Orange eventually led to a jurisdictional conflict and the formation of Beverwijck (literally: 'beaver district'). Stuyvesant argued on behalf of the Company’s rights that the field of fire around the fort should not be obstructed by the construction of houses; Van Slichtenhorst argued on behalf of the patroon that all the land fell within the Colony’s jurisdiction and could be disposed of as he saw fit.

Stuyvesant—concerned that Van Slichtenhorst's insubordination was chipping away at the Company’s authority—pushed back. After being summoned to Manhattan by Stuyvesant in 1651, Van Slichtenhorst was imprisoned but subsequently escaped, returning to Rensselaerswijck by boat. A short time later armed soldiers arrested Van Slichtenhorst after he refused to publish the Company proclamation declaring its jurisdiction around Fort Orange. He spent the next sixteen months under detention—during which time his term of office would expire—in Manhattan.

The following proclamation has been constructed from the council minute in volume 5 of the Dutch Colonial Manuscripts held by the New York State Archives, dated March 5, 1652, resolving the four-year dispute between Stuyvesant and Van Slichtenhorst.


*This account of the dispute is loosely adapted from New Netherland Research Center Associate Director Janny Venema's book Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664 published by the State University of New York Press. Another version of the events is found in A Tour of New Netherland's Beverwijck page. 


PROCLAMATION

The Director-General, Petrus Stuyvesant, and Council of New Netherland send greetings to all who shall see, read or hear this read aloud;

WHEREAS, we have previously informed and warned the Director of the Colony of Rensselaerswijck not to obstruct the Honorable West India Company’s Fort Orange with new buildings and houses within the fort’s liberty, estimated to be 600 geometrical paces or 3000 feet, about the distance of a salute gun’s shot;

WHEREAS, the Director-General communicated this order to the aforesaid Director and to the court of the colony on July 23rd, 1648 both orally and in writing with the verbal request not to allow the erection of any more new buildings within the liberty of the aforesaid fort, unless he, the Director, has previously obtained a special order or consent from their High Mightinesses, the States General of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, or from the Directors of the West India Company, as masters and owners of the province of New Netherland;

WHEREAS, there are sites more suitable for building purposes both above and below the aforesaid limits of the fort’s liberty;

WHEREAS, the Director has ignored these orders and propria authoritate, without recognizing any higher prerogative of this province, gradually begun to distribute lots nearer to the fort not only for quitrent but also in fee simple, which is an absolute sale;

WHEREAS, in order to maintain the privileges of Fort Orange and the Honorable Lords Directors of the West India Company and their jurisdiction we were finally compelled to defend and publicly proclaim their rights and the boundaries of the fort;

WHEREAS, this proclamation was communicated to the aforesaid director with an order to post the same in the colony of Rensselaerswijck, and he, the director, to the disparagement of our official positions and of the sovereign authority of the fatherland, which we represent here, and to the special affront of the Lords Directors of the West India Company, most insultingly and indecently dared to tear it out of the hands of the clerk and throw the seal of the province to the ground;

WHEREAS, the aforesaid Director has by this insult and an affront to the supreme government violated all neighborly obligations and our previous accommodating moderation not to enforce the claim to the boundaries of the fort’s liberty until further orders were received from the Lords Directors,

THEREFORE, we are now constrained to revoke our previous favor and to direct our commander not to permit any building or frame of a house to be erected either west or northwest of the fort within 600 geometrical paces of five feet each or 250 Rhineland rods, approximately the range of a salute gun’s shot‑ and so that no one may hereafter plead ignorance, we order our commander, after posting and publishing this, to erect or cause to be erected north, south, and west of Fort Orange a post marked with the honorable Company’s mark at the aforesaid distance, determining the jurisdiction of the aforesaid fort. Thus done and enacted in council, this March 5th, 1652.

 

[Signed:] P. Stuyvesant

 

[Epilogue: As soon as the ice cleared in the North (later Hudson) River, Stuyvesant sent forty soldiers to Fort Orange to enforce the resolution. On April 10, 1652, after reading the proclamation and replacing the Colony’s flag with the Company’s flag, the newly established court of Fort Orange and the village of Beverwijck held its first session. The servants of the Colony, who fell within the 3000 foot radius around the fort were allowed to abjure their oath to the patroon and swear allegiance to the Company. This area, containing the houses of most of the craftsmen and artisans in the patroonship, was re-named Beverwijck. Eventually it would become the capital of the Empire State.]

 

Resolution translated and redrafted as a proclamation by Charles Gehring in 2002.

About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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