New York Under Dutch Rule: 1609-1664; 1673-1674

Under 16th century public international law, the great powers of Europe asserted the right to establish colonies on other continents based on claims of "first discovery and occupation." The Dutch claim to the lands that would later constitute the State of New York arose on September 11, 1609, when a ship (the Halve Maen) sailing under the Dutch flag entered New York Bay and commenced a voyage up the river that would later bear its captain’s name, Hudson. The voyage continued to the place now known as Albany, beyond which the river was not navigable.

New Netherland was much larger than the State of New York and extended from the Delmarva Peninsula to southwestern Cape Cod, and included lands that now form parts of the States of New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut. New Netherland also claimed small outposts in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

By 1611, Dutch merchants had started to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to these newly-discovered lands to trade cloth and other commodities for beaver and otter pelts. In 1614, a group of Dutch merchants formed The New Netherland Company and obtained a three-year fur trading monopoly from the Dutch government, the States General of the United Provinces. Although that company established an outpost known as Fort Orange on Castle Island near Albany in 1615, these merchants were not settlers.

In 1621, another merchant group incorporated the Dutch West India Company (the Company) and obtained from the States General a charter that granted it a twenty-four-year trading monopoly in lands claimed by the Dutch in the Americas and Africa. The charter, dated June 3, 1621, gave the Company almost complete administrative and judicial power, including the power to "appoint and remove governors, officers of justice and other public officers, for the preservation of the places, keeping good order, police and justice in like manner for the promoting of trade." By 1623, the Company had drawn up plans to settle New Netherland and the first ships, laden with colonists and supplies, arrived in the colony in 1625.

The Director and Council of New Netherland, acting together, constituted the administration in New Netherland. These same officials also constituted the New Netherland Court of Justice, vested with original, appellate and admiralty jurisdiction. For the first twenty years, whenever the Company's ships were in port in New Amsterdam, their captains participated in the Council and the Court. In later years, leading citizens were asked to serve pro hac vice when the Court was hearing an important case. The Fiscael, whose office was analogous to that of an Attorney General, had a non-voting seat on the Council, but when the Council acted as a court, the Fiscael was the prosecutor.

Against the backdrop of the 17th century Anglo-Dutch wars, Charles II of England authorized the dispatch of an armed force to New Netherland in 1664. The English claim to the colony was based upon the voyages of exploration commissioned by Henry VII that had discovered the Atlantic coast of North America in 1497 and 1498. Richard Nicolls was commissioned to lead the attack and when the English fleet sailed into New York harbor, the Dutch recognized the superiority of the forces against them and surrendered on September 8, 1664. This change of sovereignty was confirmed in the Treaty of Breda, 1667.

The Third Anglo-Dutch war broke out in 1672 and, in 1673, a Dutch fleet arrived in the New York harbor. The Governor of New, York, Francis Lovelace, was engaged in negotiations with Governor of Connecticut and was absent from the colony. When the Dutch issued a demand for surrender, the Governor’s deputy, Captain John Manning, without authorization, immediately complied. The colony was renamed New Netherland and the Dutch form of government was restored. Within a year, the Third Anglo-Dutch war ended with the 1674 Treaty of Westminister that returned New Netherland to English rule.

Adriaen van der Donck

A covetous ruler makes poor subjects, and the mode in which the country is now governed, is...not to be tolerated – Adriaen van der Donck, Remonstrance of New Netherland

Important Figures

Directors & Director-General, 1623-1664

Adriaen Jorisz Thienpont, 1624

Cornelis Jacobsz Mey, 1624

Willem Verhulst, 1625-26

Pieter Minuit, 1626-32

Bastiaen Jansz Krol, 1632-33

Wouter van Twiller, 1633-38

Willem Kieft, 1638-47

Pieter Stuyvesant, 1647-64

Governors, 1673-1674

Cornelis Evertsen de Jongste & Jacob Benckes, 1673

Anthony Colve, 1673-1674

The Council of New Netherland, 1625-1664 (List of all members)

Fiscael, 1625-1664, 1673-1674

Role of the Fiscael?

Role of the Fiscael in New Netherland

In New Netherland, the [Fiscael] was not originally a member of the Council, but their executive officer; and, besides his other ordinary functions, he was specially charged with the due inspection and enforcement of the revenue regulations of the Colonial Custom-house. He was charged principally with enforcing and maintaining the placards, laws, ordinances, resolutions and military regulations of their High Mighinesses, the States-General, and protecting the rights, domains and jurisdiction of the company, and executing their orders, as well in as out of court, without favor or respect to individuals. He superintended all prosecutions and suits, but could not undertake any actions on behalf of the company, except by order of the council; nor arraign, nor arrest any person on a criminal charge, except on information previously received, or unless he caught him in flagrante delicto. In taking information he was bound to note as well those points which made for the prisoner as those which supported the charge against him, and after trial he saw to the faithful execution of the sentence pronounced by the judges, who, in indictments carrying with them loss of life and property, were not to be less than five in number. He, moreover, attended to the commissaries arriving from the Company's out-posts and to vessels arriving from and leaving for Holland, inspected their papers, and superintended the loading and discharging of their cargoes, so that smuggling might be prevented. He transmitted to the directors in Holland copies of all information taken by him, as well as of all sentences pronounced by the court, and no person was kept long in prison at the expense of the Company without special cause, but all were prosecuted as expeditiously as possible. This office, perhaps the most responsible in the colony, was filled, during the administration of Director Minuit, by Jan Lampo of Cantelberg.

This text is excerpted from John Romeyn Brodhead's History of the State of New York, Vol. 2, p 164.

Jan Lampo, 1625-32

Coenraet Notelman, 1632-34; 1634-35

Lubbert van Dincklagen, 1634

Jacques Bentyn, 1636-38?

Ulrich Lupolt, 1638?-39

Cornelis van der Hoykens, 1639-47

Hendrick van Dijck, 1647-52

Brian Newton (substituting), 1652

Cornelis van Tienhoven, 1652-56

Nicasius de Sille, 1656-64

Willem Knjiff, 1673-74

Schout, New Amsterdam, 1653-1665, 1673-1674

Cornelis van Tienhoven, 1653-56

Nicasius de Sille, 1656-60

Pieter Tonneman, 1660-64

Allard Anthony, 1664-67

Anthony de Milt, 1673-74

The Flushing Remonstrance

You have been pleased to send unto us a certain prohibition...that we should not recieve...any of those people called Quakers...For our part we cannot condemn them in this case... – The Flushing Remonstrance
Listen to a reading of the Remonstrance by Henry Miller, Esq.

About the Period

Courts of the Era

The New Netherland Court of Justice (The Director & Council sitting as a Court)

     Cases Decided by The New Netherland Court of Justice

The Patroon Court, 1632-

Local Courts, 1642-

The New Amsterdam Court of Burgomasters & Schepens, 1653-

The New Amsterdam Court of Schout, Burgomasters & Schepens, 1660-

Remonstrances, Protests & Boards of Representatives

1642 - The Twelve Men & Opposition to the Indian War

1643 - The Eight Men & Their Remonstrance

1649 - The Nine Men & The Petition of the Commonality of New Netherland

1657 - The Flushing Remonstrance

Charters, Codes and Treaties

Charter of the Dutch West India Company, 1621

Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions, 1629

Articles and Conditions, 1638

Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions, 1640

Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions, 1650

Articles of Surrender, 1664

Treaty of Breda, 1667

Dutch Summons to the English to Surrender, 1673

Treaty of Westminster, 1674


Jaap Jacobs. The Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeenth-century Amerirca (2009).

Adriaen van der Donck. A Description of New Netherland (1665). Edited by Charles T. Gehring and William A. Starna and translated by Diederik Willem Goedhuys (2008).

E.B. O'Callaghan. Annals of New Netherland (1865), in The Register of New Netherland, 1626-1674, p. xi-xx.

Further Reading

Jean Zimmerman. The Women of the House: How a Colonial She-Merchant Built a Mansion, a Fortune, and a Dynasty (2006).

Russell Shorto. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America (2005).

Opening Statements: Law, Jurisprudence and the Legacy of Dutch New York. edited by Albert M. & Julia C. Rosenblatt. (2013).

Articles by Jaap Jacobs: Bibliography

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