Saturday, May 30, 2015

Drinking in Early America - Rules for Drinking by Peter Stuyvesant c 1592-1612-1672, the Dutch Governor of the New Netherlands

Peter Stuyvesant c 1592-1612-1672 
Dutch Governor of the New Netherlands
Rules For Drinking Responsibly

One of Governor Peter Stuyvesant's first edicts upon arriving in New Amsterdam included new restrictions regarding drinking & selling alcohol in the chaotic Dutch settlement of New Netherlands. The documents note that New Amsterdam's excessive alcohol consumption "causes not only the neglect of honest handicraft and business, but also the debauching of the common man and the Company’s servants and what is still worse, of the young people from childhood up, who seeing the improper proceedings of their parents and imitating them leave the path of virtue and become disorderly."

And so the following list of edicts laid out rules on such diverse topics as bar fights, drinking on Sunday, & providing liquor to Indians:

1. "Henceforth no new taproom, tavern or inn shall be opened."

2. "The taverns, taprooms and inns, already established, may continue for at least four consecutive years, but in the meantime the owners shall be obliged to engage in some other honest business at this place."

 3. "The tavern-keepers and tapsters are allowed to continue in their business for four years at least, but only on condition, that they shall not transfer their former occupation."

4. "The tavern keepers and tapsters shall henceforth not be allowed, to sell or give beer, wine, brandy or strong waters to Indians or provide them with it by intermediaries."

5. "To prevent all fighting and mishaps they shall daily report to the Officer, whether anybody has been hurt or wounded at their houses, under the penalty of forfeiting their business and a fine of one pound Flemish for every hour after the hurt or wound has been inflicted and been concealed by the tapster or tavern-keeper."

6. "The orders, heretofore published against unseasonable night tippling and intemperate drinking on the Sabbath, shall be obeyed by the tavern-keepers and tapsters with close attention."

7. "They shall be held, not to receive any beer or wine or distilled waters into their houses or cellars, directly or indirectly, before they have so reported at the office of the Receiver."

8. "Finally, all tavern-keepers and tapsters, who intend to continue in their occupation, shall eight days after the publication hereof present themselves in person and give their names to the Director General and Council and there solemnly promise, that they will faithfully obey what rules have been or may be made."

Portrait of Peter Stuyvesant attributed to Henri Couturier

Peter Stuyvesant (also known as Pietrus Stuyvesant), the son of a clergyman of Friesland, was born in the Netherlands.  Stuyvesant served in the Dutch Army before receiving his appointment as director-general of New Netherland in 1646. He had served in the West Indies & was governor of the colony of Curacoa. He lost a leg during the unsuccessful assault on the Portuguese island of St. Martin, after which he returned to the Netherlands in 1644.

Two years later he was appointed director-general of New Netherlands, & took the oath of office in July, 1646. He sailed to the new world & reached New Amsterdam on May 11, 1647. Soon after his inauguration on 27 May, he organized a council & established a court of justice.

In deference to the popular will, he ordered a general election of 18 delegates, from whom the governor & his council selected a board of 9, whose power was advisory & not legislative. A dictatorial leader, Stuyvesant was unpopular with the other settlers. However, during his 18 year administration, the population grew from 2,000 to 8,000.

Peter Stuyvesant immediately after his arrival he tried to reorganize the colony: he ordered the strict observance of Sunday rest & prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages & weapons to the Indians. He also tried to increase state-income by heavier taxation on imports. To improve the quality of the colony he stimulated the colonists to build better houses & taverns, & established a market & an annual cattle-fair. He also showed interest in founding a public school.

He tried to settle an old problem: the question of the boundaries with other colonies. However, the government of the New England colony could not accept his terms. Because of the Dutch claim of jurisdiction in Connecticut, he also became involved in a controversy with Governor of that colony.

The first 2 years of his administration were not successful. He had serious discussions with the patroons, who interfered with the company's trade & denied the authority of the governor, & he was also embroiled in contentions with the council, which sent a deputation to the Hague to report the condition of the colony to the states-general. This report was published as "Vertoogh van Nieuw Netherlandt" (The Hague, 1650). The states-general afterward commanded Stuyvesant to appear personally in Holland; but the order was not confirmed by the Amsterdam chamber, & Stuyvesant refused to obey, saying, " I shall do as I please."

In September, 1650, a meeting of the commissioners on boundaries took place in Hartford, whither Stuyvesant traveled in state. The line was arranged much to the dissatisfaction of the Dutch, who declared that "the governor had ceded away enough territory to found fifty colonies each fifty miles square." Stuyvesant grew haughty in his treatment of his opponents, & threatened to dissolve the council. A plan of municipal government was finally arranged in Holland, & the name of the new city of New Amsterdam--was officially announced on 2 February, 1653. Stuyvesant made a speech on this occasion, knowing that his authority would remain undiminished. The governor was now ordered to Holland again; but the order was soon revoked on the declaration of war with England. Stuyvesant prepared against an attack by ordering his subjects to make a ditch from the North river to the East river, & to erect breastworks. In 1665 he sailed into the Delaware with a fleet of 7 vessels & about 700 men & took possession of the colony of New Sweden, which he called New Amstel.

In his absence New Amsterdam was ravaged by Indians, but his return inspired confidence. Although he organized militia & fortified the town, he subdued the hostile savages chiefly through kind treatment. In 1653, a convention of two deputies from each village in New Netherlands had demanded reforms, & Stuyvesant commanded this assembly to disperse, saying, "We derive our authority from God & the company, not from a few ignorant subjects." The spirit of resistance nevertheless increased, & the encroachments of other colonies, with a depleted treasury, harassed the governor. In 1664, Charles II ceded to his brother, the Duke of York, a large tract of land, including New Netherlands; & 4 English war vessels bearing 450 men, commanded by Captain Richard Nicholls, took possession of the harbor. 

On 30 August Sir George Cartwright handed the governor a summons to surrender, promising life, estate, & liberty to all who would submit to the king's authority. Stuyvesant read the letter before the council, &, fearing the concurrence of the people, tore it into pieces. On his appearance, the people who had assembled around the city-hall greeted him with shouts of "The letter ! the letter ! " &, returning to the council-chamber, he gathered up the fragments, which he gave to the burgomasters to do with the order as they pleased. He sent a defiant answer to Nicholls, & ordered the troops to prepare for an attack, but yielded to a petition of the citizens not to shed innocent blood, & signed a treaty at his Bouwerie house on 9 September, 1664. The burgomasters proclaimed Nicholls governor, & the town was called New York.

In 1665, Stuyvesant went to Holland to report, & labored to secure from the king the satisfaction of the 6th article in the treaty with Nicholls, which granted free trade. During his administration commerce had increased greatly, the colony obtaining the privilege of trading with Brazil in 1648, with Africa for slaves in 1652, & with other foreign ports in 1659. Stuyvesant endeavored unsuccessfully to introduce a specie currency & to establish a mint in New Amsterdam. He was a thorough conservative in church as well as state, & intolerant of any approach to religious freedom. He refused to grant a meeting-house to the Lutherans, who were growing numerous; drove their minister from the colony; & frequently punished religious offenders by fines & imprisonment.

The Surrender

Stuyvesant's Houses & Slaves

On his return from Holland after the surrender, he spent the remainder of his life on his farm outside the city, called the Great Bouwerie, beyond which stretched woods & swamps to the little village of Haarlem.  A colonial bouwerie was a complete self-sustained farm, with crops, orchards, & livestock.  A colonial plantation, might concentrate on growing a specific cash crop such as tobacco. 

Peter Styvesant's Town House, N.Y.C., 1658 as imagined in the 19C

At the time, the farm sat in the area in today’s Greenwich Village & East Village which was then mostly virgin wilderness, dotted with swamps, ponds, hills, & rocks. There was one other Dutch farm in that location & several others that belonged to quasi-freed slave families. Earlier in 1644, the Dutch West India Company had granted partial freedom to 9 slaves who had been petitioning to be released. Despite appearing to grant some liberty to the slaves, it was a decision that mostly benefited the Company.  The slaves were emancipated & given plots of land outside of the city proper, for which the freedmen paid an annual tax in wheat, beans, maize, or a pig. This way, the freedmen could provide for their families, & in turn the Company would not have to care for children or the elderly.  Stuyvesant took advantage of the fragile situation. In addition to the land he was granted by the Dutch West India Company, he quickly began purchasing these "Negro Lots" wherever possible, & in some cases, he simply issued decrees that transferred the land back to the Company and into his hands.  In addition to his own 550 acres that he consolidated, his son-in-law Nicholas Bayard managed to accumulate another 200 acres nearby. Stuyvesant himself kept about 40-50 slaves, by far the largest amount in New Netherlands.  These slaves kept his town home & his bouwerie in order.

Peter Styvesant's Bouwerie as imagined in the 19C

Stuyvesant continued to live on his country estate on Manhattan Island which was maintained by slaves, until his death in 1672.