Page images

The documents are given verbatim, and in the orthography and punctuation of the originals. Questions of construction are thus left to the reader.

It will be convenient to refer to the ordinances and acts by the following periods of time:

The First Colonial Period, from the earliest ordinance in the “ Colony of Nieuw Nederlandt” in 1638 to the first English con. quest in 1664.

The Second Colonial and First English Period, from 1664 to the reconquest by the Dutch in 1673.

From the close of the last period in 1673 to the final surrender of the colony to the English in October, 1674, there are no excise ordinances.

The Third Colonial Period, from the final reconquest by the Eng. lish in 1674, to the American revolution in 1775.

The State Period, from the American revolution to the present time.

Legislative or municipal regulation of the sale of intoxicating liquors by retail, has been regarded as a necessity of good govern. ment. The example of the first Dutch governor of New Netherland is opposed to this opinion. He ascended to the gubernatorial chair in 1629, and it was vacated by his death in 1634. In these years there was no ordinance on the excise or liquor traffic and very few upon any other, but according to that veracious historian, Diedrich Knickerbocker, “ New Amsterdam waxed great and prosperous under the somnolent rule of a chief magistrate who had no use for laws and statutes, and who was content to rely upon the protection of the good Saint Nicholas.” His equanimity was so profound that it was proof against the whoopin ys of the Indians, those mighty consumers of strong waters. He came to be known as “ the first and the best of the Dutch governors," and his official term as “the golden reign of Wouter Van Twiller."

His successor was a burgher of different type. He was a choleric man, who conceived that the true wisdom of government consisted in the multiplicity of the laws. He was the inventor of the scheme for the suppression of poverty by making wampum a legal tender, and he counted that day lost which did not create a new ordinance, and (continues the same historian) “ He soon had the whole surface of society so cut up by petty rules and ordinances that one could not walk abroad without the risk of letting off a spring gun or falling into a man trap.” His name was Wilhelmus Kieft, but he was better known as “ William the Testy.” The first recorded ordinance on the liquor traffic in the New World was passed after his inauguration and in the year 1638. He was the first to prohibit the tapping (serving) of beer during Divine service, and the sale of liquor to the Indians. He was the pioneer in laying an excise on beavers and beer. His activity of mind continued until the year 1647, when, like Thackeray's “ Three Men from Bristol City," he took ship and went to sea and was never heard of more.

Petrus Stuyvesant, who succeeded Governor Kieft, was the last, and, according to the same historian, like Governor Van Twiller, also the best of the Dutch governors. He saw that past ordinances had increased, rather than diminished the liquor traffic, and he sought to control the evil by the enforcement rather than the multiplicity of the laws. He reigned intelligently and wisely until the 27th of August, 1664, 0. s., when an English fleet sailed into the harbor, compelled him to retire to his retreat in the Bowerie, and Sir Richard Nicolls reigned in his stead.

The control of the colony by Great Britain was unbroken from the advent of Governor Nicolls until the American Revolution, except by the temporary reoccupation by the Dutch from July, 1673, to October, 1674, when, in accordance with the treaty of Westminster, the final surrender was made..

Such further observations as seem necessary will be made in connection with the ordinances and laws. In the ordinances there are a few words and phrases which require explanation.

“Liquors,” unless otherwise indicated, will be used as comprising wines, ale, beer and cider, as well as distilled liquors.

“Pipe," a cask for liquors, varying in different countries from 68 to 156 gallons; usually about 105 gallons.

“ Hogshead,” half a pipe, or 63 old wine or 523 imperial gallons.

The “Tun” was the liquor measure of four hogsheads, or 252 gallons.

The “ Anker” was a Dutch equivalent to 10 gallons, English wine measure.

The “Florin ” of Holland, was a coin valued at about 1 shilling 84 pence sterling, or 41 cents.

The " Guilder " was a Dutch coin of 20 stivers, worth 1 shilling and 9 pence sterling, or 42 cents.

The “ Stiver" was a copper coin of about 1 penny, or 2 cents. “Essoin” or “ Essoigne" an excuse. A plea for delay.

The term “Arbitrary correction” imported a punishment inflicted on the person, as flogging, placing in the stocks or imprisonment, limited only by the judicial discretion, and usually inflicted in cases of contempt or contumacy.

IMMODERATE DRINKING. The first recorded ordinance on the subject shows that “immoder. ate drinking” was an evil which the edict of 1638 sought to repress by prohibiting the sale of liquors except at the company's stores, where it was presumed that improper sales would not be made. After the imposition of an excise, which implied the unavoidability of a sale, ordinances were passed, in the promotion of good order, almost every year, prohibiting such sales on the Sabbath during Divine service, or after the ringing of the 9 o'clock bell.

SALE OF LIQUORS TO THE INDIANS. The sale of liquors to the Indians involved a danger which amply justified the repeated ordinances for its prohibition. The picture of drunken Indians whooping along the streets, the assertion that almost every Indian was a drunken Indian, which appear in these ordinances, show that these sales were a calamity to be repressed by the most vigorous measures. It appears somewhat strange, however, that an excise should have been laid upon Indian goods and liquors, thus implying their sale, and that in the ordinance of November, 1709, the case of a “farmer” should have been referred to the Legislature for compensation, on the ground that he had lost sales to the Indians, who were great consumers of liquor, by an act of prohibitory legislation.

There was in the “ Dukes Lawes," and in some of the ordinances

against selling liquors to the Indians, a provision which must have rendered conviction under them very difficult. It was that which declared " That it shall be lawfull, by way of releife and charity to any Indian in case of sudden extremity, sickness, faintness or weariness, to sell or give to such Indian the quantity of two drames, and no more, of any such strong liquors.” That of May, 1709, also permitted a commissioner or a justice to give to Indians “ A small quantity of rum for their refreshment.” It was seldom that an Indian could not plead “faintness or weariness,” or “need of refreshment."

THE EXCISE SYSTEM. The attempt to restrict the sale of liquors to the company's stores, obviously, did not succeed. The wars with the Indians involved large expenses, and, as expressed in the first excise ordinance of 1644, “No more suitable means” for paying them “ could be found than to impose some duties” upon the traffic in liquors. The governor and council, therefore, first imposed a tax of two guilders, or eighty. four cents, on each half barrel of beer; four stivers, or eight cents, on every quart of Spanish, and two stivers, or four cents, per quart of French liquors or wines. Changes in this tax were made from time to time until after the grant of the Dongan charter. In 1692 an act was passed “ Establishing a revenue upon their Majesties for the defraying of the publick and necessary charges of the gov. ernment,” which continued the excise of four pence (or eight cents) " for every galland of rum, brandy and distilled liquors that shall be imported into this province and its dependencyes,” and “ for every pipe of Madeira, marmsey, ffeyall, St. Georges, Pisada, canary, malaga, sherry and all sorts of sweet wynes, the summe of forty shillings currant money," * * “and for every hogshead of red, white and Rhenish wynes, the sume of twenty shillings," * * "and likewise the sume of six shillings for each barrel of beer and syder sold by retail throughout the province.” This act was to remain in force for two years. It established the policy of the colony, and was renewed from time to time with such changes as the times permitted during the remainder of the colonial period.

After January, 1657, tavern keepers were required to pay a tax in proportion to their sales, and after 1658 the keepers of boardinghouses to pay one-half the cost of the tavern keepers' license.



The proceeds of the excise were not exclusively applied to pay the ordinary expenses of the colony. By the ordinance of 1661, it having been ascertained that the tax on morgens and house lots “cannot amount to half the expense of building the parsonage in said village of Wiltwyck” (Kingston), an excise of different amounts on the strong beer, wines and distilled liquors consumed in said village was authorized until the parsonage was completed. In 1694 the excise was levied “to rebuild their majesties' chappel in the fort,” and to mount sixteen great guns.

NO PAWNING FOR LIQUORS. The edict of 1657 prohibited the taking by the vendor of any. thing in pawn for liquors, on pain of restoring the goods, paying 25 guilders for the first offense, 50 guilders for the second, and double for the third offense, and also be “ deprived of his license and have his business stopped.”

NO TIPS OR DRINKS PERMITTED. The ordinance of 1658 declared that “no disbursements for drinks or any other extraordinary presents, gifts or gratuities, shall be brought into any account or demand, or collected by the secretaries, notaries, clerks, or such-like officers."


It is believed that “five gallons as the measure of a sale by retail” is a rule which first came into excise legislation in the act of October 30, 1683. It is not found in any prior ordinance or act. In “The Dukes Lawes” of March 1, 1665, a “quarter caske" was the limit, and the subject is not again mentioned until the act of 1683. It is therefore assumed that five gallons has been the lowest limit of a sale by wholesale and the highest of a sale by retail from October 30, 1683, to the present time.

« PreviousContinue »