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THE EVASIONS AND IMMODERATE PROFITS OF THE BREWERS.
Some of the evasions and practices of to-day had an early origin. In the ordinance of 1649 it is stated, that there are some who, disregarding the ordinance which forbids the brewers from tapping beer, follow the business of brewing and tapping at the same time, whereby the excise is defrauded. It is therefore ordained “that none who make a business of brewing, shall, out of meal times, tap, sell or give away by the small measure, any beer, wine or liquor, not even to boarders who pretend to go and eat with them, under which guise no trifling fraud is committed,” under penalties which might in some cases justify “arbitrary correction.” The ordinance of 1655 states that in view of the excessive and immoderate profits which the brewers exact, and the complaints that they, on the increase of any tax, make their beer thinner and poorer and still demand the same price, “yea more than they asked for it when grain was dearer and scarcer;” wherefore it is ordained " that all brewers within this Province shall take for a guaged tun of strong New Netherland beer no more than twenty guilders ($8.40) for which they shall brew good beer, not weaker than that hitherto manufactured."
ARBITRARY CORRECTION. Or correction on the body is directed by the ordinance of March 10, 1648, and October 26, 1656, upon those who sell liquors to the Indians; for the same offense by the ordinance of May 13, 1648; for defrauding the excise, by that of November 8, 1649, and many others.
WAMPUM AS A CIRCULATING MEDIUM. Financial questions seem to have given the early colonists as much trouble as they have the present generation. The nature of these appears in the ordinances of 1657 and 1658. The scarcity of “struck or stamped coin” and the abundance of wampum had caused "excessive and intolerable high prices of necessary commodities and household articles," so that“ 30, 40, nay, sometimes 50 per cent. difference is made, not only by merchants, traders and wholesale dealers, but also by shopkeepers, tradespeople, brewers, bakers, grocers and others, if they work and sell goods for beaver or wampum.” “ This causes great burdens and losses and gives the country a bad name, and some greedy people do not hesitate to sell the most necessary articles of food and drink, according to their insatiable covetousness, at intolerable high prices for wam. pum, which they excuse on the ground that 30, 40 and 50 per cent. is lost on the wampum before it can be traded off for beaver."
These evils, Governor Stuyvesant and his Council, after consultation with the Lords Patroons, sought to remedy by declaring wampum an article of merchandise, according to its value and quality; by paying it out at the General Counting House at beaver value, and by reducing its value from six to eight white beads, and three to four black beads, for one stiver, at which rate they ordered it to be received and paid out at the counting house until further notice.
This plan did not succeed, and after a trial for nearly a year it was found that the more beads the traders received for a stiver, the more they would give for a beaver, and so the prices of necessary articles continued to increase.
They then named three prices for the most necessary articles, viz.: In silver; in beaver; and in wampum, and practically made wampum a legal tender in the purchase of such articles at the rate of eight white and four black beads for one stiver (or two cents). For example: The price of the tun of strong beer was fixed at 10 guilder's ($1.20) in silver; 15 guilders ($6.30) in beaver, and 22 guilders ($9.24) in wampum. Numerous other articles had prices named; among them 1 gill of brandy at 5 stivers (10 cents) in silver; 7 stivers (14 cents) in beaver, and 10 stivers (20 cents) in wampum.
This plan must have incurred the failure of all attempts to fix the price of articles of merchandise by any other law than that of supply and demand. As will be seen hereafter, the Directors of Amsterdam declined to approve all ordinances of this kind. The subject was finally left as all such matters must be, for adjustment by the ordinary laws of trade.
THE DONGAN CHARTER. Assuming that the title was vested in the King; his grant to the Duke of York, who afterwards came to the throne, with the commission and instructions to Governor Dongan, ratified and confirmed all former laws which did not contravene the commission (except one which was specially named) until he should with the advice of the Council “ pass other laws for the good government of the province.”
Among the franchises granted by this charter to the ancient city and corporation of New York was that of granting “ Lycenses to all Tavern-keepers, Inkeepers, ordinary keepers victuallers, and all Publique sellers of wine, strong waters, sider, beer, or any other sort of liquors by retaile within the Citty aforesaid, Man. hattan Island or the Libertyes and Precincts thereof. And that it shall and may be lawfull” for the mayor to receive for the use of the city such sums of money for such license as he and the person receiving it shall agree upon. The expenditure of excise moneys in the municipality where they were earned, seems to have been the legislative rule from the commencement of the State period. The first departure from it seems to have been in the Liquor Tax Law of 1896.
MAXIMUM PRICES. In 1653 an effort was made to minimize the losses caused by the use of wampum by fixing maximum prices which the sellers might demand for staple articles. But the ordinances to that end were not approved by the Directors at Amsterdam, whose sanction was necessary to their validity. Such a violation of sound finan. cial principles was not afterwards attempted.
FARMING OF EXCISE. The sale at public auction to the highest bidder of the right to collect excise in a given city, town or territory, was called “ letting it to farm," and the purchaser was called the “farmer.” The farmer agreed with each retailer upon the amount to be paid; he had the right to assign any part of the territory, and his assignee was invested with all necessary power to enforce collection. The farmer gave security for the payment of the excise, and was subject to no other condition. It seems incredible that the farmer should have been permitted to name the cost of an excise in which he was interested, and to speculate in so important a right, but the custom was in force a long time and seems to have operated without much friction. The “farmer" is mentioned in an ordinance passed as early as 1654.
TAVERNS, INNS AND BOARDING-HOUSES. THEIR REQUISITES
AND REGULATION. GAMBLING DEVICES THEREIN PROHIBITED.
The “Dukes Lawes” of 1665, under the title of “Innkeepers and Ordinarys,” declared that no person should keep a house of common entertainment, or sell strong liquors by retail or less than a quarter cask, without a certificate of his good behaviour from the constable and two overseers of the parish, and a license. He must always be “provided of strong and wholesome beer, of at least four bushels of malt to the hogshead, which he shall not sell at above two pence the quart.” He must have“ some ordinary signe obvious for the direction of strangers;" must give immediate notice to the constable of any disorder in his house. He must provide “one or more Enclosure for Summer Hay and Provender,” with convenient stable room and attendance in winter; and shall not “exact unreasonable upon his guest for any sort of entertainment” or compel him to pay “more than eight pence a meale with small beare only, unless the guest make other agreement.”
1737. The act of this year and others prohibiting tavern keepers and inn holders from selling to apprentices and servants, and limiting the credit which they should give in any case, for liquors, are noticed elsewhere.
1745. This act prohibited the tavern, inn or ale-house keeper from keeping or having in his place “any common billiard-table, truck-table or shuffel-board table, or permitting any person to play or game there, by day or night, and from suffering any” youths under the age of twenty-one years, or any servant, apprentice or journeyman, servant or common sailor, to play at cards or dice on his premises. In 1750, this act was amended with additional penalties, and prohibitions against receiving any clothing or other goods in pawn for liquors.
1763. The act of this year declared that “in Dutchess County a very great number of mean Taverns and tippling houses have lately been opened, affording no proper entertainment for travellers, tending to corrupt the morals of the youth, and to render slaves vicious and unserviceable, and an introduction of idleness, drunken. ness and debauchery." "A commission consisting of the Justice, the Supervisor, Assessor, and Overseer in each precinct was authorized to regulate the number and name the persons to be licensed therein. The act further provided that the commissioners might suppress the license of any tavern keeper who did not “ keep sufficient entertainment for at least two men and two horses — that is to say diet and lodging for the men, and stabling and provender for the horses.”
1770. The act of this year increased the accommodations required for inns and taverns in the counties of Ulster and Orange. The keeper was required to have all his measures for liquor and for provender for horses or other cattle of such dimensions as are established in the city of New York — to keep two good spare beds, whereof one to be a feather bed, with good and sufficient sheeting and covering for such beds, and good and sufficient provision for four persons, and also good and sufficient stabling and provender of hay in winter, and hay or pasturage in the summer, and grain for four horses or other cattle, for the accomodation of travellers. A majority of the justices of the town or precinct could relieve the tavern keeper from any of these requirements in places where they were thought to be unnecessarily burthensome.
1771. An act of 1771 extended the act last mentioned to the manor of Cortlandt in the county of Westchester; that of 1772 farther embraced within its provisions the then large county of Albany.
1772. A second act of this year related only to the county of Cumberland, which comprised a portion of the territory afterwards