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It has often been claimed as a peculiar distinction of the Puritan settlers of New England, that their prominent aim, and chief care, in settling those desert regions, was the establishment of religious and educational privileges. Yet, although the settlement of New Netherlands was undoubtedly undertaken rather as a commercial speculation, than as an experimental solution of ecclesiastical and civil principles and government, we find that the Dutch were equally anxious and careful to extend and to preserve to their infant settlements the blessings of education and religion. It is true that, in the earlier years of roving and unsystematized traffic which followed the discovery of Manhattan Island, there seems to have been no higher principle involved than that of gain. But as soon as a permanent agricultural and commercial occupation of the country was undertaken by the West India Company, the higher moral and spiritual wants and necessities of its settlers were fully recognized. Emigrants who went forth under their auspices, or those of the States General of Holland, were accompanied by a schoolmaster, being a pious church-member, who was to instruct the children and officiate at religious meetings by leading in the devotions and reading a sermon, until a regular pastor was established over them. Ziekentroosters, or "comforters of the sick," being persons adapted by their spiritual gifts and graces to edify and comfort the people, were also frequently commissioned as aids to the ministers. Two of these, comforters "accompanied Gov. Minuet in the year 1626, and by them the religious services of the colonists were conducted until early in 1628, when the learned and zealous Jonas Michaelius [1] came out from Amsterdam, under the auspices of the North Synod of Holland, and 11 first established the form of a church," at Manhattan. He was succeeded, in 1633, by the Rev. Everardus Bogardus, and the congregation, who had hitherto worshipped in the upper loft of a horse-mill, now erected a small, plain church, together with a dwelling and stable for the Dominie's use. [2] This first church in Manhattan gave place, in 1642, to a new stone edifice within the fort (now the Battery), and which was much better suited to the size and dignity of the colony than the "mean barn" in which they had hitherto worshipped.

Dominie Bogardus was followed, in 1647, by the Rev. Johannes Megapolensis, a man eminent for his piety and talents, who served this church and congregation with fidelity until his death, in 1669.

For many years succeeding the first settlement of the country, the settlers on the western end of Long Island were dependent upon the city for all their civil and religious privileges. This state of things, with all its inconveniences, lasted until 1654, when the first church on Long Island was established at Midwout, now Flatbush; and the Governor designated Dominie Megapolensis, of New Amsterdam, with John Snedicor and John Stryker, commissioners to superintend the erection of a church edifice. In February, 1655, in compliance with a request from the people of Midwout, an order was issued requiring the inhabitants of Breuckelen and Amersfoort (Flatlands) to assist "in cutting and hauling wood" for the said church. [3] The Breuckelen people, however, while they expressed their perfect willingness to aid in the erection of the church itself, objected to work on the " minister's house," which it was proposed to add thereto, averring that the Midwout folks were able to do it themselves. [4] They were finally obliged to conform to the Governors order, and the church, which was built in the form of a cross, 28 by 60 or 65 feet, and 12 to 14 feet between the beams, the rear to be used as a minister's dwelling, was the first house of worship erected in King's County. Its construction, as we shall see, occupied several years, although it was probably sufficiently advanced within the year to allow of its being used for worship.

On the 6th of August, 1655, by order of Governor Stuyvesant, the inhabitants of the country were convened for the purpose of ascertaining whether they approved of the Rev. Johannes Theodorus Polhemus, their "provisional minister," and what salary they were willing to pay him. [5] The Sheriff reported that they approved of Mr. Polhemus, and would pay him a salary of 1,040 guilders per year, [6] to be raised by a yearly tax.

Mr. Polhemus, a descendant of an ancient and highly respectable family in the Netherlands, had come to New Amsterdam during the preceding year from Itamarca, in Brazil, where he had been laboring as a missionary. He was immediately settled in Flatbush, where he subsequently received a patent for a part of the premises recently owned by the late Jeremiah Lott, Esq. He was an eminently pious and faithful preacher of the Gospel, and although, as we shall see in the following pages, his hearers in the town of Breuckelen were not altogether satisfied with him, it is evident that their opposition proceeded from no lack of personal respect, nor from any doubts of his Christian character.

In February, 1656, the magistracy of Midwout and Amersfoort asked permission to request a voluntary contribution from the people of the three Dutch towns, towards the proper maintenance of the Gospel. [7] To this the Breuckelen people respectfully objected, saying, "as the Rev. John Polhemus only acts as a minister of the Gospel in the village of Midwout, therefore the inhabitants of the village of Breuckelen and adjacent districts are disinclined to subscribe or promise any thing for the maintenance of a Gospel minister who is of no use to them." They therefore solicited "with reverence" that the Rev. Mr. Polhemus might be allowed to preach alternately in Breuckelen and Midwout, in which case they were "very willing to contribute cheerfully to his support, agreeable to their abilities." Otherwise they begged to be excused from contributing to his maintenance. [8] To this the Director and Council replied that they had "no objection that the Rev. Polhemus, when the weather permits, shall preach alternately at both places." On the 15th of March following, the Sheriff and Commissioners of Midwout appeared before the Council, to whom they represented that they had accepted, and were satisfied with, the decree of the Council, but that it had met with serious objections from the people of Gravesend and Amersfoort, who had subscribed with the understanding

"that on Sundays, in the forenoon, they might hear the sermon at Midwout, both places being nearly at the same distance from one another as Breuckelen, at which place, if alternately, as the apostille said, preaching was to be held, it would be inconvenient for the inhabitants by reason of the great distance of the places, to come there to church in the morning and return at noon home to their families, inasmuch as Breuckelen is quite two hours' walking from Amersfoort and Gravesend; whereas the village of Midwout is not half so far and the road much better. So they consider it a hardship to choose either to hear the Gospel but once a day, or to be compelled to travel four hours, in going and returning, all for one single sermon, which would be to some very troublesome and to some utterly impossible."

All of which "being maturely considered by the Director-General and the Council," it was fully arranged that the Sunday sermon should be delivered in the morning at Midwout, as being at a nearly equal distance from the other three towns; but that the usual afternoon discourse should be changed to an evening service, to be held alternately in Breuckelen and Amersfoort, [9] and thus the matter was amicably settled. During the same month, also, the three towns were permitted, on application, to levy a tax for the purpose of paying the minister's tax.

In accordance with a resolution of the Council, November 29th, 1656, in regard to the apportionment of the Rev. Mr. Polhemus' salary among the three towns, it had been agreed that Midwout should give annually 400, and Brooklyn and Amersfoort 300 guilders each for that purpose. The good people of Breuckelen, however, had become quite dissatisfied with the style of Mr. Polhemus' clerical services, and the assessment of the tax occasioned much grumbling, which finally culminated in a plain-spoken protest to the Director and Council. This document, dated January 1, 1657, represents that :

"The Magistrates of Breuckelen find themselves obliged to communicate to your Honors that to them it seems impossible that they should be able to collect annually 300 guilders from such a poor congregation, as there are many among them who suffered immense losses during the late wars, and principally at the invasion of the savages, by which they have been disabled, so that many, who would otherwise be very willing, have not the power to contribute their share. We must be further permitted to say that we never gave a call to the aforesaid Reverend Polhemus, and never accepted him as our minister; but he intruded himself upon us against our will, and voluntarily preached in the open street, under the blue sky; when, to avoid offence, the house of Joris Dircksen was temporarily offered him here in Breuckelen. It is the general opinion and saying of the citizens and inhabitants of Breuckelen generally, with those living in their neighborhood, that they could not resolve, even when it was in their power to collect the money, to contribute any thing for such a poor and meagre service as that with which they thus far have been regaled. Every fortnight, on Sundays, he comes here only in the afternoon for a quarter of an hour, when he only gives us a prayer in lieu of a sermon, by which we can receive very little instruction; while often, while one supposes the prayer or sermon (whichever name might be preferred for it) is beginning, then it is actually at an end, by which he contributes very little to the edification of his congregation. This we experienced on the Sunday preceding Christmas, on the 24th of December last, when we, expecting a sermon, heard nothing but a prayer, and that so short that it was finished before we expected it. Now, it is true it was nearly evening before Polhemus arrived, so that he had not much time to spare, and was compelled to march off and finish so much sooner, to reach his home. This is all the satisfaction-little enough, indeed-which we had during Christmas; wherefore it is our opinion that we shall enjoy as much and more edification by appointing one among ourselves, who may read to us on Sundays a sermon from the 'Apostille Book,' as we ever have until now, from any of the prayers or sermons of the Reverend Polhemus. We do not, however, intend to offend the Reverend Polhemus, or assert any thing 'to bring him into bad repute. We mean only to say, that his greatly advanced age occasions all this, and that his talents do not accompany him as steadily as in the days of yore; yea, we discover it clearly, that it is not the want of good-will in Polhemus; but as we never did give him a call, we cannot resolve to contribute to his maintenance. The possibility of so doing being wholly out of the question, as explained to your Honors; and although the Magistrates of Breuckelen resolved to contribute some thing towards the salary of the aforesaid Polhemus, it would be on their own account, as the congregation can never resolve to join them. Many there are among them who cannot, and who rather need that others should come to their aid. To this (the consideration of the fact) should be added that many farms are unoccupied and waste: as the farms of Mr. Poulis; a farm lying near the shore, of Fred'k Lubbertsen; on another farm lives a poor person, who also has nothing, and cannot afford to give any thing; while (there is) Lodewyck, who lives on one of the farms for the poor, and whose land also lies waste, as also that of Peter Cornelissen and Elbert Elbertsen. So also the land of Black Hans, Grabie's (Gaby's) land, Peter Mallemacque, Peter Minuit, Jan Manty (Manje?) and many others; from all which your Honors may easily calculate what may here be given or

expected. And suppose that every one of us was taxed, even then no person can be induced to contribute any thing for such a poor service as thus far has been obtruded on us. However, permit us to say in conclusion, and be it said in reverence, that as those of Midwout have engaged said Polhemus alone, without our knowledge, and without any previous communication (with us), we have no objection whatever. Nay, we are rather satisfied that the people of Midwout shall enjoy exclusively the whole service of the aforesaid Rev. Polhemus. And in case the aforesaid Polhemus should again desire to say his prayers here, in lien Of giving a sermon, as he did before, although we are unwilling to put ourselves under any obligation, still we are disposed to make him, from time to time, as opportunity shall offer, some allowance, as proof of our good-will, inasmuch as there are several among us who think and act favorably of the Reverend Polheraus, although they make no use of I his services. With this conclusion, we commend your Honors to God's merciful protection, with the cordial wish of a Happy New Year, besides a prosperous and blessed administration, to Salvation; recommending ourselves to your Honors' favor, while we shall ever remain [10] Your obedient servants,

Albert Cornelissen,, Jacob Dircks,

Willem Bredenbent, Peter Tonneman Sec'y.

Done in Breuckelen, January 1, 1657."

But Gov. Stuyvesant was obdurate, and Sheriff Tonneman was instructed "to remind those of Breuckelen, once more, to fulfil their engagement, and to execute their promise relative to the salary of Mr. Polhemus." [11] The good minister, meantime, seems to have been put to much inconvenience, if not absolute suffering, by these quarrels among his parishioners; for on the 14th of December, 1656, he wrote to the Director that his house (at Flatbush) was not yet enclosed, and that, in consequence, himself, wife, and children were obliged to sleep in the cold upon the floor. [12] Forced to an unwilling compliance with this order, the people of Breuckelen contented themselves with reasserting, through their magistrates, that the arrangement of 300 guilders for Mr. Polhemus's salary was made without their consent-that they really were unable to pay it-but, unwilling to resist the Governor and Council, they would endeavor to raise the amount in some way. They took the opportunity, however, of notifying their Honors, that after the expiration of Mr. Polhemus's first year (on April 7, 1657), they should hold themselves excused from any further payment to him, so long as he should remain there, unless affairs at home, "in the Fatherland," should improve ("which God grant") - in which event, possibly, they might be willing to make and keep another contract with him. [13]

The order of the magistrates of Breuckelen, imposing an assessment upon the town to pay this ministerial tax, is especially interesting, on account of its being accompanied by a list of those inhabitants of the town designated as being " in easy circumstances and well off:"

"Whereas, the village of Breuckelen is taxed by the Director-General and Council, but finally with our general consent and agreement, with the sum and charge of 300 1 provisionally for this year, as a supplement of the promised salary and yearly allowance of the Rev. minister De. J. Theodorus Polhemus, therefore have we, of the Court of Brooklyn, to raise said sum of 300 f1. aforesaid in the easiest manner, assessed and taxed each person, inhabitant of Breuckelen and its dependencies, as hereunder is more fully set forth and to be seen; all, according to our conscience and our opinion, in easy circumstances and well off: wherefore, Simon Jooster, our court messenger, is hereby ordered and commanded, on sight and receipt hereof, to repair to the under-mentioned and named persons, and to notify each of their assessment and tax; and that each for himself in particular shall be bound, within eight days from now, to bring in and to deliver into the hands of Mr. A. Cornelissen, in Breuckelen, the half of his assessment either in wampum or country produce, such as corn, wheat, peas, maize, etc., that then all shall be credited and correctly entered on each one's account and assessment at the current price: the remaining half must be promptly paid next May of the present year, Anno 1657, in order to be able at that time to satisfy and give contentment to the said Polhemus. Thus done and enacted at the court held in Breuckelen, with previous approbation of the Director and Supreme Council in New Netherlands, on Wednesday, the 7 February, Ao. 1657.

Persons and inhabitants of Breuckelen, and unto the Ferry:

Albert Cornelissen hath promised for this year fl. 12

Joris Dircksen, in like manner 12

Jan Eversen's farmer, named Bartel Clasen, taxed at 10

Theunis Jansen, on Frederick Lubbertsen's land, taxed at 10

Baerent Jansen 6

Jan Dacme(n) 6

Johannes Nevius, at the Ferry, is taxed at 15

Cornelis Dircksen, late ferryman 10

Adryaen Huybertsen 6

Clacs de Mentelaer 6

Gerrit the Wheelwright 8

Outie, house carpenter 6

Jan Martyn 6

Egbort van Borstelen (or Van Borsum) 10

Louis; lives at present at the Poor's Bowery (or Poor Farm, at Newtown), but intends to return 10

Michael Tater 10

Pieter Cornelissen 6

Elbert Elbertsen, in the Bay 10

The Smith 6

Black Hans's land 6

Total fl. 111


The persons taxed at the Walebocht are the following:

Joris Raphallic hath of his own free will promised to give and contribute fl. 10

Hendrick do Copsteerdts (the cupper's) land is taxed at 4

Peter Moelett (say Abram the Turk) 6

Jan de Clerck 6

Peter Jansen, resides on Lagebergh's land 8

Peter Montfoor(t) 10

Jan Martyu 8

Gabriel's land (Mr. Paulus Leeudersen must answer for this) 10

Peter Meinst 8

Aert Theunissen (Middag) 8

Jan the chimney-sweeper 4

Nicholas, the Frenchman 6

Total 4.88

The taxed inhabitants at the Gouwanes are these following and undernamed persons:

William Bredenbent hath voluntarily promised to contribute 9.12

Jan Petersen is taxed at 8

Barent Bal, in a like sum 8

Theunis Niesen 12

Adam Brouwer 6

Johannus Marcus 4

Mr. Paulus (Van der Beeck) 10

Total fl. 60


By order of the Schepens of the Court of Breuckelen, with the previous approbation of the Director-General and Supreme Council in New Netherland aforesaid

(Signed) Peter Tonneman, Secretary." [14]


The troubles occasioned by this odious minister's-tax were, however, by no means at an end. In April, Mr. Polhemus petitioned the Governor and Council that they would pay for him a debt of 100 guilders, alleging as an excuse that he bad been obliged to contract it, inasmuch as he had only received some fl. 200 out of his fl. 1,000 salary, and had a large family to support. [15] The Council kindly allowed him the sum of 60 guilders. In the course of the next month, the court messenger reported " that several of the Breuckelen people were still unwilling to pay their share of the tax." [16] This was followed by several complaints from the minister, in which he represents that his house had not been finished according to contract, that lie had served as pastor in the three villages from October, 1654, to April 7, 1657, without salary, and as he came to this country "naked," he has been obliged from time to time to get his supplies from the Company's stores, until his bill amounted to 942 guilders, which he wanted made up. By order of the Council, the sum was granted and his account was balanced. [17] Meanwhile, in the midst of this disaffection among the inhabitants of Breuckelen in regard to their minister, a new element of discord had arisen within the jurisdiction of the Dutch Government. The Quakers, banished incontinently from all the self-righteous colonies of New England (except, be it always remembered, from Rhode Island), ventured to find in New Netherlands the home and the liberty of conscience which was elsewhere denied them. Unfortunately they only stepped from the " frying-pan into the fire." Heavy fines, scourgings, solitary imprisonments and banishments were the only welcome that met them; and when the people of Flushing nobly protested against such intolerance as totally at variance with the law of Christian love and the rights of their charter, they brought down upon themselves a whirlwind of indignation and summary punishment from Governor Stuyvesant and his clerical advisers. In spite, however, of these severe measures against Flushing, the infection rapidly spread through Long Island. Jamaica, Gravesend, and Hempstead soon developed the germs of Quakerism, which no civil persecution has ever crushed out even to this day. Symptoms of disaffection also appeared at Brooklyn-or, rather, perhaps, as is usual in a disaffected community, the new principle of non-conformity was used by many as an excuse for their non-compliance in the matter of paying the minister's tax. Sheriff Tonneman complained to the Council of abuse received, while collecting the tax, from Lodewyck Jong, Jan Martyn, Nicholas the Frenchman, Abraham Jansen, the mulatto, and Gerrit the wheelwright. They were summoned before the Council, where the excuses they pleaded-of one that he was a Catholic, and the other that lie did not understand Dutch-were pronounced "frivolous," and they were each condemned to pay a fine of twelve guilders ($4.80). [18] The principal malcontent, Jan Martyn, "of Harfleur " (ante, p. 80), who attempted to hire the public bellman to go around and defame Councillor Tonneman, was obliged to beg pardon, on bended knees, of the Lord and of the court, and was fined twenty-five guilders ($10) and costs. [19]

The inflexible Governor finally brought matters to a focus with the refractory Breuckelen people, by issuing an order, on the 6th of July, 1658, forbidding the inhabitants of the three towns to remove their grain from their fields, until their tithes were taken or commuted-which commutations were ordered to be paid within three days. This order was complied with; for when the Governor "put his foot down" in this manner, as was his wont, the people found it was useless to "kick against the pricks."

Previous to this time (1660), the only ministers of the Reformed Church in New Netherland were Megapolensis and Drisius, in the city of New Amsterdam, Schaats at Beverwyck, Polhemus at Midwout, and Welius at New Amstel. In the fall of 1658, however, a letter was Bent to the Classis of Amsterdam of the Fatherland, by Messrs. Megapolensis and Drisius, giving an interesting account of the state of religion in the colony, and earnestly entreating that "good Dutch clergymen" might speedily be sent over. [20] These letters awakened the attention of the Classis to the spiritual necessities of New Netherland, and earnest representations on the subject were addressed to the College of the XIX. And, although it was difficult to prevail upon any settled clergyman to leave his charge in Holland and brave the trials of a newly settled country, yet one Hermanus Blom, a candidate for the ministry, was induced to come out to New Amsterdam. Arriving here about the last of April, he shortly after received a call from the prosperous village of Esopus (now Kingston); and having accepted it, returned to Holland to pass his examination before the Classis, and receive ordination. Meanwhile the people of Breuckelen, in view of the badness of the roads to Flatbush, and the inability of the Rev. Mr. Polhemus, on account of his age and infirmity, to bestow any considerable portion of his labor upon them, had petitioned the Governor and Council for permission to have a minister resident in their town. The application was favorably regarded, [21] and when (March 1) Blom left Holland on his return to New Netherland , he was accompanied by the Rev. Henricus Selyns, under appointment to preach at Breuckelen. [22]

Mr. Selyns was the son of Jan Selyns and Agneta Kock, of Amsterdam, where he was born in the year 1636. Having been regularly educated for the ministry, he became, in due time, a proponent or candidate for full orders. "Tracing his ancestry, both on the father's and mother's side, clearly back, through a regular line of elders, deacons, and deaconesses, to the first institution of the Dutch Reformed Church as an independent establishment, and connected by blood and marriage with distinguished ministers of that church, he could not fail to imbibe its tenets and principles, and enter with confidence and honorable ambition upon the studies which were to fit him for its services." [23] Such were the antecedents of the man who, having accepted the call from Breuckelen, made through the Dutch West India Company to the Classis at Amsterdam, was, on the 16th February, 1660, peremptorily examined by that body, and admitted to the ministry with full powers, -engaging, however, to serve the Breuckelen church for the term of four years.

Messrs. Blom and Selyns arrived at New Amsterdam, bearing letters to the colonial churches from the Classis at Amsterdam, in which the former were earnestly exhorted "not to depart from the usual formulary of baptism." Governor Stuyvesant, by whom alone all public functionaries, ecclesiastical as well as civil, could be accredited, was then absent at Esopus, negotiating a peace with the Indians; and when that had been concluded, he paid a visit to Fort Orange. To both of these places the two young clergymen followed him, to deliver their letters, [24] so that it was not until the 7th of September, 1660, that Mr. Selyns was formally installed into the church at Breuckelen. "This ceremony," says his biographer, "measured by the usual standard of great events, was, indeed, insignificant; but viewed as the first installation of a minister in what is now a large and flourishing city, the third in size in the United States, and as populous as the famous city of Amsterdam herself at the present day, it was one which deserved, as it received, the attention of the authorities in an appropriate and becoming manner. It was, nevertheless, to that colony, an interesting event, and it was accompanied by proceedings calculated to give dignity and authority to the minister. The Governor deputed two of his principal officers to present the minister to the congregation Nicasius de Sille, a member of the Council, a man of no mean attainments, and well versed in the law, and Martin Krigier, burgomaster of New Amsterdam, who, on several important occasions, was the envoy of the Governor to the adjoining English colonies. After the presentation, Dominie Selyns preached his inaugural sermon, and then read the call of the Classis and their certificate of examination, with a testimonial from the ministers of Amsterdam, declaring that during the time he had dwelt among them, he had not only diligently used the holy ordinances of God for the promotion of his own salvation, but had also often edified their church by his acceptable preaching; and, moreover, had, by his life and conversation, demeaned himself as a godly and pious man-a character which he never forfeited." [25]

On the 7th, a letter was forwarded, "by a respectable person," to the Rev. Mr. Polhemus, informing him of Mr. Selyns' installation in the church at Breuckelen, and thanking him in courteous terms for his labors and attention to the congregation. This attention was appropriately acknowledged by the venerable pastor, who, on the 12th, sent to the new incumbent a list of church-members residing within this vicinity, numbering in all twenty-seven persons, inclusive of one elder and two deacons. [26] The population of the village at this time was 134 persons, in thirty-one families; and the bounds of the new Dominie's charge included " The Ferry," "The Waal-boght," and "The Gujanes." Measures were taken for the speedy erection of a church, and in the mean time the congregation worshipped in a burn. As the people were not able of themselves to pay his entire salary, they petitioned the Council for assistance; [27] and Stuyvesant agreed personally to contribute two hundred and fifty guilders, provided Mr. Selyns would preach a sermon, on Sunday afternoons, at his "bouwery" on Manhattan Island. [28] In this arrangement the Dominie acquiesced, and thereafter preached at the "Director's bouwery," which was a "sort of stopping-place and pleasure-ground of the Manhattans." Here his audiences consisted mostly of people from the city, and besides Stuyvesant's own household, about forty negroes who lived in that neighborhood, in what was known as the " negro quarter." After Selyns' installation at Breuckelen, Dominie Polhemus confined his services to Midwout and Amersfoort.

Under the able ministrations of the new pastor, the church in Breuckelen increased, until, in 1661, it numbered fifty-two communicants, many of whom were admitted on certificates from Now Amsterdam and from churches in the Fatherland. The same year the village of Breuckelen received from the West India Company, on the request of Rev. Mr. Selyns, a bell for their church, which " might also be used, in time of danger, to call the county people thereabouts together." Esopus also received a similar present. [29]

It would seem, from the following petition, that the Rev. Mr. Selyns had not, as late as 1662, become an actual resident of the town over which he exercised a pastoral charge.

"May 25th, 1662.

To the Noble, Great, and Respected, the Director-General and Council in Nieuw Netherlands

The undersigned, Schepens of the village of Breuckelen, represent, with all due respect, that they, the. said petitioners, have been engaged, for some time past, in collecting, among their community, that which they had promised to contribute as their share towards the Rev. Mr. Selyns, salary; and they find that the community would be more willing and ready to bring in their respective quotas, if the aforesaid Rev. Mr. Selyns would come to reside within their village, inasmuch as they have already been at the expense of building a house for him. They therefore request your Honors to consent to and permit it, towards which end, expecting your Honors, favorable decision, etc.

The delegated Schepens of the village of Breuckelen,

"William Gerritse Van Couwenhoven.

"Willem Bredenbent.

"Jan Joris Rapalje."

The petitioners were referred to Mr. Selyns, whose decision is not recorded, and unknown to us. [30]

September 21st, 1662, the Council 11 ordered that the inhabitants of Breuckelen pay 300 guilders to the Rev. Henry Selyns, who has preached in said town since August 30, 1660, instead of the Rev. J. Polhemus," and that the bookkeeper credit that amount to Selyns. [31] On the 12th of the same month the people of Flatlands had been permitted to build a church; making, with that of Bushwick, the fourth Dutch church within the county. During this year, also, complaint was made to the Consistory of the exposure of the graveyard to hogs and other animals; in consequence of which, the Consistory contracted for a clapboard fence, five feet high, to enclose the entire ground, for the sum of seventy guilders. [32]

The unfortunate burning of the town of Esopus, and the massacre of its inhabitants, by the Indians, June 7, 1663, was the occasion of the following proclamation from Governor Stuyvesant to the church at Breuckelen :

"As a sorrowful accident and wilful massacre has been committed by the Esopus Indians, who have with deliberate design, tinder the insidious cover of friendship, determined to destroy Esopus, which they effected on the 7th instant, killing and wounding a number of the inhabitants, and taking many prisoners, burning the town and desolating the place : Whereupon the congregation is directed and desired, by his Excellency the Governor-General, to observe and keep the ensuing Wednesday as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer to the Almighty, hoping that He may avert further calamities from the New Netherlands, and extend His fatherly protection and care to the country. And it is further ordered, that the first Wednesday in every month be observed in like manner. By order of the Director-General and Council, etc. Dated at Fort Orange, June 26, 1663." [33]

Early in the year 1664, Dominie Selyns addressed a petition to the Director and Council, complaining that, in consequence of the great depreciation which had taken place in seawant and beaverskins, he found his salary much reduced and insufficient to meet his wants. His application for redress was discussed at considerable length by the Council, who finally decided that any money paid to the Dominie on account of the 600 gl. allowed to him in the Fatherland, should be paid in beavers, at a rate not higher than 6 gl., and any commodities in seawant in proportion. The 600 gl. promised him here in Now Netherland, was to be paid with beavers, in cash, at the value of 8 gl. per beaver, agreeably to the contract of August 30th, 1660. [34]

This year, also, the church of Breuckelen was called upon to part with its beloved pastor, Selyns. His time having expired, he yielded to the urgent solicitations of his aged father in Holland; and having duly obtained permission from the Lords Directors of the West India Company, [35] was most tenderly and respectfully dismissed from his church on the 17th of July, 1664, and sailed for home on the 23d, in the ship Beaver, the same vessel which had conveyed him to America.

After his departure, Charles Debevoise, the schoolmaster of the town and church sexton, was authorized to read prayers and a sermon from some approved author, each Sabbath, in the church, for the improvement of the congregation, until another minister could be found.

Selyns' pastoral duties at Breuckelen were always discharged "with zeal and fidelity. The records of the church at Breuckelen for this period, are still preserved in his own handwriting, and bear ample evidence of his devotion to his calling - chronicling, with rare simplicity, the occurrences in the government of the church and the occasions of discipline of his flock. Once we find him in collision with the magistrates of the town, in regard to an attempted jurisdiction on their part over an act of ecclesiastical censure exercised by him towards one of the churchmembers. In a respectful letter, he refused to appear before them or acknowledge their right to take cognizance of the sentence pronounced by him and his consistory. He maintained that the civil courts could not try offences arising purely out of the ecclesiastical relation; and that the complainant having submitted himself to the canons of the church, by becoming one of its members, was thereby precluded from taking the matter before the courts. In this, as in some other trying occasions of his life, when he was brought in conflict with others upon questions of authority and power, he sustained the rights and privileges of his official position with equal firmness, dignity, and force of reasoning. His pen and logic were never to be despised by his opponents. In his controversy with the magistrates of Breuckelen, his arguments prevailed." During his ministry in Breuckelen, he married at New Amsterdam, on the 9th of July, 1662, his first wife, Machtelt, daughter of Hermann Specht, of the city of Utrecht, " a young lady, if we may trust his own description of her, of rare personal beauty and worth," whose portrait he has transmitted to us in a birth-day ode, which is said to be " one of the prettiest pictures that conjugal affection has ever drawn."

After his return to Holland, Selyns remained unsettled for two years; and in 1666, took charge of the congregation of Waverveen, near Utrecht, a rural village of no fame. In 1675, he became a chaplain in the army of the States; but with the exception of this temporary office, he Seems to have passed sixteen years of his life in the obscurity of Waverveen, usefully and even contentedly employed; for, in 1670, upon the death of Megapolensis, of New York, he declined a call from that church to become associated with Rev. Mr. Drisius in its charge. The Rev. William Nieuwenhuysen took the place thus declined, and subsequently, upon the death of both Nieuwenhuysen and Drisius, the call was so urgently renewed to Selyns that he accepted, and again left his native land to spend, as it proved, the remainder of his life in America. He arrived at New York in the summer of 1682, and was received " by the whole congregation with great affection and joy." Selyns now occupied a position among the churches of the colony which was commensurate with his talents. His congregation possessed not only the advantage of being a metropolitan one, but it was the largest in numbers, and the most powerful in the social and political standing of its members. The times, also, were critical in respect to the ecclesiastical affairs of the Dutch; for, during his absence in Holland, the political and ecclesiastical relations of the province had entirely changed. British rule, while it allowed the Dutch to enjoy liberty of conscience in divine worship and church discipline, gave no legal sanction to the special authority of the Classis of Amsterdam over the churches of the Reformed Dutch faith. Still, the ecclesiastical authority of the Classis continued to be exercised and acknowledged among the Dutch themselves, as before the conquest. Ministers Still received their appointment and ordination from that body, and rendered an account of their stewardship thereto. In the correspondence which was thus maintained between the colonial ministers and their Classis, the letters of Selyns hold no inferior position, not only for the historic light which they throw upon the public and religious affairs of the day, but for the catholic spirit which they exhibit towards other denominations and ministers. " In his confidential intercourse with his superiors, he might be expected to have exhibited some sectarian spirit in regard to their progress or merits; yet we find nothing of the kind in them, but, on the contrary, expressions of satisfaction at their success; and where he does condemn, it is easy to be seen that he does so on no narrow or selfish grounds. A character so liberal and amiable could not help endearing him to those around him, and inviting their confidence. We find him, accordingly, not only beloved by his own congregation, but on terms of friendship with the heads of the government and his colleagues in the other churches in Now York, and in correspondence with distinguished men in the neighboring colonies. He was probably known to the ministers at Boston, at the time of his first residence in New Netherland, as we find among his poems one in Latin, upon some verses addressed by the Rev. John Wilson, the first minister of Boston, to Governor Stuyvesant. But his correspondence with them after his return to New York was frequent."

Troublous days, however, came to Dominie Selyns with the revolutionary outbreak which placed Jacob Leisler at the head of the government. It was natural that Selyns, as well as the other ministers, should look upon Leisler as a usurper, and that they Should throw all the weight of their influence against him and his party. But they committed the error of continuing their opposition to him after his power had been fully established; thus themselves becoming traitors to his government, whom he felt justified in putting down at any cost. Dellius was obliged to escape to Boston; Varick, the minister of the four Dutch towns of Kings county, was imprisoned, tried, and convicted of treason, and sentenced to be deposed from his ministerial functions; Tesschenmaker was massacred at Schenectady, in February, 1690; and Van der Bosch, of Kingston, had been deposed previously; so that Selyns was, for a considerable time, the only Dutch clergyman on duty in the province. He " had committed no overt act rendering himself amenable to the law ; but he was in such close communication and sympathy with the leaders of the opposition, that he was constantly watched. He was suspected of concealing Bayard, and his house was searched by public officers, for the purpose of discovering him. His service in church, of which Leisler was a member, was interrupted by Leisler himself, who there threatened openly to silence him. His letters to Holland and elsewhere were stopped in transit, and opened by order of the government. His feelings of hostility to Leisler were aggravated, no doubt, in a large degree by these circumstances, and were carried by him to the grave itself. He was one of those who approved and recommended the carrying into execution the sentence of that popular leader, when Sloughter wisely hesitated, and desired to wait until he could obtain the views of the home government on the propriety of the act. While Leisler was lying in prison, the helpless subject of a political prosecution, and the proper object of consolation from the ministers of religion, Selyns preached a sermon against him, from the verse of the Psalmist: 'I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.' This proceeding on his part was, in the mildest view of the case, most injudicious and unwise. His opposition had already estranged from him the Leislerian portion of his congregation. He affected to call them men of inconsiderable influence. They, nevertheless, refused to contribute to his salary; and the refusal continued, under this fresh provocation, for several years. He appealed to the Classis to interfere, and even sought, through that body, the mandate of King William, supposing that, as a Dutchman, he could be induced by the ecclesiastical authorities at Amsterdam to compel the payment of his arrears. He intimated that he would, in consequence of withholding the salary, be forced to give up his ministry here and return to Holland. The Classis, in a proper spirit, advised him to pacify and win back the alienated hearts of his flock, and to suffer and forget all in love; and also addressed a letter in the same spirit to the consistory and congregation. The difficulty was thus finally arranged," although the divisions which arose at the Leislerian era laid the foundation of the political controversies which troubled the colony for more than a generation afterwards.

The great object of Selyns' labors, during the later years of his life, was the establishment of the liberties of his church by the procuring of a royal charter confirming its rights and privileges. This was at length accomplished, May 11th, 1696, by a charter under the royal seal, for the Reformed Protestant Dutch church in the city of New York, which is still in full force, and was virtually the charter of the Low Dutch Church in America. [36] Selyns had now attained his sixtieth year. "He had labored faithfully, zealously, and successfully. Amidst all his trials, no one had ventured to breathe a syllable against the purity of his life and conversation, or his fidelity to the spiritual interests of his congregation, which had increased from 450 to 650 members during his ministry among them." In 1699, he received an assistant, in the person of Rev. Gualterus du Bois, of Amsterdam; and shortly after, in July, 1701, he died at New York, in his sixty-fifth year." In his domestic relations he appears to have been fortunate. Of his first wife we have already spoken. Upon her death, in 1686, he married the widow of Cornelius Steenwyck, Margaretta de Riemer, whom he himself describes as 'rich in temporal goods, but richer in spiritual.' This lady survived him several years. He had one child, a daughter, by his first wife, born while he was at Breuckelen; but from all omission of her name in his will, we infer she died while he was in Holland."

"His character, as we are able to view it through the long vista of time, and with an imperfect exhibition of its traits, presents him in a favorable light. He was a faithful and devoted minister, honest, sincere, and capable. He was learned in his profession, pious, and pure in his life. He was free from that narrow feeling which begets prejudice from mere difference of opinion. But he was fond of the exercise of power. He was persevering, and pursued his object with determination, and sought it sometimes for the sake of success, when, perhaps, a wise regard for the feelings of others would have led him to abandon it. He may be justly regarded as one of the founders of the Dutch Church in America, who did more to determine its position in the country than any other man; and in this circumscribed field, in which the great business of his life was concerned, his fame must mainly rest."

Although he corresponded extensively with men of genius and of learning, he never appeared as an author in print; [37] and his only literary remains are contained in a little volume of poems, of which a pleasant selection, translated by our fellow-citizen, Hon. Henry 0. Murphy, has been published in one of the elegant volumes of the "Bradford Club." [38] We have drawn freely, in our sketch of the first pastor of Breuckelen, upon the elegant and careful memoir which Mr. Murphy has there given.



[1] N. Y. Col. MSS.. ii 759-70; Brodhead's N. Y., i 183. [2] Rev. Thomas De Witt's Hist. Dis. in North Ref, Dutch CIL of city of New York, 1857. [3] N. Y. Col. MS., vi. 15, Feb. 9,1655. [4] Ibid., p. 28. [5] N. Y. Col. USS., vi. 71. [6] Equal to about $416. [7] Col. MSS., vi. 278, Feb. 8,1656. [8] Col. USS., A. 299, Feb., 1656. This remonstrance of Breuckelen was signed by Jorls Dircksen, Albert Cornellseen and Joria Rappelje. [9] Col. MS., A. 331, March 15, 1056. [10] N. Y. Col. MS., viii. 406. [11] N. Y. Col. MSS., Tin. 410. [12] Ibid., vifl. 296. [13] Alb. Rec., iv. [14] N. Y. Col. MW., viii. 468, 464, 466. [15] N. Y. Col. WSS., viii. 515, 516. [16] Ibid., vill. 563. [17] Ibid., viii. 705. [18] N. Y. CoL MSS., Ali. 563, 789, 804, 818. [19] N. Y. Col. MSS., viii. 825. [20] Brodhead, 1. 648. [21] NieWus de Sille, the Fiscal, and Martin Areiger, one of the Burgomasters, were appointed as a committee of inquiry by the Governor, upon whose favorable report the required permission was granted. [22] The call of the Breuckelen church to Dominie Selyns was by him accepted, and approved by the Classis of Amsterdam, February 16, 1660 (-61).-Brooklyn Church Records. [23] His paternal grandfather, Hendrick Selyne, was a deacon of the Amsterdam church in 1598 ; his father, an elder from 1639 to 1663 ; his maternal great-grandfather, Hendrick Kock, a deacon from 1584 to 1595 ; his grandfather, Hans Verlocken, in 1587-90; while his grandmother, Agueta Selyns, was a deaconess for several years in the same church. Triglandius, Lantsman, and I Nieuwenhuyqen, celebrated ministers of the Netherland church, were also his cousins. [24] N. Y. Col. MSS., xiii. 81,84,131,132; xiv. 58. [25] On this occasion the Rev. Henry Selyns addressed the church as follows:

"I have appeared before you and the Cousistory, according to the usages and ordinances of our Church, and now surrender to you my letter of call of the Honorable Classis of Amsterdam, together with the approbation of the Honorable the Directors of the Chamber of Amsterdam, also my classical and church attestations, which, with my call, appertain to your church." (Brooklyn Church Records.)

The above-mentioned " Utter of Call" is as follows:

"Whereas, it is indispensably required that the honor of God and the salvation of men be promoted to the best of our abilities, and that for this end religious meetings should be instituted and encouraged by the pure preaching of God's word, the lawful administration of the sacraments, the public invocation of the name of God, and whatsoever else belongs to a dutiful worship; and whereas, the situation of Breuckelen, in New Netherland, requires that a duly qualified person, as a lawfully ordained minister, should be sent there, who can there execute the ministerial functions in every particular in conformity with the Church government and the word of God, and in unison with the laudable usages of the Reformed Churches in this country, and who is able to maintain and defend these: Therefore it is that we, ministers of the word of God, and elders of the Church of Christ, belonging to the Classis of Amsterdam, after the invocation of the name of God, and in His fear, and with the approbation of the Noble Directors of the West India Company, and after a careful examination in the principal doctrines of the Reformed Christian Church, and after we had received satisfactory evidence of a pious life, and talents requisite for the gospel ministry, and after he had signed the Netherlandish Confession, the Christian Catechism, and the Canons of the National Synod, have, with the laying on of hands, ordained the reverend, pious, pruderit, and learned minister, Henricus Selyns, to preach, both on land and water, and in all the neighborhood, but principally in that place (Breuckelen), the holy and only saving doctrine of the word of God in Its purity; to administer the sacraments, as instituted by Christ, with propriety; publicly to lead the prayers of the congregation, to keep them (with the aid of his Consistory) in good order and discipline, all in conformity with the word of God, and the Canons of the Netherlandish Church, and the Christian Catechism: requesting all our brethren to acknowledge him as a lawful brother and ordained minister of the gospel of Christ; to honor him for the sake of his ministry; and to assist him, whenever It is in their power; so that he may labor unmolested Y. e., by worldly cares, etc.), and cheerfully, In glorifying God's name, and in the conversion and salvation of souls.

"May the Almighty (led, who has called this minister to the service of His Church, enrich him more and more with all talents, and with the blessings of the Holy Ghost; 60 that his labors may be crowned with abundant success, to the glory of His name and the salvation of men, and reward and adorn him, at the appearance of the Great Shepherd of sheep, with the unfading crown of immortal glory.

"Done in a Classical meeting in Amsterdam, on the 16th of February, 1660.

"In the name, and by order of all,

" Petrus ProeliusLrus, Eccles. Amstelodamensis, et Classis p. t. Deputatus.

"Laurens Van Noordt, Eccles. in Diemen. et pro t.

ad caus. sat. Indicas Depot.

" Samuell Coop,

a groen Eccles.

Amstelodamensis et p. t. Deputatus."

The aforesaid Act of the Classis of Amsterdam was approved by the Directors of the West India Company, Department of Amst., on the 26th March, 1660.

"(Signed) David Van Baerle

"Edward Man."

The above translation of this document is from N. Y. Col. MSS., xiii. 69. Another version, by the late General Jeremiah Johnson, taken, probably, from file original Dutch records of the First Reformed Dutch Church of Brooklyn, is printed in the magazine of the Reformed Dutch Church, vol. !!I., for 1828-29, pp. 52, 54. This, although a more elegant translation, does riot, in our opinion, present so faithful a transcript of the original as the one above printed. [26] The list of church members at this period, together with other extracts from the Brooklyn Church Records, will be found in Appendix No. 6. [27] AIb. Rec., xxiv. 383. Aug. 30,1660, there appeared before the Council, "Joris Dirck and Joris Rapelje, magistrates of the village of Breuckelen, on Long Island, and represented that they, in conformity with the order of the Director-General, had convened all the inhabitants of the aforesaid village, and conversed with them, and inquired how much they would be able to contribute to the salary of the Rev. Mr. Selyns; and that, after all their endeavors, they could not succeed in obtaining more than 300 guilders annually (payable in corn, at the value of beavers); and that in addition they were willing to provide the Rev. Mr. Selyns with a comfortable dwelling. On being reminded that Dominie Selyns had been promised the annual salary of 100 fl., and had come hither in that expectation, and that the said sum ought to be collected,-in lieu of which the village tithes would be taken and contributed by the Company,-and that they ought to strive to make up the deficiency, they declared that it was totally impossible for the people of the village to raise the required amount, as the burden fell chiefly on a few individuals, the rest being poor people who had nothing but what was earned by their daily labor. To this it was replied (by the Council) that they (of Breuckelen) should have duly considered all these things before they requested or called a minister. In answer, they (the inhabitants of Breuckelen) said they had hopes that their village would now daily increase, and that consequently they would be enabled in future to contribute more; and they earnestly requested that Dominie Selyns might come among them at the earliest opportunity." [28] Extract from a letter of Dominie Selyns to the Classis at Amsterdam, dated " Amsterdam, on the Manhattans, 4 October, 1660" (Doe. Hist. N. Y., iii. 108): " When we arrived in N. Netherland, we repaired forthwith to the Manhattans; but the negotiations for peace at the Esopus, where we were, and the public interests, necessarily retarded our progress thus long. We preached, meanwhile, here, and at the Esopus and Fort Orange; during our stay were provided with board and lodging. (See Alb. Rec., xxiv. 387.) Esopus needs more people, but Breuckelen more wealth; wherefore I officiate, Sunday afternoons, at the General's bouwerye, at the Noble General's private expense. Through the worshipful Messrs. Nicasius de Sille, Fiscal, and Martin Cregiers, Burgomaster, t he induction (or call) in Breuckelen occurred with the Hon'ble General's open commission. Whereupon I was suitably received by the Magistrate and Consistory, and De Polhemus was forthwith discharged, We do not preach in any church, but in a barn (Korenschuur), and shall, God willing, erect a church in the winter, by the co-operation of the people. The congregation is passable. The attendance is augmented from Middlewout, New Amersfoort, and frequently Gravesende but most from the Manhattans. To Breuckelen appertains, also, the Ferry, the Walebocht, and Gujanus. The Breuckelen Ferry is about 2,000 paces, but the River of the Manhattans is 4,000 feet from the Breuckelen Ferry. I found at Breuckelen one older, two deacons, twenty-four members, thirty-one householders (Huysgesins), and 134 persons. The Consistory will remain provisionally as it is. More material will be obtained through time and a better knowledge of the community. There can be no catechizing before the winter; but this shall be introduced either on week-days, or when there is no preaching at the Bowery. Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, and September will be most suitable for the Lord's Supper, as Thanksgiving is observed on these festivals . . . . . . There is preaching in the morning at Breuckelen, but towards the conclusion of the Catechismal exercises of Now Amsterdam, at the Bouwery, which is a continuation and the place of recreation of the Manhattans, where people also come from the city to evening service. In addition to the household, there are over forty negroes, whose location is the negro quarter. There is no Consistory here (i. e., at the Bouivery), but the deacons of New Amsterdam provisionally receive the alms-offerings; and there are to be neither elders nor deacons there. Besides me, there are in New Netherland: A D. Johannes Megapolensis and Samuel Drisius, in New Anisterdain; D. Gideon Seliaets, at Fort Orange; D. Joannes Polhemus, at Middlewout; and N. Amenfoort and Hermans Blom, at the Esopus." [29] Letter of Directors to Stuyvesant, dated December 24, 1660. (N. Y. Col MSS., xiii. 148.) [30] N. Y. Col. BIBS., x. 137. [31] N. Y. Col. MSS., x. 216. [32] Brooklyn Church Records. [33] The cloud of war speedily passed over, however; for Wednesday, the 4th of July, 1603, was observed as a day of thanksgiving on account of a treaty of peace which bad been made with these same Esopus Indians, and the release of the prisoners who had been taken by them ; and likewise for the defeat of the English, who had been thwarted in an attempt to take possession of Long Island, by the opportune arrival of the Dutch fleet. [34] N. Y. Col. MSS., X. 88,35, 100, 181. [35] The petition of Dominie Selyns for permission to return home may be found (dated July 17,1664) in N. Y. Col. MSS., x. 270. [36] Liber vil. 25, Sec'y State's office. This charter antedates that of Trinity church, which was granted May 6, 1697. [37] Except as the author of a Win poem eulogistic of the Rev. Cotton Mather's " Magnalia Americans," and which may be found, together with a translation, in the Hartford edition of that work (i. 23). [38] Anthology of New Netherland; or, Translations from the Early Dutch Poets of New York, with Memoirs of the Authors. By Henry C. Murphy. Now York, 1865 79-183.