Chapter III. Excise in New Netherland

We will now return to our narrative. At the time of the brewers' protest against the excise, the number of tapsters in New Amsterdam and the surrounding country was very large; but, singular as it may appear, there was but one tavern for the entertainment of strangers, and this a clumsy stone building which Kieft had caused to be erected at the company's expense in 1642. In that patriarchal spirit which characterized all his acts, he assumed a close supervision over this primitive hotel, the patronage of which must have been all the more profitable because the Governor, to prevent the influx of runaway servants and culprits, had prohibited the entertainment of strangers by private families for more than one night without his permission. This stone tavern was subsequently enlarged and fitted up for use as a Stadthuis (City Hall). During the remainder of his administration Kieft gave no further trouble to the brewers; but the tax continued to be collected.

When Kieft was recalled, and succeeded by Governor Stuyvesant, the abolition of the excise was asked for, but was peremptorily refused. The hope that the excise would be abolished had been raised by Kieft himself, who had promised the Eight Men that upon the arrival of his successor a change would be effected. Stuyvesant, however, had no such intentions; on the contrary, he at once imposed new taxes, inaugurated a system of excises and licenses, and introduced a number of innovations designed to bring the business under better control. Thus, he ordered the complete separation of brewing and tapping, forbidding brewers to retail and tapsters to brew beer. Unlike his predecessor, he desired an improvement in the accommodations for travelers, and therefore ordered that tapsters and tavern-keepers should build better houses for the entertainment of guests. But as the number of tapsters and spirit venders had already grown too large, he refused to license new places. Stuyvesant's own report shows that, in 1651 or thereabouts, nearly the just fourth of the City of New Amsterdam consisted of brandy shops, tobacco or beer houses. This was certainly an exaggerated statement; yet from all other evidences it must be inferred that the consumption of liquors was enormous. We find, at a fair calculation based on the two essential factors, viz.: amount of excise and population, that the tax paid for drink amounted to four guilders for every man, woman and child of the community.

Governor Stuyvesant's Regulations

It will be readily understood that the law prohibiting brewing by tapsters yielded additional advantages to the brewers proper, and that the tapping of beer by brewers in violation of the ordinance, occurred very rarely. Yet so anxious was Stuyvesant to prevent evasions of his orders that the even forbade brewers to sell or give beer by the small measure to anyone---even to their boarders, "who, they pretended, came at meal times to eat with them." By way of additional safeguard, he required the brewers to obtain a permit from the Secretary of the Colony whenever they wished to remove beer from their brew houses.

To enforce all these new laws and ordinances, promulgated for the sole purpose of securing as nearly as possible the full amount of taxes due the exchequer, Stuyvesant appointed inspectors, gaugers and revenue supervisors. Nevertheless, either on account of his natural distrustfulness or because he wished to set a good example to his officers, he frequently visited and inspected the taverns himself to make sure that his laws were obeyed. Money still being scarce, he increased the excise again and again, without permitting the brewers to raise the price of their product, until the beer drinkers loudly complained that with every increase of tax, the brewers made their beer "thinner and poorer." These complaints finally induced him to adjust the prices of beer in accordance with the increased cost of production, and to prescribe minutely the quality of the article.

It may interest the reader to learn that beer, in those days, was made either of malted barley, wheat or oats, and that whenever there was a scarcity of any of these cereals, the lawmakers usually forbade the malting of it. Here, as in the New England colonies, the law provided for three grades of beer: the first grade requiring six bushels of malt for every hogshead; the second, four bushels; the third two bushels. Complaints about the quality of beer were sometimes investigated by a court composed of the schepens and burgomasters and two of the schepens were brewers, this court, being engaged in the consideration of such a complaint, adjourned and personally sampled the beer in dispute; whereupon they gave judgment in accordance with their own evidence.

Conflict with the Patroon

Before the administration of Stuyvesant, the Patroons regulated the liquor traffic in their own way. In Rensselaerwyck, the condition of affairs now became somewhat muddled, as will presently be shown, in consequence of the conflict of authority between the Patroon and the representatives of the Director of the Colony. The manner in which the Patroon first regulated the traffic was simple enough.

As we have already stated, he established a brewery with the exclusive privilege of supplying all licensed retailers with beer; but he permitted private individuals to brew whatever beer they needed for their own families. Subsequently, however, other brewers were licensed. In the dorp (village) of Beverwyck---the present Albany---which had sprung up in the immediate neighborhood of Fort Orange, and in fact, throughout the colony, permission to build houses, establish stores, factories, shops, beer houses, etc., had to be obtained from the Commissaries to whom the government was entrusted. This permission had to be paid for in some instances, while in others it was given gratuitously.

As a rule, the license to brew beer for sale did not belong to the latter category; on the other hand, the fee for such licenses seems to have been very high. In 1647, Jean Labadie, formerly an assistant commissary, applied for permission to build a brewery, which was granted on his paying a yearly duty in the shape of beaver, amounting in value to about eighty dollars. Many other licenses had been granted since then, and the number of tapsters seems to have been very large; good reasons why the Court at Fort Orange, representing the Stuyvesant Government, should insist upon the payment of the tax.

The Patroon, however, frustrated the first attempt to collect the excise and issued a proclamation expressly forbidding the brewers and tapsters to pay any duties. The tapsters, of course, readily obeyed this order. Finally, Stuyvesant ordered the Court at Orange to arrest one of the refractory tapsters, named Ariensen, and send him to Manhattan. The clerk of this court, Johann de Decker, successfully carried out this order by a ruse. He invited the unsuspecting Ariensen to his house and detained him, in spite of the protests of Van Rensselaer and the "schout" of the colony, and notwithstanding the offer of the former to vouch for the appearance of the prisoner. Ariensen, although compelled for security's sake, to sleep in De Decker's bed and to be watched over by a servant, managed to escape and took refuge in the house of Van Rensselaer. De Decker pursued the fugitive with the intention of re-apprehending him, but was met by a body of armed men who appeared determined to use force of arms, if necessary, to prevent the officer from fulfilling his duty. Bloodshed would inevitably have followed an attempt to recapture Ariensen, and, to avoid this, the officer retired, reporting the failure of his mission to the Director and asking that more soldiers be sent with him, having "among them one or two who are not nice about taking hold of a man."

As was to be expected, Stuyvesant resorted to measures which soon rendered the Patroon amenable to law and order, and the revenues derived from tapsters alone rose, within one year, from an insignificant sum to 4,200 guilders, in 1657. Nothing noteworthy occurred thereafter during Dutch dominion.

Nicolls, the first English Governor of New Netherland, paid some attention to brewing. Among the laws which he submitted to the Assembly convened at Hempstead, and which are known as the Duke of York's Laws, was one providing that no person should be allowed to brew beer for sale without having "sufficient skill and knowledge in the art and mystery of brewing."* [* The first regular brewmaster (in the modern sense of the word) was probably R.H. Vaneoest, who came to Albany in 1635 to take charge of the Patroon's brewery.] and otherwise regulating the trade with a view to securing wholesome beverages. He also introduced the fee feature into the license system governing retailers. In his endeavor to conciliate the conquered Dutch burghers, he however, refrained for a time from strictly enforcing this rule and other excise regulations contemplated by his principal. It was not until 1670 that he gave peremptory orders for the collection of the excise.

From the date of the recovery of the Colony by the Dutch up to the second surrender to the English (1674), the liquor traffic received but casual attention in New York; and for many years after the re-establishment of English supremacy, the annals of the Colony contain no indications of great progress in brewing.

In the succeeding chapters the further development of brewing in New York receives sufficient attention to justify our closing this chapter at this point so as to avoid useless repetitions, and to prevent the overtaxing of the reader's patience.

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