Dongan Charter

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Trade and Money

No peddlers were allowed to compete with the regular tradesmen of the place, except that Indians might bring in wood and long strips of bark for gutters or eaves-troughs. These neighboring Indians, in the great lack of servants, were often enslaved until a law of the colony forbade ; but the traffic in negroes thrived and the common price paid for a slave was one hundred and fifty dollars. Dollars and cents were of course not known; and although large sums were reckoned in English pounds and shillings, yet Dutch guilders , Indian wampum and beaver skins were the common money in business. The bare necessities and a few comforts contented the people; a little ready money went a long ways; five thousand dollars was a fortune, while half that sum made a rich man.

The colony shipped from its ports wheat, tar, lumber, tobacco and especially pelts and furs. On goods brought to port of New York there was duty of two per cent, if they came from England; while goods from other countries paid ten per cent. These rates were not so burdensome as were the taxes on property and produce; which duties were established in the early days of English rule and still continued.

The Dongan Charter

Dongan Charter, New YorkThat these taxes and laws did not please the people their protests and petitions leave no doubt. Even Andros, ever a friend of arbitrary power, counseled the Duke to give the people a voice in the government. When William Penn added his advice, the proprietor yielded and promised an assembly. He did not trust this work to Andros, but giving him other duties, sent Thomas Dongan to be governor. Of Thomas Dongan it can be said, that he was the first governor of New York who had the breadth of brain and the trueness of heart which make a statesman. He first accorded to the common man of the colony his rights; ignoring petty quarrels at home and with neighboring colonies, he disclosed and combated the encroachments of the great enemy to English rule in New York and in America, the French.

Dongan Charter, The Colony of New York, showing the original ten counties.According to his instructions his first act was to call an assembly of seventeen from New York city, long Island, Staten Island, Esopus, Albany, Rensselaerwick, Pemaquid and Martha's Vineyard to act with the council of ten in forming a constitution. On the seventeenth of October, 1683, some seventy five years after the discovery of New York, the representatives of the citizens adopted a charter for their own government. Other colonies had charters brought from England; this constitution was the product of America. By its terms, "Supreme power shall forever be and reside in the governor, council and people met in general assembly." It secured the right to vote, trial by jury, taxation by the assembly and complete religious freedom. By its order an assembly of 21 representatives was to meet once in three years; and in order to apportion the members the colony was divided into ten * counties: Suffolk, Queens, Kings, New York, Richmond and Westchester, which remain nearly as first constituted and Orange , Ulster, Dutchess and Albany, which have since been divided.

The Charter Revoked

Although this charter was ratified by the Duke, it was a matter of bargain; for he stipulated that the assembly should in return vote heavy taxes. Soon he openly disregarded his pledge of levying taxes without the consent of the people. Two years after he agreed to the charter, by the death of his brother, Charles II, he became king with the title of James II. He then began to plot the complete subjection of all of the American colonies to his will. He undertook to unite all northern colonies except Pennsylvania under one governor. For this purpose he chose Edmund Andros and stationed him at Boston. Not finding Governor Dongana fit tool he sent to New York one Nicholson, as lieutenant-govenor under Andros.

* There were twelve counties in the colony as then claimed. Duke's county included Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket; Cornwall county was Pemaquid, the land between the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers, granted the Duke with New York.

(continues...Aftermath of the Dongan Charter)