The winter of 1643 was an extremely difficult time for the colonists of New Netherland. The Indian War continued, food was scarce, Indian attacks were frequent, and those colonists who escaped from their burning homes often found themselves without winter clothing or household goods. In the summer that followed, the survivors gathered in the fort in New Amsterdam and those Manhattan farmers who ventured outside the palisade to plant their fields were in constant danger of attack.
In September 1643, Director Willem Kieft authorized a gathering of the families of New Netherland and from their number, eight men were selected to consult with the Director and his Council. The Eight Men had no power to call meetings on their own initiative, but were required to attend meetings with the Director and Council every Saturday. Legislative actions approved at the Saturday meetings were valid provided five of the Eight Men were present.
When Director Kieft proposed recruiting mercenaries to assist in the defense of the colony, the Eight Men reluctantly agreed to the imposition of additional taxes on the New Netherland population. Shortly afterward, soldiers were sent from Holland, and Director Kieft sought to raise further taxes for their support. The Eight Men resisted on the ground that the Dutch West India Company had guaranteed protection as an inducement to emigration. Director Kieft ignored the advice of the Eight Men and imposed the tax without their consent.
Outraged, the Eight Men followed in the footsteps of the Twelve Men and acted beyond the scope of authority granted by Director Kieft. On October 28, 1644, they met at Fort Amsterdam to sign the Remonstrance of the Eight Men of the Manhatas, addressed to the Company and the Dutch parliament, the first petition sent to the home government by a popular body in New Netherland. It described the plight of New Amsterdam, the Native American massacre, and concluded with a request for a system of representative government similar to that of the municipalities in the Netherlands.
The Dutch West India Company disregarded the remonstrance but the document raised concern in the Dutch parliament, which had begun to take an interest in the affairs of the colony. Members of the parliament urged the recall of Director Kieft for examination, and eventually the Company agreed to appointed Pieter Stuyvesant to replace Director Kieft. Director-General Stuyvesant was sworn into office before the Dutch Parliament on July 28, 1846 and Lubbert van Dincklagen, the former Schout-Fiscael under Director Wouter van Twiller, was sworn in as the Vice-Director.
The Eight Men, 1643-1645
Cornelis Melyn (Chairman)
Jan Evertsen Bout (vice Jan Jansen Dam, expelled)
Joachim Pietersen Kuyter
Abraham Pietersen Van Duesen
Wolphert Gerritsen van Couwenhoven