Patroon Court

Under the 1629 Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions, patroons were empowered to administer civil and criminal justice, in person or by deputy, within their patroonships. Although many Amsterdam merchants expressed interest in setting up a patroonship, only Rensselaerwyck, Swanendael and Pavonia were actually established. The latter two had ceased to exist by 1635, but Rensselaerwyck continued to thrive during the Dutch colony and beyond.

In 1632, patroon van Rensselaer appointed a schout (officer of justice) for Rensselaerwyck with instructions to swear in five schepenen to form a patroonship court. Those accused of a crime were entitled to a speedy and impartial trial, and no one could be sentenced unless tried by a court composed of five persons. Where the sentence imposed affected life or limb, or where the sum in litigation exceeded twenty dollars, an appeal lay to the New Netherland Court of Justice in Fort Amsterdam.

Records: Minutes of the Court of Rensselaerwyck, 1648-1652,



Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan. History of New Netherland (1848)


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