Schools Under The Rule of the Dutch

IT is not a matter of surprise that the founders of New Amsterdam gave early attention to the education of their children. In their own country they were familiar with such education, and had learned to regard it as indispensable. The interest of the Dutch in this matter is well known. " Neither the perils of war, nor the busy pursuit of gain, nor the excitement of political strife, ever caused the Dutch to neglect the duty of educating their offspring to enjoy that freedom for which their fathers had fought. Schools were every where provided, at the public expense, with good schoolmasters, to instruct the children of all classes in the usual branches of education ; and the consistories of the churches took zealous care to have their youth thoroughly taught the Catechism and the Articles of Religion." It was the custom of the Dutch, " after the Reformation in Holland, to send out with emigrants going to any of its colonies, however few in number, a well-qualified schoolmaster, who was a member of the Church, and accredited by his competence and piety to take charge of the instruction of children and youth."

The colony on Manhattan Island was permanently established in 1626, although the charter of the Dutch West India Company was obtained in 1621, and a few settlers had taken up their abode there as early as the winter of 1613-1614. The Company "promised to support and maintain good and fit preachers, schoolmasters, and comforters of the sick." The establishment of schools and the appointment of schoolmasters were within the province of the Company and the Classis of Amsterdam.

Although for several years the offices of minister and schoolmaster are supposed to have been filled by the same person, there is nothing in the records to show that anything was done in the way of instruction. There was no minister in the colony at the beginning, the place of a clergyman being supplied to some extent by two " krank-besoeckers," or " comforters of the
sick," who were required to visit and pray with sick persons. Ministers were in some cases called upon to look after the instruction of children in other things than the Catechism ; but " the course most commonly pursued, when a colony was to be established, was, to have a schoolmaster accompany the settlers, and, to a certain extent, conduct religious services. After habitations were erected, and the settlement had assumed a warrantable degree of stability, it was provided with a minister. "

It is not probable that many children were brought over by the immigrants from Holland, and those born on Manhattan Island would not have been ready to attend school much before the date of the arrival of the first schoolmaster, in 1633. In that year the second Director-General, Wouter Van Twiller, arrived at Manhattan, and with him came the Rev. Everardus Bogardus, the second minister of the Gospel, and Adam Roelantsen, the first schoolmaster. It was several years before a schoolhouse was built ; in the mean time school was held in a room hired for the purpose, or in a room in the schoolmaster's house. The school was free. Roelantsen was a salaried official florins ($144) per annum. There is some reason to believe that this pioneer in the army of schoolteachers on Manhattan Island took in washing, to increase his income. He was a man of quarrelsome disposition, and during his somewhat checkered career in New Amsterdam was the plaintiff or defendant in numerous lawsuits. In 1646 he was sentenced by the court to be flogged and banished forever out of the country, but this sentence was not carried out on account of his four motherless children. In the following year, it is stated, he was appointed Provost; and in 1653 Adam Roelantsen was a member of the Burgher Corps of New Amsterdam. "

t is not impossible," says Valentine, " that the severe measures taken against Roelantsen were only adopted after his professional services had become no longer a necessity. For the year previous to his banishment, one Arien Jansen Van Ilpendam settled here and opened school. . . . We find, from various sources, that Van Ilpendam taught several children, who afterward became among the leading citizens in town. He lived in this city and taught school during many subsequent years, at least as late as in the year 1660 " {Manual,1863, p. 561). Mrs. Lamb is authority for the statement that a new school was started by Arien Jansen Van Olfendam, who arrived from Holland March 3, 1645, and taught until 1660. " His terms of tuition were ' two beavers ' per annum,  beavers meaning dried beaver-skins."

n the year 1638 appears the record of the first tax for the maintenance of schools, the following law having been proposed :

" Each householder and inhabitant shall bear such tax and public charge as shall hereafter be considered proper for the maintenance of clergymen, comforters of the sick, schoolmasters, and such like necessary officers." n Annals of Public Education in the State of New York Mr. Pratt states that;

"as early as 1642, it was customary, in marriage contracts, whenever the bride was a widow having children, for the parties to ' promise to bring up the children decently, according to their ability, to provide them with necessary clothing and food, to keep them at school, to let them learn reading, writing, and a good trade ' : to which was sometimes added ' as honest parents ought and are bound to do, and as they can answer before God and man ' " (p. 5).

According to some authorities, Roelantsen appears to have been succeeded in 1643 by Jan Stevenson, called by Dominie Backerus a " faithful schoolmaster and reader, who has served the Company here for six or seven years, and is now [September,1648] going home." From Mrs. Lamb we learn that "

"about that time [1648], Jan Stevenson opened a small private school which was tolerably well patronized. The best families had generally their own private tutors direct from Europe ; but there were enough to support a school besides, and the new teacher found himself fully occupied" (Vol. I, p. 139).

It would appear probable that Stevenson opened his private school after severing his connection with the free school and after a visit to his native land. According to Dunshee (p. 35), however, Jan Cornelissen was " the second teacher mentioned in connection with the public school under the care of the church."

About this time efforts were made to build a schoolhouse. Subscriptions were solicited for the purpose ; but in 1649 a remonstrance addressed to the States-General stated that " The plate has been a long time passed around for a Common School which has been built with words ; for, as yet, the first stone is not laid ; some materials have only been provided. However, the money given for the purpose hath all disappeared and is mostly spent, so that it falls somewhat short ; and nothing permanent has as yet been effected for this purpose."

The remonstrance further declared that " There ought to be also a Public school provided with at least two good teachers," etc.

The answer to the remonstrance, made in the following year (1650), stated that

"Although the new School-house, towards which the Commonalty contributed something, has not yet been built, it is not the Director, but the Church wardens, who have charge of the funds. The Director is busy providing materials. Meanwhile a place has been selected for a School, of which Jan Cornelissen has charge. The other teachers keep school in hired houses, so that the
youth are not in want of schools to the extent of the circumstances of the country."

Jan Cornelissen is reputed to have been lazy and of bad habits. Peter Stuyvesant was now Director-General of the colony, and he petitioned the Classis of Amsterdam for "a pious, well-qualified, and diligent schoolmaster." In response William Verstius1 was sent out. Little is known of him beyond the fact that in 1654 he petitioned the Classis of Amsterdam for an increase of salary ; in the following year he withdrew from the school. Wilson says that after Stevenson's return to Holland, in September, 1648, his place was temporarily filled by Pieter van der Linde, who was appointed October 26th, at a salary of 150 florins ($60), "until another proper person can be sent from Holland" (Vol. IV, p. 576).This "proper person" apparently was Verstius.

As one consequence of the above-mentioned remonstrance, made in 1649, a second school was opened in 1652, under the direction of Jan De La Montagne, but it is uncertain how long it was continued. According to Dunshee (p. 40), there is a strong probability that its existence was of short duration.

Verstius was superseded in 1655 by Harmanus Van Hoboocken (or Hoboken), at a salary of 35 guilders per month and 100 guilders annual expenditures. In 1656 New Amsterdam contained 120 houses and about 1000 inhabitants; and "the number of children at the public school having greatly increased, further accommodation was allowed to Harman van Hoboken, the schoolmaster." In 1656 he made application to the Burgomasters and Schepens for "the hall and the side room " of the City Hall " for the use of the school and as a dwelling, inasmuch as he, the petitioner, does not know how to manage for the proper accommodation of the children during winter, for they much require a place adapted for fire and to be warmed, for which their present tenement is wholly unfit." The request was denied, but an allowance of 100 guilders yearly was made to the master " for the present and until further order. "The question of building a schoolhouse at the public expense was thereupon again agitated, but without any practical result.

After a few years Van Hoboocken was succeeded by Evert Pietersen, who was at first employed as a colleague or substitute during the illness of the regular schoolmaster ; but a little later Pietersen was regularly appointed, and Van Hoboocken was provided for by the Director-General, and assigned to duty as schoolmaster and clerk on the latter's " bouwery," or farm, in the vicinity of what is now Third avenue and Twelfth street.

A civil ordinance in reference to the public catechizing of children was promulgated in 1664 by the Director-General and the Council, declaring that " it is highly necessary and of great consequence that the youth, from their childhood, is well instructed in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and principally in the principles and fundaments of the Christian religion."

In 1658 steps were taken for the establishment of a Latin school, or academy, and in the following year Dr. Alexander Carolus Curtius was sent from Lithuania to take charge of it. The city magistrates proposed to pay him 500 guilders annually from the city treasury ; he was allowed the use of a house and garden, and was permitted to charge for each scholar six guilders
per quarter. The privilege of practicing medicine was also granted to him. Although a learned man, Dr. Curtius lacked power of discipline and his administration was not successful. Dr. Egidius Luyck became principal of the school in 1662,and, says Dunshee, "under his charge, it attained so high a reputation, that children were sent to it from Virginia, Fort
Orange and the Delaware, to receive a classical education" (P- 53).

During the period of Dutch colonization a number of private schools were conducted in New Amsterdam, and at the close of Stuyvesant's administration (1664) a dozen or more were in existence. The teachers of these schools were licensed by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, no one being allowed to carry on a school without such a license.

Website: The History
Article Name: Schools Under The Rule of the Dutch
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: The New York Public School By A. Emerson Palmer, M.A. Secretary of the Board of Education; The MacMillan Company-New York 1905
Time & Date Stamp: