Colette Hook Grower
IMMIGRATION TO AMERICA
The best source of information regarding William Teller's coming to America and his settlement in Albany is a disposition made in New York in 1698. An Albany court record dated July, 1655 has William stating he was thrity-nine years of age. This would place his date of birth around the year 1620. The 1698 deposition stated:
The Deposition of Mr. Wm. Teller of the City of New York. Merchant,aged about 78 years, being sworn upon the holy Evangelists,saith. "That this deponent arrived in this province of New York in the year of our Lord Christ 1638."
"That this province was then called the Netherlands and that Wm. Kieft was Governour, appointed by the States General, and the West India Company of Holland. That the said deponent some short time after his arrival here was sent by the said Govr. Kieft to the Fort of Orange Nassaw, the place where now the City of Albany is settled. That Bastian Croll was then Commanderr in Chief of the said Fort of Orange, under whose command this deponent served some short time as Corporal, and was then advanced to be Watch Master of the said Fort"...
THE WEST INDIA COMPANY
The company in whose employ Willem Teller was at this time, was one of the two great trading companies which monopolized the foreign trade of Holland, outside of Europe and the Mediterranean coasts. By the charter of 1621, it had controlof all the Dutch trade, not merely with the West Indies, but with the whole of America and the West Coast of Africa. Private traders of Dutch nationality might not visit these lands without the Company's permission, under penalty of forfeiture of ships and goods. The Company ruled all Dutch possessions within these regions: made treaties and alliances with their inhabitants, built forts, appointed its own governors, military officers, magistrators and other officials, and exercised all the functions of government.
THE RUNNER CONTROVERSY
Willem Teller next appears as a member of the "Anti-Runner Party" in Albany. These were the supporters of Governor Stuyvesant in his efforts to suppress sssome of the abuses of the fur-trade, especially that of employing runners or bosch-loopers, of whose crimes there had been much complaint. These men were sent by certain traders to collect furs from the Indians by meeting them on the trails before they could bring their loads to Albany, or by going into their villages. In many cases the runners got possession of the furs by fraud or by robbery and murder.
CONDITIONS OF THE FUR TRADE
The attempted reform of the practices of the fur trade was the most difficult task of Governor Stuyvesant's administration. The laws which the West India Company had made prohibiting the sale of fire-arms, gunpowder and brandy to the natives had not been honestly enforced under the corrupt administration of Governor Kieft, and a large illicit trade that sprung up, shielded by bribery. The Iroquois had been furnished abundantly with guns and ammunition, which they had used to carry massacre and devastation over a large part the continent, from Niagar to the Mississippi and Hudson Bay. They not only exterminated native tribes, and inflicted great loss of life and property on the French settlements. Kieft's departure could do little to improve conditions, the the smuggling of fire-arms and ammunition still continued, the system of graft was still thoroughly established, and the Iroquois extended their conquests and massacres in order to have more vacant lands on which to hunt beaver. In the fifth years of his administration, when the Iroquois had recently completed the destruction of the mission stations of Upper Canada with the aid of guns supplied by law-breaking trader at Albany, and burned the missionaries, Governor Stuyvesant seized two of the most notorious offenders and condemned them to be hanged. Such pressure was brought to bear upon him, however, that he was unable to carry out the sentence.
WILLEM TELLER'S SLANDER SUITE
The "runner controversy" broke out again in 1660, and Gaovernor Stuyvesant came to Albany to investigate. The "Runner Party" who opposed the regulation of the fur-trade and any interferences with its atrocities -- if such interference would lessen their profits-- expressed their opinions strongly and openly. Willem Teller took part in the discussion as a supporter of the Governor. Some of his remarks let to a suit in the Albany Court, recorded as follows:
"Cornelis Theunesen and Jacob Thysen, plantiffs, against Willem Teller, defendant. The plantiffs say that the defendant called them rabble and injured their reputation. They demand reparation of character. The defendent asserts that he said it would be a miserable thing if I, or the common people or rabble should rebel against the law of the public authority or make a law against the authorities. Lambert van Neck and Hendrick Rooseboom, appearing before honourable court at the request of Cornelis Theunesen, say that they heard Willem Teller say: 'If the principals of the place listened to this rubble, they would be crazy.' without, however, mentioning names. The court appoints the next court day for the participants to institute their proceedings."
At "the next court day" Theunesen and Thysen failed to appear and the dase was defaulted.
The next entry concerning the affair is as follows: "Willem Teller, plaintiff, against Jacob Thysen van der Heyde and Cornelis Theunesen, defendants. The plaintiff asks of the defendants reparation of honor, as the defendants called him a defamer, saying that the plaintiff robbed themof their reputation. He requests that the defendants prove it. The defendants ask time till the next court day. The court granted the defendants time till the next court day to prove their charges."
How the case finally ended is not known, as no record of it has been preserved.
The graft and illicit trade, however, continued to flourish till the end of Stuyvesant's administration, in spite of all his efforts against them, and contued under English rule more vigoursly than ever. The element who profited by illegal trade found the Duke of York to be a master much mor to their liking, for he did not believe in letting humanitarianism interfer with profits, being himself the chief promoter of the slave trade in England. Thereafter, business in Albany was not disturbed and the natives were rapidly exterminated.
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