Tercentenial Hypertext Edition


The following is an unofficial, modern language restatement of the original 1696 Charter. Detailed property descriptions have been omitted. Hypertext references in the text below link to the corresponding text of the 1696 Charter. The numbered underlined headings have been added for convenient reference and are not part of the full Charter. For all official purposes, reference should be made to the full original text of the Charter.

William III, King of England, states as follows:

1. Petitioned filed.

A petition has been filed by Henricus Selyns, William Beeckman, Joannes Kerbyle, Joannes De Peyster, Jocobus Kipp, Isaac Deforeest and Isaac De Reymer, the present Minister, Elders and Deacons of the Dutch Protestant congregation in the City of New York, presented to Benjamin Fletcher, Governor of the Province of New York. The Minister, Elders and Deacons and other members of that Church have built a church in New York City on Garden Street [property description omitted] and the Church also owns land on Beaver Street [property description omitted], and in Fordham [property description omitted], and has petitioned to be incorporated under the name of "The Minister, Elders and Deacons of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of Our City of New York."

2. Grant is made.

In order to secure to them and their successors the free exercise of their civil and religious rights, and to preserve to them and their successors the liberty of worshipping God according to the constitutions and directions of the reformed Churches of Holland, approved and instituted by the national Synod of Dort, it is published, granted and declared as follows.

3. Freedom of religious opinion, judgment and conscience.

No person in communion of this Church within New York City at any time shall be disturbed or called into question for any difference of opinion in matters of the protestant religion who doe not actually disturb the civil peace, but all persons in communion of this Church may freely have and enjoy their own judgment and conscience in matters of protestant religious concerns in accordance with the foregoing constitutions and directions, provided they behave themselves peaceably and quietly, any law, statute, usage or custom of England or this Province to the contrary notwithstanding.

4. Designation of church building and minister.

The above-referenced church building is declared to be the church and churchyard of this Church, to be used for the members of the Church in New York City, and there shall be a perpetual succession of ministers there. Henricus Selyns is constituted the Minister of the Church.

5. Petitioners constitute a body politic with certain powers.

The petitioners are constituted a "body politic or corporate" with the powers and privileges stated below. They and their successors shall have perpetual succession and these powers:

6. Management of the Church.

For management of the Church:

7. Election of Elders and Deacons.

Once a year, on the third Thursday of October [changed to the second Thursday of January, by New York legislative act of Feb. 15, 1800], the Elders and Deacons, with the consent and approval of the members of the Church, shall nominate and appoint members of the Church to succeed in the office of Elders and Deacons for the next year. If any of the elected Elders or Deacons die or are removed from office before the next election, then the members of the Church shall elect replacement(s) from the Church members. The Elders and Deacons shall choose the successor Minister, and each successor shall enjoy similar stipends, benefits, etc. from the members of the Church.

8. Authority to lease.

The Minister, Elders and Deacons may lease premises, on the expiration or earlier termination of the lease, for a 15 year term, on a reasonable yearly rent, without taking any additional payment.

9. Authority to collect alms.

The deacons of the Church, or any person authorized by them, at gatherings for worship in the Church, may collect voluntary alms from the Church members, which is to be applied by the Minister, Elders and Deacons for such pious and charitable uses and they and their successors consider desirable.

10. Selection of additional ministers, and other officials.

The Minister of the Church may, with the consent of the Elders and Deacons, or any four of them (provided that an Elder shall be one of the four), nominate one or more ministers ordained in accordance with the aforesaid constitution and directions, to be preachers and assistants to the Minister and perform such duties as the Minister, Elders and Deacons shall require; and the Minister may similarly nominate a Clerk, schoolmaster, bellringer or sexton and such other officers as are needed.

11. Authority to assess members for the Church's expenses.

The Minister, Elders and Deacons may, with the consent of the Church members or a majority of them, make "rates and assessments" on all members of the Church for raising money for payment of the salaries of the Officers of the Church, and also for repairing and enlarging the Church, steeple, belfry, cemetery, or churchyard, and other things belonging to the Church. The rates and assessments shall be paid to the Deacons and disposed of by order of the Minister, Elders and Deacons.

In order to facilitate taxing and making of rates and assessments, the Minister shall, on the first Sunday in May, give notice to the members of the Church by name to assemble and meet with him and the Elders and Deacons on the second Monday thereafter, to make the assessment. If they do not meet in accordance with that notice, the Minister, Elders and Deacons shall make the assessment.

12. Name of the Church.

The Minister, Elders and Deacons, together with the members of the Church, shall be called "the reformed protestant Dutch Church of Our Said City of New York."

13. Authority to adopt rules of operations.

The Minister, Elders and Deacons, and a majority of the Church members, have full power and authority:

14, Grant of properties, and payment by the Church.

There are hereby granted, forever, to the Minister, Elders and Deacons all of the above recited lands and properties, and the buildings and improvements on them, and all above recited unimproved lands and all benefits, rights and privileges deriving from those lands and properties, including rents.

The Minister, Elders and Deacons shall pay to and for King William III, and his successors forever, at the City of New York, annual rent of twelve shillings, payable on the feast day of the annunciation of Our Blessed Virgin Mary, in lieu of all other rents, duties, and charges, for the premises.

15. Grant to be construed in favor of the Church.

Lastly, this grant shall remain legally effective and shall be construed in accordance with the intentions expressed in this grant, and shall be construed most favorably for the benefit of the Minister, Elders and Deacons of the reformed protestant Dutch Church in the City of New York and their successors, although express mention of yearly values or precise description of premises may not be made in this grant.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF this grant has been signed by the Governor of the Province of New York, Benjamin Fletcher, on May 11, 1696.


Original Charter
A Brief Collegiate History