BURGHERS, as Dutch citizens of incorporated cities, enjoyed the economic and political rights of freemen. In New Amsterdam, burghers gained control of the municipal government in 1652, after the previous administration's reckless economic and Indian policies threatened the city's prosperity. Five years later, the Dutch government granted burgher rights, which conferred political privileges and a commercial monopoly on their recipients. In New Amsterdam, only those whom the city magistrates had classified as burghers could do business as merchants or artisans. Later, English law entitled burghers to the designation of freemen by birth or admission by the magistrates.
Burghers (bûr´gərz), in the 18th cent., a party of the Secession Church of Scotland, resulting from one of the "breaches" in the history of Presbyterianism. To qualify as a burgess in certain burghs one was required to take an oath accepting the "true religion presently professed within this realm." Opinion differed as to whether this referred to the Protestant religion in general or to the Established Church. Those in the Secession Church who understood the oath in the former sense were the "Burghers," or the Associate Synod. Opposed to them were the Anti-Burghers, or the General Associate Synod, who refused to take the oath. The two bodies mutually excluded each other in 1747. By the end of the century both divisions were further split apart into "Old Light Anti-Burghers" and "Old Light Burghers" and "New Lights" in each division, over questions of civil magistracy. In 1820 Old Lights and New Lights were brought together again in the United Secession Church.