Although most Americans are familiar with the basic outline of the British colonization of America, and even know some information on the Spanish and French settlements, their is less familiarity with the history and geography of another new word settler, namely the Dutch. Not only did they settle the colony of New Netherland but coins from both the United Provinces of the Netherlands and the Flemish area held by Spain, which we now call Belgium, circulated in America. The following summaries are presented to clarify statements in the various sections of this site that mention events concerning the Dutch; below are capsule histories (a) on the formation of the states of Belgium and the Netherlands and (b) the development of the province of New Netherland in America.
For the most part the cities and provinces in the area known as the Low Countries developed independently from the Ninth through the mid Fourteenth centuries. From 1363-1472 the area was gradually assimilated by four generations of the Dukes of Burgundy from Philip the Bold to Charles the Bold. Eventually the lands passed by marriage to the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V. Upon Charles's abdication in 1556 the lands reverted to his son Philip II of Spain. Philip then sent his sister Margaret of Parma to rule the area. The Calvinist Dutch in the northern provinces especially disliked the Spanish Catholics. They feared the Inquisition would be brought to the Netherlands, and that personal and economic as well as religious freedom would be lost, so they revolted. Philip then sent Ferdinand Alverez, the Duke of Alba to bring order to the area. On August 8, 1567 the Spanish Duke of Alba entered Brussels as military dictator with some 10,000 troops. Thousands of people from both the northern and the souththern provinces fled the Low Countries, including the prominent noble William of Orange, Count of Nassau. Alba suppressed anyone who opposed him including William of Orange, whose lands he confiscated.
The Calvinist northern provinces began allying themselves with Alba's enemies, namely William of Orange. On April 1, 1572 the Dutch struck back, a navel force under Captain van der Marck took the city of Brill. The revolt quickly spread throughout the north. On July 15, 1572 the northern provinces of Holland and Zeeland acknowledged William of Orange as their Stadtholder and a government was established in Delft. This was the beginning of a bloody civil war against the Spanish which continued until 1579.
On January 5, 1579 the southern regions of Atrois, Hainaut and the town of Douay joined together for mutual protection under the Spanish king in the League of Arras (Artois). Soon thereafter, on January 29, 1579 the northern provinces united in the Union of Utrecht. In 1582 the large provinces of Brabant and Flanders joined the southern alliance. This southern area, what is now know as Belgium, was predominantly Catholic, and included the provinces of Flanders, Antwerp, Hainault, Brabant, Namur, Liege, Limburg, and Luxembourg (Limburg is now part of the Netherlands and Luxembourg is an independent state). The northern provinces, on the other hand, were collectively known as the United Provinces of the Netherlands or the Dutch Republic, and were often referred to by the name of their principle province, that is, Holland. This northern Calvinist area consisted of the seven provinces of Frisia, Groningen, Overijssel, Holland, Gelderland, Utrecht and Zeeland. From the formation of the Union of Utrecht these provinces were able to remain a separate republic but it was not until the Treaty of Westphalia, at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648, that the independence of the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was finally recognized.
The southern provinces, which are now known as Belgium, continued under Spanish Hapsburg rule until the death of Charles II in 1700. The lands then reverted to the new Bourbon king of Spain, Philip Duke of Anjou. In 1701 the French king Louis XIV compelled Philip, who was his grandson, to turn the southern provinces over to France. However by the Treaty of Utrecht at the conclusion of the War of Spanish Succession the lands were given to the Austrian Hapsburg line which held the area until they were overthrown by the French Republic in 1794.
Coin from both of the northern and southern regions circulated in the American colonies, including the Cross Dollar of Brabant and the Lion Dollars of the various provinces of the United Netherlands.
In 1602 the States General of the United Provinces, known as the Netherlands, chartered the United East India Company (the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, called the VOC) with the mission of exploring for a passage to the Indies and claiming any unchartered territories for the United Provinces. On September 3, 1609 the English explorer Henry Hudson, on behalf of the United East India Company, entered the area now known as New York in an attempt to find a northwest passage to the Indies. He searched every costal inlet and on the 12th took his ship, the Halve Maen (Half Moon), up the river which now bears his name, as far as Albany and claimed the land for his employer. Although no passage was discovered the area turned out to be one of the best fur trading regions in North America.
As early as 1611 the Dutch merchant Arnout Vogels set sail in the ship St. Pieter for what was probably the first Dutch trading expedition to the Hudson Bay. This secretive mission was so successful in 1612 Vogels chartered the ship Fortuyn which made two, back to back trips to the area. The initial trip of the Fortuyn was under the command of Captain Adriaen Block. Two months before the Fortuyn returned on her second trip, Adriaen Block landed in Hudson Bay in a different ship. Block did not try to keep his activities a secret, he traded liquor, cloth, firearms and trinkets for beaver and otter pelts; however, before he could leave the Hudson for an early spring crossing to Amsterdam he saw the arrival of another Dutch ship, the Jonge Tobias, under the command of Thijs Volckertsz Mossel. Competition to exploit the newly discovered land was underway.
On October 11, 1614 merchants from the cities of Amsterdam and Hoorn formed The New Netherland Company receiving a three year monopoly for fur trading in the newly discovered region from the States General of the United Provinces. In 1615 the company erected Fort Orange on Castle Island near Albany and began trading with the Indians for furs. Although merchants came to New Netherland for business purposes, the area was not colonized and at the end of the three year period the company's monopoly was not renewed. At that point the land was opened to all Dutch traders. Eventually the States General decided to grant an monopoly to a company that would colonized the area. There was a need to have a permanent political presence in their colonies in New Netherland, Brazil and Africa against the possibility of an English, French or Spanish challenge.
In 1621 the newly incorporated Dutch West India Company (the Westindische Compagnie or WIC) obtained a twenty four year trading monopoly in America and Africa and sought to have the New Netherland area formally recognized as a province. Once provincial status was granted in June of 1623 the company began organizing the first permanent Dutch settlement in New Netherland. On March 29, 1624 the ship, Nieu Nederlandt (New Netherland) departed with the first wave of settlers, consisting not of Dutch but rather of thirty Flemish Walloon families. The families were spread out over the entire territory claimed by the company. To the north a few families were left at the mouth of the Connecticut River, while to the south some families were settled at Burlington Island on the Delaware River. Others were left on Nut Island, now called Governor's Island, at the mouth of the Hudson) River, while the remaining families were taken up the Hudson to Fort Orange (Albany). Later in 1624 and through 1625 six additional ships sailed for New Netherland with colonists, livestock and supplies.
It soon became clear the northern and southern outposts were untenable and so had to be abandoned. Also, due to a war between the Mohawk and Mahican tribes in 1625, the women and children at Fort Orange were forced to move to safety. At this point, in the spring of 1626, the Director General of the company, Peter Minuit, came to the province. Possibly motivated to erect a safe haven for the families forced to leave Fort Orange, at some point between May 4 and June 26, 1626 Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Indians for some 60 guilders worth of trinkets. He immediately started the construction of Fort New Amsterdam under the direction of the company engineer Cryn Fredericksz.
Because of the dangers and hardships of life in a new land some colonists decided to return to the homeland in 1628. By 1630 the total population of New Netherland was about 300, many being French speaking Walloons. It is estimated about 270 lived in the area surrounding Fort Amsterdam, primarily working as farmers, while about 30 were at Fort Orange, the center of the Hudson valley fur trade with the Mohawks.
New Netherland was a company owned and operated business, run on a for profit basis by the directors of the West India Company. The intent of the firm was to make a profit for the investors who had purchased shares in the company. WIC paid skilled individuals, as doctors and craftsmen, to move to New Netherland and also sent over over and paid soldiers for military protection of the settlements; the company also built forts and continually sent over provisions for the settlers. All the New Netherland positions one would usually consider government or public service jobs, were in fact, company jobs held by WIC employees. Laws were made by the company appointed Director General in the province with the consent of the company directors in Amsterdam; even the New Netherland provincial treasury was actually the company treasury. All taxes, fines and trading profits went to the company and the company paid the bills. Basically the company profit was whatever was left after expenses had been paid (it should be noted expenses included ample salaries for the Amsterdam directors). WIC soon discovered the expenses associated with establishing and expanding a new colony were considerable. In order to increase their profit margin the company sought to find what might be thought of as subcontractors. The first attempt at partnerships was the Patroonship plan.
The Patroonship plan was first conceived in 1628 as a way to attract more settlers without increasing company expenses. Under the plan a Patroon would be granted a large tract of land and given the rights to the land as well as legal rights to settle all non capital cases, quite similar to a manorial lord. In return the Patroon would agree to bring over settlers and colonize the land at their own expense. No one accepted a patroonship under these conditions because the lucrative fur and fishing trades were left as a monopoly of the company. One of the most prominent Amsterdam merchants and a principle shareholder in the Dutch West India Company, Kiliaen van Rensselear, had the plan modified. In the revised plan issued on June 7, 1629, the terms were much more favorable: colonization requirements were less stringent, the allocation of land to the patroon was larger and there were broad jurisdictional rights over the colonists. Additionally patroons were allowed to trade with New England and Virginia and, most importantly, they were allowed to engage in both the fur trade, subject to a company tax of one guilder per pelt, and could participate in the fish trade. Under this arrangement Kiliaen van Rensselear became Patroon to the largest and most lucrative fur trading area in New Netherland, that is, the area along the Hudson River out to Fort Orange, which he named the colony of Rensselaerswyck.
Under the Patroonship arrangement New Netherland continued to expand with more colonists and settlements taking hold. The nerve center of New Netherland was along the Hudson River from New Amsterdam (New York City) northwest to Fort Orange (Albany). The colony of Rensselaerswyck, encompassing Fort Orange, was the center of the fur trade while New Amsterdam was the shipping hub for Dutch traders. The northern border was not well defined but was taken to be the Connecticut River, which they called the Fresh River. Based on this border the Dutch felt they had a claim to New Haven and southern Connecticut; this was clarified at a convention in Hartford in September of 1650 limiting the Dutch to the territory west of Greenwich Bay (similar to the present day border NY-CT border). To the south, New Netherland took all of New Jersey establishing Fort Nassau in 1626 near the southern end of New Jersey (at Gloucester, New Jersey) along the Delaware River, which they called the South River. They also established a whaling village on the southern shore of Delaware Bay called Swanendael (Valley of the Swans) near what is now Lewes, Delaware; although the village was soon destroyed in an Indian raid. The Dutch also constructed Fort Beversrede in 1648 on the Schuylkill River (at Philadelphia) and Fort Casimir in 1651 (at Newcastle, DE) to defend their territory against the Swedes and Finns of the Swedish West India Company in Delaware. In 1655 New Netherland defeated New Sweden and occupied the Swedish stronghold, Fort Christiana (Wilmington).
In another attempt to increase revenue from the settlement, in 1638 the West India Company abandoned its trading monopoly. Again the company felt they could share the expenses and risks associated with trade by opening up the area to other merchants and collecting fees from them. With the passage of the Articles and Conditions in 1638 and the Freedoms and Exemptions in 1640 the company allowed merchants of all friendly nations trade in the area, subject to a 10% import duty, a 15% export duty and the restriction that all merchants had to hire West India Company ships to carry their merchandise. Of course the West India Company continued in the fur trade. Some of the first merchants to take advantage of this situation were WIC employees who left the company to act as agents for Dutch merchant firms and also trade on their own, such as Govert Loockermans and Augustine Heermans. Lookermans was a WIC employee from 1633-1639, when he left the company to become the local agent for both the powerful Verbrugge family and for himself. He was suspected of smuggling on several occassions and incurred several fines as well as the disapproval of the Verbrugge firm. Heermans first came to New Netherlands in 1633 as a company surveyor in the Delaware region. In 1643 he moved to New Amsterdam where he acted as an agent for the Dutch firm of Gabry and Company and also worked for himself in the fur and tobacco trade. Others WIC employees as Oloff Stevenson van Cortlandt, who had come over in 1637 as a WIC soldier, rose within the company. He was awarded the job of Commissary, supervising the arrival and storage of provisions. In this position he made numerous business contacts and joined in various trading ventures. He was able to acquire various properites within the city of New Amsterdam and by 1648 owned and operated a brewry. Another of these early independent merchants was Arnoldus van Hardenburg, from an Amsterdam merchant family, who came over to make his fortune. Some English colonists also took advantage of the new trading privileges. Isaac Allerton, an original Plymouth settler, who became a founder of Marblehead, Massachusetts went to New Amsterdam as did Thomas Willet of Plymouth. Allerton was knows as an uncrupulous individual who overcharged customers and manipulated his account books. Willet sometimes worked with Allerton and was of the same demeanor, he was once accused of bribing an an inspecion official to look the other way while he imported contraband items. Another Englishman, Thomas Hall, had independently moved into the Delaware valley where the Dutch discovered him in 1635 and took him to New Amsterdam as a prisoner. Hall he seems to have soon been released and in 1639 went in partnership with another Englishman, George Holmes, in the acquisition of a tobacco plantation, leading to a career as a tobacco grower and wholesaler (see, Maika, pp. 40-59).
As these smaller scale merchants and traders became successful both for themselves and for their employeers some of the more prominent Amsterdam merchant establishments decided to follow the lead of the Rensselear family, hoping to increase their profits by expanding into the new market. The most important and earliest participants were Gillis and Seth Verbrugge who traded from the 1640's-mid 1650's and even attempted to establish a potash factory in New Amsterdam (used in the production of soap). In the 1650's and 1660's they were followed by two other major merchant firms who entered the fur trade, namely the Dirck and Abel de Wolff Company and the firm of Gillis van Hoonbeeck. From the mid 1640's through the mid 1660's these three firms along with the Rensselear family accounted for more than 50% of the New Netherland trade.
Up to 1651 Dutch merchants could also trade with New England and Virginia as well as New Netherland. However once the British instituted the Navigation Act of 1651, non English ships were no longer allowed to transport goods from English ports. This forced the Verbrugge family to abandon their lucrative Virginia tobacco trade and eventually took them out of the new world market. The De Wolff family was more diversified that the Verbrugge, trading in Baltic grain, French wine and West African slaves as well as New Netherland furs. Also, rather than invest in ships this firm rented space on other ships and so remained competitive. Van Hoonbeeck entered the New Nwtherland market late, but was able to take advantage of the Verbrugge's Company fall.
The result of this situation was that a few powerful Amsterdam merchants along with the West India Company controlled New Netherland trade. Oliver A. Rink has succinctly explained the situation as follows:
Unlike New England, the individuals largely responsible for exploiting New Netherland's resources were merchants of the home country. Secure in their Amsterdam countinghouses, the merchants grasped control of the colony's lifeline to Holland and held fast. Profits from their enterprises flowed into coffers in Amsterdam, thus depriving New Netherland of capital and the opportunity to develop a viable, colony-based merchant community. (Rink, Holland on the Hudson, pp. 212-213)
Another important element in the New Netherland province that differed from the British colonies was demographics. It has been estimated that probably one half of the population was not Dutch. The size of the province has been estimated at between 2,000 to 3,500 in 1655 growing to a total of about 9,000 by 1664. A significant number of the inhabitants were Germans, Swedes and Finns that emigrated in the period after 1639. This number was increased by 300 to 500 with the capture of New Sweden on September 24, 1655. The impact of these German and Scandinavian Lutheran immigrants is brought out in a controversy that arose because the Lutherans in Middleburg, Long Island were holding church services without an approved preacher. The New Amsterdam pastors brought this situation to the attention of the Director General, Pieter Stuyvesant at the end of 1655, requesting the services be halted. The dispute dragged on for years until a resolution was formulated by the West India Company directors in Amsterdam. It was decided to permit the Lutherans the right to worship by slightly adjusting the catechism. In order not to offend the Lutherans, the Company bluntly stated the complaining New Amsterdam Calvinist pastors would be replaced by younger ministers who were more liberal, unless the dispute was put aside.
There were also about 2,000 English inhabitants in the area of New Netherland, primarily from New England, living on Long Island or in communities along the Connecticut border. The English obtained the Eastern portion of Long Island, (as far as the western end of Oyster Bay) in the border agreement reached at the Hartford Convention of 1650. In fact, five of the ten villages in the vicinity of New Amsterdam were English (namely, Newtown, Gravesend, Hemptead, Flushing and Jamaica while Brooklyn, Flatlands, Flatbush, New Utrecht and Bushwick were Dutch). There were also a number of "half free" African slaves, who were required to make a fixed yearly payment to the company for their freedom. In September of 1654 a group of 23 Jews were brought to New Amsterdam from the colony in Brazil (which was called New Holland), where the Portuguese had just defeated the Dutch West India Company following an eight year rebellion. In 1655, the same year charges were made against the Lutherans, the New Amsterdam preachers requested the province get rid of the Jews. This matter was brough to the company directors in Amsterdam who recommended the Jews be segregated and allowed to practice their religion, but not be permitted to build a synagogue. In this case toleration was granted because some of the Dutch West India Company stockholders were Jewish merchants. In fact, in 1658 when one of these New Netherland Jews, named David de Ferrera, was given a overly harsh punishment for a minor offence, it took the intervention of an important Jewish stockholder in the company, Joseph d'Acosta, to have the punishment reduced.
A French Jesuit priest named Father Isaac Jogues visited New Netherland in 1643-1644. After returning to Canada Father Jogues wrote a brief description of New Netherland, completed on August 3, 1646. In his work the ethnic diversity of the island of Manhattan was described as follows:
On the island of Manhate, and in its environs, there may well be four or five hundred men of different sects and nations: the Director General told me that there were men of eighteen different languages; they are scattered here and there on the river, above and below, as the beauty and convenience of the spot has invited each to settle: some mechanics however, who ply their trade, are ranged under the fort; all the others are exposed to the incursions of the natives,..." (Narratives, pp. 259-260)
As New Netherland prospered the British set their sights on the province, stating they had a claim to the land as part of John Cabot's discoveries. In May of 1498 the Genoese born Cabot, working for Britain, had explored the coast of the new world from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New England down to Delaware. As this trip predated Hudson's voyage by over a century the British felt they had prior claim to the land.
In the mid Seventeenth century the British and Dutch saw each other as a direct competitor, consequently several times during this period they were at war. During the first Anglo-Dutch war of 1652-1654 Oliver Cromwell planed to attack New Netherland with the help of the New England colonists but the plan was never carried out. Following that conflict the two nations continued to be trading rivals and were suspicious of each other. With the restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660 the United Netherlands feared an English attack, so in 1662 they made an alliance with the French against the English. In response to this alliance in March of 1664, Charles II formally annexed New Netherland as a British province and granted it to his brother James, Duke of York and Albany (later James II), as Lord Proprietor. The Duke sent a fleet under the command of Sir Richard Nicolls to seize the colony. On September 8, 1664, the Director General Pieter Stuyvesant surrendered Fort Amsterdam and on September 24, 1664, Fort Orange capitulated. Both the city of New Amsterdam and the entire colony were renamed New York, while Fort Amsterdam was renamed Fort James and Fort Orange became Fort Albany.
The loss of the New Netherland province led to a second Anglo-Dutch war during 1665-1667. This conflict ended with the Treaty of Breda in August of 1667 in which the Dutch gave up their claim to New Amsterdam in exchange for Surinam (just north of Brazil). Amazingly, within six months, on January 23, 1668, the Dutch made an alliance with Britain and Sweden against the French king Louis XIV, who was trying to capture the Spanish held areas in the Netherlands. However, in May of 1670 Louis XIV made a secret alliance with Charles II (the Treaty of Dover) and in 1672 he made another separate treaty with Sweden. Then on March 17, 1673 Louis and Charles joined together in a war on the United Netherlands. During this war, on August 7, 1673, a force of 600 Dutch soldiers under Captain Anthony Colve entered the Hudson River. The next day they attacked Fort James and took the fort on the 9th, As the British governor, Francis Lovelace was absent, the surrender was made by Captain John Manning. When Lovelace returned on Saturday August 12th, he was siezed and put in jail. With the fall of the fort the Dutch had retaken New York, they then took control of Albany and New Jersey, changing the name of the area to New Orange in honor of William of Orange.
However these gains were temporary, as the lands were restored to the British at the end of the conflict by the Treaty of Westminster on February 9, 1674. The British governor, Major Edmund Andros, arrived in Manhattan on November 1st and gave the Dutch a week to leave. On November 10, the transfer was completed and Governor Colve and his soldiers marched out of the province. From that point the British controlled both the city and province of New York. Indeed, New York City remained the premier British military stronghold in America during the Revolutionary War and was not liberated until the British evacuation in 1783.
Oliver A. Rink, Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York, Ithaca, NY: Cornell, 1986; Dennis J. Maika, Commerce and Community: Manhattan Merchants in the Seventeenth Century, Ph.D. Dissertation, New York University, 1995; John Franklin Jameson, Narratives of New Netherland, 1609-1664, New York: Scribner, 1909.
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