Ridpath's History of the United States
Volume I


Chapter VII
Voyages and Settlements of the Dutch

The first Dutch settlement in America was made on Manhattan Island. The colony resulted from the voyages and explorations of the illustrious Sir Henry Hudson. In the year 1607 this great British seaman was employed by a company of London merchants to sail into the North Atlantic and discover a route eastward or westward to the Indies. He made the voyage in a single ship, passed up the eastern coast of Greenland to a higher point of latitude than ever before attained, turned eastward to Spitzbergen, circumnavigated that island, and then was compelled by the icebergs to return to England. In the next year he renewed his efforts, hoping to find between Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla an open way to the East. By this course he confidently expected toshorten the route to china by at least eight thousand miles. Again the voyage resulted in failure; his employers gave up th enterprise in despair, but his own spirits only rose to a higher determination. When the cautious merchants would furnish no more means, he quitted England and went to Amsterdam. Holland was at this time the foremost maritime nation of the world, and the eminent navigator did not long go begging for patronage in the busy marts of that country. The Dutch East India Company at once furnished him with a ship, a small yacht called the Half Moon, and in April of 1609 he set out on his third voyage to reach the Indies. About the seventy-second parallel of latitude, above the capes of Norway, he turned eastward, but between Lapland and Nova Zembla the ocean was filled with icebergs, and further sailing was impossible. Baffled but not discouraged, he immediately turned his prow toward the shores of America; somewhere between the Chesapeake and the North Pole he would find a passage into the Pacific Ocean.

In the month of July, Hudson reached the coast of Maine. Sailing thence southward, he touched at Cape Cod, and by the middle of August found himself as far south as the Chesapeake. Again he turned to the north, determined to examine the coast more closely, and on the 28th of the month anchored in Delaware Bay. After one day's explorations the voyage was continued along the coast of New Jersey, until, on the 3d of September, the Half Moon came to a safe anchorage in the bay of Sandy Hook. Two days later a landing was effected, the natives flocking in great numbers to the scene, and bringing gifts of corn, wild fruits, and oysters. The time until the 9th of the month was spent in sounding the great harbor; on the next day the vessel passed the Narrows, and then entered the noble river which bears the name of Hudson.

To explore the beautiful stream was now the pleasing task. For eight days the Half Moon sailed northward up the river. Such magnificent forest, such beautiful hills, such mountains rising in the distance, such fertile valleys, planted here and there with ripening corn, the Netherlanders had never seen before. On the 19th of September the vessel was moored at what is now the landing of Kinderhook; but an exploring party, still unsatisfied, took to the boats and rowed up the river beyond the site of Albany. After some days they returned to the ship, the moorings were loosed, the vessel dropped down the stream, and on the 4th of October the sales were spread for Holland. On the homeward voyage Hudson, not perhaps without a touch of national pride, put into the harbor of Dartmouth. Thereupon the government of King James, with characteristic illiberality, detained the Half Moon, and claimed the crew as Englishmen. All that Hudson could do was to forward to his employers of the East India Company an account of his successful voyage and of the dellightful country which he had visited under the flag of Holland.

Now were the English merchants ready to spend more money to find the northwest passage. In the summer of 1610, a ship, called the Discovery, was given to Hudson; and with a vision of the Indies flitting before his imagination he left England, never to return. He had learned by this time that nowhere between Florida and Maine was there an opening through the continent to the Pacific. The famous pass must now be sought between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the southern point of Greenland. Steering between Cape Farewell and Labrador, in the track which Frobisher had taken, the vessel came, on the 2d day of August, into the mouth of the strait which bears the name of its discoverer. No ship had ever before entered these waters. For a while the way westward was barred with islands; but passing between them, the bay seemed open, the ocean widened to the right and left, and the route to China was at last revealed. So believed the great captain and his crew; but sailing farther t the west, the inhospitable shores narrowed on the more inhospitable sea, and Hudson found himself environed with the terrors of winter in the frozen gulf of the North. With unfaltering courage he bore up until his provisions were almost exhausted; spring ws at hand, and the day of escape had already arrived, when the treacherous crew broke out in mutiny. They seized Hudson and his only son, with seven other faithful sailors, threw them into an open shallop, and cast them off among the icebergs. The fate of the illustrious mariner has never been ascertained.

In the summer of 1610 the Half Moon was liberated at Dartmouth, and returned to Amsterdam. In the same year several ships owned by Dutch merchants sailed to the banks of the Hudson River and engaged in the fur-trade. The traffic was very lucrative, and in the two following years other vessels made frequent and profitable voyages. Early in 1614 an act was passed by the States-General of Holland giving to certain merchants of Amsterdam the exclusive right to trade and establish settlements within the limits of the country explored by Hudson. Under this commission a fleet of five small trading-vessels arrived in the summer of the same year at Manhattan Island. Here some rude huts had already been built by former traders, but now a fort for the defense of the place was erected, and the settlement named New Amsterdam. In the course of the autumn Adrian Block, who commanded one of the ships, sailed through East River into Long Island Sound, made explorations along the coast as far as the mouth of the Connecticut, thence to Narrangansett Bay, and even to Cape Cod. Almost at the same time, Christianson, another Dutch commander, in the same fleet, sailed up the river from Manhattan to Castle Island, a short distance below the site of Albany, and erected a block-house, which was named Fort Nassau, for a long time the northern outpost of the settlers on the Hudson. Meanwhile, Cornelius May, the captain of a small vessel called the Fortune, sailed from New Amsterdam and explored the Jersey coast as far south as the Bay of Delaware. Upon these two voyages, one north and the other south from Manhattan Island where the actual settlement was made, Holland set up a feeble claim to the country which was now named New netherlands, extending from Cape Henlopen to Cape Code--a claim which Great Britain and France treated with derision and contempt. Such were the feeble and inauspicious beginnings of the Dutch colonies in New York and Jersey.


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