For ten years after the founding of New Amsterdam the colony was governed by directors. These officers were appointed and sent out by the Dutch East India Company, in accordance with the charter of that corporation. The settlement on Manhattan Island was as yet only a villge of traders. Not until 1623 was an actual colony sent from Holland to New Netherland. Two years previously, the Dutch West Indian Company had been organized, with the exclusive privilege of planting settlements in America. The charter of this company was granted for a period of twenty-four years, with the privilege of renewal; and the territory to be colonized extended from the Strait of Magellan to Hudson's Bay. Manhattan Island, with its cluster of huts, passed at once under the control of the new corporation.
In April of 1623, the ship New Netherland, having on board a colony of thirty families, arrived at New Amsterdam. The colonists, called Walloons, were Dutch Protestant refugees from Flanders, in Belgium. They were of the same religious faith with the Huguenots of France, and came to America to find repose from the persecutions of their own country. Cornelius May was the leader of the company. The greater number of the new immigrants settled with their friends on Manhattan Island; but the captain, with a party of fifty, passing down the coast of New Jersey, entered and explored the Bay of Delaware. Here, at a point a few miles below Camden, a site was selected and a block-house built named Fort Nassau. The natives were won over by kindness; and when shortly after the fort was abandoned and the settlers returned to New Amsterdam, the Indians witnessed their departure with affectionate regret. In the same year Joris, another Dutch captain, ascended the Hudson to Castle Island, where, nine years previously, Christianson had built the older Fort Nassau. Joris sailed upstream a short distance and rebuilt the fortress on the present site of Albany. The name of this northern outpost was changed to Fort Orange.
In 1624 civil government began in New Netherland. Cornelius May was first governor of the colony. His official duties, however, were only such as belonged to the superintendent of a trading-post. Herds of cattle, swine, and sheep were brought over from Holland and distributed among the settlers. In January of 1616 Peter Minuit, of Wesel, was regularly appointed by the Dutch West India Company as governor of New Netherland. Until this time the natives had retained the ownership of Manhattan Island; but on Minuit's arrival, in May, an offer of purchase was made and accepted. The whole island, containing more than twenty thousand acres, was sold to the Dutch for twenty-four dollars. Thesouthern point of land was selected as a site for foritifcations; there a block-house was built and surrounded with a palisade. New Amsterdam was already a town of thirty houses.
The Dutch of New Amsterdam and the Pilgrims of New Plymouth were early and fast friends. The Puritans themselves had but recently arrived from Holland, and could not forget the kind treatment which they had had in that country. They and the Walloons were alike exiles fleeing from persecution and tyranny. In 1628 the population of Manhattan numbered two hundred and seventy. The settlers devoted their chief energies to the fur-trade. Every bay, inlet, and river between Rhode Island and the Delaware was visited by their vessels. The colony gave promise of rapid development and of great profit to the proprietors. If the houses were rude and thatched with straw, there was energy and thirft within. If only wooden chimneys carried up the smoke, the fires of the hearthstones were kindled with laughter and song. If creaking windmills fkung abroad their ungainly arms in the winds of Long Island Sound, it was proof that the poeple had families to feed and meant to feed them.
The West India Company now came forward with a new and peculiar scheme of colonization. In 1629, the corporation created a Charter of Privileges, under which a class of proprietors called patroons were authorized to possess and colonize the country. Each patroon might select anywhere in New Netherland a tract of land not more than sixteen miles in length, and of a breadth to be determined by the location. On the banks of a navigable river not more than eight miles might be appropriated by one proprietor. Each district was to be held in fee simple by the patroon, who was empowered to exercise over his estate and its inhabitants the same authority as did the hereditary lords of Europe. The conditions were that the estates should be held as dependencies of Holland; that each patroon should purchase his domain of the Indians; and that he should, within four years from the date of his title, establish on his manor a colony of not less than fifty persons. Education and religion were commended in the charter, but no provision was made for the support of either.
In April of 1633, Minuit was superseded in the government of New Netherland by Wouter van Twiller. Three months previously the Dutch had purchased of the natives the soil around Hartford, and had erected a block-house within the present limits of the city. This was the first fortress built on the Connecticut River; but the Puritans, though professing friendship, were not going to give up the valley without a struggle. In October of the same year an armed vessel, sent out from Plymouth, sailed up the river and openly defied the Dutch commander at Hartford. Passing the fortress, the English proceeded upstream to the mouth of the river Farmington, where they landed and built Fort Windsor. Two years later, by the building of Saybrook, at the mouth of the Connecticut, the English obtained command of the river both above and below the Dutch fort. The block-house at Hartford, being thus cut off, was comparatively useless to the authorities of New Netherland; and the Dutch finally surrendered their eastern outpost to their more powerful rivals.
Four of the leading European nations had now established permanent colonies in America. The fifth to plan an American State was Sweden. As early as 1626, Gustavus Adolphus, the Protestant king of that country and the hero of his age, had formed the design of establishing settlements in the West. For this purpose a company of merchants had been organized, to whose capital the king himself contributed four hundred thousand dollars. The objects had in view were to form a refuge for persecuted Protestants and to extend Swedish commerce. But before his plans of colonization could be carried into effect, Gustavus became involved in the Thirty Years' War, then raging in Germany. In November of 1632 the Swedish king was killed at the battle of Lutzen. For a while it seemed that the plan of colonizing America had ended in failure, but Oxenstiern, the great Swedish minister, took up the work which his mast had left unfinished. The charter of the company was renewed, and after four years of preparation the enterprise was brought to a successful issue.
In the meantime, Peter Minuit, the recent governor of New Netherland, had left the service of Holland entered that of Sweden. To him was intrusted the management of the first Swedish colony which was sent to America. Late in the year 1637, a company of Swedes and Finns left the harbor of Stockholm, and in the following February arrived in Delaware Bay. Never before had the Northerners beheld so beautiful a land. They called Cape Henlopen the Point of Paradise. The whole country, sweeping around the west side of the bay and up the river to the falls at Trenton, was honorably purchased of the Indians. The name of New Sweden was given to this fine territory. On the left bank of a small creek, at a point about six miles from the bay, a spot was chosen for the settlement. Here the foundations of a fort were laid, the the immigrants soon provided themselves with houses. The creek and the fort were both named in honor of Christiana, the maiden queen of Sweden.
The colony prospered greatly. By each returning ship letters were borne to Stockholm, describing the loveliness of the country. Immigration became rapid and constant. At one time, in 1640, more than a hundred families, unable to find room on the crowded vessels which were leaving the Swedish capital, were turned back to their homes. The banks of Delaware Bay and River were dotted with pleasant hamlets. On every hand appeared the proofs of well-directed industry. Of all the early settlers in America, none were more cheerful, intelligent, and virtuous than the Swedes.
From the first, the authorities of New Amsterdam were jealous of the colony on the Delaware. Sir William Kieft, who had succeeded the incompetent Van Twiller in the governorship, sent an earnest remonstrance to Christiana, warning the settlers of their intrusion on Dutch territory. As a precautionary measure he sent a part to rebuild Fort Nassau, on the old site below Camden. The Swedes, regarding this fortress as a menace to their colony, adopted active measures of defense. Ascending the river to within six miles of the mouth of the Schuylkill, they landed on the island of Tinicum, and built an impregnable fort of hemlock logs. Here, in 1643, Governor Printz established his residence. To Pennsylvania, as well as to Delaware, Sweden contributed the earliest colony.
In 1640, New Netherland became involved in a war with the Indians of Long Island and New Jersey. Dishonest traders had maddened them with rum and then defrauded and abused them. Burning with resentment and hate, the savages of the Jersey shore crossed over to Staten Island, laid waste the farms and butchered the inhabitants. A company of militia was organized and sent against the Delawares of New Jersey, but nothing resulted from the expedition. A large bounty was offered for every member of the tribe of the Raritans, and many were hunted to death. On both sides the war degenerated into treashery and murder. Through the mediation of Roger Williams, the great peacemaker of Rhode Island, a truce was obtained, and immediately broken. A chieftain's son, who had been made drunk and robbed, went to the nearest settlement and killed the first Hollander whom he met. Governor Kieft demanded the criminal, but the sachems refused to give him up. They offered to pay a heavy fine for the wrong done, but Kieft would accept nothing less than the life of the murderer.
While the dispute was still unsettled, a party of the terrible Mohawks came down the river to claim and enforce their supremacy over the natives of the coast. The timid Algonquins in the neighborhood of New Amsterdam cowered before the mighty warriors of the North, huddled together on the bank of the Hudson, and begged assistance of the Dutch. Here the vindictive Kieft saw an opportunity of wholesale destruction. A company of soldiers set out secretly from Manhattan, crossed the river, and discovered the lair of the Indians. The place was surrounded by night, and the first notice of danger given to the savages was the roar of muskets. Nearly a hundred of the poor wretches were killed before day-dawn. Women who shieked for pity were mangled to death, and children were thrown into the river.
When it was known among the tribes that the Dutch, and not the Mohawks, were the authors of this outrage, the war was renewed with fury. The Indians were in a frenzy. Dividing into small war-parties, they concealed themselves in the woods and swamps; then rose, without a moment's warning, upon defenseless farmhouses, burning and butchering without mercy. At this time that noted woman, Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, was living with her son-in-law in the valley o the Housatonic. Her house was surrounded and set on fire by the savages; every member of the family except one child was cruelly murdered. Mrs. Hutchinson herself was burned alive.
In 1643, Captain John Underhill, a fugitive from Massachusetts, was appointed to the command of the Dutch forces. At the head of a regiment raised by Governor Hieft he invaded New Jersey, and brought the Delawares into subjection. On the 30th of August, 1645, a treaty of peace was concluded at Fort Amsterdam.
Nearly all of the bloodshed and sorrow of these five years of war may be charged to Governor Kieft. He was a revengeful and cruel man, whose idea of government was to destroy whatever opposed him. The people had many times desired to make peace with the Indians, but the project had always been defeated by the headstrong passions of the governor. A popular party, headed by the able De Vries, at last grew powerful enough to defy his authority. As soon as the war was ended, petitions for his removal were circulated and signed by the people. Two years after the treaty, the Dutch Wet India Company revoked his commission and appointed Peter Stuyvesant to succeed him. In 1647, Kieft embarked for Europe; but the heavy-laden merchantman in which he sailed was dashed to pieces by a storm on the coast of Wales, and the governor of New Netherland found a grave in the sea.
The honest and soldierly Peter Stuyvesant was the last and greatest of the governors of New Netherland. He entered upon his duties on the 11th of May, 1647, and continued in office for more than seventeen years. His first care was to conciliate the Indians. By the wisdom and liberality of his government the wayward Red men were reclaimed from hostility and hatred. So intimate and cordial became the relations between the natives and the Dutch that they were suspected of making common cause against the English; even Massachusetts was alarmed lest such an alliance should be formed. But the policy of Stuyvesat was based on nobler principles.
Until now the West India Company had had exclusive control of the commerce of New Netherland. In the first year of the new administration this monopoly was abolished, and regular export duties were substituted. The benefit of the change was at once apparent in the improvement of the Dutch province. In one of the letters written to Stuyvesant by the secretry of the company, the remarkable prediction is made that the commerce of New Amsterdam should cover every ocean and the ships of all nations crowd into her harbor. But for many years the growth of the city was slow. As late of the middle of the century, the better parts of Manhattan Island were still divided among the farmers. Central Park was a forest of oaks and chestnuts.
In 1650, a boundary-line was fixed between New England and New Netherland. Governor Stuyvesant met the ambassadors of the Eastern colonies at Hartford, and after much discussion an eastern limit was set to the Dutch possessions. The line there established extended across Long Island north and south, passing through Oyster Bay, and thence to Greenwich, on the other side of the sound. From this point northward the dividing-line was nearly identical with the present boundary of Connecticut on the west. This treaty was ratified by the colonies, by the West India Company, and by the states-general of Holland; but the English government treated the matter with indifference and contempt.
Stuyvesant had less to fear from the colony of New Sweden. The people of New Netherland outnumbered the Swedes as ten to one, and the Dutch claim to the country of the Delaware had never been renounced.
In September of 1655 the old governor put himself at the head of more than six hundred troops--a number almost equal to the entire population of New Sweden--and sailed to Delaware Bay. Resistance was hopeless. The Dutch forces were landed at New Castle, and the Swedes gave way. Before the 25th of the month every fort belonging to the colony had been forced to capitulate. Governor Rising was captured, but was treated with great respect. Honorable terms were granted to all, and the authority of New Netherland was established throughout the country. Except a few turbulent spirits who removed to Maryland and Virginia, submission was universal. After an existence of less than eighteen years, the little State of New Sweden had ceased to be.
How hardly can the nature of savages be restrained! With Governor Stuyvesant was absent on his expedition against the Swedes, the Algonquin tribes rose in rebellion. The poor creatures were going to take New Amsterdam. In a fleet of sixty-four canoes they appeared before the town, yelling and discharging arrows. What could their puny missiles do against the walls of a European fortress? After paddling about until their rage, but not their hate, was spent, the savages went on shore and began their old work of burning and murder. The return of the Dutch forces from the Delaware induced the sachems to sue for peace, which Stuyvesant granted on better terms than the Indians deserved. The captives were ransomed, and the treacherous tribes were allowed to go with trifling punishments.
For eight years after the conquest of New Sweden the peace of New Netherland was unbroken. In 1663 the natives of the county of Ulster, on the Hudson, broke out in war. The town of Esopus, now Kingston, was attacked and destroyed. Sixty-five of the inhabitants were either tomahawked or carried into captivity. To punish this outrage a strong force was sent from New Amsterdam. The Indians fled, hoping to find refuge in the woods; but the Dutch soldiers pursued them to their villages, burned their wigwams, and killed every warrior who could be overtaken. As winter came on, the humbled tribe began to beg for mercy. In December a truce was granted; and in May of the following year a treaty of peace was concluded.
Governor Stuyvesant had great difficulty in defending his province beyond the Delaware. The queen of Sweden and her ministers at Stockholm still looked fondly to their little American colony, and cherished the hope of recovering the conquered territory. A more dangerous competitor was found in Lord Baltimore, of Maryland, whose patent, given under the great seal of England, covered all the territory between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bay, as far north as the latitude of Philadelphia. Berkeley, of Virginia, also claimed New Sweden as a part of his dominions. Connecticut pushed her settlements westward on Long Island, and purchased all the remaining Indian claims between her western frontier and the Hudson. Massachusetts boldly declared her intention to extend her boundaries to Fort Orange.
Discord at home added to the governor's embarrassments. For many years the Dutch had witnessed the growth and prosperity of the English colonies. Boston had outgrown New Amsterdam. The schools of Massachusetts and Connecticut flourished; the academy on Manhattan, after a sickly career of two years, was discontinued. In New Netherland heavy taxes were levied for the support of the poor; New England had no poor. Liberty and right were the subjects of debate in every English village; to the Dutch farmers and traders such words had little meaning. The people of New Netherland grew emulous of the progress of their poerful neighbors, and attributed their own abasement to the mismanagement and selfish greed of the West India Company. Without actual disloyalty to Holland, the Dutch came to prefer the laws and customs of England. Under these accumulating troubles the faithful Stuyvesant was well-nigh overwhelmed.
Such was the condition of affairs at the beginning of 1664. England and Holland were at peace. Neither nation had reason to apprehend an act of violence from the other. In all that followed, the arbitrary principles and unscrupulous disposition of the English kin were fully manifested. On the 12th of March in this year the duke of York received at the hands of his brother, Charles II., two extensive patents for American territory. The first grant included the district reaching from the kennebec to the St. Croix River, and the second embraced the whole country between the Connecticut and the Delaware. Without regard to the rights of Holland, in utter contempt of the West India Company, through whose exertions the valley of the Hudson had been peopled, with no respect for the wishes of the Dutch, or even for the voice of his own Parliament, the English monarch in one rash hour dispoiled a sister kingdom of a well-earned province.
The duke of York made haste to secure his territory. No time must be left for the states-general to protest against the outrage. An English squadron was immediately equipped, put under command of Richard Nicolls, and sent to America. In July the armament reached Boston, and thence proceeded against New Amsterdam. On the 28th of August, the fleet passed the Narrows, and achored at Gravesend Bay. The English camp was pitched at Brooklyn Ferry; and before the Dutch had recovered from their surprise, the whole of Long Island was subdued. An embassy came over from New Amsterdam. Governor Stuyvesant, ever true to his employers, demanded to know the meaning of all this hostile array. To receive the surrender of New Netherland was the quiet answer of Nicolls. There must be an immediate acknowledgment of the sovereignty of England. those who submitted should have the rights of Englishmen; those who refused should hear the crash of cannon-balls. The Dutch council of New Amsterdam was immediately convened. It was clear that the burgomasters meant to surrender. The stormy old governor exhorted them to rouse to action and fight; someone replied that the Dutch West India Company was not worth fighting for. Burning with indignation, Stuyvesant snatched up the written proposal of Nicolls and tore it to tatters in the presence of his council. It was all in vain. The brave old man was forced to sign the capitulation; and on the 8th of September, 1664, New Netherland ceased to exist. The English flag was hoisted over the fort and town, and the name of New York was substituted for New Amsterdam. The surrender of Fort Orange, now named Albany, followed on the 24th; and on the 1st of October the Swedish and Dutch settlements on the Delaware capitulated. The conquest was complete. the supremacy of Great Britain in America was finally established. From northern Maine to southern Georgia, the American coast was under the flag of England.
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