England now determined boldly to rob Holland of her American province. King Charles II accordingly sealed a patent granting to the Duke of York and Albany a large territory in America, comprehending Long Island and the islands in its neighborhood—his title to which Lord Stirling had released—and all the lands and rivers from the west side of the Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay. This sweeping grant included the whole of New Netherlands and a part of the territory of Connecticut, which, two years before, Charles had confirmed to Winthrop and his associates.

The Duke of York lost no time in giving effect to his patent. As lord high admiral he directed the fleet. Four ships, the Guinea, of thirty-six guns; the Elias, of thirty; the Martin, of sixteen; and the William and Nicholas, of ten, were detached for service against New Netherlands, and about four hundred fifty regular soldiers, with their officers, were embarked. The command of the expedition was intrusted to Colonel Richard Nicolls, a faithful Royalist, who had served under Turenne with James, and had been made one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber. Nicolls was also appointed to be the Duke's deputy-governor, after the Dutch possessions should have been reduced.

With Nicolls were associated Sir Robert Carr, Colonel George Cartwright, and Samuel Maverick, as royal commissioners to visit the several colonies in New England. These commissioners were furnished with detailed instructions; and the New England governments were required by royal letters to "join and assist them vigorously" in reducing the Dutch to subjection. A month after the departure of the squadron the Duke of York conveyed to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret all the territory between the Hudson and Delaware Rivers, from Cape May north to 41° 40' latitude, and thence to the Hudson, in 41° latitude, "hereafter to be called by the name or names of Nova Cæsarea or New Jersey."

Intelligence from Boston that an English expedition against New Netherlands had sailed from Portsmouth was soon communicated to Stuyvesant by Captain Thomas Willett; and the burgomasters and schepens of New Amsterdam were summoned to assist the council with their advice. The capital was ordered to be put in a state of defense, guards to be maintained, and schippers to be warned. As there was very little powder at Fort Amsterdam a supply was demanded from New Amstel, and a loan of five or six thousand guilders was asked from Rensselaerswyck. The ships about to sail for Curaçao were stopt; agents were sent to purchase provisions at New Haven; and as the enemy was expected to approach through Long Island Sound, spies were sent to obtain intelligence at West Chester and Milford.

But at the moment when no precaution should have been relaxed, a dispatch from the West India directors, who appear to have been misled by advices from London, announced that no danger need be apprehended from the English expedition, as it was sent out by the King only to settle the affairs of his colonies and establish episcopacy, which would rather benefit the company's interests in New Netherlands. Willett now retracting his previous statements, a perilous confidence returned. The Curaçao ships were allowed to sail; and Stuyvesant, yielded to the solicitation of his council, went up the river to look after affairs at Fort Orange.

The English squadron had been ordered to assemble at Gardiner's Island. But, parting company in a fog, the Guinea, with Nicolls and Cartwright on board, made Cape Cod, and went on to Boston, while the other ships put in at Piscataway. The commissioners immediately demanded the assistance of Massachusetts, but the people of the Bay, who feared, perhaps, that the King's success in reducing the Dutch would enable him the better to put down his enemies in New England, were full of excuses. Connecticut, however, showed sufficient alacrity; and Winthrop was desired to meet the squadron at the west end of Long Island, whither it would sail with the first fair wind.

When the truth of Willett's intelligence became confirmed, the council sent an express to recall Stuyvesant from Fort Orange. Hurrying back to the capital, the anxious director endeavored to redeem the time which had been lost. The municipal authorities ordered one-third of the inhabitants, without exception, to labor every third day at the fortifications; organized a permanent guard; forbade the brewers to malt any grain; and called on the provincial government for artillery and ammunition. Six pieces, besides the fourteen previously allotted, and a thousand pounds of powder were accordingly granted to the city. The colonists around Port Orange, pleading their own danger from the savages, could afford no help; but the soldiers of Esopus were ordered to come down, after leaving a small garrison at Ronduit.

In the meantime the English squadron had anchored just below the Narrows, in Nyack Bay, between New Utrecht and Coney Island. The mouth of the river was shut up; communication between Long Island and Manhattan, Bergen and Achter Cul, interrupted; several yachts on their way to the South River captured; and the blockhouse on the opposite shore of Staten Island seized. Stuyvesant now dispatched Counsellor de Decker, Burgomaster Van der Grist, and the two domines Megapolensis with a letter to the English commanders inquiring why they had come, and why they continued at Nyack without giving notice. The next morning, which was Saturday, Nicolls sent Colonel Cartwright, Captain Needham, Captain Groves, and Mr. Thomas Delavall up to Fort Amsterdam with a summons for the surrender of "the town situate on the island and commonly known by the name of Manhatoes, with all the forts thereunto belonging."

This summons was accompanied by a proclamation declaring that all who would submit to his majesty's government should be protected "in his majesty's laws and justice," and peaceably enjoy their property. Stuyvesant immediately called together the council and the burgomasters, but would not allow the terms offered by Nicolls to be communicated to the people, lest they might insist on capitulating. In a short time several of the burghers and city officers assembled at the Stadt-Huys. It was determined to prevent the enemy from surprizing the town; but, as opinion was generally against protracted resistance, a copy of the English communication was asked from the director. On the following Monday the burgomasters explained to a meeting of the citizens the terms offered by Nicolls. But this would not suffice; a copy of the paper itself must be exhibited. Stuyvesant then went in person to the meeting. "Such a course," said he, "would be disapproved of in the Fatherland—it would discourage the people." All his efforts, however, were in vain; and the director, protesting that he should not be held answerable for the "calamitous consequences," was obliged to yield to the popular will.

Nicolls now addrest a letter to Winthrop, who with other commissioners from New England had joined the squadron, authorizing him to assure Stuyvesant that, if Manhattan should be delivered up to the King, "any people from the Netherlands may freely come and plant there or thereabouts; and such vessels of their own country may freely come thither, and any of them may as freely return home in vessels of their own country." Visiting the city under a flag of truce Winthrop delivered this to Stuyvesant outside the fort and urged him to surrender. The director declined; and, returning to the fort, he opened Nicolls' letter before the council and the burgomasters, who desired that it should be communicated, as "all which regarded the public welfare ought to be made public." Against this Stuyvesant earnestly remonstrated I and, finding that the burgomasters continued firm, in a fit of passion he "tore the letter in pieces." the citizens suddenly ceasing their work at the palisades, hurried to the Stadt-Huys, and sent three of their number to the fort to demand the letter.

In vain the director hastened to pacify the burghers and urge them to go on with the f ortifications. "Complaints and curses" were uttered on all sides against the company's misgovernment; resistance was declared to be idle; "The letter! the letter!" was the general cry. To avoid a mutiny Stuyvesant yielded, and a copy, made out from the collected fragments, was handed to the burgomasters. In answer, however, to Nicolls' summons he submitted a long justification of the Dutch title; yet while protesting against any breach of the peace between the King and the States-General, "for the hinderance and prevention of all differences and the spilling of innocent blood, not only in these parts, but also in Europe," he offered to treat. "Long Island is gone and lost;" the capital "can not hold out long," was the last dispatch to the "Lord Majors" of New Netherlands, which its director sent off that night "in silence through Hell Gate."

Observing Stuyvesant's reluctance to surrender, Nicolls directed Captain Hyde, who commanded the squadron, to reduce the fort. Two of the ships accordingly landed their troops just below Breuckclen (Brooklyn), where volunteers from New England and the Long Island villages had already encamped. The other two, coming up with full sail, passed in front of Fort Amsterdam and anchored between it and Nutten Island.2 Standing on one of the angles of the fortress—an artilleryman with a lighted match at his side—the director watched their approach. At this moment the two domines Megapolensis, imploring him not to begin hostilities, led Stuyvesant from the rampart, who then, with a hundred of the garrison, went into the city to resist the landing of the English. Hoping on against hope, the director now sent Counsellor de Decker, Secretary Van Ruypen, Burgomaster Steenwyck, and "Schepen" Cousseau with a letter to Nicolls stating that, as he felt bound "to stand the storm," he desired if possible to arrange on accommodation. But the English commander merely declared, "To-morrow I will speak with you at Manhattan."

"Friends," was the answer, "will be welcome if they come in a friendly manner."

"I shall come with ships and soldiers," replied Nicolls; "raise the white flag of peace at the fort, and then something may be considered."

When this imperious message became known, men, women, and children flocked to the director, beseeching him to submit. His only answer was, "I would rather be carried out dead." The next day the city authorities, the clergymen, and the officers of the burgher guard, assembling at the Stadt-Huys, at the suggestion of Domine Megapolensis, adopted a remonstrance to the director, exhibiting the hopeless situation of New Amsterdam, on all sides "encompassed and hemmed in by enemies," and protesting against any further opposition to the will of God. Besides the schout, burgomasters, and schepens, the remonstrance was signed by Wilmerdonck and eighty-five of the principal inhabitants, among whom was Stuyvesant's own son, Balthazar.

At last the director was obliged to yield. Although there were now fifteen hundred souls in New Amsterdam, there were not more than two hundred and fifty men able to bear arms, besides the one hundred fifty regular soldiers. The people had at length refused to be called out, and the regular troops were already heard talking of "where booty is to be found, and where the young women live who wear gold chains." The city, entirely open along both rivers, was shut on the northern side by a breastwork and palisades3, which, though sufficient to keep out the savages, afforded no defense against a military siege. There were scarcely six hundred pounds of serviceable powder in store.

A council of war had reported Fort Amsterdam untenable; for though it mounted twenty-four guns, its single wall of earth, not more than ten feet high and four thick, was almost touched by the private dwellings clustered around, and was commanded, within a pistol-shot, by hills on the north, over which ran the "Heereweg" or Broadway.

Upon the faith of Nicolls' promise to deliver back the city and fort "in case the difference of the limits of this province be agreed upon betwixt his majesty of England and the high and mighty States-General," Stuyvesant now commissioned Counsellor John de Decker, Captain Nicholas Varlett, Dr. Samuel Megapolensis, Burgomaster Cornelius Steenwyck, old Burgomaster Oloff Stevenson van Cortlandt, and old Schepen Jacques Cousseau to agree upon articles with the English commander or his representatives. Nicolls, on his part, appointed Sir Robert Carr and Colonel George Cartwright, John Winthrop, and Samuel Willys, of Connecticut, and Thomas Clarke and John Pynchon, of Massachusetts. "The reason why those of Boston and Connecticut were joined," afterward explained the royal commander, "was because those two colonies should hold themselves the more engaged with us if the Dutch had been overconfident of their strength."

At eight o'clock the next morning, which was Saturday, the commissioners on both sides met at Stuyvesant's "bouwery" and arranged the terms of capitulation. The only difference which arose was respecting the Dutch soldiers, whom the English refused to convey back to Holland. The articles of capitulation promised the Dutch security in their property, customs of inheritance, liberty of conscience and church discipline. The municipal officers of Manhattan were to continue for the present unchanged, and the town was to be allowed to chose deputies, with "free voices in all public affairs." Owners of property in Fort Orange might, if they pleased, "slight the fortifications: there," and enjoy their houses "as people do where there is no fort."

For six months there was to be free intercourse with Holland. Public records were to be respected. The articles, consented to by Nicolls, were to be ratified by Stuyvesant the next Monday morning at eight o'clock, and within two hours afterward, the "fort and town called New Amsterdam, upon the Isle of Manhatoes,"" were to be delivered up, and the military officers and soldiers were to "march out with their arms, drums beating, and colors flying, and lighted matches."

On the following Monday morning at eight o'clock Stuyvesant, at the head of the garrison, marched out of Fort Amsterdam with all the honors of war, and led his soldiers down the Beaver Lane to the water-side, whence they were embarked for Holland. An English corporal's guard at the same time took possession of the fort; and Nicolls and Carr, with their two companies, about a hundred seventy strong, entered the city, while Cartwright took possession of the gates and the Stadt-Huys. The, New England and Long Island volunteers, however, were prudently kept at the Breuckelen ferry, as the citizens dreaded most being plundered by them. The English flag was hoisted on Fort Amsterdam, the name of which was immediately changed to "Fort James." Nicolls was now proclaimed by the bugomasters deputy-governor for the Duke of York, in compliment to whom he directed that the city of New Amsterdam should thenceforth be known as "New York."

To Nieolls' European eye the Dutch metropolis, with its earthen fort, enclosing a windmill and high flag-staff, a prison and a governor's house, and a double-roofed church, above which loomed a square tower, its gallows and whipping-post at the river's side, and its rows of houses which hugged the citadel, presented but a mean appearance. Yet before long he described it to the Duke as "the best of all his majesty's towns in America," and assured his royal highness; that, with proper management, "within. five years the staple of America will be drawn hither, of which the brethren of Boston are very sensible." . . .

The reduction of New Netherlands was now accomplished. All that could be further done was to change its name; and, to glorify one of the most bigoted princes in English history, the royal province was ordered to be called "New York." Ignorant of James' grant of New Jersey to Berkeley and Carteret, Nicolls gave to the region west of the Hudson the name of "Albania," and to Long Island that of "Yorkshire," so as to comprehend all the titles of the Duke of York. The flag of England was at length triumphantly displayed, where, for half a century, that of Holland had rightfuly waved; and from Virginia to Canada, the King of Great Britain was acknowledged as sovereign.

Viewed in all its aspects, the event which gave to the whole of that country a unity in allegiance, and to which a misgoverned people complacently submitted, was as inevitable as it was momentous. But whatever may have been its ultimate consequences, this treacherous and violent seizure of the territory and possessions of an unsuspecting ally was no less a breach of private justice than of public faith.

It may, indeed, be affirmed that, among all the acts of selfish perfidy which royal ingratitude conceived and executed, there have been few more characteristic and none more base.

1From Brodhead's "History of New York."
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2Now called Governor's Island.
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3A fortification from which has come the modern name of Wall Street.
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© 2002 by Lynn Waterman