Growth of the Dutch Colony

(previous...The Patroons, The Government and the Indians)

Growth of the Dutch Colony, New Netherland 1609-1664The settlements had increased, not rapidly but sturdily. When Minuet came to be governor , New Netherlands had a population of two hundred people. Twenty years later, at the close of Kieft's administration, this number had been increased ten-fold. These people, no more than now are gathered in some of the small villages of the State, lived on the lower end of Manhattan Island; at Pavonia;at Brooklyn, which then stood a mile back from the river; at Fort Orange; at Fort Good Hope, now Hartford; while farms spread over parts of the present counties of Albany, Rensselaer, Wetchester, Richmand, Kings and Queens. In the latter days of Dutch rule Esopus, now Kingston, was a brisk place on the Hudson; and Schenectady, first of the towns in the rich valley of the Mohawk, was begun. By this time it is estimated that the province had eight thousand inhabitants; while the future metropolis had a population of two thousand people.

The People of New Netherlands

These eight thousand people were by no means all from Holland. No other American settlement had so varied a class of inhabitants as had New York. "New York was always a city of the world." The colony by its offers of religious freedom attracted the persecuted from France, Germany, Bohemia and all countries of Europe. And to the shame of the colony it must be said that African slaves were of its population, brought in during the first year of minuet's directorship and afterwards greedily bought until the slave element became a source of danger. The most energetic part of the community came from the neighboring settlement of New England, some to seek superior soil, others to escape the persecution of the zealous puritans. Among these were many Quakers and sturdy men needed in the making of the State.

Peter Stuyvesant

Such citizens could not be tamely submit to be misruled; they sent to Holland bitter complaints, and welcomed with joy the recall of Kieft and the appointment of Peter Stuyvesant. This man, whose fame preceded him, was perhaps the best as he was the last of the Dutch governors. He had lost a leg in valiant service in the West Indies, and as he landed on May day of 1647 at the port of New Amsterdam he stumped proudly along on his wooden leg, determined to conquer the huge difficulties which confronted him.

The Swedes

Four dangerous elements surrounded the new ruler, the Swedes of the Delaware , the English on Long Island and on the Connecticut River, the Indians and the rapidly growing party in New Amsterdam who wanted a voice in making the laws and the rulers. The Swedes early claimed the attention of Stuyvesant. About the time that Kieft became director, a party from Sweden, led by Peter Minuet, smarting under his dismissal from the directorship, settled on the south bank of Delaware Bay. Here on land claimed to belong to New Netherland they built Fort Christiana, on the site of Wilmington, defied Kieft, and captured the Dutch fort, Casimir. They gave up however both strongholds to Stuyvesant on his arrival in the bay with a fleet and six hundred men; so that land now in the state of Delaware was for a time under the government of New York city.

Further Indian Troubles

While Stuyvesant was attending to these matters on the Delaware, the Indians took the opportunity to raid Hoboken and Pavonia; they killed a hundred settlers and threatened another general outbreak. The governor on his return checked the slaughter, and by his prudent efforts to defend the colony rather than to kill off the Indians soon secured lasting peace; so never again was Manhattan in fear of savage war.

The English

When the governor turned his attention toward the English on the Connecticut he found thrifty colonies. In the days of Van twilller the Dutch had bought the Pequod Indians a tract of land where Hartford now stands, and had there built Fort Good Hope. A few weeks later some people from Massachusetts sailed up the river, defied the guns of the little fort, and settled Windsor. Soon the Dutch fort was surrounded by the farms of the energetic puritans. Van Twiller sent a company of seventy men to take an English fort at Weathersfield; they started with much noise of drum and with basting; they came back without making an attack.

These Dutch on the Eastern outpost of New Netherland were traders and soldiers; they grew discontented and died off. Their English neighbors were farmers; they took large harvests from the soil, brought up increasing families and were content. They filled eastern Long Island; they crept into Wetchester; they were likely to occupy the upper valley of the Hudson, cut off the fur trade of the Dutch, and hem them in on a narrow strip. When Stuyvesant took the colony in hand he saw that the best that he could do was to agree on a favorable boundary and give up all claim to the valley of Connecticut. He conceded to the English all of Long Island that is now Suffolk county, running the dividing line south from Oyster Bay and gained a promise that on the main land the Connecticut boundary should not come within ten miles of the Hudson River.

This treaty was never ratified by the English government; it was not respected by the colonists who made it. On Long Island they over stepped the dividing lines. Stuyvesant sailed around to Boston to protest; but he only showed his weakness. "Connecticut," said her agents at another time. "by its charter extends to the Pacific." "Where then is New Netherland?" asked the Dutch envoys. "That," said the English coolly, "we do not know."

Dissatisfaction of the People

But the danger fatal to Dutch interests were neither the Swedes, the Indians, nor the English. The very people of the colony oppressed by the greed of the West India company chafed under the control of Holland. There were high taxes on things bought and sold, on produce sent abroad, on good received. In return the company promised to build defences and take the care necessary for settlements in a wilderness. It failed to do so; the company itself did not prosper, but became bankrupt, and left the people without suitable protection from Indians and rival colonists.

There was no public spirit, for no one had a voice in the laws. Wealth could purchase certain privileges, but manhood had no rights. The settlers looked to their neighbors, the New England colonists, and saw more prosperous communities making their own laws in town meeting, and providing promptly for their defence. The comparison of the two provinces was surely not to the credit of the Dutch. Nor were there wanting plenty of English in New Netherland to call the attention of the Dutch to these facts. The English became so numerous that an English secretary, English preachers, and the writing of the laws in English became necessary. During the Indian was John Underhill, a former resident of Connecticut, who had gained fame in the Pequod war, was put at the head of the Dutch troops. The keen Yankees daily increased and thrived among the Dutch:they became merchants, taught their schools, married their daughters, gave them their first lesson in resistance to tyrants.

The People Recognized

Director Kieft had seen during the troublesome days of his rule that he must make a pretense of asking the wishes of the common people. So as a matter of policy he requested the patroons and heads of families to select a committee of twelve to advise together for the welfare of the colony. These twelve men were the first representative body of the people of the State of NewYork. Afterward there was a committee of a smaller number known as the eight men. As long as these committees favored higher taxes and Kieft's plans against the Indians, he willingly heeded them; when they opposed his schemes and demanded just laws for the inhabitants of the province, he sent them home.

His successor, Stuyvesant, allowed the towns of New Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Gravesend and Amersfoort (Flatlands), to elect eighteen delegates, from whom he chose nine men to act as magistrates and as a body of advisers. But neither he nor the company would give them any real power. He answered the respectful appeals of the people: "Laws will be made by the director and council. Shall the people elect their own officers? Every man will vote for one of his own stamp. The thief will vote for the thief, and fraud and vice will become privileged!" He was praised by the company. "Have no regard to the consent of the people," said they ; "let them indulge no longer the visionary dream that taxes can be imposed only their consent."

The Surrender

Growth of the Dutch Colony, Peter Stuyvesant's tomb But the people continued to dream. The assembly was dismissed. Yet again in 1663 the stubborn governor was forced to allow another assembly from the villages to be called. Troubles were coming fast: Esopus was burned by the Indians; Long Island towns were revolting; at Gravesend, almost within sight of New Amsterdam, the Dutch flag was torn down and the English colors shown: the Connecticut Yankees had bought of the Indians land up to the Hudson; rumors of the coming of an English fleet were in the air. The rumors had truth in them. Late in August of the year 1664, a fleet with English soldiers and with men of Massachusetts and Connecticut anchored in Gravesend Bay. The defences of the city were weak; many of the people were willing to try English rule; the burgomasters advised surrender. "I would rather be carried to my grave," said the unconquerable Stuyvesant. But without death or wound, on the third of September, fifty five years to a day from Hudson's discovery, the people of New Netherland took the authority into their own hands, agreed to deliver it to the English, and brought the rule of Styvesant to an end.

His bravery earned a better fate. As the hired agent of the West India Company he did as they directed. His ideas of human liberty were too narrow to allow him see that his duty to his employers was at enmity with higher duty to the people. But he had the good of the colony at heart. With the settlers he quietly spent his after life and among the busy streets of the great city, which once as a village he governed, is his grave.

(continues...People of New Netherlands)