To any one whose mind is accustomed to dwell upon the tremendous and world-wide nature of the issues that were decided in 1759 upon the Heights of Abraham, there is something romantic in the fact that in the summer of 1609 the first founders of the Dutch, the French, and the English powers in America were pursuing their adventurous work but a few hundred miles apart. While Hudson in September was sailing on the "River of the Mountains," we may wonder if any rumour can have reached him of the wild fight in July, when Champlain defeated the Mohawks by the forest-clad shores of the beautiful "Lake of the Iroquois," better known now by the name of the victor than of the vanquished. In that same September, hard by the falls of the James River, John Smith was holding friendly parley with the tribe that had adopted him, and bought of them the tract of land where the city of Richmond now stands. In the previous summer of 1608 Smith had met a party of Iroquois on the Susquehanna, and had entertained them in amicable discourse. Thus the first Englishman ever seen by those tawny lords of the wilderness came to them as a friend, while the French were now making them deadly enemies. The shots fired by Champlain, so few miles from the river on which the Half Moon was sailing, determined that whatever colony hostile to France should be planted at the mouth and along the banks of that river should enjoy the friendship and alliance of the strongest confederacy of Indians upon the American continent. It made the Iroquois the allies first of the Dutch and afterward of the English; p84 and this is one of the great central and cardinal facts in the history of the New World. Had the Iroquois been the allies of the French, it would in all probability have been Louis XIV, and not Charles II, who would have taken New Amsterdam from the Dutch. Had the Iroquois not been the deadly enemies of the French, Louis XIV would almost certainly have taken New York from the English.
The year 1609 was thus an eventful date in the history of the colonial world. It was so for yet other reasons. It was the year in which the star of empire for Spain finally disappeared below the horizon, when after forty years of war she was compelled virtually to acknowledge what had long been an accomplished fact, the independence of the Dutch Netherlands, and when, with suicidal superstition, she sought to appease the wrath of God by driving from her soil a million of her most intelligent and thrifty people, the Christian descendants of the Moors.
The downfall of Spain left France, England, and the Netherlands in the foreground; and now Holland stepped forward to occupy for a brief season the commercial centre of the American coast, to which Henry Hudson had led her. His reports of the abundance of fur-bearing animals stimulated the commercial zeal of the Dutch. But in spite of this, the proposal to occupy a portion of the American coast encountered some vigorous opposition in Holland, and when she came forward it was by no means with a stride or a bound. The opposition to a settlement in America was closely connected with the peculiar relations of the Dutch to the Flemish Netherlands and to Spain. A few words of explanation as to the Dutch political situation will not be superfluous.
I have said that in 1609 Spain was compelled virtually to acknowledge the independence of the Dutch. But the arrangement concluded that year was only provisional. There was to be a truce for twelve years, with many chances of a renewal of bloodshed at the end of that time. Now there was a party in the Dutch Netherlands that wished to have p85 the war renewed and kept up until independence should be achieved for the Flemish Netherlands also. There were in Holland more than 100,000 Flemish refugees who were of this way of thinking, and they were among the most esteemed citizens. They wanted to see every rood of Netherlands soil freed from the Spaniard's polluting presence; they wanted to see the docks of Antwerp once more merry with bustle; they wanted to go back to the homes of their childhood, in Bruges, in Lille, in Mechlin, in Valenciennes. They proposed to fight until these things should be accomplished. Among their leaders were most of the Calvinist clergy, and at their head was Prince Maurice of Orange, son of the idolized William the Silent, and himself the most famous soldier of the age, — doubtless the greatest general between the death of Alexander Farnese and the appearance of Gustavus Adolphus.
Opposed to this war party were most of the municipal dignitaries of the Dutch Netherlands, and especially of Holland. p86 In this province the principal civic officers had become hereditary in a few families. Thus an oligarchy came near controlling Holland, and with it all the Dutch Netherlands, for in wealth and population Holland was at least equal to the other six provinces together. She contributed more than half the revenue and exercised a proportional influence over public policy. A large part of Holland's preponderance was due to the fact that within her territory were most of the large cities which received the 100,000 Flemish refugees, picked men for enterprise and wealth. The oligarchs did not wish to see these men return to the homes of their childhood; they preferred to have them stay and add to the greatness of Amsterdam and Leyden, Gouda and Rotterdam. Accordingly they were opposed to the renewal of the war with Spain; they held it better to remain satisfied with what had been accomplished than to take new risks, or to incur certain damage with doubtful results. At the head of this peace party was the illustrious John of Olden Barneveld, and one of its greatest leaders was Hugo Grotius. Arminian theology seems to have suited the politics of these men better than Calvinism. Whenever you met an Arminian in Holland you might safely assume that he belonged to the party of these friends of peace. It was often called the Arminian party; but otherwise the Republican party, for one of its points was jealousy of the Orange princes, whom it accused of aiming at monarchy. On the other hand, the war party was called the Calvinist, or otherwise the Orange party. In numbers the Orange party was much the stronger, while its policy was broader and more national. But the Republican party, with a narrower and more sectional party, was very strongly entrenched in the monopoly of municipal offices and in the interests of such cities as Amsterdam. It is needless to add that both parties were truly patriotic, while each was prone to suspect the other of treason. In the year 1609 the Twelve Years' Truce marked the moment when the power and influence of the Republicans were at their height.
p87 Now these two parties differed in their views of colonization, of maritime commerce, and the best methods of conducting naval warfare. The most thoroughgoing and unreserved advocates of an aggressive policy on the ocean were to be found among the Flemish exiles, among whom one of the most eminent was William Usselincx, one of the great merchants who had come from Antwerp to Amsterdam. After the defeat of the Armada he was one of the first to urge upon the Dutch government the desirableness of imitating the policy of England in striking at the Spaniard's sources of revenue in the New World and in the East Indies. In his views of the importance of planting a Protestant colony in America that should be self-supporting, Usselincx may be compared with Gilbert and Raleigh. In 1592 this far-seeing man formed a scheme for organizing a West India Company, but it was premature and failed for p88 want of support. Dutch enthusiasm on the subject of America was aroused but slowly. But the necessity for controlling the East Indies was quickly appreciated, since the trade with Portugal had created powerful Dutch interests in that direction. The India trade must not be allowed to languish, and here the aggressive policy won its first victory. The astute Olden Barneveld realized the situation, and saw that it would not do to let such a lucrative trade redound to the political credit of the Orange party; he must get the control of this trade into the hands of his own followers; with this end in view he was foremost in creating the Dutch East India Company in 1602, and he contrived that the Republicans should always have an overwhelming majority in the board of directors.
This East India Company confined its operations mainly to the regions formerly controlled by Portugal, and did not meddle with America. The fact that Usselincx and the Orange party were eager to emulate Raleigh's policy in America was of itself enough to make the Republicans condemn such a policy. But besides this the Republicans, especially after the truce was concluded, were unwilling to irritate Spain more than was absolutely necessary. They wished to see the truce followed by a permanent peace; and while Spain was now biting her nails in unavailing rage, like Bunyan's giant in his cave, because of the new English settlement on James River, it was not deemed wise to goad her to madness with a Dutch settlement on the same coast. So felt the Republican directors of the East India Company. They had sent out Hudson to find a northeast passage; in defiance of their instructions, he had crossed the Atlantic; and they did not now propose to take advantage of what he had thus done. So the East India Company shrugged its shoulders and let Manhattan Island severely alone.
Nevertheless it was impossible for the commercial mind tamely to let go such a chance for fine peltries as the reports of Hudson's voyage suggested. During the next four years p89 sundry Amsterdam merchants fitted up small ships for themselves and found it very profitable to get skins of beaver and otter and mink in exchange for blue glass beads and strips of red cotton. By 1613 four rude houses had been built upon Manhattan Island, and Hendrick Christiansen was sailing to and fro, on all the waters near at hand, drumming up Indian customers. Now came a warning, not from Spain but from England. In November, 1613, young Captain Argall, who had just broken up the Jesuit settlements at Port Royal, in Acadia, and at Mount Desert, and was on his way back to Virginia with more p90 French prisoners than his ship could comfortably carry, thought it worth his while to come in through the Narrows and see what was going on. He contented himself with scolding Christiansen and making him haul down the Dutch flag and raise that of England. Not dismayed, however, but perhaps rather stimulated by this rebuff, the Dutch merchants who were becoming interested in furs sought and obtained from the states of Holland and Friesland a monopoly of the trade during the time that might be required for six voyages. A curious document is this Ordinance of March 27, 1614: you may look through it in vain for any allusion to America or Manhattan Island or furs; yet it grants most unmistakably the monopoly requested. The object is attained by circumlocution; instead of the unpleasantly definite proper names we have common nouns of glittering generality. It is provided that the discoverers of "new Courses, Havens, Countries, or Places . . . shall alone resort to the same or cause them to be frequented," and for anybody else who shall venture to poach upon this preserve there is a penalty of 50,000 ducats. In case of diplomatic complications there might be safety in this vagueness of utterance. But we can also see, on the part of the states of Holland and Friesland, a desire to encourage exploration and acquire a title through discovery followed by settlement.
Just at this time a fresh attempt was made by Usselincx and his friends to get a charter for their projected West India Company, but the peace party was still too strong. Explorers, however, suddenly became active, stimulated by the Ordinance of 1614. Three good ships, commanded by Hendrick Christiansen, Cornelius May, and Adrian Block, set sail for Manhattan. Scarcely had they arrived when Block's ship, the Tiger, caught fire and was burned to the water's edge. Then the sturdy skipper built him a yacht 44½ feet in length by 11½ feet in breadth of beam, and named her the Restless. With this little craft he made a voyage through waters as yet unfamiliar to Europeans, though they may possibly have been visited p91 by Allefonsce. Block passed through the East River, which he called "Hellegat," after a branch of the Scheld. The name seems to have pleased the English, for it has been retained to this day with its meaning narrowed down to the rocky and dangerous point where the waters of the East River merge in those of Long Island Sound. So far as the form of the Dutch name goes, it may mean "entrance to hell," but it may equally well mean "a clear passageway." Block saw the Housatonic River, and ascended the Connecticut as far as the site of Hartford; he explored Narragansett Bay quite thoroughly, and rounding Cape Cod went on as far as the site of Salem. His name has remained upon Block Island, known to earlier navigators as Louise and as Claudia.
While Block was thus passing through the Sound, the south side of Long Island was carefully studied by Cornelius May, who continued his voyage southward till he reached and explored Delaware Bay. Of the two capes which sentinel that bay, one is named after this captain, Captain May, the other after Henlopen, a town in Friesland. Some time afterward Captain Hendricksen, in the Restless, ascended the Delaware River as far as the Schuylkill.
The merchants in Amsterdam who were interested in these explorations now obtained from the States General a monopoly of the trade along the coasts and rivers which their agents had thus explored. The grant was made to them under the style of "The United New Netherland Company." This is the first appearance of the name New Netherland, which always, by the way, occurs in the singular and never in the plural. The European Netherlands are plural because they are an aggregation of small states; but there was only one New Netherland, and to speak of it in the plural, as many persons do, is to commit a solecism. The southern limit of New Netherland was the South River, as the Delaware was then commonly called. The northern limit was the 45th parallel, to avoid collision with the French on the St. Lawrence. The eastern limit, according p92 to Dutch ideas, was Cape Cod, or as far east as Block and Christiansen had sailed; but new-comers were soon to dispute this claim. The noble stream which Verrazano had called Grand River, which Gomez knew as River of St. Anthony, which appears on Mercator's map of 1569 as River of Norumbega, and which Henry Hudson called the River of the Mountains, now received more formal baptism as Prince Maurice's River; but in course of time all these epithets succumbed to the name of Hudson himself. At the same time the Dutch very commonly called it the North River, as we still do to‑day, and practically New Netherland was the country between the North and South rivers. To the west it had no definite limits, but never extended many miles from the west shore of the Hudson.
One of the first things done by the agents of the New Netherland Company was to visit the old fortress which the French had built in 1540, just below the site of Albany. They found an enclosure in the form of a square 58 feet on a side and surrounded by a moat 18 feet wide; within were the remains of a strong house 36 feet by 26. These works, which were dilapidated and partly in ruins, the Dutch thoroughly repaired and furnished with a dozen cannons mounted on swivels and a garrison of a dozen men. They called the place Fort Nassau. Jacob Eelkens was left in command, a man whose name deserves to be remembered, since his personal qualities were such as to win the esteem of the Mohawks; among the influences that brought about the all-important Iroquois-Dutch alliance, his sagacity and tact must not be omitted. It was soon found necessary to change the site of Fort Nassau; floods and freshets made it difficult to keep in good repair, and it was accordingly moved four miles down-stream near "the groves of singing pine-trees, in the green and silent valley" of Tawasentha.
Here on one of the hills that overlooked the vale of Tawasentha was held in 1618 a memorable conference between the commandant of Fort Nassau and the principal chiefs of the p94 Five Nations. Since the fight at Ticonderoga, nine years before, these Indians had learned from their enemies on the St. Lawrence that thunder and lightning could be wielded by red men as well as by pale-faces, provided they were supplied with the proper talismans. A solemn treaty was now made by which the Dutch agreed to supply the Iroquois with muskets and ammunition in exchange for peltries. This treaty was never violated or seriously infringed. The Five Nations were always more or less steadfast allies of the Dutch, and afterwards of the English, until after 1763 their policy came to be less clear and certain.
By the charter of the New Netherland Company its monopoly lasted only three years, so that it was necessary to make large profits if one were to get riches in so short a time. In 1618 the Company tried to get an extension of the monopoly, but there was so much opposition to this on the part of other merchants that decisive action was delayed, and the Company went on with its trade and prospered even without the monopoly. It soon became evident that there was more than trade enough for those who were engaged in it, and the New Netherland Company began to entertain more extensive schemes of colonization. But before anything could come of this, their enterprise was destined to be absorbed in a greater organization. The Orange party, friendly to the establishment of a West India Company, was getting the upper hand, and in May, 1619, its victory was celebrated by a shameful judicial murder, when John of Olden Barneveld, the foremost citizen of the Netherlands, after forty years of the noblest public service, was beheaded on an absurd charge of treason. It reminds one curiously of the murder of Sir Walter Raleigh the year before, and it is a foul blot upon the career of Maurice of Orange, although morally less guilt attaches to him than to King James. Wherever Olden Barneveld was concerned, Prince Maurice's intellectual vision was hopelessly distorted, and he slew him in much the same spirit in which an opponent of Irish Home p95 Rule a few years ago might have devoutly prayed for the sudden death of Mr. Gladstone. The overthrow of the Republicans meant a strengthening of national unity in the loose Netherland confederation, it portended a renewal of war with Spain at the expiration of the truce, and it promised to afford Prince Maurice an opportunity of devoting his superb military talent to the task of setting free the Flemish Netherlands. The triumph of the war party meant that Usselincx and his friends would have their way and obtain a charter for the long-talked‑of West India Company.
Just at this time, in February, 1620, a petition was addressed to the stadholder, Prince Maurice, by the directors of the New Netherland Company. They wished to found a substantial colony at Manhattan, and overtures had lately been made to them by Rev. John Robinson, an English preacher versed in the Dutch language and dwelling in Leyden. The Pilgrims from Scrooby and Austerfield and other English refugees had now sojourned for twelve years in Holland, and some of them wished to go and make a settlement in America. Mr. Robinson thought he could answer for 400 families, some from Holland, some from England, to go at once to New Netherland. It is true, the Pilgrims had already obtained a patent from the London Company for Virginia, authorizing them to plant a colony wherever they liked in Virginia south of the 40th parallel. But the king refused to give them a charter guaranteeing religious liberty; so they preferred to see, first, what could be done under Dutch auspices. In a Dutch colony they would have no fear of being molested for their opinions on theology or ecclesiastical polity. All that Robinson asked was that the United States of the Netherlands should guarantee the protection of these colonists in case of military disturbance. The New Netherland Company caught eagerly at the proposal; they promised to transport the Pilgrims to the North River free of charge and to furnish every family with cattle; but as for the desired military protection, that was a question for government to decide. Hence the p96 directors petitioned the Prince of Orange, and he referred the matter to the States General.
But the States General now had larger aims in view than simply to found a small colony and send two or three warships to defend it. They were already at work upon the constitution of the West India Company, a gigantic commercial monopoly whose gains were to be employed where occasion required in dealing out blows to Spain. The founding of a Protestant state in America was part of the scheme, but it was thought that the details of it had better be left to the West India Company. Moreover, the Dutch statesmen were well aware that the English government regarded the North River and Manhattan Island as part of Virginia, and was likely to resent any attempts of theirs to found a state there. In view of the coming war with Spain it would be prudent to avoid a quarrel with England. The States General might harbour in their own country Englishmen whom King James regarded as half rebellious, but if it should come to planting a colony of such English men on territory which King James called his own, and then undertaking to guarantee them against intrusion, such conduct would be likely to bring on a quarrel at once. The Dutch could not afford thus to hamper themselves, and in any case a war between the two great Protestant powers would be a scandal; so the States General rejected the petition, and the Pilgrims, instead of sailing for Manhattan, went on and organized their expedition under the auspices of the London Company. It was their intention to go to Delaware Bay. Had they done so and landed on the Jersey shore, they would have found themselves in New Netherland as unwelcome guests. The Dutch on Manhattan, who might have loved them as fellow-citizens, would feel differently toward them as neighbours under foreign jurisdiction. As it happened, the Mayflower, under stress of weather, ran somewhat out of her course and carried the Pilgrims north of Cape Cod and out of the jurisdiction of the London Company. p98 About fifty years afterward, Nathaniel Morton, secretary of Plymouth Colony, said that he had heard a report that certain Dutchmen had bribed the skipper of the Mayflower to take the Pilgrims out of their course, and this tale has been often repeated by writers of history. But a solitary hearsay rumour fifty years after the event cannot be accepted as testimony; and in this case the tale is silly unless we assume that the bribers could read the future and foresee that the Pilgrims, instead of persisting in finding the London Company's territory, would choose the bolder alternative of squatting upon the Plymouth Company's land and getting a title afterwards.
In the spring of 1621, while the Pilgrims were building their first permanent houses at Plymouth, the constitution of the West India Company was advancing toward completion at the Hague. The charter, which was issued in June, 1621, gave that Company exclusive jurisdiction over Dutch navigation and trade on the barbarous coasts of America and Africa. No citizen of the Netherlands could sail to any point between the tropic of Cancer and the Cape of Good Hope, or between Newfoundland and the Strait of Magellan, except in the name or by the consent of the Company, under penalty of forfeiting ships and goods. The powers with which the West India Company was invested were well-nigh imperial. It was authorized to appoint and remove all governors and other public officers within its territories, to administer justice, to build forts, make treaties with barbaric chiefs or princes, and resist invaders. Formal declaration of war could be made only after obtaining the consent of the States General, which were then bound to furnish the Company with a fleet of twenty warships, to be manned and supported at the Company's expense. Besides this, the Company must keep in commission a fleet of its own, also to consist of twenty warships. Supreme appointments, such as those of governors-general, needed to be confirmed by the States General. The government of the Company was in the hands of five separate chambers or boards, p99 representing different sections of the Netherlands; but there was one executive board, sometimes known as the College of Nineteen. Eight of these directors were from Amsterdam, four from Zealand, two from Dordrecht, two from North Holland, two from Friesland and Groningen, and one was a director-at‑large, a spokesman for the States General.
Upon the issue of this charter subscription books were opened, and it was announced that until New Year's Day, 1622, anybody who liked, whether a Dutchman or a foreigner, might become a stockholder of the company. After that date no new members could come in. But in fact the subscription was kept open for two years, while the charter underwent some slight modifications and various matters of detail were arranged. On the 21st of June, 1623, the subscription was closed, and the career of the West India Company was begun.
Meanwhile, if we go back three years to the spring of 1620, when the request of the Pilgrims to be guaranteed in making a settlement in New Netherland was under consideration, we find the attention of England drawn toward the movements which the Dutch were making. In the original charter of Virginia, issued in 1606, King James asserted dominion over the American coast from the 34th parallel, which cuts through the mouth of Cape Fear River, to the 45th, which now divides Vermont from Canada. All the country between Cape Fear and Potomac rivers was open for the London Company to colonize; all between the Bay of Fundy and Long Island Sound and the Potomac was open to the competition of the two companies. From the English point of view the Dutch in New Netherland were poaching partly upon the Plymouth Company's preserves, partly upon the neutral region. The energetic Sir Ferdinando Gorges, governor of Plymouth in Devonshire, and one of the most active members of the Plymouth Company, had in 1614 sent Captain John Smith to explore the coasts assigned to that p100 company. While Block was sailing through Long Island Sound, Smith was scanning the shore from Penobscot Bay to Cape Cod. The result was an excellent map of that coast, and the name New England, by which it has ever since been known. The next year Smith started on a second expedition, but was captured by a French squadron and carried to France. In 1619 and 1620, Gorges sent one of Smith's comrades, Thomas Dermer, to make further investigations. Dermer sailed over the same waters and by the same coasts formerly visited by Block. In 1619 he passed from the Sound through East River and out at the Narrows without stopping at Manhattan, and apparently without seeing any Dutchmen. But in the spring of 1620 he visited Manhattan and found a multitude of traders all busy with furs. Dermer warned them that they would not be allowed to stay there, inasmuch as the country belonged to the English and would presently be taken possession of by the Plymouth Company. The Dutchmen replied that they did not understand it that way, and had found no Englishmen there when they came; so they hoped they had not given offence. This answer was certainly quite to the point. It was Queen Elizabeth who had laid down the doctrine that in order to acquire a valid title to wild lands beyond sea, mere discovery followed by neglect is not enough; discovery must be followed up by occupation. Now in the spring of 1620 the English had occupied no part of the American coast except the peninsula with the York and James rivers. It would therefore be difficult to dispute the claim of the Dutch, that they took possession of New Netherland as an unoccupied territory to which they had as good a right as anybody else.
But when Dermer carried to London the news of the multitude of fur traders at Manhattan, and of their reply to his friendly notice to quit, the king was gravely concerned. In the autumn of that year, 1620, while the Mayflower was on the ocean with her company of Pilgrims, there was drawn up a charter which created p101 an executive body known as the Council of New England, and in this charter New England was defined as including all the land between the 40th and 48th parallels from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. This bold document declared that King James was credibly informed that no other Christian people were as yet settled within these limits, wherefore he took possession of the territory within them and hereby warned off all intruders. Apparently the king's information was not of a trustworthy sort, for his definition of New England made it include not only New Netherland but New France.
A year later, in the autumn of 1621, Sir Dudley Carleton, English ambassador at the Hague, was instructed to call the attention of the States General to the fact that Dutchmen were trespassing upon English territory at Hudson's River. The matter was discussed for more than a year, and ended p102 nowhere; it does not appear that any answer was ever made to the English government. Meanwhile Dutch skippers traded with Indians not only at Manhattan, but on the Connecticut River and the shores of Narragansett and Buzzard's bays; and the West India Company proceeded to organize a government for New Netherland. The province was made equivalent for dignity to a countship, and its official seal was a shield bearing a count's coronet, surmounted by a count's coronet, and encircled by the motto, Sigillum Novi Belgii, or "Seal of New Belgium," a recourse to the old Latin usage in which the name Belgium did not exclude the Dutch provinces. The government was especially assigned to the Amsterdam chamber. The principal executive officer, or, as we should say, the governor, was styled Director General, and the first person chosen to fill this office, in 1623, was Cornelius Jacobsen May.
In the spring of 1623 the good ship New Netherland, with the first party of permanent colonists, arrived at Manhattan, and came upon a French skipper in the very act of planting the fleur-de‑lis on the shore. A Dutch yacht, armed with two cannon, was at once detailed to wait upon him, and so he and his ship were politely escorted down the harbour and bowed out at the Narrows. Some people were put ashore at Manhattan, and the rest sailed in the New Netherland up to Fort Nassau, in the vale of Tawasentha. Once more the site of the fort was changed; this time it was moved a few miles up-stream, and built within the present limits of the city of Albany. Its name was changed to Fort Orange. p103 In after years its exact site was for a long time occupied by the Fort Orange Hotel, which was burned in 1847. Eighteen families settled in the neighbourhood of the fort, and with them stayed May's lieutenant, Adrian Joris, of Tienpont. Such were the beginnings of Albany. In the course of the next month another Fort Nassau was built on the east bank of the South River, opposite the land now covered by Philadelphia. Yet another party of Dutchmen visited the Connecticut River, which they called the Fresh River of New Netherland, to contrast it with the salt Hudson. On the site of Hartford they began building a fort which they called Good Hope, but it was some years before it was finished.
Yet another party of the New Netherland's passengers settled on the shore of Long Island at a deep bay where now is the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The name Wallabout Bay is one of those very common cases of unconscious tautology of which Berkshire County is a familiar instance. Wallabout by itself means Walloon Bay. King Alfred would have called it Wealha Bight, that is, Welshmen's or foreigner's bay. As the English applied to their neighbours who did not speak Teutonic the name Welsh, or strangers, so the Dutch called Walloons, or strangers, those inhabitants of the southern Netherlands who spoke French instead of Flemish. At the present day about one third of the population of Belgium are thus to be classed as Walloons.1 Spanish persecution drove many Walloons into Holland, and a party of them entertained the idea of migrating to Virginia, but failed to come to a satisfactory agreement with the Virginia Company. While their negotiation was pending the Dutch West India Company offered better terms and secured them as colonists.
In this expedition the Dutch may be said to have taken p104 possession of New Netherland. It was their intention, by occupying such positions as those on the upper Hudson, the Connecticut, and the Delaware, besides the central position at Manhattan, to proclaim themselves the owners of that wide territory. The fact that they had come to stay was signalized in 1625 by the arrival of two shiploads of cattle and horses, swine and sheep. And now their position was to be assured for the purpose by the political turn of events. The attitude of England furnished the chief source of anxiety. We have seen James I in 1621 complaining to the State single. Now in January, 1625, the ship Orange Tree from Amsterdam, on her way to New Netherland, stopped at Plymouth in Devonshire, whereupon Sir Ferdinando Gorges detained her there for several weeks, while the matter was discussed in the Privy Council. It was decided to let her go on her way, for war was impending between Spain and England, and it was deemed best not to irritate the Dutch. Six years of the Thirty Years' War had now elapsed, and the English people were warmly in sympathy with the Protestant princes of Germany. The daughter of James I was wife of the Elector Palatine, and now that Spanish troops had overrun the Palatinate and were holding it, the king was ready to go to war in behalf of his son-in‑law's party. James died in March; in September Charles I entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with the Dutch. It was agreed that both countries should maintain fleets for the purpose of destroying Spanish commerce, and that the ports of each country should be open to the ships of the other. This was the famous treaty of Southampton. At the time when it was concluded there was much indignation in England over the so‑called "massacre of Amboyna," to which allusion was made in my second chapter. The news of this affair was fresh in England, and the king declared that nothing in the treaty should prevent his demanding justice. The implication was that the States General were ready to grant justice if the facts could be proved. Nothing was said about New Netherland, and it p105 was evident that so long as the two countries were once more allied in a war against Spain, the English would refrain from molesting the chapel colony. Indeed, New Netherland was now safe for nearly forty years. The English were fighting against both Spain and France until 1630; then the quarrel between Charles I and his Parliament so absorbed English energy that small heed was paid to America; the chronic unrest of the Commonwealth period had a similar effect; and so New Netherland was safe until the days of Charles II.
The death of James I was followed within a few weeks by that of Maurice, Prince of Orange, who was succeeded in the stadholdership by his half brother, Frederick, youngest son of William the Silent by Louise, daughter of Coligny. Frederick was an excellent general, if not so great as Maurice, but as a statesman and a man he was far superior. In the province of New Netherland, too, there was a change of rulers. In 1624 Cornelius May gave place to William Verhulst, and in 1625 Verhulst was succeeded by Peter Minuit, a native of the duchy of Cleves. Early in May, 1626, Minuit arrived at Manhattan and took command of New Netherland.
The first important act of Minuit's administration was the purchase of the island of Manhattan from the natives. For the name Manhattan many explanations have been suggested, and among other things we have been told that the island was named after the tribe which inhabited it. But this is getting the cart before the horse. These Indians were branch of the great Lenni-Lenapé confederacy, afterwards known as Delawares. Now in the Lenni-Lenapé language Manatey means "island" and Manhattanis are "those who dwell upon an island."2 Evidently, p106 therefore, the Manhattans were simply the island tribe of the Delawares. Throughout the seventeenth century the island was designated indifferently Manatey and Manhattan. When we say "Manhattan Island" it is a case of unconscious tautology,º like those formerly cited. From these island Indians Minuit bought their whole island, containing •about 22,000 acres, for the value of 60 guilders in beads and ribbons. These 60 guilders are usually mentioned as equivalent to 24 gold dollars of the present day; but the purchasing power of gold was then five times as great as now, so that the price paid for Manhattan was really equivalent to about 120 dollars.3 That must have furnished enough ribbons and beads to give every brave and every new squaw a chance.a1
The next thing to be done was to build a suitable fort. The site selected was where the row of steamboat offices now stands, on the south side of Bowling Green. At first it was simply a blockhouse encircled by red cedar palisades backed by earthworks. This was called Fort Amsterdam. East of it, along the shore of East River, stretched a line of one-story log-houses with bark roofs, some thirty or more in number, which gave shelter to the greater part of the population of 200 souls. Such was the beginning of p107 Pearl Street, the oldest street in New York; at that time its east side was the river bank; since then three blocks have grown up to the east of it on made land. Communication with the little settlement at Wallabout was kept up from the site of Peck Slip. There Cornelius Dircksen owned a farm or bouwerie, and used to ferry passengers across in a rowboat for a fare of three stivers in wampum, equivalent to three farthings of that time, or about six cents of to‑day.a2 Near the site of Canal Street the primeval forest resounded nightly with the growl of bears, the wailing of panthers, and the yelps of wolves, while serpents lurked in the dense underbrush. For the present the neighbouring Indians were not dangerous; and Minuit, who was an eminently just, honourable, and sensible man, knew how to win their confidence and keep them well-disposed toward the settlers.
For a moment, however, the party at Fort Orange were in danger of a breach with the Mohawks. The nearest neighbours of this formidable tribe were the Mohegans of the Housatonic valley. These people belonged to the great Algonquin family, and between them and the Mohawks burned the fires of hatred, diabolical and unquenchable. In 1626 a war party of Mohegans approached Fort Orange and besought the garrison to aid them in an attack upon the Mohawks. The commander, a rather dull person by the name of Krieckebeeck, allowed himself to be persuaded, and set out with them, taking along six of his men. After a few miles they were surprised and badly defeated by the Mohawks. Krieckebeeck was killed by an arrow, his Indians were put to flight with heavy slaughter, and the victors dined that day on roast Dutchman. Having thus won the field and discharged all blood-dues to their tutelar deities, the Mohawks showed remarkable forbearance. Their envoys came to Fort Orange and justified their conduct, while they blamed the Dutch for wantonly attacking them at the request of their enemies. The Mohawks, they truly said, had never offended the Dutch; and if in this unfortunate affair a few Dutchmen had been slain by their arrows, it was the p108 Dutchmen's fault and not theirs. After this plain speaking, which the new commander took in good part, the old treaty of alliance was renewed, and things went on harmoniously. The Dutch had learned a lesson. This meddling in intertribal quarrels was extremely dangerous, although sometimes hard to avoid. It was similar meddling that some years later made it necessary for the settlers of New England to crush the Narragansetts in self-defence. It was just such indiscretion that had led Champlain to attack the Mohawks, and make them the irreconcilable enemies of Frenchmen. Probably the Dutch could not have adjusted the matter so easily as they did if the Mohawks had not been keenly alive to the value of an alliance which supplied them with firearms. This prevailing need, and the hope of punishing the French, gave to the Dutch, and to the English after them, a very firm hold upon the Iroquois tribes.
But while all was quiet on the upper Hudson, there was some uneasiness among the people at Fort Orange, and Minuit brought them all down to Manhattan, leaving only a garrison of sixteen men in the exposed position. The little colony at Fort Nassau, on the Delaware River, was also withdrawn, and the building of Fort Good Hope, on the Connecticut, was suspended. All the settlers were concentrated at Manhattan for greater security. But their ships found their way up the rivers and into all the bays and inlets where red men could be found with peltries to sell. Among other tribes with which they traded were the Wampanoags, on Buzzard's Bay, and thus they were brought into immediate contact with the Pilgrims of Plymouth. Dutch envoys visited Governor Bradford and were received most hospitably. Letters passed between Bradford and Minuit in which the courtesy and kindliness of expression is evidently more than merely formal. It is clear that both writers highly value the alliance between their two nations against their common enemy, the Spaniards; both are mindful of the friendly relations sustained for centuries between the Netherlands and England; both are anxious to maintain p110 such friendship. Yet Bradford thinks it necessary to say that he doubts whether the Dutch have a right to plant colonies or trading stations within the limits of New England, which include everything above the 40th parallel. To this claim, which would have left nothing of New Netherland except the southern part of New Jersey, the Dutch governor replied that he derived his authority from the United States of the Netherlands, and was in duty bound to maintain it. He did not even feel that he had any right to yield to Bradford's suggestion that the Dutch might at least forbear to trade with the Narragansetts and Wampanoags — "which is, as it were, at our doors." But while he could not make concessions, Minuit's courtesy never failed him; his letter was accompanied by two Holland cheeses and a runlet of sugar, to sweeten its flavour. This friendly controversy is one among many proofs that the English always disputed the title of the Dutch to New Netherland. In 1627 it was settled for the time by a proclamation of Charles I declaring that in accordance with the treaty of Southampton all trade with England and her dependencies was free to the Dutch. This was equivalent to full permission to trade anywhere upon the American coast claimed by England, while it in no way recognized the Dutch title to New Netherland. Matters rested for some years upon this basis.
While these things were going on in America, the Dutch and English fleets were carrying everything before them on the ocean, while the power of Spain was declining year by year. That piece of insane wickedness, the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1609, had deprived her of recuperative power by spoiling her principal industries, while the work of destruction, begun long ago by Hawkins and Drake, was approaching completeness. For example, in a tremendous battle off San Salvador, May 20, 1627, the Dutch admiral, Peter Heyn, knocked to pieces and sank twenty-six Spanish warships. On September 5 the same skilful commander captured the whole Spanish silver fleet of nineteen vessels, with booty equivalent to thirty million p111 dollars.a3 We need not wonder that the West India Company declared large dividends. As for Spain, the extent of her humiliation may be inferred from the fact that in 1629 the proposal for a renewal of the truce came from her and was rejected by the Dutch, who preferred to keep up the war in which all the expense was borne by their old oppressors. No wonder that a war which brought limitless pelf and ample revenge, along with naval glory, should have been popular. It was supported by the zeal of the Calvinist clergy as well as by the cupidity of the mercantile classes. In 1630 England made a separate peace with Spain. Charles I was entering upon his experiment of governing without Parliament, and wished to disencumber himself of all complications. But the naval war was kept up successfully eighteen years longer by the Netherlands, until the general European settlement of 1648.
While the Dutch flag was thus covered with glory on the high seas, the progress of the colony on Hudson's River was not quite what was desired. The nature of the weakness which began to become apparent about 1628, and the attempts that were made to mend matters, will claim our attention in the next chapter.
1 Another less probable explanation of Wallabout has been suggested, as from Waal-bocht, or "curving bay." See Putnam, Origin of Breuckelen, Half Moon Series, vol. II No. xi.
2 Beauchamp, Indian Names in New York, p45; cf. Brinton, Lenapé-English Dictionary, s.v. Menatey.
3 High Mighty Sirs:
Here arrived yesterday the ship The Arms of Amsterdam which sailed from New Netherland out of the Mauritius River on September 23; they report that our people there are of good courage and live peaceably. Their women, also, have borne children there, they have bought the island Manhattes from the wild men for the value of sixty guilders, isº 11,000 morgens in extent. They sowed all their grain the middle of May, and harvested it the middle of August. Thereof being samples of summer grain, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, small beans, and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid ship is: 7246 beaver skins, 178½ otter skins, 675 otter skins,º 48 mink skins, 36 wild-cat (lynx) skins, 33 minks, 34 rat skins. Many logs of oak and nut-wood. Herewith be ye High Mighty Sirs, commended to the Almighty's grace, In Amsterdam, November 5, Ao. 1626.
a1 a2 a3 Another century and some has gone by; what was $120 in 1899 when Fiske's book was first published is now, in 2008, about $3000 according to Morgan Friedman's Inflation Calculator. That works out to about 15 cents an acre (of unimproved wilderness); even in modern terms, it's cheap.
Similarly, the ferry fee equivalent to 6 cents (1899) was about $1.50 in 2008; and the thirty million dollars booty captured in the 19‑ship Spanish fleet would be $750 million.
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