1624 - New Netherlands
Hired by the Dutch East India Company, Henry Hudson in 1609 explored the area around what is now New York City and the river that bears his name, to a point probably north of present-day Albany, New York. Subsequent Dutch voyages laid the basis for their claims and early settlements in the area.
As with the French to the north, the first interest of the Dutch was the fur trade. To this end, they cultivated close relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois, who were the key to the heartland from which the furs came. In 1617 Dutch settlers built a fort at the junction of the Hudson and the Mohawk Rivers, where Albany now stands.
Settlement on the island of Manhattan began in the early 1620s. In 1624, the island was purchased from local Native Americans for the reported price of $24. It was promptly renamed New Amsterdam.
In order to attract settlers to the Hudson River region, the Dutch encouraged a type of feudal aristocracy, known as the “patroon” system. The first of these huge estates were established in 1630 along the Hudson River. Under the patroon system, any stockholder, or patroon, who could bring 50 adults to his estate over a four-year period was given a 25-kilometer river-front plot, exclusive fishing and hunting privileges, and civil and criminal jurisdiction over his lands. In turn, he provided livestock, tools, and buildings. The tenants paid the patroon rent and gave him first option on surplus crops.
Further to the south, a Swedish trading company with ties to the Dutch attempted to set up its first settlement along the Delaware River three years later. Without the resources to consolidate its position, New Sweden was gradually absorbed into New Netherland, and later, Pennsylvania and Delaware.
New Netherland was the first Dutch colony in North America. It extended from Albany, New York, in the north to Delaware in the south and encompassed parts of what are now the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and Delaware. The Dutch claim to this territory derived from their sponsorship of Henry Hudson’s voyages of exploration. In 1609, Hudson and his crew sailed the ship de Halve Maen (the Half Moon) from the Delaware Bay up to the river now named for Hudson. Upon his return to the Netherlands, Hudson described what he had found: a magnificent harbor, wide navigable rivers, and a land rich in natural resources.
Nicholaus Visscher's map of the Northeast of 1655 was used to illustrate the boundary dispute between William Penn and Lord Baltimore. The map is also of great importance as the only reasonably obtainable example of the map during the first Dutch Colonization of the region, prior to their defeat by the English. The first edition (circa 1655) pre-dated the inclusion of Fort Kasimer on the Delaware River. The second edition (circa 1656) included Fort Kasimer. The third edition was issued in 1684 and showed Philadelphia for the first time. The fourth edition was also issued in 1684. The fifth edition bears the imprint of Petr Schenk Iun (circa 1729).
The commercial possibilities of New Netherland attracted considerable interest during the era known as the Dutch Golden Age, when the newly independent United Provinces of the Netherlands became Europe's leading commercial power and Amsterdam its preeminent trading city. Soon after Hudson's report was made public, merchants and investors started sponsoring speculative voyages to the new colony. In 1621, the Dutch government chartered the West India Company with the goal both of bringing order to economic activity in New Netherland and of challenging Spanish influence in the New World.
Colonists arrived in New Netherland from all over Europe. Many fled religious persecution, war, or natural disaster. Others were lured by the promise of fertile farmland, vast forests, and a lucrative trade in fur. Initially, beaver pelts purchased from local Indians were the colony’s primary source of wealth. In Europe, these pelts were used to produce fashionable men’s hats. Over time, the Dutch colony’s economy broadened and diversified. It became an entrepôt for Chesapeake tobacco and a hub of trade between New England and the Caribbean.
New Netherland developed into a culturally diverse and politically robust settlement. This diversity was fostered by Dutch respect for freedom of conscience. Furthermore, under Dutch rule, women enjoyed legal, civil, and economic rights denied their British counterparts in New England and Virginia. Towns within New Netherland were granted the protections and privileges of self-government. New Amsterdam, thus, became the first European-style chartered city in the thirteen original colonies that would comprise the United States.
Dutch success produced many rivals, the English chief among them. Between 1652 and 1674, the two nations fought three wars. As a consequence of these wars, New Netherland came under British control in 1664. Despite this transfer of power, Dutch influence remained strong in the former New Netherland, throughout the seventeenth century and beyond; many parts of the colony remained culturally Dutch up to and beyond the American Revolution.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|