The Founding of New York Chapter IV

A Series of Articles Written by Thomas A. Janvier for the New York Times, In commemoration of the 250th Anniversary of the Founding of the City of New York.
Chapter IV: How New Netherland Became New York

History is a very mixed-up matter. It cannot be told in a straight-ahead way, because events which in the end turn out to be closely related to each other happen in widely separated countries at widely separated times. I have shown how the Dutch colony of new Netherland had its beginning in the finding of our harbor i n the year 1609 b y Hudson, but to make clear how New Netherland passed to the English, and became New York. I must go back to a time before Hudson was born.

John Cabot, an Italian sailing in the English service made a voyage along our coasts in the years 1497-8; and leaving out of the account the Norsemen who may have come here earlier, the English claim to ownership of the country settled by the Dutch more than a hundred years later is grounded on the fact that Cabot was its discoverer. That claim was asserted in a definite form three years before Hudson sailed from Holland. In the year 1606 King James I. granted to two companies, known as the London Company and the Plymouth Company, the right to plant colonies in America between the thirty-fourth and the forty-fifth degrees of north latitude on land "not now actually possessed by any Christian prince or people." The English grant covered the territory that a little later became New Netherland, and that now is New York. But that territory was not occupied by the English. The London Company planted the colony of Virginia in the year 1607. The Plymouth Company went to work more slowly. In the year 1620 it received a new charter, which gave it the ownership of the territory between the fortieth and forty-eighth degrees of latitude. Then the Plymouth colony was founded: but its settlers, the "Pilgrim Fathers," did not come to this country until the Dutch colony of new Netherland had been in existence for nearly six years. The Dutch claimed New Netherland, therefore, on the ground that they were its first real explorers, and that they were its first actual settlers. And so there was a tangle of conflicting claims from the very start.

A long while passed before the English enforced their asserted rights, but they missed no opportunities for presenting them and so keeping them alive. At the very beginning, in the year 1614, when the New Netherland Company was chartered, the English Ambassador lodged a formal protest against the planting of a Dutch colony on what he declared to be English territory; and although the Dutch Government did not pay the slightest attention to it there his protest was on the record, ready to be used when the occasion to use it came. In like manner, the Governors of the English colonies frequently told their Dutch neighbors that they were trespassers. The first warning of that sort was given by Gov. Bradford of the Plymouth colony to Director Minuit in the year 1627; and the Governors of Connecticut and Maryland and Massachusetts repeated it later on. But for a good many years there was so much room for everybody in America that no attempt was made to bring squarely to an issue those conflicting claims.

There were two beginnings to the serious trouble between the Dutch and the English that ended in the forcible seizure by England of the Dutch colony. One beginning was the actual growth of the settlements made by the two nations until they touched edges and began to squabble about boundary lines. The other beginning and it was the more important one was the determination of the English to get for themselves, from the Dutch, the carrying trade of the sea.

By the year 1647, when the last of the Dutch Governors was sent here, so much had followed on from both of those beginnings that the taking over of New Netherland by the English plainly was in sight to anybody who studied the signs of the times. by that time the English colonies of Connecticut and Massachusetts were pressing in upon Dutch territory on the east and on the north; and on the south about the Delaware River there was a like pressing in from the English colony of Maryland. The Dutch already had extinguished a Swedish colony in that region, in what now is the State of Delaware; and before they were quite through with their troubles with the Swedes their more serious troubles with the English began. Back of the in crowding English was the power of the English Government; and that also was exerted to put on the screws that would compel the satisfaction of their long-standing claim. The most effective twist of the English screw was the enactment by Parliament, in the year 1651, of what was known as the Navigation Act which decreed that goods imported into England must come in English ships or in ships belonging to the country in which the goods were produced. That was a very hard blow at the Dutch sea trade. It was made still harder, in the year 1660, when the Navigation Act was so amended that it farther forbade the importation or exportation of goods into or from any of the English colonies save in English ships commanded, and at least three-fourths manned, by Englishmen. By the enforcement of the amended act the sea trade of the Dutch was so crippled that a little later England became, and ever since has remained, the leading commercial nation of the world.

In that great piece of statesmanship our little colony had a very deep interest. Among the results of the Navigation Act was the making over of New Netherland into New York.

The chief object of the amendment to the act was to compel the English colonies to trade only with England; and had the act been obeyed it would have put a stop to the very considerable trade that had grown up between the English colonies and New Netherland. But it was not obeyed. That inter-colonial trade was profitable to both sides; and so both sides, in defiance of the new law, continued it. Mr. Brohead puts the outcome of the matter in these few words: "The possession of new Netherland by the Dutch was, in truth, the main obstacle to the enforcement of the restrictive colonial policy of England." There was only one way to remove that obstacle, and the King of England took that way. On March 12, 1664, he made a grant to his brother, the Duke of York, of Long Island and of all the lands and rivers from the west side of the Connecticut River to the east side of Delaware Bay. That grant made New Netherland an English colony, and so brought all the boundary disputes and all the trading complications with the other English colonies to an end.

The military force that was sent here by the Duke of York, to take possession of what had become his property, did not have any fighting to do. The English, of whom by that time there were many i n the colony, of course welcomed the coming of their countrymen; and even the Dutch, for the most part, were not averse to the change of rulers: being satisfied after their forty-two years of bad government under the West India Company that any change must be for the better, since no change well could be for the worse. And so New Amsterdam, and with it New Netherland, passed into the possession of the English without the striking of a single blow.

That great event in our history took place September 8, 1664. At 8 o'clock on the morning of that day the Dutch flag fell from Fort Amsterdam and Gov. Stuyvesant marched his conquered forces out from the main gateway, across the Parade, and along Beaver Street to the canal that then was in what now is Broad Street where boats were lying to carry them to ships at anchor in the stream. When the Dutch fairly were out of the way the English marched down Broadway from where they had been waiting, about in front of where Aldrich Court now stands and Gov. Nicolls ran up the English flag over what then became Fort James.

Virtually that was the end of Dutch ownership hereabouts. For a little while from July 30, 1673, until Nov. 10, 1674 during a later war between England and Holland, the Dutch again were in possession of our city and gave it the name of New Orange. But that temporary reclamation had as its only result a slight retarding of the great development of the city, and of all the colony, which came with English rule.

                                                                                                                                                          THOMAS A. JANVIER

Note: Thomas A. Janvier is the author of "In Old New York," "In Great Waters," "The Passing of Thomas," "In the Sargasso Sea," "The Uncle of an Angel," and "The Aztec Treasure House."


Website: The History
Article Name: The Founding of New York Chapter IV
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The New York Times May 28, 1903
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