The  Institutions of the Dutch In New York


Political Ideas. The institutions and customs which were planted in New York by the Dutch have played an important part in the history of the state. While the form of government was harsh and despotic under the company, still Holland was a republic and ideas of popular government were carried to the New World by Dutch burghers, French Huguenots, and English Puritans. These liberal ideas about politics were the germs from which developed a great republic.

Education. Despite the hardships of a new country the Dutch did not neglect education. The early settlers brought schoolmasters from Holland. The establishment of schools and the appointment of schoolmasters rested with the company. The duties of a schoolmaster were numerous; he was court-messenger, church-sexton, psalm-setter, grave-digger, lay reader, and "
comforter of the sick." Every teacher, public and private, had to have a license from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities. The first schoolmaster sent to the colony by the company was in 1633. He received his pay partly from the company, partly from New Amsterdam, and partly from each pupil. In 1638 the first public tax for schools was levied, and in 1653 New Amsterdam
agreed to support one schoolmaster. The company and this city supplied the neighboring settlements with teachers. Children were taught arithmetic, reading, writing, spelling, and the catechism. In 1658 Alexander Carolus Curtius opened a Latin school and drew from the public treasury of New Amsterdam annually $187.50, " was provided with a house and garden, and received six guilders from each pupil." Although the authorities encouraged education, yet on account of the lack of free schools " the mass of the people . . . at Manhattan were unable or ill qualified to either read or write " (1642).

Churches. In 1628 was formed a Dutch Reformed church, with the Rev. Jonas Michaelius as minister. " It was the first fully organized church in the United States." Dominie Everardus Bogardus came over in 1633 with director Van Twiller. Soon a minister of the Dutch Reformed faith was stationed at Flatbush, Brooklyn, Rensselaerswyck, and Fort Orange. At first there was a disposition among the Dutch to exclude all churches except those of the Reformed creed. A few Quakers were banished, some members of the Church of England were persecuted, and Stuyvesant tried to drive out the Lutheran Church, but the company stood for religious freedom. They said : " Let every one remain free as long as he is modest and moderate, and does not offend others, or oppose the government." Hence Catholics, Protestants, and Jews worshiped as they pleased. Many persons fled from New England to secure liberty of conscience in New Netherland. At the end of Dutch rule no less than fourteen different churches were found in the province. Father Isaac Jogues, a French Catholic, and Rev. John Megapolensis of the Dutch Reformed Church, did splendid missionary work among the Indians.

Industry. Under a greedy trading company it was but natural that industry should be hampered. To make money through trade was the prime object, hence agriculture and manufacturing were not encouraged. At first traffic in furs was the chief occupation. With the patroons came farming, but it was of an inferior kind because few of the farmers owned their lands. There were no factories. The people were employed in clearing land, making roads, and building houses and barns. Their wants were not many and easily satisfied. They lived on what few things they raised on their farms, the game of the forest and fish from the streams, and milk, cheese, and butter. Simple indeed was the industrial life of the city and province which, within three centuries, were to become the industrial center of the world.

Society. New Amsterdam and Fort Orange were the two centers of activity. In 165J3 the former place was incorporated as a village of less than a thousand people. The hogs rooted up " Broadway "so much that an ordinance compelled their owners to put rings in their noses, and the cows grazed on the side of the roads. The gardens and yards were large. The log houses soon gave away to substantial buildings. These solid Dutch houses may still be seen along the Hudson. On the fort grounds were a stone church, the governor's house, storehouses, and barracks. Rows of small houses, occupied by mechanics and laborers, were just outside the grounds. Four or five hundred houses were scattered over the island and the neighboring shores. The best were of brick or stone, covered with tiles, a story and a half high, with a big broad " stoop," and deep windows with small glass panes. Inside were broad halls, sanded floors, fine furniture from Holland, a high clock, crockery in abundance, pewter articles for the table and the big fireplaces. Fort Orange, in 1643, " contained several houses, and behind it was a small church. Some twenty-five or thirty houses, roughly built of boards and roofed with thatch, were scattered at intervals on or near the borders of the Hudson, above and below the fort."

Society was divided into classes. The aristocratic landowners and traders stood at the top of the social scale; then came the independent farmers, small traders, and professional men; these were followed by the common laborers and tenants; and at the bottom were the slaves. Negro slavery was very prevalent. " Stuyvesant was instructed to promote the sale of negroes," and at one time there were more slaves in New Netherland than in any other American colony. The principal nations in Europe had representatives among the people of this province, and Father Jogues was told that eighteen different languages were spoken. Very early New York began to be cosmopolitan. Few of the settlers were lazy and none were paupers. Criminals were punished severely. Banishment, boring the tongue with a red-hot iron, the ducking-stool and the gallows were forms of punishment. The Dutch rose early and went to bed at sunset. They ate potatoes, cabbages, asparagus, barley-bread, clams, doughnuts, game and poultry; and drank buttermilk, tea and wines. They were also great smokers. They wore clothes of linsey-woolsey with plenty of bright ornaments. New year's day was the gayest of the year; on Easter they colored eggs and " cracked " them; and on Christmas came Santa Claus with his presents and good cheer.


Website: The History
Article Name: The Institutions of the Dutch In New York
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY:  A Short History of the State of New York by John J. Anderson, A.M., Ph.D and Alexander Clarence Flick, A.M., Ph.D. Professor of History in Syracuse University. Maynard, Merrill and Co.1902
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