New Netherlands in 1602 the States General Essay

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New Netherlands

In 1602 The States General of the United Provinces, known as the Netherlands, engaged the United East Indies Company to explore for a passage to the Indies and claim any territories for the United Provinces. Seven years later, on September 3, 1609, the English explorer Henry Hudson entered the area now known as New York in an attempt to find a northwest passage to the Indies. On September 12th Hudson took his ship, the Half Moon, up the river which now bears his name as far as Albany and claimed the land for his employer. Less than 75 years later the Dutch relinquished this territory to England. This paper will examine the factors that led to the Dutch failure to maintain control and establish a permanent presence in this new territory.


The First Settlers

While the elusive Northwest Passage was not to be found, the new lands claimed for the United Provinces by Henry Hudson turned out to be one of the best fur-trading regions in North America. The first Dutch trading expedition, lead by Arnout Vogels, landed in Hudson Bay in 1611. The expedition was so successful that the following year Vogels chartered the ship Fortuyn which made two, back-to-back trips into the area. Dutch merchants traded liquor, cloth, firearms and trinkets for beaver and otter pelts. Vogels attempted to keep his expedition secret, however soon Adriaen Block landed in Hudson Bay in a different ship. Unlike Vogels, Block did not try to keep his activities a secret and before he could leave the Hudson for an early spring crossing to Amsterdam he saw the arrival of another Dutch ship, the Jonge Tobias, under the command of Thijs Volckertsz Mossel, and competition to exploit the newly discovered land was underway.

In 1613, the English Captain Argall, returning from an expedition against the French was surprised to find several Dutch traders living on the Island of Manhattan. He demanded a surrender of the place to the English crown, claiming it properly constituting a part of Virginia. The surrender was reluctantly made, however the Dutch continued their residence after his departure. In 1614, the Dutch constructed a rude fort on the southern part of the island, which was the beginning of New Amsterdam and the States General of the United Provinces granted the newly formed New Netherland Company, comprised of merchants from the cities of Amsterdam and Hoorn, a three-year monopoly for fur trading in the newly discovered region. In 1615 the company built Fort Orange on Castle Island near present day Albany and began trading with the Indians for furs.

During this period merchants only came to New Netherland for business purposes and the area was not colonized. At the end of the three-year period the company's monopoly was not renewed and the land was opened to all Dutch traders. Fearing the possibility of an English, French or Spanish challenge to their claim on these territories the Dutch decided to grant a monopoly to a company that would colonize the area and establish a permanent political presence (Jorden).

To his end the Dutch Parliament chartered the West India Company, a national-joint stock company to organize and oversee all Dutch ventures in the Western Hemisphere. In 1624, sponsored by the West India Company, 30 families arrived in North America settling in the northern Hudson Valley, at Fort Orange. The next year more colonists arrived and made their home on the lower tip of Manhattan, at the site known as New Amsterdam.

The Dutch settlers did not take much of an interest in agriculture and focused on the more lucrative fur trade. In 1626 the West India Company dispatched Director General Peter Minuit to Manhattan and charged him with the task of administering the struggling colony. Minuit purchased Manhattan Island from Native American Indians for the now legendary price of $24, formally established New Amsterdam, and consolidated and strengthened Fort Orange.

Dutch Colonization

The Dutch colony, called New Netherland, grew slowly at first because the Dutch West India Company neglected the northern outposts in favor of its holdings in the rich West Indies. A handful of traders supplied the Native Americans who brought in furs, the region's prime resource. In 1629 the company offered its members large estates, called patroonships, if they would send settlers to New Netherland. However, most of these ventures did not succeed, because few Dutch wanted to leave their homeland ("Dutch Colonies").

As New Netherland slowly expanded conflicts with both English colonists and Native Americans in the region arose. In the 1630s, the new Director General Wouter van Twiller sent an expedition out from New Amsterdam up to the Connecticut River into lands claimed by English settlers. Faced with the prospect of armed conflict, Twiller was forced to back down and recall the expedition, losing any claims to the Connecticut Valley.

In the upper reaches of the Hudson Valley around Fort Orange, where the needs of the profitable fur trade required a careful policy of appeasement with the Iroquois Confederacy, the Dutch authority's maintained peace, but corruption and lax trading policies plagued the area. In the lower Hudson Valley, where more colonists were setting up small farms, Native Americans came to be viewed as obstacles to European settlement.

In 1637 the company appointed Willem Kieft director-general of New Netherland. A dictatorial leader, Kieft drove the colony into war in 1641 with the Algonquian tribes of the area. After a series of disputes arose between settlers and natives over land ownership, Kieft tried to impose a tax on the Native Americans to help pay for fortification of the settlements. When the tribes refused, Kieft caused the massacre of more than 100 native inhabitants. Four years of raids and reprisals by both sides followed, in which more than 1,000 Native Americans and settlers were killed. This brutal series of campaigns largely succeeding in crushing the strength of the Indians; however they also did little to enhance the peace and harmony between European settlers and Native Americans.

In1647 Kieft was replaced by Peter Stuyvesant, who although honest and efficient, also used dictatorial methods in governing the colonists. By this time the settlers were opposed to the high taxes on imports and demanding more of a voice in the government.

Meanwhile, English colonists had expelled Dutch settlers from the Connecticut Valley and founded settlements on present-day Long Island. In 1650 Stuyvesant was forced to cede all of Long Island east of Oyster Bay to Connecticut, an English colony.

The Economy of New Netherland

Unlike other colonies, settlers did not come to New Netherland because of religious or political persecution, nor were they destitute. They came with the hope of making money. The majority were single males, primarily tradesmen or farmers. The West India Company negotiated to bring these people over because the company felt they would be useful in building an economy that would turn a profit for the company.

Conversely, these individuals felt this was an opportunity to secure their personal fortune. The West India Company provided cattle, horses, provisions and land to farmers. The farmers repaid the company as soon as possible and after ten years were to give the company one-tenth of their crops. For craftsmen, a salary was negotiated and housing arrangements were made, in effect making the individuals company employees. Many colonists started in one profession and either diversified or moved into other more profitable ventures as opportunities presented themselves.

In order to tap this resource of entrepreneurship and thereby increase the revenue from the New Netherland settlement, in 1638 the West India Company abandoned its trading monopoly. The company felt it could share the expenses and risks associated with trade by opening up the area to other merchants and collecting fees from them. With the passage of the Articles and Conditions in 1638 and the Freedoms and Exemptions in 1640 the company allowed merchants of all friendly nations to trade in the area, subject to a 10% import duty, a 15% export duty and the restriction that all merchants had to hire West India Company ships to carry their merchandise. The West India Company continued in the fur trade.

The English Gain Control

As New Netherland prospered the British set their sights on the province. In the mid Seventeenth century the British and Dutch saw each other as direct competitors. Several times during this period they were at war. During the first Anglo-Dutch war of 1652-1654 Oliver Cromwell planed to attack New Netherland with the help of the New England colonists but the plan was never carried out.

The restoration of Charles II to the British throne in 1660 caused the Dutch to again fear an English attack. In 1662 they made an alliance with the French against the English. In response to this alliance, basing his claim on the explorations made for England by explorer John Cabot in 1497 and 1498, Charles II decided to take over the entire region. In March of 1664, England formally annexed New Netherland as…

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