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New Netherland

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New Netherland Introduction What Was New Netherland

Political structure
Colony of the Dutch Republic

Dutch rijksdaalder, leeuwendaalder

Dutch rijksdaalder, Thaler

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New Netherland (Dutch: Nieuw Nederland) was a 17th-century colonial province of the Seven United Netherlands that was located on the East Coast of North America. The claimed territories extended from the Delmarva Peninsula to extreme southwestern Cape Cod, while the more limited settled areas are now part of the Mid-Atlantic States of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut, with small outposts in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.


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The colony was conceived as a private business venture to exploit the North American fur trade. During its first decades, New Netherland was settled rather slowly, partially as a result of policy mismanagement by the Dutch West India Company (WIC) and partially as a result of conflicts with Native Americans. The settlement of New Sweden encroached on its southern flank, while its northern border was re-drawn to accommodate an expanding New England. During the 1650s, the colony experienced dramatic growth and became a major port for trade in the North Atlantic. The surrender of Fort Amsterdam to England in 1664 was formalized in 1667, contributing to the Second Anglo–Dutch War. In 1673, the Dutch re-took the area but relinquished it under the Second Treaty of Westminster ending the Third Anglo-Dutch War the next year.

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The inhabitants of New Netherland were Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans, the last chiefly imported as enslaved laborers. Descendants of the original settlers played a prominent role in colonial America. For two centuries, New Netherland Dutch culture characterized the region (today's Capital District around Albany, the Hudson Valley, western Long Island, northeastern New Jersey, and New York City).

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New Netherland The Dutch Surrender New Netherland History in the Headlines

During the 17th century, Europe was undergoing expansive social, cultural, and economic growth, known as the Dutch Golden Age in the Netherlands. Nations vied for domination of lucrative trade routes around the globe, particularly those to Asia. Simultaneously, philosophical and theological conflicts were manifested in military battles across the continent. The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands had become a home to many intellectuals, international businessmen, and religious refugees. In the Americas, the English had a settlement at Jamestown, the French had small settlements at Port Royal and Quebec, and the Spanish were developing colonies to exploit trade in South America and the Caribbean.

In 1609, English sea captain and explorer Henry Hudson was hired by the Dutch East India Company émigrés running the Dutch East India Company (VOC) located in Amsterdam to find a north-east passage to Asia, sailing around Scandinavia and Russia. He was turned back by the ice of the Arctic in his second attempt, so he sailed west to seek a north-west passage rather than return home. He ended up exploring the waters off the east coast of North America aboard the vlieboot Halve Maen. His first landfall was at Newfoundland and the second at Cape Cod.

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Hudson believed that the passage to the Pacific ocean was between the St. Lawrence River and Chesapeake Bay, so he sailed south to the Bay then turned northward, traveling close along the shore. He first discovered Delaware Bay and began to sail upriver looking for the passage. This effort was foiled by sandy shoals, and the Halve Maen continued north. After passing Sandy Hook, Hudson and his crew entered the narrows into the Upper New York Bay. (Unbeknownst to Hudson, the narrows had already been discovered in 1524 by explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano; today, the bridge spanning them is named after him.) Hudson believed that he had found the continental water route, so he sailed up the major river which later bore his name: the Hudson. He found the water too shallow to proceed several days later, at the site of present-day Troy, New York.

Upon returning to the Netherlands, Hudson reported that he had found a fertile land and an amicable people willing to engage his crew in small-scale bartering of furs, trinkets, clothes, and small manufactured goods. His report was first published in 1611 by Emanuel Van Meteren, an Antwerp émigré and the Dutch Consul at London. This stimulated interest in exploiting this new trade resource, and it was the catalyst for Dutch merchant-traders to fund more expeditions. Flemish Lutheran émigré merchants such as Arnout Vogels sent the first follow-up voyages to exploit this discovery as early as July 1610.

In 1611–1612, the Admiralty of Amsterdam sent two covert expeditions to find a passage to China with the yachts Craen and Vos, captained by Jan Cornelisz Mey and Symon Willemsz Cat, respectively. In four voyages made between 1611 and 1614, the area between present-day Maryland and Massachusetts was explored, surveyed, and charted by Adriaen Block, Hendrick Christiaensen, and Cornelius Jacobsen Mey. The results of these explorations, surveys, and charts made from 1609 through 1614 were consolidated in Block’s map, which used the name New Netherland for the first time. On maps, it was also called Nova Belgica. During this period, there was some trading with the native population.

Fur trader Juan Rodriguez (in Dutch as Jan Rodrigues) was born in Santo Domingo of Portuguese and African descent. He arrived in Manhattan during the winter of 1613–1614, trapping for pelts and trading with the local population as a representative of the Dutch. He was the first recorded non-Native American inhabitant of what eventually became New York City.

Chartered trading companies

The immediate and intense competition among Dutch trading companies in the newly charted areas (especially in New York Bay and along the Hudson River) led to disputes and calls for regulation in Amsterdam. On March 17, 1614, the States General, the governing body of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, proclaimed that it would grant an exclusive patent for trade between the 40th and 45th parallels. This monopoly would be valid for four voyages, all of which had to be undertaken within three years after it was awarded. Block's map and the report which accompanied it were used by the New Netherland Company (a newly formed alliance of trading companies) to win its patent, which expired on January 1, 1618.

The New Netherland Company also ordered a survey of the Delaware Valley. This was undertaken by Cornelis Hendricksz of Monnickendam who explored the Zuyd Rivier (literally "South River," today known as the Delaware River) in 1616 from its bay to its northernmost navigable reaches. His observations were preserved in a map drawn in 1616. Hendricksz's voyages were made aboard the IJseren Vercken (Iron Hog), a vessel built in America. Despite the survey, the company was unable to secure an exclusive patent from the States General for the area between the 38th and 40th parallels.

The States General issued patents in 1614 for the development of New Netherland as a private, commercial venture. Soon thereafter, traders built Fort Nassau on Castle Island in the area of present-day Albany up Hudson's river. The fort was to defend river traffic against interlopers and to conduct fur trading operations with the natives. The location of the fort proved to be impractical, due to repeated flooding of the island in the summers, and it was abandoned in 1618, which coincided with the patent's expiration.

The Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie, or Chartered West India Company (WIC), was granted a charter by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands on June 3, 1621. It was given the exclusive right to operate in West Africa (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Cape of Good Hope) and the Americas. In New Netherland, profit was originally to be made from the North American fur trade.

Among the founders of the WIC was Willem Usselincx. Between 1600 and 1606, he had promoted the concept that a main goal of the company should be establishing colonies in the New World. In 1620, Usselincx made a last appeal to the States General, which rejected his principal vision as a primary goal. The legislators preferred the formula of trading posts with small populations and a military presence to protect them, which was working in the East Indies, over encouraging mass immigration and establishing large colonies. The company did not focus on colonization in North America until 1654, when forced to surrender Dutch Brazil and forfeit the richest sugar-producing area in the world.

Pre-colonial population

The first trading partners of the New Netherlanders were the Algonquian who lived in the area. The Dutch depended on the indigenous population to capture, skin, and deliver pelts to them, especially beaver. It is likely that Hudson's peaceful contact with the local Mahicans encouraged them to establish Fort Nassau in 1614, the first of many garrisoned trading stations to be built. In 1628, the Mohawks (members of the Iroquois Confederacy) conquered the Mahicans, who retreated to Connecticut. The Mohawks gained a near-monopoly in the fur trade with the Dutch, as they controlled the upstate Adirondacks and Mohawk Valley through the center of New York.

The Algonquian Lenape population around New York Bay and along the Lower Hudson were seasonally migrational people. The Dutch called the numerous tribes collectively the River Indians, known by their exonyms as the Wecquaesgeek, Hackensack, Raritan, Canarsee, and Tappan. These groups had the most frequent contact with the New Netherlanders. The Munsee inhabited the Highlands, Hudson Valley, and northern New Jersey, while Minquas (called the Susquehannocks by the English) lived west of the Zuyd Rivier along and beyond the Susquehanna River, which the Dutch regarded as their boundary with Virginia.

Company policy required land to be purchased from the indigenous peoples. The WIC would offer a land patent, the recipient of which would be responsible for negotiating a deal with representatives of the local population, usually the sachem or high chief. The Dutch (referred to by the natives as Swannekins, or salt water people) and the Wilden (as the Dutch called the natives) had vastly different conceptions of ownership and use of land—so much so that they did not understand each other at all. The Dutch thought that their proffer of gifts in the form of sewant or manufactured goods was a trade agreement and defense alliance, which gave them exclusive rights to farming, hunting, and fishing. Often, the Indians did not vacate the property, or reappeared seasonally, according to their migration patterns. They were willing to share the land with the Europeans, but the Indians did not intend to leave or give up access. This misunderstanding and other differences led to violent conflict later. At the same time, such differences marked the beginnings of a multicultural society.

Early settlement

Like the French in the north, the foremost interest of the Dutch focused upon the fur trade. To that end, they cultivated contingent relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois to procure greater access to key central regions from which the skins came.

The Dutch encouraged a kind of feudal aristocracy over time, to attract settlers to the region of the Hudson River, in what became known as the system of the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions. Further south, a Swedish trading company that had ties with the Dutch tried to establish its first settlement along the Delaware River three years later. Without resources to consolidate its position, New Sweden was gradually absorbed by New Holland and later in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The earliest Dutch settlement was built around 1613, and consisted of a number of small huts built by the crew of the "Tijger" (Tiger), a Dutch ship under the command of Captain Adriaen Block, which had caught fire while sailing on the Hudson. Soon after, the first of two Fort Nassaus was built, and small factorijen or trading posts went up, where commerce could be conducted with Algonquian and Iroquois population, possibly at Schenectady, Esopus, Quinnipiac, Communipaw, and elsewhere.

In 1617, Dutch colonists built a fort at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers where Albany now stands. In 1624, New Netherland became a province of the Dutch Republic, which had lowered the northern border of its North American dominion to 42 degrees latitude in acknowledgment of the claim by the English north of Cape Cod. The Dutch named the three main rivers of the province the Zuyd Rivier (South River), the Noort Rivier (North River), and the Versche Rivier (Fresh River). Discovery, charting, and permanent settlement were needed to maintain a territorial claim. To this end in May 1624, the VOC landed 30 families at Fort Orange and Noten Eylant (today's Governors Island) at the mouth of the North River. They disembarked from the ship New Netherland, under the command of Cornelis Jacobsz May, the first Director of the New Netherland. He was replaced the following year by Willem Verhulst.

In June 1625, 45 additional colonists disembarked on Noten Eylant from three ships named Horse, Cow, and Sheep, which also delivered 103 horses, steers, cows, pigs, and sheep. Some settlers were dispersed to the various garrisons built across the territory: upstream to Fort Orange, to Kievets Hoek on the Fresh River, and Fort Wilhelmus on the South River. Many of the settlers were not Dutch but Walloons, French Huguenots, or Africans (most as enslaved labor, some later gaining "half-free" status).

North River and The Manhattans

Peter Minuit became Director of the New Netherland in 1626 and made a decision that greatly affected the new colony. Originally, the capital of the province was to be located on the South River, but it was soon realized that the location was susceptible to mosquito infestation in the summer and the freezing of its waterways in the winter. He chose instead the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the river explored by Hudson, at that time called the North River.

Minuit traded some goods with the local population in one of the most legendary real-estate deals ever made, and reported that he had purchased it from the natives, as was company policy. He ordered the construction of Fort Amsterdam at its southern tip, around which grew the heart of the province which was called The Manhattoes in the vernacular of the day, rather than New Netherland.

The port city of New Amsterdam outside the walls of the fort became a major hub for trade between North America, the Caribbean, and Europe, and the place where raw materials were loaded, such as pelts, lumber, and tobacco. Sanctioned privateering contributed to its growth. It was given its municipal charter in 1653, by which time the Commonality of New Amsterdam included the isle of Manhattan, Staaten Eylandt, Pavonia, and the Lange Eylandt towns.

In the hope of encouraging immigration, the Dutch West India Company established the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions in 1629, which gave it the power to offer vast land grants and the title of patroon to some of its invested members. The vast tracts were called patroonships, and the title came with powerful manorial rights and privileges, such as the creation of civil and criminal courts and the appointing of local officials. In return, a patroon was required by the Company to establish a settlement of at least 50 families within four years who would live as tenant farmers. Of the original five patents given, the largest and only truly successful endeavour was Rensselaerswyck, at the highest navigable point on the North River, which became the main thoroughfare of the province. Beverwijck grew from a trading post to a bustling, independent town in the midst of Rensselaerwyck, as did Wiltwyck, south of the patroonship in Esopus country.

Kieft's War and the Remonstrance of New Netherland

Willem Kieft was Director New Netherland from 1638 until 1647. The colony had grown somewhat before his arrival but it did not flourish, and Kieft was under pressure to cut costs. At this time, a large number of Indian tribes who had signed mutual defense treaties with the Dutch were gathering near the colony due to widespread warfare and dislocation among the tribes to the north. At first, he suggested collecting tribute from the Indians, as was common among the various dominant tribes, but his demands were simply ignored by the Tappan and Wecquaesgeek. Subsequently, a colonist was murdered in an act of revenge for some killings that had taken place years earlier and the Indians refused to turn over the perpetrator. Kieft suggested that they be taught a lesson by ransacking their villages. In an attempt to gain public support, he created the citizens commission the Council of Twelve Men.

They did not rubber-stamp his ideas, as he had expected them to, but took the opportunity to mention grievances that they had with the company's mismanagement and its unresponsiveness to their suggestions. Kieft thanked and disbanded them and, against their advice, ordered that groups of Tappan and Wecquaesgeekbe be attacked at Pavonia and Corlear's Hook, even though they had sought refuge from their more powerful Mahican enemies per their treaty understandings with the Dutch. The massacre left 130 dead. Within days, the surrounding tribes united and rampaged the countryside, in a unique move, forcing settlers who escaped to find safety at Fort Amsterdam. For two years, a series of raids and reprisals raged across the province, until 1645 when Kieft's War ended with a treaty, in a large part brokered by the Hackensack sagamore Oratam.

The colonists were disenchanted with the previous governor, his ignorance of indigenous peoples, and the unresponsiveness of the WIC to their rights and requests, and they submitted the Remonstrance of New Netherland to the States General. This document was written by Leiden-educated New Netherland lawyer Adriaen van der Donck, condemning the VOC for mismanagement and demanding full rights as citizens of the province of the Netherlands.

Director-General of New Netherland

Petrus Stuyvesant arrived in New Amsterdam in 1647, the only governor of the colony to be called Director-General. Some years earlier land ownership policy was liberalized and trading was somewhat deregulated, and many New Netherlanders considered themselves entrepreneurs in a free market.

During the period of his governorship, the province experienced exponential growth. Demands were made upon Stuyvesant from all sides: the West India Company, the States General, and the New Netherlanders. Dutch territory was being nibbled at by the English to the north and the Swedes to the south, while in the heart of the province the Esopus were trying to contain further Dutch expansion. Discontent in New Amsterdam led locals to dispatch Adriaen van der Donck back to the United Provinces to seek redress. After nearly three years of legal and political wrangling, the Dutch Government came down against the VOC, granting the colony a measure of self-government and recalling Stuyvesant in April 1652. However, the orders were rescinded with the outbreak of the First Anglo-Dutch War a month later. Military battles were occurring in the Caribbean and along the South Atlantic coast. In 1654, the Netherlands lost New Holland in Brazil to the Portuguese, encouraging some of its residents to emigrate north and making the North American colonies more appealing to some investors. The Esopus Wars are so named for the branch of Lenape that lived around Wiltwijck, which was the Dutch settlement on the west bank of Hudson River between Beverwyk and New Amsterdam. These conflicts were generally over settlement of land by New Netherlanders for which contracts had not been clarified, and were seen by the natives as an unwanted incursion into their territory. Previously, the Esopus, a clan of the Munsee Lenape, had much less contact with the River Indians and the Mohawks.


New Netherlanders were not necessarily Dutch, and New Netherland was never a homogeneous society. An early governor, Peter Minuit, was a Walloon born in modern Germany who spoke English and worked for a Dutch company. The term New Netherland Dutch generally includes all the Europeans who came to live there, but may also refer to Africans, Indo-Caribbeans, South Americans and even the Native Americans who were integral to the society. Though Dutch was the official language, and likely the lingua franca of the province, it was but one of many spoken there. There were various Algonquian languages; Walloons and Huguenots tended to speak French, and Scandinavians brought their own tongues, as did the Germans. It is likely that the about 100 Africans (including both free men and slaves) on Manhattan spoke their mother tongues, but were taught Dutch from 1638 by Adam Roelantsz van Dokkum. English was already on the rise to become the vehicular language in world trade, and settlement by individuals or groups of English-speakers started soon after the inception of the province. The arrival of refugees from New Holland in Brazil may have brought speakers of Portuguese, Spanish, and Ladino (with Hebrew as a liturgical language). Commercial activity in the harbor could have been transacted simultaneously in any of a number of tongues.

The Dutch West India Company introduced slavery in 1625 with the importation of eleven black slaves who worked as farmers, fur traders, and builders. Although enslaved, the Africans had a few basic rights and families were usually kept intact. Admitted to the Dutch Reformed Church and married by its ministers, their children could be baptized. Slaves could testify in court, sign legal documents, and bring civil actions against whites. Some were permitted to work after hours earning wages equal to those paid to white workers. When the colony fell, the company freed the first slaves and some others, establishing early on a nucleus of free negros.

The Union of Utrecht, the founding document of the Dutch Republic, signed in 1579, stated "that everyone shall remain free in religion and that no one may be persecuted or investigated because of religion". The Dutch West India Company, however, established the Reformed Church as the official religious institution of New Netherland. Its successor church, the Reformed Church in America still exists today. The colonists had to attract, "through attitude and by example", the natives and nonbelievers to God's word "without, on the other hand, to persecute someone by reason of his religion, and to leave everyone the freedom of his conscience." In addition, the laws and ordinances of the states of Holland were incorporated by reference in those first instructions to the Governors Island settlers in 1624. There were two test cases during Stuyvesant's governorship in which the rule prevailed: the official granting of full residency for both Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews in New Amsterdam in 1655, and the Flushing Remonstrance, involving Quakers, in 1657. During the 1640s, two religious leaders, both women, took refuge in New Netherland: Anne Hutchinson and the Anabaptist Lady Deborah Moody.

South River and New Sweden

Apart from the second Fort Nassau, and the small community that supported it, settlement along the Zuyd Rivier was limited. An attempt by patroons of Zwaanendael, Samuel Blommaert and Samuel Godijn was destroyed by the local population soon after its founding in 1631 during the absence of their agent, David Pietersen de Vries.

Peter Minuit, who had construed a deed for Manhattan (and was soon after dismissed as director), knew that the Dutch would be unable to defend the southern flank of their North American territory and had not signed treaties with or purchased land from the Minquas. After gaining the support from the Queen of Sweden, he chose the southern banks of the Delaware Bay to establish a colony there, which he did in 1638, calling it Fort Christina, New Sweden. As expected, the government at New Amsterdam took no other action than to protest. Other settlements sprang up as colony grew, mostly populated by Swedes, Finns, Germans, and Dutch. In 1651, Fort Nassau was dismantled and relocated in an attempt to disrupt trade and reassert control, receiving the name Fort Casimir. Fort Beversreede was built in the same year, but was short-lived. In 1655, Stuyvesant led a military expedition and regained control of the region, calling its main town "New Amstel" (Nieuw-Amstel). During this expedition, some villages and plantations at the Manhattans (Pavonia and Staten Island) were attacked in an incident that is known as the Peach Tree War. These raids are sometimes considered revenge for the murder of an Indian girl attempting to pluck a peach, though it was likely that they were a retaliation for the attacks at New Sweden. A new experimental settlement was begun in 1673, just before the British takeover in 1674. Franciscus van den Enden had drawn up charter for a utopian society that included equal education of all classes, joint ownership of property, and a democratically elected government. Pieter Corneliszoon Plockhoy attempted such a settlement near the site of Zwaanendael, but it soon expired under English rule.

Fresh River and New England

Few settlers to New Netherland made Fort Goede Hoop their home on the Fresh River. As early as 1637, English settlers from the Massachusetts Bay Colony began to settle along its banks and on Lange Eylandt, some with the permission from the colonial government, and others with complete disregard for it. Developing simultaneously with that of New Netherland, the English colonies grew more rapidly, since settlement by religious groups (rather than trade) was the impetus for their creation and growth. It was fear of an invasion by the English that the wal or rampart was originally built at contemporary Wall Street. Initially, there was limited contact between New Englanders and New Netherlanders, but the two provinces engaged in direct diplomatic relations with a swelling English population and territorial disputes. The New England Confederation was formed in 1643 as a political and military alliance of the English colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. Connecticut and New Haven were actually on land claimed by the United Provinces, but the Dutch were unable to populate or militarily defend their territorial claim and therefore could do nothing but protest the growing flood of English settlers. With the 1650 Treaty of Hartford, Stuyvesant provisionally ceded the Connecticut River region to New England, drawing New Netherland's eastern border 50 Dutch miles (approximately 250 km) west of the Connecticut's mouth on the mainland and just west of Oyster Bay on Long Island. The Dutch West India Company refused to recognize the treaty, but it failed to reach any other agreement with the English, so the Hartford Treaty set the de facto border. Connecticut mostly assimilated into New England, although the western part of the state maintained stronger ties with the Tri-State Region.

Capitulation, restitution, and concession

In March 1664, Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland, resolved to annex New Netherland and "bring all his Kingdoms under one form of government, both in church and state, and to install the Anglican government as in old England." The directors of the Dutch West India Company concluded that the religious freedom which they offered in New Netherland would dissuade English colonists from working toward their removal. They wrote to Director-General Peter Stuyvesant:

. . . we are in hopes that as the English at the north (in New Netherland) have removed mostly from old England for the causes aforesaid, they will not give us henceforth so much trouble, but prefer to live free under us at peace with their consciences than to risk getting rid of our authority and then falling again under a government from which they had formerly fled.

On August 27, 1664, four English frigates led by Richard Nicolls sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanded New Netherland’s surrender. They met no resistance because numerous citizens’ requests had gone unheeded for protection by a suitable Dutch garrison against "the deplorable and tragic massacres" by the natives. That lack of adequate fortification, ammunition, and manpower made New Amsterdam defenseless, as well as the indifference from the West India Company to previous pleas for reinforcement of men and ships against "the continual troubles, threats, encroachments and invasions of the English neighbors." Stuyvesant negotiated successfully for good terms from his "too powerful enemies". In the Articles of Transfer, he and his council secured the principle of religious tolerance in Article VIII, which assured that New Netherlanders "shall keep and enjoy the liberty of their consciences in religion" under English rule. The Articles were largely observed in New Amsterdam and the Hudson River Valley, but they were immediately violated by the English along the Delaware River, where pillaging, looting, and arson were undertaken under the orders of English officer Sir Robert Carr, Kt. who had been dispatched to secure the valley. Many Dutch settlers were sold into slavery in Virginia on Carr's orders, and an entire Mennonite settlement was wiped out, led by Pieter Corneliszoon Plockhoy near modern Lewes, Delaware. The 1667 Treaty of Breda ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War; the Dutch did not press their claims on New Netherland, and the status quo was maintained, with the Dutch occupying Suriname and the nutmeg island of Run.

Within six years, the nations were again at war. The Dutch recaptured New Netherland in August 1673 with a fleet of 21 ships led by Vice Admiral Cornelius Evertsen and Commodore Jacob Binckes, then the largest ever seen in North America. They chose Anthony Colve as governor and renamed the city "New Orange," reflecting the installation of William of Orange as Lord-Lieutenant (stadtholder) of Holland in 1672, who became King William III of England in 1689. Nevertheless, the Dutch Republic was bankrupt after the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Dutch War in 1672–1674, the historic "disaster years" in which the republic was simultaneously attacked by the French under Louis XIV, the English, and the Bishops of Munster and Cologne. The States of Zeeland had tried to convince the States of Holland to take on the responsibility for the New Netherland province, but to no avail. In November 1674, the Treaty of Westminster concluded the war and ceded New Netherland to the English.


New Netherland grew into the largest metropolis in the United States, and it left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life, "a secular broadmindedness and mercantile pragmatism" greatly influenced by the social and political climate in the Dutch Republic at the time, as well as by the character of those who immigrated to it. It was during the early British colonial period that the New Netherlanders actually developed the land and society that had an enduring impact on the Capital District, the Hudson Valley, North Jersey, western Long Island, New York City, and ultimately the United States.

Political culture

The concept of tolerance was the mainstay of the province's Dutch mother country. The Dutch Republic was a haven for many religious and intellectual refugees fleeing oppression, as well as home to the world's major ports in the newly developing global economy. Concepts of religious freedom and free-trade (including a stock market) were Netherlands imports. In 1682, visiting Virginian William Byrd commented about New Amsterdam that "they have as many sects of religion there as at Amsterdam".

The Dutch Republic was one of the first nation-states of Europe where citizenship and civil liberties were extended to large segments of the population. The framers of the U.S. Constitution were influenced by the Constitution of the Republic of the United Provinces, though that influence was more as an example of things to avoid than of things to imitate. In addition, the Act of Abjuration, essentially the declaration of independence of the United Provinces from the Spanish throne, is strikingly similar to the later American Declaration of Independence, though there is no concrete evidence that one influenced the other. John Adams went so far as to say that “the origins of the two Republics are so much alike that the history of one seems but a transcript from that of the other.” The Articles of Capitulation (outlining the terms of transfer to the English) in 1664 provided for the right to worship as one wished, and were incorporated into subsequent city, state, and national constitutions in the USA, and are the legal and cultural code that lies at the root of the New York Tri-State traditions.

Many prominent US citizens are Dutch American directly descended from the Dutch families of New Netherland. The Roosevelt family produced two Presidents and are descended from Claes van Roosevelt, who emigrated around 1650. The Van Buren family of President Martin Van Buren also originated in New Netherland. The Bush family descendants from Flora Sheldon are descendants from the Schuyler family.


The colors of the flag of New York City, of Albany and of Nassau County are those of the old but still used Dutch flag. The blue, white and orange are also seen in materials from New York's two World's Fairs and the uniforms of the New York Knicks basketball club, the New York Islanders hockey club, and the New York Mets baseball club. Hofstra University, founded in 1935, takes its flag from the original.

The seven arrows in the lion's left claw in the Republic's coat of arms, representing the seven provinces, was a precedent for the thirteen arrows in the eagle's left claw in the Great Seal of the United States.

Any review of the legacy of New Netherland is complicated by the enormous impact of Washington Irving’s satirical A History of New York and its famous fictional author Diedrich Knickerbocker. Irving’s romantic vision of an enlightened, languid Dutch yeomanry dominated the popular imagination about the colony since its publication in 1809. To this day, many mistakenly believe that Irving’s two most famous short stories "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" are based on actual folk tales of Dutch peasants in the Hudson Valley.

The tradition of Santa Claus is thought to have developed from a gift-giving celebration of the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6 each year by the settlers of New Netherland. The Dutch Sinterklaas was Americanized into "Santa Claus", a name first used in the American press in 1773, when, in the early days of the revolt, Nicholas was used as a symbol of New York's non-British past. However, many of the "traditions" of Santa Claus may have simply been invented by Irving in his 1809 Knickerbocker's History of New York from The Beginning of the World To the End of The Dutch Dynasty.

Pinkster, the Dutch celebration of Spring is still celebrated in the Hudson Valley.


Dutch continued to be spoken in the region for some time. President Martin Van Buren grew up in Kinderhook, New York speaking only Dutch, later becoming the first president not to have spoken English as a first language. Pidgin Delaware developed early in the province as a vehicular language to expedite trade. A dialect known as Jersey Dutch was spoken in and around rural Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey until the early 20th century. Mohawk Dutch, spoken around Albany, is also now extinct.

Many Dutch words borrowed into English are evident in today's American vernacular and emanate directly from the legacy of New Netherland. For example, the quintessential American word Yankee may be a corruption of a Dutch name, Jan Kees. Knickerbocker, originally a surname, has been used to describe a number of things, including breeches, glasses, and a basketball team. Cookie is from the Dutch word koekje or (informally) koekie. Boss, from baas, evolved in New Netherland to the usage known today.


Early settlers and their descendents gave many placenames still in use throughout the region that was New Netherland. Using Dutch, and the Latin alphabet, they also "Batavianized" names of Native American geographical locations such as Manhattan, Hackensack, Sing-Sing, and Canarsie. Peekskill, Catskill, and Cresskill all refer to the streams, or kils, around which they grew. Schuylkill River is somewhat redundant, since kil is already built into it. Among those that use hoek, meaning corner, are: Red Hook, Sandy Hook, Constable Hook, and Kinderhook. Nearly pure Dutch forms name the bodies of water Spuyten Duyvil, Kill van Kull, and Hell Gate. Countless towns, streets, and parks bear names derived from Dutch places or from the surnames of the early Dutch settlers. Hudson and the House of Orange-Nassau lend their names to numerous places in the Northeast.


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