Part of the American History and Genealogy Project

New Netherland

In common with other maritime nations of Western Europe, the upbuilding of Spain, by reason of her West India trade, led Holland to seek in the New World equal if not greater commercial prestige. The cause was one that appealed to the Dutch. Hating Spain with deadly hatred, ambitious to test her influence as a world power, limitless in her resources, a proposition made by William Usselinx, an exiled Antwerp merchant, led, in 1606, to the formation of a definite plan for a West India Company. The corporation was to have a life of thirty-six years, and to receive for a time the support of the United Provinces. Owing to jealousies of these provinces, the possibilities of the ships of the company preying upon Spanish commerce, and jeopardizing a possible peace with Spain, the idea was temporarily abandoned.

The year 1609 is made memorable by the appearance upon the shores of America of Henry Hudson, an English navigator in the employ of the East India Company, who, abandoning at sea his plan to find a northeast passage to India, proposed to seek at 40 N. latitude a northwest passage. Failing to find an inlet to the Western Ocean at Newfoundland, Penobscot Bay, or Cape Cod, he sailed for a week in Delaware Bay and River, and early in September, after landing upon Sandy Hook, took his yacht, "Half Moon," one hundred and fifty miles toward the headwaters of the "Great North River of New Netherland." Upon his return to Europe the excitement caused in Holland by the discovery of Hudson was unbounded, says Berthold Fernow in his chapter on "New Netherland" in Winsor's "Narrative and Critical History of America," particularly because "the newly discovered country abounded in furbearing animals," an important consideration to a people compelled "to resort to very warm clothing in winter."

The voyage of Hudson was followed by a number of private ventures, and, under authority, the Dutch established themselves on Manhattan Island in 1614. In 1623 more formal possession was taken of the territory by the West India Company, which had been finally chartered in 1621 by the States General. In the former year Captain Cornelis Jacobsen Mey entered the Prince Hendrick or South River, built Fort Nassau near Red Bank, and named the north cape of Delaware Bay in his honor, while Adrian Joresson Tienpont, in the Prince Mauritius or North River, strengthened the defenses on the point of Manhattan Island. Near the fort at Albany, which had been erected in 1618, he built a new structure which he called Fort Orange.

Preparations were made for colonizing and governing the settlements of the Hudson River Valley.


English navigator; first known in April, 1607, when he started on his first unfortunate voyage for discovery of northeast passage.

Reached Nova Zembla 1608; sailed on third voyage in "Half Moon" from Amsterdam 1609, discovering mouth of Hudson River.

Sailed on last voyage and reached Greenland, June, 1610; discovered Hudson Straight and Bay; crew mutinied and east him, his son John, and seven others adrift, in a shallop, Midsummer Day, 1611; no trace of him was ever found.

Director Peter Minuit, in 1626, for the value of twenty-four dollars, secured the Indian title to Manhattan Island, and a new "charter of freedom and exemptions," strongly tinctured with the faults of the feudal system, was secured from the government of Holland. But while this charter was under discussion some of the directors of the West India Company, between April, 1630, and July, 1631, "took advantage of their position and secured for themselves a share in the new privileges by purchasing from the Indians, as the charter required, the most conveniently located and fertile tracts of land." This policy of purchase, instituted by the Dutch and adopted by the Quakers, was a recognition that the Indian had rights of life, liberty, opinion, and property. It was the acknowledgment of those rights that won for the Dutch the friendship of the Indian, who, by holding back the French in Canada, made Holland's province in America a possibility and thus permitted united action of the colonies in the French and Indian War.

Of the patroonships established along the upper Hudson and in New Jersey but one, Rensselaerswyck, at Fort Orange, was successful. An association of merchants, among whom was Captain David Pietersen de Vries, the cartographer, had purchased the two lower counties of the present State of Delaware, to which region were sent

two vessels filled with colony-planters, designed to cultivate grain and tobacco and to conduct the whale fishery. The plan proving partially successful, a second attempt was made, this time in New Jersey.

Upon the 3d of June, 1631, Director Peter Minuit issued a patent to Samuel Godyn and Samuel Bloemm‘rt, under the "jurisdiction of Their Noble High Mightinesses, the Lords States-General of the United Netherlands and the Incorporated West India Company, Department of New Amsterdam." It is one of two documents found in Holland which have come down from the times of the Dutch West India Company, the rest having been sold as waste paper. The Indians, "lawful owners, proprietors, and inhabitants of the East side of Goddyn's East bay called Cape de Maye," through Peter Heyssen, skipper of the "Walvis," and Gillis Hosset, commissary of the vessel, evidently agents of Godyn and Bloemm‘rt, conveyed to the patroons a tract of land embracing sixteen square miles. The estate, which is loosely described, but which included the southern portion of Cape May County, is designated as being upon "the east side of Godyn's bay or Cape de May, reaching 4 miles from the said cape towards the bay, and 4 miles along the coast southward, and another 4 miles inland."

In May, 1632, a second expedition came to the South River, but the Indians having killed the thirty-two settlers at Zwanendale in the State of Delaware, the attempts toward colonization in Delaware and Cape May were abandoned. Two years later the title to these tracts was once more, by sale, vested in the West India Company.

The creation of the patroonship in America is one of those interesting features of colonial life almost forgotten. Claiming manorial rights, with power to hold courts, the "patroon" was granted a tract of land, if on a river, sixteen miles upon one bank or eight miles upon both banks, extending into the back country as far "as the situation of the occupiers will permit." In consideration of such a grant of land, of which the patroon was judge as well as owner, he bound himself to transport to the Hudson or the Delaware fifty settlers above the age of fifteen, provide each at his own expense with a stocked farm, furnish a pastor and schoolmaster, and to charge a low rent. The emigrants bound themselves to cultivate the land for ten years, to use only Holland cloth, to have their grain ground at the patroon's mill, and to offer the sale of the grain first to the patroon.

Under the administration of Wouter Van Twiller, who as director succeeded Peter Minuit, the affairs of New Netherland came to an unhappy pass. An Indian purchase of lands in Connecticut in 1633 and the erection of Fort Hope, near Hartford, led to a quarrel with the English, and the erection of Fort Beversrede on the Schuylkill, with additions made to Fort Nassau, implied a bold assertion of Holland's claims to all the lands in the valleys of the Hudson and the Delaware. The revenues of the Dutch West India Company were used in building up New Amsterdam (New York City) and Fort Orange (Albany), while the director granted to himself and his friends the best lands in the colony.

Quarrels between the patroon of Rensselaerswyck and the West India Company over the interpretation of the privileges granted in 1629, the failure of the company to send colonists to America, and Van Twiller's maladministration, as pointed out by Berthold Fernow, were the causes leading to a general retrogression of the colony. But as the charter of the company was the fundamental evil it was decided to overthrow the monopoly and to open the colony, in trade and agriculture, "to every immigrant denizen or foreigner." Into New Amsterdam poured a new population,--New Englanders, escaping religious persecution, freed servants from the tobacco plantations of Virginia and Maryland, wealthy planters, and peasant farmers of Continental Europe,--so that in 1643 eighteen nationalities were represented in a population early cosmopolitan.

The administration of William Kieft, who succeeded Van Twiller in 1637 and remained in office until 1647, was largely marked by a demand for popular representation in the government of the colony. The first representative body upon the shores of the Hudson was an advisory board elected in 1643 by the people to consult with the director and his council upon the expediency of an Indian war. This board the director abolished, although the small towns in the colony enjoyed as large a share of self-governing as those in the mother country. New Amsterdam, however, was still ruled through the company by the director and his council.

The arrival of Peter Stuyvesant as director of New Netherland meant a certain political change. Under his instructions the colony was to be governed by the director-general, and a council composed of the vice-director and the fiscal, an officer appointed to give his opinion upon financial and judicial questions and, if required, to act as public prosecutor, while the people were given the right to be heard by the provincial government on the general conditions of the province. But in spite of an evident desire to do justice, although obstinate in tenaciously holding to the rights and privileges of his office, Stuyvesant was compelled to witness the decline and ultimate fall of Holland's power in America. Hampered by lack of funds, he could not provide for the protection of New Amsterdam, which was almost destroyed by an attack of the Indians from the surrounding country in 1655, while the military force of New Netherland was rooting out Sweden on the Delaware. This disaster was avenged in 1663, when, for the murder of several Esopus settlers, the Indian tribe of that name was obliterated.

In a treaty with Connecticut in 1650 the director had been compelled to relinquish Holland's claims to the soil of that colony. The principal towns of Long Island were in the hands of the English. Stuyvesant had assumed some of the quarrels of Kieft--enough to create a popular party crying for liberty, which obtained his consent, reluctantly given, for the meeting of a General Assembly to consider the state of the province.

Upon the Delaware affairs were in little better shape. From 1655 to 1657 both the Swedish and Dutch settlers were treated to a display of administrative incompetence, while in May of the latter year the West India Company ceded a part of the Delaware region to the City of Amsterdam, and in consequence the name of Fort Casimir was changed to New Amstel and Christina to Altena. The remaining years until 1664, when the Dutch possessions passed into the hands of the English, were occupied with internal quarrels between the authorities and external troubles with Maryland concerning the Indian question. During the decade of Dutch rule the colony on the Delaware made little or no progress. Its very helplessness was almost pathetic.

Of the settlements made upon the New Jersey shore of the Hudson River and intimately associated with the early history of the Dutch in New York was the locality known as Hobocan-hackingh, where the Indians and fur traders crossed to trade gewgaws for peltries. Here in 1609, upon the voyage of the "Half Moon," Henry Hudson and Juet, his mate and historiographer, saw the "cliff that looked of the color of white green"--now the Castle Point estate of the Stevens family, and which the Dutch navigators supposed to be formed of copper or silver ore.

In the year 1630 was created the patroonship of Pavonia, derived from pavo, the Latin equivalent of the Dutch paaun, peacock, which appears in the surname of Michiel Pauw, Burger of Amsterdam and Baron of Achtienhoven, in South Holland. His patroonship embraced the Hudson River front opposite New York City, thus including Hobocan-hackingh, from which the locative "hackingh" was later dropped. He made little progress in settling the tract, in compliance with the conditions of his grant, and the West India Company brought him to account in 1634, seeking to revoke their concession. He resisted, and the company bought him out for twenty-six thousand florins. In 1633 the company had erected two houses in Pavonia--one at Communipaw and one at Ahasimus, the former later occupied by Jan Evertsen Bout (1634) and the latter by Cornelis Van Vorst (1636), who died in 1638.

During the Dutch occupancy of New York but little development was made at Hobocan-hackingh--"the place of the tobacco pipe." In 1643 Aert Teunissen Van Putten occupied a farmhouse and brewhouse which had been erected north of Hoboken, and attempts were made to promote agriculture. But the somewhat inaccessible river front and the superior advantages of the lower land to the southward led to the later but more active growth of Hoboken's neighbor--Jersey City.

From the unsuccessful patroonship of Michiel Pauw sprung another settlement, that of Michael Paulusen, who, in 1633, at Paulus Hook, erected a hut where he purchased peltries from the Indians. The site of this trading hut lies nearly one thousand feet to the westward of the ferry house, the river having been filled in to that extent. For many years the little colony at Jersey City remained a trading and small agricultural community, nor was it until 1660 that the town of Bergen, now Jersey City Heights, was established, and for the protection of the inhabitants a palisaded fort was erected at Bergen Square. A Reformed Dutch Church was organized immediately, the people worshiping for nearly twenty years in the log schoolhouse, until a substantial church edifice was erected in 1682. The congregation is the oldest in New Jersey. Here the Dutch settlers could look far to the eastward over the island-dotted swamps, where Jersey City was some day to arise, and down its long road, often tide-swept, as late as the Revolutionary War, to the sand-spit at Paulus Hook. Beyond lay the Hudson and the tree-girt shores of Manhattan Island, and in the blue haze the lowlands of Brooklyn.

Through the ignorance and stupidity of Governor William Kieft the early annals of Jersey City were "stained by a most atrocious tragedy." The Tappan Indians of the vicinity were most peaceably disposed, and, being harassed by a northern tribe, fled for protection to the settlers of Communipaw, now the village of Lafayette. Moved by the arguments and wine of those greedy for Indian lands, Kieft gave an order for the extirpation of the members of this tribe, who had thrown themselves upon the hospitality of the settlers. According to William L. Stone, in his study of the suburbs of New York, printed in the "Memorial History" of that city, eighty Dutch soldiers, on the night of February 27, 1643, under command of a Sergeant Rodolf, attacked the sleeping Indians, who were encamped at Jan de Lacher's Hook in Lafayette, and, regardless of sex, with brutal atrocity, massacred eighty aborigines, young and old. The bodies of the dead were thrown indiscriminately into trenches. Believing that they had been attacked by the Mohawks, some of the refugees fled to New Amsterdam, begging from the inhuman governor a protection to which they were so well entitled.

The natural result was an Indian war, waged with unrelenting fury from the Raritan to the Connecticut. Farms were laid waste, women and children dragged into captivity, and "not a white person was safe except, indeed, those who sought and found refuge within the palisades of Fort Amsterdam." Thereafter the history of the settlements in Hoboken and Jersey City is without especial interest until the arrival of the English conquerors.

During the period of political control of Holland over the territory embraced within the limits of the State of New Jersey her occupancy of the soil west of the Hudson River was of a distinctively tentative character. Over a vast portion of the State the foot of the white man had never trod. Toward the Swedes the position of Holland was that of armed neutrality, and in spite of occasional assurances of friendship the Dutch awaited the time when Swedish politics had become so shaped that the Delaware settlements would fall an easy prey.

At last, finding them unprotected, Holland struck the blow and assimilated the trading posts and the farms in the Delaware and Schuylkill Valleys. Other than this, the attention of the Dutch was devoted almost exclusively to the upbuilding of Albany and New York and the establishment of communities upon the lower Hudson. In short, the political power of Holland was due more to physical than to artificial causes, and to the fact that England, during the Cromwellian period, had first civil war and then European complications to occupy her attention. In holding the mouth of the Hudson and adjacent territory, and later the Delaware, the Dutch separated the New England colonies from the possessions of the English crown in Maryland and Virginia, and were in a sense placed in a position to dictate terms to an intruder. Such would, indeed, have been the case had not the Dutch West India Company been at the first so unwieldy a corporation. Its assumptiveness fostered jealousies, and its power, exercised through more or less obstinate and inefficient governors, bore heavily upon the colonists. When the superior force of England came at last the conquerors found a community which, through misgovernment, was quite ready to change masters, provided the newcomers permitted them the liberty of ancient speech, domestic customs, and social and religious freedom. These privileges being granted, it is later that the true Dutch influence which has been of a most enduring character appears in New Jersey.

A recent historian very properly observes that in summing up the question of the occupancy of New Jersey by the Dutch and Swedes the fact remains undisputed that, while vast claims were made by both nations, neither regarded their settlements, in the State, as anything more than mere outlying dependencies. The Dutch interests were centered in New York and Albany, the Swedish in Wilmington and Tinicum Island, while but little effort was made to colonize New Jersey.

Underlying all assertions made that both the Dutch and Swedes sought a religious asylum in the New World is the ever-recurring fact that the two nations were moved by a common impulse--that of territorial acquisition in the partition of a new continent and the economic advantages derivable there from. Indeed, both the Hollanders and Swedes, at home, enjoyed a large degree of religious freedom, and, while both transplanted to America a spirit of toleration, the contention that they came to America solely to seek such an advantage falls to the ground.

Nevertheless it must not be forgotten that to the Hollander is due the credit for establishing the principle of purchasing Indian title to land, that he planted wherever he went his church and his school, that in spite of a certain intensity of obstinate pride he respected civil authority and lent his aid to the upbuilding of a moral state. In politics the Hollander took the side of justice to the oppressed; in religion he fought to the end for the sake of principle. While New Amsterdam was struggling for existence Old Amsterdam was the center of a life of culture and refinement, where science, art, and music, as well as the learned professions, were joined in a community of interests. While such progress at home found but faint reflection in America, the hardships which the colonists encountered for the commercial glory of the mother country must ever be to Holland as great a compensation as their presence to distant generations of America was a gain.

New Jersey as a Colony and as a State, One of the Original Thirteen, by Francis Bazley Lee, Associate Board of Editors William S. Stryker, LL.D.: William Nelson, A.M., Garret D. W. Vroom: Ernest C. Richardson, PH. D.; Volume One; The Publishing Society of New Jersey New York MDCCCCII (1902) transcribed by Fred Kunchick

Back to New Jersey


Please Come Back Again!

This web page was last updated.
Sunday, 24-Jan-2016 10:46:42 EST

Back to AHGP

Copyright August @2011 - 2023 AHGP - Judy White & Susan Dorris
All rights reserved.
We encourage links, but please do not copy our work