New Amsterdam Becomes New York — William J. Jackman

Peter Stuyvesant

Americanist History, 1609-1683, William J. Jackman

Manhattan in the meanwhile was gaining numbers by emigration. The stern Stuyvesant was some times intolerant, but the company wished the people to enjoy the rights of conscience. They wished New Amsterdam to be as liberal to the exile for religion’s sake as was its namesake in the Old World. Every nation in Europe had here its representatives. It was remarked “that the inhabitants were of different sects and nations, and that they spoke many different languages.” The public documents were issued sometimes in Dutch, sometimes in English, and sometimes in French. Two centuries ago it was prophesied that here would be centered the commerce of the world. Time is realizing the prediction. To promote emigration the mechanic had his passage given him. The poor persecuted Waldens came from their native valleys and mountains at the expense of the old city of Amsterdam. Africa, too, had her representatives. Her sons and daughters were brought as slaves at the charge of the West Indian Company; and the city of Amsterdam, in this case also, shared the expense and the profit.

The spirit of democracy began to pervade the minds of the Dutch; the credit of this has been given to the New Englanders, who were continually enlightening them on the subject of the freedom of Englishmen. This annoyed Stuyvesant beyond endurance. He often expressed his contempt for the “wavering multitude;” he despised the people, and scoffed at the idea that they could govern themselves. It was their duty to work, and not discuss the mysteries of government. They had no voice in the choice of their rulers, and were even forbidden to hold meetings to talk of their affairs. Stuyvesant finally consented to let them hold a convention of two delegates from each settlement; but as soon as these delegates began to discuss his conduct as governor, he dissolved the convention, bluntly telling them he derived his authority from the company, and not from “a few ignorant subjects.” When a citizen, in a case in which he thought himself aggrieved, threatened to appeal to the States-General of Holland, “If you do” said the angry governor, “I will make you a foot shorter than you are.” When the day of trial came, Stuyvesant found that by such despotic measures he had lost the goodwill of the people of every class and nation.

Rumors were now rife that the English were about to subdue New Netherland. The people for the most part were indifferent; they had now no civil rights, and to them the change might be for the better; it was not probable that it would be for the worse. The English portion longed for the rights of Englishmen. Though there had been war between England and Holland, the people of Virginia and New England, except perhaps those of Connecticut, were well disposed toward the Dutch as neighbors.

Stuyvesant was soon relieved of his troubles with the people of Manhattan. Charles II, without regard to the rights of Holland, with whom he was at peace, or to the rights of the people of Connecticut under their charter, gave to his brother, the Duke of York, the entire country from the Connecticut to the Delaware. The first intimation Stuyvesant had of this intended robbery, was the presence of a fleet, under Richard Nicholls, sent to put in execution the orders of the English king. The fleet had brought to Boston the commissioners for New England, and there received recruits, and sailed for New Amsterdam. All was in confusion; Stuyvesant wished to make resistance, but the people were indifferent. What was to be done? The fleet was in the bay, and the recruits from New England had just pitched their tents in Brooklyn: Long Island was already in the hands of the enemy: Nicholls sent Stuyvesant a letter requiring him to surrender his post, which the valiant governor refused to do without a struggle. A meeting of the principal inhabitants was called; they very properly asked for the letter which the governor had received from the English admiral. They wished to know the terms he offered to induce them to acknowledge English authority. Rather than send the letter to be read to the “wavering multitude,” the angry Stuyvesant tore it to pieces. Instead, therefore, of preparing to defend themselves against the enemy the people protested against the arbitrary conduct of the governor. At length the capitulation was made, on the condition that the people should be protected in their rights and property, religion and institutions.

In a few days Fort Orange surrendered; and in a few weeks the Dutch and Swedes on the shores of the Delaware passed under the rule of England. Nicholls was appointed governor. New Amsterdam was to be hereafter known as New York, and Fort Orange as Albany.

Source: Jackman, William J. History of the American Nation, Volume 1, Chapter 13: p. 212-215, Chicago, 1911.

Americanist History is a project of The Moral Liberal. Compiled and edited (with occasional commentary) by The Moral Liberal, Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell.

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