The Dutch Colonies in the New World



The Dutch showed less enterprise in planting colonies in America, and less persistence in sustaining them, than any other of the maritime nations of Europe. Their only settlement in North America was that of New Amsterdam, occupying Manhattan Island, and sending branch hamlets up the Hudson and to the shores of Long Island Sound and the South or Delaware River. This colony was held with very little vigor.

The Dutch permitted themselves to be supplanted in Connecticut by the English Puritans, with scarcely any resistance. The Swedes came into collision with them on the Delaware, though these intruders were eventually subjected to Dutch authority. And in their central seat on the Hudson they had to contend with unwarranted English invasions, and were finally conquered by the English, in times of peace, and without resistance either by the colony or by the mother-country. The story of this colony is of less interest than that of most of the other American settlements. It had its contests, its intestine difficulties, its troubles with the Indians, yet none of these were of striking importance.

When the Dutch arrived in America the tribes composing the Five Nations were at war with the Algonquin or Canada Indians. But the latter, having formed an alliance with the French, who some years previous to this date had commenced the settlement of New France, as Canada was called, derived such powerful aid from the fire-arms of their European allies that the Iroquois were defeated in almost every rencontre with their ancient enemy. Smarting under the disgrace of these unexpected repulses, the Iroquois hailed the establishment among them, now, of another European nation familiar with the use of these terrible instruments, which, almost without human intervention, scattered death wherever they were directed, and defied the war-club and bow and arrow as weapons of attack or defence. Though jealous by nature, and given to suspicion, the Indians exhibited none of these feelings towards the new-comers, whose numbers were too few even to protect themselves or to inflict injury on others. On the contrary, they courted their friendship, for through them they shrewdly calculated on being placed in a condition to cope with the foe, or to obtain that bloody triumph for which they thirsted. Such were the circumstances which now led to that treaty of alliance which, as the tradition goes, was concluded on the banks of the Norman's Kill, between the Five Nations and the Dutch.

Up to 1623 only trading-settlements existed. In that year the actual colonization of the country took place, though a governor was not appointed till two years afterwards. Captain Mey, who took out the settlers, also ascended Delaware Bay and River in 1623, and built Fort Nassau, a few miles below Camden. This fort was soon abandoned. In 1631 a colony was planted in Delaware, near the present Lewistown, but the settlers were soon murdered by the Indians. The Dutch claim now extended from Cape Henlopen to Cape Cod. This claim was disputed by the New-Englanders, who formed settlements in Connecticut and on Long Island. They endeavored, also, to trade with the Hudson River Indians. In 1633 one Jacob Eelkins arrived at New Amsterdam in an English ship called the William. He was ordered to depart by Wouter van Twiller, the Dutch governor.

After an interval of five days, the factor of the William went again on shore to the fort, to inquire if the director-general would permit him, in a friendly way, to ascend the river, stating at the same time that, if he would not allow it, he [Eelkins] would proceed without his consent, if it should cost him his life. But van Twiller was immovable. Instead of consenting, he ordered the ship's crew on shore, and, in the presence of all, commanded the Prince of Orange's flag to be run up the fort, and three pieces of ordnance to be fired in honor of his highness. Eelkins, not to be outdone, immediately ordered his gunner to go on board the William, to hoist the English flag, and fire a salute of three guns in honor of the King of England, which was accordingly done. Van Twiller now warned Eelkins to take heed that what he was about did not cost him his neck. Eelkins, however, noway daunted, returned on board with the ship's crew. The anchor was weighed, and the William shortly after sailed up the river, "near to a fort called Orange."

Director van Twiller, incensed at this audacity, collected all the servants of the company in the fort before his door, ordered a barrel of wine to be broached, and, having taken a bumper, cried out, "Those who love the Prince of Orange and me, emulate me in this, and assist me in repelling the violence committed by that Englishman!" The cask of wine was soon emptied, but the people were noways disposed at first to trouble the Englishman. . . .

The William having, in the meanwhile, arrived in the neighborhood of Fort Orange, the factor and crew went ashore "about a mile below that fort," set up a tent, and, having landed all their goods, immediately opened an active trade with the natives. It was not long before the news of these proceedings came to the ears of Houten, the commissary at Fort Orange. He forthwith embarked, with a trumpeter, on board a shallop, over which waved some green boughs, and proceeded to where Eelkins was. "By the way the trumpet was sounded, and the Dutchmen drank a bottle of strong waters of three or four pints, and were right merry." The Dutch set up a tent by the side of that of the English; did as much as they could to disparage their cloth and other goods, with a view to hinder the latter's trade; but the Indians, having been well acquainted with Eelkins, who had "heretofore lived four yeares among them," and could speak their language, were a good deal more willing to trade with him than with the others, and he consequently had every prospect of advantageously disposing of his merchandise, having been fourteen days there, when a Dutch officer arrived from below, in command of three vessels, a pinnace, a carvel, and a hoy, bearing two letters, protesting against Eelkins, and ordering him to depart forthwith.

To enforce these commands came soldiers "from both the Dutch forts, armed with muskets, half-pikes, swords, and other weapons," and, after having beaten several of the Indians who had come to trade with Eelkins, ordered the latter to strike his tent. In vain he pleaded that he was on British soil, and that British subjects had a right to trade there; the Dutch would not listen to any remonstrances. They pulled his tent about his ears, sent the goods on board, "and, as they were carrying them to the ship, sounded their trumpet in the boat in disgrace of the English."

In 1640 war began with the neighboring Indians, which continued till terminated by the mediation of the Iroquois, in 1645. In 1638 the Swedes settled on the Delaware, near the present Wilmington, and gradually extended their settlements until 1655, when they were attacked by the Dutch, and all their forts captured. The Swedes remained, under Dutch government. In 1664 the King of England granted to his brother James all the country from the Connecticut to the Delaware, heedless of the claims of the Dutch. A squadron was sent out, and the Dutch were forced to surrender New Amsterdam. Thus, by an act of flagrant injustice, while England and Holland were at peace, the Dutch dominion in North America was overthrown, after half a century of existence.





Return to The Great Republic by the Master Historians (Vol 1)