WHEN industry was made honorable in Holland, the feudal system began to decay. It was a system embracing large land-owners, whose tenants were military men who controlled all labor and bore allegiance to the lordly proprietor. In the new era which had gradually dawned in Holland, the owner of the soil was no longer the head of a band of armed depredators who were his dependants, but the careful proprietor of broad acres, and devoted to industry and thrift. The nobles who composed the landlord class gradually came down from the stilts of exclusiveness, and in habits and even costume imitated the working people. The latter became elevated in the social scale. Their rights were respected, and their value in the state was duly estimated. Ceaseless toil in Holland was necessary to preserve the hollow land from the invasion of the sea, and the common needs assimilated all classes in a country where all must work or drown.
It was this state of society in Holland which stimulated agricultural interests in New Netherland, and changed trading into farming communities. This impulse was much accelerated by a charter of "Privileges and Exemptions" given by the Dutch West India Company in 1629, for the purpose of encouraging agricultural settlements on their American domain. They reserved the lands on and around the island of Manhattan, which they called the commercial emporium of the province, and required that all products for exportation should first be brought there. To persons who were disposed to settle in any other part of the province, the Company offered as much land as each emigrant might be able to improve, with "free liberty of hunting and fowling," under the direction of the provincial governor. They also offered to every person who should "discover any shores, bays, or other fit places for erecting fisheries, or the making of salt-ponds," an absolute property in such discovery.
The rural tenantry of Holland were not rich enough to avail themselves of this privilege, so the Company offered inducements for wealthy citizens to promote emigration, by transplanting into America the modified feudal system of the Netherlands. They offered to grant lands and manorial privileges and exemptions to any member of the Company who should, within four years, plant a colony of fifty adults in any part of New Netherland outside of Manhattan Island; such proprietor being constituted feudal chief of the domain which he might thus colonize. The lands of each colony were limited to sixteen miles along one shore of a navigable stream, or to eight miles if they occupied both shores, but they might extend into the interior indefinitely. It was also provided that if any proportionably greater number of emigrants should be settled by a proprietor, the area of his domain should be extended in the same ratio. He was to be absolutely lord of the manor, political and otherwise. He might hold inferior courts for the adjudication of petty civil cases; and if cities should grow up on his domain he was to have power to appoint the magistrates and other officers of such municipalities, and have a deputy to confer with the governor.
The settlers under the "patroons," as these manorial proprietors were called, were to be exempted from all taxation and tribute for the support of the provincial government for ten years; and for the same period every man, woman and child was bound not to leave the service of the patroon without his written consent. The colonists were forbidden to manufacture cloth of any kind, on pain of banishment; and the Company agreed to furnish them with as many African slaves "as they conveniently could;" also to protect them against foes. Each colony was bound to support a minister of the Gospel and a schoolmaster, and so provide a comforter for the sick and a teacher of the illiterate. It was also provided that every colonist, whether patroon or an independent settler, should first make a satisfactory arrangement with the Indians for the lands they should occupy.
Such is a brief outline of the charter of "Privileges and Exemptions" under which several large manorial estates were acquired in New Netherland, one of which (the Van Rensselaer Manor on the Hudson) existed, with some of its privileges, until late in the present century. It recognized the right of the Indians to the soil; invited independent farmers to whom a homestead should be secured; promised protection to all in case of war, and encouraged religion and learning. Yet this system of colonization was not so favorable to the development and growth of popular liberty as was that in New England.
While this charter was under consideration in the meetings of the Company at Amsterdam, two of the directors (Samuel Godyn and Samuel Bloemmaert) purchased of the Indians a tract of land on Delaware Bay, extending from Cape Henlopen (the southern boundary of New Netherland) northward, full thirty miles, and two miles in the interior. This purchase was ratified by the Company when the charter was issued. Very soon afterward Killian Van Rensselaer purchased a large tract of the natives on the upper navigable waters of the Hudson River; and Michael Pauw, another director, secured by the same means a large tract in New Jersey at the mouth of the river, opposite Manhattan, and all of Staten Island. This adroit management of wide-awake directors, in securing the best lands in the province, as to situation--who "helped themselves by the cunning trick of merchants"--provoked jealousy and ill-will among their fellow-directors, which was finally allayed by admitting others into partnership with them.
Immediate steps were taken for colonizing these manors. Under the direction of Captain de Vries, an eminent navigator and friend of Godyn, who had made him a partner in the purchase, two ships sailed with colonists, cattle, seeds and agricultural implements, for Delaware Bay. They left the Texel under the command of Peter Heyes on the 12th of December, 1630, and took the long southern route by way of the Canaries and the West Indies. One of the vessels was captured; the other, carrying eighteen cannon, did not reach the Delaware until April following. Near the site of the village of Lewiston, thirty emigrants, with their cattle and implements, seated themselves. There Heyes set up a wooden column, and on it placed a piece of tin emblazoned with the arms of Holland in token of taking possession of the country in the name of the States-General. The place was named Swaanendael. They built a house and stockaded it; and then Captain Heyes went over to the New Jersey shore and purchased from the Indians, in the name of Godyn, a tract of land along the coast from Cape May, twelve miles. In the autumn, Heyes returned to Holland, leaving the colony in charge of Gillis Hossett.
In the spring of 1632, De Vries went with two vessels to the Delaware. There a sad sight greeted him. The house which the settlers had built was in ruins; the palisades had been burned; and the bones of the settlers strewed the ground. They had all been murdered by the Indians. One of the Indians told De Vries all about it. A chief thoughtlessly took down the piece of tin which bore the arms of Holland, to make a tobacco-pipe of it. Hossett made such ado about it, that the Indians, to allay the feeling, slew the offending chief, and sent his scalp to the Dutch commander. When the bearer presented it, Hossett told him the Indians had done wrong; that had the offender been brought to him he would only have cautioned him not to repeat the offence. The friends of the victim burned with vengeful desires, and determined to destroy the white people as a retribution. A party of warriors visited the settlement under the guise of friendship, and massacred the whole of them in their houses and in the fields. This crime was for-given, and the Indians and Hollanders remained friends.
A competition with the English and Dutch for American possessions now appeared in the North. The enlightened Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, had looked with longing eyes westward as he heard from time to time of the rich countries beyond the British isles. At length he was excited to action by William Usselincx, the projector of the Dutch West India Company, who, dissatisfied with his associates in that corporation, visited Sweden, and laid before its monarch well-arranged plans for colonization on the Delaware. The king was delighted. He entered warmly into the projects of Usselincx, and was preparing for the execution of a scheme for planting a colony in America that should be an open asylum for all Christians, when the danger which threatened Protestantism in Germany called him to the field to contend for the principles of the Reformation. While leading victorious armies against the Imperial hosts marshalled under the banner of the Pope on the fields of Germany, he did not forget the scheme for American colonization. At Nuremburg he drew up a paper for his great chancellor, the Count Oxenstierna, in which he recommended the enterprise as "the jewel of his kingdom." A few days afterwards he was face to face with his enemy at Lutzen, in battle array. On their knees he and the brave Swedes sang Luther's glorious hymn, Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott--"A tower of strength is our God." Then they sang a hymn composed by the king himself, and springing to their feet, they made a furious charge upon the Imperialists, Gustavus leading the right wing. He fell covered with mortal wounds.
But the words of Gustavus did not die. Oxensteirna, at the head of a regency, administered the government for the heir to the throne, Christina, who was then only six years of age. "A colony in America would, indeed, be a precious jewel in the crown of Sweden," said the wise Chancellor. He had favored the project from the beginning; and in 1634, he issued a charter for a Swedish West India Company.
Governor Minuit, who had been recalled from New Netherland because he had favored the grasping patroons too much, it was thought, hastened to Stockholm and offered the fruits of his experience in America and his personal services to the new company. They were gladly accepted; and at near the close of 1637, he sailed from Gottenburg with fifty emigrants in two vessels, bearing a commission to plant a colony on the west side of Delaware Bay, within the manor of Godyn and Blommaert, where he knew no settlement then existed. He landed at the site of Newcastle in April 1638, and purchased from the Indians the whole territory from Cape Henlopen to the falls of the Delaware River at Trenton without the slightest regard to the claims of the Dutch. Then he sailed into the mouth of the river, and anchored in a creek at the site of Wilmington. They built a fort and then a church, and named the place Christina, in honor of their young queen. The territory they had purchased they called New Sweden.
When the Dutch at Fort Nassau, fifteen miles further up the river heard of this intrusion, they went down to inquire what it meant. Minuit gave them evasive answers at first, but finally told them that he intended to plant a settlement in the country, and build a fort there. "The Queen of Sweden," he said, "has as good a right to build a fort here as the Dutch West India Company." A messenger to tell the news was at once sent to Manhattan. Kieft, the newly-arrived governor, sent an officer to Minuit at Christina to protest against the movement. The warning was unheeded. Then Kieft issued a proclamation saying that he was persuaded that the Queen of Sweden had not authorized the building of forts within the domain of New Netherland, and that while he would not be responsible "for any mishap, bloodshed, trouble and disaster" which Minuit and his people might suffer thereafter, he was resolved to defend the rights of the West India Company as he should deem proper.
Minuit paid no attention to this proclamation, but built Fort Christina on the site of Wilmington, and erected posts with the royal initials and the crown of Sweden carved on them. Well acquainted with the Indian traffic, from long experience at Manhattan, he soon drew to Christina a profitable fur-trade; and at midsummer he sent the vessels back to Sweden with cargoes of peltry and other products of the land. The fort was well garrisoned and provisioned, and the settlers there planted and reaped. So was established the first permanent settlement on that soil, and there and then was planted the fruitful seed of the commonwealth of Delaware.
Eastward of the Delaware Bay and River (so called in honor of Lord De la Warr, Governor of Virginia,) lies New Jersey. Its domain was included in the New Netherland charter. So early as 1622, transient trading settlements were made on its soil at Bergen and on the banks of the Delaware. The following year, as we have observed, Director May, moved by the attempt of a French sea-captain to set up the arms of France on the Delaware, built a redoubt called Fort Nassau at the mouth of Timmer Kill or Timber Creek, a few miles below Camden, and settled some young Walloons near it. The most southern headland of New Jersey and now popular summer resort, Cape May, received its name from the first director-general of New Netherland, who gave it, also, to several other places.
The Walloons--young couples who had been married on shipboard--settled on the site of Gloucester. This was the first settlement on the soil of New Jersey that lived long; but it, too, withered away in time. It was seven years later when Michael Pauw made his purchase of the Indians extending from Hoboken to the Raritan River, and latinizing his name, called it Pavonia. In this purchase was included the settlement of some Dutch at Bergen. Other settlements were attempted, but none became permanent until about forty years afterward. Cape May, which Captain Heyes bought of the Indians--a territory sixteen miles square--remained an uncultivated wilderness all that time yielding the products of its salt meadows to the browsing deer.
Return to Our Country, Vol. I