Source: Dutch New York
Henry Hudson's historic 1609 voyage was commissioned by the Dutch East India Company, which had been formed in 1602 with the mission of exploring trading routes to the Indies and claiming any unchartered territory for the Dutch. In 1621, realizing the need for a permanent political presence in colonies they had established in New Netherland, Brazil and Africa, the Dutch government chartered the Dutch West India Company (WIC) to protect the colonies against an English, French or Spanish challenge.
The newly incorporated company was governed by a board representing the various regions of the Netherlands and was granted a twenty-four year trading monopoly in the Americas and in Africa. In 1623, New Netherland became a province of the company. In the early years, New Netherland was generally mismanaged by various directors hired by the WIC to govern the colony. Meanwhile, board members of the WIC split over whether to focus on trading pelts or to create an agricultural economy. To address this dilemma, the Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions was enacted in 1628, establishing the “patroon system” in which private investors financed the cost of colonization. These patroons were granted large tracts of land. In return they were required to send fifty settlers to the colony within four years and were given the right to govern their own land. The patroon system eventually failed as the WIC was unable to entice Dutch citizens to settle in the colony. Of the various patroonships that were established, only one survived the eventual take over by the English in 1664. It was called Rensselaerswijck and is the site of modern day Albany.
The Dutch West India Company was much less successful than the Dutch East India Company, which was in existence for almost 200 years. After the English takeover in 1664, the Dutch West India Company quickly declined until it was liquidated in 1674. In its own time however, the WIC was more powerful and successful than Microsoft, IBM, or General Motors is today.
Although the Netherlands controlled the Hudson River Valley region of what is now New York State from 1609 until 1664, in that short time the Dutch West India Company established a series of trading posts, towns and forts along the Hudson River that laid the groundwork for towns that still exist today. Fort Orange, the northernmost Dutch outpost, is the site of present-day Albany and New Amsterdam is now New York City. Rensselaer, the Bronx, Yonkers, Harlem, and Brooklyn are just some of the Dutch names that remain to this day.
BARRY LEWIS: In 1621, the truce between Spain and the Netherlands is over. War has resumed between the two countries. In this war-like atmosphere, the Dutch West India Company is formed. It was modeled on the Dutch East India Company which had been created about 20 years earlier to trade with the East Indies. That means, the Indians of the continent and the islands we call, Indonesia.
Needless to say, the new company faces west, not east. This new company was not just set up for trade, it had a quasi-military purpose. It was directed to go after the ships of the enemies of the Dutch Republic. That means, they would attack Portuguese ships some of the time and Spanish ships all of the time.
This Dutch West India Company is kind of a Medieval and modern amalgam. It’s Medieval, because it has a monopoly on trade, and it has this quasi-military function, but it’s modern, because it’s a corporation that is running it.
And other countries, when land was founded, when supplements were made, the land belonged to the king. In the Netherlands it belonged to a corporation so the new wealth would be spread more evenly among the middle class shareholders.
This new company immediately set about to fulfill its mandate. They created trading posts on the West Coast of Africa, on the coast of what is now Brazil, in the Caribbean, and of course, New Netherlands. Africa provided them with slaves, Brazil with sugar, the Caribbean salt, and New Netherlands furs.
Even though the Dutch West India Company had been formed in 1621, it took them a couple of years to raise the capital. But when they did, they were finally able to send the settlers over to New Netherlands and create the colonies they needed.
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