Source: Dutch New York
In 1664, four English gun boats appeared in New York harbor. This video explains how, just days later, New Amsterdam became New York. Through the Articles of Capitulation that gave England control of the colony as well as the unusual terms of this surrender, Dutch citizens were allowed to maintain their laws, their church and their culture. The video goes on to discuss how Dutch ideas of tolerance and individual rights, which were not present in other English colonies, took root 120 years later in the Bill of Rights.
In the mid 17th century a fierce rivalry existed between England and the Netherlands for global naval dominance. Both countries had colonies in Asia, Africa, South America, the Caribbean and North America where English settlements dominated the eastern seaboard. Only one settlement remained out of English control: Dutch New Netherlands.
From 1624 to 1664, the New Netherland colony prospered. The city of New Amsterdam, situated in a strategic location, had become an extremely valuable seaport for free trade with Europe and the English colonies. Simultaneously, the English colonies to the north and south grew faster, attracting settlers seeking religious freedoms. The number of English colonists spilling into the New Netherland colony eventually exceeded the number of Dutch colonists. Contributing to the rivalry was the issue of Dutch trading practices that proved to be extremely problematic for the British government. Dutch trade interfered with the English being able to place heavy duties on the goods resulting in an annual loss of tax revenues for England. As a response, the English instituted the Navigation Acts.
The Navigation Acts of 1651 were intended to ensure England would reap the benefits of goods produced in English colonies as well as secure English dominance of the seas but it specifically targeted Dutch trading practices. It stated that goods produced in Africa, Asia or the Americas must be shipped only on English ships and that any goods produced by a European country could only enter England on English vessels or on the vessels of the country producing them. In 1660, the second Navigation Act was passed. Among its many provisions, it forbade the importing or exporting of goods from English colonies to England except in English ships. The new Act added that tobacco, cotton, sugar, wool and other articles produced in English colonies could not be imported or exported to any country except England or an English plantation. By the time England invaded New Amsterdam, the English were intent on two things: establishing a continuous line of English settlements on the eastern seaboard and impeding Dutch trade in their sphere of influence.
In 1664, when King Charles of England granted his brother James, the Duke of York, an expanse of land in North America including the English settlements as well as New Netherlands, the stage was set for England’s complete dominance of the seaboard settlements of North America. Within days of the invasion, New Amsterdam became New York.
BARRY LEWIS: In 1664, four British gun boats appear in New Amsterdam harbor, effectively blocking the port. Stuyvesant was up the river in Ft. Orange, he hurries back down to the city, but New Amsterdam is in turmoil.
Dr. CHARLES GEHRING: It was a time of peace. War hadn’t been declared. This was a surprise attack.
Prof. JOYCE GOODFRIEND: The major reason, of course, that the English wanted to come into New Netherland was that they had colonies to the north and colonies to the South and of course, the English claimed that the whole Eastern Seaboard belonged to them, and then of course, the Dutch claimed that too.
LEWIS: The English gunboats were within the range of the city and Stuyvesant wanted to keep on fighting, but the odds were against him.
GEHRING: As soon as the first shot is fired, in defense of the city, the city is now open to looting, and many of the New Englanders who had settled in Dutch jurisdiction were already at the ferry ready to come over. English soldiers had then landed on Long Island, and it would have been a mess.
LEWIS: So in late August 1664, without firing a shot, New Amsterdam becomes New York. Renamed for the English King’s brother, the Duke of York, who himself will be king one day, Richard Nichols is appointed governor, and the original 13 colonies are beginning to take shape.
It was here that the articles of capitulation were signed on September 6, 1664 ending Dutch rule. We’re here, in Manhattan’s East Village on Stuyvesant Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. And it was on this site that Stuyvesant’s country house which doubled as a working farm, was located. That act of surrender was signed in his house.
Now that farm of his, here’s an old map and it shows us where it was in relation to the city back in the 1660s. There’s New Amsterdam at the southern tip of the island, about two miles north is Stuyvesant’s farm, bordered by today’s Pitt Street on the south, about 23rd Street on the north, about 4th Avenue on the West and the East River, on the East. And we are right at that red dot.
At the surrender ceremony, neither Stuyvesant nor the English governor, Richard Nichols, were actually present. Well that was usual for those times. They sent delegates in their place. What was unusual, were the terms of the surrender. This was truly an amazing document. It didn’t replace once culture with another, which was typical of conquests in those days. Instead it created a sphere of co-existence between both Dutch and English societies. The Dutch were allowed to keep their inheritance laws, their laws about business, even their magistrates could continue to sit.
And, it also kept that quirky Dutch idea of tolerance. That means, in its founding documents, and we’re talking about the articles of surrender, there were certain guarantees for individual rights that did not exist in the other English colonies. These rights will appear more than 120 years later in the American bill of rights.
After the surrender, Stuyvesant was summoned to Amsterdam to answer for the loss of New Netherland. When that was over, he wanted to come back home. That meant America, even if they called his old city New York. He comes back here to this farm, he lives out his days, he dies in 1672, around the age of 60 and he’s buried in the cemetery of his own estate’s parish church, today we call it St. Mark’s in the Bowery. Peter Stuyvesant lies just a stone’s throw away from here.
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