Colony Of New York

A Brief History

"New York, originally called New Netherlands, was so named in honor of the Duke of York and Albany, England, to whom the territory was granted on its conquest from its first settlers, the Dutch.

On September 13th 1609, a vessel called the Crescent came to anchor within Sandy Hook [New Jersey], about seventeen miles from the present city of New York. It was the first vessel ever within those waters. Her commander, Henry Hudson, was an English captain in the service of the Dutch East India Company, and on a voyage for discovering a northern passage to India; but, failing in this, he proceeded along the shores of Newfoundland, and thence southward, as far as Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. On returning, he was exploring the coast, with the hope of finding a passage through the continent to the Pacific Ocean, when he came to anchor at Sandy Hook. Having spent a week here, he passed through the Narrows at the entrance to New York Harbor, and 'went sounding his way above the highlands,' until at last the Crescent had sailed some miles above the city of Hudson, and a boat had advanced a little beyond Albany.

Having employed ten days in this manner, and in frequent intercourse with the Indians resident on the banks of the river, Hudson descended on October 14th and sailed for England, 'leaving once more to its solitude' the waterway which after some years would bear his name. In November, he reached England, when he forwarded to his Dutch employers, 'a brilliant account' of his discoveries; but the English monarch, James I, forbid his return to Holland, lest the Dutch, by virtue of his having sailed under their patronage, should lay claim to the country.

The Dutch, as feared, did lay claim to it; and the following year the East India Company fitted out a ship with various merchandise, bound for the newly discovered river, to trade with the natives. The enterprise was successful, and more voyagers succeeded. Several rude houses were erected on the island, called by the natives Manhattan; and here, in 1613, Captain Argall, when on his return, with his fleet, from an expedition against the French at Port Royal, found several Dutch traders.

But he promptly demanded a surrender of the place to the English crown, as properly constituting a part of Virginia. The surrender was reluctantly made; but, on his departure, the Dutch continued their residence. During the following year in 1614, the Dutch constructed a rude fort on the southern part of the island, which was the beginning of New Amsterdam, afterward called New York. In 1615, a settlement was begun near the present site of Albany, to which the name of Fort Orange was given. The country received the name New Netherlands.

Notwithstanding the claim of Argall in 1613, to the territory of New Netherlands, as belonging to the English crown, the Dutch held possession of it until 1664, with the English meanwhile neglecting further pretensions to it.

In 1621, the Dutch republic of Holland granted to the Dutch West India Company—a corporation then recently formed—a territory whose boundaries were not accurately defined; but which the latter construed as including the lands between Delaware River on the south, and Connecticut River on the north. The foregoing boundaries, therefore included, besides New York, the present States of Delaware, New Jersey, a considerable part of Connecticut, and Long Island; and to these several territories the Dutch subsequently laid claim, and these claims, in after years, involved them in serious and very troublesome disputes with the English.

Small settlements, in addition to those at New Amsterdam and Albany, were early begun, in New Jersey, in Delaware, on the west end of Long Island; and a trading house or fort, at Hartford, on the Connecticut River, which Bancroft says the Dutch had discovered a little previous to the erection of the trading house, by Holmes, at Windsor, Connecticut.

The first governor of New Netherlands, appointed by the West India Company, was Peter Minuits, who arrived at New Amsterdam in 1625; and with him came a company who settled at Brooklyn on Long Island. Under him were several officers, or functionaries, as a Opper-Koopman, or chief merchant, an Onder-Koopman, a Koopman, and an assistant.

During the administration of Governor Minuits, the foundation was laid for the manors of New York; some of which remained until the 1800s, and which, on account of rents demanded from those who improve the leased lands belonging to those manors, were for many years the cause of sad disturbances in that state. In 1629, the above West India Company, in order to give an impulse to colonization in their territory, allowed some persons, within four years, to undertake colonization, consisting of selected lands, which should descend to their posterity forever. Of this privilege several availed themselves. Such were called lords of the manor, or patroons, or patrons. By these patrons, Wouter Van Twiller was dispatched as an agent, to inspect the condition of the country, and to purchase the lands of the Indians previous to settlement—a condition specified by the West India Company. It was also recommended that a minister and schoolmaster should be provided.

In 1633, Minuits was recalled due to disturbances in the colony, and Wouter Van Twiller, the former agent, succeeded him. A few months before his arrival, the Dutch, who had discovered the Connecticut River, had erected a trading house or fort, where Hartford stands, as noticed in the history of Connecticut. Under Van Twiller, the interests of the colony considerably advanced; with the exception of controversies occasioned by the encroachments of the English on the eastern end of Long Island and western part of Connecticut began.

In 1638, Van Twiller was succeeded by Sir William Kieft, a man of enterprise and ability, but impetuous and imperious. From this time, the history of the Dutch is little less than a chronicle of struggles and contentions with English, Swedes, and Indians.

About the same time that Kieft began his administration, a colony of Swedes, under ex-Governor Minuits, had arrived, and formed a settlement on Christiana Creek, near Wilmington, in the present State of Delaware. To this movement Kieft opposed; but the Swedes gradually extended their settlements, a length occupying the territory from Cape Henlopen to the Falls of Delaware, opposite Trenton. This territory was called New Sweden.

But the Dutch were destined to troubles far more serious. For some time dishonest traders had overreached the Indians of Long Island and New Jersey, and they sought revenge. In 1640, they ruined the settlement on Staten Island. In consequence of this, the Dutch fitted out a roving expedition, south of the Hudson River, against the Indians; but it proved fruitless. Then, a Hollander was killed by the son of a chief. The Indians expressed their grief, but refused to surrender the murderer. Kieft was irate, and united with a party of Mohawks, just then arrived from the north, in an expedition of blood and death against the neighboring tribes.

In the stillness of a dark winter's night in February 1643, the united forces crossed the Hudson, and the work of destruction began. Nearly a hundred of the Indian men, women and children, perished in the carnage. No sooner was it discovered by the surrounding tribes that the Dutch united with the Mohawks in this midnight attack, but they were seized with the frenzy of revenge. And their revenge was seemingly full. Villages were laid waste; the farmer was murdered in his field, and his children swept into captivity. It was on this occasion that the celebrated Anne Hutchinson, who was banished from Massachusetts, perished with her family. So greatly were the Dutch pressed, and so imminent became their danger, that they were compelled to sue for peace. Fortunately, that peace-maker Roger Williams, then in Manhattan, on his way to England, intervened, and a truce between the contending parties was effected.

But harmony and confidence were not restored. The Indians found themselves not satisfied. They thirsted for further revenge, and the war was renewed. The Dutch, however, had no competent leader. They therefore engaged the services of Captain John Underhill, one of the bravest men of his day, but who had been banished from Massachusetts for his religious eccentricities. With one hundred and twenty men, Underhill met and attacked and routed the Indians, on Long Island, and at Strickland Plains, Horseneck.

At length, after the war had continued two years, both Dutch and Indians became weary of the contest. At this time, the Mohawks stepped In, and claimed sovereignty over all the tribes in the neighborhood of Manhattan, and through their influence, these tribes made peace with the Dutch in 1645. Such was the joy diffused through the colony at this event, that a general Thanksgiving was observed.

Kieft, the author of much of the blood which had been shed, had infamy is attached to his life. His conduct was reprobated both at home and abroad. Deprived of his office, he left, some time after, for Europe, in a richly-laden ship; but before reaching his destination, his vessel was engulfed in the briny waters, and the guilty Kieft perished:

The fourth and last governor of New Netherlands was Peter Stuyvesant, who succeeded Kieft in 1647. He was a brave officer, who had served as viceroy in one of the West India Islands; a scholar of some learning, and an honest man. His policy toward the Indians was marked by kindness; in consequence of which, a more peaceable disposition prevailed among them.

But the controversy of the Dutch with other parties still continued. In 1650, Stuyvesant went to Hartford, to demand a full surrender of the lands on the Connecticut River. After several days spent in controversy, it was agreed that Long Island should be divided: the Dutch claims to extend to Oyster Bay, thirty miles east of the city; and on the mainland as far as Greenwich, near the present boundary between the States of New York and Connecticut. The Dutch were compelled to relinquish the lands on the Connecticut River, excepting those of which they then held actual possession; and these were some time after isolated.

On the Delaware River, the Swedes made strenuous efforts to maintain their power; but in 1655 Stuyvesant sailed, with six hundred men, for their reduction, and in this enterprise he was successful. The Swedish power was annihilated. Some of the colonists, with their governor, Rising, returned to Europe; others removed to Maryland and Virginia. The rest, taking an oath of allegiance to Holland, continued on their lands, under Dutch rule.

In 1663, a sudden eruption was made by the Indians upon the village of Esopus, now Kingston, ninety miles above New York on the Hudson. Sixty-five of the inhabitants were either killed or made captives. But the Indians suffered greatly in return, by means of a force sent up from New Amsterdam, which laid waste to their fields, and killed many of their warriors. In December, a truce was proclaimed, and the captives taken by the Indians were released. In the following May, a treated of peace was concluded.

But the government of the Dutch over New Netherlands was now drawing to a close. The English had never ceased to regard the territory as belonging to them, by virtue of its discovery by Hudson, as an Englishman, but still more on the ground of the first discovery of the continent, by Cabot. In 1664, therefore, Charles II, King of England, disregarding all other claims, made a grant, to his brother James, then Duke of York, to the whole territory from the Connecticut River to the Delaware River, including, therefore, besides a part of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware.

The duke was not slow to assert his claim. He fitted out a squadron, consisting of four frigates and three hundred men, under command of Sir Robert Nichols, who immediately sailed for New Amsterdam. On entering the harbor, Stuyvesant addressed him a letter, desiring to know the reason of his approach. To this Nichols replied, the next day, by a summons to surrender. Stuyvesant, determining on a defense, refused to surrender; but, at length, finding himself without the means of resistance, and that many of the people were desirous of passing under the jurisdiction of the English, he surrendered the government into the hands of Colonel Nichols, who promised to secure to the governor and inhabitants their liberties and estates, with all the privileges of English subjects.

The jurisdiction of the territory having thus passed into the hands of the English, New Amsterdam was changed to New York, and Fort Orange received the name of Albany. About the same time, the Swedes, on Delaware Bay and River, capitulated to Sir Robert Carr, an associate of Nichols; thus completing the subjection of New Netherlands to the British crown. Long Island, notwithstanding that it had been long before granted to the Earl of Sterling, the duke purchased; and it became and since continued, part of New York.

Colonel Nichols now assumed the government, in the name of the Duke of York, and continued in office for a little more than three years. His administration was marked by moderation, yet the people were allowed no representation, but he himself exercised both legislative and executive power. Contrary to all right, however, the titles to lands held by the Dutch they were compelled to renew at exorbitant charges, which went to the profit of the governor.

Nichols resigned to Governor Lovelace in 1667, whoso administration corresponded, in its essential features, to that of his predecessor; but a remonstrance of the people to taxation without representation he ordered to be dealt with by the common hangman.

In 1672, during the administration of Lovelace, war was declared by England against Holland; upon which, in the following year, a small Dutch squadron was sent against New York. Lovelace being absent at the time of its arrival, August 9th, the city was surrendered, by Captain Manning, without firing a gun, or otherwise attempting to defend the place. For this he was tried, condemned, and cashiered. Peace was restored in February of the following year; and in early November, New York, to which the old title of New Netherlands had been once more given, was again restored to the English, as were New Jersey and Delaware, which had submitted temporarily to Dutch rule.

To remove all controversy respecting his title to the lands granted him while they were in possession of the Dutch, the Duke of York took out a new patent, and appointed Sir Edmund Andros governor, who entered upon this position in October 1674. But his administration was arbitrary and severe. He admitted the people to no share in legislation, but ruled them by laws to which they had never given their assent.

Connecticut also experienced the weight of his oppression and despotism. The part of her territory west of the Connecticut River, although long before granted to the colony of Connecticut, was included in the grant to the Duke of York. By virtue of this grant, Andros now claimed jurisdiction over the territory, and in July 1675, made an attempt with an armed force, to take possession of Saybrook Fort. The Governor and Council of Connecticut, having notice of his design, dispatched Captain Bull to defend the fort. On the arrival of Andros at the mouth of the river with a show of force, he invited Captain Bull to a conference. This was granted; but no sooner had he landed, than he attempted to read his commission and the duke's patent. Captain Bull firmly and positively forbid this; and Sir Edmund, finding the colony determined, in all events, not to submit to his government, relinquished his design, and sailed away for Long Island

During the year 1682, an important change was effected in respect to the 'Territories,' as the present State of Delaware was then called—namely, a transfer of them, by the Duke of York to William Penn, from which time, until the American Revolution, they remained attached to Pennsylvania, or were under her jurisdiction.

On the return of Andros to England, Colonel Thomas Dongan, who, as well as the duke, was a Roman Catholic, was appointed governor, and arrived in the colony in 1683, with instructions to call an assembly, to consist of a council of ten, and of eighteen representatives, elected by the freeholders. On the accession of the Duke of York to the throne, under the title of James II, he refused to confirm to the people the privileges granted them while he was duke. No assembly was permitted to be convened, printing presses were prohibited, and the more important provincial offices were conferred on Catholics.

In 1688, New York and New Jersey were added to the jurisdiction of New England, and the arbitrary Andros was appointed captain-general of the whole. At the same time, Dongan was removed, and Francis Nicholson, who had been lieutenant governor under him, was appointed governor under Andros.

Such was the position of affairs in 1689, when news of the flight of James II, and of the accession of William and Mary to the throne, had arrived. Andros, as has been related, was seized in Boston and imprisoned. This was joyful intelligence to the people of New York, who immediately rose in open rebellion to the existing government.

Immediately upon this, one Jacob Leisler and forty-nine others seized the fort at New York City, and held it for William and Mary. Nicholson and his officers made what opposition they were able; but being overpowered, he, the council and magistrates, of whom Colonel Bayard was at the head, retired to Albany. While affairs were in this posture, a letter from Lords Carmathen and Halifax had arrived, vesting Nicholson with the chief command. As Nicholson had absconded, Leisler construed the letter as directed to himself, and from that time assumed the title and authority of lieutenant governor. The southern part of New York generally submitted to him; but Albany refusing subjection. Milborn, his son-in-law, was sent to demand the surrender of the fort; but failing, he returned without accomplishing his object.

On March 29th 1691, Colonel Sloughter arrived at New York, in the capacity of king's governor. Nicholson and Bayard, who had been imprisoned by Leisler, were released. The latter now surrendered the fort, and, with Milborn, his son-in-law, was apprehended, tried for high treason, and condemned. Their immediate execution was urged by the people; but the governor, fearful of consequences, chose to defer it. To effect their purpose, an invitation was given him by the citizens to a sumptuous feast, and while his reason was drowned by intoxication, a warrant for their execution was presented to him. Before he recovered his senses, the prisoners were no more. Such violent measures greatly agitated the existing parties; but in the end, the revolution which had taken place restored the rights of Englishmen to the colony. Governor Sloughter convoked an assembly, which formed a constitution. This, among other provisions, secured trials by jury; freedom from taxation, except by the consent of the assembly; and toleration to all denominations of Christians, except Roman Catholics.

It may be added, that the civil history of New York, from this period to the French War, presents few events of special interest. In general, for the next fifty years, the governors of New York were strongly attached to the interests of the crown, and were more solicitous to subserve their own selfish purposes, than to advance the permanent welfare of the colony. Thus, collisions frequently arose between them and the colonial assemblies, which disturbed the general peace, and retarded the prosperity of the colony.


— A History of the United States, by Charles A. Goodrich, 1857 (edited)


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