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New Netherland Taken by the English and the Creation of New York 1664

Starting in 1613, Dutch settlements in New Netherland appeared alongside French and English colonies in the northeastern portion of North America. The Dutch, French, and English settlers often engaged in trade, but rivalry and hostilities occasionally flared up between them.  The Dutch dominance in New Netherland finally ended when it was taken by the English for James, the Duke of York, in 1664.  This event is recorded on the Bible Timeline Online with World History during that time.

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The Dutch in New Netherland

In 1613, Dutch traders established New Amsterdam on the southern tip of the island of Manhattan. Like their French counterparts in Canada, the Dutch traders’ main source of income was the beaver pelt trade with the Native Americans. With the Iroquois as allies, the Dutch fur trade soon expanded into the areas between the Hudson, Connecticut, and Delaware Rivers.

The Dutch colony and their outposts were wedged between two powerful rivals. The English held most of the northeastern seaboard with colonies extending from the coast of the Massachusetts Bay to Cape Cod. The London Company of Virginia was further south, but it was quickly prospering due to the tobacco plantations throughout the colony.

The French fur traders, meanwhile, were confined to their outposts along the banks of the St. Lawrence River. However, their alliance with the Huron people and their entrepreneurial spirit strengthened their foothold in the eastern portion of modern Canada. They were outnumbered by the English settlers, but these pioneers still outpaced their Dutch counterparts.

In 1620, the representatives of the Virginia Company came together and discussed the existence of New Amsterdam. They commissioned the explorer Thomas Dermer to travel north and meet with the Dutch traders to assert their rights to the colony. Dermer also claimed the whole island of Manhattan and the Hudson River area for the English.

News of their claim to New Amsterdam reached England in 1621, so King James I decided to strengthen it by granting the land between the 40th and 48th parallels to the Council for New England. The English ambassador in The Hague promptly told the Dutch authorities to compel their traders to leave New Amsterdam because they were staying there illegally.

The claims and the land grants had no effect on the Dutch. In the same year, the authorities granted a charter to the Dutch West India Company and gave it the right to appoint its own governor in New Amsterdam. The company also received the right to make treaties with the natives, as well as create its own military and build garrisons.

The Dutch traders also established trade outposts along the banks of the Connecticut River in 1623 (Hartford) and settled Walloon immigrants in Fort Orange (Albany) in 1624. The Dutch also built outposts near modern Philadelphia in the south. England, meanwhile, had its hands tied with wars with France and Spain, so its claim to the colony was momentarily set aside.

In 1626, governor Peter Minuit of the Dutch West India Company bought the island of Manhattan from the Lenape people. Although there were still few settlers, the Dutch leaders continued to fortify the city as the years passed. Their fur trade prospered when the Company forged an alliance with the Mohawk people that dominated the Hudson River area. Despite England’s claims to New Netherland, the Dutch—ever practical—did not hesitate to trade with their English counterparts.

New Amsterdam, pictured here in 1664, served as the seat of colonial government in New Netherland.

Their numbers, however, continued to lag behind the English settlers. To encourage emigrants, the Dutch government across the Atlantic issued the Privilege and Exemption for their citizens in 1629. Those who volunteered to go to America would be granted land immediately and be allowed to trade with the English and the French. Dutch emigrants sailed to America and settled in what is now Hoboken and Staten Island.

The Dutch finished the Huys de Hoop outpost (present-day Hartford) in Connecticut in 1633. This outpost was unfortunately wedged between two English settlements that were established in the same year. The English settlers also controlled the mouth of the Connecticut River, which cut off the Dutch outpost in Hartford from New Amsterdam. Trade still continued between the English and the Dutch despite the resentment that simmered beneath the surface. The two groups went beyond the fur trade and even transitioned to agricultural products.

In 1639, the English became more aggressive in taking territories from the Dutch. They attempted to take over Fort Nassau but were repelled. Additional emigrants flowed into New Netherland when the Dutch West India company relaxed trade regulations and provided incentives for emigrants. Huguenots, Walloons, Englishmen, Jews, and Native Americans all flocked to New Amsterdam, which soon gained a reputation as a cosmopolitan city.

Despite the incentives, most of the emigrants were interested in trade rather than cultivating the land, so its population still lagged behind the English colonies. Large groups of English emigrants also settled in New Netherland, and their number alarmed Governor William Kieft. He bought the land owned by Native Americans near present-day Greenwich and forced the English settlers who lived there to acknowledge Dutch authority.

The relationship between the Dutch and the Native Americans became complicated as the years passed. The Mohawk and the Dutch formed an alliance based on trade but left out the Algonquian who lived among them. Murders and retaliatory killings between the three groups flared up over the years which left the Dutch with fewer allies in the area.

New Amsterdam continued to be a melting pot of Dutch, French, English, and Native American peoples. The colony’s diverse population was both its strength (because of revenue) and its weakness (lack of loyalty from non-Dutch settlers). The Dutch colonists’ rivalry with the French over beaver pelt and with the English over land also intensified over the years.

By then, there were nearly 30,000 English settlers living in the colonies from Maine to Virginia. These colonies became increasingly independent as England became engulfed in conflict during the brief disappearance of the House of Stuart and the reign of Oliver Cromwell. In 1651, the English Parliament enacted the Navigations Acts which prohibited English merchants from buying New World products in Zeeland and Holland. The English navy led by Admiral Robert Blake also challenged the Dutch domination in the Caribbean.

From New Netherland to New York

Back in New Netherland, the Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant had whipped the rough-and-tumble colony into shape. The Dutch territory spanned from some parts of the Connecticut River and Delaware Bay in the south. The Company also controlled the greater part of the Hudson River area up to Fort Orange in present-day Albany. The directors of Dutch West India Company still controlled the fur trade through their partnership with the Iroquois but started to relax the rules on the English settlers who sold tobacco in their territory.

The House of Stuart, meanwhile, had been restored to the English throne in 1660. Charles II summoned a Council of Plantations in 1663 to discuss possible actions to drive the Dutch colonists out of New Amsterdam. In early 1664, Charles granted Delaware, Connecticut, and New Netherland to his brother, James, the Duke of York. He then sent his adviser Captain John Scott to stake England’s claim in New Netherland.

The English colonies were also busy in asserting themselves. While England was grappling with the Restoration, the English colonists in Connecticut had claimed Westchester County and nearby Long Island. Governor Peter Stuyvesant knew that the Dutch were outnumbered and poorly-equipped to fight the more powerful English. He also realized that he would not receive any help from the Dutch authorities across the Atlantic, so he was prepared to hand the colony over to the English.

Captain John Scott arrived on Long Island in 1663 and started negotiations with Stuyvesant and John Winthrop (leader of Connecticut colony) immediately. Scott’s reputation as a swindler, however, did not help in the negotiations and Winthrop decided to imprison Charles’ commissioner. The Duke of York then sent his Groom of the Chamber, Richard Nicolls, to assert his claim and appointed him appointed him as governor of the new territory.

Nicolls left England on May 25, 1664, and arrived with his fleet in August of the same year. Governor Stuyvesant gave New Amsterdam up to Nicolls without any bloodshed on September 8, 1664. Nicolls, for his part, rewarded the Dutch for readily handing the colony over to him by allowing them to remain in Manhattan. He also allowed Dutch ships to travel freely to and from the Netherlands and waived Cromwell’s Navigations Acts. The handover was not entirely without bloodshed as the Dutch defenders of Fort Orange and Fort Casimir fought the English before surrendering the garrisons.


Picture by: Johannes Vingboons – Geheugen van Nederland (Memory of The Netherlands), Selections from the Map Collections, Public Domain, Link
Rich, E.E. The New Cambridge Modern History: The Ascendancy of France, 1648-1688. Edited by F. L. Carsten. Vol. 5. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971.
Shepherd, William R. The Story of New Amsterdam. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International – Books on Demand, 1917.

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