Words To Remember

"The truth is this--genealogy is our living, and we are busy every minute, [and we] could use more hours." --Jane Wethy Foley, 1942

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The English Take-Over of Nieuw Amsterdam

In the calm days that followed the end of Indian uprisings in New Amsterdam, the Dutch West India Company turned its attention to improvements in the city. Director General Pieter Stuyvesant had worked diligently to repair the sad state in which he had originally found the colony.

By this time, there were around 1,000 persons on the island. Streets were nicely laid out and the city of New Amsterdam grew, day by day. It was a tiny place still, however, for it all lay below the present Wall Street. Some distance beyond the city wall was a fenced-in pasture for cattle, which was later to become The Common, and still later City Hall Park. Farther on there was a wide lake, so deep that it was thought to be bottomless. On its banks were a vast heap of oyster-shells, where an Indian village had been. This place was called Kalch-hook, or Shell-point. Afterward it was shortened to The Kalch and in time was called The Collect. The lake was called Collect Lake. There is no trace of it today, for it was filled in and the Tombs Prison now stands upon the spot.

This view of Nieuw Amsterdam in 1650 was created by Pieter Schenck.
The entire province was in a flourishing condition, but danger was near. The English had long looked with covetous eye upon the possessions of the Dutch in America. In fact, they claimed not only New Netherland but also a great part of the American continent, on the grounds that the Cabots had discovered it.

In the fall of 1652, war was declared between England and Holland. Stuyvesant, fearing that the English in New England, which was on the borders of New Netherland, would attack the city, set about fortifying it. The fence that Gov. Willem Kieft had built so that the cattle could not wander away was changed into a wall that extended from river to river. The fort was repaired and a strong body of citizens mounted guard by day and by night. Everything was prepared for an attack. But the enemy did not come after all.

After all this long time, when the Cabots had been forgotten by most persons, in the year 1664, Charles II decided that the English claim was just and gave New Netherland to his brother James, Duke of York. The Duke of York at once sent four ships filled with soldiers to take possession of his property.

When the English war-ships sailed up the bay, the town was ill-protected and the people had no desire to resist. Stuyvesant and the West India Company had been most strict and the inhabitants of New Netherland hoped to be more free under English rule. Stuyvesant--with scarcely a supporter--stood firm and unyielding. He had no thought of submitting to superior force. "I would rather be carried out dead," he exclaimed. But when at length he realized that he was absolutely alone and that there were no means of defense for the city, he surrendered.

On this same morning of 8 Sept. 1664, Stuyvesant, with his head bowed sadly, marched at the head of his soldiers out of Fort Amsterdam, with flags flying and drums beating. And the English soldiers, who had landed, and were waiting a little way off, entered the fort with their flags flying and their drums beating.


So the city of New Amsterdam became the city of New York, and the province of New Netherland became the province of New York. Fort Amsterdam became Fort James: all this in honor of James, Duke of York, who now came into possession.

Stuyvesant went to Holland to explain why he had surrendered New Netherland. But he came back again and years after he died in the little Bouwerie village which he had built. In St. Mark's Church to this day may be seen a tablet which tells that the body of the last Dutch Governor lies buried there.

So now the conquered province had come into the possession of the Duke of York, and Col. Richard Nicolls, in command of the English soldiers, took charge. This first English Governor appeared anxious to make all the people his friends. He made Thomas Willett Mayor and Willett being very popular, all the citizens rejoiced, and said the new Governor was a fine man.

During three years of his control, Col. Nicolls humored the people so much that they were well satisfied. At the end of that time, however, he had grown tired of the new country and asked to be relieved. The people were really sorry when he returned to England and Francis Lovelace took his place.

Gov. Lovelace did not get along so well. He was a man of harsh manner, who did not have the patience or the inclination to flatter with fine promises. Lovelace wanted everyone to understand that he was master. Very soon, when the people said they thought they should have the right to control their own affairs, the Governor told them that he did not think it was best for them to have too much to do with the governing of the city.

But he did some things that pleased the people. For one thing, he brought about the custom of having merchants meet once a week at a bridge which crossed Broad Street at the present Exchange Place. There is no bridge there now, but in those days it was necessary, for Broad Street was a ditch which extended from the river almost to Wall Street. And though the ditch has long been filled up and the bridge gone, the locality ever since has been one where merchants have gathered.  The Governor also had a messenger make regular trips to Boston with letters, which was the first mail route from the city.

Matters were going along nicely when trouble arose between England and Holland again. By now, the Dutch decided that it would be a good time to get back their lost province of New Netherland. The English in New York heard of this and made warlike preparations. But the Dutch were so long in coming that the preparations for war were given up. Finally the Dutch ships did arrive unexpectedly, sailing up the bay one morning in the month of July in the year 1673. Gov. Lovelace was in a distant part of the colony and the city had been left under the care of Capt. John Manning.

Manning was in despair. He knew full well that there was no hope of defending the city successfully. He sent a messenger dashing off to the Governor and he sent another to the Dutch ships to ask what they were doing in the bay, just as though he did not know. The Dutch sent word back that the city must be surrendered to them that same day.

And to show they meant what was said, the Dutch admiral dispatched one of his captains, Anthony Colve by name, who landed with 600 men. The Dutch captain agreed that if the English left the fort without a show of resistance, they could do so with the honors of war and without interference. Then he and his soldiers tramped down the road that is now Broadway. The English marched out of the fort and the Dutch marched in, just as nine years before the Dutch had marched out and the English had marched in.

When the King in England heard New York had been so easily captured, all the blame was placed on Capt. Manning. Capt. Colve took charge of the reconquered province. He began industriously to undo all that the English had done.

The province was again named New Netherland. The fort was promptly renamed Fort William Hendrick and the city called New Orange, in honor of William, the Prince of Orange. In a few years, he was to marry a daughter of the Duke of York and in a few more years he became King of England under the title of William III.

Capt. Anthony Colve put the fort in good condition, repaired the city wall, made a soldier of every man and drilled them every day. He had the city gates locked at night and put a guard at them to see that no one came in or passed out.

In less than a year, when the city was in shape to be defended, the English and the Dutch made up their quarrel. The province of New Netherland was returned to the English and became again the province of New York. And the Dutch soldiers left the Island of Manhattan, never to return.

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