The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter I
Part II

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


Erecting the First Strongholds--Meanwhile, it had occurred to Christiaensen that the trade in furs would be very much advanced if something in the way of a permanent settlement were established at points up and along the great river. the Indians would, in this wise, become accustomed to bringing their skins to fixed localities easily accessible to them. The trade would in this way be invested with a character of greater regularity and would receive greater stimulus by interesting a larger number of tribes stretching over a more extended territory, than could be reached by irregular and impulsive visits to places selected without any fixed schedule. The island of Manhattan would, of course, be the chief trading place. But Christiaensen, having fixed his base there, went further and diligently explored the bays, creeks, and inlets of the immediate vicinity in every direction in order to open up lines of negotiation with the aborigines. This was towards the close of 1613. Taking his vessel, "Fortune," and leaving Block at Manhattan, Christiaensen went up the river to the head of navigation. There, above the site of Albany, near the junction of the Mohawk and the Mauritius, or Hudson, he found a place through which ran several of the routes most favored by the aborigines. The Mohawk Valley formed a natural highway between the east and the west, linking also the Great Lakes and Hudson; and down from the north, through Lake Champlain and the upper Hudson, the red men were accustomed to travel from points as far distant as Quebec. Christiaensen went over this natural meeting ground and came to a realization of its numerous advantages. When the winter was over the he proceeded to erect a primitive stronghold in the vicinity. He selected for the site of his fort an island in the river, situated near the western bank. The fort was probably not much more than a stockade and breastwork surrounding the magazine or warehouse, an oblong building 36 feet long by 26 feet wide. The long of the palisades or breastworks measured 58 feet within the fort, but the entire structure, including a moat 18 feet wide, covered a space of 100 feet square. Upon this first stronghold of the Ditch in New Netherland was bestowed the name of "Nassau," in honor of the Stadholder of the republic, Maurice, count of Nassau; his first name in the form of "Mauritius" having been given to the river, which appears up to that time to have been known to the aborigine and to visitors from Europe as the Great river of the Mountains, or simply as the Great river. two cannon and 11 swivel-guns were taken from the "Fortune" and mounted upon the walls of Fort Nassau, and 10 or 12 men were detailed to garrison it. This was in the spring of 1614. As soon as he had completed this work and got everything in such a way that the channels of trade had been made smooth, Christiaensen left to rejoin his post at Manhattan. Not long after this Christiaensen was murdered by one of the two Indians whom he had taken with him to Holland and brought back again. The motive for the murder is not clear, but the likeliest circumstances may been ill usage on the part of the navigator, beginning with the forcible seizure that took the Indians from his friends and his country and the parading of him as a spectacle in Holland. The murder was avenged on the spot by the friends of Christiaensen. Jacob Eelkins was placed in command of Fort Nassau by Christiaensen when he departed to descend the river, and he remained at the station uninterruptedly for three or four years, acquiring much facility in his intercourse with the aborigines and displaying a tact that smoothed out many a perilous encounter.

States-General Promote Emigration--On Block's return from his cruising in the Long Island sound he fell in with Christiaensen's ship, which was directing its return course to Holland, doubtless among other chief purposes to announce the news of its master's fate. On this voyage back to Europe it was commanded by one Cornelius Hendricksen, possibly the son of Hendrick Christiaensen, for the use of the father's name by the children still the prevailing custom in the burgher class of Holland at that date.

Block directed Hendricksen to take charge of the "Onrust," and to supplement by means of the smaller vessel the series of discoveries he had himself initiated. Block on the other hand embarked in the "Fortune," and kept her on her course to Amsterdam. In course of time he appeared before the authorities of The Hague. During the month of march, 1614, the States-General had published a decree than which there was little that could have been better calculated to stimulate enterprise or to advance the cause of geographical discover, in an age when such discovery was not merely a noble ambition, but had become a veritable passion. The decree was in the form of a "General Charter for those who Discover New Passages, Havens, Countries, or Places." The reward was to be a monopoly of trade in the regions which successful adventurers might open up to European trade. The monopoly, however, was restricted to the extent of making four voyages thither. A final proviso was that within 14 days after the return from the original exploring voyage, a report of the same, with careful details of the work accomplished, should be made to the States-General. It is not clear when Block arrived in the Netherlands. The "Onrust," could not have been ready for launching till part of the spring had elapsed and the minute exploration of miles in length must have taken some months to accomplish. To this must be added the time consumed during the return voyage to Europe. We infer, therefore, that he got back to the home soil sometime in the autumn. The probabilities are that he found his way to The Hague before the required two weeks had passed and on the 11th day of October he arrived there. There were reasons for promptness apart from the time limit set by the charter. In July a number of merchants, located in six of the principal cities in the province of Holland, appeared before the provincial States or Legislature. They sought to obtain the indorsement of that influential body to a petition for a charter from the States-General for exclusive trade in Africa and America. It would appear they had in mind the promised charter of the preceding March, and they may have urged the recent discoveries of Hudson as accomplishments fulfilling the conditions of that document, the more so as those discoveries of Hudson, while they had been the incentive to a number of undertakings of a similar kind of the part of a number of individuals, had up to that time not been made the basis for the organization of any combined action on the part of merchants throughout the Netherlands.

Block, however,, was before hand with them. He was well aware that he was in possession of something that was more likely to make an impression than the vicarious putting forth of what Hudson had effected some years before. In the early half of October, Hudson, in company with the captains and shipowners associated with him, he presented himself before the assembly of the States-General. There were only 12 deputies present. With the aid of his figurative map, Block described the explorations he had made in the "Onrust," through the Long Island Sound. Here was something that had escaped the vision of Hudson himself. Block's story appears to have made a distinct impression. The most recent maps then known, including the map of 1610, prepared specially for King James, of Great Britain, rendered the coast line along the Long Island shore without any suggestion of its separation from the continental mainland. A resolution was accordingly passed to the effect that a charter should be granted to the association of merchants for whom Block had all met together. The document is of peculiar interest because it was the first officially to give the name of New Netherland to that part of the North American continent that bore it for almost two generations. The document, written in Holland Dutch, ran to the following effect:

"The States-General of the United Netherlands to all to whom these presents shall come, Greeting. Whereas, Gerrit Jacobz Witssen, ex-Burgomaster of the city of Amsterdam; Jonas Witssen, Simon Morissen, owners of the ship called 'Little Fox,' whereof Jan de With was skipper; Hans Hongers, Paulus Pelgrom, Lambrecht van Tweenhuyzen, owners of the two ships called the 'Tiger' and the 'Fortune,' whereof Adiaen Block and Hendrick Christiaensen were skippers; Arnolt van Lybergen, Wessel Schenck, Hans Claessen, and Berent Sweertssen, owners of the ship called the 'Nightingale,' where of Thys Volckertsen was skipper, merchants of the aforesaid city of Amsterdam; and Peter Clementsen Brouwer, John Clementsen Kies, and Cornelis Volckertsen, merchants of the city of Hoorn, owners of the ship called the 'Fortune,' whereof Cornelius Jacobsen May was skipper, all now untied into one company, have respectfully represented to us, that they, the petitioners, after great expenses and damages by loss of ships and more such perils, have this present current year, discovered and found with aforesaid five ships certain new lands situated in America, between New France and Virginia, the seacoasts of which lie between forty and forty-five degrees north latitude, and now called New Netherlands. And whereas, we did in the month of March last, for the promotion and increase of commerce, cause to be published a certain general consent and charter setting forth, that whosoever should thereafter study new havens, lands, places, or passages might traffic or cause to traffic, to the extent of four voyages, with such newly-discovered and found places, passages, havens, or lands, to the exclusion of all others trafficking or visiting the same from the United Netherlands, until the said first discoverers and finders shall have themselves completed the said four voyages, or cause the same to be done within the time prescribed for that purpose, under the penalties prescribed in the said Charter, they request that we would accord to them due Act of the aforesaid charter in the usual form: "Which being considered, we, therefore, in our assembly having heard the report of the petitioners appertaining hereto, relative to the discoveries and finding of the said new countries between the above-named limits and degrees, and also of their adventures, have consented and granted, and by these presents do consent and grant, to the said petitioners, now united into one company, that they shall be privileged exclusively to traffic, or cause to be trafficked, with the above newly-discovered lands, situate in America between New France and Virginia, whereof the seacoasts lie between the fortieth and forty-fifth degrees of north latitude, now named New Netherland, as can be seen by the figurative map hereunto annexed, and that for four voyages within the term of three years, beginning the first of January, sixteen hundred and fifteen following, or earlier, without it being permitted to any other of the person from the United Netherlands to sail to, navigate, or traffic with the said newly-discovered lands, havens, or places, either directly or indirectly, within the said three years, on pain of confiscation of the vessel and cargo wherewith infraction hereof shall be attempted, and fine of fifty thousand Netherland ducats for the benefit of said discoverers or finders; provided, nevertheless, that by these presents we do not intend to prejudice or diminish any of our former grants or charters; and it is also our intention that if any disputes or differences arise from these our concessions, they shall be decided by ourselves. We, therefore, expressly command all governors, justices, officers, magistrates, and inhabitants of the aforesaid United Lands that they allow the aforesaid Company quietly and peacefully to enjoy and use the complete effect of this our charter and consent, refraining from all opposition or detention to the contrary, for we have found such to serve for the benefit of the country. Given under our seal, paraph, and signature of our secretary, at The Hague, the 11th of October, 1614." It is noteworthy that in the very same month and year, October, 1614, in which the name of New Netherlands was given to the Dutch territory in American, the name of New England was first officially applied to the adjoining regions, by Prince Charles, heir to England's throne, when he was made acquainted with Captain John Smith's exploration on the coasts of Massachusetts and Maine.

Forts on the Hudson--The granting of these privileges to what was clearly an energetic body of them was likely to produce developments in the new territory. Among the earliest events that appear to have taken place was the building of some sort of stronghold on Manhattan in addition to the fort already existing at Albany. It has been supposed that such a fort was erected on Manhattan in the year 1615. A score of years later the West India company reminded the States-General in a memorial that "one or more little forts were built," under the jurisdiction of their High Mightinesses, "even before the year 1614." Doubt, however, has been cast on this historical statement and, while Manhattan before the work of Peter Minuit, in 1626, there seems to be little doubt that the Dutch adventurers supplemented the hamlet built by Christiaensen with a stockade as a defense both against the Indians and the pretensions of the English, who even at that early time were laying claim to the New Netherlands. From the head of navigation downward other forts began to spring up. Christiaensen's Fort Nassau, with Jacob Eelkens in command, was held for three years and then gradually fell into disrepair. Its position on the island had its advantages, but, on the other hand, the floods at the breaking up of winter made havoc, until in 1617, they swept away ramparts and warehouse. Eelkens accordingly selected a more favorable situation. A few miles below Albany there fell into the Mauritius, as the Hudson was then known, a small stream known as Tawasentha, and later as Noordtman's Kill, a name given to it by the Dutch, because a Scandinavian at one time occupied a piece of ground near its banks. Its northern bank rose into an eminence called by the Indians Tawassgunshee, overlooking the waters of the Hudson. At Tawasentha redoubt was built to succeed the one on Castle Island, four miles up the river. Fort Nassau was succeeded by Fort Orange, the first on an island in the river, the second on the mainland. This was in 1618. The Delaware, or South river, was also explored by the Dutch traders, and a fort built there. So development went perceptibly on until the New Netherlands became the property of the big institution known as the West India Company.

Dutch West India Company--The Dutch East India Company, which fitted out the "Half Moon" for its memorable voyage, was established and chartered in 1602. Even at that time the idea of a Ditch West India Company was taking shape as a possibility. In 1604 William Usselinex was requested to dray up a subscription paper, setting forth the services such an institution might perform, be to circulated amongst the members of the Ditch Republic, in the hope of enlisting their interest and support. Usselinex was a native of Antwerp, who had emigrated over the French border. From his entrance into the Netherlands he had advocated the establishment of a strong financial corporation, similar to that exploiting the East Indies, for the fitting out of armed vessels to attack the fleets of Spain and make conquest of her possessions in America. The paper prepared by him met with the approval of those who had commissioned him, and the first step toward obtaining government recognition of the scheme was taken by laying it before the Board of Burgomaster of Amsterdam.

From these officials it was sent to the Legislature or States, as the chamber was called, of the province of Holland, whence finally it was to be referred to the States-General of the Republic. But even t that early time, a number of years before the Twelve Years' Truce, which went into effect in 1609, pourparlers were already on, and the creation of the West India Company with plans hostile to the government with which they were negotiating, appeared rather too obviously a menace to those negotiations. As a result the scheme remained in the region of discussion without immediate prospect of translation into action.

The explorations reported by the crew of the "Half Moon" brought the scheme again into the area of practical politics. The granting of a charter to the New Netherland Company does not seem to have operated in the direction of discouraging private undertakings, and in any case that charter was good for only a limited period. Eventually a condition of affairs began to supervene that appeared a repetition of the state of affairs that had given rise to the East India Company. The clashing of petty rivalries began to reduce the profits of each expedition and threatened to force the abandonment of all expeditions to the new Netherland territory. To fit out ships for trade across the Atlantic was in itself a formidable undertaking. To be in addition prepared to cope with the menaces of war was an undertaking that more then taxed the capacity of individuals and small companies whose modest motive was commercial profit. Expeditions continued to be sent out under increasing conditions of difficulty and the hope of large profits gradually dwindled, despite the promise which had been held out, and despite the wealth of the region open to trade. It began to become clear that the effort of many individuals, combined, the bringing together of all available resources, and something of a nation-wide cooperation would be necessary, before the proper fleets could be sent out and the market kept in control. The grounds for this planning of trusts and monopolies did not exist merely in the Netherlands. Traders were acting on similar lines and principles in Spain, France, and England.

The plan of William Usselinex thus swung again into favor, with consequences also in the political sphere. The truce had worked well and its end began to approach. Political affairs were in a state of flux all over Europe and the Thirty Years' War had already begun in Germany. Meanwhile the charter of the New Netherland Company had run out its allotted three years. A petition for its renewal was made and refused. In September, 1618, the question of a charter for a West India Company was raised before the provincial States of Holland and in the November that followed in the same year it was raised also in the States-General. Yet the officials and the traders were anxious to proceed cautiously. Spain remained still the most powerful country in Europe and there was no desire to offend her unduly. The truce between the two countries was at that still in effect. But when it was over and the 80 years struggle for Dutch independence was resumed in 1621, the country was equipped with a formidable weapon of warfare. For on June 3, 1621, the charter of the Dutch West India Company was signed and sealed. Then this powerful association, well organized in its numerous departments, entered on operations against the enemy in a new field, where he was most vulnerable, and where the exhaustless wealth of a new continent was providing him with the unlimited sinews of war.

The Dutch West India Company appeared in those days a strikingly influential organization. Its capital amounted to something like 7,000,000 florins, or $2,800,000, and the whole sum had to be subscribed before it was permitted to begin operations. When the books were finally closed the money had been considerably over-subscribed. The merchants or shareholders constituting the company were divided into five chambers, determined by their residence in the various parts of the Republic. The Meuse, embracing persons residing in the cities of Dort, Rotterdam, and Delft; and that of the North quarter, embracing the cities of North Holland outside of Amsterdam, and of Friesland. The Chamber of Amsterdam, containing the heaviest subscribers, was entitled to have 20 directors; Zeeland was entitled to 12; each of the others were entitled to 14 directors. A person to be eligible to be elected a director was required in the Amsterdam Chamber to hold 6,000 florins, representing about $2,400. In the other chambers the amount of the subscription required to make a man eligible as director was placed at 4,000 florins, a sum equivalent to about $1,600. Each of these five bodies met independently in the various sections where they were located, but the management of the entire company was entrusted to a general executive boast of nineteen members, eight from the Chamber of Amsterdam, four from the Chamber of Zeeland, and two each from the remaining chambers, the nineteenth being the appointee, and at the same time a member of the States-General of the Republic, one of who duties it was to report its proceeding to the National parliament and government. The official title of the Executive Board came to be "Assembly of the XIX."

For a period of 24 years after July 1, 1621, the Dutch West India Company was permitted, "to the exclusion of the United Provinces," to send ships for trade to the countries of America and Africa bordering on the Atlantic Ocean, and those also of America on the side of the Pacific. Within the regions so delimited the company was granted the privilege of effecting "treaties and alliances with princes and potentates," a power granted also the Dutch East India Company. Here, too, forts might be erected defense of trade and for carrying on of war. The company had also the power of levying and arming troops and of equipping and manning war vessels. It was also endowed with the power of establishing governments in conquered or purchased territories, but the Governor-General had to be approved of and commissioned by the States-General, and had to swear fealty to them as well as to the Assembly of the XIX. The company was conceded the privilege, moreover, "of exporting home manufactures and of importing the products of the countries along the Atlantic, free of all duties, for the space of eighty years." Such was the character of the organization to which had fallen by chartered rights the possessions in the New World by which the citizens of the Dutch Republic had become heir as a result of the explorations of Columbus, Verrazzano, Hudson, and the long procession of intrepid navigators who had dared the unknown for three and four previous generations . new Netherland was from that time forth to be governed by an association of merchants to whom had been entrusted many sovereign powers. It had thus been made a sort of republic within a republic, invested with powers that enabled it not only to guard its property, but to amass wealth, and in the meantime, add to the strength and resources of the infant republic, whose governors realized that the commercial activity of its people was the life blood of the Nation.

Walloons and Puritans in Holland--In view of conditions that enabled the average Dutchman to live in comfort, and in view of the fact that he enjoyed a freedom of action and though, that was enjoyed perhaps by the subject of no other government in Europe, it is, perhaps, not wonderful that willing emigrants among the people of the Netherlands were not numerous. there were, however, two other elements in the population of the republic who showed a readier disposition to go across the Atlantic and who were eager to learn what could be learned of the prospects of settlers in the new land concerning which so many strange tales were being told. There were, for example, a great many people in the Netherlands who had crossed the border from the French-speaking provinces of Belgium,--Walloons as they had become known in history. How these French-speaking Walloons came to be there was due to a series of events growing out of the Ditch struggle against Spanish domination. In 1576 the 10 Walloon and Flemish provinces became known henceforth as the Spanish Netherlands. The seven Dutch provinces--Holland, Zeeland, Guelderland, Utrecht, Overyssel, Friesland, and Groningen--united their allegiance to what they called the Union of Utrecht, renounced their allegiance to the Spanish King, and declared themselves an independent nation. The 10 more southerly provinces, as a result, remained predominantly Catholic, and the seven northerly provinces predominantly Protestant. In the northerly provinces Holland so far outranked the others, being as rich and as well equipped with resources as all the others put together, that its name was soon used by foreigners to cover them all in a National sense. They became the United Netherland. A loosely federated republic, their appointed leader was William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, known as William the Silent. He was stadholder of Holland and Zeeland, chief magistrate and commander by land and sea, dignities which were made hereditary in his family. The National legislative body was made the States-General, made up of delegates from the provincial States, to which delegates had been send by the municipal councils. The Walloons in the seven provinces of the Netherlands, therefore, were French-speaking immigrants, who for one reason or another, preference for the freer role of the seven provinces, fear of Spanish rule, or adherence to the new tenets of Luther, had left the more southerly provinces.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by and is a part of the

Transcribed by


You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site� Since September 5, 2004.


[Index][Book Index][NY][AHGP]