The Dutch possessed New Netherland between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers for 40 years.
The settlement started in 1609 when the Dutch East India Co. sent out Henry Hudson, an English navigator, to look for a route to the Indies not controlled by Spain. Like explorers before him, Hudson traveled west on the Half Moon looking for the Northwest Passage through North America to achieve his goal. On September 10, he sailed up river that now bears his name to Albany. The desired passage was not found, but Hudson's discovery laid claim to lands in North America for the founding of New Netherland. The Dutch settlement progressed slowly thereafter.
In 1621, the Estates-General of the Netherlands founded the Dutch West India Company to develop its American claims. Its purpose was to open trade in North and South America and to build forts, maintain troops, and challenge Spanish trade in America, especially in the West Indies. Three years later the company sent Cornelius J. May to colonize its land claims on both sides of the Hudson River. After 1624, it established forts at Manhattan Island, Fort Orange (Albany) and Long Island, and Fort Nassau on the Delaware River. It also developed a settlement on the western shores of the Hudson River that became the early settlements of Pavonia and Bergen Township and later the development of present-day Jersey City.
Peter Minuit became the director-general of New Netherland in 1626 and became known for the purchase of Manhattan from the Indians. According to the Dutch West India Company, settlers were considered to be servants of the company and subject to the directors of colony. They were expected to be members of Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) church, but an atmosphere of religious freedom prevailed, permitting a diversity of settlement by Puritans, Pilgrims, Anglicans, Jews and Lutherans to move into the colony.
General satisfaction with conditions at home in The Netherlands hurt the flow of immigrants to the Dutch colony. Early settlers worked in grain production, furs, breweries and plundering Spanish fleets traveling to the Caribbean. To encourage the agricultural development of the colony, the Dutch West India Company offered an incentive called the patroonship system.
Members of the Dutch West India Company were eligible to receive a feudal estate in America if the patroon settled it with fifty adults, over age fifteen, in four years. The patroon was, in effect, a landlord and local lawgiver, and the settlers were his tenants who paid rent during the length of a lease. The patroons were granted an eight-year exemption from taxes and the settlers a ten-year exemption. However, of the five patroonships in New Netherland, only that of Kiliaen Van Rennselaer in Albany County was successful. His patroonship was called Rennselaerswyck and was over one million acres in extent. The program overall did not produce the desired effect of increased immigrants as tenants and was further hampered by Indian troubles that began in 1640.
In 1630 Michael Reyniersz Pauw, a member of the Dutch West India Company, was granted an estate on the western shore of the Hudson River. He named it Pavonia, meaning "Land of the Peacock," which was a variation of his name. However, as a patroon he did not meet the obligation to obtain the required number of settlers and never left Amsterdam to personally supervise his land grant. The positive outcomes of the Pauw grant were the construction of two houses at Pavonia, the first homes on the west side of the Hudson River, and the appointment of a superintendent, Cornelius Van Vorst, who remained as a settler to continue the nascent community for future development.
The governance of all of New Netherland was from New Amsterdam at the lower end of Manhattan Island. The Dutch West India Company sent its orders to New Amsterdam and its selected members of the governor's council. New Amsterdam was the location of the governor's residence, barracks, church and marketplace. "Bouweries" or farms were outside the fort. Peter Minuit (1626-1633) was the first director-general. After his tenure, three governors succeeded him: Wouter Van Twiller (1633-38); William Kieft (1638-1646); and Peter Stuyvesant (1647-1664).
Van Twiller offered no direction for the settlement, had a reputation for being quarrelsome, and was only noted for expanding the brewery business in New Amsterdam. Kieft embroiled New Netherland in Indian warfare that nearly dismantled the colony, and Stuyvesant, while somewhat cantankerous, worked to stabilize the Dutch settlements and established Bergen Township. Over the years, the Dutch West India Company tried to reorganize the colony by permitting slavery as well as overseas trade to boost the labor supply and economy.
After their rule in America for forty years, the Dutch failed to establish a successful colony at New Netherland. Several factors contributed to its demise and easy takeover by England in 1664. First, there were insufficient incentives for Dutch nationals to leave their homeland. As a result, colonists from other countries and colonies, who did not hold a strong allegiance to the colony, settled New Netherland. Secondly, commerce was a priority for the Dutch West India Company, and agriculture, which might have attracted more settlers, was not considered profitable. Finally, somewhat autocratic governance from New Amsterdam and the absence of local participatory democracy discouraged loyalty to the colony. The governor had an unofficial advisory council, but this did not compensate for the tradition of self-rule and home rule experienced by settlers in the surrounding colonies.
Lovero, Joan D. Hudson County: The Left Bank. Sun Valley, CA: American Historical Press, 1999.
Savelle, Max and Darold S. Wax. A History of Colonial America. Hinsdale, Illinois: Dryden Press, 1973.