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Dutch West India Company: Dutch West India Company

Dutch West India Company - Images

The Half Moon (Replica)

Replica of Henry Hudson's ship, The Half Moon.
Source: The New Netherland Museum website.

New Netherlands Map

Map of New Netherlands Circa 1650

View of New Amsterdam

View of New Amsterdam Circa 1651

Early Map of Lower Manhattan

Map of Mannados (Manhattan) or New Amsterdam circa 1661.

Map of Pavonia and Bergen

Map of Bergen Town circa 1727 surveyed by Robert Crooke. "Pavonia" is identified on the lower right. The actual Pavonia patroonship originally included most of Hudson County and part of Staten Island.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Cortelyou Map of Bergen

Map of Bergen and Buyten Tuyn showing the 1660 Cortelyou plan of Bergen.
Source: Eaton, Jersey City and its Historic Sites (1899)

Peter Stuyvesant

Lithograph of Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General of the New Netherlands Colony.
Courtesy, Jersey City Free Public Library

Dutch West India Company

Dutch West India Company, 1621-1664
Jersey City's Colonial Background

The Dutch colony of New Netherland, between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers, was the beginning of colonization in New York and New Jersey.

In 1609, the Dutch East India Co. sent out Henry Hudson, an English navigator, to look for a route to the Indies that was not controlled by Spain. Like explorers before him, Hudson, on the Half Moon, traveled west looking for the Northwest Passage through North America. On September 10, he sailed up the river that now bears his name to Albany. The desired passage was not found, but Hudson's exploration gave the Dutch claim to lands in North America to found New Netherland. Dutch settlement progressed slowly as Dutch nationals, without political, economic or religious motivation duress at home, were not eager to travel across unchartered waters for a virtual wilderness. 

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, 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 early Pavonia and Bergen Township, the beginnings of present-day Jersey City.

Peter Minuit, known for the purchase of Manhattan from the Manahatta Native Americans, became the director-general of New Netherland in 1626. According to the Dutch West India Company, settlers were considered servants of the company and subject to the directors of the colony. They were expected to be members of the Dutch Reformed (Calvinist) church. However, an atmosphere of religious freedom did prevail and permitted settlement by Puritans, Pilgrims, Anglicans, Jews, and Lutherans into the colony.

General satisfaction with conditions at home in The Netherlands continued to stem the flow of immigrants to the colony. Early settlers who arrived 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."

Under the land-for-settlement incentive plan, 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 became, in effect, a landlord and local lawgiver. 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. Overall, the program did not produce the desired effect of promoting settlement. Troubles with the indigenous settlers, beginning in 1640, further hampered the program.

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,"  a variation of his name. He did not meet the obligation of a patroon to obtain the required number of settlers and never left Amsterdam to 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 and "founding father" of the future community of Jersey City.

Fort/New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island was the center of governance of New Netherland. There its selected members of the governor's council received orders from the Dutch West India Company. It was the location of the governor's residence, barracks, church, and marketplace. "Bouweries" or farms were outside the fort. After Minuit's tenure (1626-1633), three governors succeeded him: Wouter Van Twiller (1633-38); William Kieft (1638-1646); and Peter Stuyvesant (1647-1664).

Van Twiller reportedly 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 Native American 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 the trading of enslaved people to boost the labor supply and economy.

After some forty years, the Dutch failed to establish a successful colony in New Netherland. Several factors contributed to its takeover by England in 1664. First, insufficient incentives for Dutch nationals to leave their homeland brought colonists, without strong Dutch allegiance, from other countries and colonies into the colony. Secondly, commerce was a priority for the Dutch West India Company. Agriculture, which might have attracted more settlers, was not considered profitable. Finally, autocratic rulings from New Amsterdam and the lack 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 local representative government experienced by settlers in the surrounding colonies.

Dutch West India Company - References

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.