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

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


Despotism of Stuyvesant--Stuyvesant was a thorough autocrat and gave an exhibition of his sentiments at an early date, when he denounced as traitors Melyn and Kuyter, who had brought charges against Director Kieft, describing the bringing of accusations against the magistrate as an act of rebellion, no matter how solid the ground of the charges. Stuyvesant had thus turned the tables of these two pubic-spirited citizens, and instead of securing the conviction of the guilt Kieft, they had been themselves sentenced to banishment and to heavy fines. Nevertheless, in a very short time an assembly of nine men, representing the settlements of Manhattan and Long Island, was in session, and was being solicited by Stuyvesant for assistance, in defraying the costs entailed by the rebuilding of the fort and palisades. It was found, however, that the two could not work together. Stuyvesant disregarded their demands and the nine men on their part kept presenting demands still more urgent. Their hands were greatly strengthened by the return of Melyn and Kuyter, the sentence pronounced on them by Stuyvesant having been completely reversed by the authorities at home. They bore, moreover, a summons upon Stuyvesant to appear in Holland to answer grave charges of misconduct in their trial. Melyn and Kuyter contrived to have this summons read in church, where it had the effect of a thunderbolt out of the clear sky upon the unsuspecting director-general. The nine men drew up a memorial or remonstrance, the chief author being apparently Adriaen Van der Donck, and delegated Van der Donck, with two others, to go to Holland and present the remonstrance to the directors of the company.

Stuyvesant was not the sort to take things of that sort lying down. He had Van der Donck immediately arrested, seized his papers, and on the testimony which he gathered from the sequestered documents, proceeded to condemn him. There were unavailing protests and another memorial was drawn up and entrusted to Van der Donck, who went with it to Holland. It gave a long description of circumstances in the American colony and was evidently cogent enough to make clear to the States-General that changes in administration were called for. After due deliberation it was determined to separate the functions of the provincial and local governments. It seemed to them prudent to continue Stuyvesant in the rulership of the province, but to give the local government into the hands of the population itself.

New Amsterdam City--It was decided that this could best be done by erecting Fort Amsterdam to the status of a city. In the civil policy with Dutch republic the city was the seat and source of all political authority. The provincial States or legislature of each province was the creature of the town councils, whose delegates composed it. No measure of any importance could be passed upon in the States-General without being first referred to the provincial States, and by these to the several towns governments for express instructions. It is thus apparent that the bestowal of municipal government upon the community at Fort Amsterdam was tantamount to laying the foundation for a system of statehood parallel with the organization of the Dutch republic itself. The plan adopted was that usual among the Dutch towns, the officers consisting of two burgomasters, five schepens, and a schout. The twofold headship dated from the time of the counts of Holland, when on burgomaster represented the feudal lord and guarded his interest, while the other was the popular representative and watched over the privileges and liberties of the people. The schepens were in the main judicial officers, sitting as a court, and interpreting the law. The burgomasters had legislative as well as executive powers, and in large cities there were often four of them and even more. The schout was the executive officer par excellence, at a later period subordinate to the others, but at an earlier date, acting as the supreme functionary, ruling in place of the court.

In the beginning these municipal officers were elected by the people more or less in conjunction with the feudal lord. Later the trade guilds became the electors, but in course of time the councils took on an autocratic hue and became self perpetuating close corporations. This came about by the gradual evolution of advisory bodies consisting of ex-officers, called the "Wisdom," or "Prudence" or "Riches," or the Old Council. But the corporation as such, and however elected or constituted, became a small sovereignty in itself, treating with similar sovereignties in the province or in the republic by means of plenipotentiaries in the provincial or general assemblies.

In this manner fort Amsterdam became New Amsterdam. It was not, however, a sovereign city, after the style of cities in the old land. It came into possession of the form of municipal government rather than the matter. Though the system of government introduced was arranged to neutralize Stuyvesant's arbitrary assumptions of power, it was, nevertheless, reserved to him to make all the appointments, giving the people very little choice in the matter. The director appointed as the first burgomaster Arendt van Hattem, and Martin Krigier; as schepens, Paulus Van der Brist, Maximilian van Gheel, Allard Anthony, Peter van Couwenhoven, and William Beckman. There was a source of mortification for Director Stuyvesant in the fact that the company had ordered him to appoint as schout Jaochim Kuyter, one of the accusers of Kieft, whom he in turn had accused to his own discomfiture.

However, before the time came for carrying the new system into effect, Kuyter was murdered by an Indian and Stuyvesant appointed his friend and supporter, Secretary Van Tienhovem to the office. Jacob Kip became town secretary. By proclamation of the director the new order of things went into effect on February 2, 1653. The old city tavern, built eleven years before, was remodeled and made the Stadt Huys or Town Hall. The council met on Mondays from nine to noon, but sometimes, under press of business, would devote a few hours of the afternoon also to their work. Later, in consideration of the fact that most of the officers were trades-people, whose time cost money, burgomaster were assigned a stipend of 3590 guilders per annum, and the schepens one of 250 guilders. The people was thus put into the possession of governors drawn from themselves, distinct from the provincial government, though the arrangement did not do away with friction between the two sets of authorities. Stuyvesant found a way of restricting the candidates. He suggested the division of the population into two classes, after the custom in Holland, according to the size of their property and the amount in their taxes. Those who were willing to pay fifty florins were to receive the privileges of small burghers. On a list of 1657 appear twenty great burghers and 204 small burghers. By this arrangement Stuyvesant raised considerable money for the rebuilding of the fortification. But the small burghers who applied for greater burgher right made it impossible to confine to their ranks alone the choosing of the magistrates of the city.

thus it came about that during the administration of a director-general, characterized by his marked inclination towards a despotic wielding of authority, popular government was initiated and a democratic assembly established. On November 26, 1653, there gathered in the city hall at the head of Coenties Slip nineteen men, representing the city and eight village committees, all situated within the bounds of greater New York. The purpose of the assembly was ostensibly to discuss measures for defense against the Indians, but matters of other interest were also included in their deliberations. The director was invited to be the guest at a parting banquet, but he refused to be present. He wanted to ignore the new popular government, but so strong was the demand of the people for the reassembling of the body, that in order to obviate the odium of seeing it meet in spite of him, he called the next meeting himself, thus giving it full legal sanction. It met again in the city hall on December 10, 1653. The two burgomasters and Schepen Van der Grist represented New Amsterdam; there were three from Breuckelen, two from Flushing, two from Newtown, two from Hempstead, three from Amersfoort or Flatlands, two from Midwout (Flatbush), and two from Gravesend. In spite of the fact that Stuyvesant had called the assembly together it made its main business the drawing up of a paper memorializing the States-General concerning the insupportable despotism of the director-general. The gathering has been described as "the first real representative assembly in the great State of New York." It is interesting to note that it sent his delegates from boroughs from which the municipal government of New York was later to draw its representatives.

At the time New Amsterdam became an incorporated Dutch city the population is said to have numbered some 750 souls, and yet even at that time the city was supposed to embrace the whole of Manhattan Island. It was natural, therefore, that there should be large areas of solitude; that wild fauna, including wolves, and bears roamed freely about at night, and that not only heads of cattle but the lives of the people themselves were often endangered. In 1660 a portion of the outlying wilderness was laid out as a village. As settlements were made in the neighborhood names were borrowed from the environs of the city of Amsterdam at home. A number of families migrating to the northeastern extremity of the island were given the privilege of erecting a church near the river, and they called the new community New Haarlem, as a proper suburb of New Amsterdam. Following the incorporation of the city the people of New Amsterdam turned their attention to the improvement of the chief public departments. Apart from the burgherwacht the authorities established a rattle watch of six or eight men, the duties of this new body including the patrolling of the streets at night, the giving of the alarm in case of fire, and the arrest of thieves and prowlers. They derived their name from the fact that each of them carried a large rattle with which they occasionally made known their presence in a particular precinct, or aroused the citizens in case of emergency. The custom was carried over from Holland, where there was a militia or schuttery in every city, and where the train bands were provided with such rattles. There were, however, other means of notifying the inhabitants of fire and of coping with them. A fire department had been in existence even before the incorporation of the city, but in 1657 the peril from that source was met by more elaborate precautions. Hooks and ladders, ropes and leather buckets were provided. Before the winter of that year two shoemakers in the city had constructed 130 of these buckets, and they were distributed over the town at convenient points, a dozen in each, while about fifty were kept in the vicinity of the city hall. Precautions were also taken in other directions, and the people did what they could to make part of their houses fireproof. The house built of wood, with its wooden chimney and its thatched roof, was recognized as highly combustible. Nevertheless, such dwellings were the rule as late as 1658. An ordinance of that year required the heads of families to built chimneys of stone or brick, and prohibited roofs of straw or reeds. So from that date may be noted the change in the character of the dwellings of the city and the appearance of houses of some pretension. Director-General Stuyvesant found the house in the fort that was the prerequisite o his office unsuitable for ordinary family life. So he built a large stone house near the Battery, near the site of what is now the junction of Whitehall and State streets. There was little garden around the new house, and adjoining was a quay, where the governors boat might be moored. The residence cam to be known as Whitehall, and in a later generation bequeathed the name to the adjoining street.

Naming and Planning Streets--It was around this time that the nomenclature of the street began to be settled, and though later the Dutch names went, part of them were at least preserved in translation. Wall Street received its name obviously from the palisade that was it principal feature. There were farms on both sides of it and in the middle ran a line of solid planks tapers at the top, set close together, and held firmly by cross timbers. It stretched across the island from Broadway to the East river. Broadway was Heeren Straat, or Masters Streets, and twenty-two families resided on either side. On the west the gardens reached to the water. Coming down the hill the fort there was an open space later called Bowling Green, but in early days known as Marktveld or Market field. Stone Street was then Brouwer Straat, because Burgomaster Van Cortlandt, a well-known brewer, lived in it, while it derived its later name from the fact that it was paved at an earlier date than the adjoining streets. Parel Street became extended into Pearl Street, the name being derived from the oyster shells on the beach at the Battery end, while other parts of what became the most tortuous street in the metropolis were known as Hoog Straat and Water Street. to keep the high tides from invading the houses on Hoog Straat, the city built a sort of sea wall, called a schoeying, along the shore, reaching from the city hall at Coenties slip to the water gate at Wall Street. The Dutch dwellers in New Amsterdam even strove to reproduce the canal streets of the older city, from which most of them had come. Thus Broad Street was once a canal street. An inlet circled up from the river, stopping at the bottom of the slight elevation which is still apparent in the short block from Exchange Place to Wall Street. this creek, or ditch, as it was often known, was broadened and deepened and its sides boarded up in the approved Dutch manner of making canals. It became known as Heeren Gracht, the name of a fashionable canal street in Amsterdam, and twenty families had their houses built on its sides, among them that of Cornelius Melyn, patroon of Staten Island. Then there was the Prinsen Gracht, a canal thoroughfare made by fixing up a ditch at right angles to Broad Street, where Beaver Street now runs to its terminus in Pearl Street. there lived about seventeen families, that of Jacob Kip, the town secretary, among them. Towards the west, Beaver Street was also made into a canal street, called Bever Straat. A bridge over the Broad Street canal gave the name to Brugh Straat, or Bridge Street, and this bridge became a favorite rendezvous for the merchants of the city, a sort of rialto and exchange in close proximity to the site of the present Produce Exchange. Other notable streets dating from this earlier period include Smee Straat, or smith Street, now a part of William Street; Smits Valey (Vly or Fly), along the East river, from Wall to Fulton Ferry; and 't Water, the west side of Whitehall, from State to Pearl.

During the administration of Stuyvesant also the problem of developing the streets with some idea of a regular plan was taken up. On his initiative surveyors of streets and buildings were appointed. In November, 1655, Allard Anthony, burgomaster, and Councillor Dr. La Montagne constituted a committee to report upon the work of the surveyors. Attention was also at the same time given to matters of sanitation. A dock was constructed on the East River side of 't Water Straat and anchorage places assigned in the river to ships of various displacement. The currency of the town and province still consisted of beaver skins and wampum, or beads strung on strings or loose. The latter was a currency that was easily mutilated and while a certain number of beads, white or black, represented a Dutch stuyver, the introduction of broken beads, or those of a poor quality from New England, brought about a great confusion of values, and the withdrawal of the better kind from circulation. Stuyvesant labored long and earnestly to remedy this condition of affairs by doing away with the primitive Indian currency altogether and substituting Dutch coins of small value. But he received little aid in this direction from the company at home, which had its reason for wanting to continue with the custom of barter or with the old uncertain currency.

Accession Through Immigration--During the last few years of the Dutch government of the province the population received some notable accessions through immigration. There had been a certain tendency to forsake the country after the serious clash with the aborigines in 1655, and the murders of that year with other deaths made a serious dent in a population that was already scanty. The annual immigration appear to us small, even having regard to the miniature character of the city at that period. In 1657 there were thirty-three immigrants. In 1658 the number of new settlers from overseas advanced suddenly to 305, one ship carrying as many as 100. In 1660 there were 171 new arrivals, a number of these being soldiers. In 1661 the number of immigrants fell to fewer then a hundred. In 1662 the number was 208; in 1663, 252; and in 1664, sixty-four. The number of immigrants, therefore, in the years from 1657 to 1664, amounted to 1,132. Most of the immigrants were mechanics and farmers, or people engaged in trade, and some of them were members of large families. In April, 1660, the "Spotted Cow" brought over two families with seven children, and one with eight children. Most of the immigrants belonged to the poorer classes in New Netherland, as in New England, but there was a small proportion of well-to-do people of education. thus the body of the nine men were made up of three men representing the large land proprietors or patroons three representing the merchants of tradespeople, and three the farmers and mechanics. There was also a professional class of lawyers, clergymen and physicians. One of the physicians took the initiative in the establishment of a sort of hospital, with a matron at a salary of 100 florins a month. The church in the fort provided apparently enough accommodation.

The Rev. Johannes Backerus, who had been sleeted at Curocao when Stuyvesant was stationed there, stayed in New Amsterdam, but the commotions around by the governor's conduct made his work distasteful and he seems to have been glad to get away at the end of a year. the Rev. Johannes Megapolensus stayed longer. He had taken charge at Fort orange from 1624 and in 1649 went to New Amsterdam, where he remained five years after the English occupation, being joined in 1664 by his son Samuel, who acted as assistant pastor. there was also the Rev. Samuel Drisius, so that at the date of the surrender the small Dutch population had three ministers. It is painful to add that, perhaps from this access of theologians, no other doctrines were tolerated in New Amsterdam, or in the vicinity, other than those of the Synod of Dort, writes on chronicler. "A Lutheran pastor called by some devout Germans was promptly, turned face about by the director and shipped back to Holland. Placards like those of the Inquisition at Brussels of old were posted at Midwout (Flatbush) forbidding any persons from harboring Quakers. Baptists, too, were held to be equally obnoxious, and were banished from the town. Dominies Drisius and Megapolensis wee directly responsible for this intolerant conduct on the part of Stuyvesant, and they urged him to go to even greater lengths than he did. Yet to the credit of Megapolensis it must be said that he was largely instrumental in rescuing both Fathers Jogues and Bressani from the Indians. To Drisius, on the other hand, belongs the credit of urging the establishment of a Latin school. Dr. Alexander Charles Curtius was called to be the principal of it, and in three years after its establishment it drew pupils from Virginia and the Delaware. As to schools for the more elementary studies, one was opened by Jan Stevensen in 1648, and another by Jan Cornelissen over a grocery store in 1650. Moneys were occasionally collected for building a schoolhouse under both Kieft and Stuyvesant, but the funds were almost invariably need for administrative purposes, and school was kept at the houses of the teachers. But besides these schoolmasters appointed and paid by the West India Company, and under the supervision of the church, there were also private teachers. The Rev. Aegidius Luyck was one of these. He had come over as private tutor in Stuyvesant's family, for his own and the Bayard children, but for some reason he was dismissed. He pursued his profession at his house in the now extinct Winkel Street. A school was started also for the benefit of the children of the settlement which had grownup around Stuyvesant's Bouwery, in the neighborhood of Thirteenth Street and Second Avenue. Her also religious services were held in the afternoon of Sundays, the Rev. Henry Selyns, who came to Breuckelen in 1600, officiating there, as well as the Wallabout and Gowanus. Thus, in 1664, counting Harlem also, the gospel was dispensed simultaneously at three different localities on Manhattan."

Meanwhile the English kept up their old claim to New Netherland and when occasion offered were not loth to harass it. But Stuyvesant showed a good deal of political ability in dealing with these exterior annoyances and succeeded in keeping danger at arm's length. The people of New England showed a strong disposition to crowd onto the better land of their south and the boundaries were thus left in uncertain possession. These boundary disputes were settled by arbitration, the arbitrators on the Dutch side being two English citizens of new Amsterdam, a fact which led to a good deal of remonstrance. When the Swedes in the Delaware section of New Netherland became too aggressive an expedition of seven armed vessels quickly averted all controversy. Stuyvesant had some difficulties with the authorities at Fort Orange of Albany, and he made a visit to that region. The English on Long Island continued to encroach on Dutch territory and to cause annoyance to Stuyvesant in other ways as they had to Kieft. They kept pressing westward, threatening to invade the Dutch villages and the English patents granted to the Dutch. Stuyvesant, like Kieft, alternated the diplomatic art with military demonstrations in order to arrest their progress. But they could not be driven off the island, and held to their holdings there, so that when the Anglo-Ditch crisis came they played no mean part in superseding Dutch rule in the province.

English Fleet at New Amsterdam--War broke out between the Commonwealth of England under Cromwell and the Dutch Republic under John de Witt while Stuyvesant was governor in New Netherland, and during those years he had been constantly apprehensive of an attack by a naval force sent out by the British enemy. He id not apprehend much danger from the English colonies on his border. The barriers that separated them was too great. An attack from the sea appeared a more easy task. Stuyvesant, as a result, constantly urged upon the West India Company and upon the citizens the necessity of strengthening the defenses of Manhattan. Most of his representations appear to have borne little fruit. Meanwhile, events were moving in Europe. Charles II was restored to the throne of his father in 1660. He had enjoyed aid and comfort and asylum in Holland during a great part of his exile. The remembrance of the hospitality he had received appeared likely to remove all thought of war from the king's mind and the minds of his advisers. In real truth no war supervened. Peace between the two home countries continued unbroken. But something that had been feared during the period of war and that did not happen, suddenly occurred in time of peace. In August of the year 1664 four English vessels, carrying a force of several hundred land troops, the whole expedition under the commander o Col. Richard Nicolls, appeared in the Upper Bay and demanded the surrender of the fort, and city of New Amsterdam, and the entire province of New Netherland. Charles II claiming the Dutch colonies as his own rightful property, had patented them all away to his brother James, Duke of York, and Nicolls claimed the region for the English crown on the strength of this royal grant. At the same time an insurrection occurred among the English settlers on Long Island. An expedition of English colonists stood ready to invade New Netherland from the north and east simultaneously with the naval attack from the sea. Stuyvesant saw that the situation was a bad one. The State was practically undefended. The fort was weak and dilapidated, the supply of troops was inadequate, the populace cherished a strong spirit of discontent against their governor. In

Spite of the perilous situation Stuyvesant was willing to do down fighting, nailing his colors to the mast. His response to the message of Nicholls was to tear the document into fragments, and to seek to rally the Dutch forces. But those forces seemed to be in no mood fro rallying. The Dutch had no desire to see the English in possession of their colony. Had there been any chance of success they would have defended the city to the last, for they were under no delusion that English rule was any better than Dutch rule, despite the despotism of the Kiefts and he Stuyvesants. But it was a case of submitting to the inevitable. The council voted surrender, and the citizens agreed with it. The director stormed up and down the walls of the fort in the effort whip up some show of resistance. He even made a feint of discharging the funs with his own hands. But the ministers united their representations with those of the people and advised surrender as the only means of preventing a useless sacrifice of many lives. The proud spirit of old New Amsterdam on August 29, 1664, the flag of the Dutch Republic was lowered, and the British flag was run up in its place.

The scene preceding the change of flags floating over Fort Amsterdam might well deserve to be commemorated by the painter's brush, in the opinion of one chronicler:

Such a picture would show us Stuyvesant furiously stamping the floor with his wooden leg, while he reads and tears to pieces the letter sent him by Nicolls, demanding a surrender of the province; it would show us Stuyvesant, surrounded by the clergymen and magistrates of New Amsterdam, who implore the irate soldier not to let the question be decided vi et armis, but to submit to the inevitable; it would show us the citizens suddenly ceasing their work on the palisades for the defense of the Stadhuys and coming to the fort to support the magistrates. Another picture growing out of the first should make us see Stuyvesant marching out of the gate leading into Broadway, at the head of his handful of soldiers, fully armed and equipped, the drums beating, the colors flying, and the marches lighted. Thus New Amsterdam ceased to exist on the morning of the 8th of September, 1664, and New York arose on its memory.

After the Surrender--Stuyvesant, after the surrender, was recalled by order of the States-General, to make a report of his administration. He arrived at The Hague in October, 1665, and after consideration of the papers submitted by him and by the directors of the West India Company, he was allowed in 1668 to return to the city, the growth of which ad taken such considerable strides during his administration. He settled on the bouwery, which he had purchased several years before, covering that part of the city which lies between Third Avenue and the East River and between Sixth and Sixteenth streets. His residence, which stood on a site to the west of St. mark's Church in Tenth Street, was destroyed by fire in 1777, but the pear tree which he brought with him on his return to New York survived the house by nearly a century. He is said to have interested himself in church affairs and city improvements, to have grown in course of time quite sociable and companionable, and to have frequently given hospitality to his English successor at his country seat, and rendered himself dear to his family and his friends. He died about eight years after the surrender, between January 1 and March 25, 1672, aged about eighty years.

It was generally held by friend and foe alike that there was no disgrace attached to the surrender of the city. Stuyvesant in his "Answer" to the charges which were made against him by the West India company for surrendering without a demonstration, at least, of resistance, declared to the States-General that the fort at New Amsterdam could have been "reduced to five hundred men in less than twenty-four hours," and gave a description of the fort and of the conditions with which it was confronted. The fort, he said, was situated in an untenable place, where it was located on the first discovery of New Netherland for the purpose of resisting an attack of the barbarians rather then an assault of European arms, having within pistol shot on the north and northeasterly sides, higher ground than that on which it stands, so that, notwithstanding the walls and works were raised highest on that side, people standing and walking on that high ground could see the soles of the feet of those on the esplanade and bastions of the fort, where the view was not obstructed by the houses and the church in it, and by the gabions on the wall. The director had claimed that the fort of New Amsterdam could not endure an English siege, among other reasons, because there was no well in the fort and only a limited number of water barrels. Aegidius Luyck and three others who witnessed the surrender made a written declaration in which they said that the city of New Amsterdam being open all round and only enclosed on the land side in all haste and speed, on the arrival of the enemy, by old and rotten palisades against which a little breastwork was thrown about, three and a half feet high and scarcely one foot wide, was consequently unfit to withstand the smallest force.

It appears that the successful English invaders began to bring the name of New York into vogue in place of that of New Amsterdam on the very day the city surrendered. Thus on that very day Colonel Nicolls, the English commander, is found writing to Capt., John Young, under the headline of "N. Yorke." The letter directs Captain Young "to take an exact list of ye names of those of Long Islande who have taken upp Armes" under his command, "for their King and Country," with their addresses, that he may reward them. It requires that their arms may remain in their hands and that a known body of militia maybe ready to be called upon when necessary. On the same day the royal commissioners dated their letters to the governour of Massachusetts, "from New Yorke upon the Island of the Manhatoes." The Rev. Samuel Drisius, in his letter to the Classis of Amsterdam wrote: "After the surrender of the place several Englishmen came to us and said that God had signally overruled matters, that the affair has been arranged by negotiations, else nothing else but pillage, bloodshed, and general ruin would have followed. This was confirmed by several soldiers, who said that they had come here from England hoping for booty; but that now, since the matter turned out so differently, they desired to return to England."


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

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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