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

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

CHAPTER III

The Rise and Fall of English Rule.

Among the papers relating to the Dutch surrender of new Netherland is a "Register of the Principal Events" connected therewith, under date of August 30 to September 9, in which is found the following paragraph: "And thereupon, without any other occurrence, was, as above stated, the place of New Amsterdam , in New Netherland, situate on the Manhatans, surrendered to the English, the garrison retiring with all their arms, flying colors and beating drums; and thereby the English, without contest or claim being before put forth by any person to it, took at the expense of the West India Company," #1 Thus in words that sprang out of the situation itself was chronicled the passing of the city and the province from under Dutch rile to English rule. The transition was not a supremely difficult one, for Dutch rule and British rule had a great deal in common, and indeed, in little over a score of years the difference was to be balanced somewhat by the accession of a Dutch king to the throne of England. Both Holland and England in the mass of its population were bound by the common denominator of their German kinship. Both England and Holland were predominantly Protestant. The rancor of so-called religious fanaticism was not, therefore, superinduced over the enmities that sprang our of national and racial rivalries. For a long time a state of war had existed between Great Britain and the Netherlands, and that state of ware was apt every now and then to break out into open hostility. There was no war between England and Holland at the time that Charles II decided to seize the favorable opportunity of getting hold of the rich Dutch provinces in America. The thing was, therefore, accomplished with a good deal of skill and the minimum in the way of the shedding of blood. It would be a mistake to suppose, however, that the Dutch in America passed under English rule willingly. They resented the transition bitterly. Their behavior was simply dictated by prudence. They had to yield to superior force. The only alternative to English rule was annihilation, or something very akin to it, so they made the best of a bad job. But the bitterness long prevailed among them, and only the passage of time was capable of filing away the discord and blending the contrary elements.

Basis of English Claims--What actually happened was that a new ruling element entered new Netherland and some superficial changes. The mass of the population was Dutch and long retained the Dutch speech and Dutch customs. In the sequel the influx of the English became stronger, and gradually and almost unconsciously the different strains in the population, the different manners, and the different ways of thinking began to blend into what later came to be called the American pattern. For a long time discussion went on about the ethics of the British occupation/ but it is perfectly clear that the predominating argument was force. The English took New Amsterdam because they saw they would be able to do it. If a man wants a thing and sees he is able to get hold of it and keep it, he will never be wanting in arguments and excuses in favor of his possessing himself of it. This sort of self-exculpatoin us a necessity of human nature and springs out of the exercise of the rational faculty. A bird or beast of prey can kill and eat without invoking the moral law in justification. A human being cannot. Man has to rationalize his instincts, his cupidities, his envies, his hatreds. He has to find excuse and justification for his acts and is omissions. Little attention need, therefore, be paid to the arguments and the moral justifications that accompanied the English seizure of New Netherland. The real argument was superior force; the moral rhetoric was merely the verbal expression of the cupidities, the jealousies and the apprehensions that accompanied the violent entrance into property that belonged to others.

The English took their claims based on the discoveries of Giovanni Caboto very seriously, though they minimized claims on similarly valid grounds made by others. It was the way of diplomacy at that times as it has been the way of diplomacy since. At various time they made it clear to the Dutch settlers that they coveted the rich provinces that lay between the torrid zones of Virginia and the aridity of Massachusetts, and made it clear that they contemplated forcible seizure if opportunity offered. Captain Argal is represented as having protested against Christiansen's trading post on Manhattan Island in 1614. Hudson's "Half Moon," was kept at Dartmouth for a period of six months and he himself was withheld from reporting in person at Amsterdam, though his detention was manifestly a willing one in view of what looked like failure. Minuit's vessel was held when it entered an English port. The case of the "William," sent back to England by Van Twiller minus a cargo was carried tot he courts and formed the subject of protocols and Sate appears between England and the Netherlands. Moreover, when the charter was about to be granted to the West India company, in 1621, a protest was served upon the States-General by the English ambassador. It is true that the English, when it suited them, held strongly to the Vattel's principle of international law that title to a country discovered was only valid if discovery was followed y occupancy. In the case of New Netherland protest was used to take the place of the act of settlement. The original owners of the land were very little considered, and the fight for the aboriginal continent became merely a scramble by stronger European combatants.

The terms of surrender had been made easy for the Dutch population. Twenty-three articles of capitulation were laid before the citizens and, after discussion, they were accepted. It was agreed that the inhabitants were to continue "Free denizens," enjoying their lands and goods and freedom to worship. Anyone wishing to go back to Holland could do so free of expense within one year and six weeks. People coming from Holland to settle were to be entitled to all privileges exactly as before. Vessels in trade were to be permitted to come and go as they had done during Dutch occupation. Contracts and disputed titles were to be settled in accordance with the customs that prevailed among the people of the Netherlands. This made the change that had come over the face of things more tolerable. Nicolls and his men did not represent the English people, but the English King. The presented in particular the personal proprietor of the province, James, Duke of York and Albany, brother of Charles II, and his successor twenty-one year later as King of England. Before the arrival of the English the small town of 1,500 people had been capital of a province that was the property of a great mercantile corporation; from then on it was owned in fee single by a single proprietor, who had been made such by one who had become proprietor simply by his own fiat. The aborigines of the country could, of course, be burglarized with a great deal of impunity. It was hardly compatible with Dutch pride, however, that these high-handed proceedings should be perpetuated without retaliation. The republic of the Netherlands began hostilities against England, and frequent skirmishes took place between the Dutch and English forces. A memorable exploit was the expedition by Admiral De Ruyter who, in 1666, sailed up the River Thames and burnt the shipping at Chatham, making the houses of London echo with the reverberations of his guns. Then negotiations became in order and at the peace at Breda, in 1667, New Netherland was ceded to England in exchange for Surinan in South America.

First Results of English Occupation--Little change was made at first under the English occupation in the municipal government. While the council of the province was remodeled on the English plan, with the members all English, the burgomasters and schepens were left as they were. In February of 1664, Paulus Leendersen Van die Grist and Cornelius Steenwyck had become burgomasters. They were permitted to serve out their year. In February, 1665, Van die Grist was succeeded by Oloff Stephensen Van Cortlandt, and Steenwyck was re-appointed. During June, 1665, the Dutch form of government was replaced by the English, and from thenceforth the town officers were to consist of a mayor, five aldermen, and a sheriff. Thomas Willett was made mayor; he had been one of the Englishmen who had lived at New Amsterdam from an early period. He had come to the Plymouth colony in 1629, and having shared the fortunes of the Pilgrims in Holland, was familiar with the Dutch language and Dutch customs. Of the aldermen, the majority were Dutchmen, with two Englishmen , ex-Burgomasters Van Cortlandt, John Brugges, Cornelius Van Ruyven, Thomas Delvall and John Lawrence The new sheriff was Allard Anthony, an Englishman, who, nevertheless, had been on of the original schepens in 1653, and had also been burgomaster five times. There were at the same time protests by the Dutch. Each change necessitated a wrenching out of the old habits, but the gravamen of the protest in connection with the changes in the municipal administration lay in the fact that the choice of officials had been taken entirely out of the hands of the people and lodged exclusively with the Governor. Clearly the representative principle so often absurdly described as of English origin, though manifestly as old as civilization itself, had up to this date become a more highly developed habit among the Dutch than among the English in public affairs.

There was still another difficulty when the question arose of administering the oath of allegiance. "It was contended that this requirement conflicted with the terms of surrender. But Nicholls gave assurance that no particular therein agreed upon should be violated as the result of the oath. Indeed, the proceeding was so inevitable and reasonable under the circumstances that Stuyvesant was among the first to take the oath, and over 250 heads of families followed his example. As the population was only 1,500, this smut have taken in about every responsible male mender of the community. This event occurred in October, 1664. A more questionable proceeding, which certainly seemed to violate Articles III and XVI of the Capitulation, was a decree of the Governor in 1667, that all titles to land derived from the Dutch government must be renewed by April 1, on pain of forfeiture, if not so renewed. Nicolls was in great need of money and fees for the new titles would amount to a goodly sum the old records of Long island towns show that even its free-spoken citizens were compelled to comply with the obnoxious decree. That island had been re-christened Yorkshire, divided like its namesake into the North, the East, and the West Ridings. The West Ridings now embraces all of Brooklyn, and part of the North Riding belongs now also to Greater New York. The Court of Assize, from whom this decree to renew titles issued, was an institution that owed it existence to Nicolls, in pursuance of the 'Duke's laws,' a code diligently elaborated by the governor himself, whose father was a barrister and who must have had some legal training. While these laws established a very unmistakable autocracy, making the Governor's will supreme, and laving neither officers nor measures to the choice of the people, yet it secured also many beneficent features; these being, in short, 'trial by jury, equal taxation, tenure of land from the Duke of York, no religious establishment, but requirement of some church form, freedom of religion to all professing Christianity, obligatory service in each parish on Sunday, a recognition of Negro slaves under certain restrictions, and general liability to military duty,'" #2

In Europe the substitution of British rule for Dutch rule in New Netherland was, of course, regarded with mixed feelings. De Witt send an order to the ambassador in London, Van Gogh, to demand the restitution of the Dutch province from the English King. King Charles denied the titles of the Dutchmen and got ready for the threatened war. Downing, the English ambassador in Holland, send a sneering message to the States-General. Dutch fleets were commissioned to wrest the Dutch settlements on the African coast which, likewise, had been taken over by the English, and the British government ordered the seizure of Netherland ships where ever they could be found. However, the Dutchmen showed themselves surprisingly strong. The English in New York lived in apprehension of a Dutch descent on the harbor, an eventuality which later suddenly materialized. The years that followed were marked by numerous engagement between the Dutch and the English fleets in the narrow seas as well as in distant points that had been partially settled.

Trials for Witchcraft--An incident that throws light on the mind of the time was the trial for witchcraft of Ralph and Mary Hill. The case was held before the Court of Assize of New York in October, 1665, before a jury picked from the business community. The prisoners were from Seatalcott, or Brookhaven, Long Island, and were charged with having procured the deaths of one George Wood and the infant child of Ann Rogers, the widow of Wood, by the employment of certain wicked arts. There were a number of witnesses to testify to the facts. "then the Clarke calling upon Ralph Hall, bade him hold up his hand and read as follows: 'Ralph hall, thou standest here indicted for that, not having the fear of God before thine eyes, thou didst upon the 25th day of December, as is suspected, by some wicked and detestable arts, cause the deaths of the said George Wood and the infante childe.'" The wife, Mary Hall, was summoned in the same way. Both prisoners pleased not guilty, and the jury gave them the advantage of the doubt. Hall was acquitted, but some suspicion, it was held, lay upon the wife and the husband was directed to give bonds for her good conduct. In 1668 govern Nicolls set them both at liberty. Cases of this kind were hard and caused a great deal of suffering of innocent people. Some years after the case of the Halls, there was a Katherine Harrison, a widow from Wethersfield, Connecticut, who was charged by some of the population of Westchester with witchcraft, and they were anxious to drive her form their borders, but she was able to convince her neighbors of her uprightness of character and was, therefore, allowed to remain. This was in favorable contrast with the gross superstition of the time both in England and in New England, where belief in witchcraft and necromancy and a dozen other popular follies wreaked punishment on inoffensive victims. The cosmopolitan population of New York seems to have had the effect of revising beliefs by bringing them into contact with new ways of thinking and the general level of intelligence seems to have prevented the condemnation of people accused of witchcraft by ignorant neighbors.

Governor Nicolls recognized the favorable position of New York, and gives indications that he realized the probability of its future greatness. In November he wrote to the Duke of York that his government was apparently satisfactory to the people and that even the republicans could find no cause for complaint. He urged the duke to send across some merchant ships as the trade of the city was nearly lost. He gave expression to his belief that New York was likely to become the chief port of the continent. Hither, he said, and not to Boston, would the commerce of America have to come. He gave expression to his sense of grievance over the neglect shown to him by the ministry. No supplies had reached him from England and he had almost squandered his private fortune in the effort to save the soldiers who accompanied him from privation, and he, therefore, asked to be relieved of his command. He proposed as his successor Captain Harry Norwood, who had gone to England, but who, he thought , would; be acceptable to the soldiers and the country. The ministry in England replied to Nicolls in a letter of compliment, but containing a refusal to relive Nicolls of his command. No one else, in the judgment of the government at home, could fill the place of Governor so well.

Anglo-Dutch Skirmishes--Indeed, at that time there was solid ground for the withholding of ships and supplies, for the state of war that had existed between England and the Netherlands had once again broken out into open hostilities. Charles picked for his sudden attack an house that seemed favorable to his ministers. An epidemic was raging in Holland at the time and 1,500 persons are said to have died in Amsterdam alone within a single week. Misfortunes never come singly, one misfortune leads to another, and a chain of calamities at that time held the Netherlands in its grip. There was civil discord and the Orange faction was clamoring for the head of De Witt, while the mounting debt crippled the country. The fleet had been commanded by the best of the Dutch captains, except De Ruyter, who was away on a distant expedition. The crews had been given increased rations, with the promise of enlarged pensions, and a considerable reward was offered to any who should capture a flag-ship. There were 103 line of battle-ships, 11 fire-ships, and 12 galliots, apart from a reserve squadron of 40 ships, the whole manned by something like 22, 000 men. The English fleet numbers 109 line of battle-ships, 21 fire-ships, and 7 galliots, with about 7,000 men. The Duke of York, the Earl of Sandwich, and Prince Rupert were in chief command of the English fleet, while Admiral Obdam and Vice-Admiral Cortenaer were at the head of the Dutch Navy. The fire-ships were the great offensive weapons of the time, for in the days when fleets were made of wood, fire was the chief peril faced by them. The fleets met off Lowestoft and grappled in a long contest in which the Dutch were the great losers. Cortenaer was killed by shot early in the battle and this demoralized the squadron he had commanded. Obdam assailed the flag-ship of the Duke of York, but his own ship blew up and all on board were lost. The Dutch, however, did no take their defeat supinely. John De Witt stood at the head of the government in the Netherlands, and as Grand Pensionary of Holland succeeded greatly in developing Politics in New York State-From the Rise of the Whig Party to the Eve of the

Civil War the trade of the country. It was, indeed, the spectacle of republican energy and prosperity in Holland, in strong contrast with the profligacy and widespread penury in monarchical England and France that had aroused the enmity of the rulers of those countries. De Witt sought out the causes of defeat and corrected abuses and errors. The fleet was fitted out anew and De Ruyter was put at the head of it. Circumstances brought it about that the Netherlands received the aid of both France and Denmark, and thus it came about that Dutch ships were able to ascent the Thames, pour out their shop into the environs of London, defeat the English in several engagements and made the Ditch flag again respected on the narrow seas.

Francis Lovelace Governor--When the Treaty of Breda was signed there was less nervousness about the safety of New York, and Nicolls was consequently recalled and Francis Lovelace appointed governor in his place. With Lovelace he visited Albany. He endeavored to bring order into affairs of the Delaware before his departure. He arranged that thirty lots of land should be given to each soldier of the garrison of Esopus. In August, 1668, he sailed for England. The city at the time had a population of about 2,000. Its exports consisted in the main of furs, gathered from the Indians as they had been gathered from the beginning, and paid for largely in rum, imported front the West Indies. There was a overplusage yield from the earth, with large stores of wheat, which farmers might easily and profitably have sent abroad, if there had been ships to carry the cargo they was any amount of venison and game which, likewise, might have been easily send abroad. New houses were gradually filling vacant sites in the lower city, and the Dutch nomenclature was largely preserved in the streets. On the whole the years that had passed under English occupation from the time of Stuyvesant had not seen any considerable change in the city that was immediately apparent to the eye.

Governor Lovelace appears to have aimed at following the policy of his predecessor in doing what he could to earn the goodwill of the preponderating Dutch element. In the year of his promotion he appointed as mayor of the city Cornelius Steenwyck, who had been burgomaster once or twice before. Steenwyck seems to have been a capable executive and Lovelace, during his absences from New York on one or two occasions, delegated his authority to him. He was a storekeeper, with his residence at what is now the southeast corner of Bridge and Whitehall streets. Among the six or seven well-to-do men of the town, whose fortunes in 1674 were reckoned in five figures, Steenwyck stood second. Lovelace went over the provinces a good deal. He saw that the interest of the city and the province required the establishment of a postal service between Boston and New York, and the localities between. In his correspondence with friends in England we learn of the first post office and postal route established in New York. The secretary of the province held the key to a box which received the letters. Once a month, beginning with January 1, 1673, the postman, mounted upon a goodly horse, which had to carry him as far as Hartford, collected the accumulated mail into his saddle bags. At Hartford he mounted another horse and made his way through woods and swamps and across rivers as best he could. When he returned the coffee-house in the city was his rendezvous and here the letters were displayed on a large table and handed over when paid for. When this arrangement was interrupted and a new postal system was introduced in 1685, the price then proposed was three pence for every letter carried 100 miles, or part of the distance. In the period of the administration of Lovelace a merchants' exchange was established on a bridge over the canal at Broad street. On Fridays at the hour of eleven or twelve the town hall bell rang to call the merchants together, and the city authorities were entrusted with the responsibility of seeing that there should be nothing to interfere with the gathering. Lovelace also decided to revert to the former fashion of housing the executive department in the fort, and the dilapidated stronghold was thus renovated at considerable expense. He also negotiated the purchase of Staten island from the Indians as the personal property of the Duke of York. Four hundred fathoms of wampum and a collection of axes, kettles, coats, guns, hoes, knives, and similar utensils served to complete this early barter in city real estate. Lovelace, moreover, encouraged the scheme originated by Nicolls of a racecourse at Hempstead, offering a cup as prize. He urged on the municipal authorities at Harlem the desirability of constructing a wagon road and he took part in instituting a club composed of ten French and Dutch and English families, who met in rotation at each others' houses twice a week in winter and once in summer. So that there was some sort of society in New York and mingling of different strains despite the animosities between governments.

Dutch Retake New York--The there was a sudden reversal. War and terror began to rage again in Europe and its repercussions came in time to be heard in New York. Louis XIV, the Grand Monarch of France, with the sort of fickleness with which absolute monarchs can allow themselves the luxury, from being the ally of Holland, has not turned violently against her. The particular cause of his animosity was Dutch interference with his schemes to secure the throne of Spain for himself and his heirs. He managed to interest Charles II, of England, also in his plan of revenge, which aimed at the destruction of the United provinces, the very existence of which was a standing rebuke to the rule of kings and despots of every kind. Louis poured his armies across the borders of Holland and was checked only by the inundations from the dikes opened by the Dutch. Civil War broke out likewise in Holland. The infuriated populace murdered in the streets John De Witt, long the capable head of the republic, and the chief opponent of the House of Orange, and his brother, Cornelius. Prince William Henry, of the House of Orange, succeeded thus to all the offices, civil and military, and the enemy was defied. Meanwhile Dutch fleets, under De Ruyter and Tromp, scoured the seas and won a series of victories over the French and the English. A squadron suddenly appeared in New York harbor, and summoned the city to surrender, as New Amsterdam had surrendered nine years before. A broadside was poured into the fort, which answered feebly. When a force of marines was landed, they were met by an offer to capitulate. The Tri-color of the Dutch Republic was thus once again turn up at the fort and the province and city were recovered by the former owners.

It was clear that the Dutch meant business and were possessed of a determination to hold on to what they considered their own. Their show of force greatly impressed the Long islanders, who had been exceedingly bellicose at the time of the capture of New Amsterdam by Nicolls, but who were at this time brought into a proper state of submissiveness. The old name of the city was not restored. It was given the name of New Orange, and the Dutch system of law and government was again introduced. Three burgomasters were appointed, Johannes Van Brush, Johannes De Peyster, and Aegidius Luyck. Anthony De Milt was made schout, or sheriff. Captain Colve had been made governor of the restored province and he acted in all these proceedings rather arbitrarily, though there was some excuse in view of the fact that a reign of war prevailed. The people were not consulted in the appointments nor in the expenditure on the considerable taxes put on them for reparation work in the city. The officials acted as the representatives of the States-General and no longer of the West India company, which had fallen largely from its former power and even in the great period of its prosperity had showed itself incapable of keeping New Netherlands. It veered in its last days towards bankruptcy and was finally dissolved in 1674. The government of the restored province has thus the actual backing of the Dutch republic and the measures taken for its defense showed noting of the lackadaisical spirit that formerly dallied with public questions. The fort was greatly strengthened. Buildings in its vicinity were removed so as not to obstruct the range of the guns, newly placed from the squadron in the bay. The Dutch had been invigorated in spirit by a series of victories on sea and land and they felt quite confident in their determination to hold onto the province which they regarded as theirs by right and law.

English Again in Power--However, the province was to enjoy the restored Dutch sovereignty only for a brief period, but no new surrender was to mark the end of it. It was to be a voluntary transfer and a suitable quid pro quo was to be had in return. In 1674, before the negotiators had had the news about what was going on in America, the Peace of Westminster was concluded between England and the Netherlands. By the terms of the peace all conquests on either side were to be restored. As Holland had not lost Surinam, while England was losing New York, the Treaty of Breda still remained in force, and the giving up of New Netherland was accounted of small moment as long as the southern possession was safe. New York thus became English again and the Duke of York appointed Edmund Andros as the third English governor. Andros, on October 22, 1674, arrived inside the Narrows with two frigates and anchored off the city to await the action of the Dutch authorities. The formalities of the transfer were conducted without any hitch. The new English governor received the burgomasters of the city aboard his frigate and assured them that the guaranties given tot he Dutch population would be observed. On November 9, Governor Colve, at the city hall, absolved the burgomasters, schepens and schouts of their oaths to the Dutch government, and announced that the keys to the city and the command of the province would be tendered by him on the following day to the Governor sent out by the Duke of York. Thus on November 10, 1674, after fifteen months of the restored Dutch rule, New orange became new York again, with the English in the seat of power.

Andros, before he left the frigate which had brought him over, issued a proclamation declaring that all former grants, privileges, or concessions, granted before that date. and also all legal and judicial proceedings, during the late Dutch government, were thereby confirmed. Dutch forms and ceremonies would be respected. Again there was trouble about the taking of the oath of allegiance. On march 13, 1675, the citizens were required to repair to the town hall to take the oath of allegiance to the English crown, but there was a fear that the Dutch population might by this oath be at sometime forced to take up arms against the country of their origin as they were required to do when the Dutch fleet returned to Manhattan. They claimed, therefore, that the taking of a new oath was unnecessary. The Governor cast into prison eight Dutch officials who asked to be exempted from taking an unconditional oath, or else to be permitted "to dispose of their estates and remove with their families out of the colony.' These, except ex-Burgomaster De Peyster, stood trial and were convicted of violating an Act of Parliament "in having traded without taking the oath." They were released on bail and finally ended the trouble by all taking the required oath.

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

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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