the english capture new amsterdam -- 11/1/20

Today's selection -- from Merchant Kings by Stephen R. Bown. In the 1600s, the English and the Dutch were major commercial rivals, and their conflicts erupted in a series of Anglo-Dutch wars. As a small part of this, the English took a small, poorly managed colony called New Amsterdam. The residents of that colony resented their government, and thus the English were able to take over the island without a shot. The English renamed it New York:

"If English troops could lay siege to and take the Dutch quasi-colony run by the West India Company, it would give England control over the entire eastern coast of North Amer­ica and link the New England colonies in the north with the British settlements in the Chesapeake. Not only was New Amsterdam, on Manhattan Island, the centre of Dutch com­mercial activity in the western Atlantic, it had also emerged as the centre of trade for much of the commerce of the English colonies. As the critical port in eastern North America, New Netherland, particularly the Dutch settlement of New Amster­dam, had become a pawn in the epic commercial struggle between Holland and England. James and some of his cronies had incorporated several other companies aimed at challenging the Dutch commercially, such as the Royal African Company, with the objective of destroying the Dutch-controlled West African slave trade and taking over the transport of slaves to the plantation colonies of the Caribbean. In 1663 this company, headed by the duke, seized all the Dutch slave-trading posts in West Africa. Ousted from the Spice Islands and the East Indies, the English were not prepared to be dominated closer to home in the Atlantic, and as a result to have their expansionist ambitions thwarted. New Amsterdam, and all of New Neth­erland, had to be taken -- and reports indicated that, against all probability, the Dutch company trusted with managing it had devoted little to the town's defence.

"James moved swiftly. In 1665 four frigates under the command of Colonel Richard Nicolls left England on a secret mission to assault New Netherland. Nearly two thousand troops were prepared for the invasion. Separated on the voyage across the Atlantic, the small squadron regrouped and anchored in Gravesend Bay on August 26. It unloaded the infantry: 450 troops marched to commandeer the ferry at Breukelen (present­-day Brooklyn), and others marched along the coast to drum up support from the many English settlers and towns in the Dutch colony. About 1,500 people lived in New Amster­dam, and about 10,000 populated the entire colony, in towns and on farms throughout the territory centred on the Hudson River. Despite entreaties from the citizens and from its gover­nor, however, the West India Company had refused all requests for additional ammunition and soldiers, not wanting to shoul­der the expense. The board of directors suggested optimistically in a letter to Pieter Stuyvesant, the governor of the colony, that he need not worry about an English invasion because 'we are in hopes that as the English at the north have removed mostly from old England for the causes aforesaid [religious freedom], they will not give us henceforth so much trouble, but prefer to live free under us at peace with their consciences than to risk getting rid of our authority and then falling again under a gov­ernment from which they had formerly fled.' The directors hoped that the company's policy of religious toleration would galvanize its citizens to fight any invasion."



Stephen R. Bown


Merchant Kings


Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press


Copyright 2009, Stephen R. Bown


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