Hand-Colored Dutch Map of Colonial Virginia, c. 1630
Hand-Colored Dutch Map of Colonial Virginia | c. 1630 | This hand-colored map is oriented with the West (Occidens) at the top to emphasize the Chesapeake Bay area | Labeled and keyed in Latin | Distressed wood frame | Measures 17.5″ x 15.0″ x 1.5″
As of 1650, the Dutch American colonies Dutch North American colonies stretched from the Chesapeake Bay (depicted in the map herein presented) and the Susquehanna River in the South and West, to Narragansett Bay and the Providence-Blackstone Rivers in the East, to the St. Lawrence River in the North.
Dutch trading posts and plantations in the Americas precede the much wider known colonization activities of the Dutch in Asia. While the first Dutch fort in Asia was built in 1600 (in present-day Indonesia), the first forts and settlements on the Essequibo River in Guyana date from the 1590s. Actual colonization, with Dutch settling in the new lands, was not as common as with other European nations. Many of the Dutch settlements were lost or abandoned by the end of the 17th century, but the Netherlands managed to retain possession of Suriname until it gained independence in 1975, as well as the Netherlands Antilles, of which the islands remain within the Kingdom of the Netherlands today.
In 1602, the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands chartered a young and eager Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie or “VOC”) with the mission of exploring North America’s Rivers and Bays for a direct passage through to the Indies. Along the way, Dutch explorers were charged to claim any uncharted areas for the United Provinces, which led to several significant expeditions and, over time, Dutch explorers founded the province of New Netherland. By 1610, the VOC had already commissioned English explorer Henry Hudson who, in an attempt to find the so-called northwest passage to the Indies, discovered and claimed for the VOC parts of the present-day United States and Canada. Hudson entered the Upper New York Bay by sailboat, heading up the Hudson River, which now bears his name.
On March 27, 1614 the States General would move away from traditional monopolistic endeavors and take a new and freer approach to exploration and commercial development of the New World; the issuance of the General Charter for Those who Discover Any New Passages, Havens, Countries, or Places stated that “the said undertaking to be laudable, honorable, and serviceable for the prosperity of the United Provinces and wishing that the experiment be free and open to all and every of the inhabitants of this country, have invited and do hereby invite all and every of the inhabitants of the United Netherlands to the aforesaid search.”
In 1614, Adriaen Block led an expedition to the lower Hudson River in the Tyger, and then explored the East River aboard the Onrust, becoming the first known European to navigate the Hellegat in order to gain access to Long Island Sound. Block Island and Block Island Sound are befittingly named in his honor. Upon his return to Amsterdam in 1614, Block compiled a map, and applied the name ‘New Netherland’ for the first time to the area between English Virginia and French Canada, where he was later granted exclusive trading rights by the Dutch government. Block quickly ascended and became Manhattan’s first monopolist.
After some early trading expeditions, the first Dutch settlement in the Americas was founded in 1615: Fort Nassau, on Castle Island along the Hudson, near present-day Albany. The settlement served mostly as an outpost for trading in fur with the native Lenape tribespeople, but was later replaced by Fort Orange. Both forts were named in honor of the House of Orange-Nassau.
By 1621, the United Provinces had charted a new company, a trading monopoly in the Americas and West Africa: the Dutch West India Company (Westindische Compagnie or WIC). The WIC sought recognition as founders of the New World – which they ultimately did as founders of a new Province in 1623, New Netherland. That year, another Fort Nassau was built on the Delaware River near Gloucester City, New Jersey.
In 1624, the first colonists, mostly Walloons and their slaves-bound servants, arrived to New Netherland by the shipload, landing at Governors Island and initially dispensed to Fort Orange, Fort Wilhelmus and Kievets Hoek. In 1626, Director of the WIC Peter Minuit purchased the island of Manhattan from the Lenape natives and started construction of Fort Amsterdam, which grew to become the main port and capital, New Amsterdam. The colony expanded to outlying areas at Pavonia, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Long Island.
On the Connecticut River, Fort Huys de Goede Hoop was completed in 1633 at present day Hartford. By 1636, the English from Newtown (now Cambridge, Massachusetts) settled on the north side of the Little River. In the Treaty of Hartford, the border of New Netherland was retracted to western Connecticut and by 1653, the English had overtaken the Dutch trading post.
Expansion along the Delaware River beyond Fort Nassau did not begin until the 1650s, after the takeover of a Swedish colony, obviously called New Sweden which had been established at Fort Christina in 1638. Settlements at Fort Nassau and the short-lived Fort Beversreede were abandoned and consolidated at Fort Casimir. By 1655 Fort Christina, sitting in what is today Wilmington, had already been renamed Fort Altena.
Not all inhabitants of New Netherlands, Manahatta’s first European colonizers, were ethnically Dutch, but in reality came from many European countries. Along with the large number of African native peoples–originally brought over bound by the shackles of slavehood–many New Netherlanders were Walloons, Huguenots, Germans, Scandinavian and English relocated from New England.
In 1664, an English naval expedition ordered by Prince James, Duke of York and of Albany (later King James II & VII) sailed in the harbor at New Amsterdam, threatening to attack. Being greatly outnumbered, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant surrendered after negotiating favorable articles of capitulation. The Province then took a new name, New York (from James’s English title). Fort Orange was renamed Fort Albany (from James’s Scottish title). The region between the lower Hudson and the Delaware was deeded to proprietors and called New Jersey.
The loss of New Netherland led to the Second Anglo–Dutch War during 1665–1667. This conflict ended with the Treaty of Breda, which stipulated that the Dutch give up their claim to New Netherlands in exchange for Suriname.
From 1673 to 1674, the territories were once again briefly captured by the Dutch in the Third Anglo–Dutch War, only to be returned to England at the Treaty of Westminster. In 1674, Dutch navy captain Jurriaen Aernoutsz also briefly captured two forts in the French colony of Acadia, which he claimed as Dutch territory the new colony of New Holland. However, Aernoutsz’s appointed administrator, John Rhoades, quickly lost control of the territory after Aernoutsz himself left for Curaçao to seek out new settlers, and with effective control of Acadia remaining in the hands of France, Dutch sovereignty existed only on paper until the Netherlands surrendered their claim in the Treaties of Nijmegen.
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