Monday, June 6, 2011

Rivals for the Northeast: The Dutch

From 1492 to the early 1600s, Spain, France, England, and the Netherlands were in a race to see which empire could not only spread their influences far and wide but also to see which could find an all-water route to the Asian subcontinent of India.All four empires failed, but all four empires found success in the New World. In New York, it was the French, Dutch, and later the English who found great success.

Albany, formally known as Fort Orange, was settled by the Dutch in early 1600s after being discovered by Henry Hudson. Looking for a faster route to Asia in 1609, he explored the river which was later named for him, northward from the island of Manhattan.

Hudson's crew on his ship, the Half Moon (pictured), were under stress and angry that that no route to Asia had been found. The crew mutanied and sent Hudson, his son, and any supporters onto a small rowboat adrift in what is now Hudson Bay without food and palpable water.

Despite that, the Dutch set up New Amterdam in 1626 at the mouth of the Hudson River as a way to protect its valuable upriver posts, which was later named New York by the English who took over, was founded with Fort Orange at the hub.

By 1664, nearly 10,000 Dutch were settled in Fort Orange when the English captured the fort and renamed it Albany in honor of the Duke of Albany. Though it was technically part of Britain's crown until the American Revolution, Dutch merchants continued to influence the city. Under Dutch guidance, Albany played an inportant role in maintaining communication between the French British, and the Iroquois.

Unlike the French and the Spanish at the time, the Dutch didn't want cultural change, they just wanted profits. The Dutch made no attempt to convert Indians and even prided themselves on religious tolerance and their ability to mind their own business--this made the Dutch colony unusually attractive to the Protestant religious dissenters and Jewish exiles. New Amsterdan had the official policy of taking everyone who will behave themselves and pay taxes; from its earliest beginnings, it was a thriving port town with people of multi-racial and multi-lingual decents.

The Dutch traded with the Indians upriver because the Indians were eager to get guns they had seen and been able to field-test in 1609. However, not everything was well and good. The Dutch bullied the Indians around modern-day Kingston and tried to seize farmland so they would leave. The Dutch authorized large tracts of land to anyone who would bring over 50 settlers, these people were called Patroons and an example of a Patroon would be the famous Killean Van Rennsalaer. Although many Dutch settlers came over, it was hard to get very many people since the introduction of guns had made the Dutch colony a very violent place.

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