Nieuw AmsterdamThe Dutch trading companies had no policy of "colonizing". Usually they built fortifications on foreign shores, where they placed a garrison and from there they would trade with the local potentates. There were a number of reasons for this attitude.
First of all the push factor was missing:
- the Dutch Republic was doing very well. The war with Spain was almost won, business was booming and Amsterdam was emerging as the centre of world trade. Riches from all over the world flowed to the Republic and the avarage standard of living was not as low as it was in some other European Countries.
- The Republic followed a policy of religious
tollerance, except towards catholics, who were seen as potential
allies of Spain. But even catholics were - unofficially - free to
believe what they wanted as long as they did not practice their religion to overtly.
So churches had to be disguised as normal houses, of which there are still
some left in Amsterdam.
Allthough not as liberal as has been suggested, the Republic had almost complete freedom of speech. Many books that could not have been printed elsewhere were printed in Amsterdam. Leaving the country because of beliefs or convictions held was not necessary.
- The colonial trade was not a national enterprise: it was completely private enterprise. The souvereignty over the colonies was not held by the Staten Generaal, but by the companies of merchants that were involved in the actual trade.
- And finally, the Dutch population simply was not large enough to supply colonists for all the holdings of the companies. The Netherlands were densely populated (about two million inhabitants) and immigrants were streaming in attracted by the opportunities the booming Dutch economy seemed to offer. Quite a large number of the employees of the Dutch East and West India Companies came from Germany and Scandinavia.
- Colonization offered only slow returns from crops and was no match for the fast returns of trade.
- Though densely populated there was still arable land available to be bought in the Dutch republic.
- Compared to other nations, quite a high proportion of the Dutch population lived in urban areas.
Just like the East India Company it became some sort of state within the state, receiving complete souvereignty over the territories under the monopoly.
This company was a trading firm and only interested in colonization in
sofar as it was necessary for the trade. Trading post had to be
protected by soldiers, soldiers had to be fed, so farmers were needed
to provide those things when they could not be provided from the
On March 31, 1624 a ship carrying settlers left Holland. It was the Nieuw Nederland and aboard were thirty families who were going to cultivate the land overseas. It was the first Dutch emigrant ship, and these were the first Dutch immigrants to North America.
Willem Verhulst was the name of the man who directed this venture. The Nieuw Nederland anchored near Fort Nassau in the Hudson, at a place called Maeykans, which means `Home of the Mohicans.' The same year, 1624, another fortress, Fort Orange, was built on the shore not far from there.
In 1625 , eleven years after Fort Nassau was founded, a fort was put up on Manhattan Island and ships brought farmers from Holland who were to supply the food for its garrison. Five farms (bouwerijen) were established on the island to meet the needs of the colony. These farmers were in the service of the company. As soon as the moat surrounding the fort was completed, the fort-to-be was christened Amsterdam after the capital of The Netherlands, and the new town around it, Nieuw Amsterdam, which some time later would be renamed New York City.
A year later Governor Pieter Minuit concluded one of the best deals in history. He bought the whole island from the Indians for sixty guilders about twenty-five dollars worth of merchandise. The Indians had no reason to complain either. They sold a piece of land which was already settled by white men who had never asked their permission to do so. Land ownership probably had a different meaning to them anyway, hunters and fishers that they were. However, the directors of the company were trained merchants, legal-minded men, and before they made Manhattan the strategic center of their New Netherland they wanted things in writing, which they got, and cheaply too at a thousand acres to the dollar. If history would have been a little different, the West India Company now would have been one of the richest real estate holders in the world. But things went differently, the English conquered New Amsterdam and the West India Company went bankrupt.