The Dutch In British America

In the hundred years under British rule that followed the take-over of New Netherland, Dutch immigration to America came to an almost complete standstill. The only important group of organized settlers in those years was a colony of two hundred people who founded what is now Germantown, in the year 1683. Most of these settlers were Quakers who had come over in response to the appeal of William Penn. To win immigrants, Penn, whose mother was Dutch, had paid three visits to Holland, and published several pamphlets there which were translated into Dutch. The Germantown settlers also included `Lutherans, Mennonites and Papists,' who `met lovingly every Sunday.' Germantown is now generally thought to be of German origin (logically enough), but it remained almost exclusively Dutch until the beginning of the eighteenth century. Only then did German immigration gain momentum, and soon dominated the area. Germantown is now a suburb of Philadelphia and has a population of one hundred thousand. The distinction of Germantown and of its settlers is the declaration which was issued there on February 18, 1688. In it the leading local citizens put themselves on record as protesting against slavery. That statement was the first of its kind in America.

At this point it is necessary to mention a common misunderstanding. The Pennsylvania Dutch are Germans, the word `Dutch' here being just a corruption of Deutsch, which means German. Dutch is the language of Holland. `Holland Dutch' is therefore a pleonasm.

The original settlers of New Netherland continued to play an important role in the colony. In New York they dominated social life, and they became prominent in business paradoxically, after they had been released by British rule from the bonds of the Dutch West India Company. Under the Regulations of 1664 England had promised not to interfere with the Dutch Reformed Church, but when it failed to live up to that promise many Dutch families moved from New York to New Jersey to exchange New York rule for the more liberal one across the Hudson. A migration to the Raritan Valley, in particular, was caused by an early 18th-century attempt to force the Anglican Church upon the Dutch. Other Reformed Dutch farmers left for St. James Island, South Carolina, in two shiploads, and this migration is still traceable in the Dutch family names of that region. Nevertheless, at the end of the British period, out of a hundred thousand people of Dutch origin in the colonies, 85,000 still lived within the boundaries of former New Netherland.

In 1764 Dr. Archibald Laidlie preached the first English sermon to the Dutch Reformed congregation in New York City. Ten years later English was introduced in the schools. In Kingston, Dutch was used in church as late as 1808. A few years before, a traveler had reported that

`on Long Island, in New York, along the North River, at Albany, Low Dutch was in general still the common language of most of the old people.'
Francis Adrian van der Kemp, who had come to this country as a refugee in 1788, wrote that his wife was able to converse in Dutch with the wives of Alexander Hamilton and General George Clinton. Much later, in 1847, immigrants from Holland were upon their arrival welcomed in Dutch by the Reverend Isaac Wyckoff of New York, a descendant of one of the first settlers in Rensselaerwyck, who only in school had learned to speak English; and until very recently many communities in New Jersey adhered to the tradition of a monthly church service in Dutch. As late as 1905 Dutch was still heard among the old people in the Ramapo Valley of that state.