|Dutch West Indies Company|
New Amsterdam, capital of New Netherland, soon became a busy hub of trade, settlement and privateering. The Dutch brought in colonists from Europe and, in an act for which they have been condemned since, also brought in the first African slaves to North America. However, operations were still more expensive than the Dutch West India Company liked and they tried various methods to cut costs. In an act that should be considered an educational moment, the very business-minded and technically republican Dutch authorities found it beneficial to revert to a sort of feudalism. This became known as the patroon system by which a major investor would be given the title of patroon, a large tract of land and extensive control over it with powers quite similar to those held by feudal lords in the monarchies of the Old World. The patroon was, for his part, expected to bring in at least 50 families of colonists within four years of receiving his title. This did result in growth for the colony, though still not as much profit as was hoped for.
|James, Duke of York|
Even though this episode of American colonial history is not well remembered, the evidence of it still exists in New York City today if you know where to look. Perhaps the most famous landmark is St Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery which was built by Stuyvesant and is where he is buried. His family later sold the property to the Church of England (under conditions) and it is the oldest church in continuous use in New York City. It also features a bust of Stuyvesant which was sent over by Queen Wilhelmina of The Netherlands in 1915. The flag of New York City is based on the orange-white-blue tricolor of the Netherlands, “the Prince’s Flag” and even the famous financial center of Wall Street, has its name because that site was formerly where a road was along the palisade surrounding New Netherland and thus came to be referred to as Wall Street. The Dutch population and language persisted in parts of New York longer than most probably realize. President Martin Van Buren, for example, grew up speaking Dutch as his first language and many Dutch words, names and even some traditions still survive in parts of New York to this day.
In any event, that is how New York went from being a Dutch colony to being named after the heir to the English throne and Britain’s last Catholic monarch.