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Proprietary Colonies - Page 2

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New York


While the Carolina proprietors were inviting settlers to their new domain, an English fleet sent out by King Charles' brother, the Duke of York, sailed into New York Harbor and demanded the surrender of the feebly garrisoned Dutch fort on Manhattan Island in September, 1664. The fort was commanded by Peter Stuyvesant, director general of the Dutch colony of New Netherland, which had been founded fifty years before and was governed by the Dutch West India Company. The company established fortified trading posts at New Amsterdam (New York City) and Fort Orange (near Albany), but they did not make a success of the colony, although they offered tracts of land eight miles deep along both sides of the river to rich proprietors, with feudal privileges of trade and government. In 1638, they abolished all monopolies, opening trade and settlement to all nations and making liberal offers of land, stock, and implements to tempt farmers. However, even the city of New Amsterdam, with its magnificent situation for commerce, reached a population of only 1,600 during the half century that it was under Dutch rule.


The Fall of New amsterdam

The Fall of New Amsterdam,  J.L.G. Ferris

This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!

The West India Company, intent on the profits of the fur trade with the Indians of central New York, would not spend the money necessary for the development and defense of the colony. They sent over director generals who had little concern for the welfare of the people and refused to allow any popular assembly. If the settlers protested that they wanted a government like New England's, "where neither proprietors, lords, nor princes were known, but only the people," they were met with the insulting threat of being "hanged on the tallest tree in the land." Furthermore, the Dutch magistrates were continually involved in territorial quarrels. When Henry Hudson sailed up the majestic river which bears his name in 1609, he was trespassing on the territory granted by King James I in 1606 to the Plymouth Company. The Dutch disputed the right to the Connecticut Valley with the emigrants from Massachusetts and claimed the land along the lower banks of the Delaware River, from which they had driven out some Swedish settlers by force. In 1653, when England was at war with Holland, New Netherland was saved from the attack of the New England colonies only by the veto of Massachusetts on the unanimous vote of the other members of the Confederation of New England.


Every year the English realized more clearly the necessity of getting rid of the “alien” colony of New Amsterdam, which lay like a wedge between New England and the Southern plantations, controlling the valuable route of the Hudson River and making the enforcement of the trade laws in America impossible. Therefore, in 1664, King Charles II, on the verge of a commercial war with Holland, granted to his brother, the Duke of York, the territory between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers as a proprietary province. The first the astonished settlers of New Amsterdam knew of this transaction was the appearance of the duke's fleet in the harbor, with the curt summons to surrender the fort. Director General Stuyvesant, the governor, fumed and stormed, declaring that he would never surrender. But resistance was hopeless. The settlers persuaded the irate governor to yield, although his gunners had their fuses lighted. New Netherland fell without a blow, and the English flag waved over an unbroken coast from Canada to Carolina.


There are still many traces in New York of its fifty years' occupancy by the Dutch. The names of the old Knickerbocker families remind us of the proprietors' estates; and one still gets glimpses of the high Dutch stoops and quaint market places in the villages along the Hudson River. But, a far more significant bequest of New Netherland to New York was the spirit of absolute government. Under the Dutch rule, the people were without charter or popular assembly, and the new English proprietor was content to keep things as they were, publishing his own code of laws for the province. It was not until 1683 that he yielded to pressure from his own colony and the neighbors in New England and Pennsylvania and granted an assembly. Two years later, when King James II came to the English thrown, he revoked this grant and made New York the pattern of absolute government to which he tried to make all the English colonies north of Maryland conform. However, the New York deputy governor, Francis Nicholson, deserted his post and sailed back to England. When a new governor sent by King William III arrived in 1691, he brought orders to restore the popular assembly which King James II had suppressed, and from that time on, the colony enjoyed the privilege of self-government.


New York grew slowly. At the time of the foundation of our national government it was considered a "small state" as compared with Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. It would not be until years later that its growth would begin with the Erie Canal and the New York Central Railroad, which made the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys the main highway to the Great Lakes and the growing West.


New Jersey


Even before the Duke of York had ousted the Dutch magistrates from his new province he granted the lower part of it, from the Hudson River to the Delaware River, to two of his friends, who were also members of the Carolina board of proprietors, Lord Berkeley, brother of the irritable governor of Virginia, and Sir George Carteret, formerly governor of the island of Jersey in the English Channel. In honor of Carteret the region was named New Jersey in June, 1664.



Society of Friends - Quakers

The Society of Friends (Quakers) meeting.

The proprietors of New Jersey immediately published "concessions" for their colony, -- a liberal constitution granting full religious liberty and a popular assembly with control of taxation. In 1674, the proprietors divided their province into East and West Jersey, and from that date to the end of the century the Jerseys had a turbulent history, despite the fact that both parts of the colony, after various transfers of proprietorship, came under the control of the peace-loving sect of Friends, or Quakers.


New Jersey was put under the royal governor of New York in 1702 and separated again in 1738. There were constant quarrels between proprietors and governors and between governors and legislatures, until New Jersey revolted, with the rest of the American colonies, in the American Revolution.



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