New York Under The Duke of York

(what you missed in the previous chapter....Rule of the Dutch 1609-1664)

(1664 - 1688)

About the time of the discovery of New York, a company of English Puritans, persecuted for their religion, fled to Holland. They asked the Dutch authorities to be allowed to settle in the new country. They were refused and sailing for English soil landed, as the world knows, at Plymouth Rock, on the 21st of December, 1620. This was three years before the arrival of the first families in New Netherland. Had the Puritans' request been granted, the entire history of America would have been changed.

The Duke of York

These men of New England by emigrating to New Netherlands helped to accomplish, what the Dutch authorities had at first feared, the capture of the province by the British crown. Meanwhile in England the Puritans had driven out the king and placed Oliver Cromwell at the head of the government. Soon after Cromwell's death, however, Charles II, returned to the throne in 1660; and one of his first acts was to give his brother, James, Duke of York, all the land lying between Connecticut and Delaware rivers. The Duke to secure this gift, which was not his brother's to give, armed and sent out a fleet under the command of Colonel Richard Nichols. The easy conquest of Nicholas was a deed of robbery. There was not even the excuse of war, since Holland and England were at peace. So that it is little to the credit of the conquerors that they offered the surprised garrison favorable terms and encouraged the Dutch settlers to remain on their land.

The Beginning of English Rule

The eight or nine thousand colonists now found themselves in a province named New York, in honor of the Duke. New York was the name given to New Amsterdam also, and as if that was enough, the fort was called Fort James and Fort Orange was called Albany from another title of the Duke. The director-general became governor; the burgomasters, magistrates; the schepens, alderman; the schouts, sheriffs; the koopmen, secretaries. But the change in affairs of the colony was mostly a change of name. True, the people received assurance of religious liberty, equal taxation, toleration of former customs and the security of land titles; but they obtained nothing of the coveted New England liberty, no right to elect their officers and to levy taxes.

The First English Governor

The first English governor, to whom all power was given, was Colonel Nichols himself. The most important of his appointments was that of Thomas Willet to be the first mayor of New York city, a city which was then incorporated after the manner of English towns. Nichols had received from the Duke on leaving England minute orders for the government of the colony which he had expected to seize. These instructions placed in his hands more power than the governor of any other English colony in America had, and more power than even the Dutch governors had possessed. in many respects Nichols was no more able ruler than were the Dutch director-generals; but he had one quality which they had not, the tact to manage the people.

He needed all hi ingenuity, for he had to control a people two-thirds of whom had customs and language different from his own; and he had to levy heavy taxes in order to prepare the forts for the expected attempt of Holland to regain the stolen colony. He succeeded in making himself more popular with the Dutch than with the English. The Puritan inhabitants of Long Island and Westchester, a part of the colony then known as Yorkshire, had been brought up to believe the town meetings of New England; and at an assembly called to meet at Hempstead, thirty-four delegates appeared and asked for the rights to elect their officers. This they were refused by the governor, and, having nothing else to do, obediently agreed to a code of laws made out by the Duke and known as "The Duke's Laws."

Neighboring Colonies

The grant to the Duke of York was, as has been said, of the land between Connecticut and the Delaware; and the same paper gave him claim to all the islands between Cape Cod and Cape May. Connecticut, however, had no more intention of giving her settlements on eastern Long Island and on the west bank of the Connecticut river to an English colony than to the Dutch; but rather than quarrel with Nichols, her people agreed to leave the disputed boundary to a commission. The men thus appointed gave to New York all of Long Island, much to the disgust of its eastern towns, and to Connecticut a favorable boundary on the main land, about indeed as it now remains.

When Governor Nichols saw such a considerable portion taken from the eastern side of his province, he turned the western boundary, and found there a still larger part gone; for the Duke, unknown to Nichols, had given to Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret the land lying between the Hudson and the Delaware. To this caprice of the Duke is due the fact that there is a State of New Jersey and that New York is not bounded on the south by Delaware Bay. For some years still the present State of Delaware was a part of New York until bought by William Penn; and for a long time tribute was exacted from Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

Change of Governor

What was left of the Duke's grant was quite enough to worry the well meaning Nichols. The work was hard, the honor and pay small; and he obtained his recall. A little later while fighting the very nation from whom had stolen a colony, he was killed. His four years' rule must in the main be called credible, and was especially acceptable to the Indians, the importance of whose good will he clearly saw.

In his place came Lord Lovelace, a favorite of the English court, who soon incurred the dislike of the people. Ten towns sent in a petition against unjust taxation, only to have their paper burned by the common hangman and to be told their governor that "the people should have liberty for no thought but how to pay their taxes." Still the colony was not entirely mismanaged. the Hollanders were encouraged to mingle with the English and to adopt the customs of their rulers. The Indians were kept on friendly terms and their lands fairly bought.

But in the decade following the surrender of Stuyvesant the colony did not prosper. The trade with England did not equal the interrupted traffic with Holland; wars in Europe prevented immigration and interfered with commerce. A letter to the Duke described Long Island as "very poor and inconsiderable, and besides the city of New York," said writer,"there are but two Dutch towns of any importance, Esopus and Albany." New York city contained less than four hundred houses; though it appears as a sign of progress that a line of post messengers was at this time established between that city and Boston, along paths marked by blazed trees.

(the tale continues....New York again a Dutch Colony)