Monday, August 25, 1664
The increasing success of New Amsterdam as an entrepôt was, at least in part, responsible for the end of Dutch control. The London government had never agreed to the legal right of the Dutch to be in North America, but during the years in which England and Holland had been allies against Spain, little had been done to oust them. As the mercantile and naval rivalry between the two trading nations sharpened, however, the developing commerce of New Amsterdam came under increased English scrutiny and, in the Navigation Act of 1651, England tried to stifle it.
According to the navigation Act, all trade with England or its colonies was to be limited to English ships with English captains and a crew that was at least three-fourths English. The merchants of New Amsterdam violated this law as much as they possibly could, and after midcentury, English rulers, both Cromwellian and Stuart, realized that the possession of New Netherland by the Dutch was a major obstacle to the enforcement of their mercantilist policy in North America. As a result, they were determined to bring the colony under their control. English men and women had already settled in several places on Long Island, and when Charles II became king in 1660, he decided to make the entire area the property of the English Crown–specifically, his brother James, the Duke of York.
The first move came on Monday, August 25, 1664. An English ship, the Guinea, approached long Island and the alarmed residents of New Amsterdam made preparations for the expected attack by organizing a guard composed of every able-bodied man and providing each one with “one pound of powder and one and a half pound of lead.” At great sacrifice (considering the Dutch affection for beer), “brewers were ordered not to malt any grain for eight days and only to brew low grade beer” in order to save grain if the town was cut off from outlying districts.
Other ships joined the Guinea, and on August 27 the English took possession of the ferry that connected the small Dutch settlement called Breuklyn with new Amsterdam and prepared to invade. Governor Stuyvesant asked Dutch settlers from outside New Amsterdam to help defend the colony from the 400 advancing English troops, but he got no response. For the next few days, the British ships maneuvered around the island, using both the Hudson and the East River. After several tense days, the burghers urged Stuyvesant to give up because the defenders of new Amsterdam were clearly out manned and under equipped. on September 6, therefore, negotiators worked out a treaty that gave all of New Netherlands to the English. Two days later Stuyvesant reluctantly signed it. Forty years of Dutch ownership ended without a shot being fired.
That, however, was not the end of the story.
-The Empire City: New York and Its People, 1624-1996 / Selma Cantor Berrol
Tony Santana/ NY
The image: Gezicht op Nieuw Amsterdam by Johannes Vingboons (1664), an early picture of Nieuw Amsterdam (looking approximately north) made in the year when it was conquered by the English under Richard Nicolls.