"Smackdown on the Hudson"

The Patroon, the West India Company, and the Founding of Albany 

Conjectured limits of the town of Beverwijck as defined by Stuyvesant in 1652

For more on the dispute, see the Dutch Treat: Beverwijck Proclamation on this site. 

Introduction

 

In 1614, soon after the founding of the New Netherland Company (predecessor to the West India Company, est. 1621) by Dutch investors, company employees built the first Dutch trading post in North America. Fort Nassau was located on Castle Island, part of present-day Albany, NY. Settlers selected this spot near the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson rivers for its proximity to Indian trade routes. But the island tended to flood every spring, and the fort was abandoned less than three years later. In 1624, West India Company employees erected a new trading post to replace Fort Nassau. Fort Orange was located just north of Castle Island on the western bank of the Hudson River.

In 1630, residents of the fort welcomed new neighbors. That summer, the first group of farmers and artisans arrived to settle the privately-owned colony (or patroonship) of Rensselaerswijck, which surrounded Fort Orange on both sides of the Hudson River. Kiliaen van Rensselaer—a jewelry merchant and a West India Company director—purchased from Mahican Indians the land that comprised his patroonship. The patroon and his heirs were authorized by the West India Company to administer the colony’s economic and legal affairs.  Outside of Rensselaerswijck and other patroonships, New Netherland was ruled by West India Company directors and their agents, who also controlled the colony’s lucrative fur trade.

The location of Rensselaerwijck in proximity to Fort Orange was intended both to protect the settlers and to provision the fort. But proximity and divided rule eventually led to conflict between the West India Company’s Director-General, Petrus Stuyvesant, and the patroon’s agent, Brant van Slichtenhorst, Director of Renssleaerswijck.  Uncompromising by nature, both men fought to uphold what they understood to be their employer’s rights. The result was what historian and novelist Firth Haring Fabend has called the “smackdown on the Hudson,” an event that gave birth to the village of Beverwijck now known as  Albany.

In this case, Stuyvesant won the day. The Director-General of New Netherland from 1647 until the colony’s capture by the English in 1664, Stuyvesant was an able administrator and dedicated Company man. He promoted the colony’s growth and oversaw its transformation from a trading post to a commercial hub.

This seventh grade lesson focuses on the essential question: “How was the colony of New Netherland ruled by the Dutch West India Company and the patroons?” It was designed by educators who participated in the New Netherland Institute’s and New York State Museum’s 2012 summer institute: Sean Patrick Albert, Sarah DeFruscio, Kelly Kornacki, Lisa Lehman, and Aubrey Salisbury.


About the New Netherland Institute

For a quarter century NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

The New Netherland Research Center

Housed in the New York State Library, the NNRC offers students, educators, scholars and researchers a vast collection of early documents and reference works on America's Dutch era. Directed by Dr. Charles Gehring. More

 

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