The West India Company brought the first settlers to New Netherland to gather beaver pelts to sell back in the Netherlands but they had a hard time finding enough people to settle the colony. In an effort to attract more people, the company decided to give private entrepreneurs pieces of land in New Netherland if the entrepreneurs (patroons) promised to ship fifty colonists to it within four years. So, in 1631, a Dutch diamond merchant named Killiaen van Rensselaer bought a large tract of land around Fort Orange from the Mahicans who had long lived there. He established a "patroonship," or private farming community, which he named Rensselaerswijck. Many patroons bought land, but Kiliaen Van Rensselaer was the only one who was able to build a successful colony. His patroonship, Rensselaerswyck, lasted into the nineteenth century, passing down through generations of the Van Rensselaer family.

Kiliaen Van Rensselaer never visited America, but he worked hard to make his patroonship a success. Rensselaerswyck grew quickly, with a steady stream of farmers and tradesmen coming from Europe. Farming was the main activity in the patroonship. The products of farming were used to support the growing patroonship, but also the settlers in colonies nearby. Van Rensselaer had thought that the nearby West India Company settlement of Fort Orange, in the area of present day Albany, and his own colony of Rensselaerswyck would be mutually supporting: the fort would provide protection, and the patroonship would supply the fort with goods. Van Rensselaer hoped to make a profit by selling goods to the settlers in the fort. But the two settlements were so close to each other that they competed for profits, leading to a tense relationship between the patroon and the West India Company that controlled the fort.

Compelling Question: What problems existed with the system of authority in the colony and how did the leaders attempt to solve these problems?

Arent_van_Curler_Letterl.jpg

Letter from Arent van Curler to Kiliaen van Rensselaer, June 16, 1643

Courtesy: New York State Library

Contract_Gerard_Swart.jpg

Commission of Gerrit Swart, Schout of Rensselaerswyck, April 24, 1652

 

Courtesy: New York State Library

 98251_ca_object_representations_media_61570_medium.jpg
Notice from Patroon Kiliaen Van Rensselaer to Private Traders in the Colony, September 8, 1643
Courtesy: New York State Library

Boundary_Line.jpg

Letter from the Director-General and Councillors of New Netherland to John Baptist Van Rensselaer and the Magistrates of Rensselaerswyck Concerning the Boundary Line of the Colony, c. 1654
Courtesy: New York State Library

burgher_oath.jpg

The "Burgher Oath," Pledging Allegiance to the Patroon, November 28, 1651

Courtesy: New York State Library

Additional Resources

Propositions Made to the Mohawks by delegation including Jeremias van Rensselaer and Arent van Curler, September 24, 1659

Image Analysis Graphic Organizer

Primary Source Graphic Organizer

Written Document Analysis Graphic Organizer


About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, 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. More

 

find_us_on_facebook_logo.gif Twitter_logo_blue.png   Marcurius_Heading_Linear.jpg 

Shop Now

Visit the NNI shop for books, maps, notecards & more.

Subscribe Now

Subscribe to NNI's new monthly e-newsletter and email list to receive information about New Netherland-related events, activities, conferences, and research. More

Join NNI

Members allow NNI to support the New Netherland Research Center and to undertake research and educational programs