Adriaen van der Donck, born during the 1618-1620 period, is one of several interesting and important figures in the development of New Netherland. He put his stamp first on the Rensselaerswyck colony, but later also on New Amsterdam during the periods of the governor generals Kieft and Stuyvesant. In addition he was the first, and for a long time probably the only, immigrant who had a university education and an education in the law. To be sure, Dutch Reformed Church ministers also received advanced educations, but they were largely focused on theology.
Van der Donck also had a very interesting family background. His parents were Cornelis Gijsbrechtszoon van der Donck and Agatha van Bergen. His maternal grandfather, Adriaen van Bergen, was a military officer under the Dutch Prince Maurits. Maurits masterminded the capture of the city of Breda in 1590 from the Spanish colonialists by means of smuggling a contingent of military troops into the city on a peat boat, a feat analogous to the Trojan Horse epic. The story of the Breda operation is one of the most famous patriotic stories of the Eighty Years' War [1568-1648], a war the Dutch fought for their independence from the hated Spanish colonialists. It is still an important part Dutch history taught in the country's elementary schools.
Van der Donck was fortunate to come from a fairly well-to-do family, and as a result he was destined to go on to University. He decided to study law, and the University of Leyden was the top school to pursue such a career. He entered the university in 1638 and graduated with a law degree in 1641.
As a graduate of one of the world's most prestigious universities, Van der Donck had many career choices. He was adventurous and was willing to take risks, so he decided to seek a career in the New World. New Amsterdam and New Netherland fascinated him, and the two choices for him were to go to work for either the Dutch West India Company [DWIC], or for Killian Van Rensselaer, the wealthy Amsterdam businessman who controlled vast tracts of lands in and around the area that is now Albany, New York. He chose to go to work for Van Rensselaer, who promptly appointed him to be the schout [loosely translated as sheriff] of his vast New Netherland estate called Renssealerswyck.
Being the schout of Rensselaerswyck turned out to be more than just a job of enforcing the law and maintaining peace. The job essentially involved managing the estate for Killian Van Rensselaer, who liked to run his New Netherland estate from the safety of Amsterdam with a lot of close direction to his agents in New Netherland. It soon became clear that Van der Donck and Van Rensselaer did not always see eye-to-eye, and some of Van Renssealaer's directions were not always carried out by Van der Donck. Whereas Van Rensselaer wanted to run a strict regime, Van der Donck would often side with the tenants against the directions of Van Rensselaer. It was a relationship that was bound to fail, and fail it did.
It is not clear when Van der Donck decided to leave his position in Rensselaersyck and move to New Amsterdam where he felt he could use his skills more profitably. At that time Willem Kieft was the governor general of New Netherland and had enraged the population of New Amsterdam by taxing the Indians and then by starting a war with them. The local population had nothing to gain from a war and much to lose. When Van der Donck arrived in New Amsterdam from Rensselaerswyck he sided with the colonists and wrote a treatise on the war that was sent to the Dutch government, the States General in Holland. The States General promptly ordered Kieft to end the ruinous war. Kieft then called in Van der Donck to help him negotiate a peace treaty with the Indians. Van der Donck agreed and a treaty with the Indians was soon agreed upon.
As compensation for his work on brokering peace Van der Donck was given a large tract of land by the DWIC. Later he purchased additional land nearby and established his own estate in what is now Yonkers, New York. Van der Donck, either because of his status as a landowner or on the basis of his status as a peace maker and judicial specialist, was addressed by the honorary title "jonkheer", or with the shorter title of "jonker". The latter term in Dutch is pronounced as "Yonker", and this is where the term Yonkers, the name of the city came from.
In 1649, Van der Donck was appointed by the then governor general Peter Stuyvesant to be a member of the Council of Nine, a group of advisors and legislators in New Amsterdam. Since Van der Donck was by far the best educated member of the Council of Nine, he quickly became its leader. He then ran into conflict with Stuyvesant about running the colony. The conflict ended up in a stand-off and it was decided that the government in Holland would have to resolve the conflict. Van der Donck then left for Holland where he argued to the States General for making the governor general of New Netherland solely responsible to the States General in Holland and not to the DWIC. His arguments received considerable approval, but unfortunately Holland became involved in a war with England and the still weak Dutch government needed the support of the DWIC. All of Van der Donck's efforts were for naught. In 1653 he received permission to return to New Amsterdam with the provision that he would stay out of politics.
Van der Donck returned to his estate in New Amsterdam and lived the quiet life of a landlord. He passed away in 1655 or early 1656, most likely the victim of an attack by the Indians. Van der Donck was only in his mid-thirties at the time of his death. It was a sad epistle to his life story. He had been an advocate of Indians' rights during his life, but it was not enough to save his life.
Van der Donck did have a family life. He married Mary Doughty, the daughter of an English minister in New Amsterdam in 1645. During his trip and stay in Holland his wife accompanied him. As far as is known there were no children. After Van der Donck's death his widow remained on his estate and married Hugh O'Neil.
Wikipedia - Adriaen van der Donck (Dutch)
Wikipedia - Nieuw Amsterdam (Dutch)
E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON; GOOGLE: Kindle Store Pegels
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC
EIGHT PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE ROOSEVELTS, VANDERBILTS AND OTHERS, 2015
FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015
DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS
ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017
THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017
FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015