Wouter van Twiller was the fourth director of New Netherland. He occupied the post from 1633 to 1638. He succeeded Peter Minuit, who was recalled by the Dutch West India [DWI] authorities in Amsterdam for unknown reasons. Van Twiller was chosen for the position because he had made two voyages to the colony of New Netherland prior to his appointment and he was quite familiar with the conditions in the new world. He also was a nephew of Killian Van Rensselaer, the Patroon of Rensselaerswyck, and it appears that Van Rensselaer had something to do with the appointment.
Van Twiller’s directorship is not highly regarded by most historians. It is generally viewed as having been inept and it definitely was not praised. Van Twiller, however, did well for himself financially, leaving the directorship in 1638 as a wealthy man. In fairness to him, his wealth was accumulated through his entrepreneurship in developing lands, establishing farms and good management of his properties.
One of Van Twiller’s main failures was the loss of Connecticut to the English. In 1632 the Dutch had purchased Connecticut land near Hartford, and erected a fort on the land. A year later, in 1633, the English arrived and essentially took over the lands by occupying the lands with immigrants. Although Van Twiller sent a small expeditionary force there, he was unable to dislodge the English, and the lands remained under English control.
In 1635, Van Twiller had more problems with the English, this time in the Massachusetts colony. Again he attempted to dislodge the English from the land with a small expeditionary force, but he was again not successful, and the English remained there.
During Van Twiller’s directorship, the fur trade with the Indians increased, and the profitable Dutch trade with the New England settlements increased considerably. Since the Dutch colony was largely established by, and also run by a for profit organization, the Dutch West India Company [DWI], from DWI’s economic point of view, Van Twiller’s directorship was probably by no means a failure.
Van Twiller’s subordinates and advisors, notably his vice director, Lubertus Van Dincklager, and one of his advisors, David De Vries, had made complaints to the DWI authorities in Amsterdam about Van Twiller’s extravagant gains he had made for himself, presumably at the cost of the DWI. De Vries had even derided the authorities in Amsterdam about the folly of promoting a fool to be the director of the colony.
The complaints apparently did not entirely fall on deaf ears. Van Twiller was removed from the position in September 1637, and he was succeeded by Willem Kieft. Van Twiller returned to Holland and seven years later, in 1644, he was appointed to be the guardian of his cousin, Johannes Van Rensselaer, the son of the Patroon Killian Van Rensselaer, who had passed away that year.
It is easy to judge that Van Twiller had been a poor director. But we must keep in mind that in the eyes of his employers he was managing one of their businesses, and not governing a city or a country. In terms of managing their business, all indications are that he was doing a reasonable job. He was certainly savvy in running a business as reflected how well he did for himself in amassing of what some have called a fortune. And there are no indications that he did it at the expense of his employers. However, as a director, he did not govern satisfactorily, as indicated by the complaints of people who were there to judge him.
Wouter Van Twiller, www.answers.com/topic/van-twiller-wouter
Wouter Van Twiller, Famous Americans
Wouter Van Twiller, Wikipedia
New Amsterdam, www.usahistory.info/colonies/New-Amsterdam.html
New Netherland, Wikipedia
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