When New Amsterdam Became New York
1664 New Amsterdam becomes New York
Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant surrenders New Amsterdam, the capital of New Netherland, to an English naval squadron under Colonel Richard Nicolls. Stuyvesant had hoped to resist the English, but he was an unpopular ruler, and his Dutch subjects refused to rally around him. Following its capture, New Amsterdam’s name was changed to New York, in honor of the Duke of York, who organized the mission.
The colony of New Netherland was established by the Dutch West India Company in 1624 and grew to encompass all of present-day New York City and parts of Long Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. A successful Dutch settlement in the colony grew up on the southern tip of Manhattan Island and was christened New Amsterdam.
To legitimatize Dutch claims to New Amsterdam, Dutch governor Peter Minuit formally purchased Manhattan from the local tribe from which it derives it name in 1626. According to legend, the Manhattans–Indians of Algonquian linguistic stock–agreed to give up the island in exchange for trinkets valued at only $24. However, as they were ignorant of European customs of property and contracts, it was not long before the Manhattans came into armed conflict with the expanding Dutch settlement at New Amsterdam. Beginning in 1641, a protracted war was fought between the colonists and the Manhattans, which resulted in the death of more than 1,000 Indians and settlers.
In 1664, New Amsterdam passed to English control, and English and Dutch settlers lived together peacefully. In 1673, there was a short interruption of English rule when the Netherlands temporary regained the settlement. In 1674, New York was returned to the English, and in 1686 it became the first city in the colonies to receive a royal charter. After the American Revolution, it became the first capital of the United States.
Dutch New Amsterdam
Lenape peoples farmed, fished, and hunted on Mannahatta (a “hilly island”) and traded with other peoples along the river. In 1624 the Dutch West India Company arrived to join that trade, seeking animal furs for the European market. The company brought diverse groups of able-bodied Europeans to build their outpost. Germans, English, and Walloons (French speakers from today’s Belgium) populated the colony along with Dutch nationals. In the 1630s one observer heard up to eighteen European and Native American languages in the streets of New Amsterdam. Africans also lived there, both enslaved and free. Sephardic Jews arrived from Brazil in 1654.
350 Years Ago, New Amsterdam Became New York. Don’t Expect a Party
On Aug. 26, 1664, 350 years ago Tuesday, a flotilla of four British frigates led by the Guinea, which was manned by 150 sailors and conveying 300 redcoats, anchored ominously in Gravesend Bay off Brooklyn, between Coney Island and the Narrows.
Over the next 13 days, the soldiers would disembark and muster at a ferry landing located roughly where the River Café is moored today, and two of the warships would sail to the Battery and train their cannon on Fort Amsterdam on the southern tip of Manhattan.
Finally, on Sept. 8, the largely defenseless settlement tolerated a swift and bloodless regime change: New Amsterdam was immediately renamed New York. It would evolve into a jewel of the British Empire, endowed with a collective legacy — its roots indelibly Dutch — that distinguished it from every other American colony.
Do not take it personally, though, if you have not been invited to the 350th birthday party. None is scheduled in the city. Neither the British nor the Dutch are planning any official commemoration. Nor is Mayor Bill de Blasio.The reasons behind New Yorkers’ nearly unanimous indifference are, well, historical, chief among them an ambivalence toward the British and a dispassion for the past.