Council Minutes, 1656–1658

Council Minutes, 1656–1658

New Netherland Institute

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This volume follows a period in New Netherland which was full of suspense and turmoil. New England had been threatening from the north and a full-scale war between England and the United Provinces threatened to spill over into their North American possessions. Other European powers were asserting international ambitions with possible repercussions in the New World: Sweden’s attempt to establish a colony on the Delaware River brought about territorial problems in the south and caused Stuyvesant a major headache. Sweden’s capture of Fort Casimir in 1654 led to Stuyvesant’s successful takeover of New Sweden the following year. Almost all troops were brought into action for the Dutch invasion, and their absence at Manhattan had the unintended consequence of a simultaneous Indian attack on the heart of New Netherland, called the Peach War. The devastation inflicted on the population around the Manhattan rim during this war was somewhat mitigated by the prospect of a renewed Company interest in New Netherland: Portugal’s recapture of its lost possessions in Dutch Brazil in 1654 had caused the WIC to reshape its trading patterns in the Atlantic and to concentrate more human and financial resources in its Caribbean and North American holdings.

Probably the most well-known document in the present volume is an English settlers’ protest of Stuyvesant’s handling of two Quakers. Although the Dutch Republic was noted for its religious toleration, it was basically a simple expression of “freedom of conscience,” i.e. no one would be persecuted for one’s religious beliefs. However, this liberty sometimes ran counter to the equally important principle of pax et concordia, “peace and harmony.” It was this struggle between maintaining a basic human right and preserving harmony over chaos that caused problems. The Dutch solved this dilemma by the simple human response of looking the other way or winking.