The Old Dutch Patroons

Jeremias_Van_Rensselaear

The little Dutch boy who “saved Holland” had been exposed as leader of an octopus of secret machinations. He was hiding out in Manhattan, location of Wall Street, which his Dutch forefathers had begun with a path along a wall. (Background: Suspicions Surface About Little Dutch Boy, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, November 4, 2014.)

Today, scant information can be found about what had once been a thriving polyglot society in New Amsterdam (now called New York). Few books on the subject are discoverable. One Russell Shorto, around 2005, issued his book, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America. A different, fictional depiction of the forgotten colony (said to be humorous), appeared in 2009: The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan: A Novel of New Amsterdam, by Bill Greer. Mevrouw Jackie Lambert opens her New Amsterdam tavern in 1626, and jumps aboard a madcap ride through New York history. Jackie spurs the tiny Manhattan settlement toward a head-on collision with the tyrannical Dutchmen who rule it. Poison, blackmail, murder, all are fair game. [1]

Of course a “black swan event” occurred in 1664, when the British took control of New Amsterdam. So in the end, it would seem, Mevrouw Jackie Lambert’s collision with the tyrannical Dutchmen came to naught.

Washington Irving’s, A History of New York (available in a Library of America edition), is a classic. A wealth of information about the forgotten colony is given, albeit tongue-in-cheek, by the whimsical American writer.

It was the Dutch West India Company which initiated the New Amsterdam settlement. In fact, nearly all the American colonies were settled by chartered companies, organized for purely commercial purposes. These corporations were vested with enormous powers and privileges which, in effect, constituted them as sovereign rulers. [2]

The first problem for these corporations was a scarcity of labor in the New World. The emergency was promptly met by the buying of white servants in England to be resold in Virginia to the highest bidder. This, however, was not sufficient. So a system was put into operation of gathering in as many of the poorer English class as could be impressed upon some pretext, and shipping them over to be held as bonded laborers. But, fast as the English courts might work, they did not supply laborers enough. And so it was with exultation that in 1619 the charter companies were made acquainted with a new means of supplying themselves with adequate workers. A Dutch ship arrived at Jamestown with a cargo of negroes from Guinea. The blacks were promptly bought at good prices. [2]

Wives were needed by the new aristocrats of the wilderness. Officials in London instantly hearkened, and in 1620 sent over sixty young women who were auctioned off and bought at from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and sixty pounds of tobacco each. [2]

The truly huge estates to be seen were being donated by governments to the companies in the northern colonies, especially in New Netherlands and in New England. In its intense aim to settle New Netherlands and make use of its resources, Holland, through the States General, offered extraordinary inducements to promoters of colonization. The prospect of immense estates, with feudal rights and privileges, was held out as the alluring incentive. The title was vested in the patroon forever, and he was presented with a monopoly of the resources of his domain except furs and pelts. [2]

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The Dutch West India Company, a commercial corporation, had well-nigh dictatorial powers. A complete monopoly throughout the whole of its subject territory, it was armed with sweeping powers, a formidable equipment, and had a great prestige. It was somewhat of a cross between legalized piracy and a body of adroit colonization promoters. Pillage and butchery were often its auxiliaries, although in these respects it in nowise equaled its twin corporation, the Dutch East India Company, whose exploitation of Holland’s Asiatic possessions was a long record of horrors. [2]

The feudal character of Dutch colonization, as carried on by the Dutch West India Company, necessarily created great landed estates. The dispensation of justice was the exclusive right of the patroon. He and he only was the court with summary powers of “high, low and middle jurisdiction,” which were harshly or capriciously exercised. Not only did he impose sentence for violation of laws, but he, himself, ordained those laws and they were laws which were always framed to coincide with his interests and personality. He had full authority to appoint officers and magistrates and enact laws. And finally he had the power of policing his domain and of making use of the titles and arms of his colonies. All these things he could do “according to his will and pleasure.” These absolute rights were to descend to his heirs and assigns. [2]

From these patroons and their lineal or collateral descendants issued many of the landed generations of families which, by reason of their wealth and power, proved themselves powerful factors in the economic and political history of the country. The sinister effects of this first great grasping of the land long permeated the whole fabric of society and were prominently seen before and after the American Revolution, and especially in the third and fourth decades of the eighteenth century. The results, in fact, are traceable to this very day, even though laws and institutions are so greatly changed. [2]

One of these patroons was a director of the Dutch West India Company, Kiliaen van Rensselaer, an Amsterdam pearl merchant. In 1630 his agents bought for him from the Indians a tract of land twenty-four miles long and forty-eight broad on the west bank of the Hudson River. It comprised, it was estimated, seven hundred thousand acres and included what are now the counties of Albany, Rensselaer, a part of Columbia County and a strip of what is at present Massachusetts. [2]

Two other Dutch West India Company directors – Godyn and Bloemart – became owners of great feudal estates. One of these tracts, in what is now New Jersey, extended sixteen miles both in length and breadth, forming a square of sixty-four miles. [2]

The Dutch West India Company was in a thriving condition. By the year 1629 it had more than one hundred full-rigged ships in commission. Most of them were fitted out for war on the commerce of other countries or on pirates. Fifteen thousand seamen and soldiers were on its payroll; in that one year it used more than one hundred thousand pounds of powder – significant of the grim quality of business done. It had more than four hundred cannon and thousands of other destructive weapons. Anything conducive to profit, no matter if indiscriminate murder, was accepted as legitimate and justifiable functions of trade. [2]

The patroons encased themselves in an environment of pomp and awe. Like so many petty monarchs each had his distinct flag and insignia; each fortified his domain with fortresses, armed with cannon and manned by his paid soldiery. The colonists were but humble dependents; they were his immediate subjects and were forced to take the oath of fealty and allegiance to him. [2]

The patroons naturally encouraged immigration. Apart from the additional values created by increased population, it meant a quantity of labor which, in turn, would precipitate wages to the lowest possible scale. At the same time, in order to stifle every aspiring quality in the drudging laborer, and to keep in conformity with the spirit and custom of the age which considered the worker a mere menial undeserving of any rights, the whole force of the law was made use of to bring about sharp discriminations. The laborer was purposely abased to the utmost and he was made to feel in many ways his particular low place in the social organization. [2]

——- Sources ——-
[1] The Mevrouw Who Saved Manhattan: A Novel of New Amsterdam, by Bill Greer. Book description at Amazon web site.
[2] History of the Great American Fortunes (Illustrated), by Gustavus Myers. Kindle e-book.

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About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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One Response to The Old Dutch Patroons

  1. Pingback: Patroons Seeking Doubloons | Ersjdamoo's Blog

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