New Netherland and Beyond
"A tough, sturdy, valiant, weather-beaten, mettlesome, obstinate, leathern-sided, lion-hearted, generous-spirited old governor" - this is the description given by Washington Irving in his
'Knickerbocker's History of New York' of Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New York - or "New Amsterdam," as it was then called.
Stuyvesant had served in the West Indies as governor of one of the islands, and for his good services there was appointed, in 1647, by the Dutch West India Company as the governor of their colony of
He had lost a leg in the service of the company in the West Indies, but his wooden leg has done more to preserve his fame in history than any other one thing. According to tradition, when the
assembly of New Amsterdam went contrary to his wishes, he would stamp his wooden leg and roar at them.
Stuyvesant brought to his work a determination to be "as a father over his children," and he immediately set about trying to reform abuses with a commendable enthusiasm. His despotic character and
his blunt manners, coupled with his efforts at reform, soon won him many enemies. He tried to regulate the sale of liquor, and forbade its being sold to the Indians at any time, but his orders were
disregarded. He attempted to regulate the fur trade so as to give the inhabitants of New Amsterdam a monopoly of it, but smuggling became prevalent. His severity in punishing those who would not
conform to the Dutch Reformed church, and his refusal to allow the people a share in the government, increased the hatred which most of the settlers felt toward him.
As a result of this trouble, when war arose between England and Holland and English warships appeared in New York harbor in 1664, although the city was defended by a stone fort and 20 cannon, the
people refused to resist the invaders. So Stuyvesant was forced to surrender the town to the English, and New Amsterdam became New York.
Stuyvesant returned to Holland, but when the Dutch West India Company blamed him for all of their misfortunes in the New World, he returned to America and spent the rest of his life on his farm, or
"Bouwerie," as it was called in Dutch.
On the site of this farm now runs the street called after it the "Bowery," on the lower east side.
Slab marking the tomb of Peter Stuyvesant, outer wall of
St. Mark's Church, New York.
In this Vault lies buried Petrus Stuyvesant
late Captain General and Governor in Chief of Amsterdam
In New Netherland now called New York.
And the Dutch West India Islands. Died A.D. 1671-2
Aged 80 years.
Text from Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia, ©1922.
Images from A History of the American People, Vol. I., by Woodrow Wilson, ©1902.