Timeline of Selected Events
During the Colonial Era
to 1664

Lin Van Buren wrote: "Here is a skeleton timeline of selected events during the colonial era, as a rough guide to the environment our ancestors lived in prior to 1776. I have concentrated on events affecting the Dutch colony of New Netherlands, the Manor of Rensselaerwyck and the British colony of New York." If you have any additions or corrections, you are welcome to email them to me, Debby Masterson.

Colonial Era Timeline to 1664
1496 Henry VII (1457-1509), King of England (1485-1509), enlists Italian-born English navigator and explorer John Cabot (c1450-1499) to prove that it is possible to reach Asia by sailing west.
1497 John Cabot sails from Bristol on 2 May 1497 with a crew of 18 aboard the ship Matthew. On 24 June 1497, Cabot lands on what he thinks is northeastern Asia; the actual place of this landing is uncertain but is probably in what is now eastern Canada. Significantly, Cabot claims this "Asian" land for England and King Henry VII. This proclamation will be used in 1664 as the pretext for the British seizure of the colony of New Netherlands; see 1664.
1555King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598, reigned 1556-1798) appoints William I "the Silent" (1533-1584), who was Prince of Orange and, from 1555, also Count of Nassau, as the first "stadtholder" of the Dutch provinces of Spain.
[1568Spain founds Saint Augustine, Florida; this is the first permanent European settlement in the future USA.]
1568The Dutch War of Independence from Spain begins; it will last, on and off, for the next 32 years.
1572Northern Dutch provinces of Holland and Zeeland successfully rebel against Spain and elect William the Silent as "stadtholder".
1576Of the 17 Dutch provinces, 16 join together and sign the Pacification of Ghent on 8 November 1576.
1579All the northern Dutch provinces (the future nation of the Netherlands) and some of the southern Dutch provinces (the future nation of Belgium) meet in the Dutch city of Utrecht and sign the Union of Utrecht; this is the conception of the Dutch nation.
1581All of the northern provinces that were signatories to the Union of Utrecht unilaterally declare their independence from Spain; this is the birth of the Dutch nation. It will, however, have to fight for its survival.
1584 William the Silent is assassinated. He is succeeded as stadtholder by his son Maurice, Count of Nassau.
1585 England, which during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603, reigned 1558-1603) is Protestant, begins sending military assistance to the Netherlands, which is also Protestant, in its struggle against Catholic Spain.
1588 Spain, frustrated by its inability to reimpose its rule over the Netherlands as long as English help continues, decides to attack England and dispatches the Spanish Armada. The English fleet under the leadership (but not the command) of Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Drake (?1540-1596) defeats the much larger Spanish Armada, thereby significantly weakening Spain and boosting the chances of survival for the Netherlands.
1600 The last Spanish troops depart from the Netherlands. Even though Spain will not officially recognise Dutch independence until 1648, peace returns - and the Golden Age of the Netherlands begins. This 17th-century Dutch Golden Age encompasses not only art - the great Dutch painters Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669) and Jan Vermeer (1632-1675) - but also global commercial supremacy. By 1650, the Netherlands will be the most important maritime power on earth and the dominant trading power on the planet, and Amsterdam will be the financial capital of the world.
1602 The States-General, the governing body of the Dutch Republic, approves the charter of the Dutch East India Company and grants it a monopoly over the spice trade from the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa, eastward to Cape Horn, at the southern tip of South America. Although its scope does not encompass the east coast of North America, the Dutch East India Company will be phenomenally successful in its early decades and will prove to be the model to be emulated by other such trading companies from Denmark, England, France and the Netherlands. The Dutch East India Company will eventually fall into decline in the 18th century and will finally be wound up in 1798.
[1607England founds Jamestown, Virginia; this is the first permanent English settlement in the future USA.]
1609 The Dutch East India Company employs, funds and provides a ship for the English navigator Henry Hudson (?1565-?1611), already a veteran of two expeditions, to find the sought-after "Northwest Passage" from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Unlike Cabot 112 years earlier, who had believed that his landfall was Asia, Hudson knows that the land he finds west of the Atlantic is not Asia - but he believes that it is not another whole continent but instead a narrow strip of land dividing two great oceans. Sailing in the ship Half Moon, Hudson enters the river that will later bear his name. He navigates this river as far north as the tidal flow will allow, to what is now East Greenbush, Rensselaer County, NY. He meets native Americans, probably Mahicans, at a point whose description matches Castleton-on-Hudson. Failing to find the Northwest Passage, Hudson returns to Europe, arriving first in England, where the authorities seize the Half Moon and ban Hudson from ever sailing again for any power other than England. Nevertheless, it is this third voyage of Henry Hudson which will become the basis for Dutch claims in the New World.
[1610 The Dutch East India Company founds a trading post at Yacatra, on the island of Java; this is the beginning of Dutch colonisation in what is today Indonesia. In 1618, the colony will be named the Netherlands Indies, and Yacatra will be renamed Batavia (and eventually will become Jakarta).]
1614The States-General of the Netherlands grants a charter to the United New Netherlands Company, for the purpose of founding a Dutch colony in America. Owing to weak leadership and strong competition from other colonising countries, it will fail to achieve even a fraction of the success of the Dutch East India Company. The States-General also proclaims all "unoccupied" land in North America between Virginia and Canada to be "New Netherlands".
[1620Puritan colonists sailing from England in the ship Mayflower found the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts.]
1621 The States-General of the Netherlands grants a 24-year charter to the Dutch West India Company and decrees that no Dutch citizen may trade anywhere between Newfoundland and the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America without permission from the company. Among its founder members is a wealthy Amsterdam pearl merchant named Kiliaen van Rensselaer (c1580-1644). The United New Netherlands Company is absorbed into the Dutch West India Company, which will soon prove to be much more successful at populating the Dutch holdings in America.
1623 The States-General of the Netherlands proclaims the Dutch land in North America to be the colony of New Netherlands and grants it the status of a Dutch province.
1624 The Dutch West India Company founds Fort Orange, at the present site of Albany, Albany County, NY; this is the first permanent Dutch settlement in the future USA.
1625 The Dutch West India Company founds New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan Island; this settlement will eventually become New York City. Even in its earliest days, not all the colonists are Dutch; the second marriage in the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam shows a Silesian marrying a Swede, and the ninth is the marriage of two people from "Angola" [Portuguese claims in western Africa, not limited to the modern-day country of Angola]. Other early residents of New Amsterdam are English, Scottish, Danish, Norwegian, Bohemian and other nationalities.
1626 Peter Minuit (1580-1638), the first Director-General of New Netherlands (serves 1625-1631), famously buys Manhattan Island from the Canarsie tribe of Native Americans for goods to the value of 60 Dutch guilders (traditionally evaluated as "24 dollars").
1629 One reason for the success of the Dutch West India Company is that it early on adopts the "patroon" system. The Dutch word "patroon" means "patron" or "employer". This system allows the company to colonise New Netherlands without further cost to itself. The company grants patroonships to any of its members on the condition that they must establish a colony of at least 50 settlers within four years. Of the seven patroons, Peter Minuit is probably the most famous, and Kiliaen van Rensselaer is definitely the most successful. On 19 November 1629, the Dutch West India Company grants a huge patent to Kiliaen van Rensselaer. This patent, whose exact size is unknown at the time, covers "the North River [today the Hudson River] of New Netherlands, beginning above and below Fort Orange [today Albany], on both sides of the river with the islands therein." The patroon promises "to send a colony thither at the first opportunity on the conditions framed as aforesaid". Kiliaen van Rensselaer will never himself visit the New World - but his descendants will, and when the time comes, they will throw their not-inconsiderable influence behind the cause of American independence from Britain.
1630 Kiliaen van Rensselaer fulfills his vow when, having recruited a party of colonists (not all of them Dutch) and engaged the ship Eendracht, he sends the requisite settlers to populate his patroonship of Rensselaerwyck Manor. They sail from the Frisian island of Texel on 21 March 1630, and they arrive at New Netherlands on 24 May 1630. Most of the other patroonships will fail; only the van Rensselaer patroonship will achieve any degree of success, and it will thrive. Those first settlers will soon be joined by shiploads of others, and the van Rensselaer patroonship will survive the shift from Dutch colonial rule to British colonial rule as well as the shift from British colonial rule to American independence. It will endure well into the 19th century.
1631 New Netherlands Director-General Peter Minuit is recalled and returns to Europe; he will, however, go on to found what is now Wilmington, Delaware, before being lost at sea during a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea in 1638.
1632 Minuit's replacement as New Netherlands Director-General is Wouter van Twiller (dates unknown), a nephew of Kiliaen van Rensselaer. Van Twiller serves as the second New Netherlands Director-General, from 1632 to 1637. Although he is successful in his dealings with the Native Americans and therefore affords a degree of peace and protection for the settlers, he is not popular with the settlers, and in 1637, he, too, is recalled.
1638 Willem Kieft (1597-1674), the third New Netherlands Director-General, arrives in New Amsterdam. Serving from 1638 to 1647, he rules with an iron hand and brings order to the colony - but he antagonises the Native Americans, increasing the colonists' vulnerability to attack.
1640 Five years before its existing charter is due to run out in 1645, the States-General of the Netherlands revises the charter of the Dutch West India Company. Most significant among the changes is that manufacturing - previously banned - is now allowed.
1647 Peter Stuyvesant (c1610-1672), the fourth and last New Netherlands Director-General, arrives to take up his post. He will serve from 1647 to 1664, although his power will be curtailed after 1653. Autocratic, intolerant of religious non-conformists (especially Jews and Quakers) and prone to levying high taxes, Stuyvesant proves very unpopular with the colonists.
1651 In the environment of mercantilism prevailing at the time, the English Parliament promulgates the first of the Navigation Acts. This requires that all imports and exports of English colonies in America, Africa and Asia be transported on ships constructed by English shipbuilders and manned by crews that are at least 75% English. This law infuriates the Dutch, who have profited greatly from this trade up to this point.
[1652 On the southern tip of Africa, the Dutch East India Company founds the Cape Colony on Table Bay; this will grow into the city of Capetown and is the first European settlement in the future South Africa.]
1652The first of the four Anglo-Dutch Wars begins and will last until 1654. Fought entirely in Europe and mainly at sea, the war will come to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Westminster on 4 May 1654. Commercial and maritime rivalry, however, will continue.
1653 The New Netherlands settlers' dissatisfaction with Stuyvesant's dictatorial rule culminates in an appeal to the Dutch authorities to give them a degree of municipal self-government, and this is indeed granted.
1655 Stuyvesant raises an army larger than the entire population of New Sweden (which, despite its name, had been founded under joint Swedish and Dutch auspices) and marches on the tiny colony, easily overcoming it and annexing it to New Netherlands. (New Sweden will eventually become New Jersey.)
1664 An English fleet arrives at New Amsterdam harbour and captures New Amsterdam without resistance. The 1,500 citizens of New Amsterdam choose British rule over that of the hated Stuyvesant and the restrictive Dutch West India Company and refuse to fight for Stuyvesant, who has no choice but to surrender forthwith. Stuyvesant himself returns to the Netherlands, but he later retires to his farm in New Netherlands and lives there for the rest of his life. The Netherlands will not relinquish its claim over New Netherlands for another 10 years and will even retake New Amsterdam briefly - but in effect, the Dutch colonial era in America comes to an end one September day in 1664 - without the firing of a single defensive shot.

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Debby Masterson

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