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Mayflower, Day by Day - Thursday, 3 June 1621

3 Jun 2021 3:12 AM | Soule (Administrator)

Meanwhile, back in Europe …

Today marks the four hundredth anniversary of the charter of the Dutch West India Company, chartered on 3 June 1621 by the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands.  The company was given the exclusive right to operate in West Africa (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Cape of Good Hope) and the Americas. Willem Usselincx was one of the founders of the West India Company, and promoted the establishment of colonies in the New World as the company’s principal purpose. In 1620, Usselincx made a last appeal to the States General, which rejected this vision as a primary goal. The legislators preferred trading posts with small populations and a military presence to protect them, which was working in the East Indies, as opposed to encouraging mass immigration and establishing large colonies. The company did not shift to colonization in North America until 1654, when it was forced to surrender Dutch Brazil and forfeit the richest sugar-producing area in the world.

Like the French in the north, the Dutch focused their interests on the fur trade. To that end, they cultivated relations with the Five Nations of the Iroquois to procure greater access to key central regions from which the skins came.  In 1617, Dutch colonists built a fort at the confluence of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers where Albany now stands. The Dutch claimed all territory from the end of the Delmarva peninsula to Cape Cod -- this would make Plymouth, at best, right on the border, if not within Dutch territory.  In 1624, New Netherland became a province of the Dutch Republic, which had lowered the northern border of its North American dominion to 42 degrees latitude in acknowledgment of the claim by the English north of Cape Cod (Plymouth, for your information is at 41° 57 N).  The population, even at its height, was very small and extremely contentious, and the Company provided little military support.  In 1664, during a series of Anglo-Dutch conflicts, England moved to take over New Netherland; the Dutch colonists refused to fight, forcing Governor Stuyvesant's surrender.  Although the Dutch briefly regained control of the territory in 1674, the English quickly consolidated their gains as the colony of New York.

Dutch continued to be spoken in the region for some time. President Martin Van Buren grew up in Kinderhook, New York, speaking only Dutch, becoming the only U. S. president not to have spoken English as a first language.

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