Dutch West India Company

 

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Dutch West India Company. The Dutch East India Company was a great monopoly, the profits of the trade of which were enormous. Their ships whitened the Indian seas, and in one year the shareholders received in dividends the amount of three-fourths of their invested capital. It was believed that trade with the Western Continent might be made equally profitable, and as early as 1607 William Ussellinx suggested a similar association to trade in the West Indies. The States-General of Holland were asked to incorporate such an association. The government, then engaged in negotiations for a truce with Spain, refused; but when that truce expired, in 1621, a charter was granted to a company of merchants which gave the association almost regal powers to "colonize, govern, and protect " New Netherland for the term of twenty-four years. It was ordained that during that time none of the inhabitants of the United Provinces (the Dutch Republic) should be permitted to sail thence to the coasts of Africa between the tropic of Cancer and the Cape of Good Hope; nor to the coasts of America or the West Indies between Newfoundland and the Strait of Magellan, except with the permission of the company. It was vested with sovereign powers, to be exercised in the name of the States-General, and to report to that body, from time to time, all its transactions. The government of the company was vested in five separate chambers of managers, the principal one at Amsterdam, and the other four in as many separate cities. General executive powers were entrusted to a board of nineteen delegates, called the College of Nineteen, in which one delegate represented the States-General, by whom the company was guaranteed protection, and received assistance to the amount of $380,000.

The company was organized on June 21, 1623 ; and with such a charter, such powers, and such privileges, it began the settlement and development of New Netherland. The English claimed the domain, and the Dutch hastened to acquire eminent domain, according to the policy of England, by planting permanent settlements there; and the same year (1623) they sent over thirty families, chiefly Walloons, to Manhattan. The management of New Netherland was intrusted to the Amsterdam chamber. Their traffic was successful. In 1624 the exports from Amsterdam, in two ships, were worth almost $10,000, and the returns from New Netherland were considerably more. The company established a trading-post, called Fort Orange, on the site of Albany, and traffic was extended eastward to the Connecticut River, and even to Narraganset Bay; northward to the Mohawk Valley, and southward and westward to the Delaware River and beyond. To induce private capitalists to engage in the settlement of the country, the company gave lands and special privileges to such as would guarantee settlement and cultivation. These became troublesome landholders, and in 1638 the rights of the company, it was claimed, were interfered with by a settlement of Swedes on the Delaware. In 1640 the company established the doctrines and rituals of the Reformed Church in the United Provinces as the only theological formula to be allowed in public worship in New Netherland. The spirit of popular freedom which the Dutch brought with them from Holland, asserted its rights under the tyranny of WILLIAM KIEFT, and a sort of popular assembly was organized at New Amsterdam. Its affairs in New Netherland were necessarily under the direct management of a director-general or governor, whose powers, as in the case of Kieft and Stuyvesant, were sometimes so arbitrarily exercised that much popular discontent was manifested, and their dealings with their neighbors were not always satisfactory to the company and the States-General; yet, on the whole, when we consider the spirit of the age, the colony, which, before it was taken possession of by the English in 1664, was of a mixed population, was managed wisely and well; and the Dutch West India Company was one of the most important instruments in planting the good seed from which our nation has sprung.

 

 

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