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Title: So much from so few : the Dutch in the American Revolution
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Title: So much from so few : the Dutch in the American Revolution
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Schuyler, Steven M.
Publisher: College of Architecture, University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Copyright Date: 1978
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Volume ID: VID00001
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Full Text

So Much From So Few,

The Dutch in the American


Steven M. Schuyler
March 15, 1978
Gainesville, Florida



It sometimes happens that the course of history can

be profoundly influenced by a small group of people that

are in the right place with the right ideas. The Dutch in

colonial New York are such a group. Their impact on the pol-

itical system and efforts in the Revolution helped establish

the United States of America as the republic it is today.

To understand the Dutch influence, the traditions and

attitudes of the Netherlands must be examined as they relate

to the colony of New York.

The Netherlands was known during the Middle Ages as

the Low Countries. This pivotal area of the European contin-

ent was made up of a group of city states, based on farming,

fishing, and trade. The nature of the soils and the sea

brought great wealth to the cities. At times they were the

commercial and financial centers of Europe. The cities were

competitive, jealous, and tolerent of each other. Each city

was different in the make-up of its inhabitants, their gov-

ernment and religion.

The cities were run by the Burgermasters in a patriarch

plebeian system. Control was held in the power of civic "priv-

ilages", earned or rioted for by the people. So long as

the people with wealth helped better the position of the

masses things went well. The privileges included civic rights,

trading rights, and religious freedom. As long as the priv-

ilages remained in tact the people were complacent, if the

privileges were infringed on, by one government or another,

the people would revolt. Dutch loyalty to their localities

revolved around these privileges.

The Dutch were conquered by the Dukes of Burgundy, a

part of the French Royal Family, during the Hundred Years

War (1340-1453). As they put no great demands on the Dutch

people the rule by the Dukes produced a financially and cul-

turally rich era. The Burgundy rule was replaced by Charles

V, who also inherited the crowns of Spain and Germany. At

this time the Dutch, particularly of Antwerp, were enjoying

great gains supplying the Spanish with grain and lumber in

exchange for New World gold and silver. Yet the Dutch were

apprehensive of the religious convictions of the Spanish

monarch and were not about to submit to Counter- Reformation

Catholicism. Charle's son Philip II exploited the Dutch

only as a way to finance overseas wars.

By 1565 the Dutch in Antwerp felt their privileges

sufficiently threatened so under the leadership of the Cal-

vins they revolted. The troops sent by Philip II were unable

to cope with the resistance of the people and geography, and

only succeeded in forcing many of the people to move to the

north, taking their wealth with them. These people in Holland

and Zeeland again revolted, this time in 1572. For seven


W years the Spanish sieged, but could not conquer. The Dutch

would fight with whatever farces they had, even cutting their

dikes to flood the enemy out.

In 1759 the battle was won and the seven provinces north

of the Rhine formed the Union of Utrecht. It was not until

seventy years and many battles later in 1648 that the remain-

ing ten provinces were recognized as independent by Spain

and the United Neatherlands formed.

The new Dutch Republic was held together by the offensive

and defensive alliances of the Union of Utrecht. The Dutch

tradition of local control and privilege was still rigorously

held. Amsterdam was the center of a vast trading network

S and materials processing industry, but was not a government

center. The other cities would not allow any one part to

become too dominant.

The government of the Dutch Republic was set up so as

to give greatest control to the localities and indirectly

to the people. At the head of the government was the

stadtholder who was also captain-general and admiral-general

heading the military, but could not declare war or conclude

peace. He had charge, as head of the States-General, of

filling most offices with appointees, a most partisan position.

The States-General was the ruling body of the Republic, govern-

ing all affairs of national interest. Each state or province

had one vote. The separate states had assemblies elected by


the councils of the cities which were elected by the burghers,

or wealthy class of the city. Each body elected the representatives

to the body next higher up.

This discussion of the Dutch tradition points out aspects

that will be of great importance to the American Colonies,

namely the zeal for trade, loyalty to localities, rioting for

privileges, devotion to religion, banding together for defense

and steadfastness under siege.

The Dutch zeal for commerce brought them to the shores

of the New World as early as 1609. They were not looking

for the riches in this land, but rather for a way across it

to the trading centers of India and the Orient. The newly

formed Dutch East India Company hired English explorer Henry

Hudson to search for a northwest passage. At that time, no

one knew just how far it was across the continent. The

explorers would head up stream on the biggest rivers they

could find and hope they came out on the other side. Henry

Hudson was no exception. He sailed up what is now.called

the Hudson River to its headwaters and come back. No immediate

riches were found, but accounts of the vast forests and fine

furs encountered were given by some of the crew.

The Dutch East India Company lost interest in the New

World. Inspired by the reports of furs, a group of merchants

in 1614 applied for, and were granted, a trade monopoly between

the 40th and 45th parallel. In 1621 the Dutch West India

Company, a New World counterpart of the Dutch East India


Company, was incorporated. These trading companies looked

at the New World strictly as a money producing venture. People

and families were not sent so much as settlers to plant the

Dutch tradition, but as employees to expand the company purse.

The first settlement of Fort Orange, was located at the

present site of Albany, New York. Founded in 1624 by 30

families under Cornelious Jacobsen May, it was truely a

company town. The town was run by a Director-General,

usually a ship captain who had absolute power, although his

decisions could be appealed to the Amsterdam Council; but

one must remember that at this time, communication between

the two places could take six months to a year.

In 1626, Manhattan was purchased from the Indians for

the amazing sum of 60 guilders worth of trinkets. Peter

Minuit was appointed Director, and tried to consolidate

all the colonists into this area. By this time, the people

that wanted to stay-- those scattered up and down the Hudson

Valley-- were not to be budged.

While the Dutch West India Company was principally

responsible for the area, it was also allowing for private

development. Kiligen Van Rensselaer was one of the leading

developers. His Rensselaerswyck was an estate about half

the size of Long Island on both sides of the Hudson, encompass-

'ing the area of Fort Orange. Van Rensselaer was an absentee

landlord and a stickler for detail. Even though he hadn't

seen the land, he sent great detailed letters outlining the

S development of the land, the crops to be grown, the form of

the government and even the plans for the houses. His youth-

ful settlers tried to follow these instructions that verged

on the ridiculous. He had even sent all the official trappings--

hats, swords, capes, etc. of office to a place where almost all

people held a position of some sort.

Rensselearswyck was popularly governed as compared to

the rest of the settlements. Its government was typical of

that in the Netherlands. The highest ranking official was

the sheriff, or schout, followed by two buromasters and five

aldermen or schepens. Together, they formed the municipal

court or bench. This body served as legislature and judiciary.

The court system differed from the English, in that there was

no jury, rather the two parties debated their cases until a

settlement was reached.

Growth of the colony was slow and staggering. The fur

trade was expanding to the point that few Dutchmen wanted

to do anything but trade with the Indians. Farming was put

aside. Some people made their fortunes and returned to the

Netherlands, others failed. When William Kieft was appointed

governor in 1638, the colony was in a state of shambles. Kieft

was a man of organization, and a strongwilled autocrat. The

Company had been handling things so poorly, that the States-

General revoked his privilege of monopoly. Legitimate colon-

ization started, though the people still had to follow the rules

Ak of the Company and the government at home.

Kiefts' term as governor is marked by positive reform and

blunders that led to advances for the common people. An act

was called for the surveying of the land and a general clean

up of the villages. When he tried to tax the Indians, they

flatly refused. Later, when an excise on distilled spirits

was proclaimed, the brewers refused to pay, saying the tax

was unauthorized by the people. It was this resistance to

oppression that gave the people a knowledge of their political


When the Indians threatened attack in reprisal for the

murder of one of their tribesmen, Kieft called a common

meeting that elected a committee which was called the Twelve

S Men. After giving their advice on the situation, the Twelve

Men were disbanded. A second body, the Eight Men, was called

with similar results. These bodies were called for a specific

purpose and had little power.

The New Amsterdamers were learning of their power and

were being influenced by people from other lands. The rights

and privileges of the people in the Fatherland were being

demanded and tensions arose. Kieft was replaced by Peter

Stuyvesant as Director-General in 1647.

Stuyvesant brought reform and moved toward self-government.

A general election was held, and 18 men were chosen for con-

sideration as members of a council of Nine Men. The election

process of that time was termed cooptation. The people presented

a double list from which the Director-General would draw half

to form the council. Replacement members were also chosen

in this way. The Nine Men were eager, and petitioned the

States-General for a popular government "where neither patrons,

nor lords, nor princes are known, but only the people"1

Stuyvesant asked the Dutch West India Company for self-rule

and was refused, but the concession of a Bench of Justice

was made.

New Amsterdam was becoming a major trading center, and

truly cosmopolitan, even in 1643 there were 18 languages

spoken. The influx of foreign traders and transients present-

ed a threat to the Dutch merchant class. Laws were enacted

as to the minimum time a person had to spend in one place

before being allowed to open a shop. The "Old" Amsterdam

system of Great and Small Burghers, known as the Burgher-

Right, was adopted in 1657. Power was based on the wealth

of a persons property -- a Great Burgher having 500 guilders

and a Small Burgher, 50. The Burgher-Right was protested,

but defended as a way of protecting the loyal permanent


The taxation system was typically Dutch, in the tradition

of getting what you pay for. There was no direct taxation,

rather funds were raised by a system of fees, duties and excises.

Fees were taken for the stamping of weights, surveying of land,

inspection of fireplaces and other direct services. Duties

were placed on goods coming into the colony from other places


and at times for the exportation of essential goods. Exicises

were placed on some local goods, including the slaughter of

cattle and the brewing of liquor. Many Dutch did their

best to avoid paying these indirect taxes and were absolute-

ly against a direct tax.

A change in the royal families of the English Court was

to have a profoud effect on New Amsterdam. The Stuarts

regained power in 1660 and put Charles II on the throne.

He granted his brother, the Duke of York, proprietorship

of the Americas from Maryland to Canada. Seeing the Dutch

as a foriegn element in his domain, the Duke in 1664 dis-

patched four warships to take the colony. They arrived in

August and demanded the surrender of the city. Stuyvesant

refused but could get little backing from the inhabitants

of the city. The fort was earthen and could barely stand

an attach by indians with muskets, much less a broadside

from a British Man-of-war.

The people had been displeased with rule by the company

and Governor Stuyvensant; in many ways they welcomed the

takeover. The burgomasters and schepens sent a letter to

the Dutch East India Company that fairly sums up their opin-

ions. It went in part: "We your Honor's loyal, sorrowful,

and desolate subjects, cannot neglect nor keep from relating

the event which through God's pleasure...unexpectedly happened

to us in consequence of your Honor's neglect and forgetful-

ness... Since we have no-longer to depend on your Honor's


PW promises of protection, we with all the poor, sorrowing and

abandoned commonality here must fly for refuge to the Almighty

...not doubting but He will stand by us in this sorely afflict-

ing conjuncture." 2

British rule was established under Colonel Richard

Nicolls, the commander of the overtaking forces. The terms

of the treaty gave generous terms to the Dutch. The town

officials would remain unchanged and continue acting as they

had. The treaty also promised all personal property would

be respected. The Duke of York was to get all public rights

and franchises along with those of the Dutch West India


* At first business carried on as if nothing had happened.

When it came time replace members of the councils Nicols

chose to directly appoint new members. The Dutch protested

to some avail, they were later allowed to submit one list

for approval as opposed to the double list of cooptation.

This went on until Nicols was replaced by Lovelace, who

went back to cooptation. Other changes to the Dutch system

included "the employment of the jury system as against the

Dutch method of referees; the support of the clergymen by

the town instead of by the provincial government; and in 1668

the abolition of the exclusive burgher right".

Stuyvesant returned to the Netherlands shortly after

the surrender. He was exonerated of any wrong doing and

soon returned to New York. A great welcome was given and
he settled down on his farm or "bouwerie". As did many of


the Dutch he fratenized closely with the English. He gave

his city house to Nicols as an official residence and died

a close friend of the governor in 1672.

The decade following the English conquest was a period

of adjustment and prosperity. New York was..eailled th^sfnest

of all the colonies and became the English favorite.

There was minor friction when British troops were quartered

among the people, but this quieted down when the housing

allotment was upped to a point the Dutch felt profitable.

The Navigation Acts were more closely enforced, supporting

the English mercantile system. Trade with England was un-

restricted but the more profitable trade with the Netherlands

had to carried on by smuggling.

The English system of currency, and weights and measures

was adopted. The Dutch resisted at first, but found they

could exploit the differences to avoid paying taxes. As

long as trade continued and the merchants prospered the

Dutch were happy with the English.

The Third Anglo-Dutch War brought a brief period of

Dutch rule to New York. On August 7, 1673 a Dutch fleet

of 23 warships with 1600 men under the command of Admirals

Everston and Bindeles took the city. The situation was

similar to that of 1664, and almost a bloodless conquest.

Captain Anthony Colve became governor, the colony was re-

named New Orange,and the capital was moved to Fort Orange

(Albany). For the next year the colony was subjected to a


strict military rule, hated by Dutch and British alike. In

1674 Hostilities ceased between England and the Netherlands.

New Orange reverted back to the English and again became New

York. The only long term change was the moving of the capital.

After the brief change of rule New York continued its

growth of commerce and influence. The city was becoming a

popular place of the British officials, partly due to its

central location in the colonies and partly due to its world

roaming Dutch trading captains. Illegal trade was flour-

ishing. In 1677 the Dutch West India Company tried to take

advantage of this by putting a 3o tax on smuggled goods. The

Dutch traders though were not about to smuggle to avoid one

tax only to pay another, they refused.

The English implemented changes in an area that was

extremely dear to the Dutch, religion. By this one issue

nearly all the Dutch were alienated. Ministers of the Dutch

Reformed Church had been paid through taxes, the English

stopped this and so put the church in economic difficulties.

English officials were placed in the church as was an English

speaking clergy. The Dutch openly resented supporting and

being dominated by a clergy they could not understand.

The domination of mercantilism was represive to most

inhabitants of New York. The tanning of hides was to be pro-

hibited in the city. The hides would be sent to England for

processing and with cheap English labor made into shoes for

shipment back to the colonies. The shoe making industry


was well established in New York, there being several suc-

cessful and wealthy cobblers. The plan was protested and

never implemented. A similar situation happened with the

distilling of liquor, another strong local industry.

New York City was becoming so Anglicised that it started

to alienate itself from the rest of the colony. In 1679

New York City became the sole grain inspecting point in

the colony and also took a monopoly on the milling and pack-

ing of grain. The port bf New York City became the exclu-

sive port of the colony. This may have been a boom to the

city but it was devastating for the patroons,farmers, and

traders of the Hudson Valley.

A more liberal governor, Thomas Dongan, came to power

in 1683. Dongan called for greater taxation of the colony

and was strongly critized. Seeing the Dutch need for a

representative body in the area of taxation, he called for

a popular election of an assembly to help run the colony.

The assembly, powerwise, was more like the States-General,

sovereign, as opposed to the powerless Parliment. The

assembly lasted until 1685 when the Duke of York ascended

to the British throne as King James II, and revoked it.

The ascension of the colony's namesake to the throne

was unheralded by it's population, for one reason, King

James II was Catholic. "The ravages of Louis' armies,

like those of Philip of Spain, confirmed the people of the

Netherlands in their fear and hatred of Catholicism."4

The best point of James II reign was that it was short. In

1688 William III of Orange invaded England from the Nether-

lands and the "Glorious Revolution" was successful.

The rise of William and Mary to the throne put new

hope in the Dutch of New York for Dutch rule. While William

was organizing a Grand Alliance in Europe, a Dutchman in
New York was credited^a revolt there that bears his name.

Jacob Leisler was a selfmade man. A successful merchant

and captain in the militia. He was also an active defender

of the church.

New York had earlier been annexed by New England, much

to the displeasure of the Dutch. The governor, Edmund Andros,

had been moved to Boston. Charge of New York was left to

Lieutenant-Governor Francis Nicholson, a weak and non-

commital individual.

The revolution in Europe brought divided loyalties in

the colonies. The masses supported William and Mary, the

old status quo of high officials, the clergy, and lay elders

did not. The commoners of Boston hated Andros and jailed him,

leaving Nicholson in charge. Facing extreme money problems

and not knowing what to do, Nicholson called on the captains

of the militia for advice. Still failing to take any action

the situation grew worse and the people revolted. Leisler

did not lead the masses, rather they led him. The fort, and

thus the city were taken.

Leisler wound up as governor and held that position



for nearly two years. He had no official sanction from

England, just the support of the people. As governor he

called for a popular assembly for the purpose of raising

revenue. This was one of the first assemblies to embody

taxation through representation. The Assembly also re-

formed many of the repressive laws and taxes of the colony.

He also tried to organize an intercolonial expedition

against Canada. This Dutch attitude of banding together

for military purposes was not understood by the British

and they failed to aid him.

Leisler's Rebellion ended when William named a gover-

nor to succeed him. The new governor did not understand

the situation and the confusion caused by there being no

charter for the colony. He felt Leisler had betrayed the

crown of England and had him tried as a traitor. Leisler

was hung in May 1691.

The period between Leisler's Rebellion and the Rev-

olution saw the colony dividing in loyalties. New York's

Dutch were general assimilated with the English, while

the upstate Dutch were retaining more traditional ways and

attitudes including language. The colony as a whole had a

strong Dutch character.

The Dutch, being some of the first urban dwellers,

were advanced in the areas of health and sanitation. They

understood the corolation between cleanliness and health,

and were leaders in the field medicine.


Dutch women were treated in a better way. There was

opportunity for education and it was acceptable for a Dutch

woman to work in her husband's shop. There was more than

one Dutch widow that took over her husband's business com-


The Dutch rere more liberal with their slaves. Treated

as servants or even part of the family, slaves could buy

their freedom. Some held outside jobs or were paid by the

family. Much to the discust of the British, freed slaves

held white servants and even intermarried.

The French and Indian Wars indicated to the people of

the Hudson Valley the military importance of their land.

Lake Champlain and the Mohawk River valley link together

with the Hudson near Albany and form an avenue from Canada

to New York City that splits the colnoes. To drive a wedge

into this split the French, in 1755, built a large stone

fort on the upper Hudson at Ticonderoga. This Louis the

XIV fort was engineered by Vauban and was one of the most

advanced of its day. From its very start the fort was a

military target and pivitol point. The presence of the fort

brought destruction to the valley, it also brought hungry

troops and prosperity to the farmers that fed them.

After the British passed through Albany, the city was

left in a state of political confusion and petty infighting.

Traditional politics was of the landed families. Abraham

-Yates was a shoemaker turned lawyer that was to change

this. In an unsuccessful try for .the Assembly, Yates "intr-


duced into Albany a new feature in New York politics, the

organized political party in which proffesional politicians

rely for their power on the votes of a body of independent

electors held together by issues."5
The end of the war in 1761 brought a period of depres-

sion to the colony. The Dutch merchants had been smuggling

tea, gunpowder,guns, and cloth from the West Indies and land-

ing them on the coast. The end of hostilities meant the

british officials could devote more energy to stopping the

untaxed trade. Many Dutch merchants that thought they were

assimilated found themselves at odds with the British policy.

The series of events that led to war between the colonies

and the Fatherland rarely saw the Dutch in the forefront,

though they were never far behind. This was true for two

reasons: the high ratio of loyalists; and the reluctance

of the Dutch to engage in the fighting of a war.

It seems strange that a colony that started out under

one nationality and was conquered by another should remain

loyal to the conquerors. Many Dutch, particularly the wealthy

merchants, saw the British as a way to end the domination of

the Dutch West India Company and gain more control of their

own affairs. In general the coastal areas remained more

Loyalist because of their greater contact with Briton.

New York City as the leading port of New England was held

in tighter rein than the rest of the area. As of 1767 New

York was made British Headquarters and thus the seat of



For all the rioting and protesting the Dutch did, they

were not inclined to fight a war. A riot would be over

quickly, usually with an immediate gain. Wars tended to be

drawn out and disruptive of trade. The Dutch would rather

engage in the trade of war, but once stirred to fighting they

were a formidable adversary.

The early history of the colonies shows them to be

diverse and self-centered. As they grew, they became more

in touch with each other through improved communication,

travel and trade. Committees of Correspondence were formed

in many places to keep the colonies up to date on political

and economic maters. With the gradual breakdown of British

rule these committees drew strength and began to replace the

established bodies.

In 1764 news of the impending Stamp Act reached New

York. Tax stamps were common in Europe and demanded on

publications and official documents. They were never pop-

ular. In Albany "the Assembly urged united action in the

name of English liberty against the objectionable duty on

the ground that the people were being taxed without their

The term "English liberties" is significant in under-

standing the tenor of the times. Few people were advocating

a break with Briton, rather the establishment of English

privileges of citizenship for the colonies. The forces of

separation grew stronger as these expectations went unful-


filled and as the Britishtried to place greater control

and taxation on the colonies. Most colonists were in agree-

ment about their grievences, it was the means to resolve

them that divided their loyalties.

The Stamp Act was put into effect in -65. --Massa-

chusetts called for an intercolonial body to take action on

the measure. The stamp Act Congress was the first body to

represent all the colonies. Held in New York, the Congress

called for moderate action against the Act including the

stopage of trade with Briton. Not all protest of the Stamp

Act was peaceful. The Sons of Liberty formed and used violent

and intimidating tactics to keep stamps from being landed

and used.

Seeing that enforcing the Stamp Act was impossible,

Parliment suspended it in 1766, but maintained they had

every legal right to enact it in the first place. Repeal

was greeted with joy and celebration. The colonists were

seeing that they could have an effect on Parliment and that

their political/economic strength was growing.

As a punitive measure for their rebellious nature,

Parliment suspended the powers, of the New York Assembly,

leaving a political vacum in the colony. This action could

only help strengthen the exta legal committee system and

further alienate the people from the Crown.

In an effort to raise revenue and reestablish their

control, Parliment imposed the Townshed Acts in 1767.


This series of indirect taxes was met with the same resis-

tance as the Stamp Act, only it was better organized. Non-

importation was reinstated in 1768 and formalized by the

Non-importation Agreement of 1769. In the three years the

boycott was.in effect 7/8 of the trade with Briton was

stopped. There is little doubt that the Dutch, skillful in

smuggling, were able to bring needed goods in from the West


What is perhaps the first skirmish of the revolution

was fought in New York. One man was killed and several

wounded when British soldiers cut down the fourth Liberty

Pole the Sons of Liberty erected. The Battle of Golden

Hill in 1770 shows of the growing rift between colonial

activists and British authority.

For a time things were generally quiet. The colonies

were in a period of prosperity and with prosperity comes

complacency. The committee system was growing and the more

radical groups were looking for points to fight.

In an effort to bolster the East India Company, Parli-

ment passed the Tea Act in 1772. The Act refunded the tax

on tea for the colonies to the Company, and allowed them

to sell directly to retailers. This undercut the price of

smuggled tea and put many wholesalers out of business. It

was widely protested, the most famous protest being the

Boston Tea Party. A shipload of tea was dumped into the

harbor by Samual Adams and the Sons of Liberty.


In retaliation for the Boston Tea Party, Parliment

in 1774, passed the Coercive or Intolerable Acts. "(1)

By the Port of Boston Bill the port of Boston was closed to

commerce until the tea should be paid for. (2) The Massa-

chusetts Government Act permanently altered the provincial

government by providing a new appointive council under a

new military governor and appointive sheriffs and justices

of the peace. (3) The quartering Act was re-enacted for

all thirteen colonies. (4) The Administration of Justice

Act provided that royal officers accused of capital off-

ences could be tried elsewhere at the discretion of the
governor." The Intolerable Acts turned out to be a uni-

fying element of the colonists. Loyalists were appealed

and many changed sympathies.

In response to thects, New York organized the Commit-

tee of 100, which became the Committee of 51. This commit-

tee was the first to take action outside the realm of cor-

respondence. It urged the other colonies to form an inter-

colonial congress and elected delegates for such a congress.

On September 5, 1774 the First Continental Congress met.

It was no more than a collection of committees of corres-

pondence, but it gave an aire of legality to the committees

it called for.

The First Continental Congress also set up a general

association. "The Association" was an agreement to be signed

by the people for the non-importation of British goods. It


was a means of determining the loyalties of the population

with non-signers to be reported to the Continental Congress.

Sanctions were taken against non-signers but generally if

they stayed quiet they were left alone.

1775 was the turning point for revolutionary activities.

Before then reconciliation with Briton was generally sought.

The New York General Assembly adjourned early in April still

holding to this intention. The Battles of Lexington and

Concord signaled the start of open hostilities. The First

Provincial Congress replaced the Assembly. In Albany the

Committee of Correspondence came out of hiding, held a gen-

eral meeting and elected a Committee of Safety. Rural

districts were invited to join in the election of members

to the Provincial Congress. From the Provincial Congress

members of the Second Continental Congress were chosen, and

the duties of the Assembly were taken over.

After Lexington, Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill,

America was committed to war. Loyalties were divided but

events such as the publishing of Thomas Paine's "Common

Sense" helped pull people to the side of the Revolution. The

Second Continental Congress took charge of the war effort,

appointed George Washington Commander-in-Chief of the army,

adopted a "Declaration of Causes of Taking Up Arms", and

sent a petition to the king known as "The Olive Branch"8

Even though armies were being raised and government

bodies were changing independence was not the desired result.


The Declaration of Independence, adopted by the Continental

Congress on July 4, 1776 and New York on July 9,was intended

to put preasure on Parliment more than force separation.

Through out the war people that were fighting in the name

of independence were still favoring union with England.

The political events of the Revolution show New York

going along with the will of the other colonies. The new

form of government that evolved; placed greater emphasis

on the rights and powers of the common man, as guaranteed

by law. To establish the laws permanently and to regulate

thqtorkings and duties of the government, written consti-

tutions were adopted. The writing of a constitution was

itself a new political concept. John Jay wrote the first

draft for a constitution for the united colonies in 1776.

In 1777 the Committee at Albany wrote a compromise state

constitution and became a state in 1778. Governor Clinton

recommended adopting the Articles of Confederation that were

to hold the states together as a union.

Three years after the signing of the Declaration of

Independence the Continental Congress on July 12 1779 es-

tablished the United Staes of America under the Articles of

Confederation. In October, New York officially ratified

the Articles and became part of the United States.

At the outbreak of fighting there were about 2.5

million people living in the colonies. One half million

were Negro, the rest were white. "Of the white population


the national origins have been estimated as follows:

English 77 percent; German 9 percent; Irish 3.8 percent;

Dutch 3.5 percent; French 2.5 percent; all others 4.2

percent.' The Dutch were a decided minority yet they were

to bear a large portion of the responsibility for fighting

the war. Nearly a third of the battles fought during the

seven years were fought in the Hudson Valley.

The problems of money and supplies were to plague the

Continental Army through out the war. The government of

the Netherlands was technically allied with England, but

in spirit was on the side of the Americans. The Dutch

were hoping independence would open new trade in America,

yet they feared open approval would lead to war with Briton.

They would certainly loose such a war and so a policy of

neutrality was taken.

While maintaining 4 egal neutrality, a trade in mu-

nitions was indirectly carried on through the island of

St. Eustatia. The Dutch expertise in smuggling allowed

necessary supplies of powder, shot, guns, and cloth to get

through to the Americas. A handsome profit was turned and

the British were furious, later taking the island but not

stopping the trade. The Dutch seamen were also suppling

France and Spain with the materials needed from the Scan-

dinavian countries to produce ships and munitions for the


British interference with trade along the European


coast eventually brought the Nethrtlands into the war.

Under an earlier treaty navigation of "free ships with free

goods" was tobrespected. When this agreement was blatently

violated the Netherlands into an association with Denmark,

Sweden, Portugal, and Russia called the Armed Neutrality.

The British knew of the help the Netherlands was giving and

resented it. The Dutch were the first to salute the Amer-

ican flag, the British demanded an explanation. The American

Captain John Paul Jones was put up at Texel with two cap-

tured British Men-of War while his ship was repaired. The

British filed an official complaint which the Dutch ignored.

Hostilities between France and England began in 1778.

By 1779 France and Spain declared war on England. In 1780

England declared war on the Netherlands. The American Rev-

olution became a world war to open the Atlantic for free

trade and a chance to humble the British.

When France began lending money to the Americans the

Dutch followed suit, but had to go through France to avoid

detection from the British. British funds were diverted

through France by the Durch dealing a double blow to England.

The Dutch were impressed with the republican attitude of the

Americans, one similar to their own, and the vast rescources

of the country, and so felt the Americans would be a good


The war in the colonies centered on the Hudson Valley.

The British stretagy was to split the colonies along that


line and force submission. Shortly after the signing of

the Declaration of Independence, Contineental troops began

pouring into New York City with George Washington to lead

them. The force was illtrained and illequiped so that when

Admiral Lord Howe and General Sir William Howe with crack

British troops invaded it was all Washinton could do to

retreat to New Jersey without losing his whole army. New

York City was reestablished as British Headquarters and

would remain in British possession until the end of the war.

While New York City was British, the surrounding areas

and the rest of the state was predominately patriot. This

presented the British with problems in keeping the loyalists

and refugees that fled to the city supplied and fed.

The British General John Burgoyne devised and commanded

the plan to split the colonies. British forces were to come

down the Mohawk Valley, and Lakes Champlain and George, meet

at Albany, continue down the Hudson and connect with forces

sent from New York City. The plan was simple and should

have worked except Burgoyne haaoigured on the extreme sub-

bornness of the Dutch and their ability to resist a siege.

Burgoyne set out in the spring of 1777 with 8000 men.

The Americans avoided direct engagement as they were badly

outnumbered, rather they slowed down the advance and let

nature take its toll. The American force of 2000 abandoned

Fort Ticonderoga rather than be crushed. They may have been

able to hold out but the fort's cannon had been removed by


Washington for the siege of Boston.

The American troops were commanded by generals Philip

Schuyler, Peter Gansevoort, Horatio Gates and Bennedict

Arnold. Schuyler had charge of the Hudson Valley and Gans-

evoort the Mohawk Valley. Arnold kept the British in New

York City and Gates rounded up troops from New England.

Schuyler's troops were able to bog the British down in

the portage between Lake George and the Hudson Valley.

Rather than fighting with bullets, Schuyler concentrated

on blocking the roads and rivers with trees, and turning

the woods into swamps. Burgoyne's progress was checked

at one mile per day.

Gansevoort's troops stopped a supply convoy from coming

down the Mohawk to relieve Burgoyne. While Burgoyne was

running out of supplies and time before winter, Gates was

gathering up troops and sending them west. By October the

combined American forces outnumbered the British four to one.

The Americans dug in at Saratoga and were able to repulse

repeated attacks. With his supplies gone and his troops

beaten Burgoyne surrendered to Gates on October 17, 1777.

Saratoga is referred to as the turning point of the war.

It was not only a military victory, it was a moral one.

Schuyler and Gates proved something Washington could not,

the Americans could win. When Europe heard of the British

defeat they were encouraged and started in ernest to fin-

ance and supply the war.


The war in the Hudson was not over. The river was

blockaded and so the Dutch farmers were cut off from their

world market. The British were to invade again, the indians

kept up a series of raids. The Dutch resisted with all they

had showing great strength and personal sacrifice. Philip

Schuyler personally put up considerable sums of money for

the effort and his wife burned the farm's crops rather than

let the British have them. The Dutch attitude would not

allow defeat.

The emphasis of the war shifted south and American

victories became more frequent. In 1781 Washington defeated

Cornwallis at Yorktown signalling the end of fighting.

Peace negotiations began in 1782 with the final treaty

being ratified September 3, 1783. The British troops left

New York en masse later in the fall.

The Dutch entered the Revolution for reasons all their

own and had different goals for its outcome. Yet their

commitment and influence helped establish the United States

of America as the Worlds third great Republic.

..... -< .

L f j ...



Shepherd, William. The Story of New Amsterdam p. 83.
2 Ibid, p. 184.

3 Ibid, p. 196.

Kenney, Alice p. Stubborn For Liberty, p. 62.

5 Ibid, p. 142.
Division of Archives and History, The American Rev-

olution in New York, p. 14.

Smelser, Marshall. American Colonial and Revolutionary

History, p. 129.
8Ibid, p. 135.

9Ibid, p. 143.


Division of Arhives an History, The American Revolution

in New York, The University of the State of New York, Albany,


Edler, Friedrich, The Dutch Republic in the American Rev-

olution, The John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1911

Gerlach, Don R., Philip Schuyler and the Growth of New York,

The University of the State of New York, Albany, 1968

Kenny, Alice P., Stubborn For Liberty, Syracuse University

Press, Syracuse, New York, 1975

Shepherd, William, The Story of New Amsterdam, Kennikit

Press, Port Washington, New York, 1926

Smelser, Marshall, American Colonial and Revolutionary,

History, Barnes and Noble, Inc., New York, 1950

Vidal, Gore, Burr: A Novel, Bantam Books, New York, 1973

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