Terhune Family


Colonization, Chaos and Dissention In New Netherland

- 1624 to 1720 -

Mysterious gaps often occur in genealogical data. Much of this can be attributed simply to the loss or absence of records; however, some can not be explained away by the social, political, and event driven occurrences of the times. And fortunately, occasions occur in which the historical data can actually fill in these gaps, or at least make possible very rational estimates of the likely progression of family lines. Therefore, serious genealogy research should be accompanied by some works concerning the history of the times.

European Background

It would be parochial and of limited value to discuss the events in the Dutch colony of New Netherland in this period without first sketching the political and religious chaos occurring in Europe. Much of what happened in the colonies was driven by these European events. The Atlantic separation and hence the three to four months' ship passage-time only served to delay, but not isolate the colonists. The British went back and forth: from Whig to Tory, from Catholic to Calvinist to Anglican rulers, and from wars with France to allies with France, as they did with Holland. The colonists were as corks bobbing on the sea of European wars, politics and religion.

First, let us summarize the driving philosophies of England and Holland (i.e. the United Provinces). Foremost was the theory of Absolutism, the "Divine Right of Kings". In England, even in brief periods of republican rule, the ruler was a dictator and the nobles had the bulk of the remaining power. But the government of the Dutch was Republican, different from most European governments of the time. The seven United Provinces were independent in local matters and controlled by wealthy merchants and financiers. Over all was the "Stadholder" (usually of the House of Orange) responsible for defense and foreign affairs. The key to their political success in resisting the Spanish and English in the 17th Century rested on its enormous commercial prosperity which in turn rested on its huge fishing, trading and transport fleet. The Dutch practiced religious toleration and was alone in being open to all faiths.

However, Absolutism did exist to a degree in the matter of dealing with the lower classes and dissent could have a high price. This was particularly true in the overseas colonies which were controlled by companies, rather than the Dutch government. Perhaps Absolutism was best described in Thomas Hobbs' famous book, "Leviathan" in 1650 in which he justified the same by describing the general population as a rabble only capable of anarchy. He andhis writings were the ultimate definition and consummate exposition of Absolutism.

A second over riding theory was that of Mercantilism or economic nationalism. It was the practice of using the political power of government to control the economy for the singular benefit of a given nation. It manifested itself in many ways, chief among them affecting the colonies were:

    A. Trade and commerce - monopolies were created to limit trade to the home country and create a favorable balance of trade for them.
    B. Use of subject colonies as sources of raw materials and a controlled market for home country products.
    C. Control and monopolization of shipping and the profits derived from it for the home country.

All of these were monopolistic practices, accepted by the ruling classes of Europe and by the population generally, as was Absolutism.

A third powerful factor was Religion. The Protestant religions had arisen several hundred years previously and swept over much of Europe; France and Spain, being notable exceptions. The United Provinces were Calvinistic and Lutheran; the citizens feared, even hated the nearby French and Spanish Catholics. England had largely become Anglican with minorities of Catholic and Pietistic (Puritan, Quaker, etc.) Protestants. England was ravaged at this time with near-constant wars, political controversy and periodically with draconian laws affecting religious worship. England was also at this time subjugating Ireland and partially subduing Scotland and attempting changes to their religious practices. Holland was in near perpetual conflict with the Catholics in Spain and France.

Last was the matter of Class. At the top of the food chain was a very small group of kings, nobles, Parliamentarians, and religious leaders, etc. who monopolized most all political power. Next was a "middle class" of small proportions comprised of wealthy merchants, landowners, and miscellaneous military leaders and ministers. The vast majority were "common people" eking out a living in farming, labor, shopkeepers, or as craftsmen. Upward mobility was not impossible, but difficult and the lower classes were often looked on with scorn by their "betters". The vast majority of the "common folk" knew their "place" and were compliant. There was no democratic mechanism as we know it, such as national voting.

England and the Netherland differed substantially in many social "common law" matters. This was to impact the colonies when the British and Dutch people were amalgamated in the previous New Netherland colony. Two important matters come to mind:

    1. In Holland, there was a substantial separation between Church and State; i.e. sometimes referred to as the "Two Kingdoms", of man and of God. Conversely, the English politics directly interfered with and often dictated to the churches.
    2. English law favored primogeniture, or inheritance by the eldest son. In Holland, the widows and children were dealt with differently. The inheritance was one-third to the wife and the rest equally divided amongst the children. Generally, the wife's share went to the children equally upon her death or remarriage. The Dutch also had a system of "Orphan Masters" who appointed guardians and oversaw the financial interests of under-aged children; a system with no English counterpart. Dutch women often kept their names after marriage, could own businesses and property, and draft wills. It is to be noted that many Dutch considered their society to be more "advanced" than the British.

England suffered a civil war, sometimes called the "Rebellions" or the "Wars of the Three Kingdoms", in the period of 1639 to 1651. This led to the eventual exile of King Charles I in 1646 to Scotland when his armies were defeated. This period also saw the rise of Oliver Cromwell, a Parliamentarian, to political and military power. He developed a so called "model army" which ultimately defeated the King's Royalist army. Cromwell also subjugated Ireland and defeated Scotland. King Charles I was executed in 1649 and England was converted from a Monarchy to a Commonwealth or Republic in the years 1649 to 1660.

Cromwell was one of the greatest figures in English history, becoming almost a dictator well before his death in 1658. In addition to his overwhelming successes in the Isles, he was active and successful overseas. He fought the first Dutch war in 1652-1654 which was instigated by Parliament giving English merchants a monopoly over imports, the Mercantilist "Navigation Act". He fought the Barbary pirates and readmitted Jews to England after 365 years. His "model army" was successful against Spain in the Battle of the Dunes at Dunkirk in 1658.

The death of Cromwell left a vacuum which was soon filled. The two power centers were the army and Parliament. Parliament resolved the matter by voting back the Monarchy in the form of the exiled Charles II, son of the previous Charles I. Charles II was crowned King of England, Ireland, France and Scotland in April 1661.

Charles II, a Protestant, ruled until his death in 1685. His reign was marked with increasing intolerance for all but the Anglican church which resulted in the infamous Test Acts of 1673 and 1678. The first Act actually brought down the King's brother, the Duke of York, a Catholic who had been the Lord High Admiral. The second Dutch war was fought in 1665 to 1667 as the British Parliament reinstituted the Navigation Acts in 1660 and 1663 that had been deemed improper since there was no king when they were first instituted (1652 to 1654). Additionally, these new Acts stopped colonial trade with other European countries and were the primary cause of the Mercantilist war. However this period also coincided with an anti Presbyterian turn (non Anglican) that probably had some influence in these affairs. The British also coveted the port of New Netherland (New York) which was a major factor.

Shortly after taking power, Charles II gave his brother, the Catholic James, Duke of York financial and governing hegemony over the settlements in the Colonies (September 1664). The British actually laid claim to all of the East coast except Florida and the French Canadian colony. The Duke who was also High Admiral of the British navy sent warships to the Hudson River and took the New Netherland colony by force in September 1664.

Charles II signed a peace treaty with France in 1670. Shortly thereafter he entered the third Dutch war (1672 to 1674) to please the French who were at war with the Dutch. This war was terminated in 1674 when other Protestant nations joined the Dutch, and the British Parliament was unwilling to expand the war. Meanwhile in 1674, Dutch military ships had been dispatched to the Dutch colony and reclaimed New Netherland. This lasted only a year, as the Dutch ceded their colony to Britain in the peace treaty and the British once again reclaimed it.

In 1685 Charles II died and his brother, James, Duke of York, attained the throne. James was a Catholic and hence, anathema to the majority of people and the Parliament. Things went from bad to worse with a number of insurrections. Then the queen, after ten stillbirths, had a child who would be a potential Catholic heir. A group of seven influential Brits, called the "Immortal Seven" including the Bishop of London, invited the Dutch Stadholder, William of Orange to invade England. He was Protestant, as was his wife, Mary, the daughter of the deceased Charles II. William was happy to oblige and obtain the power of England in his endless war with France. (See page 12) The invasion was immediate in late 1688 with Dutch ships and troops. There was no opposition and the affair was later labeled the "Glorious or Bloodless Revolution." In 1689 Parliament crowned William and his wife jointly In exchange for greatly expanded Parliamentary powers. King James, Duke of York, went into exile in France.

William returned to Holland and lost no time in forming a coalition with the Holy Roman Empire and others to combat the powerful French. This war, "King William's War", lasted from 1689 to 1697 and ended inconclusively with each side keeping what it valued most. The French were unable to restore James to the English throne. This war was followed by the "War of the Spanish Succession" (1700 to 1715) largely with the same cast of characters and again ended inconclusively with England adding several colonies, but at a tremendous expense of the war.

William of Orange died in 1702 and was succeeded by his sister-in-law, Anne, of the House of Hanover. Anne reigned until her death in 1714, when she was succeeded by her son. Thus ended the long, long line of the Stuarts' reign of England.

One more European matter is worthy of note. In 1685 the French King, Louis XIV, revoked the famous Edict of Nantes which had given French Protestants (Huguenots) some limited freedom to practice their religion. As a result, most all of France's Huguenot population was driven into exile. Many went to the United Provinces, others to England, Switzerland and some emigrated to the American colonies.

New Netherland Background

The Dutch colony had its real start in 1624 with the arrival of a Captain May with a group of Walloon (French speaking Belgian) farmers. They were settled in and about the Hudson and Delaware Rivers. William Verhulst was appointed governor in 1625 and brought with him shiploads of primarily Dutch farmers and workers. Other ships brought livestock and supplies. Verhulst was a disaster. He had antagonized the colonists and perhaps was crooked with respect to the Company's accounting. At any rate, he was tried for malfeasance in office and banished from the colony. He was replaced in 1626 by Peter Minuit, a businessman who had been charting and exploring the area for the West India Company for two years.

At this point we should emphasize the most important factor affecting the Colony in the early days. New Netherland was not an institution of the Dutch government, but rather a financial enterprise of the Dutch West India Company As a result, its sole function was to make money for the Company. This condition was to persist, with some modifications, until the British takeover in 1664. In 1624 the Dutch promulgated a set of regulations known as the "Provisional Orders". It specified that the colony would be run as a typical factory with the Company making the rules for its own benefit. In 1629 the Company enacted a document called the "Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions" which allowed land estates to be granted, called "patroonships". In return for the grant, the patroon agreed to import settlers, buy the land from the Indians, supply stores and build a stout fort in Manhattan. All trade would be restricted to the Company. This "Charter" was very controversial among the West India Company directors.

New Netherland's prospects were improved in 1628 when a West India Company fleet captured the great Spanish "Silver Fleet" in Cuba, with its cargo of precious metals and merchandise worth about 15 million Dutch guilders. This enabled the Company to continue to subsidize New Netherland which had been losing money.

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