Peter Stuyvesant




Dutch West Indies Company


NA/Mid-Atlantic region


Anglo-American Atlantic World (1641-1750)








Director general of New Netherland�

During the 1630s Stuyvesant worked as commissary and supercargo for the Dutch West India Company�

[In 1645] Stuyvesant was approved by the Dutch West India Company to [go] to the Americas as director general of New Netherland� On Christmas Day he and his wife sailed for New Netherland, where they arrived on 11 May 1647.

The New Netherland colonists, who had endured previous incompetent and self-serving leaders, heralded the arrival of Stuyvesant� Stuyvesant provided strong, stable leadership, reorganizing the director general's council and establishing an advisory board of nine leading citizens in addition to renewing and introducing several statutes to regulate the affairs of the colony. Stuyvesant's careful management of New Netherland paralleled a period of growth and stability in the colony. Still, his domineering nature did little to cultivate close relations with the settlers, and he initially incurred their disfavor when he deported two settlers who petitioned the council to review the previous director general's incompetent administration. These two were eventually exonerated by the company and returned to New Netherland, but such clashes between Stuyvesant and leading figures in the colony continued throughout his administration.

One of his most immediate tasks was to establish firm boundaries between New Netherland and New England and to calm tensions that had developed between the two regions in earlier years� by 1650 relations with New England had become sufficiently calm that both sides could meet for a convention in Hartford, where they came to an agreement resolving their boundary dispute�

In 1637 Swedish traders� had established an outpost on the Delaware River. In the 1640s and early 1650s the Swedes expanded their control over the Delaware region, including Dutch-occupied areas, effectively cutting off the Dutch from the fur trade there. In 1655 Stuyvesant prepared a military expedition and forced their capitulation. The former Swedish outposts then came under Dutch rule, while many Swedes remained in the colony.

The presence of non-Dutch settlers such as the Swedes was typical of New Netherland, especially within its principal settlement, New Amsterdam. The colony's polyglot character posed special problems for Stuyvesant� [he] clashed in the 1650s with several religious and ethnic groups, including Lutherans, Quakers, and Jews. Because of the company's unwillingness to discourage trade by limiting freedom of religious expression, Stuyvesant, despite his single-mindedness, was forced to resolve most of these clashes through some sort of compromise that allowed the groups to remain and to continue practicing their particular faiths.

Stuyvesant's final challenge came in August 1664, when an English fleet arrived in New Amsterdam's harbor demanding the surrender of the city and colony to the English. After stalling several days while he tried to muster public support and shore up the city's defenses, Stuyvesant finally capitulated� Although Stuyvesant had few alternatives, he was recalled to the fatherland to account for his actions� the States General chose not to pursue the company's accusations. Stuyvesant returned to New Netherland in 1668 and retired to his farm on Manhattan Island. He died there four years later.

Related Images

Date: 1902
Date: 1902