Quotes by and about New Amsterdammers



New Amsterdam is often overlooked or overshadowed in American colonial history, by the earlier Viriginia settlement which gave birth to the Southern plantations and by the Massachusetts Bay Colony which purported to introduce the custom of Thanksgiving. New Amsterdam, in fact, contributed far more to the American culture than either of them. New Amsterdam gave us, among other things, our Christmas and New Year celebrations, the first organized church and school in America, cookies, ice skating, tennis and the first efforts to secure freedom of speech and religion. Thus it becomes even more interesting to learn what was said about and by those early New Amsterdammers.

1620's

"High and Mighty Lords: Yesterday arrived here the ship Arms of Amsterdam, which sailed from New Netherland, out of the Mauritius [Hudson] River on 23 September [1626]. They report the people are of good courage, and live peaceably. Their women, also, have borne children there; they have bought the island Manhattes from the wild men for the value of 60 guilders; is 11,000 morgens in extent [22,000 acres]."
"We were much gratified in arriving in this country. Here we found beautiful rivers, bubbling fountains flowing into valleys, basins of running waters in the flatlands, agreeable fruits in the woods...There is considerable fish in the rivers, good tillage land; here is, especially, free coming and going, without fear of the naked natives of the country."


1630's

The local natives were "a bad race of savages, who have always been very obstinate and unfriendly towards our countrymen."
"I cannot help advising your honour of the disputes which exist in this small settlement of not more than 200 to 300 people....Here all is left to drift as it will; they let trade slip away and do not exert themselves to increase it...but are very diligent in bringing exorbitant suits and charges against one another."
"We have had an Indian here with us for about two years. He can read and write Dutch very well. We have instructed him in the fundamental principles of our religion, and...he can repeat the Commandments. He took to drinking brandy, he pawned the Bible, and turned into a regular beast, doing more harm than good among the Indians."


1640's

"We have a governor who is most unworthy of his office; a slippery man who under a treacherous mask of honesty is compound of all iniquity and wickedness."
"They found some pieces of ground all ready, which the savages had formerly prepared and in which they sow wheat and oats for beer and for their horses, of which they have a great stock. There is little land fit for tillage, being crowded by hills which are bad soil. This obliges them to be separated the one from the other, and they occupy already two or three leagues of country. "
"A fourth part of the city of New Amsterdam consisted of grog shops and houses where nothing is to be got but tobacco and beer."


1650's

"We have here Papists, Mennonites and Lutherans among the Dutch, also many Puritans or Independents and many atheists and various other servants of Baal...it would create still greater confusion, if the obstinate and immovable Jews came to settle here."
"...so wild a country, with so many loose people..."
"Most of the houses are built in the old way, with the gable end toward the street; the gable end of brick and all other wall of planks. The streetdoors are generally in the middle of the houses and on both sides are seats, on which during fair weather, the people spent almost the whole day....The Bricks are of divers Coullers and laid in checkers, being glazed, look very agreable."
"For want of stone or brick many wooden houses are built...the one adjoining the other."
"The poor farmer, laborer and public officer, being...paid in seawan [seashells, which the Indians called 'wampum'], are almost reduced to the necessity of living on alms."
"The school is kept very irregularly, one and another keeping it according to his pleasure and as long as he thinks proper."


1660's

"This place, the Manhattans, is quite rich of people, and there are at present, full over 350 houses, so that it begins to be a brave place."
back to index