Business and Tolerance in New Amsterdam



New Amsterdam was the capital of New Netherland—today, New York City. The Dutch colonized Long Island and the Hudson River Valley starting in the 1620s. The Dutch West Indies Company was the authority, which sent governors to run the colony. Profit for the Company’s investors was the main objective.

New Amsterdam quickly became extremely diverse. The settlers included not only Dutch, but Flemings and Walloons (from what is now Belgium), Germans, Scandinavians, French Huguenots (refugee Protestants), and Jews. Perhaps a fifth of the total population were dissident New England Puritans who settled on Dutch Long Island. The actual Dutch were a minority in their own colony.

Many of the Dutch were uncompromising Calvinists, in the form of the Dutch Reformed Church. Officially, in New Amsterdam, only the official church could hold meetings. The clergy and the formidable governor Pieter Styuvesant (governor 1647-1664) wanted to enforce the rules, and in particular, did now want Jewish settlers.

They were overruled by the Company. The settlers from all over Europe had contacts all over Europe, and that turned out to be very useful for trade.

The Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English in 1664. The English renamed the town New York City, but left the diversity just as it was under the Dutch. They discovered, as the Dutch West Indies Company had, that diversity is good for business.

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