The Dutch Calvinist Colony On Th


When the Englishman Henry Hudson, in the Dutch East India Company's

ship, the Half-moon, in September, 1609, sailed up the River of

Mountains as far as the site of Albany, looking for the northwest

passage to China, the English settlement at Jamestown was in the third

year of its half-perishing existence. More than thirteen years were yet

ass before the Pilgrims from England by way of Holland should make

their landing on Plymouth Rock.

But we are not at liberty to assign so early a date to the Dutch

settlement of New York, and still less to the church. There was a prompt

reaching out, on the part of the immensely enterprising Dutch merchants,

after the lucrative trade in peltries; there was a plying to and fro of

trading-vessels, and there were trading-posts established on Manhattan

Island and at the head of navigation on the Hudson, or North River, and

on the South River, or Delaware. Not until the great Dutch West India

Company had secured its monopoly of trade and perfected its

organization, in 1623, was there a beginning of colonization. In that

year a company of Walloons, or French-speaking Hollanders, was planted

near Albany, and later arrivals were settled on the Delaware, on Long

Island, and on Manhattan. At length, in 1626, came Peter Minuit with an

ample commission from the all-powerful Company, who organized something

like a system of civil government comprehending all the settlements.

Evidences of prosperity and growing wealth began to multiply. But one is

impressed with the merely secular and commercial character of the

enterprise and with the tardy and feeble signs of religious life in the

colony. In 1626, when the settlement of Manhattan had grown to a village

of thirty houses and two hundred souls, there arrived two official

sick-visitors, who undertook some of the public duties of a pastor. On

Sundays, in the loft over the horse-mill, they would read from the

Scriptures and the creeds. And two years later, in 1628, the village,

numbering now about two hundred and seventy souls, gave a grateful

welcome to Jonas Michaelius, minister of the gospel. He rejoiced to

gather no less than fifty communicants at the first celebration of the

Lord's Supper, and to organize them into a church according to the

Reformed discipline. The two elders were the governor and the Company's

storekeeper, men of honest report who had served in like functions in

churches of the fatherland. The records of this period are scanty; the

very fact of this beginning of a church and the presence of a minister

in the colony had faded out of history until restored by the recent

discovery of a letter of the forgotten Michaelius.[69:1]

The sagacious men in control of the Dutch West India Company were quick

to recognize that weakness in their enterprise which in the splendid

colonial attempt of the French proved ultimately to be fatal. Their

settlements were almost exclusively devoted to the lucrative trade with

the Indians and were not taking root in the soil. With all its

advantages, the Dutch colony could not compete with New England.[70:1]

To meet this difficulty an expedient was adopted which was not long in

beginning to plague the inventors. A vast tract of territory, with

feudal rights and privileges, was offered to any man settling a colony

of fifty persons. The disputes which soon arose between these powerful

vassals and the sovereign Company had for one effect the recall of Peter

Minuit from his position of governor. Never again was the unlucky colony

to have so competent and worthy a head as this discarded elder of the

church. Nevertheless the scheme was not altogether a failure.

In 1633 arrived a new pastor, Everard Bogardus, in the same ship with a

schoolmaster--the first in the colony--and the new governor, Van

Twiller. The governor was incompetent and corrupt, and the minister was

faithful and plain-spoken; what could result but conflict? During Van

Twiller's five years of mismanagement, nevertheless, the church emerged

from the mill-loft and was installed in a barn-like meeting-house of

wood. During the equally wretched administration of Kieft, the governor,

listening to the reproaches of a guest, who quoted the example of New

England, where the people were wont to build a fine church as soon as

they had houses for themselves, was incited to build a stone church

within the fort. There seems to have been little else that he did for

the kingdom of heaven. Pastor Bogardus is entitled to the respect of

later ages for the chronic quarrel that he kept up with the worthless

representatives of the Company. At length his righteous rebuke of an

atrociously wicked massacre of neighboring Indians perpetrated by Kieft

brought matters to a head. The two antagonists sailed in the same ship,

in 1647, to lay their dispute before the authorities in Holland, the

Company and the classis. The case went to a higher court. The ship was

cast away and both the parties were drowned.

Meanwhile the patroon Van Rensselaer, on his great manor near Albany,

showed some sense of his duty to the souls of the people whom he had

brought out into the wilderness. He built a church and put into the

pastoral charge over his subjects one who, under his travestied name of

Megapolensis, has obtained a good report as a faithful minister of Jesus

Christ. It was he who saved Father Jogues, the Jesuit missionary, from

imminent torture and death among the Mohawks, and befriended him, and

saw him safely off for Europe. This is one honorable instance, out of

not a few, of personal respect and kindness shown to members of the

Roman clergy and the Jesuit society by men who held these organizations

in the severest reprobation. To his Jesuit brother he was drawn by a

peculiarly strong bond of fellowship, for the two were fellow-laborers

in the gospel to the red men. For Domine Megapolensis is claimed[71:1]

the high honor of being the first Protestant missionary to the Indians.

In 1647, to the joy of all the colonists, arrived a new governor, Peter

Stuyvesant, not too late to save from utter ruin the colony that had

suffered everything short of ruin from the incompetency and wickedness

of Kieft. About the time that immigration into New England ceased with

the triumph of the Puritan party in England, there began to be a

distinct current of population setting toward the Hudson River colony.

The West India Company had been among the first of the speculators in

American lands to discover that a system of narrow monopoly is not the

best nurse for a colony; too late to save itself from ultimate

bankruptcy, it removed some of the barriers of trade, and at once

population began to flow in from other colonies, Virginia and New

England. Besides those who were attracted by the great business

advantages of the Dutch colony, there came some from Massachusetts,

driven thence by the policy of exclusiveness in religious opinion

deliberately adopted there. Ordinances were set forth assuring to

several such companies liberty of conscience, according to the custom

and manner of Holland. Growing prosperously in numbers, the colony grew

in that cosmopolitan diversity of sects and races which went on

increasing with its years. As early as 1644 Father Jogues was told by

the governor that there were persons of eighteen different languages at

Manhattan, including Calvinists, Catholics, English Puritans, Lutherans,

Anabaptists (here called Mennonists), etc. No jealousy seems to have

arisen over this multiplication of sects until, in 1652, the Dutch

Lutherans, who had been attendants at the Dutch Reformed Church,

presented a respectful petition that they might be permitted to have

their own pastor and church. Denied by Governor Stuyvesant, the request

was presented to the Company and to the States-General. The two Reformed

pastors used the most strenuous endeavors through the classis of

Amsterdam to defeat the petition, under the fear that the concession of

this privilege would tend to the diminution of their congregation. This

resistance was successfully maintained until at last the petitioners

were able to obtain from the Roman Catholic Duke of York the religious

freedom which Dutch Calvinism had failed to give them.

Started thus in the wrong direction, it was easy for the colonial

government to go from bad to worse. At a time when the entire force of

Dutch clergy in the colony numbered only four, they were most

unapostolically zealous to prevent any good from being done by

unauthorized conventicles and the preaching of unqualified persons,

and procured the passing of an ordinance forbidding these under penalty

of fine and imprisonment. The mild remonstrances of the Company, which

was eager to get settlers without nice inquiries as to their religious

opinions, had little effect to restrain the enterprising orthodoxy of

Peter Stuyvesant. The activity of the Quakers among the Long Island

towns stirred him to new energy. Not only visiting missionaries, but

quiet dwellers at home, were subjected to severe and ignominious

punishments. The persecution was kept up until one of the banished

Friends, John Bowne, reached Amsterdam and laid the case before the

Company. This enlightened body promptly shortened the days of

tribulation by a letter to the superserviceable Stuyvesant, conceived in

a most commercial spirit. It suggested to him that it was doubtful

whether further persecution was expedient, unless it was desired to

check the growth of population, which at that stage of the enterprise

ought rather to be encouraged. No man, they said, ought to be molested

so long as he disturbed neither his neighbors nor the government. This

maxim has always been the guide of the magistrates of this city, and the

consequence has been that from every land people have flocked to this

asylum. Tread thus in their steps, and we doubt not you will be


The stewardship of the interests of the kingdom of Christ in the New

Netherlands was about to be taken away from the Dutch West India

Company and the classis of Amsterdam. It will hardly be claimed by any

that the account of their stewardship was a glorious one. The supply of

ministers of the gospel had been tardy, inconstant, and scanty. At the

time when the Dutch ministers were most active in hindering the work of

others, there were only four of themselves in a vast territory with a

rapidly increasing population. The clearest sign of spiritual life in

the first generation of the colony is to be found in the righteous

quarrel of Domine Bogardus with the malignant Kieft, and the large

Christian brotherly kindness, the laborious mission work among the

Indians, and the long-sustained pastoral faithfulness of Domine


Doubtless there is a record in heaven of faithful living and serving of

many true disciples among this people, whose names are unknown on earth;

but in writing history it is only with earthly memorials that we have to

do. The records of the Dutch régime present few indications of such

religious activity on the part of the colonists as would show that they

regarded religion otherwise than as something to be imported from

Holland at the expense of the Company.

A studious and elegant writer, Mr. Douglas Campbell, has presented in

two ample and interesting volumes[74:1] the evidence in favor of his

thesis that the characteristic institutions established by the Puritans

in New England were derived, directly or indirectly, not from England,

but from Holland. One of the gravest answers to an argument which

contains so much to command respect is found in the history of the New

Netherlands. In the early records of no one of the American colonies is

there less manifestation of the Puritan characteristics than in the

records of the colony that was absolutely and exclusively under Dutch

control and made up chiefly of Dutch settlers. Nineteen years from the

beginning of the colony there was only one church in the whole extent of

it; at the end of thirty years there were only two churches. After ten

years of settlement the first schoolmaster arrived; and after thirty-six

years a Latin school was begun, for want of which up to that time young

men seeking a classical education had had to go to Boston for it. In no

colony does there appear less of local self-government or of central

representative government, less of civil liberty, or even of the

aspiration for it. The contrast between the character of this colony and

the heroic antecedents of the Dutch in Holland is astonishing and

inexplicable. The sordid government of a trading corporation doubtless

tended to depress the moral tone of the community, but this was an evil

common to many of the colonies. Ordinances, frequently renewed, for the

prevention of disorder and brawling on Sunday and for restricting the

sale of strong drinks, show how prevalent and obstinate were these

evils. In 1648 it is boldly asserted in the preamble to a new law that

one fourth of the houses in New Amsterdam were devoted to the sale of

strong drink. Not a hopeful beginning for a young commonwealth.

* * * * *

Before bidding a willing good-bye to the Dutch régime of the New

Netherlands, it remains to tell the story of another colony, begun under

happy auspices, but so short-lived that its rise and fall are a mere

episode in the history of the Dutch colony.

As early as 1630, under the feudal concessions of the Dutch West India

Company, extensive tracts had been taken on the South River, or

Delaware, and, after purchase from the Indians, settled by a colony

under the conduct of the best of all the Dutch leaders, De Vries.

Quarrels with the Indians arose, and at the end of a twelvemonth the

colony was extinguished in blood. The land seemed to be left free for

other occupants.

Years before, the great Gustavus Adolphus had pondered and decided on an

enterprise of colonization in America.[76:1] The exigencies of the

Thirty Years' War delayed the execution of his plan, but after the fatal

day of Lützen the project resumed by the fit successor of Gustavus in

the government of Sweden, the Chancellor Oxenstiern. Peter Minuit, who

had been rejected from his place as the first governor of New Amsterdam,

tendered to the Swedes the aid of his experience and approved wisdom;

and in the end of the year 1637, against the protest of Governor Kieft,

the strong foundations of a Swedish Lutheran colony were laid on the

banks of the Delaware. A new purchase was made of the Indians (who had

as little scruple as the Stuart kings about disposing of the same land

twice over to different parties), including the lands from the mouth of

the bay to the falls near Trenton. A fort was built where now stands the

city of Wilmington, and under the protection of its walls Christian

worship was begun by the first pastor, Torkillus. Strong reinforcements

arrived in 1643, with the energetic Governor Printz and that man of

unwearied zeal in always propagating the love of God, the Rev. John

Campanius, who through faith has obtained a good report by his brief

most laborious ministry both to his fellow-countrymen and to the

Delaware Indians.

The governor fixed his residence at Tinicum, now almost included within

the vast circumference of Philadelphia, and there, forty years before

the arrival of William Penn, Campanius preached the gospel of peace in

two languages, to the red men and to the white.

The question of the Swedish title, raised at the outset by the protest

of the Dutch governor, could not long be postponed. It was suddenly

precipitated on the arrival of Governor Rising, in 1654, by his capture

of Fort Casimir, which the Dutch had built for the practical assertion

of their claim. It seems a somewhat grotesque act of piety on the part

of the Swedes, when, having celebrated the festival of Trinity Sunday by

whipping their fellow-Christians out of the fort, they commemorated the

good work by naming it the Fort of the Holy Trinity. It was a fatal

victory. The next year came Governor Stuyvesant with an overpowering

force and demanded and received the surrender of the colony to the

Dutch. Honorable terms of surrender were conceded; among them, against

the protest, alas! of good Domine Megapolensis, was the stipulation of

religious liberty for the Lutherans.

It was the end of the Swedish colony, but not at once of the church. The

Swedish community of some seven hundred souls, cut off from

reinforcement and support from the fatherland, cherished its language

and traditions and the mold of doctrine in which it had been shaped;

after more than forty years the reviving interest of the mother church

was manifested by the sending out of missionaries to seek and succor the

daughter long absent and neglected in the wilderness. Two venerable

buildings, the Gloria Dei Church in the southern part of Philadelphia,

and the Old Swedes' Church at Wilmington, remain as monuments of the

honorable story. The Swedish language ceased to be spoken; the people

became undistinguishably absorbed in the swiftly multiplying population

about them.

* * * * *

It was a short-lived triumph in which the Dutch colony reduced the

Swedish under its jurisdiction. It only prepared a larger domain for it

to surrender, in its turn, to superior force. With perfidy worthy of

the House of Stuart, the newly restored king of England, having granted

to his brother, the Duke of York, territory already plighted to others

and territory already occupied by a friendly power, stretching in all

from the Connecticut to the Delaware, covered his designs with friendly

demonstrations, and in a time of profound peace surprised the quiet town

of New Amsterdam with a hostile fleet and land force and a peremptory

demand for surrender. The only hindrance interposed was a few hours of

vain and angry bluster from Stuyvesant. The indifference of the Dutch

republic, which had from the beginning refused its colony any promise of

protection, and the sordid despotism of the Company, and the arrogant

contempt of popular rights manifested by its governors, seem to have

left no spark of patriotic loyalty alive in the population. With inert

indifference, if not even with satisfaction, the colony transferred its

allegiance to the British crown, henceforth sovereign from Maine to the

Carolinas. The rights of person and property, religious liberty, and

freedom of trade were stipulated in the capitulation.

The British government was happy in the character of Colonel Nicolls,

who came as commandant of the invading expedition and remained as

governor. Not only faithful to the terms of the surrender, but

considerate of the feelings and interests of the conquered province, he

gave the people small reason to regret the change of government. The

established Dutch church not only was not molested, but was continued in

full possession of its exceptional privileges. And it continued to

languish. At the time of the surrender the province contained three

cities, thirty villages, and ten thousand inhabitants,[78:1] and for

all these there were six ministers. The six soon dribbled away to

three, and for ten years these three continued without reinforcement.

This extreme feebleness of the clergy, the absence of any vigorous

church life among the laity, and the debilitating notion that the power

and the right to preach the gospel must be imported from Holland, put

the Dutch church at such a disadvantage as to invite aggression. Later

English governors showed no scruple in violating the spirit of the terms

of surrender and using their official power and influence to force the

establishment of the English church against the almost unanimous will of

the people. Property was unjustly taken and legal rights infringed to

this end, but the end was not attained. Colonel Morris, an earnest

Anglican, warned his friends against the folly of taking by force the

salaries of ministers chosen by the people and paying them over to the

ministers of the church. It may be a means of subsisting those

ministers, but they won't make many converts among a people who think

themselves very much injured. The pious efforts of Governor Fletcher,

the most zealous of these official propagandists, are even more severely

characterized in a dispatch of his successor, the Earl of Bellomont:

The late governor, ... under the notion of a Church of England to be

put in opposition to the Dutch and French churches established here,

supported a few rascally English, who are a scandal to their nation and

the Protestant religion.[79:1] Evidently such support would have for

its main effect to make the pretended establishment odious to the

people. Colonel Morris sharply points out the impolicy as well as the

injustice of the course adopted, claiming that his church would have

been in a much better position without this political aid, and citing

the case of the Jerseys and Pennsylvania, where nothing of the kind had

been attempted, and where, nevertheless, there are four times the

number of churchmen that there are in this province of New York; and

they are so, most of them, upon principle, whereas nine parts in ten of

ours will add no great credit to whatever church they are of.[80:1]

It need not be denied that government patronage, even when dispensed by

the dirty hands of such scurvy nursing fathers as Fletcher and Lord

Cornbury, may give strength of a certain sort to a religious

organization. Whatever could be done in the way of endowment or of

social preferment in behalf of the English church was done eagerly. But

happily this church had a better resource than royal governors in the

well-equipped and sustained, and generally well-chosen, army of

missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Not fewer

than fifty-eight of them were placed by the society in this single

province. And if among them there were those who seemed to preach

Christ of envy and strife, as if the great aim of the preacher of the

gospel were to get a man out of one Christian sect into another, there

were others who showed a more Pauline and more Christian conception of

their work, taking their full share of the task of bringing the

knowledge of Christ to the unevangelized, whether white, red, or


The diversity of organization which was destined to characterize the

church in the province of New York was increased by the inflow of

population from New England. The settlement of Long Island was from the

beginning Puritan English. The Hudson Valley began early to be occupied

by New Englanders bringing with them their pastors. In 1696 Domine

Selyns, the only Dutch pastor in New York City, in his annual report

congratulates himself, Our number is now full, meaning that there are

four Dutch ministers in the whole province of New York, and adds: In

the country places here there are many English preachers, mostly from

New England. They were ordained there, having been in a large measure

supplied by the University of Cambridge [Mass.]. The same letter gives

the names of the three eminent French pastors ministering to the

communities of Huguenot refugees at New Rochelle and New York and

elsewhere in the neighborhood. The Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, more

important to the history of the opening century than any of the rest,

were yet to enter.

The spectacle of the ancient Dutch church thus dwindling, and seemingly

content to dwindle, to one of the least of the tribes, is not a cheerful

one, nor one easy to understand. But out of this little and dilapidated

Bethlehem was to come forth a leader. Domine Frelinghuysen, arriving in

America in 1720, was to begin a work of training for the ministry, which

would result, in 1784, in the establishment of the first American

professorship of theology;[81:1] and by the fervor of his preaching he

was to win the signal glory of bringing in the Great Awakening.