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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
to pass 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.

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