In 1638 Minuit, who had already figured as governor of New Netherland, having offered his services to Sweden, was intrusted with the leadership of the first Swedish colony to America. After a few days' stay at Jamestown the new-comers finally reached their wished-for destination on the west shore of the Delaware Bay and River. Proceeding up the latter, one of their first acts was to build a fort on a little stream about two miles from its junction with the Delaware, which they named Fort Christina, in honor of the young queen of Sweden. Near this spot stands the present city of Wilmington. The country from Cape Henlopen to the falls at Trenton received the title of New Sweden.
It was in this very year that Kieft came to supersede Van Twiller, who had given just cause for complaint by his eagerness to enrich himself at the expense of the West India Company. During the administration of Kieft occurred the long and doubtful conflict with the natives detailed in the succeeding chapter. Arbitrary and exacting, he drove the Indians to extremities, and involved the Dutch settlements in a war which for a time threatened their destruction. Not till 1645 was peace re-established, and in 1647 the unpopular governor was recalled. In 1647 not more than three hundred fighting men remained in the whole province.
Its total population was between fifteen hundred and two thousand. In 1652 New Amsterdam had a population of seven or eight hundred. In 1664 Stuyvesant put the number in the province at ten thousand, about fifteen hundred of whom were in New Amsterdam.
The next governor, Stuyvesant, was the last and much the ablest ruler among those who directed the destinies of New Netherland. His administration embraced a period of seventeen years, during which he renewed the former friendly relations with the savages, made a treaty with New England, giving up pretensions to Connecticut as well as relinquishing the east end of Long Island, and compelled the Swedes, in 1655, to acknowledge the Dutch supremacy. It was while he was absent on his expedition against the Swedes, leaving New Amsterdam unprotected, that the river Indians, watchful of their opportunity, invaded and laid waste the surrounding country. In 1663 the savages attacked the villaje on the Esopus, now Kingston, and almost destroyed it. It was not until the energetic governor made a vigorous campaign against the Esopus tribe, whom he completely subdued, that peace was established on a firm footing.
But the Dutch sway in their little part of the New World was about to end. The English had never given over their claim to the country by virtue of their first discovery of the North American continent. The New Netherlanders, tired of arbitrary rule, sighed for the larger freedom of their New England neighbors. Therefore, when in 1664 Charles II. Granted to his brother, the Duke of York, the territory which the Dutch were occupying, and sent a fleet to demand its submission, the English invader was welcomed.
Almost the only resistance came from the stout-hearted governor, who could hardly be dissuaded from fighting the English single-handed, and who signed the agreement to surrender only when his magistrates had, in spite of him, agreed to the proposed terms. But the founders of the Empire State have left an indelible impress upon the Union, which their descendants have helped to strengthen and perpetuate. They were honest, thrifty, devout, tolerant of the opinions of others. As Holland sheltered the English Puritans from ecclesiastical intolerance, so New Netherland welcomed within her borders the victims of New England bigotry and narrowness.
See also: NEW NETHERLAND 1626-1633