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New York Colony


NEW YORK COLONY began as the Dutch trading outpost of New Netherland in 1614. On 4 May 1626, officials of the Dutch West India Company in New Netherland founded New Amsterdam, which subsequently became New York City. The English captured the colony in 1664, though a complete ousting of Dutch rule did not occur until 10 November 1674. Dutch residents received generous terms of surrender. Religious toleration and the verification of property rights assured that most stayed when the colony became the province of New York. Charles II gave the colony as a proprietorship to his brother James, duke of York, upon the English claim on 12 March1664. Only when its proprietor became King James II on 6 February 1685 did New York become a royal colony. Settlement during the colonial era was confined to the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and the eastern one hundred miles of the Mohawk River.

Ethnic and Religious Heterogeneity

The diverse colony was almost 50 percent Dutch but also included English, various European nationalities, African slaves, and freedmen. By the mid-eighteenth century, New York held the highest slave population of all the northern colonies, at 7 to 10 percent of the population. With the religious toleration after the changeover to English rule, the predominant Dutch Reformed Church split into New York City's sophisticated and wealthy orthodox and rural Pietistic wings. By 1750, the Reformed churches were still in the majority, but Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, Congregational, and Baptist denominations also existed. The city also had one Roman Catholic church and one Jewish synagogue.


The central economic commerce was the Dutch and Indian fur trade through Fort Orange, now Albany. After the English takeover in 1664, the Dutch traders in Albany continued to dominate the inland northern fur trade, expanding to a provincial trading post at Fort Oswego on Lake Ontario in 1727. Foodstuffs, especially grain, became the major exports for the remainder of the colonial period. A landlord-tenant existence developed, taking the lead from the Dutch patroons' land grants. Continuing the grants of land under the English, farms dominated the lower Hudson River valley, where powerful families controlled great land tracts of manorial estates. In the 1760s, New Englanders encroached into the area, and land riots against the owners of Hudson Valley manors were suppressed by British troops.

Indian Relations

The Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederation (Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca) who lived in the lower Hudson Valley controlled all the western area and much of the Mohawk Valley during the colonial era. Settlement of the interior remained moderate due to the Indian resistance. In 1701, the Iroquois conveyed to the king of England the title to their conquered western lands in the Iroquois Beaver Land Deed. Throughout much of the eighteenth century, despite claims of neutrality, Iroquois Confederacy diplomats manipulated Britain and France against each other.

Rise of the Assembly

In 1683, James II guaranteed New York a representative legislature and personal freedoms through the governor's authority. The governors sought advice and assistance from local powerful citizens, became entangled in local party politics, and made political concessions in return for increased revenues as their authority declined. Because New York was the most vulnerable of England's colonies, it was the most oppressed with expenditures for defense, and it hosted a body of English regulars throughout most of its existence. The governor's corruption and antagonism with the assembly culminated when John Peter Zenger's New York Weekly Journal printed an accusation of maladministration on the part of Governor William Cosby. Cosby ordered Zenger's arrest, and the outcome of the case that ensued set the precedent in 1735 that criticism was not libel, the first triumph for freedom of the press in the colonies. During King George's War, 1744–1748, a feud broke out between Governor George Clinton and New York chief justice James De Lancey over the conduct of the war and the assembly's appropriation of funds, shifting the focus away from the war and toward recurrent internal factional struggles. The elite leadership of the two major factions, the cosmopolitan Court Party and the provincial Country Party, tried to control the general population through ethnic, social, economic, constitutional, religious, geographic, and familial differences throughout the rest of the eighteenth century.

Dominion of New England and the Glorious Revolution

The Dominion of New England annexed New York in 1688, and Governor Edmund Andros's representative in New York, Captain Francis Hutchinson, fled when Captain Jacob Leisler seized control and created an arbitrary government of his own in 1689. When King William's

commissioned governor, Colonel Henry Sloughter, arrived, Leisler and his lieutenant, Jacob Milbourne, were executed. Leislerian and anti-Leislerian factions worked against each other for many subsequent years. Following the accession of William and Mary to England's throne in 1691, New York again became a royal colony.

Revolutionary Era

The unsuccessful Albany Congress in 1754 seta quasi precedent for an American union. The Proclamation of 1763 placed a limiton expansion and also infuriated merchants in New York by moving the fur trade to Montreal. Delegates from nine colonies met in New York in October 1765 to protest the Stamp Act, and the following spring the act was repealed. When the Townshend duties put a tax on glass, paint, paper, and tea, New York merchants signed a nonimportation agreement against British goods. In 1768, in noncompliance with the Quartering Act, the assembly refused to vote supplies for the British troops, but it reversed the decision in 1769. In 1770, the Sons of Liberty renewed their protest activities, culminating in the Battle of Golden Hill. A committee of correspondence met in January 1774 to communicate with like-minded colonies. New Yorkers had their own tea party in April 1774, when patriots dressed as Indians threw eighteen cases of tea into the harbor. After local and state authorities took over the government, the Fourth Provincial Congress of New York approved the Declaration of Independence on 9 July 1776. New York was declared a free state the next day, and a state constitution was created and approved in 1777.


Becker, Carl Lotus. The History of Political Parties in the Province of New York, 1760–1776. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1960.

Goodfriend, Joyce D. Before the Melting Pot: Society and Culture in Colonial New York City, 1664–1730. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Kammen, Michael. Colonial New York: A History. New York: Scribners, 1975.

Kim, Sung Bok. Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society, 1664–1775. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

Rink, Oliver A. Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986.

Ritchie, Robert C. The Duke's Province: A Study of New York Politics and Society, 1664–1691. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977.

Trelease, Allen W. Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: The Seventeenth Century. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1960.

Michelle M.Mormul

See alsoAssemblies, Colonial ; Colonial Policy, British ; Dominion of New England ; Dutch West India Company ; Leisler Rebellion ; New Amsterdam ; New Netherland .

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