Pieter Stuyvesant (c. 1612 – August 1672), known as Peter, served as the last Dutch Director-General of the colony of New Netherland from 1647 until it was ceded provisionally to the English in 1664, after which it was renamed New York. He was a major figure in the early history of New York City.
In April 1644, he attacked the Spanish-held island of Saint Martin and lost the lower part of his right leg to a cannonball. He returned to the Netherlands, where his right leg was amputated and replaced with a wooden peg. Supposedly, Stuyvesant was given the nickname "Old Silver Leg" because he used a stick of wood driven full of silver bands as a prosthetic limb.
A year later, in May 1645, Stuyvesant was selected by the Dutch West India Company to replace Willem Kieft as Director-General of the New Netherland colony. He arrived in New Amsterdam on May 11, 1647. In September 1647, he appointed an advisory council of nine men as representatives of the colonists.
He married Judith Bayard (c. 1610-1687) of the Bayard family in 1645. Her brother Samuel was the husband of Pieter's sister Anna. Judith nursed him back to health following the loss of his right lower leg at Saint Martin and subsequent return to the Netherlands to recuperate. Peter and Judith's daughter, also named Judith, married Benjamin Winthrop, son of John Still Winthrop of the Dudley–Winthrop family and second wife Elizabeth Shirreff. Pieter and Judith's son, Nicolaes Willem Stuyvesant (1648–1698), married Maria Beeckman, daughter of Willem Beeckman.
Stuyvesant became involved in a dispute with Theophilus Eaton, the governor of New Haven Colony, over the border of the two colonies. In 1648, a conflict started between him and Brant Aertzsz van Slechtenhorst, the commissary of the patroonship Rensselaerwijck. Stuyvesant claimed he had power over Rensselaerwijck despite special privileges granted to Kiliaen van Rensselaer in the patroonship regulations of 1629.
In 1649, Stuyvesant marched to Fort Orange with a military escort and ordered houses to be razed to permit a better defense of the fort in case of an attack from the Native Americans. When Van Slechtenhorst refused, Stuyvesant sent a group of soldiers to enforce his orders. The controversy that followed resulted in the founding of Beverwijck.
In September 1650, a meeting of the commissioners on boundaries took place in Hartford, Connecticut. The border was arranged to the dissatisfaction of the Nine Men, who declared that "the governor had ceded away enough territory to found fifty colonies each fifty miles square." Stuyvesant then threatened to dissolve the council. A new plan of municipal government was arranged in the Netherlands, and the name "New Amsterdam" was officially declared on 2 February 1653. Stuyvesant made a speech for the occasion, saying that his authority would remain undiminished.
Petrus was now ordered to the Netherlands, but the order was soon revoked under pressure from the States of Holland and the city of Amsterdam. Stuyvesant prepared against an attack by ordering the citizens to dig a ditch from the North River to the East River and to erect a fortification.
In 1653, a convention of two deputies from each village in New Netherland demanded reforms, and Stuyvesant commanded that assembly to disperse, saying: "We derive our authority from God and the company, not from a few ignorant subjects."
In 1655, he sailed into the Delaware River with a fleet of seven vessels and about 700 men and took possession of the colony of New Sweden, which was renamed "New Amstel." In his absence, New Amsterdam was attacked by Native Americans, during the "Peach War".
In 1657 Stuyvesant, who did not tolerate full religious freedom in the colony, and was strongly committed to the supremacy of the Dutch Reformed Church, refused to allow Lutherans the right to organize a church. When he also issued an ordinance forbidding them from worshiping in their own homes, the directors of the Dutch West Indies Company, of whom three were Lutherans, told him to rescind the order and allow private gatherings of Lutherans.
Freedom of religion was also tested when Peter Stuyvesant refused to allow Jews from Northern Brazil to settle permanently in New Amsterdam (without passports) and join the existing community of Jews (with passports from Amsterdam). Stuyvesant attempted to have Jews "in a friendly way to depart" the colony. As he wrote to the Amsterdam Chamber of the Dutch West India Company in 1654 he hoped that "the deceitful race, — such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ, — be not allowed to further infect and trouble this new colony." He referred to Jews as a "repugnant race" and "usurers", and was concerned that "Jewish settlers should not be granted the same liberties enjoyed by Jews in Holland, lest members of other persecuted minority groups, such as Roman Catholics, be attracted to the colony."
Stuyvesant's decision was rescinded after pressure from the directors of the Company; as a result, Stuyvesant allowed Jewish immigrants to stay in the colony as long as their community was self-supporting, but — with the support of the company — would not allow them to build a synagogue, forcing them to worship instead in a private house.
Then, in 1657, Stuyvesant turned to the newly arrived Quakers in the colony. He ordered the public torture of Robert Hodgson, a 23-year-old Quaker convert who had become an influential preacher. Stuyvesant then made an ordinance, punishable by fine and imprisonment, against anyone found guilty of harboring Quakers. That action led to a protest from the citizens of Flushing, Queens, which came to be known as the Flushing Remonstrance, considered by some a precursor to the United States Constitution's provision on freedom of religion in the Bill of Rights.
In 1664, King Charles II of England ceded to his brother, the Duke of York, later King James II, a large tract of land that included New Netherland. Four English ships bearing 450 men, commanded by Richard Nicolls, seized the Dutch colony. On 30 August 1664, George Cartwright sent the governor a letter demanding surrender. He promised "life, estate, and liberty to all who would submit to the king's authority." Stuyvesant signed a treaty at his Bouwerij house on 9 September 1664. Nicolls was declared governor, and the city was renamed New York City. Stuyvesant obtained civil rights and freedom of religion in the Articles of Capitulation. The Dutch settlers mainly belonged to the Dutch Reformed church, a strict Calvinist denomination. The English were Anglican, theologically closer to the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1665, Stuyvesant went to the Netherlands to report on his term as governor. On his return, he spent the remainder of his life on his farm of sixty-two acres outside the city, called the Great Bouwerie, beyond which stretched the woods and swamps of the village of Haarlem. A pear tree that he reputedly brought from the Netherlands in 1647 remained at the corner of Thirteenth Street and Third Avenue until 1867, bearing fruit almost to the last. The house was destroyed by fire in 1777. He also built an executive mansion of stone called Whitehall. He died in August 1672 and his body was entombed in the east wall of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, which sits on the site of Stuyvesant’s family chapel.
- Stuyvesant and his family were large land owners in the northeastern portion of New Amsterdam, and the Stuyvesant name is currently associated with the Stuyvesant Town housing complex as well as Stuyvesant Square, a park in the area. His farm, called the "Bouwerij" — the seventeenth-century Dutch word for farm — was the source for the name of the Manhattan street The Bowery, and the chapel facing Bouwerie's long approach road (now Stuyvesant Street) became St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery. The contemporary neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn includes Stuyvesant Heights and retains its name. Also named after him are the hamlets of Stuyvesant and Stuyvesant Falls in Columbia County, New York, where descendants of the early Dutch settlers still live and where the Dutch Reformed Church remains an important part of the community, as well as shopping centers, yacht clubs and other buildings and facilities throughout the area where the Dutch colony once was. More modestly, Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands was also named after Stuyvesant during the Dutch West India Company's administration of that Territory.
- Stuyvesant was a great believer in education. In 1660 he was quoted as saying that "Nothing is of greater importance than the early instruction of youth." In 1661, New Amsterdam had one grammar school, two free elementary schools, and had licensed 28 masters of school. To honor Stuyvesant's dedication to education and New Amsterdam's legal-cultural tradition of toleration under Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan was named after him.
- The last direct descendant of Pieter Stuyvesant to bear his surname was Augustus van Horne Stuyvesant, Jr., who died a bachelor in 1953 at the age of 83 in his mansion at 2 East 79th Street. Rutherford Stuyvesant, the 19th century New York developer, and his descendants are also descended from Pieter Stuyvesant, however Rutherford Stuyvesant changed his name from Stuyvesant Rutherford in 1863 to satisfy the terms of a will.
In popular culture
- Peter Stuyvesant is the major antagonist in the 1938 Kurt Weill-Maxwell Anderson musical Knickerbocker Holiday, in which he sings the song "September Song". In the stage production he was portrayed by Walter Huston; in the much-altered 1944 film version he was portrayed by Charles Coburn in his only singing role.
- In Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Colonization, Peter Stuyvesant is one of the leaders of the Dutch colonies. Adriaen van der Donck is the other possible Dutch leader. In Sid Meier's Colonization computer game, Stuyvesant can be elected to the Continental Congress, allowing the player to build Custom Houses which automate trade with the mother country.
- Stuyvesant was a key figure in the Belgian comic strip Suske en Wiske in episode 269, "De Stugge Stuyvesant".
- The old time radio show Duffy's Tavern had an episode which used a newly discovered diary of Stuyvesant as a plot device.
- A cigarette brand by Philip Morris International and Imperial Tobacco with British American Tobacco is named Peter Stuyvesant. These cigarettes are popular in Australia, Greece, New Zealand, Zambia and South Africa.
- In Charles Bukowski's 1978 novel Women, the main character, Henry Chinaski, vomits on Peter Stuyvesant's burial vault cover before a poetry reading at St. Mark's Church.
- The American actor John Smith, who starred in two NBC western television series Cimarron City was descended from Stuyvesant.
- The American singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III is a direct descendant of Peter Stuyvesant (his great great grandfather John Howard Wainwright having married Margaret Stuyvesant).
- The German singer-songwriter and political activist Rio Reiser used Peter Stuyvesant founding New York as an example of a real event in his song Alles Lüge (All Lies), a song that contrasts real events and popular culture.
- Adriaen van der Donck
- Jews in the Netherlands
- Colonial America
- Dutch colonization of the Americas
- Dutch Empire
- List of colonial governors of New Jersey
- List of colonial governors of New York
- "Peter Stuyvesant, 1646-1664". Jersey City: Past and Present Project. Retrieved 2006-11-01.
- Otto, Paul, "Peter Stuyvesant." in American National Biography, volume 21, 99-100. New York: Oxford University Press. 1999.
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348., p.59
- Jacobson, Matthew Frye. Whiteness of a Different Color, p.171
- "Jews Permitted to Stay in New Amsterdam", Heritage: Civilization and the Jews on the PBS website
- Burrows, Edwin G. & Wallace, Mike (1999). Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195116348., p.60
- Rosenstock, Bonnie. "Dutch remember Stuyvesant in 'Year of the Hudson'" The Villager (November 25 - December 1, 2009)
- Self-Guided Tour of St. Mark's Church
- Tauber, Gilbert. Letter to the editor New York Times (August 13, 1995)
- "John Smith Biography". tonygill.co.uk. Retrieved October 11, 2012.
- John Howard Wainwright (1829 - 1871).Ancestry.com.
- Rufus Wainwright (son of Loudon Wainwright III) interviewed about Peter Stuyvesant. NOS.
- "Stuyvesant, Peter". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911
- Abbott, John S. C. (2004) . Peter Stuyvesant, the Last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam.
- Jacobs, Jaap (2005), New Netherland: A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth-Century America. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 90-04-12906-5.
- Peabody, Michael D. (Nov/Dec 2005). "The Flushing Remonstrance". Liberty Magazine.
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- Appleton's Biography
- (English) (Dutch) Journal of New Netherland 1647. Written in the Years 1641, 1642, 1643, 1644, 1645, and 1646
|Director-General of New Netherland
Richard Nicolls as Governor of the Province of New York