Willem Kieft

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Willem Kieft
6th Director of New Netherland
In office
Preceded byWouter van Twiller
Succeeded byPeter Stuyvesant

Willem Kieft (September 1597, Amsterdam – September 27, 1647) was a Dutch merchant and the Director of New Netherland (of which New Amsterdam was the capital) from 1638 to 1647.

Life and career[edit]

The handwritten Journal of New Netherland 1647 by an unknown Dutch colonist, from the manuscript collections of the National Library of the Netherlands, is an important source for the study of Kieft's governorship, the war, and New Netherland in the 1640s.

Willem Kieft was appointed to the rank of director by the Dutch West India Company in 1638.[1] He formed the council of twelve men, the first representative body in New Netherland, but ignored its advice.[2]

He tried to tax, and then, drive out, local Native Americans.[1] He ordered attacks on Pavonia and Corlears Hook on February 25, 1643 in a massacre (129 Dutch soldiers killed 120 Indians, including women and children). The Dutch local citizen advisory group had been specifically against such a raid, and were aghast when they heard the details. “Infants were torn from their mother’s breasts, and hacked to pieces in the presence of their parents, and pieces thrown into the fire and in the water, and other sucklings, being bound to small boards, were cut, stuck, and pierced, and miserably massacred in a manner to move a heart of stone. Some were thrown into the river, and when the fathers and mothers endeavored to save them, the soldiers would not let them come on land but made both parents and children drown”. This was followed by retaliations resulting in what would become known as Kieft's War (1643–1645). The war took a huge toll on both sides, and Dutch West India Company Board of Directors fired him in 1647. He was replaced with Peter Stuyvesant.[1]

He died on September 27, 1647 in the Princess Amelia shipwreck near Swansea, Wales, en route to Amsterdam to defend himself, along with many of his opponents, including the Rev. Everardus Bogardus.[3] His archive was also lost, so his exact role cannot be established apart from what his opponents wrote of him. He is depicted in the Gods of Manhattan series by Scott Mebus.[4][5]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • William Elliot Griffis The Story of New Netherland. The Dutch In America. (Chapter IX. Cambridge: The Riverside Press. 1909)
  • Allen Johnson, Ed. Dutch and English on the Hudson (Chapter IV. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1919)
  • Jaap Jacobs (2005), New Netherland: A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth-Century America. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 90-04-12906-5.
  • Journal of New Netherland 1647. Written in the Years 1641, 1642, 1643, 1644, 1645, and 1646. 1641–1647.


  1. ^ a b c "Journal of New Netherland 1647. Written in the Years 1641, 1642, 1643, 1644, 1645, and 1646". World Digital Library. 1641–1647. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  2. ^ "Willem Kieft". www.newnetherlandinstitute.org.
  3. ^ Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America. First Edition. New York City: Vintage Books (a Division of Random House, 2004. ISBN 1-4000-7867-9
  4. ^ Flick, Alexander Clarence (1935). "History of the State of New York, Volumes 1–10". New York State Historical Association. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  5. ^ Giersbach., Walter (26 August 2006). Governor Kieft's Personal War. militaryhistoryonline.com.
Government offices
Preceded by
Director of New Netherland
Succeeded by