Who Should Rule at Home? by Joyce D. Goodfriend by Joyce D. Goodfriend - Read Online

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A Plan of the City of New-York and Its Environs to Greenwich, on the North or Hudsons River…. [the Montresor Plan]. This engraving by Peter Andrews of the plan of New York City that surveyor John Montresor made in 1767 shows the extent of urban development in the decade prior to the American Revolution. Courtesy of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, the New York Public Library. Image ID 54179. New York Public Library Digital Collections.

WHO SHOULD

RULE AT HOME?

CONFRONTING THE
ELITE IN BRITISH
NEW YORK CITY

Joyce D. Goodfriend

CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS

Ithaca and London

To the memory of my father

A proud New Yorker

Contents

Preface

Introduction: The Pan-ethnic Elite and the Problem of Cultural Authority

Part One: The Indigestible Dutch

1. The Crystallization of an Anti-Dutch Narrative

2. From Nation to Linguistic Community

Part Two: Pious Commoners

3. George Whitefield Awakens New York City

4. Becoming Religious Consumers

Part Three: Defiant Dependents

5. Master of the House?

6. Attached to the Household

7. Sabotaging the Civilizers

Conclusion: Tipping the Cultural Scales

Notes

Index

Preface

As I was completing this book, a British New Yorker named Alexander Hamilton captured the popular imagination. As portrayed on the musical stage, Hamilton was a forward looking American entrepreneur eager to shed the encumbrances of a royalist society. That this young immigrant from the West Indies had quickly insinuated himself into the local gentry was conveniently obscured in the show, no doubt in recognition of the truth that Americans were bound to recoil at a hero who shared the elitist values of his privileged contemporaries.

Our mental separation from the vanished world of British New Yorkers causes us to accentuate the influence of men whose birth and connections set them over the rest of the urban populace. They remain a breed apart, known only vaguely through their splendid portraits and finely crafted possessions ensconced in Manhattan’s museums. Because twenty-first-century Americans lack an intuitive sense of how a society premised on rank actually functioned, it is easy to believe that members of the elite effortlessly imposed their views on their less exalted neighbors.

Yet a bounty of evidence culled from a wide range of documents, familiar and obscure, has led me to a less sanguine estimate of gentlemen’s capacity to control the minds of the people they considered inferiors. The ubiquity of oppositional voices—individual as well as collective—and the multiple points of contention that emerged during more than a century of British dominion suggest that it was not at all uncommon for ordinary New Yorkers to press their presumed betters to cede cultural ground. Long before Trinity Church severed its ties to the Church of England and King’s College changed its name to Columbia, privileged New Yorkers found their claims to cultural authority being challenged by people far removed from polite circles. In short, the struggle over who should rule at home, to use Carl Becker’s famous phrase, commenced well before New Yorkers were caught up in the events that culminated in independence.

This book aims to complicate the history of British New York City in fruitful ways by bringing to light the panorama of contests—some petty, some life altering, none inconsequential—that, in retrospect, are recognizable as antecedents and accompaniments of the patently political acts that figure so prominently in accounts of the coming of the American Revolution in New York.

During the years that I have been working on this book, I benefited from an Andrew W. Mellon Senior Fellowship at the John Carter Brown Library of Brown University and a Cunningham Research Residency at the New York State Library. I appreciate this support. I am also grateful to librarians and staff members at the following institutions for their assistance in accessing materials from their collections: the New York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, the Museum of the City of New York, the First Baptist Church of New York, the Collegiate Churches of New York, the Holland Society of New York, the New York State Library, the New York State Archives, the Albany Institute of Art and History, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York, the Princeton Theological Seminary Library, the Gardner Sage Library of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, the Presbyterian Historical Society, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Hartford Seminary Library, Hartford, Connecticut, and the Rauner Special Collections at the Dartmouth College Library.

Among the individuals who have advanced this project by supplying information, contributing expertise, and offering advice are Pat Bonomi, John Coakley, John Dixon, Firth Fabend, Willem Frijhoff, Russell Gasero, Will Gravely, Sara Gronim, Jaap Jacobs, Wim Klooster, Ned Landsman, Dirk Mouw, Rob Naborn, Paul Otto, James Raven, Annette Stott, Frank Sypher, Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, and David Voorhees. At Cornell University Press, my editor Michael McGandy has been infinitely patient as he has worked with me to shape and polish the manuscript. Managing editor Ange Romeo-Hall and acquisitions assistant Bethany Wasik contributed their talents to the production of the book. A special thank you goes to Billy Smith and Simon Middleton who read the manuscript for Cornell. I am happy to count them as old friends.

The University of Denver supported my work through a Professional Development grant and a subvention for the book’s publication. Thanks to associate dean Ingrid Tague and history department chair Susan Schulten for their efforts in my behalf over the years.

I am honored that the New York State Historical Association selected this book as the winner of the 2016 Dixon Ryan Fox Manuscript Prize.

Introduction

The Pan-ethnic Elite and the Problem of Cultural Authority

When Esther Singleton penned Social New York under the Georges, 1714–1776 in 1902, she took for granted that those whom she called the prosperous class belonged at the center of the city’s eighteenth-century history. In a text laden with lavish descriptions of the homes, furnishings, paintings, silver, china, and apparel of gentlemen and ladies and embellished with images of family heirlooms, she documented and implicitly endorsed the Anglophile tastes of New York’s elite. Not one to complicate her narrative with the concerns of the great majority of city dwellers, white and black, she pointedly remarked at the outset of her book that the lowly side of life in Manhattan has been entirely neglected, my aim having been to exhibit the opulent and fashionable life that revolved around Fort George.¹ When enslaved Africans appear in her book, they do so as virtually inanimate accessories to the lives of the well-to-do.

Subsequent historians of British New York, though not as outspoken in discounting the experiences of ordinary residents, have tended to follow Singleton in assigning elite New Yorkers the leading roles in the city’s history. In works far more rigorous than Singleton’s anecdotal compendium, scholars have scrutinized top-ranking New Yorkers’ commercial endeavors—legal and illegal—their intellectual forays, and most of all, their political activities. An array of studies centered on the competition for formal political power chronicles the triumphs and travails of the local elite as they sparred with royal governors and vied with each other for power. Although middling men are not uniformly relegated to the wings in these works, those at the proscenium invariably are men of privilege.

In the latter decades of the twentieth century, another line of inquiry into early New York’s history gathered momentum, one whose aim was to insert the stories of artisans, unskilled laborers, servants, and, most prominently, enslaved men and women into a narrative heretofore largely devoted to the political elite. In light of European New Yorkers’ heavy investment in African slavery and the dramatic episodes of the slave revolt of 1712 and the alleged slave conspiracy of 1741, such a turn was long overdue and clearly justified. But scholars working in this vein, preoccupied with documenting (or disproving) overt resistance to slavery in New York, have tended to treat less visible manifestations of enslaved men and women’s seditious behavior tangentially.

Essential as this ample body of literature is for understanding the perspectives of both the powerful and the powerless in eighteenth-century British New York, it falls short of offering a history of domination and subordination in the city that moves beyond the formal structures of power to consider what has been called the microsociology of power.² From this perspective, the minutiae of negotiations on mundane matters take on weight in determining the efficacy of cultural authority. Exploring the interpersonal dynamics underlying problematic social transactions between members of the elite and people of lesser status reveals traces of submerged alternative discourses that lay behind the actions of individuals far from the levers of power. Excavating even fragments of these discourses makes possible a more balanced view of the nature of coexistence in this diverse urban setting.

This book opens a window on unexplored dimensions of power relations in eighteenth-century New York City by zeroing in on sites where the elite’s cultural authority was brought into question. Gentlemen at the top of the social hierarchy, endowed with wealth and fortified by lineage, never doubted that they were entitled to orient the cultural compass for everyone around them. But in a city where the usual sources of social cohesion—a common language, uniform folk traditions, and shared historical memories—were scant, they found it necessary to certify their status as persons of distinction qualified to dictate cultural norms. If the motley nature of the port society’s population was not enough to cause men of privilege to unite behind an English cultural front, then their own variegated roots gave them an added incentive to distance themselves from their European heritage and exalt their Englishness. Investing in the code of politeness that was the touchstone of gentility in Georgian Anglo-America was the key to cultural dominion in New York.

No better example of the transmutation of the city’s pan-ethnic elite exists than James De Lancey, the premier politician of British New York. His Huguenot father Étienne (Stephen) De Lancey, an exile from France, had immigrated to the city in the late seventeenth century. His mother, Anne Van Cortlandt, belonged to a prominent Dutch family with a history dating back to New Amsterdam. Anne Heathcote, his wife, was the daughter of Caleb Heathcote, a migrant from England who had acquired a landed estate in Westchester County and risen to political eminence in the colony. James De Lancey’s brother Oliver eloped with Phila Franks, the daughter of merchant Jacob Franks, a pillar of New York’s Jewish community. In its multiple strands, De Lancey’s biography encapsulated New York’s singular demographic history. Yet De Lancey was so successful in camouflaging his diverse origins and connections that Patricia Bonomi accurately described him as a true Anglo-American, someone who managed to blend two cultures—provincial and metropolitan.³ As a genteel Englishman, De Lancey looked askance on fellow city dwellers’ attempts to sustain their ancestral cultures by preserving their native tongues.

High-ranking New Yorkers inhabited an exclusive universe where their families put into practice the precepts of politeness delineated by the English gentry. In beautifully appointed Georgian town homes and country estates north of the city, they enjoyed a life of comfort and ease amid fine furnishings, well-stocked libraries, and an array of luxury items imported from England or handcrafted in current English styles by city artisans. Taking their cues from the English gentry, leading New York families purchased a variety of objects bespeaking their status. Between 1757 and the 1770s, merchant James Beekman purchased two riding chaises, a charriot, a phaeton, and a beautifully painted coach. The door panels and the front and rear of the body of the coach bore the family coat of arms. In 1762, a leather-covered cradle with brass nails was custom made for an infant of the Brinckerhoff family. On it are displayed the family initials and the date 1762. The home of attorney James Duane and his wife, Mary, boasted ‘elegant’ paper hangings, ‘spotted rugs,’ graceful chandeliers, plate glass mirrors, a harpsichord, and a well filled library. Between 1761 and 1763, James Beekman, in addition to buying a mahogany table, eight mahogany chairs, and a new desk, paid artist Lawrence Kilburn ten pounds each for Drawing myne and my Wife Picture and also for Gilding fourteen other pictures.

Adorning their persons with the latest fashions was of critical importance to denizens of the polite world. Accordingly, local tradesmen went out of their way to please affluent New Yorkers with refined tastes. A peruke maker named William De Witt catered to gentlemen such as Samuel Bayard and William Livingston, as well as Oliver De Lancey, who acquired a wardrobe of wigs in the early 1740s. Bookseller Garret Noel had genteel parents in mind when he placed an elaborate advertisement in the New-York Mercury in December 1762 stating that according to his Annual Custom, he has provided a very large Assortment of Books for the Entertainment and Improvement of Youth … as proper Presents at CHRISTMAS and NEW YEAR. Among the volumes enumerated were several Gilt Books, very Instructive and Amusing, being full of Pictures, among which were The Lilleputian Magazine, or the Young Gentleman and Ladies Library and The Polite Academy, or Instructions for a genteel Behaviour and polite Address in Masters and Misses.

Figure 1. James De Lancey purchased this desk and secretary in 1753. An exquisite example of English craftsmanship, it was a fitting adornment for a gentleman’s home. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of James De Lancey Verplanck and John Bayard Rodgers Verplanck, 1939, Accession Number 39.184.1a, b.

With a staff of servants and slaves at their beck and call, ladies and gentlemen devoted their leisure hours to suitable amusements in spaces cordoned off from the rest of the urban populace—social clubs, the theater, concerts and dancing assemblies, as well as New York’s versions of London’s pleasure gardens, Vauxhall and Ranelagh.⁶ Insulating themselves in polite social spaces, however, did not absolve gentlemen from the responsibility of holding other city dwellers to genteel standards. Along with privilege came the duty to wield cultural authority over people lower on the social scale. Collectively and individually, in formal and informal ways, the self-declared gentlemen who dominated New York City’s social, economic, and political landscape spelled out the terms on which artisans, laborers, women, children, servants, and slaves were expected to conduct their lives.

Virtually unassailable in their roles as merchants, lawyers, aldermen, and judges, men of privilege had every reason to believe that their ascendancy extended to the cultural realm. Although instances of ambitious men emulating their betters in hopes of insinuating themselves into polite circles might suggest that the values of the elite were filtering down, such moments were inherently ambiguous. Commoners of modest standing imitated gentlemen and ladies primarily by purchasing luxury consumer goods such as the large gilt framed pictures and the Mahogany tea table owned by widow Teuntie Byvanck in 1749 or the silver watch and chain and seal and the silver-hilted sword belonging to painter and glazier Raphael Goelet.⁷ While such acquisitions reflect a desire for objects associated with refinement, they do not prove that people of limited means wished to appropriate the entire corpus of genteel values. The same might be said for shopkeepers who displayed a veneer of civility in order to attract genteel customers but did not aspire to be paragons of gentility themselves.

Ordinary eighteenth-century New Yorkers had no real prospect of dislodging the mantle of privilege that enveloped their high-ranking neighbors. Schooled in the protocols of deference, they refrained from questioning the wisdom of men who presumed to be their cultural guardians, even if they disagreed with some of their notions. However, when issues of deep concern came to the surface, prudence gave way as undistinguished men and women boldly aired their views and demonstrated they had the mettle to act on them. Commoners’ challenges to elite directives were situational and episodic, the product of particular grievances, and reflected no consistent ideological position and concealed no radical social agenda. Still, engaging in antiauthoritarian action and even extracting concessions from social superiors were liberating experiences for undistinguished city residents, allowing them to visualize the elite as fallible human beings not immune to pressure from below. Self-assertion put commoners at risk of reprisal, but it gave them a glimpse of a world where their own cultural preferences mattered.

A fine-grained picture of the contours of cultural authority in eighteenth-century British New York must recognize the resourcefulness of ordinary men and women who had the temerity to repudiate or circumvent the elite’s blueprint for their lives. Whether enunciating contrary opinions, engaging in purposeful action, breaching standards of propriety, intruding into restricted spaces, or striking out on alternative paths that skirted the sites where gentlemen held sway, a variety of urban dwellers tested elite power, not in a grand way, but with sufficient force to expose the fragility of the elite’s cultural authority.

In the chapters that follow, I stitch together multiple strands of evidence, each bearing on the efforts of gentlemen to set and enforce cultural norms and the responses they encountered from persons of lesser rank. While devoting considerable time to delineating the viewpoint of those who enjoyed the advantages of wealth, education, and social position, I make a special effort to recover the perspectives of actors outside polite circles. The book’s center of gravity is the process of contestation itself, the standoffs, confrontations, clashes, interventions, negotiations, and compromises that took place as New Yorkers experimented with ways to reconcile the genteel ideals of the Anglophiles at the top of the urban social hierarchy with the clashing values of Dutch traditionalists, religiously inspired artisans, wives, servants, the poor, and the enslaved.

The book is divided into three parts that correspond with major sites where the cultural authority of the elite came under siege. Part I, The Indigestible Dutch, probes the consequences of New York’s distinctive prehistory—its Dutch origins and its seizure by the English after forty years of Dutch control—for its evolution in the eighteenth century. Long after New Netherland had ceased to exist as a political reality it persisted as a cultural reality.⁸ In the port city of New York, formerly New Amsterdam, the impress of Dutch institutions on residents was not easily erased as habits of thought and patterns of behavior remained entrenched even after any sense of belonging to the Dutch nation faded. Chapter 1, The Crystallization of an Anti-Dutch Narrative, traces the enduring confusion about the persistence of local Dutch culture in British New York to the English penmen who fabricated a historical narrative that demeaned the local Dutch and undermined the validity of their claims to cultural legitimacy. Chapter 2, From Nation to Linguistic Community, focuses on the adaptive strategies of ordinary Dutch New Yorkers who disputed the elite’s cultural authority. Caricatured as retrograde in a potent discourse of decline fashioned by educated men with Anglophone sympathies, they acted to safeguard their native tongue by invigorating Dutch print culture and defending Dutch-language worship in the Dutch Reformed Church.

Part II, Pious Commoners, features men and women who made known that, at least in the religious setting, they no longer were willing to abide by the decisions of gentlemen. Chapter 3, George Whitefield awakens New York City, argues that Whitefield’s message of the new Birth came to resonate among a variety of New Yorkers, including adherents of the orthodox Dutch Reformed and Anglican Churches. Whitefield’s moral authority, augmented by his charismatic preaching, emboldened city dwellers to challenge doctrines and practices they deemed inauthentic and to dispense with the counsel of men of stature in their churches. Chapter 4, Becoming Religious Consumers, documents how ordinary men and women transposed the consumer mentality engendered in New York City’s burgeoning marketplace to the religious sphere. As the palette of urban religious institutions broadened, churchgoers became adept at comparison shopping between preachers and theologies.

When it came to claiming the prerogative of defining rules for wives, indentured servants, enslaved Africans, and the lower sorts in general, economically independent men, however minimal their assets, stood on the same cultural ground with gentlemen as beneficiaries of white male privilege. Part III of this book, Defiant Dependents, examines the responses of subordinated groups to the white men who held cultural power over them. Chapter 5, Master of the House?, brings to light the underlying tension in relationships predicated on the gendered distribution of cultural power by exposing the actions of artisans’ wives who, far from submissive, engaged in actions that amounted to self-divorce. In the intimate setting of the household, white indentured servants seized the opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with their masters’ conception of suitable servile behavior. Animated by the prospect of eventual independence in a society where being white was an incalculable advantage, more than a few young men and women under indentures conspired to run away. Chapter 6, Attached to the Household, explores the options available to enslaved domestic workers who were denied autonomy and the sanctity of family. Incrementally amassing tiny opportunities for self-realization or plunging into the city’s interracial underworld was enough for many, but despair led some to flee or to commit acts of violence against whites or themselves.

Genteel New Yorkers were not oblivious of the plight of those who lived at the margins of urban society, but the charitable endeavors they championed were directed less toward relieving want than toward instilling Christian humility in those beyond the pale, whether the dregs of the urban population, enslaved African Americans, or Native Americans far afield. Chapter 7, Sabotaging the Civilizers, explores lowly city dwellers’ efforts to confound their purported benefactors, whether by thumbing their nose at cardinal points of civility, indulging their appetites at the city’s taverns and brothels, or intruding into the exclusive spaces of the well-to-do.

The book’s conclusion speculates on the ramifications of the small-scale cultural confrontations between New York’s commoners and gentlemen as the war of words between Americans and Britons escalated during the years leading up to the American Revolution. Having already tested the limits of the elite’s cultural authority, ordinary New Yorkers were poised to enter the political fray as active players just as the men of privilege with whom they had sparred were growing accustomed to people of lesser rank voicing their opinions on the questions of the day. Gentlemen may not yet have been ready to welcome commoners to their social circles, but they now were on the verge of cultivating their political support.

Part One

The Indigestible Dutch

Chapter 1

The Crystallization of an Anti-Dutch Narrative

The triumphalist rendering of the city’s seventeenth-century history propagated by generations of Anglophiles has implanted an aura of inevitability around the transfer of New Amsterdam into English hands and the conversion of New Amsterdam’s burghers into Englishmen. Yet the English invasion of New Netherland in 1664, far from constituting a decisive change for Manhattan’s residents, inaugurated a prolonged stage in their history that was colored by uncertainty and trepidation. Between 1664 and 1674, urban dwellers witnessed three changes in government that were the byproduct of the ongoing rivalry between the Netherlands and England. In August 1664, New Netherland was seized by the English, only to revert to Dutch control between July 1673 and November 1674, at which time the colony was returned to English hands. New Amsterdam became New York City, which became New Orange, which again became New York City.¹ Nor did the final change of sovereignty from the Dutch to the English in 1674 bring an enduring calm.

In 1688, three years after the colony’s proprietor, the Duke of York, became King James II, New York was incorporated into the Dominion of New England, a regional frame of government that diminished local authority and undercut the fragile moorings that had anchored residents’ lives. Mounting concern in England over James II’s Catholicism reverberated on the American side of the Atlantic. With the influx of persecuted French Protestants fleeing Louis XIV’s France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 putting a local face on the Catholic menace, Dutch New Yorkers were primed to defend their Protestant faith when they learned that James II had been ousted from the throne and replaced by William and Mary. Once Jacob Leisler, a Calvinist merchant, claimed the reins of government in the name of the new Protestant monarchs, the incipient divisions in the city came to the forefront as popular understandings of events in England, colored by a fierce attachment to Protestant values, clashed with the more Erastian views of the local elite. The subsequent suppression of Leisler and his followers by newly installed English officials, acting in concert with Leisler’s leading adversaries, failed to dampen the fervor of Leisler’s supporters and ushered in a generation of oppositional politics that suffused church life and social relations.

As rulers and rules kept changing, seventeenth-century New Yorkers were forced to define and redefine themselves in an era marked by indeterminacy. Alterations in government fostered instability, but the sense of contingency that pervaded the lives of city dwellers arose primarily from competing claims to cultural authority. In a society in which common denominators were in short supply, the absence of an overarching cultural framework to support debate and contain conflict left people of diverse cultural backgrounds struggling to coexist. Many former New Netherlanders continued to look at the world through a Dutch lens, unwilling to validate the culture of those who had seized their city. Newcomers from England entering this largely Dutch world oscillated between accommodation to Dutch customs and self-righteous assertions of Englishness. French refugees, ironically, found themselves in a position to shift the center of gravity in the city’s volatile political climate.

Historians of this tumultuous era in New York’s history have viewed the process of cultural change through the lens of politics, taking at face value the ethnic categories deployed by contemporaries. But these ethnic categories were invented and reinvented by political actors aiming to produce a version of history that would suit their partisan ends. The intensity of the anti-Catholic rhetoric employed by Jacob Leisler and his backers, who considered themselves above all good Protestants, leaves little doubt of their preference for sorting people according to their religious identities. By contrast, Leisler’s adversaries did not hesitate to brand his supporters as Dutch malcontents, and once they had gained the power to tell the story, they swiftly substituted ethnic for religious categories. Building an anti-Dutch narrative was the next step, as English authorities embarked on the cultural work necessary to subordinate city dwellers who, despite submitting to English rule, still considered themselves Dutch. In the wake of Leisler’s Rebellion, the English rulers of New York and their allies launched a multidimensional cultural offensive aimed at weakening the grip of Dutch culture on the city’s longtime residents. In the process, New York City’s Dutch culture was transformed from an alternative culture to an oppositional culture.

Mutability rather than permanence was the watchword of the years from 1664 to 1674 as both Dutch and English residents of Manhattan were forced to accommodate to conquerors, the Dutch doing so twice. Soon after the takeover, the ire of former New Netherlanders was aroused when soldiers from the English garrison committed here within this City great insolences and insults towards divers Burghers and inhabitants. Dutch townspeople, however offended, anticipated a quick reverse of military fortunes in the ongoing conflict between England and the United Provinces. In July 1665, Governor Richard Nicolls noted that the Dutch here … have long hoped for and expected De Ruyter [a Dutch admiral]. Nicolls cautioned a subordinate at Albany not to be surprised at comments in this vein: Let not your Eares bee abused with private Storyes, of the Dutch being disaffected to the English, for generally wee cannot expect they love us. Elaborating on this theme in April 1666, Nicolls admitted that at this present during the Warres with Holland we cannot expect the good affections of the Dutch here to the English. Fear that the Dutch would ridicule them caused the city’s English rulers to conceal a shortage of money and goods. We carry it on as well as we can, desiring not to let the people know that we are any way straightned; which to know, would cause some to rejoice, & insult. The unease of English newcomers at the prospect of the Dutch recapturing New York was palpable. Encircled by unfriendly Dutch residents, they considered their position precarious and insisted that the governor remain to shield them. The Towne & Country cry out they will leave their dwellings if they cannot stay mee from going to Boston, Nicolls reported, such are their apprehensions of a Dutch invasion and the presumed retribution to be visited on them by the city’s Dutch population.²

Former New Amsterdammers did not cease to think of themselves as Dutch because they had acquiesced to English rule. In 1668, Domine (minister of the Dutch Reformed Church) Samuel Megapolensis complained that the manner in which his salary was collected—going around from house to house—was unpleasant and degrading, and altogether unusual in our Dutch nation. Megapolensis’s conviction that he was still a member of the Dutch nation was shared by former director-general Petrus (Peter) Stuyvesant, who in 1667 defined the new status of his colonial compatriots as the Dutch nation (now his Royall High[n]esse most faithfull and obedient subjects). Members of the city’s Common Council in a c. 1669 address to the Duke of York characterized themselves as being for the most part Dutch borne (but now His Ma[jes]ties faithfull and loyal subjects) and made a point of noting that the English government’s allowance of free trade with Holland did encouradge most of ye dutch nation to remaine. This notion of a hybrid identity—Dutch descent but English subject—seemingly was adopted by the King’s Council in London, which, in 1668, referred to his Ma[jes]ties sworn subjects of the Dutch nation, inhabitants of New Yorke, in America.³

Signs of amity between members of the two nations impressed one English official in 1669. There is good correspondence kept between the English and Dutch, and to keep it the closer, sixteen (ten Dutch and 6 English) have had a constant meeting at each others houses in turnes, twice every week in winter, and now in summer once; they meet at six at night and part about eight or nine. Dutch women and men marched side by side with their English counterparts in 1671 in the stately funeral procession for Governor Francis Lovelace’s nephew, signifying that the new rulers approved of parity between English and Dutch city dwellers. Lovelace was attentive to the needs of the local Dutch community, ordering the mayor to have a proclamation publiquely read both in the English & Dutch Tongues…. and afterwards … affixed in the most publique places of the Citty in 1668. In 1671, he empowered the elders and deacons of the city’s Dutch Reformed church to make a Rate or Taxe amongst ye Inhabitants, and those that shall frequent ye Church for the support of the minister, clerk, officers, and the poor, as well as the repair of the church building. In 1673, he endorsed the idea of a Fast proposed by the Dutch Domine, declaring that noe particular but a Gen[er]all ffast shall bee Celebrated in this City.

Despite such fragmentary evidence of harmonious relations between Dutch and English, the appearance of a Dutch fleet in the vicinity of New York in July 1673 sparked a swell of patriotic feeling among former New Amsterdammers. Instantly, the residue of nearly a decade of English rule melted as the Dutch in the Towne being all Armed Incouraged them [to a] storme, and, as Captain John Manning, who was in charge during Governor Lovelace’s absence, recalled that while they stormed ingaged that we should [not] look over our Workes and they were about 400 Armed Men. Animated by feelings of loyalty to a fatherland some had never seen, the city’s many Dutch residents rejoiced at the prospect of the restoration of Dutch rule. The conflict now playing out in New York had erupted in Europe in 1672 when England, in company with France, had invaded the Netherlands. These hostilities soon had repercussions across the Atlantic, as a Dutch fleet sailing in American waters in 1673 seized on New York as a target of opportunity and recaptured the colony with virtually no resistance. The new Dutch rulers, acting in the name of the States General, revalidated the status of the Dutch residents of the city they dubbed New Orange. Those English who chose to remain in New Orange and retain their property were required to take a special oath to the States General of the United Provinces and the Prince of Orange.

Figure 2. This view of New Amsterdam as it appeared in 1673 was incorporated into the mapmaker Peter Schenk’s Hecatompolis, published in Amsterdam in 1702. Courtesy of the Maps of Bert Twaalfhoven, from the Collections of Fordham University Libraries, Identifier FUNY-05194.

Yet there was no mistaking the precarious position of the reconquered colony. As New Orange’s burgomasters and schepens explained to the Dutch commanders on September 6, 1673, Our enemies [the English and their French allies] by whom we … are encompassed round about on all sides … will doubtless endeavor … to reduce this place under England so soon as they hear that we are again left to ourselves; our weakness and condition being as well known to them as to ourselves since they have had now 9 years’ command over us. Given the colony’s exposed position, it was not surprising that some [have been] so bold as to say already that something else will again be seen before Christmas, and that the King of England will never suffer the Dutch to remain and sit down here in the centre of all his dominions to his serious prejudice in many respects, so that we are inevitably to expect a visit from our malevolent neighbors of old, now our bitter enemies unless they be prevented … by your valiant prowess and accompanying force.

The realities of imperial politics soon became evident. Whatever measures were taken by the province’s Dutch military rulers to avert attack by the English were in vain, as diplomats in Europe relinquished the fruits of the Dutch military venture as they negotiated the Treaty of Westminster, which ended the third (and final) Anglo-Dutch War in 1674. When Connecticut residents Isaac Melyn and John Sharpe, both of whom had ties to the city, made their way to New Orange in the spring of 1674 to spread the news of the colony’s restoration to English control in advance of official notification, the Dutch governor-general, Anthony Colve, had them placed in the dungeon of Fort William Henry. Melyn, a Dutchman, who spoke to a multitude of his Countrymen and inflamed their passions against the States General, was labeled an unfaithfull Judasly and treacherous travaillor, but he escaped execution after shifting blame to Sharpe, and instead was put to hard labor on the city’s defenses. Sharpe was banished from the city, his sentence being Publisht … with great solemnity Ringing the Townehouse bell 3 tymes and the major part of the Towne congregated together to witness it.

Staging a spectacle that would deflect the burghers’ anger at their betrayal onto an out-of-place Englishman instead of the Dutch diplomats who had sealed the colony’s fate did not save the colony’s Dutch rulers from the vituperation of an enraged community when it became known that the territory had been ceded back to the English. Realizing that their welfare had been sacrificed to imperial goals, the city’s residents, in Sharpe’s words, belch[ed] forth their curses and execration against the Prince of Orange and States of Holland, the Dutch Admiralls who tooke it, and their taskmaster the Governour. They vowed not to surrender, but keepe it by fighting soe long as they can stand with one Legg and fight with one hand. Dismay at the outcome of an episode that had begun with high hopes of the resumption of Dutch rule prompted some burghers to sever their ties to the city when a second English takeover became imminent. During the last four weeks, the Dutch minister Wilhelmus Nieuwenhuisen wrote on July 26, 1674, in apprehension of a change in governors, certain of our members have moved away.

Return to the Netherlands remained an option, but it did not become a reality for the great majority of local residents, whose long-standing ties to the community took precedence over feelings of attachment to patria. Yet the exacting terms of submission mandated by the new governor, Edmund Andros—specifically an oath requiring the populace to be prepared to take up arms in behalf of England against their fatherland—seemed too much to bear. Several wealthy Dutch merchants asked that they not to be pressed to abjure all natural affection towards our own nation, explaining that they object[ed] to swearing lightly what nature and love for our own nation forbid. Andros dealt with the recalcitrant merchants severely, confiscating their property, and even went so far as to imprison Nicholas Bayard, Petrus Stuyvesant’s nephew, to drive home the necessity of allegiance to the new English government. The governor’s draconian measures, the unprecedented proceedings against the inhabitants in connection with the change in government, had excited the hatred and contempt of the rulers against the subjects. Shaken by these events, many former residents of New Amsterdam were poised to uproot themselves from their longtime home. Domine Nieuwenhuisen confided that I should not be surprised if a large portion of the Dutch citizens should be led to break up here and remove.

The ultimate submission of the contentious merchants not only established English authority definitively, but also paved the way for what turned out to be a cozy relationship between a Dutch-speaking governor, who had resided in the Netherlands during his youth, and merchants who had much to gain from accommodating to the new English regime. Andros would not budge on the issue of loyalty, but he was more than willing to offer lucrative opportunities to his Dutch friends, even to the point of alienating English merchants keen to carve out a niche in New York. English newcomers such as Anglican chaplain Charles Wooley, who served in New York between 1678 and 1680, believed that the local Dutch had been reconciled to English rule. He found the city’s inhabitants, both English and Dutch very civil and courteous, adding that I cannot say that I observed any swearing or quarrelling, but was easily reconciled and recanted by a mild rebuke. Imperial bureaucrat Edward Randolph also accented the harmony that prevailed in New York when Andros was governor. I observed the English & Dutch lived very quiet, & in Freindship.¹⁰

But the alliance forged between Andros and the Dutch elite caused ordinary Dutch residents to become suspicious of wealthy Dutch merchants such as Frederick