Dutch Global Empire, & an Indonesian Nutmeg island traded for New York

Bill Federer

Spain's "Iron Duke," the Grand Duke of Alba, fought the Ottoman Muslims in 1535, recapturing Tunis, North Africa.

Spain financed its war with gold from South America's Inca Empire.

The Spanish victory over the Ottoman Empire at Tunis, led the Sultan to seek a permanent partnership with France in 1536 - the Franco-Ottoman Alliance.

Spain's Iron Duke then turned to crush the Protestant Reformation in the Netherlands in what is referred to as the "Spanish Furies," 1572-1576.

The Iron Duke sacked and decimated the Dutch cities of:

  • Mechelen,

  • Diest,

  • Roermond,

  • Guelders,

  • Zutphen,

  • Naarden, and

  • Haarlem.

In 1585, Spanish conquered the Dutch city of Antwerp, considered at the time as the most important port in the world.

The Netherlands fought an 80 year war of independence from Spain, led by William of Orange and aided by English soldiers sent by Queen Elizabeth I.

The Dutch Republic of the Seven United Netherlands grew to become the foremost maritime and economic power in the world.

The Netherlands' War for Independence from Spain coincided with the Dutch-Portuguese War, which lasted from 1601 to 1661.

The Dutch fought battles against the Portuguese in:

  • Atlantic Ocean;

  • Brazil;

  • West Africa;

  • Southern Africa;

  • Indian Ocean;

  • East Africa;

  • India;

  • Burma;

  • East Indies:

  • Straits of Malacca; and

  • Indochina.

The Dutch captured many Portuguese ports and colonies around the world, from: Recife, South America to South Africa to New Zealand, Asia, Jakarta, and Java.

The Dutch had a monopoly on trade with Japan.

The Dutch gained control over Indonesia while the British gained control of India.

The Netherlands had adopted the Calvinistic Protestant Dutch Reformed faith as the State religion.

It had a history of tolerance rare in Europe toward other faiths, including:

  • Protestant Separatists,

  • Anabaptists

  • Catholics

  • Remonstrants,

  • Renaissance Humanists, and

  • Jews.

It was for religious tolerance that the Pilgrims fled Anglican England to the Netherlands, where they lived for 12 years before sailing to settle Plymouth, Massachusetts.

During its prosperous Dutch Golden Age, the Netherlands attracted some of the brightest minds of the age:

  • writer Jan Amos Comenius;

  • astronomer Christiaan Huygens;

  • scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek;

  • engineer Jan Leeghwater;

  • playwright Joost van den Vondel;

  • international lawyer Hugo Grotius;

  • philosophers René Descartes, Pierre Bayle, John Locke, Spinoza; and

  • artists Johannes Vermeer, Jacob van Ruisdael, Frans Hals and Rembrandt.

The Dutch invented a way of financing their endeavors -- the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

It was the first modern stock market.

People could buy shares in the Dutch EAST India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) whose ships sailed to Indonesia or Japan.

For nearly 200 years, the Dutch East India Company was more profitable than all other countries' companies combined.

When ships returned filled with goods and spices, shareholders would be paid a profit or "dividend."

In case a ship sank or was captured by pirates, the Dutch invented "insurance" companies.

The Dutch experienced the first stock market crash with the Tulip Mania of 1636-1637.

Tulips imported from Turkey became so popular that a single tulip bulb's worth exploded to more than the average person's yearly salary.

Then, suddenly, the tulip mania stopped. The price of a tulip bulb dropped to one-hundredth of its value, plunging the country into an economic depression.

In 1621, the Dutch WEST India Company was founded. It sent Henry Hudson sailing west in hopes of finding a water route to India through North America.

Though unsuccessful, Henry Hudson claimed the land along the "Hudson" River, and founded the New Netherlands Colony, receiving its charter JUNE 3, 1621.

In its new settlement, the Dutch began a New Amsterdam Stock Exchange which met on the street next to the wall.

In 1624, the Chamber of Amsterdam wrote articles for the Dutch Colony, establishing the Dutch Reformed denomination:

"They shall within their territory practice no other form of divine worship than that of the Reformed religion ...

and thus by their Christian life and conduct seek to draw the Indians and other blind people to the knowledge of God and His word, without, however, persecuting any on account of his faith, but leaving each one the use of his conscience."

The New Amsterdam Charter of Freedoms, June 7, 1629, gave land to wealthy "Patroons" who helped 50 families emigrate, stating:

"Colonists shall ... in the speediest manner ... find out ways and means whereby they may support a Minister and Schoolmaster, that thus the service of God and zeal for religion may not grow cool."

One Dutch family that immigrated was the Roosevelt family, as Franklin D. Roosevelt told the Detroit Jewish Chronicle, March 7, 1935:

"All I know about the origin of the Roosevelt family in this country is that all branches bearing the name are apparently descended from Claes Martenssen Van Roosevelt, who came from Holland sometime before 1648."

Beginning in 1639, Lutheran Germans, Swedes and Finns, as well as Anglicans from England, began immigrating, numbering 500 of the colony's 3,500 population in 1655.

Presbyterians erected their first meeting house on Eastern Long Island in 1640, and the first Jews arrived in the colony in 1654.

Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch all wanted to bring spices directly from the far east spice islands to Europe, cutting out the middleman - the Arabs and Asians who controlled the land routes and kept the location of the islands secret.

In 1599, the Dutch arrived first in Indonesia, forming the Dutch East India Company.

Amidst the 17,000 islands was the Banda Sea, the only place in the world where nutmeg trees grew, as the tree needed a very specific tropical climate.

Nutmeg was sought after not only to flavor food, but was thought to cure the bubonic plague and other diseases.

The Dutch set up nutmeg tree plantations, and tragically, slayed or enslaved many of the local Bandanese population in the labor intensive cultivating and hand-picking of the fruit.

In 1616, the British merchants gained control of one tiny Banda Island called "Run." It was only a half mile wide and two miles long.

Forming the British East India Company, they quickly began to compete with the Dutch.

Four years later, the Dutch captured the island, though the British insisted on their claim to it.

Competition in the Far East was also over control of the trade of other profitable exports, such as:

  • coffee,

  • tea,

  • sugar,

  • indigo (blue dye), and

  • opium.

An Amboyna massacre occurred in 1623, between agents of the Dutch East India Company and agents of the English East India Company.

These tensions erupted into four Anglo-Dutch Wars:

  • 1652–54;

  • 1665–67;

  • 1672–74;

  • 1781–84.

In retaliation to losing their tiny Banda island, the British, in 1664, sailed into the Dutch harbor of New Amsterdam.

The Dutch inhabitants on the tip of Manhattan Island did not have the military power to resist, so they surrendered.

The Dutch insisted on maintaining their claim to it.

In 1667, the English and the Dutch made the Breda Treaty.

The British would give up their claim to the small Banda island in exchange for the Dutch giving up their claim to Manhattan Island.

At one point during the negotiations, England offered to return New Amsterdam to the Dutch if the Dutch returned some sugar factories in Suriname on the north coast of South America. The Dutch refused.

The Dutch eventually lost control of all of the 11 Bandese Islands and Dutch Suriname.

The British took control of New Amsterdam in 1664, and changed the colony's name to New York, after the Duke of York - who became England's future King James II in 1685.

New York would grow to become one of the most prosperous cities in the world.

The New Amsterdam Stock Exchange became the New York Stock Exchange, referred to as Wall Street.

In New York, British continued the Dutch tradition of tolerance.

The New York Charter of Liberties and Privileges, (paragraph 27), October 30, 1683, stated:

"That no person or persons which profess faith in God by Jesus Christ shall at any time be any ways molested ... But that ... every such person ... fully enjoy his or their ... consciences in matters of religion ... not using this Liberty to Licentiousness ..."

"Licentiousness" is defined as "promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters," "sexual immorality."

New York's Charter of Liberties and Privileges continued:

"The respective Christian Churches now in practice within the City of New York .... shall ... enjoy ... freedoms of their Religion in Divine Worship and Church discipline."

In 1688, the Dutch leader William III, Prince of Orange, drove King James II (Duke of York) out of England in the Glorious Revolution.

He and his wife Mary, the daughter of James II, they ruled England as co-regents, William and Mary.

Though the British had "established" the Anglican Church in New York, other denominations were allowed degrees of tolerance.

French Protestant Huguenots began arriving in 1680.

The first Methodist meeting in the American Colonies was in New York City in 1766.

The Dutch sided with the Americans against Britain during the Revolutionary War, lending over 30 million guilders, equivalent to 17 million dollars, and smuggling in much needed supplies through its Caribbean territories.

Though America won independence, the British continued to fight the Dutch in the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War. In 1784, the British forced the Dutch to give up all their possessions in India

The Dutch still maintained power in Indonesia, but as early as 1804, Muslim pilgrims returning from Mecca combined hatred of foreign influences with militant Wahhabi sharia teachings.

They were called "Padri," and their prominent leader was Tuanku Imam Bonjol.

As the Padir aggressively spread fundamental Islam, many moderates fled to the Dutch for protection during the Padri War, which lasted from 1821 to 1838.

The Dutch restored order by water-boarding terrorists and arresting imams who preached sharia law, thus stopping the incitement of violence against the Dutch colonial government.

Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in the foreword of the book Law in the Middle East (1955):

"Islamic law offers the American lawyer a study in dramatic contrasts. Even casual acquaintance and superficial knowledge ... reveal that its striking features relative to our law are not likenesses but inconsistencies, not similarities but contrarieties. In its source, its scope and its sanctions, the law of the Middle East is the antithesis of Western law."

In 1781, was the first mention of a public Catholic worship service in New York.

In 1811, New York's State Supreme Court's Chief Justice, Chancellor Kent, stated in the case of Peoples v Ruggles:

"Christianity was parcel of the law ... that whatever strikes at the root of Christianity tends manifestly to the dissolution of civil government ...

The people of this State, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity ...

We are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors."

Trade from the Far East was interrupted in 1815 when the volcano Tambora erupted on Sumbawa.

Considered as the largest explosion in human record, the blast was heard 1,200 miles away and killed 71,000 people.

Its effect on global weather caused 1816 to be called "the year without summer."

In 1816, the Dutch navy joined the British navy, under the command of Sir Edward Pellew, in bombarding Algiers, forcing the Muslim Barbary state to release some 3,000 European prisoners.

Far East trade was interrupted again in 1883 when the volcano Krakatoa erupted on Java.

The blast was heard 3,000 miles away, being considered the world's loudest sound. Barometric instruments recorded the pressure wave circled the earth three and a half times.

As Krakatoa was near the sea, its eruption caused monstrous tsunami waves to reach over 150 feet high, killing 34,000.

Ash devastated the world's climate for over a year. Los Angeles received so much rain, over 38 inches, that 1883 was called the "water year." Global temperatures fell for five years.

Dutch leaders gradually took an increased ethical position, advocating to improve the welfare of those in their colonies.

One such leader was Abraham Kuyper, who founded the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands in 1892, and in 1901 he was elected Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Kuyper wrote pamphlets promoting the Dutch take moral responsibility for the people of Java, who were suffering from a famine.

In 1838, the New York State Legislature wrote:

"No people on the face of the globe are without a prevailing national religion ...

With us it is wisely ordered that no one religion shall be established by law, but that all persons shall be left free in their choice and in their mode of worship.

Still, this is a Christian nation. Ninety-nine hundredths, if not a larger proportion, of our whole population, believe in the general doctrines of the Christian religion.

Our Government depends for its being on the virtue of the people, - on that virtue that has its foundation in the morality of the Christian religion."

New York's State Constitution, 1846, 1894, and 1938, stated in its Preamble:

"We, the People of the State of New York, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, in order to secure its blessings, do establish this Constitution."


World History