Dutch Golden Age, world's foremost maritime economic power & New Netherlands

Bill Federer

After seven centuries of Islamic occupation, Spain finally drove the Muslims out in 1492.

Jews were culturally caught in the middle between Christians and Muslims.

King Ferdinand ordered Spain's large Sephardic Jewish population to either convert or leave.

Some Jews fled to Portugal, then to the Holland, which was Europe's center of religious toleration.

In the next century, Holland prospered tremendously, with its largest city of Amsterdam becoming the wealthiest city in the world.

During this time, Holland fought an 80 year war of independence from Spain, from 1568 to 1648.

As part of this war, in 1572, the Iron Duke of Alba had his men pillage and murder thousands across Holland in "The Spanish Furies."

The Dutch fought back, led by William the Silent, and the "Republic of the Seven United Netherlands" was founded in 1581.

It was one of the few nations with no king.

Philip II's Spain also fought Queen Elizabeth's England during the Anglo-Spanish War, 1585-1604, with the Invincible Spanish Armada attacking in 1588.

Dutch and English sailors fought together repel the Spanish attack.

During The Eighty Years War, there was a brief 12 year truce, till hostilities began again in 1619.

This was part of a larger European conflict called The Thirty Years War, 1618-1648, which started between Protestant-Catholics but ended as a bloody rivalry for political dominance between France and the Habsburg Empire, resulting in 8 million deaths.

The fighting in Holland and in the rest of Europe did not end till the Peace of Westphailia in 1648.

The Dutch Golden Age is considered to have begun in 1568, and lasted until Napoleon's wars in the early 1800s.

The Netherlands became a global leader in trade, military, science, and art.

Holland's University of Leiden, begun by William the Silent in 1575, became a center of the study of Hebrew, Aramaic and Syriac, with a Jewish rabbi as a professor.

The Pilgrims lived in Leiden before sailing to Massachusetts, and identified themselves with the ancient Hebrew republic.

Several Dutch companies approached the Pilgrims to settle New Amsterdam on behalf of Holland, but they decided to sail with a patent from the London Company.

"Companies" were a novel development.

In Medieval Europe, it was forbidden to pay or receive interest. It was called the sin of "usury."

As a result, there were no companies.

If someone wanted to attempt an expensive endeavor, such as sailing around the world looking for spices, they had to approach a rich person or a monarch to underwrite it.

After the Reformation, Amsterdam was where some of the first corporations were started, such as the Dutch East India Company.

Common individuals could invest in a company expedition of ships going around the world in search of spices, and when the ships returned, interest or "dividends" were paid from the profit to the stockholders.

If someone wanted to sell his share of ownership, he could do so at the first ever stock exchange - The Amsterdam Stock Exchange.

Individual investors also had limited liability, only risking the amount they invested.

If a ship sank, or was taken in battle by Spain or England, or captured by Muslim Barbary pirates, the Dutch invented insurance companies to cover the loss.

The Dutch city of Amsterdam, became Europe's leader in shipping, banking, insurance and commerce.

The city of Gouda in South Holland became famous for its cheese.

Dutch Calvinism prohibited religious painting in churches.

As a result, Dutch artists developed a variety of other genres, such as informal portraits, still life, peasant life, flowers, landscapes, townscapes, animals, and maritime paintings.

Famous Dutch painters included:

  • Pieter Brueghel the Elder,

  • Pieter Claesz

  • Frans Hals,

  • Willem Kalf,

  • Rembrandt van Rijn,

  • Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael,

  • Jan Steen,

  • Hendrick Terbrugghen

  • Johannes Vermeer.

The Dutch sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, and captured Goa, India, from the Portuguese.

Dutch opened trade with:

  • Japan,

  • Jakarta,

  • Mauritius, and

  • the Indonesian Spice Island of Maluku.

Dutchman Willem Schouten was the first to sail around South America's Cape Horn in 1616, naming it "Kaap Hoorn" after his home port city of Hoorn in the Netherlands.

The Dutch sighted Fiji and Australia, and colonized:

  • the Pacific islands of Tasmania and New Zealand;

  • the Caribbean Islands of Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Sint Maarten;

  • the South American settlements of Guyana, Suriname, and Brazil, which they captured from the Spanish and Portuguese for 24 years;

  • South Africa; and

  • the North American colony of New Netherlands, which included New York, and parts Connecticut. It also included parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, which had previously been New Sweden.

On MAY 6, 1626, Peter Minuit, Dutch Governor of the New Netherlands Province, gave 60 guilders of brass buttons, scarlet cloth and trade goods to the Manhattan Indian Tribe in exchange for Manhattan Island.

The Articles for the New Netherlands' Colony, issued by the Chamber of Amsterdam, 1624, stated:

"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."

In 1628, Rev. Jonas Michaelius organized the first Dutch Reformed Church in the Colony of New Amsterdam, considered one of the oldest continuous congregations in America.

The Dutch set up a New Amsterdam Stock Exchange along the wall of their fort.

New Netherlands' original Charter of Freedoms and Exemptions, June 1, 1629, stated:

"Patroons and colonists shall in particular, and in the speediest manner, endeavor to 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 and be neglected among them, and they shall, for the first, procure a Comforter of the sick there."

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."

The Dutch Amboyna Massacre occurred in 1623 against the British over which country would control of the far east spice trade.

Reports of this massacre were circulated, stirring up tensions which broke out into the Anglo-Dutch Wars:

  • First Anglo-Dutch War (1652-1654),

  • Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667),

  • Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674),

  • Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784).

After the First and Second Anglo-Dutch Wars, in which British Admiral William Penn helped defeat the Dutch Navy, New Amsterdam was taken over by the British in 1664.

The city was renamed New York City after the Duke of York, who became King James II after the death of his brother King Charles II.

The New Amsterdam Stock Exchange became the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street.

King Jamess II's daughter, Mary, married the Dutch stadtholder William of Orange.

When it appeared King James II might make England Catholic again, Protestants asked William of Orange and Mary to leave Holland and take over England in 1688.

This was called The Glorious Revolution.

King James II fled England, leaving William and Mary II to co-rule England.

When Mary died in 1694, Parliament agreed to recognize William as the King of England provided he agree to certain restrictions being placed on the powers of monarchy.

In 1696, William granted freedoms to Dutch Church in New York with the Charter:

"William the third, By the grace of God, King of England ...

Our said loving subjects ... to preserve to them and their successors that liberty of worshiping God according to the constitutions and directions of the Reformed Churches in Holland ...

have therefore thought fit ... that no person in communion of the said reformed protestant Dutch Church, within our said City of New York ... shall be any ways molested, punished, disquieted, or called in question, for any difference in opinion in matters of the Protestant religion ...

that all ... persons in Communion of the said reformed protestant Dutch Church may ... freely and fully have and enjoy his and their own judgments and consciences in matters of the Protestant religious concernments ... not using this liberty to licentiousness and profaness ...

Mr. Henricus Selyns, the present Minister of the said reformed protestant Dutch Church ... since the ... dedication of the said Church to the service of God ... the instruction of the members of the said reformed protestant Dutch Church inhabiting within Our said City of New York, in the Christian faith according to the constitutions and directions aforesaid."

New York's Dutch congregation met in several buildings over the centuries, including the imposing St. Nicholas Collegiate Reformed Protestant Dutch Church at Fifth Avenue and Forty-eighth Street.

President Theodore Roosevelt attended church there.

The congregation continues at the Marble Collegiate Church.

As a British colony, the Colonial Legislature of New York stated in 1665:

"Whereas, The public worship of God is much discredited for want of ... able ministers to instruct the people in the true religion, it is ordered that a church shall be built in each parish capable of holding 200 persons;

that ministers of every church shall preach every Sunday, and pray for the king, queen, the Duke of York, and the royal family ... Sunday is not to be profaned."


World History