The Friendly Relations of the Indians and Early Dutch Settlers

Revisiting the Dutch Legacy: New Discoveries and Henry Hudson’s Historic Voyage

by Rev. Edward Payson Johnson, D.D., Paster of the First Reformed Church, (The Reformed Protestant Dutch Church) Albany, N.Y.

From the 1907,  Holland Society Year Book


For a long time, it has been quite the fashion to depreciate the early Dutch Colonists of the New World, to make sport of their peculiarities, to exaggerate their faults, to question their virtues and deny outright their claims of rightful possession. Even some honored historians have stated that “the Dutch were always mere intruders,” and “had no right to any part of this country”; while there have been some who represented the Holland Colonists as not only impertinent claimants of American soil, but as sometimes responsible for Indian suspicion, treachery, and cruelty, by which the English Colonists suffered.

The discovery, however, within the last half-century of certain old papers of original record, commercial, civil and ecclesiastical, in the archives of Holland as well as New York State, and the careful translation of these documents from the Dutch, have brought some facts to light which have made necessary the re-writing of some pages of American History during the Colonial period.

Patriotic societies have done much, and will continue to do much, to develop greater loyalty to our country, and greater devotion to its institutions; but more than this, they cannot fail to inspire much conscientious and original investigation of the statements and sources of historical records,—until finally any hoary error, however dear and honored it may be, shall no longer be tolerated in the Story of our Past.

HENRY HUDSON, an experienced navigator, a native of England, and friend of the famous Captain John Smith, had made two voyages in 1607 and 1608 in the employ of a London company, in the vain endeavor to find the shorter passage to China and Cathay by way of the western ocean. Released by his discouraged London patrons, Hudson goes to Holland, and offers his services to the East India Company, then carrying on a most prosperous trade with the Far East.

He believes, and they also believe, that the shorter way to Cathay can be found; and by their orders a small yacht, or “vlie-boat,” of eighty tons, named the Half-Moon, is soon equipped for the voyage, and manned by a crew of twenty men, part Dutch and part English. The Half-Moon sailed from Amsterdam, April 4, 1609, as we know from the “ship-book” found in 1841 in the archives of the old East India Company. Hudson was under orders to find a passage to China by the northeast, or the northwest. Doubling North Cape a month later, he finds the northern sea full of ice, and his motley crew begin to murmur. He then turns westward, and after a perilous voyage, with foremast gone, he reaches the Grand Banks, off Newfoundland, early in July. Running westward along the Nova Scotia coast he enters Penobscot Bay, where he replaces his foremast, and repairs his rigging. August 3d he sights and recognizes Cape Cod; the 18th of August he arrives off the mouth of the Chesapeake, which he recognizes as “the entrance into the King’s River in Virginia, where our Englishmen are.” But he is looking for the shorter passage to Cathay, and can spare no time to visit his friend Smith.

Not long after, he reaches “a great bay with rivers,” afterward known as Delaware Bay; but, finding navigation difficult because of shoals, he stands out to sea again, running northward for several days along a sandy coast with “broken islands”; and on the evening of September 3d anchors in a great bay,—the lower harbor of New York. For a week Hudson lingers here, exploring the shores, and trading with the wondering Indians. North of the Narrows he finds a “very good riding for ships”; and turning west, he explores the Kills between Staten Island and the Bergen shore, and comes out into the “open sea,” now called Newark Bay.

In the evening, as the small boat returns to the ship, which is anchored inside Sandy Hook, the party is set upon by two canoe-loads of Indians, and one of the English sailors, John Colman, is killed by an arrow-shot in the throat. Next day Colman is buried in the beach nearby, and in his memory Sandy Hook is named “Colman Point.”

September 13th Hudson begins to explore the great river stretching away to the north, and on the 16th anchors near Catskill Landing. September 18th he lands at Schodaack, and visits the old chief of the tribe, “in a house well constructed of oak-bark, and circular in shape.” There he feasted with the natives, and when he wished to return to the ship, to show their friendliness, “they broke their arrows in pieces and threw them into the fire.” With the early flood-tide of next morning, the Half-Moon ran higher up, two leagues above the shoals, and anchored in deep water near the site of the present city of Albany.

The natives came flocking to the ship, bringing grapes, pumpkins, beaver and otter skins, which they gladly traded for beads, knives and hatchets. Here Hudson remained some days, and by means of the small boat explored the river as far as some distance above the present town of Waterford. On the 21st of September, to see whether the chief men of the country “had any treachery in them,” they were so generously treated to wine and liquor in the Half-Moon’s cabin that one old chieftain became so stupefied with “the strong waters” that his simple countrymen “could not tell how to take it.” He was all right next day, however, and anxious to repeat the experience; and the memory of this first revel was long preserved in the traditions of the Iroquois.

Knowing that he was now at the head of navigation, Hudson realized that he must look elsewhere for the coveted passage to Cathay. The voyage up the river had taken eleven days, and the return occupied as many more. Sailing down past Washington Heights on Manhattan Island, he found the Indians now quite warlike. Twice the Half-Moon was attacked, without inflicting any injury however, but eight or nine savages were killed, and thus poor Colman’s death was amply avenged.

One month after the arrival at Sandy Hook, the Half-Moon weighed anchor for the last time, and stood out to sea. The Dutch mates wished to winter in Newfoundland, that they might try the northwest passage through Davis’ Strait in the spring; but the mutinous crew having “threatened him savagely,” Hudson decided to return to Holland. November 7th he reached Dartmouth in England, and from thence sent full reports of the voyage to the East India Company, proposing to renew the search for the elusive passage to Cathay in the spring.

As he was about to return to Holland by order of the Company, the English authorities, jealous of the advantages gained by the Dutch, detained both him and the Half-Moon. Eight months later the vessel is released; but Hudson’s services are demanded again by the London Company. In the spring of 1610 he sails away to the northwest, to be buffeted by Arctic tempests, seeking to explore “the labyrinth without end”;—to spend a winter of suffering on the frozen coast, and, basely abandoned by his mutinous crew in midsummer of 1611, “in a forlorn shallop, in the midst of fields of ice, to perish miserably in that sullen and inhospitable Bay, the undying name of which perpetuates the memory of his inflexible daring.”

Hudson’s comrades of the Half-Moon, on their return to Amsterdam in July, 1610, were engaged as crew for a new vessel fitted out by private enterprise for a voyage to the “Great River of the Mountains,” with a cargo of goods suitable for traffic with the Indians. So the experienced sailors revisit the savages whom they had left the autumn before; and tradition relates that when the Dutchmen arrived again among the red men, “they were much rejoiced at seeing each other.”

The next year Hendrik Christiansen and Adrian Block charter a ship, and voyage to the “Great River,” bringing back with them two sons of an Indian chief. A year later three Amsterdam merchants, anxious to join in the profitable trade, fit out two vessels, the Fortune and the Tiger, entrusting them to the respective commands of Christiansen and Block, for traffic on the “Mauritius River,” as for a time the Hudson was called in honor of the Prince of Orange.

In 1613, three vessels more were fitted out by merchants of North Holland, to engage in the New World fur trade; one of these vessels being in charge of Captain Cornelis Jacobson May, who explored the south side of Long Island, and afterward Delaware Bay, giving the names they still bear to Capes May and Henlopen.

Block’s ship, the Tiger, was accidentally burned at Manhattan; but the undismayed Dutchman set about building a small yacht out of the admirable ship timber with which the island abounded. While building the little vessel in the winter and spring, a few huts were put up for shelter near the south end of the island; and the friendly savages supplied the Dutch through the dreary winter “with food and all kinds of refreshments.”

In the spring of 1614, having completed his yacht, which he called Onrust, or the Restless, (44 ½ feet long, 11 ½ feet wide, and of 16 tons burden,) Block proceeded to explore the bays and rivers of Long Island Sound, into which larger vessels could not enter. The great cliff at the head of New Haven Bay he fitly named the “Roodenberg”; and a little later he discovered a large river running up northerly into the land, and crossing the bar at its mouth, explored the “Quonegh­tacut” to the rapids at the head of navigation. The river’s strong downward current not far from its mouth led Block to name the beautiful stream, the “Fresh Water River.”

Eastward he discovered the island which bears his name to this day; he explored thoroughly Narragansett Bay, and noted down the “reddish appearance” of the largest island in the Bay, afterward known to the Dutch as “Roode Island”; passing south of Cuttyhunk and Martha’s Vineyard, and then northeasterly through “Zuider Zee,” with “Vlieland,” or Nantucket, on the right hand, he coasted northerly along the shore of Cape Cod, and then explored “Staten Bay,” now known as Cape Cod or Massachusetts Bay, and all the waters of Massachusetts as far north as “Pyebay,” latitude 42° 30′, better known as Nahant Bay, just north of Boston Harbor, where, at the time of Block’s visit, there dwelt “a numerous people, extremely well-looking, but timid and shy of Christians.”

Returning to Cape Cod, Block fell in with his friend and fellow-navigator Christiansen, and traded vessels with him, that the Restless might continue her good work of exploring, and he might return in the Fortune to report in Holland the discoveries made. The previous 27th of March the States-General of Holland, upon urgent application of the merchants trading in the New World, had passed an “octroi,” conceding that “whosoever shall from this time forward discover any new passages, lands, havens or places, shall have the exclusive right of navigating to the same for four voyages.”

Upon Block’s return in September, his patrons, whose efforts had been so well rewarded, took steps to obtain the special privileges promised in the grant of March 27th. An elaborate “Figurative Map” of their discoveries was prepared from data furnished by Captain Block, and under his supervision; and as soon as possible the deputed committee laid before the “high, mighty lords” of the States-General their story of discovery, their “Figurative Map,” and their earnest petition for the promised grant of exclusive privileges.

“No Europeans but the Dutch traders are in possession of any part of the country; and why should not the Amsterdam Company receive their promised charter?” The States-General promptly complied; and a special writing was drawn up, in the original of which still appears in almost illegible characters the name, “NEW NETHERLAND.” The document dated October 11, 1614, was at once duly sealed and attested; and thus by its solemn official act Holland designated the unoccupied regions of America lying between Canada and Virginia by the name “NEW NETHERLAND,” which they continued to bear for half a century. This charter granted the exclusive right of occupation and trade for three years from January 1, 1615, forbidding all infringement upon these privileges under heavy penalties. The historian says: “The admirable commercial position of Manhattan Island indicated it, by common consent, as the proper point whence the furs collected in the interior could be most readily shipped to Holland. To secure the largest advantages from the Indian traffic, it was nevertheless perceived that inland depots would become indispensable. Thus cargoes of furs could be collected, ready for shipment when the vessels had been refitted, after their arrival out in the spring.” (Brodhead, I, 47.)

Early in 1614 it had become evident that a factor should live permanently on the Hudson River, among the Mohicans and Mohawks, at the head of navigation. Hendrik Christiansen (who is stated to have made “ten voyages” to Manhattan) therefore builded a fortified trading-post on “Kasteel Island,” as the Dutch then called it, (because of the ruined “chateau,” or castle built by the French so many years before,) but the island has been known as Van Rensselaer, or Patroon’s Island, since the year 1630. The trading house was 36 feet long, 26 feet wide, enclosed by a stockade 58 feet square, the whole surrounded by a moat 18 feet wide; it was armed with two large cannon and eleven swivel guns and was garrisoned by ten or twelve men. At first it was named “FORT NASSAU,” and was in charge of John Jacob Eelkens for more than three years. Eelkens seemed to be singularly qualified for trading with the Indians, and collected many valuable cargoes of furs which were sent down to Manhattan for shipment to Holland. He and his men were indefatigable in exploring the surrounding country, becoming better acquainted with the savage tribes around them, — “with all of whom it was the constant policy of the Dutch to cultivate the most friendly relations.”

After being flooded several times, the “Kasteel Island” trading house is nearly swept away by a freshet in the spring of 1618; and Eelkens removes to the mainland, and builds a fortified post on “Tawass-gunshee,” the lofty cliff overlooking “Tawasentha,” the Norman’s Kill, which was long time the site of a Mohawk fort. Tradition has it that here was first ratified a solemn treaty of peace and friendship with the savages. Not long was the new fort’s location satisfactory, for some reason; and ere long another fort was builded much farther north, a little back from the present Night Boat Landing; and in honor of the Prince it was named “Fort Orange.”

Five years later the West India Company, under more favorable conditions, enrolls and sends out a number of emigrants. About this time the little Colony has the services of two “Comforters of the Sick,” Sebastien Jansen Krol and Jan Huyghens, who, while serving the company in a commercial and magisterial capacity, also by authority of the Classis of Amsterdam, minister to the spiritual needs of the sick and dying. Krol at this time is vice-director of the Colony and in charge at Fort Orange. He and Huyghens, with Peter Minuit, the Director-General, upon the coming of the first pastor, Michaelius, in 1628, are ordained elders of the first church in NEW NETHERLAND.

In 1630, under a charter giving yet more favorable “Privileges and Exemptions,” KILLIAEN VAN RENSSELAER, a wealthy merchant of Amsterdam, who had been interested for some years in the trade of NEW NETHERLAND, secures by grant from the Company and by purchase from the resident Indian Chiefs of the Upper Hudson, on both sides of the river, a great tract of land, 24 miles long by 48 miles broad, containing about 700,000 acres, and embracing the present counties of Albany and Rensselaer, with parts of Columbia and Schenectady counties. A strip of the eastern end of this original “Colony of RENSSELAERWYCK, 4 miles wide by 24 miles long from north to south, belongs now to the State of Massachusetts. From this time forward, year by year, “BEVERWYCK,” the town, and “RENSSELAERWYCK,” the Colony, increase in the number and wealth, comfort and content of the Dutch and Walloons now inhabiting the region.

Now let us go back twenty-one years of time, and imagine ourselves on the western shore of Lake Champlain, and not far from the foot of Lake George. It is the morning of the 30th of July, 1609; and a captain of the French navy, Samuel de Champlain, with two other Frenchmen, and a war-party of Hurons and Algonquins, are attacking a war-party of the Iroquois. The struggle is too brief to be called a fight; for with the first discharge of his great arquebuse Champlain kills two chiefs of the foe, and the amazed Iroquois take refuge in flight. This was the first encounter between the white man and the red man in the State of New York; and it was the first Iroquois experience of the mysterious and terrible power of gunpowder. Although that thunderous discharge of Champlain’s heavy gun brought death to two savages and dismay to all the rest of the party, it was the most expensive gunshot ever fired by a Frenchman. The tiger heart of the Iroquois Indian was maddened, not merely by the death of chiefs whom he could not at once avenge, but by the knowledge that now his traditional enemy, the Huron, with such a powerful ally, would have such clear advantage as to deal him frequent defeat. France paid dearly for that easily-won victory during all the weary, anxious years until the end of her regime in Canada. No armed company could thereafter subdue the wary, yet desperate Iroquois, for he simply evaded his dreaded foe; no arts or blandishments could win him, no arguments or entreaties could persuade him, no threats or punishment could discourage him, into making peace; even the passionate devotion of the holy Jesuit priests who sought to save his soul to Heaven, their kindness and mildness and heroic self-sacrifice for the sake of his spiritual welfare, could not melt the stolid, stubborn heart of the surly Iroquois. Not merely the individual but the tribe, and the whole Confederacy of tribes, hated the French with an unrelenting and inextinguishable fury, so fiercely unique as to have become a wonder and a proverb. The most vivid imagination could not adequately picture the rage, disappointment and deep concern of the proud warriors of that  Great Family of Nations, as from village to village spread the doleful news brought home by the fleeing braves of that defeated war-party.

And just at the time when Iroquois rage and perplexity are greatest, a hundred miles away to the south of that scene of disgrace appears a company of white men, also bearing firearms, who seem anxious for friendly relations with the Iroquois. The shrewd savage sees at once that here, directly at hand, is an ally who is on equal footing with the detested Frenchman, who can be made useful to himself; —so this white man’s friendship and help must be gained, and must be kept.

With the Iroquois in such a state of mind, eager for peace and alliance, and the Dutchman for the sake of safety and gain equally eager for peace and alliance, it was natural that a firm compact of friendship should soon be established by solemn treaty. And to the honor of both white man and red man be it known that, although renewed many, many times, the bonds of honorable friendship and alliance were never broken, nor strained, by the Dutchman of the Van Rensselaer Patent or the savage of the Five Nations, for a hundred and fifty years. ALBANY, from its first feeble beginnings, although peculiarly exposed to danger for a long period, since by its location quite easy of access from three directions at least, has never known the frightful sufferings of Indian attack, nor the horrible nightmare of Indian siege; (although Schenectady, a colony from Albany seventeen miles west, was destroyed early in February, 1690, by the French and Canadian Indians,) for no hostile savage has ever entered Albany, except as a captive, or a peace envoy. The red men Albany has seen have been friends and patrons, who were welcome, not dreaded; and necessary to the trade and protection of the citizens, even as the Iroquois considered his white brother necessary to his welfare.

And here a closer study of the red neighbors of the Fort Nassau Dutchman will be interesting. The savages living on the east bank of the river were called “Mohicans,” while the natives of the western bank were called “Masquas” or “Mohawks.”

Iroquois friendship and brotherly alliance the Dutch coveted and sought, gained, and firmly held to the end. Notwithstanding all that artifice could devise, or cruel hatred could attempt, the Iroquois “stood by,” and stood with the Dutch, even as if the Dutch themselves were Iroquois.

But why did the Dutch succeed in this respect where other European Colonists failed? The question is easily answered. The Dutch of Albany and Schenectady treated their red neighbors more fairly and justly, more like human beings, more like brothers, than any other Europeans, except some of the devoted Jesuit missionaries. They did not have the haughty contempt for the Indian which was so conspicuous in the “gentlemen” Colonists of Virginia; nor did they dislike and distrust them as Egyptians and children of Satan, like the New England Colonists; nor did they break faith with the red man, nor exact of him more than they were willing to give him, as did the English in nearly every Colony of the Atlantic coast. By explicit orders of their patrons in Holland the Dutch Colonists were required to satisfy the Indians for the land they occupied; and this was scrupulously done by the Dutch, wherever they established a trading-post, or planted a colony. The price sometimes paid the Indians for the coveted lands may seem to us ridiculously small; as e.g., Jacob Van Curler, June 8, 1633, purchased from the Indians of the “Fresh” or Connecticut River, for the site and holdings of his “House of Good Hope,” territory originally embracing a good part of the land now covered by the city of Hartford,—and all for some twenty yards of coarse, woolen frieze, “6 axes, 6 kettles, 18 knives, a sword-blade, one shears and some toys.” Also Peter Minuit purchased from the Manhattans the whole of their island home for sixty guilders, or twenty-four dollars in our present currency.

And yet be it remembered to the honor of the Dutch that in every case the rights of Indian ownership were recognized, and their title extinguished by a satisfactory price; so that the Indian was as well pleased with his bargain as the Dutchman was with his. Surely such a course was more just and wise, more honorable both to buyer and seller, than to do as did the Sagadahoc Colonists, in appropriating the beautiful peninsula resort of the Indians without purchase, or even permission; or the Virginian Colonies, every one from the time of Raleigh to the time of Newport and Smith, in treating the Indians as intruders, and without any more right to the land than mere animals; or even our honored Puritan ancestors of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay, who sometimes paid the Indian for his corn to which they helped themselves, yet seldom thought of paying the proud savage for his land off which they selfishly crowded him.

But how shall we account for the Dutchman’s superior justice and humanity to the Indian? Was his policy merely selfish, if far-sighted and liberal? Better that, even for the Colonist, and better in guilders and stuivers, than contempt and cruelty! Was it mere good fortune as to location next door to a more intelligent and powerful Indian nation than others? By so much as the Iroquois were more shrewd and powerful than other savages, by so much more terribly swift and thorough would have been their destruction of every Dutchman of the Van Rensselaer Patent, had the injustice and intolerance of Sagadahoc, or Jamestown, or Massachusetts Bay been visited upon them.

Was the Dutchman by nature more easy, more tactful, and patient and judicial than other Europeans? He may have been! Verily his forbears had a long experience of discipline in old Holland through the ungracious tuition of Alva and Philip II that well might have fitted them for sainthood; and the long fight to save their homes and fields from the sea in turn may have fitted them for the tedious fight to save their liberties and their souls from Spain! Yet however all this may be, the Dutchman of the Upper Hudson must be judged by what he did, and by what he avoided, and by the spirit he showed.

In 1637, three years after her arrival in the New World, Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, “for maintaining the paramount authority of private judgment,” and for being “like Roger Williams or worse,” was excommunicated, and with several of her friends banished, as unfit for the society of their fellow-citizens. She settled first in Williams’ colony in Rhode Island, but afterward, in 1642, removed to New Netherland, making her permanent home at Pelham Neck, near New Rochelle. In 1641 and 1642, numbers of English people from Massachusetts Bay “solicit leave to settle” among the Dutch; and upon taking the oath of allegiance to the States-General and the West India Company, they are guaranteed the free exercise of religion. In 1642, the Rev. Francis Doughty and his friends were received at New Amsterdam on the same terms; and the same year John Throgmorton with thirty-five English families settled on Long Island. Thus the New England people emigrated to New Netherland; so that by the time that Megapolensis arrived here in 1642, there were no less than five English colonies established in Dutch territory. In 1643, the year that the Jesuit missionary, Father Isaac Jogues, was rescued from the Mohawks by the Dutch of Fort Orange, and twenty-one years before the English occupation in 1664, there were eighteen different languages spoken by the people then living on Manhattan Island and in its environs, although the whole white population was less than five hundred. So attractive to the persecuted of every nation was the country whose people believed in, and accorded all others, “freedom to worship God.” (Consult Brodhead’s New York, I, pp. 332-334.)

It is not too much to say that not merely New York State, but New England and all the rest of this Great Republic, have ample cause for gratitude to Almighty God that during all that century and a half of struggle against a French Monarchy and a French Church, the Great Iroquois Confederacy—like some mighty, upheaved, impassable mountain-wall—foiled every device and defeated every project, which otherwise might have brought distress and subjection, at least for a time, to the Sisterhood of Colonies!

But the friendship and alliance of the Iroquois were due to the Dutch of Albany and Schenectady, first of all, and always! What ARENDT VAN CURLER and PETER SCHUYLER counselled, Colonial Governors like Nichols and Lovelace, Fletcher and Bellomont, might well show grace and wisdom enough to believe, and act accordingly.

ARENDT VAN CURLER* to the rude, lionlike savage was his highest ideal of honor and justice and goodness; and when that savage gravely addressed Governor Lovelace or Fletcher as “CORLEAR,”—his name for Van Curler— he could not pay that official higher honor, nor give him greater assurance of confidence and good faith.

After Van Curler’s lamented drowning in Lake Champlain, another Dutchman of Albany, PETER SCHUYLER,* became ere long to the Iroquois what Van Curler had been,—a man of “one face” and truthful words, a man to be trusted, and loved, and followed; so that what “QUIDOR” said was to the trusting Iroquois as sure as ever to the devout saint were “proofs from Holy Writ.” And were I lineal descendant of Peter Schuyler, I should account it greater cause for honor to him, and honor to me, than any military preferment, or any grateful thanks of well-served fellow-citizens, that the red man of the forest had had such childlike faith in his goodness and truth.

And what these men were in their day of privilege and service for their city and their land, in other and less conspicuous ways, perhaps, other Dutchmen of their city tried to be,—true and just in all their dealings with all men, whether white or red. And as I often review the history of the venerable city on the banks of the “Cahohata tea,” I recognize with pleasure and gratitude that the Church, which for so many, many years was the only Church of Albany, must have had some influence, clear and strong and long-continued influence, in training the people of the city to justice and kindness to the savage, as well as truth to fellow-man, and obedience to Father-God. From the time of Megapolensis, who gave the civilized world the first character-sketch of Mohawk and Mohican in 1642, the Church’s pastors for one hundred years failed not to honor the original commission of the Church’s first pastor, to teach the red brother the gospel of Jesus, and failed not to lay great stress upon all men dealing with him in trade in the Spirit of Jesus; so that the shrewd Indian learned that the day after preaching was the best time for him to offer his furs to the eager Dutch buyer. Megapolensis and Schaats and Dellius and Lydius and Van Driessen, every one, believed that loyalty to the Saviour of all men constrained them to be teachers and helpers of the shrewd, if degraded, Indian.

Do you know anything about the earnest labors of the third pastor of this Church for the friendship of the Mohawks not merely, but for their personal welfare, both spiritual and temporal? GODEFREDIUS DELLIUS came to Albany in 1683 as assistant to the then aged Domine SCHAATS. He learned the Mohawk language and put himself into direct communication with them. Availing himself of their strong religious sentiment, he instructed them in the Protestant faith; they listened, and many of them joined his Church. It would seem at this time, says Schuyler the historian, that had there been two or three men with Dellius’ spirit and activity to go and live among them, as did the Jesuits, the whole Mohawk nation might have been converted to Christianity. The impressions made by Dellius were not transient, for many, if not all, of his converts lived exemplary lives, and remained true to the faith he taught them (Col. N.Y., II, p. 146.) He baptized his first Indian convert in 1683, and six months afterward eleven more. One of his converts was Hendrick, later known as King Hendrick, and the warm friend of Sir William Johnson. From 1692 to 1698 Dellius baptized 105 Mohawks, men, women, and children. No one was more reverentially regarded by the Indians than Dellius; and as after events show, his deep concern for the red men brought him at length the enmity and relentless persecution of the unspeakable Bellomont, the English Governor of the Colony, and through him the loss of his pastorate in Albany. Dellius saw that rum was making fearful havoc among the Mohawks; for this they would barter their furs, and when furs failed, their lands, to unprincipled traders and speculators. Their chiefs protested against the abuse, but without avail. Says the author of Colonial New York (cf. II, pp. 144-148): “When Dellius saw how fast their lands were being taken from them, he made his first efforts to save their homes on the banks of their own beautiful river, where were their villages and hunting grounds. When this apparently failed he purchased from Governor Fletcher a patent of their hunting-grounds to the east of the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, that when they lost their home lands, the remnant of the tribe, whom he hoped to have Christianized, might have a place to live on not too remote from civilization. The next year Dellius secured this tract of land as their homestead by a trust-deed to himself and several others, members and officers of his Church, and friends of the Indians. (This deed is on record in our Colonial Archives, and shows on its face that, contrary to the contention of Bellomont and his creatures, it is not ‘a deed in fee,’ but ‘a deed in trust’ to Dellius and his friends for the Indians.) Had it not been for the selfishness of one man, who thrust his name into the patent, and changed its tenure, all might have been secure against the ravings of disappointed and designing men. As it was, Dellius was maligned, defamed, and fiercely persecuted by Bellomont; the land patent was cancelled, and Dellius was compelled for the sake of peace to return to Holland.” By an exchange of parishes, Domine LYDIUS became his successor in the pastorate of the Albany Church. “In 1690 sixteen Indian converts were received to membership in the Church; and notwithstanding all distractions and desolation brought by Canadian Frenchmen and Indians upon the Mohawk and the Dutchman, before the decade closed forty Indians more sit down to the Holy Communion with members of the Church, as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.” (Our 250 Years.)

Is it too much to believe that as the Iroquois nation stood as a vast bulwark of defense to the American Colonies, and as the Dutchman won at first, and held to the last, the Iroquois to brotherly faith, so the Old Dutch Church of Albany, established for the spiritual care and welfare of Indians as well as Hollanders, was used of God “Who worketh as He will,” to serve in saving Our Native Land to Government by the People, and Equal Rights before the Law for All, and Absolute Freedom of Faith?

No Colonists of the New World were more prospered, and none more deserved to be prospered, than the Dutch of Rensselaerwyck; and other Colonies would have been more prospered, had they imitated their wisdom and justice. Confidence wins confidence; kindness inspires kindness; truth elicits truth. Treat a savage like a man, and in time out of him you will make a man. Aye! that dirty, degraded savage is one human being who never forgets a kindness, nor ever forgets to repay in kind! But treat him like a dog, or a snake, and you will rouse the instincts, and call out the fury of the fiend! It is expedient to treat the Indian like a man!

I do not seek to canonize the Dutchman of Rensselaerwyck as a saint; he did no more than he ought to have done; shrewd, thrifty common sense required no less! But if his was simply worldly wisdom, what shall we say of the benighted, barbarous policy of many Colonists? What shall we say of the inhuman spirit—yet existing— which inspires the cruel proverb, “The dead Indian is the only good Indian!” Why not say, “The dead Chinaman is the only good Chinaman!” — “My neighbor with the better house than I have,”—”or the more prosperous business,”—”is worth most as fertilizer for the soil!” In either case, what a hideous spirit, inhuman, insane, anti-Christ, pagan!

In the early days, or in these present days, or in any coming days, as concerns our dealings with fellow-man,—red man or white, yellow man or black,—THE GOLDEN RULE OF JESUS CHRIST is the only rule of inward peace and outward prosperity for any person with a heart, and a conscience, and a destiny.

* ARENDT VAN CURLER was a cousin of the first Patroon, Killiaen Van Rensselaer, and came to Manor Rensselaerwyck with the first colonists in 1630. He was soon made superintendent of the Manor, and afterward became colonial secretary. He married in 1643, and on his return from Holland, whither he went for his “bridal tour” he removed to his farm on “The Flatts,” some miles north of Fort Orange. There he lived for nearly twenty years, removing to Schenectady in 1662. While on an errand of peace and good will to the Governor of Canada, crossing Lake Champlain by canoe during a storm, he was drowned in July, 1667.

  • PETER SCHUYLER was born September 17, 1657. Fifteen years later his father, Philip Pietersen Schuyler, bought “The Flatts” for the sum of 5,000 guilders from the patroon, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer. In 1682 Peter Schuyler was ordained deacon of this Church, and in 1683 became its “Church Master Deacon,” or treasurer. It is an interesting fact that at the top of every page of his Account-book with the Church appear in his handwriting the words “Laus Deo,”—”Praise to God.” In 1686 he became the first Mayor of the city of Albany. (Cf. Colonial New York, I, 158, 303.)
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