Description of New Netherland (as it is Today)


This book, published in Amsterdam in 1655, is one of the most important sources for the study of the Dutch colony of New Netherland. Adriaen van der Donck was trained as a lawyer at Leiden University. In 1641–43, he worked at the vast patroonship (estate) of Rensselaerswijck, surrounding present-day Albany, New York. He then applied for and received from the West India Company his own grant of land, a large tract located just north of Manhattan in present-day Westchester County, New York. (The city of Yonkers takes its name from Yonkheer [young sir], the unofficial title by which van der Donck was known.) Van der Donck soon fell out with Peter Stuyvesant, the autocratic director–general of the colony. Critical of Stuyvesant, who administered the colony as a company property in which the settlers were workers rather than citizens, van der Donck believed that the settlers should have rights. As one of the Nine Men, the council of residents that advised Stuyvesant in ruling the colony, van der Donck traveled to the Netherlands to present a complaint to the States-General, the governing body of the Netherlands, requesting rights for the settlers. Stuyvesant worked to undermine van der Donck, who was detained for five years in the Netherlands. It was there that he wrote his Description of New Netherland, the fullest account to date of the province and its geography, Native American inhabitants, and economic prospects. Van der Donck died in 1655, shortly after he was given permission to return to his estate in New Netherland.

Last updated: September 18, 2015