British Conquest of New Netherland Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Mercantile and territorial ambitions led to the dominance of the British in colonial North America, eliminating the Dutch as commercial rivals on the continent. The British conquest of New Netherland led to an English colonial presence stretching from what is now Canada to what is now the state of Florida.

Summary of Event

The restoration of the Stuart monarchy to the British throne in 1660 ushered in an era of colonial expansion in the Americas. This expansion was driven by a rigorous mercantilism Mercantilism;England that called forth efforts to make colonial administration more unified. New Netherland’s existence as an alien wedge between Great Britain’s New England and Chesapeake colonies threatened not only English territorial and mercantile ambitions but also plans for strengthening imperial government. Playing an important role in all of this, James James II (king of England) , King Charles II’s Charles II (king of England) brother and heir to the throne, was at the center of a group of merchants and noblemen who were deeply concerned by the Dutch in North America and exercised considerable influence over the king. [kw]British Conquest of New Netherland (Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667) [kw]New Netherland, British Conquest of (Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667) [kw]Conquest of New Netherland, British (Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667) Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] Economics;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] Trade and commerce;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] Colonization;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] Expansion and land acquisition;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] American Colonies;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] Netherlands;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] England;Mar. 22, 1664-July 21, 1667: British Conquest of New Netherland[2160] New Netherland;British conquest of Colonization;England of New England New England;English colonization of James II

Charles II, James, and their supporters viewed land grants in America as a device for recouping their lost fortunes, and the region occupied by the Dutch enticed such land-grabbers. Furthermore, the Crown’s attempt to unify colonial administration was frustrated by the situation of New Netherland, for its strategic geographic location impeded communications between the Chesapeake and New England colonies and made more difficult the task of defending those colonies from the French. The stubborn independence demonstrated by Puritan New England particularly disturbed the Restoration government. Following upon the earlier policy of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth government, King Charles and Parliament continued to enact trade regulations against their commercial rivals, the Dutch. However, New Netherland’s existence rendered enforcement of the Navigation Act Navigation Acts (1660-1663) ineffective.

England’s mainland colonies used New Netherland as a means of circumventing the British navigation system, and the Dutch colony became a breeding ground for smugglers. Despite laws to the contrary, Dutch merchants did a thriving business in tobacco from Virginia and Maryland, and Boston regularly had Dutch ships carrying goods to and from Boston’s harbor. In fact, officials in the British colonies would not enforce the trade acts against the Dutch, and it was argued that if New Netherland were in England’s hands, it might well generate ten thousand pounds annually in uncollected customs revenues. The prospect of acquiring an American colony that could make him money appealed mightily to debt-ridden James.

The Crown eventually concluded that the only effective remedy for these difficulties lay in wresting control of New Netherland from the Dutch. As early as 1663, the Council for Foreign Plantations—an advisory board of merchants and privy councillors, several of whom were close advisers to James—investigated the matter of Dutch power and examined the possibility of a military operation against New Netherland. Information from English residents on the eastern end of Long Island suggested that such a military undertaking would meet with little resistance from the Dutch garrison at New Amsterdam. Plans were even made to enlist the New England militia against the Dutch.

Based upon the council’s recommendations, Charles moved swiftly. March 22, 1664, he gave brother James a proprietary grant of all the land between Delaware Bay and the Connecticut River, which included the Dutch colony. Parliament approved the grant, and in April, the king nominated Colonel Richard Nicolls Nicolls, Richard as lieutenant governor of the proprietary, put him in charge of a small military force, and sent him to America. Nicolls was charged with more than seizing New Netherland: He headed a special commission whose members were instructed not only to take over lands claimed by the Dutch but also to settle boundary disputes among the New England colonies and make sure that the New England governments understood they were expected to enforce the navigation acts. With the duke of York in firm control of the colony next door, it was generally thought by the Council for Foreign Plantations that New Englanders would be more likely to fall into line behind imperial policy.

Nicolls and his squadron of four ships carrying three hundred soldiers arrived off New Amsterdam in August, 1664. The lieutenant governor immediately demanded the surrender of the colony, offering liberal terms as bait. Among the terms were guarantees to the inhabitants of all the rights of Englishmen, trading privileges, freedom of conscience, the continuance of Dutch customs and inheritance laws, and up to eighteen months for the settlers to decide whether to leave. At first, Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, Stuyvesant, Peter who had led New Netherland for the Dutch West India Company since 1647, refused to surrender and began to make preparations for the defense of his colony. However, the peg-legged Stuyvesant, having angered his people with his high-handed rule, received little support from the residents, who felt they would be no worse off under the British. Moreover, the English villages on Long Island were in full-scale revolt, and the British had spread rumors that if Stuyvesant did not surrender, New Amsterdam would be brought under siege, burned, and sacked. Bowing to the inevitable, Stuyvesant surrendered the town and its garrison of 150 soldiers on August 26, 1664. New Amsterdam was immediately renamed New York New York , in honor of James, duke of York.

Nicolls sent British forces both north and south to secure the surrender of the rest of New Netherland. Sir George Cartwright Cartwright, Sir George went up the Hudson River and obtained the surrender of Fort Orange without a fight. Cartwright renamed the town Albany, after James’s other dukedom. The inhabitants there were pleased that the British were willing to allow them to have a monopoly on the fur trade. Nicolls also instructed Cartwright to negotiate a treaty with the Iroquois Iroquois;alliance with England , whose friendship the English needed if the French and their American Indian allies were to be bested. This first British-Iroquois treaty was signed on September 26, 1664.

Contrary to his expressed orders, Sir Robert Carr, Carr, Sir Robert who had been sent with British soldiers to the South River (Delaware Bay), provoked a fight and stormed the small fort there, killing and wounding several and plundering the settlement of New Amstel. Outraged by Carr’s violence on the Delaware, Governor Nicolls wanted erstwhile New Netherlanders to remain in New York, understanding full well that the province’s most valuable resource was its settlers. In fact, most of New Netherland’s estimated population of nine thousand did remain, including Stuyvesant. Against the advice of Nicolls, however, James gave away choice lands and settlements in what became New Jersey, thereby inhibiting the demographic and economic progress of his own colony.


On July 21, 1667, the Treaty of Breda, Breda, Treaty of (1667) which ended the Second Anglo-Dutch War, confirmed the British conquest. Except for a brief loss of control during the Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674), the British retained a firm grip upon the former Dutch colony that they called New York. The acquisition of New York was part of a more extensive effort to centralize government that led, in the 1680’, to the creation of the Dominion of New England New England, Dominion of , which included New York, New Jersey, and the New England colonies.

Great Britain’s conquest of New Netherland plugged the breach between the British colonies, thus forming a continuous English presence from Canada to Florida. It eliminated the Dutch as commercial rivals on the continent, gained an alliance with the Iroquois, and ultimately brought the British and the French into confrontation for continental supremacy.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Andrews, Charles M. England’s Commercial and Colonial Policy. Vol. 4 in The Colonial Period of American History. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1964. Discusses Anglo-Dutch rivalry and relates the conquest of New Netherland to overall British efforts to create a self-contained colonial empire.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Canny, Nicholas, and Alaine Low, eds. The Origins of Empire: British Overseas Enterprise at the Close of the Seventeenth Century. Vol. 1 in The Oxford History of the British Empire, edited by William Roger Lewis. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. A collection of essays by noted historians exploring numerous aspects of Britain’s worldwide colonial expansion. Explains the founding and governance of individual American colonies, with several essays focusing on British colonies in New England, the Carolinas, the mid-Atlantic, and the Chesapeake Bay area.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kammen, Michael. Colonial New York: A History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975. Chapters 3 and 4 examine the reasons for the British conquest, the Articles of Capitulation, and adjustments under Governor Nicolls.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kessler, Henry H., and Eugene Rachlis. Peter Stuyvesant and His New York. New York: Random House, 1959. Chapters 14 and 15 consider the British conquest from the perspective of Stuyvesant and the Dutch in New Netherland.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Merwick, Donna. Possessing Albany, 1630-1710: The Dutch and English Experiences. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990. A provocative work, less concerned with the British conquest than with the cultural differences that emerged between the Dutch and English in New York, particularly Albany.
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    xlink:type="simple">Rink, Oliver A. Holland on the Hudson: An Economic and Social History of Dutch New York. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986. Chapter 8 relates the stresses and strains that weakened the Dutch West India Company’s hold on New Netherland.
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    xlink:type="simple">Ritchie, Robert C. The Duke’s Province: A Study of New York Politics and Society, 1664-1691. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977. Chapter 1 deals extensively with reasons for the British conquest.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shorto, Russell. The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America. New York: Doubleday, 2004. Shorto argues that the social and political practices of New Amsterdam’s inhabitants powerfully influenced the development of American democracy.
Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Seventeenth Century</i>

James II; Peter Minuit; Peter Stuyvesant. New Netherland;British conquest of Colonization;England of New England New England;English colonization of

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