Description: Peter Stuyvesant secures New York trade for his ships in 1667: original letter of safe conduct, signed by the Duke of York (the future King James II)

[Letter of safe-conduct for the first of three ships permitted to trade in New York for Peter Stuyvesant in 1667].

hitehall, 25 January 1667. Double-leaf (33.5 x 23 cm). Framed.

Original letter of safe-conduct, sealed and signed by the Duke of York, the later King James II, for the ship named Nieuw Jorck under captain Pieter Reyersz. van der Beets, giving permission to trade in the city of New York and surrounding areas during the year 1667. This was the first of three ships that were supposed to be granted permission to trade in New York for the company that had been formed by Pieter Stuyvesant, the former governor of New Amsterdam, who was returning to the city, now named New York. This document is of the utmost importance for the early history of New York and Anglo-Dutch relations in the third quarter of the 17th century.
Peter Stuyvesant (1592-1672), son of a clergyman of Friesland, served in the West Indies and was governor of Curaçao. Being appointed Director-General of the New Netherlands, he took the oath of office on 28 July 1646, and reached Nieuw Amsterdam on 11 May 1647.
King Charles II, however, considered these territories to be his property and in 1664 he ceded all land from the Connecticut River to Delaware Bay to his brother James, the Duke of York (the future King James II). This included the New Netherlands: the Dutch possessions on Manhattan, including Nieuw Amsterdam, Long Island and the settlements along the Hudson river. By this time, New Amsterdam had a population of about 6500, but the fortifications were not well maintained. Four English war vessels, bearing about 400 men, commanded by Captain Richard Nichols, took possession of the harbour, taking Stuyvesant by surprize. On 30 August Sir George Cartwright bore him a summons to surrender to the governor, promising life, estate, and liberty to all who would submit to the King's authority. Stuyvesant was furious and ordered the troops to prepare for battle, but the population refused to support him and he signed a treaty at his estate, the Bouwery house on 9 September 1664. The burgomasters proclaimed Nichols governor and the town was called New York, after the Duke of York, the future King James II, who signed the present document.

Stuyvesant knew that he would be called to account. In 1665 he went to Holland to report to the West India Company. A defeat so great needed a scapegoat, and he was the logical candidate. After many difficulties in Amsterdam - he was accused of neglect or treachery and a scandalous surrender - the case was allowed to die in committee, after which Stuyvesant petitioned to be allowed to return to his estate on Manhattan and he laboured to secure the satisfaction of the sixth article in the treaty with Nichols from the King, which granted free trade. Eventually the States General granted him permission to return to his possessions in late 1666.
Kessler writes (Pieter Stuyvesant, p. 278:) "Before returning to New York, he had one stop to make. In London, King Charles II ordered the Duke of York to 'graunt his Pass and Lycence unto Heere Peter Stuyvesant, late General of the New Netherlands to returne to the place formerly called the New Netherlands'. Stuyvesant had also a request to make of the Duke, permission to trade between The Netherlands and New York. He had joined with some Amsterdam merchants in forming a company to supply the Dutch residents of New York with clothes and general merchandise. He apparently had no capital to invest in the plan, but was given a fifteenth share in the company for his services on its behalf ... Despite England's normal reluctance to allow Dutch ships in its ports, Stuyvesant was given 'a temporary permission for seven years, with three ships only ... freely to trade with the Inhabitants of the Land lately reduced from the Dutch' [our document is the actual safe-conduct for the first of these ships].
Although the permission was supposed to be allowed for seven years, the present document was only for one year. Curiously, we have found no record of the ship "Nieuw Jorck" making the transatlantic crossing until it sailed from Amsterdam to New York from April to June 1668, after the present safe conduct had expired ( Pieter Reyersz van der Beest did captain a crossing by the ship "Hartogh van Jorck" (Duke of York) from February to June 1668, but Stuyvesant may have returned already on the ship "Gekruyste Hart" (Crossed Heart") in 1667, the ship that had brought him from New York in 1665. After his return from Holland Stuyvesant attempted to operate his trading company, but a year later the permission for the ships' trade was arbitrarily revoked. Dutch and other foreign ships were prohibited from trading with New York on 18 November 1668. The English ships were not able to supply the volume and quality of goods that the traders needed to exchange with the Indians for beaver and other furs, and Stuyvesant's company was dissolved in 1669. He spent the remainder of his life as a resident of the rapidly growing settlement, and as a gentleman farmer on his farm of sixty-two acres outside the city, called the Great Bouwery, beyond which woods and swamps stretched to the little village of Haarlem. The house stood near what is now Eighth Street.
Outer margin somewhat frayed. This document, in good condition, complete with the seal, is of the utmost importance for the early history of New York and Anglo-Dutch relations in the third quarter of the 17th century.
Cf. Henry H. Kessler & Eugene Rachlis, Peter Stuyvesant and his New York (1959); Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World. The epic story of Dutch Manhatten & the forgotten colony that shaped America (2004), pp. 300-309.
  • Number: 1060126 (63GEF73VJP3O)
  • Dealer: Speculum Orbis Nauticum

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