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The economic part played by New Amsterdam in consequence of its location and surroundings determined the business and character of its inhabitants. It was a town of shipowners and ship agents, of sailors and innkeepers, of exchange and intercourse, of fluctuation in market prices, and of eagerness for news of every description. All this on a very small scale indeed, but as determining the interests and habits of the place it was nevertheless decisive. New Amsterdam as early as 1664 had a physiognomy and a mentality altogether different from those of any New England town. It was already the most worldly, the most cosmopolitan place in all North America, and so it is to-day.
Destined by nature to play so important a part in the history of the American Continent, the place had the good fortune to be settled by the people perhaps the best fitted to aid it in playing that part. Had it been possible (as we have shown it was not) to send out Dutchmen by thousands instead of by parties of 20 or 30, it may be asked whether the Dutch element, so much more advantageously situated than the people of New England, might not have had a fair chance of taking the leadership in American history. As things have turned out, however, it is only just to say it has no such claim. New Netherland was soon a lost cause. At least New Amsterdam remained, not impaired in its real character by the change of its old name into that of New York. The Dutch element, abandoning forever the hope of dominating America, has been conspicuous in serving it. As widely different from the stiff puritanism of New England as from the feudal characteristics of Virginian society, it has been a mediator between the two. It has not so much a motor as a regulating force. In great national concerns it seldom provides the motto, but the side on which New York throws itself has a fair chance to be victorious.
The Dutch of the seventeenth century were good Europeans; the Dutchmen of New York are not less good Americans. In his attractive, well-written book, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, John Fiske concludes with the following judgment:
In the cosmopolitanism which showed itself so early in New Amsterdam and has ever since been fully maintained, there was added to American national life the variety, the flexibility, the generous breadth of view, the spirit of compromise and conciliation needful to save the nation from rigid provincialism. Among the circumstances which prepared the way for a rich and varied American nation, the preliminary settlement of the geographical center by Dutchmen was certainly one of the most fortunate.
A conclusion with which even the most scrupulous Dutchman of to-day will readily agree without giving up his right of waiving compliments he can not in good conscience admit to be due to him. To occupy forever, by our settlement of New Amsterdam, a central place in American history, is a great and sufficient honor.
THE DUTCH ELEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES.
By RUTH PUTNAM.
Statistics of the numbers of persons embarking at Queenstown or Messina on vessels bound for New York or other American seaports would show, with a fair degree of accuracy, the numerical contribution of Ireland or Sicily toward the United States population. No parallel deduction can be drawn as regards the individuals sailing westward from the Texel, Amsterdam, or Rotterdam. From the beginning of these trans-Atlantic voyages a Dutch flag at the masthead was no criterion that the outward-bound passengers over whom it floated came from any section of the United Netherlands. It was long before the name of the discoverer of the Hudson River was divested of the Dutch guise, and the same hidden unconscious influence that turned "Henry" into "Hendrick" because his enterprising little Half Moon was built of Dutch timber, carried Dutch colors, and was financed by Dutch capital, has affected succeeding groups of home seekers coming hither on the long line of HollandAmerican shipping from 1623 to 1909, or at least down to the issue of our latest official emigration reports. The true lineage of many of these immigrants, early and late alike, certainly had its roots in other soil than Dutch. It is therefore a remarkable fact that, in spite of the small number of the veritable Dutch among the early colonists, their influence has determined the character of the colony and has set the aristocratic standard for New York.
Past and present together, what proportion of Dutch blood can accurately be estimated as existing among the millions of Americans?
Their beginnings in the Dutch-American possessions have not even yet been perfectly deciphered, although we are now well on the road to knowledge of what can and what can not be known. The difference between accessible material pertaining to this period in 1909 and in 1896 is certainly encouraging. When the "Half Moon Papers" were in progress (1896-1898) under the auspices of the infant New York City History Club,1 the editors became appalled
1 City History Club of New York City, Historic New York: Half Moon Papers, Series I and II, 2 vols., New York and London, 1897-1899.