Peter Stuyvesant


Peter Stuyvesant was born in the Netherlands, and after studying languages and philosophy in Franeker, he joined the Dutch West India Company in 1635. Within a few years, he was made director of the company’s colony of Curaco, serving until 1644. Then, in that year, he attacked the Spanish island Saint Martin, where he lost part of his right leg to a cannonball and was forced to return to the Netherlands. Back at home, his leg was amputated and replaced with a wooden peg decorated with silver bands, earning him the nickname “Old Silver Leg.”

Peter Stuyvesant
By 1645, Peter had returned to the West India Company and was made Director-General of the New Netherland colony. He arrived in New Amsterdam (present-day New York City) two years later, and he immediately set about appointing an advisory council of nine men to represent colonists. Known for his heated temper, Peter soon became involved in a border dispute with New Haven Governor Theophilius Eaton, and he later argued with Brant van Slechtenhorst over the ownership of a region of land—including Fort Orange--outside his colony. Marching into the fort with a military escort, Stuyvesant ordered that houses be removed for room to build a stronger border against Native Americans. When van Slechtenhorst refused to obey on the grounds that the fort was his property, the Director-General had his soldiers enforce the command, resulting in much controversy. In 1650, a meeting was called to discuss colonial boundaries, and Stuyvesant ceded a large part of his land, to the dissatisfaction of his council. A new municipal government was established, and in 1653 New Amsterdam became an official settlement. Shortly afterward, a convention of deputies from the various villages met to demand reforms, but Stuyvesant refused to listen to them, maintaining that his authority was God alone. In 1655, he sailed down the Delaware River and overtook New Sweden, renamed New Amstel. During his absence, his own colony was attacked by Native Americans.

Stuyvesant was not a religiously tolerant man, and on one occasion he ordered the public torture of Robert Hodgson, an influential Quaker preacher. The action raised protest from the citizens of Flushing, Queens, who convened to carry out the famous Flushing Remonstrance, perhaps a precursor to the freedom of religion bill within the Constitution. Stuyvesant also barred Brazilian Jews from settling in New Amsterdam; this decision was overruled by the West India Company, but the immigrants were not allowed to build a synagogue.

In 1664, James II succeeded his brother to the throne, and he immediately sent out men to take control of the land that had been ceded him, including New Amsterdam. Stuyvesant surrendered his land as requested, and the region was soon renamed New York. Peter, meanwhile, retired to a farm outside the city, where he remained until his death in 1672.

Key events during the life of Peter Stuyvesant:

Joined the Dutch West India Company.
Served as director of the colony of Curaco.
  Attacked Saint Martin and lost his leg, which was later replaced with a prosthetic limb.
Selected by the West India COmpany to become governor of New Amsterdam.
  Married Judith Bayard.
Arrived in America.
Engaged in conflicts with Theophilius Eaton and Brant van Slechtenhorst.
New Amsterdam was officially established as a settlement.
Took possession of New Sweden.
Ordered the public torture of Robert Hodgson.
  The Flushing Remonstrance.
Surrendered to English king James II.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Old Silver Leg  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
The Beginning of New York  in  Story of the Thirteen Colonies  by  H. A. Guerber
How New Amsterdam Became New York  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Dutch in America  in  American History Stories, Volume I  by  Mara L. Pratt

Image Links

Peter Stuyvesant
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Stuyvesant wanted the people to resist
 in Story of the Thirteen Colonies

Peter Stuyvesant opposes the surrender of New Amersterdam to the British
 in Story of the Thirteen Colonies

Peter Stuyvesant
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

Peter Stuyvesant tearing up the English letter
 in Builders of Our Country: Book I

Short Biography