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The Founding Fathers of Dutch America

The dominant American historical narrative hasn’t just been the white man’s account, but the English-speaking white man’s account. This Anglo prevalence led to widespread unfamiliarity with the Dutch thumbprint on early America. Different experts have different view on the reasons why the early influence of the Dutch in New Netherland was ignored for so long. We consulted various experts about the underlying causes. You can delve deeper into their thoughts on the matter in Issue 56 of Dutch the magazine.

As part of our survey into the obscurity of early Dutch North-America, we asked two experts Dr. Michael Douma of Georgetown University and Dr. David William Voorhees, editor of de Halve Maen, a journal published by The Holland Society of New York to list their four ‘founding fathers’ of Dutch America. These are the names they selected:

Dr. Douma:

  • Henry Hudson, the English explorer who helped pave the way for Dutch settlement along the river later named for him in the state of New York.
  • Willem Kieft, a director of the Dutch West India Company who established the Council of Twelve Men, which was the first representative governing body in the New Netherland settlement.
  • Albertus van Raalte and Hendrik Scholte, both ministers and leaders of later, 19th-century, Dutch immigration to the Midwestern United States.

Dr. Voorhees:

  • Willem Usselincx, the Flemish-Dutch co-founder of the Dutch West India Company.
  • Adriaen van der Donck, the Leiden-educated lawyer who helped establish the New Amsterdam settlement and enticed many immigrants to move there.
  • Petrus Stuyvesant, the last Director-General of the New Netherland colony.
  • Kiliaen van Rensselaer, a merchant and co-founder of the Dutch West India Company who helped develop New Netherland, where he owned the massive Rensselaerswyck estate.

For more on the Dutch in North America, read Hiding in Plain Sight by Tom Bijvoet.

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Original article by: Ray Cavanaugh