The English stamped their mark on New York nearly from the moment they took over the settlement from the Dutch in 1664, quickly renaming the former New Amsterdam after an English nobleman. The resulting century-plus of British rule affected the cultural and economic lives of the people, dividing them sharply during the coming revolution.
Out of Dutch
The Netherlands ruled what became New York for 40 years until 1664, when the English took over, giving the eventual state and city its current name. Under Dutch rule, the colonists faced tensions from conflict with neighboring native tribes, monopolies over trade, high taxes and political corruption, and the dawn of the British era did little to alleviate those problems.
The English Arrive
Once the English asserted firm control over New York, they made it into the strongest colony in the empire, counting on the seaport for commerce and strategic power. Rural colonists struggled when the British continued a Dutch practice of giving a handful of powerful families most of the land, leading renters to rebel. The British also allied themselves with the Iroquois Nation, which triggered a large migration into the city to escape the battles with other tribes that were supported by the French. The population of New York City ballooned after the French and Indian War, growing from 18,000 people in 1698, largely in the city, to 163,000 by 1776.
The Dutch let New York fall into English hands in large part because the colony offered little profit to the Netherlands, but the British saw the economic advantage, which the colonists shared for a time. The people, although divided between Dutch and English cultures, largely profited from reliance on the port of New York, especially during England’s protracted war with France. Merchants enjoyed the flow of goods in and out of the city, but the resolution of the war brought an abrupt end to the economic boom as soldiers left the city. The British, facing war debt, enacted heavy taxation that angered the very people who had been loyal to the crown during the lucrative time, with the Stamp Act in particular causing a revolt.
Revolution and War
As the British turned up the pressure with taxes in the 1770s, New Yorkers rebelled, and continued occupation of the colony led to widespread homelessness and other economic problems. As talk of revolution and independence swelled across the colonies, New York held loyal to the British, with more people in favor of reconciling with the mother country than nearly any other colony, largely because of the economic ties. Eventually, the Revolutionary War moved into the city, driving patriots into the countryside and loyalists to take to the sea, headed for England, and the British hold over New Yorkers’ ended with the successful revolution.
- Digital History: The Middle Colonies -- New York
- Smithsonian Magazine: The Rocky Road to Revolution
- Encyclopaedia Britannica: New York -- Colonial Period
- New York -- An Illustrated History; Ric Burns, et al
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