An Essay on Loss Across Time
Publication Year: 2013
Stuyvesant Bound is an innovative and compelling evaluation of the last director general of New Netherland. Donna Merwick examines the layers of culture in which Peter Stuyvesant forged his career and performed his responsibilities, ultimately reappraising the view of Stuyvesant long held by the majority of U.S. historians and commentators.
Borrowing its form from the genre of eighteenth- and nineteenth-?century learned essays, Stuyvesant Bound invites the reader to step into a premodern worldview as Merwick considers Stuyvesant's role in history from the perspectives of duty, belief, and loss. Stuyvesant is presented as a mid-seventeenth-century magistrate obliged by his official oath to manage New Netherland, including installing Calvinist politics and belief practices under the fragile conditions of early modern spirituality after the Protestant Reformation. Merwick meticulously reconstructs the process by which Stuyvesant became his own archivist and historian when, recalled to The Hague to answer for his surrender of New Netherland in 1664, he gathered together papers amounting to almost 50,000 words and offered them to the States General. Though Merwick weaves the theme of loss throughout this meditation on Stuyvesant's career, the association culminates in New Netherland's fall to the English in 1664 and Stuyvesant's immediate recall to Holland to defend his surrender. Rigorously researched and unabashedly interpretive, Stuyvesant Bound makes a major contribution to recovery of the cultural and religious diversity that marked colonial America.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
Series: Early American Studies
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Preface: The Outcast
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A haunting representation of Peter Stuyvesant rests among the documents
relating to New Netherland. Stylistically it is similar to a line drawing. Spare,
sensuous, and provocative, it is like a simple piece of graffiti. It is only forty-nine
Stuyvesant is described as a captive. He is a lone figure being driven across the land with his hands bound behind his back. Nothing indicates the cause...
Chapter 1. Magistracy and Confessional Politics
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It was not an auspicious beginning. For fifteen days in summer 1646, the States General had delayed confirmation of the West India Company’s appointment of Petrus Stuyvesant as director of New Netherland. Fifteen days, of course, would prove to be a trivial period of time compared to the almost thirty months eighteen years later, when, from 1665 through 1667, he would await the same body’s decision on his guilt or innocence for losing the province ...
Chapter 2. Conflicts and Reputation
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Arriving at Manhattan Island, Stuyvesant found a merchant clique determined to remove the West India Company from control of New Netherland and replace it with direct governance under the States General. This was nothing new. Nor was it surprising. Everyone on the island knew that the company’s rule had been an egregious example of greed, negligence, and misdirection resulting in disaster. In 1649, one merchant spoke for all: Stuyvesant’s...
Chapter 3. Protecting by Deterrence
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Stuyvesant lived in an Indian world. He and other New Netherlanders often conceded this. Why would they not? In the mid-1640s, they probably numbered less than 2,000, with only 450 men, women, and children in New Amsterdam. This was against 14,000 natives in the territory of New Netherland.1 In the mid-1660s, they were about 8,000 men, women, and children, widely scattered in four locations: Manhattan Island and Long Island; Beverwijck, ...
Chapter 4. "The General"
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Every general on active duty operates in a liminal physical and mental space. By the nature of his responsibilities, he occupies a place between his people’s homeland and daily experiences, and those of the enemy. It is that place, with all its multiple meanings, that Jeremias van Rensselaer shorthanded by calling Stuyvesant “the General.” In Stuyvesant’s case, this place in-between was shaped by the policy of deterrence. It was also given form by the constraints...
Chapter 5. The Struggle to Believe
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On the last Friday in June 1658, Peter Stuyvesant was finishing a report following a month-long visitation to Esopus. Sixty or seventy villagers made up the settlement there. They were farming and trading on land midway up the Hudson River between Manhattan Island and Beverwijck. Serious troubles had allegedly broken out with local natives, and the settlers, as we have seen, were requesting military assistance from Stuyvesant and his three councilors, ...
Chapter 6. Managing Conventicles
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Reformed domestic churches in New Netherland—or, as I’ll call them, legalized conventicles—derived their legitimacy from at least two sources. First, they were assemblies for religious worship that replicated the Christian gatherings that had appeared in the two great periods of church history, the apostolic age and the early years of the Reformation. And second, private homes were the only answer to a dire need of sites for religious services....
Chapter 7. Ordinances: The Needle of Sin
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There will be two more ordinances calling for days of prayer and thanksgiving before the government falls to the English. Stuyvesant’s ordinance on March 1, 1663, however, is his most expressive. The drama of God’s covenant with the Israelites is presented, just as it had been in each of the eight other ordinances from 1648 to 1663, and will be presented again through to the final proclamation in June 1664....
Chapter 8. To Suffer loss, 1664–1667
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The surrender of New Netherland may be said to have begun here.
On February 2, 1664, a concourse of New Amsterdam citizens gathered before the town hall on Wall Street. The age-old rituals of municipal elections were being set in motion. Four days before, the city’s law-enforcement officer had called for nominations. ...
Chapter 9. Dismissal and Return
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We might think of Stuyvesant’s words as performers meant to act for him in
certain theatrical ways. In the “Answer” of late 1666, we can see him giving
supplementary lines to some actors who had taken the stage for him in the
“Report,” and adding other characters to them.
Now, for example, he was asking the committeemen to put themselves in his place as he read the reassuring letter of the directors dated April 21, 1664, just four months before the English attack. It told him of the English king’s ...
Chapter 10. Stuyvesant Tattooed
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For about 350 years, Peter Stuyvesant’s career and reputation have been tied to changing cultural formations in the United States. His life history has swung on shifting trajectories of interpretation and on changing disjunctions and recombinations of philosophical and theological systems. It has been affected by movements in literary and art traditions, and fluidity in the nation’s ethical, ethnic, and political grounding....
Chapter 11. A Place in Early America
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Washington Irving’s determination to put Stuyvesant into dialogue with nineteenth-century modernity was a unique moment in American literary history. With the continuing popularity of the Knickerbocker History, Stuyvesant’s image endured as well. In 2005, Annette Stott studied the iconography of New Amsterdam and its people. Asking questions about the process of summoning historical memory, she concluded that Irving’s History “dominated...
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Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 5 illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Early American Studies