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Peter Minuit

Peter Minuit (1580 - 1638), born in Wesel[?], Duchy of Cleves[?] (present-day Germany), was the first general director of the Dutch colony of New Netherland. He is most famous for the purchase of the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans.

Peter Minuit's Huguenot family was one of many that escaped the Spanish government of the Netherlands and found refuge in German Protestant parts of the empire. Peter himself was born in a time of great upheavals and struggles by Protestants against the Catholics, which culminated in the Thirty Years' War and finally led to an exhausted Peace of Westphalia a century later.

Minuit was appointed director general of New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company in December 1625 and arrived in the colony in May 1626. In the summer of the same year he is credited with the purchase of the island from the natives -- perhaps from a Metoac tribe known as the Canarsees[2] -- in exchange for trade goods valued at 60 guilders. This figure is known from a letter by Peter Schagen[?] to the board of the Dutch West India Company: a traditional conversion to $24US using 19th century exchange rates is not particularly meaningful. The trade goods are sometimes identified as beads and trinkets, but that may also have been an embellishment by 19th century writers. If the island was purchased from the Canarsees, they would have been living on Long Island and maybe passing through on a hunting trip.

In 1631 or early 1632, Minuit was dismissed from his post and recalled to Europe. In 1636-1637 he made arrangements with Samuel Blommaert and the Swedish government to conduct the first Swedish colony of New Sweden on the lower Delaware River, within the territory claimed by the Dutch, landing in spring 1638 (at what is now Wilmington, Delaware). He reportedly perished in the summer of 1638 during a hurricane at St. Christopher in the Caribbean.

Today, Peter Minuit is commemorated by Peter Minuit Plaza, a small park at the foot of Manhattan, New York City; by a granite flagstaff base in Battery Park, which shows the historical purchase; by the Peter Minuit School (Public School 108); and the Peter Minuit Chapter.

Sources and external links

  1. Project Gutenberg Narrative New Netherland, by J.F. Jameson, Ed - http://www.ibiblio.org/gutenberg/etext02/nwnth10.txt - includes a footnote about the life of Minuit, but gives an improbable birth date of 1550.
  2. The Canarsees - http://www.angelfire.com/realm/shades/nativeamericans/meotac.htm



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