Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Duke's Plan


The Duke's Plan from the British Library
The Duke’s Plan
is the nickname given to a highly detailed map of New Amsterdam as it appeared in September of 1661.  This map is in the possession of the British. Many histories record that the map was copied from a Dutch map by the English in 1664 when they took over the colony.  However, in the book The King’s Best Highway: The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, The Route That Made America Eric Jaffe puts forth a different and compelling theory for its creation.

John Winthrop Jr.
          In the summer of 1661 John Winthrop Jr. was asked to return to London to get a royal charter for the colony of Connecticut, which to that point did not have one.  Rather than taking the normal route of going to Boston to secure passage on a ship bound for England Winthrop headed to New Amsterdam where he would take passage on a Dutch ship for the Netherlands and from there to England.

          There were two reasons for his choice of route.  The first was that he would be able to avoid messengers from New Haven, which was at the time a separate colony from Connecticut, who hoped that Winthrop would petition the King for a charter on their behalf as well so they could remain separate.  The other reason was that by shipping out of New Amsterdam he would have time to avail himself of Peter Stuyvesant’s hospitality and ultimately spend five days exploring and remembering the details of the town.  For the record when I say he took advantage of Stuyvesant’s hospitality I don’t mean in the official government sense of the word but in the true meaning of it.  He was a guest in Stuyvesant’s home while he was in New Amsterdam and it was Stuyvesant that arranged for the ship that was to carry Winthrop across the Atlantic.

Peter Stuyvesant
          When Winthrop returned to Connecticut from England he had a charter that not only swallowed up the colony of New Haven but gave Connecticut an infinite western border stretching through New Amsterdam.

          In 1664 Winthrop joined four royal commissioners on Long Island to attempt to acquire New Amsterdam for the King without a fight.  The commissioners consulted a very detailed map of the colony dated shortly after Winthrop arrived in England, September 1661.  Jaffe speculates that Winthrop provided details for the creation of the map.  Further evidence supporting this theory came to light when a written description to accompany the map was found in the papers of the Royal Society. Winthrop was the first person from North America allowed into the group.  In addition Winthrop’s cousin, with whom he kept in contact was one of the chief architects of the takeover plan.

          It was Winthrop that would write the letter to Stuyvesant, promising fair treatment of the Dutch if they would surrender to the English.  Stuyvesant tore the note to pieces but other leaders of the colony reassembled it and decided to surrender.  Winthrop was one of the negotiators of the articles of capitulation.

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