Sunday, November 9, 2008

New York: The Empire State (2)

Topic: Albany Pre: 1940 (continue) #2

When the English threatened New Amsterdam (now New York City) in August-September 1664, Stuyvesant called on Rensselaerswyck for aid, but was refused. Under the new English rule the Van Rensselaers still claimed Beverwyck as part of their manor, but relinquished their claim to the village in 1685. Governor Dongan converted their patroonship into an English manor.

The British permitted the Dutch to retain their own language, customs, religion, local courts, and institutions, and admitted them to the governor's council. Their leaders, represented by such names as Van Rensselaer, Schuyler, Hendrick, and Winne, were joined by British tradesmen and officials, led by the Clintons, Yateses, Livingstons, and other families prominent in the Nation's history. In 1686 Albany, chief fur trading center of the English Colonies, was given a charter by Governor Dongan. For a quitrent of one beaver skin a year the king granted the city control of the fur trade to 'the eastward, northward, and westward as far as His Majesty's dominion may extend.'

The fur trade made Albany traders wealthy and intensified friction with the French. Control by the English of the interior and of the fur trade of the Great Lakes area depended on their alliance with the Iroquois and the defense of the Colonial frontier, of which Albany was the key. In 1690 the Massachusetts Council, concerned for the safety of Albany after the Schenectady massacre, wrote: "Albany is the dam, which should it through neglect be broken down by the weight of the Enemy, we dread to think of the Inundation of Calamities that would quickly follow there-upon.'

The four Colonial wars kept the city in a state of anxiety from 1689 to 1763. During the early conflicts, when it bore the brunt of the defense, Albany protested the building of French forts to the west as a potential source of interference with the fur trade. In 1701, during a temporary cessation of hostilities, a substantial trade in Indian goods grew up between Albany and Montreal. To protect the trade, Albany agreed to remain neutral in case of another war, and the French agreed that Albany should not be attacked. Indians under French domination purchased arms in Albany to use against the New England colonies. (10)

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