The Middle Colonies

Also the Dutch were trying to colonize the New World. They sent Captain Henry Hudson and he found a river that ran westward, followed it and found that it turned north in what is now New York. The river still bears his name. In 1623 the Dutch sent people to live in this area. They formed a new colony and began trading with the native inhabitants. They called this new colony New Netherlands. Its main town was New Amsterdam (Nieuw Amsterdam) on Manhattan Island, which was bought from local Indian chiefs for 60 gilders ($24). However, in 1664, English king Charles II gave the territory between New England and Virginia, much of which was already occupied by Dutch traders and landowners called patroons, to his brother James, the Duke of York. The English soon absorbed Dutch New Netherlands along with New Amsterdam and renamed it New York (named after the Duke of York), but most of the Dutch people, as well as the Belgian Flemings and Walloons, French Huguenots, Scandinavians and Germans who were living there, stayed. This made New York one of the most diverse and prosperous colonies in the New World.

In 1680, the king granted 45,000 square miles of land west of the Delaware River to William Penn, a Quaker (member of a Christian sect) who owned large swaths of land in Ireland. Penn’s North American holdings became the colony of “Penn’s Woods,” or Pennsylvania. Lured by the fertile soil and the religious toleration that Penn promised, people migrated there from all over Europe. Like their Puritan counterparts in New England, most of these emigrants paid their own way to the colonies – they were not indentured servants – and had enough money to establish themselves when they arrived. As a result, Pennsylvania soon became a prosperous and relatively egalitarian place. The colony was also characterized by religious toleration where religious freedom was granted to everyone monotheist and government was initially open to all Christians. Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the British American colonies, and The Academy and College of Philadelphia, the predecessor to the private University of Pennsylvania, both opened here.

The Province of New Jersey had originally been settled by Europeans as part of New Netherlands, but came under English rule after the surrender of Fort Amsterdam in 1664, becoming a proprietary colony. The English then renamed the province after the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel. The English justified the seizure by claiming that John Cabot, an Italian under the sponsorship of the English King Henry VII, had been the first to discover the place. The original boundaries of the province were slightly larger than the current state and it was not dominated by a specific religion, which gave way to religious freedom for Quakers, Catholics, Lutherans, Jews and others. New Jersey was often referred to as a breadbasket colony because it grew so many crops, especially wheat. The wheat was ground into flour and then shipped to England.

Sweden also wanted a colony of their own to trade with the others, so they landed in Delaware in 1638 and established a new colony there. The Delaware Colony was founded in 1638 by Peter Minuit and New Sweden Company. But the land fell under British control in 1664 when William Penn was given the deed by the Duke of York. Delaware was then governed as part of Pennsylvania from 1682 until 1701. The colony was named after the Delaware River whose name was derived from that of Sir Thomas West (Lord de la Warr) who was Virginia Company's first governor. The Delaware Colony's mild climate made farming feasible for the colonists and its natural resources included also timber, coal, furs, fish, and iron ore. There was no dominating religion there and religious tolerance made the area attractive to those who were not purists.