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Peter Minuit portrait New Amsterdam 1600s light

Peter Minuit

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Peter Minuit(1589-1638) was a Walloon from Wesel, today North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, then part of the Duchy of Cleves. He had Walloon parents who were born in Tournai. Minuit's Walloon family was one of the many Protestant families that escaped the Spanish government of the Spanish Netherlands (Low Countries) now known as Belgium, and found refuge in the Dutch Republic and Protestant parts of the Holy Roman Empire. Peter himself was born in a time of great upheavals and struggles by Protestants against Catholics, which culminated in the Thirty Years' War and finally led to an exhausted Peace of Westphalia a century later.

Minuit was appointed the third director-general of New Netherland by the Dutch West India Company, in December 1625, and arrived in the colony on May 4, 1626. On May 24 he is credited with the purchase of the island from the natives — perhaps from a Lenape or Metoac tribe known as the "Canarsee" (Canarsie) — 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 US$ 14 using 17th 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. A contemporary purchase of rights in Staten Island, New York to which Minuit was also party involved duffel cloth, iron kettles and axe heads, hoes, wampum, drilling awls, "Jew's Harps," and "diverse other wares". However, the Canarsee were actually native to Brooklyn, while Manhattan was home instead to the Weckquaesgeek. If the island was purchased from the Canarsees, they would have been living on Long Island and maybe passing through Manhattan on a hunting trip., Weckquaesgeek were not pleased by the exchange and later battled the Dutch in Kieft's War.

In 1631, Minuit was suspended from his post, and he returned to Europe in August 1632 to explain his actions, but was dismissed. He was succeeded as director-general by Wouter van Twiller. A friend, Willem Usselincx who had also been disappointed by the Dutch West Indian Company, drew Minuit’s attention to the Swedish efforts to found a colony. In 1636 or 1637, Minuit made arrangements with Samuel Blommaert and the Swedish government to create the first Finno-Swedish colony in the New World. Located on the lower Delaware River at what is now Wilmington, Delaware, within the territory earlier claimed by the Dutch, it was called New Sweden, with the Swedes (and Finns) landing there in the spring of 1638. Minuit finished Fort Christiana that year, then departed to return to Stockholm, Sweden for a second load of colonists, and made a side trip to the Caribbean to pick up a shipment of tobacco for resale in Europe to make the voyage profitable. Minuit died while on this voyage during a hurricane at St. Christopher in the Caribbean.

The official duties of the governorship were carried out by the Finnish Lieutenant (raised to the rank of Captain) Måns Nilsson Kling, until the next governor was chosen and brought in from the mainland Sweden, two years later.


DOB: 1589
POB: Wesel, today North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
DOD: August 5, 1638
POD: Saint Kitts,St. Christopher
Burial: Lost at Sea
Spouse: Gertrud Raetz (?-?)
DOM: August 20, 1620
POM: Wesel, today North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Father: Johann Minuit (?-1609)


Tobias Arand, Peter Minuit aus Wesel - Ein rheinischer Überseekaufmann im 17. Jahrhundert; in: Schöne Neue Welt. Rheinländer erobern Amerika, hg. v. Rheinischen Freilichtmuseum und Landesmuseum für Volkskunde in Kommern, Opladen 1981, 13-42

Weslager, C. A., 1989. A Man and his Ship: Peter Minuit and the Kalmar Nyckel; publisher=Kalmar Nickel Foundation, id=ISBN 0-9625563-1-9

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