The United Colonies of New England, 1643-90

By Harry M. Ward | Go to book overview
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The Eagle and the "Beetle Fly"

New Haven Colony and the Dutch at New Amsterdam were the chief commercial rivals in the New World at the time of the forming of the Confederation. For a few triumphal years during the early Confederacy, the New Haven adventurers sought to establish a trading empire in the New World and to touch the mainsprings of English commerce. The glory that was New Haven's, however, was brief: disaster soon put an end to the far-flung trading ambitions of its founders. Their great ship, laden down with rich goods for the homeland, was lost at sea; the Dutch expelled them from settlements on their southern flank; and eventually the Colony was overshadowed by its mightier neighbor on the river. But before disaster struck, the prospects of New Haven's future indeed looked bright. New Haven had been hewn from a string of seaport towns along the Sound; even more, it was elevated to equal membership in the great Confederation of the Puritan colonies. With the protection of this mighty league, the New Haven traders could afford to be daring with their Dutch neighbors.

The story of the early relations of New England and New Netherlands, with the Dutch always on the defensive, is a rich and amusing tale--though, from the Knickerbocker point of view, there were tragic overtones. The foreign policy of the Confederation in relation to the Dutch during the first decade of the Confederacy was set by the bouncy Colony on the Sound. Indeed New Haven, secure in the arms of the Confederacy, was likened by the Dutch Governor to an eagle swooping down to enrage the "Beette Fly" (the Dutch), after which the eagle would return to its secluded nest.2

The concern of the New England colonies for their Dutch neighbors was a primary force in the forming of the Confederation. As early as 1634, the Plymouth traders saw, when they sought passage up the Fresh River, Dutch guns from the Fort of Good Hope at Hartford turned on them.3 Though the Puritan


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