One of many important factors in examining the origins of the colony of New Amsterdam is the relationship that existed between the Natives and the Dutch. Initially, the relationship they shared was amicable, however there are several factors that help to explain the decline of the relationship. With them, the Dutch brought disease and cultural values unfamiliar to the Natives. Clearly disease created tension in the relationship due to the fact that numerous amounts of natives were dying quickly as they had not been exposed to the same environment and bacteria that the Dutch had been (Burrows, Wallace, p. 11-12). An additional factor in the deterioration of the relationship was the difference in how they viewed land ownership. While the Dutch believed that land could be purchased, and done so by an individual, the Natives believed that “land was like the sun and the stars, the wind and the rain, inasmuch as they could be used and enjoyed but not possessed” (Dunbar, Jackson, p. 28). This difference in belief thus created a significant problem between the Dutch and the Natives when it came to territory. It is likely that neither the Dutch nor the Natives understood that different cultures could exist outside of their own.
It is interesting to note that an additional factor in the decline of their relationship was the introduction of alcohol to the Natives through trade with the Dutch (Dunbar, Jackson, p. 28-29). It almost comes as a surprise that something as simple as alcohol could have an impact on this relationship and, combined with several other factors, lead to the messiness of fighting and war. It can be argued that the constant warfare between the Dutch and Natives hindered the development, and the pace of development, of the colony of New Amsterdam.
Alcohol, surprisingly, seems to be at the center of the origins of the colony of New Amsterdam. Excerpts from Taverns and Drinking in Early America demonstrate the impact that alcohol had on the development of this colony. Early on, colonists believed that alcohol was a cure for disease, and in fact, was so beneficial that one should drink it more so than they drink water (Salinger, p. 3). Due to the popularity of alcohol, taverns played a central role in society within the colony and thus impacted the origins of New Amsterdam. In fact, due to its role in society, the tavern can be seen as a medium. Not only were taverns a place for drinking, club gatherings, sleeping, eating, and entertainment, but they also acted as venues for local town meetings and even political debate (Salinger, p. 58-59, 71-72, 76,). It can be noted that because of the lack of media and communication methods at that time, taverns served as a medium for communication, especially in rural areas. Due to the fact that both locals and travelers took refuge in taverns demonstrates that news and stories communicated in one tavern among a group of people, would not only spread throughout the local area, but could even travel to other towns (Salinger p. 64-65). It is therefore evident that taverns acted as an important form of media before other forms, such as printing, were invented.
It seems that in her discussion in Taverns and Drinking in Early America Salinger maintains a conservative element to these taverns in the colony, however, it can be argued that these taverns, which can also be considered media, were anything but, and instead a place for the instigation of change. Although lawmakers and leaders in the community tried to regulate the taverns, they were unable to (Salinger, p. 128-129). Taverns provided a place where people of the colony could get together with one another and discuss the political and social aspects of their colonial lives. The colonists’ ideas and beliefs could easily thrive off of one another, which could potentially lead to protests and uprisings. Any space (in this case a tavern) where people can meet, talk and discuss issues of importance can serve as a medium that assists in the transformation of a society. Due to the activities, and at times the extremity of the activities, taverns seem to have served as a place where boundaries could be pushed and thus a place where culture could transform and evolve.
Burrows, Edwin G., and Mike Wallace. Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Print.
Dunbar, David S., and Kenneth T. Jackson. Empire City: New York Through the Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002. Print
Salinger, Sharon V. Taverns and Drinking in Early America. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2002. Print.