At the marketing end of the Indian
trading cycle, the European colonists at the center of everything were
the Dutch. New Netherland's whole reason for existence was the Indian
trade. When something happened to the Dutch, therefore, whether its
source lay in Europe, colonies, or Indian country, its effects
reverberated through the tribes. The Susquehannock's were no exception
to this rule. If Dutch interests and Dutch activities are examined
closely, they reveal the clues needed to understand Susquehannock
We may begin with the crisis presented to the traders of New Netherland
in 1642. In the background of the crisis lay the fact that so long as
the Indians of the far west had had to journey all the way to Three
Rivers or Quebec for a French market, the Iroquois could hope to
intercept and share in the trade, and the Iroquois would bring their
share to Rensselaerswyck. But the French founded Montreal in 1642 and
thereby overleaped Iroquois obstruction.25 Since the Mohawks would not
permit the western tribes to trade directly with Rensselaerswyck, the
effect of the founding of Montreal was to cut off western peltry from
the Dutch on the Hudson.26
The trade of the Connecticut valley had been ruined several years
previously by trading posts of New Englanders at Windsor and Hartford.
Now, coincidentally with the founding of Montreal, the New Sweden
Company was reorganized to compete more aggressively for trade at the
Delaware Bay. Governor Johan Printz took charge of the Swedish colony
and built a series of blockhouses to intercept Susquehannock trade; in
1644 or 1645, he sent an embassy to Susquehannock country to negotiate a
monopoly of the trade for Sweden, thus cutting off western peltry from
the Dutch on the Delaware.27
At the same time, many of the Indians of the Hudson valley and Long
Island grew resentful at Dutch ill treatment, and in 1643 they rose in
fierce rebellion. New Netherland was in trouble in every direction. It
is no wonder, then, that the Dutch found it politic to make their first
treaty of peace and friendship with the Mohawks in 1643, and to renew it
in 1645.28 For the Dutch, these treaties bought Mohawk intervention in
their Indian war, which in turn brought the belligerents to a peace
treaty. For the Mohawks, the treaties gained the right to trade for guns
and ammunition on an unprecedented scale. Dutch arms were the decisive
factor in the Iroquois triumph over the Hurons in 1649 and 1650, and
there can be little doubt that Dutch logistics also supported the Mohawk
attack on the Susquehannock's in 1651-1652.29 Though the Dutch mistrusted
the Mohawks, fearing lest the latter get out of hand, the essential fact
was that the Mohawks were serving Dutch interests by pursuing their
own.30 Mohawk peacemaking between the Dutch and the other Indians
increased Mohawk prestige.31 The Mohawk triumph in Huronia promised to
divert some of the western furs to Rensselaerswyck. The Mohawk battle
against the Susquehannock's was indirectly a battle against the Swedish
backers of the Susquehannock's.
While the Mohawks were thus doing Dutch business, the Susquehannock's
compounded their offenses against the Dutch by leaguing with yet another
hostile power to strengthen themselves against the Dutchaligned Mohawks.
In 1652 the Susquehannock's made a treaty of peace with English
Maryland.32 Now we must remember that 1652 marked the beginning of the
first AngloDutch war, and during that war the Delaware Bay Swedes seized
their opportunity and the contiguous Dutch real estate.33 Though the war
ended in 1654, the Swedes remained for a while in possession of all of
Delaware Bay. They had timed their seizure well, and their Susquehannock
allies and trading partners continued to be their main source of
strength and profit.
It is not hard to imagine the Dutch being somewhat displeased with the
Susquehannock's. Our clue lies in a Swedish document. Governor Johan
Rising reported to Sweden that his Lenape neighbors on Delaware Bay had
become "very proud"insufferably soand that he could do nothing but
appease them unless Sweden would send him troops. Appeasement took the
form of giving goods on credit to the Lenape, which they then traded to
the Susquehannocks for the latter's peltry; the Lenape completed their
brokerage by selling the furs in New Amsterdam for higher prices than
the Swedes would pay. That the Susquehannocks did not do their own
trading at New Amsterdam bespeaks exclusion from the Dutch market. For
the time being, the tributary Lenape (if they still were tributary) had
the only access to the best market, and the Susquehannocks'
fortunesalready damaged by their Mohawk warcontinued to decline.34
Worse was in store. The Dutch reconquered Delaware Bay in 1655, ending
New Sweden forever. The Susquehannocks could no longer sustain
themselves independently of Dutch friendship. They showed their
capitulation in 1658 when they, like the Mohawks before them, exerted
influence to end the renewed wars of the Esopus Indians of Hudson River
against the Dutch. Reasoning with tribes whom they called tributaries,
the Susquehannocks confessed that they had been forced "to submit to the
Dutch or hide.35 Thus it came about that the Mohawks and
Susquehannocks could fight fiercely in 1651, pursue parallel policies in
1658, and join together in the same conference in 1660 to pressure the
still refractory Esopus Indians into submission. The turnabout of
MohawkSusquehannock relations, so mysterious out of context, appears
supremely simple against its background. The Mohawks had not won
Susquehannock surrender, but the Dutch had.
From 1658 to 1662 was the period of maximum friendship between the
Susquehannocks and Mohawks. The two nations then conceived their
diplomatic roles in explicitly similar terms. In 1658 the Mohawks
reminded the Dutch at Fort Orange "that at the time of the war against
the savages they had gone down to the Manhattans and had done their best
to preserve peace; therefore we too [the Dutch] were in duty bound to do
the same for them while they promise to exert themselves in future as
mediators between us and other savages." The Mohawks then demanded help
against other Iroquois nations who were trying to break through the
Mohawk cordon around Dutch markets.86 In 1662 the Susquehannocks
asserted to the Dutch at Delaware Bay that they had "at all times let
themselves be employed to mediate in differences between the Christians
and the other savages, to which they still consider themselves obliged."
They, too, wanted supplies on credit with which to fight their (nonMohawk)
enemies among the Iroquois.37 It appears that the Susquehannocks
attempted to control the Delaware market as the Mohawks attempted to
control the Hudson market, and both had to fight the more distant
Iroquois nations that tried to break their monopolies.
interception: Van Rensselaer's memorial, 25 Nov., 1633, Van
Rensselaer Bowler Manuscripts, ed. and trans., A. J. F. Van Laer
(Albany, 1908), p. 248. Montreal: Founding date, 17 May, 1642,
Jesuit Relations 22: p. 211. Simultaneously Fort Richelieu was
built on the Richelieu River to obstruct Iroquois access to the
St. Lawrence. The alarmed Iroquois attacked the construction
gang at once. Ibid. 22: pp. 277-279. That all this building was
very consciously directed against Dutch interests as well as
Iroquois is revealed by a letter of Charles Lalemant to Jesuit
Provincial Etienne Charlet, Paris, 28 Feb., 1642, ibid. 21: pp.
269-271. See also the Introduction by Percy J. Robinson to
François Du Creux, The History of Canada or New France (2 v.,
Toronto, 1951) 1: pp. xviiixix.
reasoned that the wars of the Iroquois were caused by the "exhaustion"
of the beaver in Iroquoia by 1640 (p. 34). Though undoubtedly
identifying a tendency, Hunt overstated its effect. His cited
sources are susceptible to another interpretation than he gave
them; namely, that the decline in Iroquois trade occurred
because of increased French obstruction of Iroquois access to
the Western beaver that had been of critical importance to the
trade as early as 1633. French policy became more aggressive
after 1640, culminating in the 1642 founding of Montreal, the
significance of which escaped Hunt's attention. Yet Hunt dated
"the true beginning of the long and desolating wars of the
Iroquois" in 1642! (pp. 74-75). His exhaustionofthebeaver thesis
is contradicted by a source listed in his bibliography. See
Adriaen van der Donck, "A Description of New Netherlands" (2d
ed., 1656), NewYork Historical Society Collections, 2d series (3
v., New York, 1841-1857) 1: pp. 209210. Van der Donck, as
Sheriff of Rensselaerswyck, had handled thousands of skins and
dealt with the Mohawks informally, commercially, and in formal
diplomatic negotiations. As an expert on the fur trade, his
authority must be ranked second to none. He did not arrive in
New Netherland until 1642, two years after the supposed "exhaustion"
of the beaver, and he stated that "in the NewNetherlands, and in
the adjacent country, about eighty thousand beavers have been
killed annually, during my residence of nine years in the
country." Ibid., p. 221. See also pp. 126-127, 161, 170,
Andries Hudde, 7 Nov., 1648, and Report of Johan Printz, 20
Feb., 1647, The Instruction for Johan Prints, ed., Amandus
Johnson (Philadelphia, 1930), pp. 255258, 132-133; "The
Representation of New Netherlands," NewYork Hist. Soc.
Collections, 2d series, 2: pp. 276-279.
1643: Ref. in minutes of treaty, 24 Sept., 1659, Minutes of the
Court of Fort Orange and Beverwyck (1652-1660), ed. and trans.,
A. J. F. Van Laer (2 v., Albany, 1920-1923) 2: p. 215; 1645: Van
der Donck, op. cit., p. 161. For an unsparing contemporary
account of Director Kieft's war against the Esopus Indians, see
"Broad Advice to the United Netherland Provinces" (1649),
NewYork Hist. Soc. Collections, 2d series, 3: pp. 237-283.
first MohawkDutch treaty in 1643, the Mohawks suffered from a
shortage of firearms. In April, 1641, five hundred "well armed"
Iroquois treating with the French possessed only thirtysix
arquebuses. Those without guns were armed "in savage fashion."
In December, 1644, however, a "Board of Accounts" in Holland
reported that arms and ammunition "for full 400 men" had been
sold to the Mohawks though firearms had been refused to other
Indians in New Netherland. It is impossible to escape the
inference that the pioneer 1643 treaty between the Dutch and the
Mohawks had involved a deal in arms. The Holland Board, in
making its report, decided to conciliate and satisfy the Indians
in New Netherlands, and its action was followed by another
treaty with the Mohawks in 1645. In that era there could be no "satisfaction"
of Indians without trade in arms. The subsequent success of
Mohawk warfare, which contrasts strongly with the Mohawks' bad
showing before the 1640's, testifies loudly about the contents
of the 1645 treaty. Paul Le Jeune, "Relation of 16401641,"
Jesuit Relations 21: pp. 33, 3637; Report of the Board of
Accounts on New Netherlands, 15 Dec., 1644; N. Y. Col. Docs. 1:
Sept., 23 Sept., and 2 Oct., 1650, Minutes of the Court of
Rensselaerswyck, 1648-1652, trans. and ed., A. J. F. Van Laer
(Albany, 1922), pp. 127-130.
At the treaty in Fort Amsterdam,
30 Aug., 1645, peace was made with the Indians of the lower
Hudson "in the presence of the Maquas [Mohawks] ambassadors, who
were solicited to assist in this negociation, as arbitrators."
N.Y. Hist. Soc. Collections, 2d series, 1 pp. 275-276. My
italics. It appears that the Mohawks had not fought as Dutch
allies, although other Indians had been commissioned "to beat
and destroy the hostile tribes." B. B. O'Callaglian, History of
New Netherland (2 v., N. Y., 1855) 1: pp. 354-355.
Minutes, 28 June, 1652, Md. Arch.
(Council) 3: pp. 276-278.
Johnson, The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664 (2
v., Philadelphia, 1911) 2: pp. 582-584.
Report of Gov. Johan Rising, 1655,
Myers, Narratives, pp. 157, 159.
Treaty minutes, 1518 Oct., 1658,
N. V. Col. Does. 13: p. 95.
Council Minutes, 13 Aug., 1658, N. V. Col. Does. 13: pp. 8889. I
use the term "nation" as an expedient to avoid anthropological
controversy over the nature of a tribe. Certainly Indian "nations"
cannot be properly compared to European nations, but if the term
is understood to identify only a selfconsciously distinct
political entity, it is preferable to the circumlocutions
required in its absence.
Wm. Beeckman to Dir. Stuyvesant,
23 Dec., 1662, N. V. Col. Docs. 12: p. 419.