Director of New Netherland, 1626-1633
Pieter Minuit, born in 1580, was a Walloon from Wesel, Duchy of Cleves. By trade, he was a diamond cutter but had visited New Netherland in 1625 when, under the direction of Captain Verhulst, he had explored the rivers north of Manhattan to identify trading opportunities.
Director Minuit, the first civilian director in New Netherland, arrived on May 4, 1626. He had travelled on board the ship the Sea Gull, accompanied by his Council – Pieter Bylvelt, Jacob Wissinck, John Brouwer, Simon Pos, and Reynert Harmensen. The role of the Council was to advise the Director upon all matters pertaining to the government of the colony, and to ensure that the interests of the Company were protected. The Director and Council together acted as a court of law with limited civil and criminal jurisdiction.
The previous Director, Willem Verhulst, had already chosen the island of Manhattan as the location for the Dutch West India Company’s fort and headquarters, and the Company instructed their new Director to purchase the island from the Native Americans. Director Minuit reportedly concluded the purchase on May 24, 1626.
A second instruction was influenced by the attack by the Mohawks on Daniel van Kriekenbeek, the Commissar (Commander) of Fort Orange, and his men. The order required Minuit to gather all the colonists in the outlying settlements into a safe location, and the Director relocated all of them to Manhattan where the new fort was being constructed. By 1628, the number of settlers in Manhattan was 270.
Pieter Minuit was recalled to the Netherlands in 1633, probably due to growing tension between the interests of the Company and those of the patroons. He later became Director of New Sweden, a colony established to the south of New Netherland.
Director Pieter Minuit died in June 1638 during a storm at sea.