The Original Melting Pot? A Second Look at New Netherland

November 27, 2003

Source: The New York Times

On November 27, 2003 The New York Times published a Thanksgiving editorial on America's "original melting pot," the Dutch colony of New Netherland — which had as its capital New Amsterdam, precursor to New York City. Russell Shorto writes that the colony "has a ragged historical profile, which suits it because it was a jumble of ethnicities and had an excess of pirates and prostitutes. But its mixed nature is precisely the point. These forgotten pioneers forged America's first melting pot, making this holiday a particularly appropriate moment to recognize their achievement... It wasn't accidental that Swedes, Germans, Jews and others flocked to this colony, for the Dutch Republic of the 17th century was itself built on a policy of tolerance that made it the melting pot of Europe... In one of history's most overlooked chains of influence, this same Dutch tolerance that made the Netherlands the intellectual center of early modern Europe also helped fashion the city of hip-hop and sushi, Korean delis and Arab newsstands. But the influence of New Netherland doesn't end at the shores of Manhattan — or at Breuckelen, or even the tip of 'Lange Eylandt.' The colony ranged across the Middle Atlantic region, covering parts of five future states. After the English takeover, its residents stayed and simply continued about their lives. This is the region that historians now see as the birthplace of religious pluralism in America: as the origin of the melting pot."