World History Blog Logo

New York Colonies Facts You Might Want to Know

United States [1664–1776]

By Saul Mcleod, Last Updated: May 23, 2022

Among the thirteen colonies along North America's Atlantic coast was the New York Colony. The colonies were divided into three geographic areas: New England, the Middle colonies, and the Southern Colonies.

The New York Colony, originally called the Province of New York, was a part of the Middle Colonies.

The New York Colony existed from 1664 to 1776. It started as a proprietary colony under British rule and went on to become a royal colony.

The Discovery

The British called it the Province of New York. British explorer Henry Hudson explored the area around the New York City of today in 1609; he was on a quest to explore a route crossing the Arctic circle to China.

Taking up this search for the Dutch East India Company got him to the New York area, which wasn't a colony at the time. The state's Hudson River was named in honor of Henry Hudson.

British Rule

With the Dutch take-over of the land, they colonized it and called it the New Netherlands. The Dutch rule led to the New Netherland Dutch trading outpost.

In 1625, Peter Minuit, an official of the Dutch West India Company, picked Manhattan island while exploring the New Netherlands' surrounding area to create a new trading post. This was purchased from a tribe of Native Americans in exchange for $24 worth of goods.

After the island was renamed New Amsterdam, the Dutch residents made it an essential place for trading and commerce. In 1664, the governor of New Amsterdam surrendered the land to the British. Following this, it was renamed the Province of New York.

The colony's name was declared by the Duke of York and Albany, the brother (James) of England's King Charles II. With the coronation of Duke of York as King James II, the New York Colony, which was a Dutch colony right until then, officially became a royal colony.

Proprietary Government

The Royal Colony consisted of New Netherland and present-day Maine. The colony never saw the Duke of York's visits, with him exercising minimal direct control.

He administered his governance with self-appointed officials rather than an elected assembly. In his attempt to settle a debt with Sir George Carteret, the Duke handed over the part between Hudson River and Delaware River to him, which was named the Island of Jersey.

Lord Berkeley of Stratton acquired New Jersey's other part, making him and Carteret New Jersey's English Lords Proprietors. The Duke's Laws for colonial New York were drafted by the first governor Richard Nicolls. A few different governors served in this position, while October 1683 saw the creation of a colonial assembly that passed the Province of New York Constitution.

By November, the government’s reorganization led to the division of the state. Twelve counties were formed to be subdivided into towns.

The colony had tolerance to religious freedom. Most of the believers were of the reformed churches in 1750, despite multiple denominations having been founded. The New York colony, too, had one Jewish synagogue and one Roman Catholic church then.

The colony's population was quite diverse, with Dutch, English, and European people residing there, along with enslaved Africans and freedmen.

Among all northern territories, this colony had the highest slave population around the mid-eighteenth century. Influential families and clans were in great numbers along the Hudson River Valley, owning vast estates.

Although there were initially 12 counties, another two were included in 1772. The geographical location of this colony was suitable for functioning as an ideal trading center by the British troops, benefiting the economy of England.

New York colony included lowlands and farmlands, and the topography was also mountainous, with a coastal plain. With its pivotal balance between the summers and cold winters, it was favorable for farming. This led the people to develop a typical farm measuring 50-100 acres, including fields, houses, and barns.

The Hudson Valley had sufficient agricultural land and iron ore, among other natural resources. It was known as the breadbasket colony due to the production of major crops, especially wheat, that became the source of flour exported to England.

The iron ore would be used as raw material to produce a range of tools and kitchen goods by the colony workers.

Trade relations prospered in the colony, with its economy impacting the fur trade between Dutch traders and the Indians through Fort Orange or present-day Albany.

In 1727, the Dutch traders at Fort Oswego by Lake Ontario established a provincial trading post. They were keen on holding on to the northern fur trade.

The gathering of the colonies for the meeting at the Continental Congress led to their mutual decision to declare independence from Great Britain, except for the New York Colony. Initially abstaining from the independence vote, they eventually agreed.

The British, driven out of Boston, made preparations to attack New York. However, with only Navy defense, it was challenging for George Washington to fight the war.

While many of his generals wanted to burn down the city, Congress ordered him to defend Long Island. This led to a series of battles, including the Battle of Long Island, that ended with the victorious British forces holding on to the colony.

Independence from the English colonists was attained in 1776 with the Fourth Provincial Congress. After adopting its own Constitution in 1777, George Clinton was appointed the first governor of New York.

In 1788, New York Colony was formally declared as a state of America, also becoming the country's first capital city.

This was followed by Albany becoming the capital of New York State in 1797. It is believed one-third of the American Revolutionary War occurred in New York Colony.

The New York state of today evolved from the New York Colony. It is a central commercial hub globally and houses a culturally diverse population. The evolution over the last couple of centuries has been quite fascinating. 

Cite this Article (Chicago Style)

Mcleod, S. "New York Colonies Facts You Might Want to Know." World History Blog, May 23, 2022.

About the Author

Saul Mcleod is a qualified psychology teacher with over 17 years' experience of working in further and higher education. He has recently worked as a psychology teaching assistant for The University of Manchester, Division of Neuroscience & Experimental Psychology

He previously worked for Wigan and Leigh College, where he was a psychology lecturer for ten years, primarily teaching A-level psychology and sociology.