On August 26, 1664, four English ships sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanded that the colony of New Netherland surrender to the English. Peter Stuyvesant, the Director-General of New Netherland, tried to rally the people of New Amsterdam to fight, but he soon realized they preferred to surrender peacefully. Stuyvesant set up a meeting between the citizens of New Amsterdam and the English representatives so that they could negotiate terms of surrender. On September 8, 1664, New Netherland was officially handed over to the English and renamed New York.
When word of the surrender of New Netherland reached the Dutch Republic, the government launched a full investigation to find out what happened and who was at fault. This document, collected during their investigation, is the eye-witness account of two Dutch soldiers who were working for the Dutch West India Company during the surrender.
The soldiers told the government that Lydia de Meyer and Hillegond van Ruyven, two wives of New Amsterdam council members, visited the English camp before any official meeting took place. Why were Dutch women visiting the enemy camp during a military standoff? When Peter Stuyvesant announced his intention to fight the English, he made it impossible for any of the men who served in the government to reach out to the English without committing treason. So members of the city council sent their wives instead. It was a perfect solution: as women, Lydia and Hillegond could speak to the English without committing treason, and their high status as wives of city council members meant that the English would take them seriously. Hillegond and Lydia smoothed the way to a peaceful surrender when the men of New Amsterdam could not. Hillegond’s comment to the soldiers as she left makes it clear that, for these women, protecting the settlement of New Amsterdam was far more important than protecting the pride of the Dutch government.