On August 27, 1664, four English ships sailed into New Amsterdam’s harbor and demanded that the Dutch surrender New Netherland 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 the citizens of New Amsterdam preferred to surrender peacefully. Peter understood that he could not defend the colony without the support of the citizens. He arranged a meeting between the citizens of New Amsterdam and the English to negotiate the terms of surrender. On September 8, 1664, New Netherland was officially handed over to the English and renamed New York.
When the Dutch government learned about the surrender of New Netherland, they launched a full investigation to find out what happened and who was at fault. This document was collected during the investigation. It is an eyewitness account from two Dutch soldiers who were working for the Dutch West India Company during the surrender.
This account reveals that two New Amsterdam women visited the English camp before any official meeting took place. This visit was a critical moment in the surrender of New Netherland. By announcing that he planned to fight the English, Peter Stuyvesant made it treason for any member of the New Amsterdam City Council to negotiate with the English. So two council members sent their wives instead. Because they were women, Lydia de Meyer and Hillegond van Ruyven could speak to the English without committing treason, and their high status as the wives of city council members meant that the English would take them seriously. Hillegond and Lydia facilitated the peaceful surrender of New Amsterdam when the men of the city council 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 more important than protecting the pride of the Dutch government.