The Dutch And The Swedes On The Delaware
Swedish territorial and commercial expansion.—In the first half of the seventeenth century Sweden rose to the position of a first class power. When Gustavus Adolphus ascended the throne in 1611, Sweden was at war with Denmark, Russia, and Poland. After defeating each power, the king entered the Thirty Years' War as the champion of Protestantism, his victorious career coming to an untimely end at Lützen. Until 1654 Christina was queen but the real ruler was Oxenstierna, who piloted Sweden through the closing years of the war and secured advantageous terms in the treaty of peace. From 1648 until 1654, Sweden enjoyed peace, but the frivolities of the court ruined the possibilities of greatness and the decline began. Charles X became king in 1654, and his brilliant but disastrous military ventures reduced his country to a third-rate power. At the beginning of the period of Swedish greatness, her commerce was confined to the Baltic, but when nearly all the lands on its shores had been acquired, Swedish statesmen looked forward to a wider commerce, a policy which brought them into rivalry with Holland and England. Numerous trading companies were formed, among the most important being the African and Russian companies, and the various organizations which operated on the Delaware River and in the West Indies.
Usselincx.—The attention of Sweden was drawn to the Delaware by Usselincx, the promoter of the Dutch West India Company, who had left Holland in disgust and who hoped to interest the Swedes. In 1624 he laid his plans before Gustavus Adolphus; this resulted in the granting of a charter to The South Company to establish trade "for Asia, Africa, America and Magellanica." Usselincx experienced great difficulty in raising money, and the directors ruined his schemes by diverting the capital to commercial enterprises in Sweden. In 1629 the company was reorganized and an attempt was made to trade with Spain, but this ended in disaster. Usselincx continued his endeavors, and in 1633 The New South Company was organized, but this like its predecessors came to naught.
The New Sweden Company.—The settling of the Swedes on the Delaware was directly due to the Dutchmen, Samuel Blommaert and Peter Minuit. Blommaert held out the idea that the West Indies would be a market for Swedish copper; Minuit that the Delaware region offered a place for the fur trade and colonization. Several other Dutch merchants were interested, and half of the capital of the Swedish company was furnished by Hollanders. By 1637 the company was organized and the first expedition set sail.
Fort Christina.—The two vessels arrived in the spring of 1638, lands were purchased from the Indians, fur trade opened, and a fort established on Christina Creek two miles from the Delaware. The Dutch at Ft. Nassau protested, but were too weak to oust the newcomers. In 1640 two boats arrived with settlers and goods, large tracts of land at various points on both sides of the bay and river as far as Trenton were purchased, and farms and tobacco plantations were started.
Governor Printz.—In 1642 the company was reorganized, the Swedish government taking part of the stock, the Dutch being eliminated. At the request of the Swedish council of state Johan Printz, a prominent officer in the army, became governor, a post which he filled until 1653. He erected Ft. Elfsborg and established his capital at New Gothenborg, where a fort was built. A blockhouse was also erected on the Schuylkill, other vantage points were occupied, and the Swedes soon secured the fur trade of the Delaware. From the first the weakness of the Swedish project was the lack of colonists, a few hundred being the total migration in the first ten years. In 1644 there were only one hundred and twenty men and a few women and children in the colony. During the next five years not a vessel arrived, and when Printz retired in 1653 there were only two hundred people in the colony.
End of Swedish power on the Delaware.—Stuyvesant determined to get control of the river trade. In 1651 he went to the Delaware with a considerable force. In spite of protests from Printz, lands were purchased from the Indians, and Ft. Casimir was built near the present site of New Castle, the other Dutch forts being abandoned. In 1653 the Swedish crown planned to help New Sweden. In the spring of 1654 about three hundred and fifty colonists were sent over under John Rising. He immediately seized Ft. Casimir. At Ft. Christina a town was laid out, new tracts were purchased from the Indians, and lands were assigned to the colonists. The action of the Swedes in seizing Ft. Casimir angered Stuyvesant, and he urged the West India Company to occupy New Sweden. In September, 1655, a Dutch fleet appeared in the Delaware, and the forts surrendered, thus ending the colony of New Sweden.
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