Adriaen van der Donck

From Roses, Tulips, & Liberty
Adriaen van der Donck
8th Director-General of New Netherland
In office
1656 – 5 April 1660
MonarchFirst Stadholderless period
Preceded byPeter Stuyvesant
Succeeded byPaulus Leendertz van der Grift
Personal details
Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck

c. 1618
Breda, Netherlands
Died5 April 1660
New Amsterdam, New Netherland
SpouseMary Doughty (m. 1645)
ChildrenHendrick van der Donck
Alma materLeiden University
SignatureFile:File:Signature of Adriaen van der Donck (c. 1618 – 1655).png

Jonkheer Adriaen Cornelissen van der Donck (c. 1618 – 5 April 1660), was a lawyer, writer, and reformist who served as the eighth Director-General of New Netherland from 1656 until his death. He was instrumental in the establishment, self-government, and survival of the Colony through his schoutship in Rensselaerswÿck, his political activism, his popular writings, and of course the brief political office he held towards the end of his life. Due to his fruitful political and economic ventures, he is nearly universally considered the principal Stamvader (Dutch for 'patriarch') of modern New Netherland and by extension the Amerikaener people.

Life in Europe: 1618–1641

Van der Donck was born in 1618 in the city of Breda, located in the Dutch Republic. He was the second son of Cornelis Gijsbrechtszoon van der Donck and Agatha van Bergen. Through his maternal line, he was the direct descendant of Adriaen van Bergen, a shipmaster who played an instrumental role in liberating the region of Breda from Spanish forces in the last years of the 16th century.

On 26 September 1638, he was enrolled as a student in Leiden University. Upon graduation in the spring of 1641, he acquired a job as schout at the Rensselaerswÿck patroonship. On 17 May of the same year, van der Donck left Europe on the ship Den Eyckenboom, arriving in New Amsterdam in August.

Early career in New Netherland

As a schout under the Rensselaer family, he spent the majority of his time in the Katskill Mountains, interacting with indigenous Americans and composing numerous literary works.

Van der Donck briefly returned to the Netherlands in 1643, finding his parents divorced. Strangely, and even more so for he times, his wealthy mother Agatha van Bergen was paying her ex-husband one hundred guilders annually as alimony.

On 22 October 1645, he married Mary Doughty, the daughter of Reverend Francis Doughty of Maspeth, an English vicar and opponent of former Director-General William Kieft. Their marriage yielded one adult son, Hendrick van der Donck, who was born two years prior to his father's death in 1658.

After several years employed by other Dutchmen, he successfully purchased his own lands in northern New Amsterdam in 1647, naming it Colendonck. Today, the site and name of Colendonck survives as a neighborhood in the southwestern portion of the Borough of Jonkers.

In May 1653, van der Donck submitted his book, Beschryvinge van Nieuw-Nederlant ('A Description of New Netherland'), for publication. It included a detailed description of the Colony and its indigenous peoples.

See also