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Peter Stuyvesant[38]

One of the best known historical figures associated with Curaçao, Peter Stuyvesant actually spent very little time on the island. He arrived to assume the position of Director of Curaçao in October 1642; after losing his leg in an attack on the Spanish fort on St. Maarten, he departed for the Netherlands in 1644, continuing his directorship from afar. In 1646 Stuyvesant, whose St. Maarten adventure had earned him the nickname "Pegleg," was appointed Director General of Curaçao and New Netherland, a post he administered from the North American colony until the English ousted the Dutch in September 1664. Thereafter, Curaçao had its own WIC-appointed Director.

Stuyvesant hoped to combine Curaçao and New Netherland into one colony, with the former supplying slaves, salt and horses, and the latter primarily providing foodstuffs, but the independent commercial interests of each prevailed. Both colonies were already engaged in lucrative smuggling ventures: New Netherland with the English colonists in Virginia, Curaçao with the Spanish American mainland. These trade interests took precedence over any formal political affiliation with each other. In 1660 Stuyvesant had to pay the WIC an exorbitant price for slaves to build forts and work as domestic servants in New Netherland because it was more lucrative for the WIC to sell them to the Spanish colonies. The latter got first choice in the purchase of slaves from Curaçao, leaving only the infirm for shipment to New Netherland.


Peter Stuyvesant (FIB)

Nevertheless, there was a thriving trade between New Netherland and the Dutch Caribbean islands, which continued even after the English seized the former, renaming it New York, and redoubled in importance during the American Revolutionary War. There are many surviving business records of ties between the two over the centuries.

With the Director several thousand miles away, administering another colony with its own, often different interests, Curaçao enjoyed a great deal of autonomy during the Stuyvesant years. The Vice-Director, who resided on the island, was de facto in charge, reporting directly to the WIC Chamber in Amsterdam rather than to

Stuyvesant. After Stuyvesant visited Curaçao in 1655, he appears to have maintained regular correspondence with the Vice-Director. When the Dutch lost New Netherland, Stuyvesant may have entertained ideas of returning to the island in an administrative position; however, a 1668 letter from the Amsterdam Chamber of the WIC admonished the new island Director ìthat he shall not defer to the former Director Stuyvesant, should he arrive there, in any matter whatsoever, but shall treat him as a private person."[39] The WIC also asked for advice on a possible new directorship for Pegleg, but the response has been lost to history.

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