[ End of article ]

New Sweden or the Swedes on the Delaware

The Honor of projecting the first Swedish settlement in foreign parts is due to Willem Usselinx, a native of Antwerp, who resided for several years in Spain, Portugal, and the Azores, and was afterward engaged in mercantile pursuits in Holland, acquiring distinction as the chief founder of the Dutch West India Company.... He visited Sweden and succeeded in inducing Gustavus II. (Adolphus) to issue a Manifest at Gottenburg, Nov. 10, 1624, instituting a general commercial society, called the Australian Company, with special privileges of traffic with Africa, Asia, and America. Authority was conferred on Usselinx to solicit subscriptions, and a contract of trade was drawn up to be signed by the contributors, the whole scheme being commended in a paper of great length by the projector of it. On the 14th of June, 1626, a more ample charter was conceded and followed by an order of the sovereign requiring subscribers to make their payments by May 1628. It was believed that the enterprise would prove of great commercial benefit to Sweden and furnishing, in the colonies to be established, safe place of retreat for many exiles. Just before the battle of Lützen closed the earthly career of Gustavus, a new charter was prepared for his signature. This paper, which was already dated, was published by Axel Oxenstjerna, Chancellor of the Kingdom of Sweden, at Heilbronn, April 10, 1633, and was confirmed Dec. 12, 1634. Another, written at the same time and signed by the Chancellor May 1, 1633, recognized Usselinx as "Head Director of the New South Company".

The first real advance toward the founding of New Sweden was made in 1635. In May of that year Chancellor Oxenstjerna visited Holland, held correspondence upon the advantages of forming a Swedish settlement on the coast of Brazil or Guinea, with Samuel Blommaert, a merchant of Amsterdam and a member of the Dutch West India Company, who had participated five years before in at attempt to colonize the shores of the Delaware. Proposals were made by Usselinx, now Swedish minister, to induce the States of Holland to found a "Zuid-Compagnie", in conjunction with his Government; but the Assembly of the Nineteen refused their consent. Peter Minuit, or Minnewit, a native of Wesel, who had served the Dutch West India Company from 1626 to 1632 as Director-General of New Netherland, living in New Amsterdam, was the person... destined to conduct the first Swedish expedition to America.

In a letter dated at Amsterdam, June 15, 1636, Minuit offered to make a voyage to the Virginias, New Netherland, and other regions adjoining, certain places well known to him, with a very good climate, which might be named Nova Suedia; and this proposal, or one grounded on it, was read in the Swedish Råd, the 27th of September. It was determined to form a Swedish-Dutch Company to carry on trade with, and establish colonies on, portions of the North American coast not previously taken up by the Dutch or English. The cost of the first expedition was estimated at twenty-four thousand (it actually amounted to over thirty-six thousand) Dutch florins, half of which was to be contributed by Minuit and Blommaert and their friends, and the remaining half to be subscribed in Sweden. Minuit was to be leader of it, and Blommaert the commissioner in Amsterdam. After these stipulations had been concluded, in February 1637, Minuit set out for Stockholm. The Government promised to place two fullyequipped vessels at the disposal of the Company, while the contribution of money required from Sweden was subscribed by Axel Oxenstjerna, his brother Gabriel Gustafsson Oxenstjerna, their cousin Gabriel Bengtsson Oxenstjerna, and Clas Fleming (Royal Councillors and Guardians of Queen Christina), and Peter Spiring. Fleming, like the Chancellor, was a very zealous promoter of the project and obtained a commission to fit out the ships. The vessels were not ready to sail until late in the autumn. Soon after leaving, they encountered severe storms, and were obliged to put into the Dutch harbor of Medemblik, but set out once more in December for their place of destination.

Here they arrived not later than March, 1638, Minuit exercising his discretion as commander of the expedition to direct his course to the River Delaware, with which, under the name of the South River of New Netherland, he had become acquainted during his former sojourn in America. According to Campanius, the colonists first landed on the west side of Delaware Bay, below the Mordare Kil (Murderkill Creek), at a place they called Paradis Udden (Paradise Point), "probably", says he, "because it seemed so grateful and agreeable". They afterward proceeded up the river, and on the 29th of March, Minuit concluded a purchase of land from five chiefs of the Minquas (belonging to the great Iroquois race), appropriately rewarding them with articles of merchandise. The territory thus acquired embraced the west shore of the Delaware, from Bomtiens Udden (near Bombay Hook) northward to the River Schuylkill, no limit being assigned toward the interior. At its boundaries Minuit erected posts bearing the insignia of his sovereign, designating the country as NEW SWEDEN, and immediately built a fort, called, in honor of the queen, Christina, at a point of rocks about two miles from the mouth of the Minquas (now Christeen) Creek, to which stream he gave the name of Elbe....

A second expedition to New Sweden had already been projected, which Queen Christina and the Swedish partners in the South Company determined to render more national in character than that conducted by Minuit. Natives of Sweden were particularly invited to engage in it; and none volunteering to do so, the governors of Elfsborg and Värmland were directed to procure married soldiers who had evaded service or committed some other capital offence, who, with their wives and children, were promised the liberty of returning home at pleasure at the end of one or two years. A number of emigrants were at last assembled at Gottenburg, and reached Christina in safety the 17th of the following April....

Preparations were making in Sweden to send forth a fresh expedition to America. On the 13th of July, 1640, the Governor of Gottenburg was enjoined to persuade families of his province to emigrate, with their horses and cattle and other personal property. On the 29th the Governor of Värmland and Dal was directed to enlist certain Finns, and on the 30th the Governor of Örebro was instructed to induce people of the same race to accompany the rest to the Transatlantic Colony. Lieutenant Måns Kling, who had returned in the "Kalmar Nyckel", was also especially commissioned, on the 26th of the following September, to aid in this work and particularly to procure homeless Finns, who were living in the woods upon the charity of the settled population of Sweden. In all these mandates the fertility of the new country and the advantages of colonists in it are clearly intimated; and in the last it is declared to be the royal aim that the inhabitants of the kingdom may enjoy the valuable products of that land, increase in commerce and in knowledge of the sea, and enlarge their intercourse with foreign nations. In May 1641 the people collected by Kling accompanied him on the ship "Charitas" from Stockholm to Gottenburg, where they were joined by the others, who by that time were ready to set forth. On the 20th of February the Government had resolved to buy out the Dutch partners in their enterprise provided they abandoned all further claims. Thus the third Swedish expedition to New Sweden sailed under the auspices of a purely Swedish company. It arrived at its place of destination probably in the summer or autumn of 1641....

In Sweden the interest in the little American colony was now at its height; and in July and August 1642, Spiring was consulted in the Råd and Räkningekammår upon the question of appropriating the funds of the South and Ship Company for the expenses of another expedition across the ocean. This resulted in the formation of a new company, styled the West India, American, or New Sweden Company, although oftener known as the South Company, with a capital of thirty-six thousand riksdaler, half being contributed by the South and Ship Company, one sixth by the Crown, and the remainder by Oxenstjerna, Spiring, Fleming, and others. To it, also, was transferred the monopoly of the tobacco trade in Sweden, Finland, and Ingermanland, which had been granted to the South Company in 1641. On the 15th of August a third governor was commissioned to succeed Hollender in the direction of New Sweden; namely, Johan Printz, who had taken part in the Thirty Years' War, and was engaged in 1641 in procuring emigrants for the colony in Northern Finland. His "Instructions" were likewise dated Aug. 15, 1642, and were signed by Peter Brahe, Herman Wrangel, Clas Fleming, Axel Oxenstjerna, and Gabriel Bengtsson Oxenstjerna, Councillors of the Kingdom and Guardians of Queen Christina, who was still in her minority. They are comprised in twenty-eight articles, endowing him with extensive authority in the administration of justice, and enjoining him to keep the monopoly of the fur-trade, and to pay particular attention to the cultivation of the soil - especially for the planting of tobacco, of which he was expected to ship a goodly quantity on every vessel returning to Sweden - as well as to have a care of the raising of cattle, of the obtaining of choice woods, of the growth of the grape, production of silk, manufacture of salt, and taking of fish. He was to maintain the Swedish Lutheran form of religion and education of the young, and treat the Indians "with all humanity", endeavoring to convert them from their paganism, and "in other ways bring them to civilization and good government". His territory was defined to include all that had been purchased of the natives by Minuit and Hollender, extending, on the west side of the Delaware, from Cape Hinlopen northwards to Sankikan, and on the east from Narraticons Kil southwards to Cape May. Over the whole of this region he was commanded to uphold the supremacy of his sovereign, keeping the Dutch colony under Jost van Bogardt to the observance of their charter, and bringing the English settlers under subjection, or procuring their removal, as he deemed best. His relations with the Holland West India Company and their representatives at Manhattan and Fort Nassau were to be friendly but independent, and, in case of hostile encroachments, "force was to be repelled by force". On the 30th of August a budget was adopted for New Sweden, specifying, besides the Governor, a lieutenant, sergeant, corporal, gunner, trumpeter, and drummer, with twenty-four private soldiers, and (in the civil list) a preacher, clerk, surgeon, provost, and executioner, their salaries being estimated at 3,020 riksdaler per annum. Fleming and Beier (this year appointed postmaster-general) had the chief direction of the enterprise, and special factors were designated for the Company's service in Gottenburg and Amsterdam. At length all preparations were completed, and the fourth Swedish expedition to New Sweden, consisting of the ships "Fama" (Fame) and "Svanen" (The Swan), set sail from Gottenburg on the 1st of November 1642, carrying Printz, with his wife and children, Lieutenant Måns Kling, the Rev. Johan Campanins Holm, and many others, among whom were a number of Finns, sent out as formerly by their respective governors.

Condensed from the article by Gregory B. Keen, in Justin Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, v. iv, p. 443-502.

Published in Books Maps and Prints Relating to New Sweden. Tercentenary Commemorating the First Swedes and the Finns on the Delaware 1638-1938. 1938, p. 1-9.

[ Beginning of article ]