Whether or not we as Americans “remember the Alamo,” or know who fired “the shot heard ’round the world,” many historic events in America’s history we may have learned from history class, though there are no doubt some very curious historic tidbits forgotten by many of us here in the 21st century. These little known historic events remain equally as fascinating as the ones we can recall while sitting in front of the set during Jeopardy, and could have possibly held just as much potential to alter the entire course of our American history as we know it today.
Of these lesser known incidents of pre-20th century American history that most likely had slipped past your history notes, and that might have had the capacity to have significantly altered our yesterday and thus, reshape and transform our world today, involves a rather small, little known country located on the northeastern coast of South America, as well as the early Dutch settlers of the New World.
Culturally, ethnically and biologically diverse, Suriname is bordered by French Guiana in the east, British Guiana (Guyana) in the west, south by Brazil, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north, this smallest, independent country of South America is the only country in the continent wherein Dutch is the officially spoken language.
Located along the Suriname River, and documented as the first colony in the Guiana Highlands, Marshall’s Creek was established by the English in 1630. By 1650, The English had well established sugarcane and tobacco plantations and had founded the successful Paramaribo settlement. Despite initially being explored by Spanish as well as English explorers, it was the Dutch and English settlers roughly a century later who had established large profitable plantations.
When the inevitable conflicts arose between the Dutch and the English, the Treaty of Breda in July of 1667 was effected in an effort to resolve the issues between the two sovereign nations. Here is where our known American history could have ended quite differently. In what has been historically considered as one of the silliest colonial property deals to have ever been transacted, the Dutch swapped New Amsterdam (present-day New York), which was previously conquered by the Dutch navy, for the English occupied territory of Suriname.
On the 16th of March, 1667 the Breda treaty had effectively ended the Anglo-Dutch war. As a result of the terms of peace, Suriname was ceded to the Dutch, and thus the Dutch presence in North America diminished, as the English in turn retreated from Suriname. At the time of it’s exchange, New York City was then a rather small pelt trading post named New Amsterdam, and was only later given the name we know it under today.
These historical happenstances beg to inquire, if Suriname was not exchanged for New Amsterdam, would the Dutch have expanded further into North America? Would the Dutch have had influence upon the Revolutionary War? Would the Revolutionary War have even taken place? Would the Dutch territory have gained independence?
Had not the Articles of Surrender of the colony of Suriname been agreed upon as outlined in the treaty of Breda, the New York we know today just might have become a very different place altogether, resulting in a very different population of inhabitants, who would certainly have brought a completely different set of cultural influences amongst many other differences.