The Dutch contribution to America


This is a terrific piece by Chicago lawyer Michael Lotus, written in response to a posting on this blog. Mr. Lotus is very kind in praising my contribution and then adds much on how the Dutch contribution shaped New York and how New York's character affected the nation as a whole. One commenter links to this a very interesting essay on the economic history of New York City [PDF].

I would add the thought that in the first half of the 20th century, New York's influence was at its zenith. For 20 of those 50 years, we had presidents who were descendants of the Dutch settlers of New York—the two Roosevelts, who put their stamp on the office in the way that only a few presidents have done. During most of this period the five boroughs of New York City contained 5 to 6 percent of the nation's population—an enormous proportion in a continental nation. In the 1940 and 1944 elections, the two major parties' candidates for president owned houses or apartments within a few blocks of each other on the Upper East Side of New York—Franklin Roosevelt on East 65th Street (it was his mother's house until her death in 1941), Wendell Wilkie on the museum blocks of Fifth Avenue, Thomas Dewey on East 71st Street. The climax of the 1944 campaign was Roosevelt's tour of the four largest boroughs in an open car during driving rain. On election day the five boroughs cast 7 percent of the votes in the entire nation—1 of 14. Those World War II movies that always had a guy from Brooklyn in the squad of servicemen were not far from demographic reality. Two percent of all Americans—1 in 50—lived in Brooklyn. Jan Morris's Manhattan 1945 says that at the moment of victory, New York was the dominant city in the world. Quite so.

New York City today still contains 3 percent of the nation's population, and metropolitan New York, stretching through most of North Jersey and southwest Connecticut and including one county in Pennsylvania, contains 6 percent of the nation's people.