Henry Hudson’s New York
Henry Hudson, an English explorer under contract to the Dutch, sailed into New York’s Upper Bay 400 years ago today — setting in motion mighty historical forces that led directly to the magnificent metropolis that exists today.
Hudson surely noted the natural near-perfection of what would later be known as New York Harbor; the Dutch would establish their first settlement on Governors Island a mere 15 years later.
And, as he sailed up the river that would bear his name as far as present-day Albany, he surely observed the richness of the surrounding country. But could he have known that New York would soon take its place as one of the first cities of a new American republic?
Hardly: It could barely be foreseen even in the fall of 1776, when George Washington’s Continental Army fled across the very same river from British troops occupying the city. Yet Washington would be inaugurated president at Federal Hall on Wall Street just 13 years later.
Nor could Hudson have imagined the Erie Canal slicing through the Upstate wilderness, delivering the wealth of the frontier to Gotham and sparking the city’s rise to global preeminence.
Or the Statue of Liberty welcoming waves of Old World immigrants to fuel its growth.
Indeed, Hudson’s journey was technically a failure; he’d been sent in search of a northern sea passage to the East Indies.
But the city’s — and America’s — greatness owe much to the adventuresome spirit of Henry Hudson and those like him.
New Yorkers should be glad he stopped by.