Sister Republics: A Rutgers 250 Project

In 1636 the University of Utrecht in the Dutch Republic adopted as its motto “Sun of Righteousness, Enlighten Us.” One hundred thirty years later, the newly founded Queen’s College (Rutgers) adopted a similar motto,“Sun of righteousness, shine upon the West also.” Why do the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and Rutgers University share nearly the same motto? Why does Rutgers have a Freylinghuysen Hall, a Voorhees Mall, and the statue of William the Silent at the heart of the College Avenue Campus? Why is our university named after Colonel Henry Rutgers, a Dutch American? And, moving beyond Rutgers, why do so many of towns and regions in our area bear Dutch names—Bergen, Harlem, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Yonkers, Staten Island, Coney Island, the Catskills?

To answer these questions the Spring Honors Colloquium will travel back to 1609 when Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch East India Company, claimed New York and much of New Jersey for the Dutch and established a western outpost for the expanding multicultural Dutch commercial empire. Although the Dutch lost political control of New Jersey and New York to the English in1664, Dutch settlers, traders, and merchants remained in the Hudson valley, in New York, and in the fertile valleys that lined New Jersey’s rivers, the Hackensack, the Passaic, and the Raritan. As the Dutch settled in to build new lives and communities in the region, the social practices and cultural values they brought from the Netherlands took hold as well. Their practices of free trade, commerce, slave trading, as well as religious toleration and pluralism, carved deep contours in the lives and values of Americans.

This course will explore the connections between Rutgers and the University of Utrecht within the history of strong connections between the Dutch and Americans that were forged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and still shape American culture today. Through a series of topical lectures by expert scholars at Rutgers, walking tours of the major sites of Dutch settlement and history, and a final group project in which we collect “artifacts” of the Dutch in New Jersey, we’ll follow the traces of our shared culture from 1609 to today.

Enjoy exploring our blog posts on the traces of the Dutch!