Actien Handel

Eary Dutch Finance and the Founding of America

September 8 - October 17, 2009

In September, 1609 Henry Hudson and the crew of the Halve-Maen sailed into the waters around present-day New York City. An Englishman by birth, Hudson had been commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to find a new passage to Asia. Formed in 1602, the Dutch East India Company was one of the first truly modern companies—it offered limited liability to its shareholders, issued printed shares, and worked with a permanent base of capital to develop and defend its vast trade empire. It was also the first exchange-traded company, and laid the foundation for share-trading practices in the centuries to come.

In 1625, a thriving Dutch settlement called New Amsterdam was founded at the southern tip of Manhattan. Governed by the newly-formed West India Company, New Amsterdam was the base of the New Netherland colony—which covered the area now covered by New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Delaware. Under the auspices of governors like Peter Minuit and Peter Stuyvesant, the Dutch colony was known for its tolerance and diversity, and from its inception was a thriving center of trade—traits which have survived into the present-day culture of New York City.

It is no small coincidence that New York City became the stock-trading capital of the world, given that that title was held by Amsterdam in the 17th century. And although the birth of listed companies and share-trading was soon followed by the introduction of regulation, this did not prevent the speculative fever that swept England, France and the Netherlands in the 1720s, and is eerily reminiscent of events within the last decade.

As an important financial center which supplied money all over the whole world, the Netherlands also played a vital role when America was fighting for independence against Britain. John Adams was ambassador to the Dutch Republic, which was one of the first countries to recognize US sovereignty in 1782 (and the first country to enter into an official treaty of amity and commerce with America). While there, Adams successfully negotiated a 5 million guilder loan from the Dutch merchants, funds which proved vital to the ability of the Continental Congress to wage war.

"Actien Handel" (which means share trading) is a celebration of the financial ties between the United States and the Netherlands, and focuses on how intricately linked the two nations were in the 17th and 18th centuries.

"Actien Handel" is sponsored by NYSE Euronext and Stichting VvdE within the framework of Capital Amsterdam.