The Schaghen Letter

In 1626 Peter Schaghen, a representative for the Dutch West India Company, wrote a letter reporting on the purchase of Manhattan from Native people. Schaghen did not participate in the exchange since he lived and worked in the Netherlands. There is no record about the Native people who participated in this exchange and their understanding of the trade.


Rcvd. 7 November 1626

High and Mighty Lords,
Yesterday the ship the Arms of Amsterdam arrived here. It sailed from New Netherland out of the Hudson River on the 23rd of September. They report that our people are in good spirits and live in peace. The women also have born some children there. They have purchased the Island of Manhattan from the Natives for the value of 60 guilders. It is about 22,000 acres in size. They had all their grain sowed by the middle of May and harvested by the middle of August. They sent samples of these summer grains: wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, canary seed, beans and flax. The cargo of the aforesaid ship is:

7246 Beaver skins
178½ Otter skins
675 Otter skins
48 Mink skins
36 Lynx skins
33 Minks
34 Muskrat skins

Many oak timbers and nut wood. Herewith, High and Mighty Lords, be commended to the mercy of the Almighty, In Amsterdam, the 5th of November, 1626.

Your High and Mightinesses' obedient,
P. Schaghen

Discussion Questions

  1. From whose point of view was this letter written?
  2. To understand this event more completely, what information is needed?
  3. How does this account shape what we understand about the land exchange that took place on Manhattan in 1626?
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