The Great Con
The Sale of Manhattan
By Dr. Sol Adoni
As a boy I was taught that the sale of Manhattan by a local tribe of Indians to the Dutch was for $24.00 or so of beads and trinkets. The sale was allegedly between Peter Minuit and the Canarsie Indians based out of Long Island who had no real rights to Manhattan land.
It seems this figure of only $24.00 was first used in print circa the mid-19th century or around 1846 by an unknown ‘historian of New York’ when a Dutch Guilder (Gulden by then) was made of Silver and based upon a letter from the Archives of The Hague written by Peter Schaghen in 1626 the ‘trade’ for Manhattan was based upon 60 Guilders. The letter was a sort of a ‘report’ back to the Dutch West India Trading Company. The original of the letter is in the Rijksarchief (Archives in Dutch) in The Hague.
In the 1998 Book Gotham. A History of New York City to 1898 by Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace that won a Pulitzer Prize for a History Book, a major mistake was made in trying to value 60 Dutch Guilders relative to 1625 the year of what I call THE GREAT CON. You can read most of what was written in this book on THE GREAT CON or the 1625 Sale of Manhattan at:
Around 1850 or so a Guilder or Gulden was a Silver coin minted by the Dutch. However, as was noted by Burrows and Wallace a New York Historian they didn’t footnote properly put forth the ‘history’ of the sale in 1846 as to being valued at only $24 USD based upon the value of SILVER and around 1877 another unnamed historian added the beads and trinkets aspect of the trade.
The value by the 1846 unnamed historian was incorrectly put at around $24 USD due to incorrectly using SILVER and not what was really referred to in the 1626 letter being actually Gold.
The error that Burrows and Wallace the winners of a Nobel Prize made in their INACCURATE WORK ON THE HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY was that in the era of 1625 when the trade was done, a Dutch Guilder was not silver. So it’s easy to understand how an unknown historian in 1846 cited by Burrows and Wallace equated the sale to ONLY $24 USD, since by then Guilders had become Guldens made out of silver and not the original GOLD that the 1625 Gold Guilders that the 1626 letter referenced which made the real value of the trade much more than $24.00. This ERROR was repeated by Burrows and Wallace in their Nobel Prize winning work on the History of New York City by not having the knowledge to correct this major historical error that they only repeated in their work.
Over the years I have collected gold and silver coins of antiquity, most were from ancient Rome and Greece, the era I consider ‘ancient’ for coins. I have bought and sold over the years many modern Gold Coins including early Dutch Guilders from the 1625 era as well as many Gold Coins from the early years of United States coins, usually Liberty Heads 1 oz. coins or more recent Double Eagles. In the era that Liberty Heads and Doubled Eagles were minted, they had a real face value of only $20.00 USD. That was the historical value of an ounce of Gold for a long time, and a 1 oz. silver coin had a face value of only $1.00 USD.
The major error that was repeated by Burrows and Wallace as to the sale of Manhattan or Gotham was citing the incorrect value of a 1625 era Guilder that the 1846 unknown historian used that they cited in their book of errors. The historical source for the sale of Manhattan or THE GREAT CON as I call it is the 1626 letter from Peter Schaghen, which was based upon the value of 60 Dutch Guilders for the ‘sale’ of Manhattes.
The reason I call it THE GREAT CON is that the tribe that sold the area which is modern Manhattan didn’t have the rights to the land. They merely used the land for hunting and such. Such native CONS were common in the early history of the new world. In fact the Raritan Indians are said to have resold Staten Island six times. Another group of Indians had a better claim to the Manhattan land than the Canarsie group that ‘sold’ it, hence the reason I call the ‘trade’ THE GREAT CON.
While tribal groups in the new world such as the native Canarsie Indians that ‘sold’ Manhattan may have had a ‘concept’ of land rights, as to certain areas were where certain tribes had dwelled for ages, they usually had a type of communal use of lands between the tribes. There were no land deeds or real ownership of the land, one could not really OWN LAND, or water or air since it all belonged to the ‘creator’.
But if some white skinned people wanted to offer you a trade, why not take the goods. Later similar land sales gave more details of what was actually given in such trades with natives; it was things of value and coins would have had NO VALUE to a native. The items traded were often axes and ploughs and things of VALUE in that era of ‘trade’ between natives and the early settlers from Europe.
So exactly what was ‘traded’ for THE GREAT CON by the Dutch to the natives that didn’t have proper rights to even conduct such a trade? Well the value was given in the 1626 letter by Peter Schaghen as 60 Dutch Guilders. Over 200 years later what a Guilder was had changed by the time the unknown historian referenced in the Pulitzer Price book by Burrows and Wallace put a value of $24 USD on the trade. Such a low value was based on what a Dutch Guilder had become by the mid-19th Century, a Guilder by then was made of SILVER and was called a Gulden, whereas the original Dutch Guilder referred to by Peter Schaghen was a coin made of GOLD which is the Dutch root of the word Guilder meaning GOLDEN.
So when the unknown historian referred to by Burrows and Wallace equated 60 Dutch Guilders to a little over 20 ounces of SILVER, the value was what 20 ounces of Silver was worth. The reality is the native Indians took the Dutch for over 20 ounces of GOLD or twenty times the value estimated by the 1846 unknown historian referenced to by Burrows and Wallace. THE GREAT CON of the selling of Manhattan by a tribe with no real rights to the land was not for $24.00 USD but for twenty times that amount!
For centuries if not millennia the ratio of value between arum and argentum (Gold and Silver in Latin) has been historically about a 20 to 1 ratio. That clear ratio can be seen in face value of even US coins for a long time, a 1 oz. Silver dollar was worth one dollar and a 1 oz. Gold piece was a $20.00 USD face valued coin. Today the ratio is vastly different with Gold being approximately a 73 to 1 ratio. As I am writing this work, the value of spot gold today is almost $1,200 USD and silver is around $16.00 USD. For some time in England a pound sterling was worth 1 Sovereign which was close to 1/4 of an ounce of gold. Sterling is supposed to be around 92% silver. This high ratio of silver to gold value was due to how badly the Kings of England debased their coinage, they put less and less silver in their coins over the years. I have read other sources over the years that stated ratios as low as 12 to 1 for gold to silver and also 15 to 1. For most of the 19th century in the United States and the early 20th century it was a clear 20 to 1 ratio. Some have suggested the normal ratio was 16 to 1 for gold to silver for much of the last 500 or so years.
The so-called unknown historian referenced to by Burrows and Wallace equated 1625 circa Dutch Guilders to silver when they were actually GOLD and the real weight should have been around 20 ounces of GOLD and not 24 ounces of Silver.
So the unknown historian cited by Pulitzer Prize winning Burrows and Wallace GOT IT WRONG, the value was at least 20 times more. This major error in the price of THE GREAT CON aka The Manhattan land deal was then incorrectly cited by Pulitzer Prize winning Burrows and Wallace.
Below are images to the 1626 Peter Schaghen letter mentioning 60 Guilders and also images to a 1625 Guilder MADE OF GOLD and then to a 1847 circa Gulden made of SILVER.
What could 20 ounces of GOLD buy in 1625 goods? A heck of a lot more than 20 ounces of SILVER could buy.
The fact is if the 1846 unknown historian understood the deal was for 20 ounces or so of GOLD compared to 20 ounces of SILVER as he supposed, then the deal would have been a much more significant trade. Instead of $20.00 or $24.00 of Silver value in trade goods the natives swindled the Dutch out of $400.00 to $500.00 bucks worth GOLD in trade goods. The fact is the natives did not take any coins in such deals.
An interesting fact about how much this investment would be worth today is if $500 was invested to yield a compounded yearly interest of only 8%, that investment from 1625 until 2014 would be worth $5,000 Trillion dollars. The worlds GDP is only 80 Trillion or so a year.
So the FIRST GREAT CON conducted in Manhattan was not by some stock or bond swindler, it was by the natives selling the rights to Manhattan, something they did not own for almost twenty times the value of what ‘history’ books have recorded for almost two centuries now.
THE GREAT CON is now almost 400 years old, and it was for twenty times the amount that so-called ‘history books’ have recorded. Even a Pulitzer Prize winning ‘history book’ recorded the details of THE GREAT CON wrong.
Here are the historical images to PROVE I am correct and all the historians are WRONG.
1625 Gold Guilder
1847 Silver Gulden
1626 Letter 60 Guilders