Days of Change

Punked – Manhattan Edition | November 25, 2015

Sadly, some of the things children learn in school are factoids, pointless trivia that is highly quotable but lacks any knowledge behind it. One of those is the “24 dollars” that the Dutch spent buying the island of Manhattan, worth approximately 3 trillion dollars in real estate today.

First of all, the purchase price was not $24 because US dollars didn’t exist. The price was 60 guilders. That currency exists today, and 60 Dutch guilders are worth $1000 US.  As far as the “beads” myth, there is no specific list of what was exchanged, but similar deals involved items like woven cloth and knives, things the Indians didn’t have the ability to produce.

Then there’s the more complicated question of property rights. One of the other stories about the deal is that the original Manhattan residents “sold” the land believing that land could not be owned then got a harsh lesson when they were driven off with guns. This is a total fabrication. Multiple tribes existed in America at the time, and land borders were constantly defined and negotiated.

There is a theory that the low low price of 60 guilders was actually paid to a group of natives who had no claim to the land at all. In modern vernacular, the Dutch were punked by scam artists. Later, they had to negotiate a much less favorable deal with the owners of the land.

Finally, the land that was Manhattan wasn’t extremely valuable. That land only became important decades later when it was the capital of the United States. That was followed by massive construction and becoming the financial center of the world. In the 1000 years before that, the tribes using that land made no changes to it whatsoever.

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1 Comment

  1. In modern vernacular, the Dutch were punked by scam artists.

    LOLOLOL

    Despite your frustrations , hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, 15.

    Comment by Mary — November 26, 2015 @ 3:48 am


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