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Date of this Version

January 1984

Comments

This article was originally published in the DICTIONARY OF LITERARY BIOGRAPHY: AMERICAN COLONIAL WRITERS, 1606–1734, edited by Emory Elliot (Detroit: Gale Research, 1984). Copyright © 1984 by The Gale Group; reprinted by permission.

Abstract

Daniel Denton wrote and published A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF NEW-YORK: FORMERLY CALLED NEW-NETHERLANDS in London in 1670. The work was a promotional tract designed to encourage English settlement of territories lately seized from the Dutch. It is one of the earliest English accounts of the geography, climate, economy, and native inhabitants of the region that includes present-day New York City, Long Island, Staten Island, and New Jersey. The tract is perhaps most famous for its early statement of Manifest Destiny: how “a Divine Hand makes way for them [the English settlers] by removing or cutting off the Indians, either by Wars one with the other, or by some raging mortal Disease.” Denton had emigrated to America in the 1640s and was involved in land speculation in the region. The article gives a brief account of his life and career, and discusses his vision for the westward expansion of English culture and his represention of the American wilderness as an agrarian frontier. Length = 1,000 words.