Prior to the arrival of Europeans, New York was home to two powerful Indian tribes, the Algonquians and the Iroquois. Exploration was conducted by men from several countries. Giovanni da Verrazano, an Italian working for France, and Henry Hudson, an Englishman working for the Dutch, visited the coast. Hudson sailed up the river that would be named the Hudson, which provided the Dutch with a claim to a considerable territory. Samuel de Champlain explored from the north, which provided France with its own claim to territory.
The Dutch established the first white settlements, beginning with Fort Orange (now Albany). In 1625, Dutch settlers founded New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island. The following year, their governor, Peter Minuit, purchased the entire island from the Indians for about $24. The Dutch added new settlements up the Hudson, while new settlers arrived from Massachusetts and Connecticut and established communities on Long Island.
King Charles II of England decided to force the Dutch out and sent a fleet of ships to New Amsterdam. Minuit surrendered the city without a fight. Under the 1667 Treaty of Breda, the English received all of New Netherland, which they renamed New York. Meanwhile, the French were pressing from the north. Between 1689 and 1763, a number of wars, known collectively as the French and Indian War, were waged. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 ended the conflict permanently by forcing France to give up nearly all of its territory in North America.
New York City was occupied by the British for much of the War of Independence, and the city had many Loyalists. About 30,000 people left the state after the war ended. New York City was the national capital from 1785 to 1790, and George Washington was inaugurated as the first president at Federal Hall in New York City in 1789.
New York grew quickly and in 1820, replaced Virginia as the most populous state in the nation. It held that position until being overtaken by California in 1970. The Erie Canal brought added prosperity to upstate New York and gave New York City an advantage over all other Eastern seaports.
New York established a Board of Regents in 1784 and mandated it to establish secondary schools and colleges in the state. In 1856, a committee of the five was appointed to examine the possibility of creating a world-class state university. In the following year it reported in the affirmative, but the State University of New York was not created until 1948. During the Civil War, New York generally supported the Union cause, but with reservations. In 1863, riots broke out over the drafting of men into the army. Over a period of four days, about 1,000 people were killed or injured, and more than $1 million in property damage was done.
New York State has had four constitutions. The first was drafted at a popular convention held at White Plains in 1776 and adopted in 1778. It remained in force for 45 years until succeeded by a second in 1822. In 1826, property qualifications for voting were abolished. The third constitution, adopted in 1846, marked a reaction against centralized power. The fourth and present constitution dates from 1894.