I've posted this beautiful passage previously--in the Decade by Decade series--but I came across it again this week and feel compelled to share a second time.
Russell Shorto, writing about the 1664 English takeover of the Dutch colony in The Island at the Center of the World:
"The seed that Henry Hudson transported to a distant island rooted and grew, and, really, outgrew the mother plant. It was the luckiest thing in the world for Manhattan--for America--that the English wanted it so badly, because, though no one could see it at the time, the Dutch empire was already on the wane, and the English one was only beginning its rise...the system that fueled the Dutch Golden Age wasn't built to last. The English, meanwhile, especially those in America, would begin experimenting ornately and obsessively with ideas of liberty, unfettered reason, the rights of man. Put elements of the two together--seventeenth-century Dutch tolerance and free-trade principles and eighteenth-century English ideas abotu self-government--and you have a recipe for a new kind of society. You can almost see the baton passing from the one seventeenth-century power to the other, and at the very center of that changeover is Manhattan."