Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete by Washington Irving

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

profound, omnipotent, and all perfect energy, and the ecstatic, immutable,
immovable perfection. But such was the unparalleled obstinacy of these
wretched savages that they persisted in cleaving to their wives, and
adhering to their religion, and absolutely set at nought the sublime
doctrines of the moon--nay, among other abominable heresies they even went
so far as blasphemously to declare that this ineffable planet was made of
nothing more nor less than green cheese!"

At these words, the great Man in the Moon (being a very profound
philosopher) shall fall into a terrible passion, and possessing equal
authority over things that do not belong to him, as did whilome his
holiness the Pope, shall forthwith issue a formidable Bull, specifying,
"That whereas a certain crew of Lunatics have lately discovered and taken
possession of a newly-discovered planet called the earth; and that whereas
it is inhabited by none but a race of two-legged animals that carry their
heads on their shoulders instead of under their arms; cannot talk the
Lunatic language; have two eyes instead of one; are destitute of tails,
and of a horrible whiteness, instead of pea-green--therefore, and for a
variety of other excellent reasons, they are considered incapable of
possessing any property in the planet they infest, and the right and title
to it are confirmed to its original discoverers. And, furthermore, the
colonists who are now about to depart to the aforesaid planet are
authorised and commanded to use every means to convert these infidel
savages from the darkness of Christianity, and make them thorough and
absolute Lunatics."

In consequence of this benevolent Bull, our philosophic benefactors go to
work with hearty zeal. They seize upon our fertile territories, scourge us
from our rightful possessions, relieve us from our wives, and when we are
unreasonable enough to complain, they will turn upon us and say,
"Miserable barbarians! ungrateful wretches! have we not come thousands of
miles to improve your worthless planet? have we not fed you with
moonshine! have we not intoxicated you with nitrous oxide? does not our
moon give you light every night? and have you the baseness to murmur, when
we claim a pitiful return for all these benefits?" But finding that we not
only persist in absolute contempt of their reasoning and disbelief in
their philosophy, but even go so far as daringly to defend our property,
their patience shall be exhausted, and they shall resort to their superior
powers of argument; hunt us with hippogriffs, transfix us with
concentrated sunbeams, demolish our cities with moonstones; until having
by main force converted us to the true faith, they shall graciously permit
us to exist in the torrid deserts of Arabia, or the frozen regions of
Lapland, there to enjoy the blessings of civilization and the charms of
lunar philosophy, in much the same manner as the reformed and enlightened
savages of this country are kindly suffered to inhabit the inhospitable
forests of the north, or the impenetrable wilderness of South America.

Thus, I hope, I have clearly proved, and strikingly illustrated, the right
of the early colonists to the possession of this country; and thus is this
gigantic question completely vanquished: so having manfully surmounted all
obstacles, and subdued all opposition, what remains but that I should
forthwith conduct my readers into the city which we have been so long in a
manner besieging? But hold: before I proceed another step I must pause to
take breath, and recover from the excessive fatigue I have undergone, in
preparing to begin this most accurate of histories. And in this I do but
imitate the example of a renowned Dutch tumbler of antiquity, who took a
start of three miles for the purpose of jumping over a hill, but having
run himself out of breath by the time he reached the foot, sat himself
quietly down for a few moments to blow, and then walked over it at his


[19] Grotius: Puffendorf, b. v. c. 4, Vattel, b. i. c. 18, etc.

[20] Vattel, b. i. ch. 17.

[21] Bl. Com. b. ii. c. 1.




My great-grandfather by the mother's side, Hermanus Van Clattercop, when
employed to build the large stone church at Rotterdam, which stands about
three hundred yards to your left after you turn off from the Boomkeys, and
which is so conveniently constructed that all the zealous Christians of
Rotterdam prefer sleeping through a sermon there to any other church in
the city--my great-grandfather, I say, when employed to build that famous
church, did in the first place send to Delft for a box of long pipes; then
having purchased a new spitting-box and a hundredweight of the best
Virginia, he sat himself down, and did nothing for the space of three
months but smoke most laboriously. Then did he spend full three months
more in trudging on foot, and voyaging in the trekschuit, from Rotterdam
to Amsterdam--to Delft--to Haerlem--to Leyden--to the Hague, knocking his
head and breaking his pipe against every church in his road. Then did he
advance gradually nearer and nearer to Rotterdam, until he came in full
sight of the identical spot whereon the church was to be built. Then did
he spend three months longer in walking round it and round it;
contemplating it, first from one point of view and then from another--now
he would be paddled by it on the canal--now would he peep at it through a
telescope, from the other side of the Meuse--and now would he take a
bird's-eye glance at it, from the top of one of those gigantic windmills
which protect the gates of the city. The good folks of the place were on
the tiptoe of expectation and impatience--notwithstanding all the turmoil
of my great-grandfather, not a symptom of the church was yet to be seen;
they even began to fear it would never be brought into the world, but that
its great projector would lie down and die in labor of the mighty plan he
had conceived. At length, having occupied twelve good months in puffing
and paddling, and talking and walking--having traveled over all Holland,
and even taken a peep into France and Germany--having smoked five hundred
and ninety-nine pipes and three hundredweight of the best Virginia
tobacco--my great-grandfather gathered together all that knowing and
industrious class of citizens who prefer attending to anybody's business
sooner than their own, and having pulled off his coat and five pair of
breeches, he advanced sturdily up, and laid the corner-stone of the
church, in the presence of the whole multitude--just at the commencement
of the thirteenth month.

In a similar manner, and with the example of my worthy ancestor full
before my eyes, have I proceeded in writing this most authentic history.
The honest Rotterdammers no doubt thought my great-grandfather was doing
nothing at all to the purpose, while he was making such a world of
prefatory bustle about the building of his church; and many of the
ingenious inhabitants of this fair city will unquestionably suppose that
all the preliminary chapters, with the discovery, population, and final
settlement of America, were totally irrelevant and superfluous--and that
the main business, the history of New York, is not a jot more advanced
than if I had never taken up my pen. Never were wise people more mistaken
in their conjectures. In consequence of going to work slowly and
deliberately, the church came out of my grandfather's hands one of the
most sumptuous, goodly, and glorious edifices in the known
world--excepting that, like our magnificent capitol at Washington, it was
begun on so grand a scale that the good folk could not afford to finish
more than the wing of it. So, likewise, I trust, if ever I am able to
finish this work on the plan I have commenced (of which, in simple truth,
I sometimes have my doubts), it will be found that I have pursued the
latest rules of my art, as exemplified in the writings of all the great
American historians, and wrought a very large history out of a small
subject--which nowadays, is considered one of the great triumphs of
historic skill. To proceed, then, with the thread of my story.

In the ever-memorable year of our Lord, 1609, on a Saturday morning, the
five-and-twentieth day of March, old style, did that "worthy and
irrecoverable discoverer (as he has justly been called), Master Henry
Hudson," set sail from Holland in a stout vessel called the Half Moon,
being employed by the Dutch East India Company to seek a north-west
passage to China.

Henry (or, as the Dutch historians call him, Hendrick) Hudson was a
seafaring man of renown, who had learned to smoke tobacco under Sir Walter
Raleigh, and is said to have been the first to introduce it into Holland,
which gained him much popularity in that country, and caused him to find
great favor in the eyes of their High Mightinesses the Lords States
General, and also of the Honorable West India Company. He was a short,
square, brawny old gentleman, with a double chin, a mastiff mouth, and a
broad copper nose, which was supposed in those days to have acquired its
fiery hue from the constant neighborhood of his tobacco pipe.

He wore a true Andrea Ferrara tucked in a leathern belt, and a commodore's
cocked hat on one side of his head. He was remarkable for always jerking
up his breeches when he gave out his orders, and his voice sounded not
unlike the brattling of a tin trumpet, owing to the number of hard
north-westers which he had swallowed in the course of his seafaring.

Such was Hendrick Hudson, of whom we have heard so much, and know so
little; and I have been thus particular in his description, for the
benefit of modern painters and statuaries, that they may represent him as
he was; and not, according to their common custom with modern heroes, make
him look like a Caesar, or Marcus Aurelius, or the Apollo of Belvidere.

As chief mate and favorite companion, the commodore chose Master Robert
Juet, of Limehouse, in England. By some his name has been spelt Chewit,
and ascribed to the circumstance of his having been the first man that
ever chewed tobacco; but this I believe to be a mere flippancy; more
especially as certain of his progeny are living at this day, who write
their names Juet. He was an old comrade and early schoolmate of the great
Hudson, with whom he had often played truant and sailed chip boats in a
neighboring pond, when they were little boys; from whence, it is said, the
commodore first derived his bias towards a seafaring life. Certain it is
that the old people about Limehouse declared Robert Juet to be a unlucky
urchin prone to mischief, that would one day or other come to the gallows.

He grew up as boys of that kind often grow up, a rambling, heedless
varlet, tossed about in all quarters of the world, meeting with more
perils and wonders than did Sinbad the Sailor, without growing a whit more
wise, prudent, or ill-natured. Under every misfortune he comforted himself
with a quid of tobacco, and the truly philosophic maxim that "it will be
all the same thing a hundred years hence." He was skilled in the art of
carving anchors and true lovers' knot on the bulk-heads and quarter
railings, and was considered a great wit on board ship, in consequence of
his playing pranks on everybody around, and now and then even making a
wry face at old Hendrick when his back was turned.

To this universal genius are we indebted for many particulars concerning
this voyage, of which he wrote a history, at the request of the commodore,
who had an unconquerable aversion to writing himself, from having received
so many floggings about it when at school. To supply the deficiencies of
Master Juet's journal, which is written with true log-book brevity, I have
availed myself of divers family traditions, handed down from my
great-great-grandfather, who accompanied the expedition in the capacity of

From all that I can learn, few incidents worthy of remark happened in the
voyage; and it mortifies me exceedingly that I have to admit so noted an
expedition into my work without making any more of it.

Suffice it to say, the voyage was prosperous and tranquil--the crew, being
a patient people, much given to slumber and vacuity, and but little
troubled with the disease of thinking--a malady of the mind, which is the
sure breeder of discontent. Hudson had laid in abundance of gin and
sour-krout, and every man was allowed to sleep quietly at his post unless
the wind blew. True it is, some slight dissatisfaction was shown on two or
three occasions at certain unreasonable conduct of Commodore Hudson. Thus,
for instance, he forbore to shorten sail when the wind was light and the
weather serene, which was considered among the most experienced Dutch
seamen as certain weather-breeders, or prognostics, that the weather would
change for the worse. He acted, moreover, in direct contradiction to that
ancient and sage rule of the Dutch navigators, who always took in sail at
night, put the helm a-port, and turned in; by which precaution they had a
good night's rest, were sure of knowing where they were the next morning,
and stood but little chance of running down a continent in the dark. He
likewise prohibited the seamen from wearing more than five jackets and six
pair of breeches, under pretence of rendering them more alert; and no man
was permitted to go aloft and hand in sails with a pipe in his mouth, as
is the invariable Dutch custom at the present day. All these grievances,
though they might ruffle for a moment the constitutional tranquillity of
the honest Dutch tars, made but transient impression; they ate hugely,
drank profusely, and slept immeasurably; and being under the especial
guidance of Providence, the ship was safely conducted to the coast of
America; where, after sundry unimportant touchings and standings off and
on, she at length, on the fourth day of September, entered that majestic
bay which at this day expands its ample bosom before the city of New York,
and which had never before been visited by any European.[22]

It has been traditionary in our family that when the great navigator was
first blessed with a view of this enchanting island, he was observed, for
the first and only time in his life, to exhibit strong symptoms of
astonishment and admiration. He is said to have turned to master Juet, and
uttered these remarkable words, while he pointed towards this paradise of
the new world--"See! there!"--and thereupon, as was always his way when he
was uncommonly pleased, he did puff out such clouds of dense tobacco smoke
that in one minute the vessel was out of sight of land, and Master Juet
was fain to wait until the winds dispersed this impenetrable fog.

"It was indeed," as my great-grandfather used to say, though in truth I
never heard him, for he died, as might be expected, before I was born--"it
was indeed a spot on which the eye might have revelled for ever, in ever
new and never-ending beauties." The island of Manna-hata spread wide
before them, like some sweet vision of fancy, or some fair creation of
industrious magic. Its hills of smiling green swelled gently one above
another, crowned with lofty trees of luxuriant growth; some pointing their
tapering foliage towards the clouds which were gloriously transparent, and
others loaded with a verdant burden of clambering vines, bowing their
branches to the earth that was covered with flowers. On the gentle
declivities of the hills were scattered in gay profusion the dog-wood, the
sumach, and the wild brier, whose scarlet berries and white blossoms
glowed brightly among the deep green of the surrounding foliage; and here
and there a curling column of smoke rising from the little glens that
opened along the shore seemed to promise the weary voyagers a welcome at
the hands of their fellow-creatures. As they stood gazing with entranced
attention on the scene before them, a red man, crowned with feathers,
issued from one of these glens, and after contemplating in silent wonder
the gallant ship, as she sat like a stately swan swimming on a silver
lake, sounded the war-whoop, and bounded into the woods like a wild deer,
to the utter astonishment of the phlegmatic Dutchmen, who had never heard
such a noise or witnessed such a caper in their whole lives.

Of the transactions of our adventurers with the savages, and how the
latter smoked copper pipes and ate dried currants; how they brought great
store of tobacco and oysters; how they shot one of the ship's crew, and
how he was buried, I shall say nothing, being that I consider them
unimportant to my history. After tarrying a few days in the bay, in order
to refresh themselves after their seafaring, our voyagers weighed anchor,
to explore a mighty river which emptied into the bay. This river, it is
said, was known among the savages by the name of the Shatemuck; though we
are assured in an excellent little history published in 1674, by John
Josselyn, gent., that it was called the Mohegan;[23] and Master Richard
Bloome, who wrote some time afterwards, asserts the same--so that I very
much incline in favor of the opinion of these two honest gentlemen. Be
this as it may, up this river did the adventurous Hendrick proceed, little
doubting but it would turn to be the much-looked-for passage to China!

The journal goes on to make mention of divers interviews between the crew
and the natives in the voyage up the river; but as they would be
impertinent to my history, I shall pass over them in silence, except the
following dry joke, played off by the old commodore and his schoolfellow
Robert Juet, which does such vast credit to their experimental philosophy
that I cannot refrain from inserting it. "Our master and his mate
determined to try some of the chiefe men of the countrey whether they had
any treacherie in them. So they tooke them downe into the cabin, and gave
them so much wine and acqua vitae that they were all merrie; and one of
them had his wife with him, which sate so modestly, as any of our countrey
women would do in a strange place. In the end, one of them was drunke,
which had been aboarde of our ship all the time that we had been there,
and that was strange to them, for they could not tell how to take it."[24]

Having satisfied himself by this ingenious experiment that the natives
were an honest, social race of jolly roysterers, who had no objection to
a drinking bout, and were very merry in their cups, the old commodore
chuckled hugely to himself, and thrusting a double quid of tobacco in his
cheek, directed Master Juet to have it carefully recorded, for the
satisfaction of all the natural philosophers of the University of
Leyden--which done, he proceeded on his voyage with great
self-complacency. After sailing, however, above a hundred miles up the
river, he found the watery world around him began to grow more shallow
and confined, the current more rapid and perfectly fresh--phenomena not
uncommon in the ascent of rivers, but which puzzled the honest Dutchman
prodigiously. A consultation was therefore called, and having deliberated
full six hours, they were brought to a determination by the ship's
running aground--whereupon they unanimously concluded that there was but
little chance of getting to China in this direction. A boat, however, was
despatched to explore higher up the river, which, on its return,
confirmed the opinion; upon this the ship was warped off and put about
with great difficulty, being, like most of her sex, exceedingly hard to
govern; and the adventurous Hudson, according to the account of my
great-great-grandfather, returned down the river--with a prodigious flea
in his ear!

Being satisfied that there was little likelihood of getting to China,
unless, like the blind man, he returned from whence he set out, and took a
fresh start, he forthwith recrossed the sea to Holland, where he was
received with great welcome by the Honorable East India Company, who were
very much rejoiced to see him come back safe--with their ship; and at a
large and respectable meeting of the first merchants and burgomasters of
Amsterdam it was unanimously determined that, as a munificent reward for
the eminent services he had performed, and the important discovery he had
made, the great river Mohegan should be called after his name; and it
continues to be called Hudson River unto this very day.


[22] True it is, and I am not ignorant of the fact, that in a
certain apocryphal book of voyages, compiled by one Hackluyt, is
to be found a letter written to Francis the First, by one
Giovanni, or John Verazzani, on which some writers are inclined
to found a belief that this delightful bay had been visited
nearly a century previous to the voyage of the enterprising
Hudson. Now this (albeit it has met with the countenance of
certain very judicious and learned men) I hold in utter
disbelief, and that for various good and substantial reasons:
First, because on strict examination it will be found that the
description given by this Verazzani applies about as well to the
bay of New York as it does to my nightcap. Secondly, because that
this John Verazzani, for whom I already begin to feel a most
bitter enmity, is a native of Florence, and everybody knows the
crafty wiles of these losel Florentines, by which they filched
away the laurels from the brows of the immortal Colon (vulgarly
called Columbus), and bestowed them on their officious townsman,
Amerigo Vespucci; and I make no doubt they are equally ready to
rob the illustrious Hudson of the credit of discovering this
beauteous island, adorned by the city of New York, and placing it
beside their usurped discovery of South America. And, thirdly, I
award my decision in favor of the pretensions of Hendrick Hudson,
inasmuch as his expedition sailed from Holland, being truly and
absolutely a Dutch enterprise; and though all the proofs in the
world were introduced on the other side, I would set them at
nought as undeserving my attention. If these three reasons be not
sufficient to satisfy every burgher of this ancient city, all I
can say is they are degenerate descendants from their venerable
Dutch ancestors, and totally unworthy the trouble of convincing.
Thus, therefore, the title of Hendrick Hudson to his renowned
discovery is fully vindicated.

[23] This river is likewise laid down in Ogilvy's map as
Manhattan--Noordt, Montaigne, and Mauritius river.

[24] Juet's Journ. Purch. Pil.


The delectable accounts given by the great Hudson and Master Juet of the
country they had discovered excited not a little talk and speculation
among the good people of Holland. Letters patent were granted by
Government to an association of merchants, called the West India Company,
for the exclusive trade on Hudson River, on which they erected a
trading-house called Fort Aurania, or Orange, from whence did spring the
great city of Albany. But I forbear to dwell on the various commercial and
colonizing enterprises which took place; among which was that of Mynheer
Adrian Block, who discovered and gave a name to Block Island, since famous
for its cheese--and shall barely confine myself to that which gave birth
to this renowned city.

It was some three or four years after the return of the immortal Hendrick
that a crew of honest Low Dutch colonists set sail from the city of
Amsterdam for the shores of America. It is an irreparable loss to history,
and a great proof of the darkness of the age and the lamentable neglect of
the noble art of book-making, since so industriously cultivated by knowing
sea-captains and learned supercargoes, that an expedition so interesting
and important in its results should be passed over in utter silence. To my
great-great-grandfather am I again indebted for the few facts I am enabled
to give concerning it--he having once more embarked for this country, with
a full determination, as he said, of ending his days here--and of
begetting a race of Knickerbockers that should rise to be great men in the

The ship in which these illustrious adventurers set sail was called the
Goede Vrouw, or good woman, in compliment to the wife of the president of
the West India Company, who was allowed by everybody, except her husband,
to be a sweet-tempered lady--when not in liquor. It was in truth a most
gallant vessel, of the most approved Dutch construction, and made by the
ablest ship-carpenters of Amsterdam, who, it is well known, always model
their ships after the fair forms of their countrywomen. Accordingly, it
had one hundred feet in the beam, one hundred feet in the keel, and one
hundred feet from the bottom of the stern-post to the taffrail. Like the
beauteous model, who was declared to be the greatest belle in Amsterdam,
it was full in the bows, with a pair of enormous catheads, a copper
bottom, and withal a most prodigious poop.

The architect, who was somewhat of a religious man, far from decorating
the ship with pagan idols, such as Jupiter, Neptune or Hercules, which
heathenish abominations, I have no doubt, occasion the misfortunes and
shipwreck of many a noble vessel, he I say, on the contrary, did laudably
erect for a head, a goodly image of St. Nicholas, equipped with a low,
broad-brimmed hat, a huge pair of Flemish trunk hose, and a pipe that
reached to the end of the bow-sprit. Thus gallantly furnished, the staunch
ship floated sideways, like a majestic goose, out of the harbor of the
great city of Amsterdam, and all the bells that were not otherwise
engaged, rung a triple bobmajor on the joyful occasion.

My great-great-grandfather remarks, that the voyage was uncommonly
prosperous, for, being under the especial care of the ever-revered St.
Nicholas, the Goede Vrouw seemed to be endowed with qualities unknown to
common vessels. Thus she made as much leeway as headway, could get along
very nearly as fast with the wind a head as when it was a-poop, and was
particularly great in a calm; in consequence of which singular advantage
she made out to accomplish her voyage in a very few months, and came to
anchor at the mouth of the Hudson, a little to the east of Gibbet Island.

Here lifting up their eyes they beheld, on what is at present called the
Jersey shore, a small Indian village, pleasantly embowered in a grove of
spreading elms, and the natives all collected on the beach, gazing in
stupid admiration at the Goede Vrouw. A boat was immediately dispatched to
enter into a treaty with them, and, approaching the shore, hailed them
through a trumpet in the most friendly terms; but so horribly confounded
were these poor savages at the tremendous and uncouth sound of the Low
Dutch language that they one and all took to their heels, and scampered
over the Bergen Hills: nor did they stop until they had buried themselves,
head and ears, in the marshes on the other side, where they all miserably
perished to a man; and their bones being collected and decently covered by
the Tammany Society of that day, formed that singular mound called
Rattlesnake Hill, which rises out of the center of the salt marshes a
little to the east of the Newark Causeway.

Animated by this unlooked-for victory, our valiant heroes sprang ashore in
triumph, took possession of the soil as conquerors, in the name of their
High Mightinesses the Lords States General; and marching fearlessly
forward, carried the village of Communipaw by storm, not withstanding that
it was vigorously defended by some half a score of old squaws and
pappooses. On looking about them they were so transported with the
excellences of the place that they had very little doubt the blessed St.
Nicholas had guided them thither as the very spot whereon to settle their
colony. The softness of the soil was wonderfully adapted to the driving of
piles; the swamps and marshes around them afforded ample opportunities for
the constructing of dykes and dams; the shallowness of the shore was
peculiarly favorable to the building of docks; in a word, this spot
abounded with all the requisites for the foundation of a great Dutch City.
On making a faithful report, therefore, to the crew of the Goede Vrouw,
they one and all determined that this was the destined end of their
voyage. Accordingly, they descended from the Goede Vrouw, men, women and
children, in goodly groups, as did the animals of yore from the ark, and
formed themselves into a thriving settlement, which they called by the
Indian name Communipaw.

As all the world is doubtless perfectly acquainted with Communipaw, it may
seem somewhat superfluous to treat of it in the present work; but my
readers will please to recollect, that not withstanding it is my chief
desire to satisfy the present age, yet I write likewise for posterity, and
have to consult the understanding and curiosity of some half a score of
centuries yet to come; by which time, perhaps, were it not for this
invaluable history, the great Communipaw, like Babylon, Carthage, Nineveh,
and other great cities, might be perfectly extinct--sunk and forgotten in
its own mud--its inhabitants turned into oysters,[25] and even its
situation a fertile subject of learned controversy and hard-headed
investigation among indefatigable historians. Let me, then, piously rescue
from oblivion the humble relics of a place which was the egg from whence
was hatched the mighty city of New York!

Communipaw is at present but a small village, pleasantly situated among
rural scenery, on that beauteous part of the Jersey shore which was known
in ancient legends by the name of Pavonia,[26] and commands a grand
prospect of the superb bay of New York. It is within but half an hour's
sail of the latter place, provided you have a fair wind, and may be
distinctly seen from the city. Nay, it is a well known fact, which I can
testify from my own experience, that on a clear still summer evening you
may hear from the battery of New York the obstreperous peals of
broad-mouthed laughter of the Dutch negroes at Communipaw, who, like most
other negroes, are famous for their risible powers. This is peculiarly the
case on Sunday evenings, when, it is remarked by an ingenious and
observant philosopher, who has made great discoveries in the neighborhood
of this city, that they always laugh loudest, which he attributes to the
circumstance of their having their holiday clothes on.

These negroes, in fact, like the monks in the dark ages, engross all the
knowledge of the place, and, being infinitely more adventurous, and more
knowing than their masters, carry on all the foreign trade, making
frequent voyages to town in canoes loaded with oysters, buttermilk and
cabbages. They are great astrologers, predicting the different changes of
weather almost as accurately as an almanac; they are, moreover, exquisite
performers on three-stringed fiddles; in whistling they almost boast the
far-famed powers of Orpheus' lyre, for not a horse nor an ox in the place,
when at the plough or before the wagon, will budge a foot until he hears
the well known whistle of his black driver and companion. And from their
amazing skill at casting up accounts upon their fingers they are regarded
with as much veneration as were the disciples of Pythagoras of yore when
initiated into the sacred quaternary of numbers.

As to the honest burghers of Communipaw, like wise men and sound
philosophers, they never look beyond their pipes, nor trouble their heads
about any affairs out of their immediate neighborhood; so that they live
in profound and enviable ignorance of all the troubles, anxieties, and
revolutions of this distracted planet. I am even told that many among them
do verily believe that Holland, of which they have heard so much from
tradition, is situated somewhere on Long Island; that Spiking-devil and
the Narrows are the two ends of the world; that the country is still under
the dominion of their High Mightinesses, and that the city of New York
still goes by the name of Nieuw Amsterdam. They meet every Saturday
afternoon at the only tavern in the place, which bears as a sign a
square-headed likeness of the Prince of Orange, where they smoke a silent
pipe by way of promoting social conviviality, and invariably drink a mug
of cider to the success of Admiral Van Tromp, whom they imagine is still
sweeping the British Channel with a broom at his masthead.

Communipaw, in short, is one of the numerous little villages in the
vicinity of this most beautiful of cities, which are so many strongholds
and fastnesses whither the primitive manners of our Dutch forefathers have
retreated, and where they are cherished with devout and scrupulous
strictness. The dress of the original settlers is handed down inviolate
from father to son--the identical broad-brimmed hat, broad-skirted coat,
and broad-bottomed breeches continue from generation to generation; and
several gigantic knee-buckles of massy silver are still in wear that made
gallant display in the days of the patriarchs of Communipaw. The language
likewise continues unadulterated by barbarous innovations; and so
critically correct is the village schoolmaster in his dialect that his
reading of a Low Dutch psalm has much the same effect on the nerves as the
filing of a hand-saw.


[25] Men by inaction degenerate into oysters.--Kaimes.

[26] Pavonia, in the ancient maps, is given to a tract of country
extending from about Hoboken to Amboy.


Having in the trifling digression which concluded the last chapter
discharged the filial duty which the city of New York owed to Communipaw,
as being the mother settlement; and having given a faithful picture of it
as it stands at present, I return with a soothing sentiment of
self-approbation to dwell upon its early history. The crew of the Goede
Vrouw being soon reinforced by fresh importations from Holland, the
settlement went jollily on increasing in magnitude and prosperity. The
neighboring Indians in a short time became accustomed to the uncouth sound
of the Dutch language, and an intercourse gradually took place between
them and the new comers. The Indians were much given to long talks, and
the Dutch to long silence; in this particular, therefore, they
accommodated each other completely. The chiefs would make long speeches
about the big bull, the wabash, and the Great Spirit, to which the others
would listen very attentively, smoke their pipes, and grunt yah, myn-her;
whereat the poor savages were wondrously delighted. They instructed the
new settlers in the best art of curing and smoking tobacco, while the
latter in return, made them drunk with true Hollands, and then taught them
the art of making bargains.

A brisk trade for furs was soon opened. The Dutch traders were
scrupulously honest in their dealings, and purchased by weight,
establishing it as an invariable table of avoirdupois that the hand of a
Dutchman weighed one pound, and his foot two pounds. It is true the simple
Indians were often puzzled by the great disproportion between bulk and
weight, for let them place a bundle of furs never so large in one scale,
and a Dutchman put his hand or foot in the other, the bundle was sure to
kick the beam; never was a package of furs known to weigh more than two
pounds in the market of Communipaw!

This is a singular fact; but I have it direct from my
great-great-grandfather, who had risen to considerable importance in the
colony, being promoted to the office of weigh-master, on account of the
uncommon heaviness of his foot.

The Dutch possessions in this part of the globe began now to assume a very
thriving appearance, and were comprehended under the general title of
Nieuw Nederlandts, on account, as the sage Vander Donck observes, of their
great resemblance to the Dutch Netherlands, which indeed was truly
remarkable, excepting that the former was rugged and mountainous, and the
latter level and marshy. About this time the tranquillity of the Dutch
colonists was doomed to suffer a temporary interruption. In 1614, Captain
Sir Samuel Argal, sailing under a commission from Dale, Governor of
Virginia, visited the Dutch settlements on Hudson River, and demanded
their submission to the English crown and Virginian dominion. To this
arrogant demand, as they were in no condition to resist it, they submitted
for the time, like discreet and reasonable men.

It does not appear that the valiant Argal molested the settlement of
Communipaw; on the contrary, I am told that when his vessel first hove in
sight, the worthy burghers were seized with such a panic that they fell
to smoking their pipes with astonishing vehemence; insomuch that they
quickly raised a cloud, which, combining with the surrounding woods and
marshes, completely enveloped and concealed their beloved village, and
overhung the fair regions of Pavonia--so that the terrible Captain Argal
passed on, totally unsuspicious that a sturdy little Dutch settlement lay
snugly couched in the mud, under cover of all this pestilent vapor. In
commemoration of this fortunate escape, the worthy inhabitants have
continued to smoke almost without intermission unto this very day, which
is said to be the cause of the remarkable fog which often hangs over
Communipaw of a clear afternoon.

Upon the departure of the enemy our magnanimous ancestors took full six
months to recover their wind, having been exceedingly discomposed by the
consternation and hurry of affairs. They then called a council of safety
to smoke over the state of the provinces. At this council presided one
Oloffe Van Kortlandt, who had originally been one of a set of peripatetic
philosophers who passed much of their time sunning themselves on the side
of the great canal of Amsterdam in Holland; enjoying, like Diogenes, a
free and unencumbered estate in sunshine. His name Kortlandt (Shortland or
Lackland) was supposed, like that of the illustrious Jean Sansterre, to
indicate that he had no land; but he insisted, on the contrary, that he
had great landed estates somewhere in Terra Incognita; and he had come out
to the new world to look after them.

Like all land speculators, he was much given to dreaming. Never did
anything extraordinary happen at Communipaw but he declared that he had
previously dreamt it, being one of those infallible prophets who predict
events after they have come to pass. This supernatural gift was as highly
valued among the burghers of Pavonia as among the enlightened nations of
antiquity. The wise Ulysses was more indebted to his sleeping than his
waking moments for his most subtle achievements, and seldom undertook any
great exploit without first soundly sleeping upon it; and the same may be
said of Oloffe Van Kortlandt, who was thence aptly denominated Oloffe the

As yet his dreams and speculations had turned to little personal profit;
and he was as much a lackland as ever. Still he carried a high head in the
community: if his sugar-loaf hat was rather the worse for wear, he set it
oft with a taller cock's tail; if his shirt was none of the cleanest, he
puffed it out the more at the bosom; and if the tail of it peeped out of a
hole in his breeches, it at least proved that it really had a tail and was
not a mere ruffle.

The worthy Van Kortlandt, in the council in question, urged the policy of
emerging from the swamps of Communipaw and seeking some more eligible site
for the seat of empire. Such, he said, was the advice of the good St.
Nicholas, who had appeared to him in a dream the night before, and whom he
had known by his broad hat, his long pipe, and the resemblance which he
bore to the figure on the bow of the Goede Vrouw.

Many have thought this dream was a mere invention of Oloffe Van Kortlandt,
who, it is said, had ever regarded Communipaw with an evil eye, because he
had arrived there after all the land had been shared out, and who was
anxious to change the seat of empire to some new place, where he might be
present at the distribution of "town lots." But we must not give heed to
such insinuations, which are too apt to be advanced against those worthy
gentlemen engaged in laying out towns and in other land speculations.

This perilous enterprise was to be conducted by Oloffe himself, who chose
as lieutenants, or coadjutors, Mynheers Abraham Harden Broeck, Jacobus Van
Zandt, and Winant Ten Broeck--three indubitably great men, but of whose
history, although I have made diligent inquiry, I can learn but little
previous to their leaving Holland. Nor need this occasion much surprise;
for adventurers, like prophets, though they make great noise abroad, have
seldom much celebrity in their own countries; but this much is certain
that the overflowings and offscourings of a country are invariably
composed of the richest parts of the soil. And here I cannot help
remarking how convenient it would be to many of our great men and great
families of doubtful origin, could they have the privilege of the heroes
of yore, who, whenever their origin was involved in obscurity, modestly
announced themselves descended from a god, and who never visited a foreign
country but what they told some cock-and-bull stories about their being
kings and princes at home. This venal trespass on the truth, though it has
been occasionally played off by some pseudo marquis, baronet, and other
illustrious foreigner, in our land of good-natured credulity, has been
completely discountenanced in this sceptical, matter-of-fact age; and I
even question whether any tender virgin, who was accidentally and
unaccountably enriched with a bantling, would save her character at parlor
firesides and evening tea-parties by ascribing the phenomenon to a swan, a
shower of gold, or a river god.

Had I the benefit of mythology and classic fable above alluded to, I
should have furnished the first of the trio with a pedigree equal to that
of the proudest hero of antiquity. His name, Van Zandt--that is to say,
from the dirt--gave reasons to suppose that, like Triptolemus, Themis, the
Cyclops, and the Titans, he had sprung from Dame Terra or the Earth! This
supposition is strongly corroborated by his size, for it is well known
that all the progeny of Mother Earth were of a gigantic stature; and Van
Zandt, we are told, was a tall, raw-boned man, above six feet high, with
an astonishingly hard head. Nor is this origin of the illustrious Van
Zandt a whit more improbable or repugnant to belief than what is related
and universally admitted of certain of our greatest, or rather richest,
men, who we are told with the utmost gravity did originally spring from a

Of the second of the trio but faint accounts have reached to this time,
which mention that he was a sturdy, obstinate, worrying, bustling little
man; and, from being usually equipped in an old pair of buckskins, was
familiarly dubbed Harden Broeck, or Tough Breeches.

Ten Broeck completed this junto of adventurers. It is a singular but
ludicrous fact, which, were I not scrupulous in recording the whole truth,
I should almost be tempted to pass over in silence, as incompatible with
the gravity and dignity of history, that this worthy gentleman should
likewise have been nicknamed from what in modern times is considered the
most ignoble part of the dress. But, in truth, the small-clothes seems to
have been a very dignified garment in the eyes of our venerated ancestors,
in all probability from its covering that part of the body which has been
pronounced "the seat of honor."

The name of Ten Broeck, or, as it was sometimes spelt, Tin Broeck, has
been indifferently translated into Ten Breeches and Tin Breeches. The most
elegant and ingenious writers on the subject declare in favor of Tin, or
rather Thin, Breeches; whence they infer that the original bearer of it
was a poor but merry rogue, whose galligaskins were none of the soundest,
and who, peradventure, may have been the author of that truly
philosophical stanza:----

"Then why should we quarrel for riches,
Or any such glittering toys?
A light heart and thin pair of breeches
Will go through the world, my brave boys!"

The High Dutch commentators, however, declare in favor of the other
reading, and affirm that the worthy in question was a burly, bulbous man,
who, in sheer ostentation of his venerable progenitors, was the first to
introduce into the settlement the ancient Dutch fashion of ten pair of

Such was the trio of coadjutors chosen by Oloffe the Dreamer to accompany
him in this voyage into unknown realms; as to the names of his crews they
have not been handed down by history.

Having, as I before observed, passed much of his life in the open air,
among the peripatetic philosophers of Amsterdam, Oloffe had become
familiar with the aspect of the heavens, and could as accurately determine
when a storm was brewing or a squall rising as a dutiful husband can
foresee, from the brow of his spouse, when a tempest is gathering about
his ears. Having pitched upon a time for his voyage, when the skies
appeared propitious, he exhorted all his crews to take a good night's
rest, wind up their family affairs, and make their wills; precautions
taken by our forefathers, even in after times when they became more
adventurous, and voyaged to Haverstraw, or Kaatskill, or Groodt Esopus, or
any other far country, beyond the great waters of the Tappen Zee.


And now the rosy blush of morn began to mantle in the east, and soon the
rising sun, emerging from amidst golden and purple clouds, shed his
blithesome rays on the tin weathercocks of Communipaw. It was that
delicious season of the year when Nature, breaking from the chilling
thraldom of old winter, like a blooming damsel from the tyranny of a
sordid old father, threw herself, blushing with ten thousand charms, into
the arms of youthful Spring. Every tufted copse and blooming grove
resounded with the notes of hymeneal love. The very insects, as they
sipped the dew that gemmed the tender grass of the meadows, joined in the
joyous epithalamium--the virgin bud timidly put forth its blushes, "the
voice of the turtle was heard in the land," and the heart of man dissolved
away in tenderness. Oh, sweet Theocritus! had I thine oaten reed,
wherewith thou erst did charm the gay Sicilian plains; or, oh, gentle
Bion! thy pastoral pipe wherein the happy swains of the Lesbian isle so
much delighted, then might I attempt to sing, in soft Bucolic or negligent
Idyllium, the rural beauties of the scene; but having nothing, save this
jaded goose-quill, wherewith to wing my flight, I must fain resign all
poetic disportings of the fancy, and pursue my narrative in humble prose;
comforting myself with the hope, that though it may not steal so sweetly
upon the imagination of my reader, yet it may commend itself, with virgin
modesty, to his better judgment, clothed in the chaste and simple garb of

No sooner did the first rays of cheerful Phoebus dart into the windows of
Communipaw than the little settlement was all in motion. Forth issued from
his castle the sage Van Kortlandt, and seizing a conch shell, blew a
far-resounding blast, that soon summoned all his lusty followers. Then did
they trudge resolutely down to the water side, escorted by a multitude of
relatives and friends, who all went down, as the common phrase expresses
it, "to see them off." And this shows the antiquity of those long family
processions, often seen in our city, composed of all ages, sizes, and
sexes, laden with bundles and bandboxes, escorting some bevy of country
cousins about to depart for home in a market-boat.

The good Oloffe bestowed his forces in a squadron of three canoes, and
hoisted his flag on board a little round Dutch boat, shaped not unlike a
tub, which had formerly been the jolly-boat of the Goede Vrouw. And now,
all being embarked, they bade farewell to the gazing throng upon the
beach, who continued shouting after them, even when out of hearing,
wishing them a happy voyage, advising them to take good care of
themselves, not to get drowned--with an abundance of other of those sage
and invaluable cautions generally given by landsmen to such as go down to
the sea in ships, and adventure upon the deep waters. In the meanwhile the
voyagers cheerily urged their course across the crystal bosom of the bay,
and soon left behind them the green shores of ancient Pavonia.

And first they touched at two small islands which lie nearly opposite
Communipaw, and which are said to have been brought into existence about
the time of the great irruption of the Hudson, when it broke through the
Highlands and made its way to the ocean.[27] For, in this tremendous
uproar of the waters we are told that many huge fragments of rock and land
were rent from the mountains and swept down by this runaway river, for
sixty or seventy miles; where some of them ran aground on the shoals just
opposite Communipaw, and formed the identical islands in question, while
others drifted out to sea, and were never heard of more. A sufficient
proof of the fact is, that the rock which forms the bases of these islands
is exactly similar to that of the Highlands; and moreover, one of our
philosophers, who has diligently compared the agreement of their
respective surfaces, has even gone so far as to assure me, in confidence,
that Gibbet Island was originally nothing more nor less than a wart on
Anthony's nose.[28]

Leaving these wonderful little isles, they next coasted by Governor's
Island, since terrible from its frowning fortress and grinning batteries.
They would by no means, however, land upon this island, since they doubted
much it might be the abode of demons and spirits, which in those days did
greatly abound throughout this savage and pagan country.

Just at this time a shoal of jolly porpoises came rolling and tumbling by,
turning up their sleek sides to the sun, and spouting up the briny element
in sparkling showers. No sooner did the sage Oloffe mark this than he was
greatly rejoiced. "This," exclaimed he, "if I mistake not, augurs
well--the porpoise is a fat, well-conditioned fish--a burgomaster among
fishes--his looks betoken ease, plenty, and prosperity. I greatly admire
this round fat fish, and doubt not but this is a happy omen of the success
of our undertaking." So saying, he directed his squadron to steer in the
track of these alderman fishes.

Turning, therefore, directly to the left, they swept up the strait,
vulgarly called the East River. And here the rapid tide which courses
through this strait, seizing on the gallant tub in which Commodore Van
Kortlandt had embarked, hurried it forward with a velocity unparalleled in
a Dutch boat, navigated by Dutchmen; insomuch that the good commodore, who
had all his life long been accustomed only to the drowsy navigation of
canals, was more than ever convinced that they were in the hands of some
supernatural power, and that the jolly porpoises were towing them to some
fair haven that was to fulfill all their wishes and expectations.

Thus borne away by the resistless current, they doubled that boisterous
point of land since called Corlear's Hook,[29] and leaving to the right
the rich winding cove of the Wallabout, they drifted into a magnificent
expanse of water, surrounded by pleasant shores, whose verdure was
exceedingly refreshing to the eye. While the voyagers were looking around
them, on what they conceived to be a serene and sunny lake, they beheld at
a distance a crew of painted savages busily employed in fishing, who
seemed more like the genii of this romantic region--their slender canoe
lightly balanced like a feather on the undulating surface of the bay.

At sight of these the hearts of the heroes of Communipaw were not a little
troubled. But as good fortune would have it, at the bow of the commodore's
boat was stationed a valiant man, named Hendrick Kip (which, being
interpreted, means chicken, a name given him in token of his courage).

No sooner did he behold these varlet heathens, than he trembled with
excessive valor, and although a good half mile distant, he seized a
musketoon that lay at hand, and turning away his head, fired it most
intrepidly in the face of the blessed sun. The blundering weapon recoiled,
and gave the valiant Kip an ignominious kick, which laid him prostrate
with uplifted heels in the bottom of the boat. But such was the effect of
this tremendous fire, that the wild men of the woods, struck with
consternation, seized hastily upon their paddles, and shot away into one
of the deep inlets of the Long Island shore.

This signal victory gave new spirits to the voyagers, and in honor of the
achievement they gave the name of the valiant Kip to the surrounding bay,
and it has continued to be called Kip's Bay from that time to the present.
The heart of the good Van Kortlandt--who, having no land of his own, was a
great admirer of other people's--expanded to the full size of a peppercorn
at the sumptuous prospect of rich unsettled country around him, and
falling into a delicious reverie, he straightway began to riot in the
possession of vast meadows of salt marsh and interminable patches of
cabbages. From this delectable vision he was all at once awakened by the
sudden turning of the tide, which would soon have hurried him from this
land of promise, had not the discreet navigator given signal to steer for
shore; where they accordingly landed hard by the rocky heights of
Bellevue--that happy retreat where our jolly aldermen eat for the good of
the city, and fatten the turtle that are sacrificed on civic solemnities.

Here, seated on the greensward, by the side of a small stream that ran
sparkling among the grass, they refreshed themselves after the toils of
the seas by feasting lustily on the ample stores which they had provided
for this perilous voyage. Thus having well fortified their deliberate
powers, they fell into an earnest consultation what was further to be
done. This was the first council dinner ever eaten at Bellevue by
Christian burghers; and here, as tradition relates, did originate the
great family feud between the Hardenbroecks and the Tenbroecks, which
afterwards had a singular influence on the building of the city. The
sturdy Harden Broeck, whose eyes had been wondrously delighted with the
salt marshes which spread their reeking bosoms along the coast, at the
bottom of Kip's Bay, counseled by all means to return thither, and found
the intended city. This was strenuously opposed by the unbending Ten
Broeck, and many testy arguments passed between them. The particulars of
this controversy have not reached us, which is ever to be lamented; this
much is certain, that the sage Oloffe put an end to the dispute, by
determining to explore still farther in the route which the mysterious
porpoises had so clearly pointed out; whereupon the sturdy Tough Breeches
abandoned the expedition, took possession of a neighboring hill, and in a
fit of great wrath peopled all that tract of country, which has continued
to be inhabited by the Hardenbroecks unto this very day.

By this time the jolly Phoebus, like some wanton urchin sporting on the
side of a green hill, began to roll down the declivity of the heavens; and
now, the tide having once more turned in their favor, the Pavonians again
committed themselves to its discretion, and coasting along the western
shores, were borne towards the straits of Blackwell's Island.

And here the capricious wanderings of the current occasioned not a little
marvel and perplexity to these illustrious mariners. Now would they be
caught by the wanton eddies, and, sweeping round a jutting point, would
wind deep into some romantic little cove, that indented the fair island of
Manna-hata; now were they hurried narrowly by the very bases of impending
rocks, mantled with the flaunting grape-vine, and crowned with groves,
which threw a broad shade on the waves beneath; and anon they were borne
away into the mid-channel and wafted along with a rapidity that very much
discomposed the sage Van Kortlandt, who, as he saw the land swiftly
receding on either side, began exceedingly to doubt that terra firma was
giving them the slip.

Wherever the voyagers turned their eyes a new creation seemed to bloom
around. No signs of human thrift appeared to check the delicious wildness
of Nature, who here reveled in all her luxuriant variety. Those hills, now
bristled like the fretful porcupine, with rows of poplars (vain upstart
plants! minions of wealth and fashion!), were then adorned with the
vigorous natives of the soil--the lordly oak, the generous chestnut, the
graceful elm--while here and there the tulip-tree reared its majestic
head, the giant of the forest. Where now are seen the gay retreats of
luxury--villas half buried in twilight bowers, whence the amorous flute
oft breathes the sighings of some city swain--there the fish-hawk built
his solitary nest, on some dry tree that overlooked his watery domain. The
timid deer fed undisturbed along those shores now hallowed by the lover's
moonlight walk, and printed by the slender foot of beauty; and a savage
solitude extended over those happy regions, where now are reared the
stately towers of the Joneses, the Schermerhornes, and the Rhinelanders.

Thus gliding in silent wonder through these new and unknown scenes, the
gallant squadron of Pavonia swept by the foot of a promontory, which
strutted forth boldly into the waves, and seemed to frown upon them as
they brawled against its base. This is the bluff well known to modern
mariners by the name of Gracie's Point, from the fair castle which, like
an elephant, it carries upon its back. And here broke upon their view a
wild and varied prospect, where land and water were beauteously
intermingled, as though they had combined to heighten and set off each
other's charms. To their right lay the sedgy point of Blackwell's Island,
dressed in the fresh garniture of living green; beyond it stretched the
pleasant coast of Sundswick, and the small harbor well known by the name
of Hallet's Cove--a place infamous in latter days, by reason of its being
the haunt of pirates who infest these seas, robbing orchards and
water-melon patches, and insulting gentlemen navigators when voyaging in
their pleasure boats. To the left a deep bay, or rather creek, gracefully
receded between shores fringed with forests, and forming a kind of vista
through which were beheld the sylvan regions of Haerlem, Morrissania, and
East Chester. Here the eye reposed with delight on a richly weeded
country, diversified by tufted knolls, shadowy intervals, and waving lines
of upland, swelling above each other; while over the whole the purple
mists of spring diffused a hue of soft voluptuousness.

Just before them the grand course of the stream, making a sudden bend,
wound among embowered promontories and shores of emerald verdure that
seemed to melt into the wave. A character of gentleness and mild fertility
prevailed around. The sun had just descended, and the thin haze of
twilight, like a transparent veil drawn over the bosom of virgin beauty,
heightened the charms which it half concealed.

Ah! witching scenes of foul delusion! Ah! hapless voyagers, gazing with
simple wonder on these Circean shores! Such, alas! are they, poor easy
souls, who listen to the seductions of a wicked world; treacherous are its
smiles, fatal its caresses! He who yields to its enticements launches upon
a whelming tide, and trusts his feeble bark among the dimpling eddies of a
whirlpool! And thus it fared with the worthies of Pavonia, who, little
mistrusting the guileful sense before them, drifted quietly on, until they
were aroused by an uncommon tossing and agitation of their vessels. For
now the late dimpling current began to brawl around them, and the waves to
boil and foam with horrible fury. Awakened as if from a dream, the
astonished Oloffe bawled aloud to put about, but his words were lost amid
the roaring of the waters. And now ensued a scene of direful
consternation. At one time they were borne with dreadful velocity among
tumultuous breakers; at another, hurried down boisterous rapids. Now they
were nearly dashed upon the Hen and Chickens (infamous rocks! more
voracious than Scylla and her whelps!); and anon they seemed sinking into
yawning gulfs, that threatened to entomb them beneath the waves. All the
elements combined to produce a hideous confusion. The waters raged--the
winds howled--and as they were hurried along several of the astonished
mariners beheld the rocks and trees of the neighboring shores driving
through the air!

At length the mighty tub of Commodore Van Kortlandt was drawn into the
vortex of that tremendous whirlpool called the Pot, where it was whirled
about in giddy mazes, until the senses of the good commander and his crew
were overpowered by the horror of the scene, and the strangeness of the

How the gallant squadron of Pavonia was snatched from the jaws of this
modern Charybdis has never been truly made known, for so many survived to
tell the tale, and, what is still more wonderful, told it in so many
different ways, that there has ever prevailed a great variety of opinions
on the subject.

As to the commodore and his crew, when they came to their senses they
found themselves stranded on the Long Island shore. The worthy commodore,
indeed, used to relate many and wonderful stories of his adventures in
this time of peril; how that he saw specters flying in the air, and heard
the yelling of hobgoblins, and put his hand into the pot when they were
whirled round, and found the water scalding hot, and beheld several
uncouth-looking beings seated on rocks and skimming it with huge ladles;
but particularly he declared with great exultation, that he saw the losel
porpoises, which had betrayed them into this peril, some broiling on the
Gridiron, and others hissing on the Frying-pan!

These, however, were considered by many as mere phantasies of the
commodore, while he lay in a trance, especially as he was known to be
given to dreaming; and the truth of them has never been clearly
ascertained. It is certain, however, that to the accounts of Oloffe and
his followers may be traced the various traditions handed down of this
marvelous strait--as how the devil has been seen there, sitting astride of
the Hog's Back and playing on the fiddle--how he broils fish there before
a storm; and many other stories, in which we must be cautious of putting
too much faith. In consequence of all these terrific circumstances, the
Pavonian commander gave this pass the name of Helle-gat, or, as it has
been interpreted, Hell-gate;[30] which it continues to bear at the present


[27] It is a matter long since established by certain of our
philosophers, that is to say, having been often advanced and
never contradicted, it has grown to be pretty nigh equal to a
settled fact, that the Hudson was originally a lake dammed up by
the mountains of the Highlands. In process of time, however,
becoming very mighty and obstreperous, and the mountains waxing
pursy, dropsical, and weak in the back, by reason of their
extreme old age, it suddenly rose upon them, and after a violent
struggle effected its escape. This is said to have come to pass
in very remote time, probably before that rivers had lost the art
of running up hill. The foregoing is a theory in which I do not
pretend to be skilled, not withstanding that I do fully give it
my belief.

[28] A promontory in the Highlands.

[29] Properly spelt Hoeck (i.e. a point of land).

[30] This is a narrow strait in the Sound, at the distance of six
miles above New York. It is dangerous to shipping, unless under
the care of skillful pilots, by reason of numerous rocks,
shelves, and whirlpools. These have received sundry appellations,
such as the Gridiron, Frying-pan, Hog's Back, Pot, etc., and are
very violent and turbulent at certain times of tide. Certain
mealy-mouthed men, of squeamish consciences, who are loth to give
the devil his due, have softened the above characteristic name
into Hell-gate, forsooth! Let those take care how they venture
into the Gate, or they may be hurled into the Pot before they are
aware of it. The name of this strait, as given by our author, is
supported by the map of Vander Donck's history, published in
1656--by Ogilvie's History of America, 1671--as also by a journal
still extant, written in the sixteenth century, and to be found
in Hazard's State Papers. And an old MS, written in French,
speaking of various alterations, in names about this city,
observes, "De Hellegat, trou d'Enfer, ils ont fait Hell-gate,
porte d'Enfer."


The darkness of night had closed upon this disastrous day, and a doleful
night was it to the shipwrecked Pavonians, whose ears were incessantly
assailed with the raging of the elements, and the howling of the
hobgoblins that infested this perfidious strait. But when the morning
dawned the horrors of the preceding evening had passed away, rapids,
breakers and whirlpools had disappeared, the stream again ran smooth and
dimpling, and having changed its tide, rolled gently back towards the
quarter where lay their much regretted home.

The woebegone heroes of Communipaw eyed each other with rueful
countenances; their squadrons had been totally dispersed by the late
disaster. Some were cast upon the western shore, where, headed by one
Ruleff Hopper, they took possession of all the country lying about the
six-mile-stone, which is held by the Hoppers at this present writing.

The Waldrons were driven by stress of weather to a distant coast, where,
having with them a jug of genuine Hollands, they were enabled to
conciliate the savages, setting up a kind of tavern; whence, it is said,
did spring the fair town of Haerlem, in which their descendants have ever
since continued to be reputable publicans. As to the Suydams, they were
thrown upon the Long Island coast, and may still be found in those parts.
But the most singular luck attended the great Ten Broeck, who, falling
overboard, was miraculously preserved from sinking by the multitude of his
nether garments. Thus buoyed up, he floated on the waves like a merman, or
like an angler's dobber, until he landed safely on a rock, where he was
found the next morning busily drying his many breeches in the sunshine.

I forbear to treat of the long consultation of Oloffe with his remaining
followers, in which they determined that it would never do to found a city
in so diabolical a neighborhood. Suffice it in simple brevity to say, that
they once more committed themselves, with fear and trembling, to the briny
element, and steered their course back again through the scenes of their
yesterday's voyage, determined no longer to roam in search of distant
sites, but to settle themselves down in the marshy regions of Pavonia.

Scarce, however, had they gained a distant view of Communipaw, when they
were encountered by an obstinate eddy, which opposed their homeward
voyage. Weary and dispirited as they were, they yet tugged a feeble oar
against the stream; until, as if to settle the strife, half a score of
potent billows rolled the tub of Commodore Van Kortlandt high and dry on
the long point of an island which divided the bosom of the bay.

Some pretend that these billows were sent by old Neptune to strand the
expedition on a spot whereon was to be founded his stronghold in this
western world; others, more pious, attribute everything to the
guardianship of the good St. Nicholas; and after events will be found to
corroborate this opinion. Oloffe Van Kortlandt was a devout trencherman.
Every repast was a kind of religious rite with him; and his first thought
on finding him once more on dry ground was how he should contrive to
celebrate his wonderful escape from Hell-gate and all its horrors by a
solemn banquet. The stores which had been provided for the voyage by the
good housewives of Communipaw were nearly exhausted; but in casting his
eyes about the commodore beheld that the shore abounded with oysters. A
great store of these was instantly collected; a fire was made at the foot
of a tree; all hands fell to roasting, and broiling, and stewing, and
frying, and a sumptuous repast was soon set forth. This is thought to be
the origin of those civic feasts with which, to the present day, all our
public affairs are celebrated, and in which the oyster is ever sure to
play an important part.

On the present occasion the worthy Van Kortlandt was observed to be
particularly zealous in his devotions to the trencher; for having the
cares of the expedition especially committed to his care he deemed it
incumbent on him to eat profoundly for the public good. In proportion as
he filled himself to the very brim with the dainty viands before him did
the heart of this excellent burgher rise up towards his throat, until he
seemed crammed and almost choked with good eating and good nature. And at
such times it is, when a man's heart is in his throat, that he may more
truly be said to speak from it, and his speeches abound with kindness and
good fellowship. Thus, having swallowed the last possible morsel, and
washed it down with a fervent potation, Oloffe felt his heart yearning,
and his whole frame in a manner dilating with unbounded benevolence.
Everything around him seemed excellent and delightful; and laying his
hands on each side of his capacious periphery, and rolling his half-closed
eyes around on the beautiful diversity of land and water before him, he
exclaimed, in a fat, half-smothered voice, "What a charming prospect!" The
words died away in his throat--he seemed to ponder on the fair scene for a
moment--his eyelids heavily closed over their orbs--his head drooped upon
his bosom--he slowly sank upon the green turf, and a deep sleep stole
gradually over him.

And the sage Oloffe dreamed a dream--and, lo! the good St. Nicholas came
riding over the tops of the trees, in that self-same wagon wherein he
brings his yearly presents to children. And he descended hard by where the
heroes of Communipaw had made their late repast. And he lit his pipe by
the fire, and sat himself down and smoked; and as he smoked the smoke from
his pipe ascended into the air, and spread like a cloud overhead. And
Oloffe bethought him, and he hastened and climbed up to the top of one of
the tallest trees, and saw that the smoke spread over a great extent of
country--and as he considered it more attentively he fancied that the
great volume of smoke assumed a variety of marvelous forms, where in dim
obscurity he saw shadowed out palaces and domes and lofty spires, all of
which lasted but a moment, and then faded away, until the whole rolled
off, and nothing but the green woods were left. And when St. Nicholas had
smoked his pipe he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside
his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look, then
mounting his wagon, he returned over the treetops and disappeared.

And Van Kortlandt awoke from his sleep greatly instructed, and he aroused
his companions, and related to them his dream, and interpreted it that it
was the will of St. Nicholas that they should settle down and build the
city here; and that the smoke of the pipe was a type how vast would be
the extent of the city, inasmuch as the volumes of its smoke would spread
over a wide extent of country. And they all with one voice assented to
this interpretation excepting Mynheer Ten Broeck, who declared the meaning
to be that it would be a city wherein a little fire would occasion a great
smoke, or, in other words, a very vaporing little city--both which
interpretations have strangely come to pass!

The great object of their perilous expedition, therefore, being thus
happily accomplished, the voyagers returned merrily to Communipaw, where
they were received with great rejoicings. And here calling a general
meeting of all the wise men and the dignitaries of Pavonia, they related
the whole history of their voyage, and of the dream of Oloffe Van
Kortlandt. And the people lifted up their voices and blessed the good St.
Nicholas, and from that time forth the sage Van Kortlandt was held in more
honor than ever, for his great talent at dreaming, and was pronounced a
most useful citizen, and a right good man--when he was asleep.


The original name of the island whereon the squadron of Communipaw was
thus propitiously thrown is a matter of some dispute, and has already
undergone considerable vitiation--a melancholy proof of the instability of
all sublunary things, and the vanity of all our hopes of lasting fame; for
who can expect his name will live to posterity, when even the names of
mighty islands are thus soon lost in contradiction and uncertainty!

The name most current at the present day, and which is likewise
countenanced by the great historian Vander Donck, is Manhattan, which is
said to have originated in a custom among the squaws, in the early
settlement, of wearing men's hats, as is still done among many tribes.
"Hence," as we are told by an old governor, who was somewhat of a wag, and
flourished almost a century since, and had paid a visit to the wits of
Philadelphia, "hence arose the appellation of man-hat-on, first given to
the Indians, and afterwards to the island"--a stupid joke!--but well
enough for a governor.

Among the more venerable sources of information on this subject is that
valuable history of the American possessions, written by Master Richard
Blome, in 1687, wherein it is called the Manhadaes and Manahanent; nor
must I forget the excellent little book, full of precious matter, of that
authentic historian, John Josselyn, gent., who expressly calls it

Another etymology still more ancient, and sanctioned by the countenance of
our ever to be lamented Dutch ancestors, is that found in certain letters,
still extant,[31] which passed between the early governors and their
neighboring powers, wherein it is called indifferently Monhattoes,
Munhatos, and Manhattoes, which are evidently unimportant variations of
the same name; for our wise forefathers set little store by those
niceties, either in orthography or orthoepy, which form the sole study and
ambition of many learned men and women of this hypercritical age. This
last name is said to be derived from the great Indian spirit Manetho, who
was supposed to make this island his favorite abode, on account of its
uncommon delights. For the Indian traditions affirm that the bay was once
a translucid lake, filled with silver and golden fish, in the midst of
which lay this beautiful island, covered with every variety of fruits and
flowers, but that the sudden irruption of the Hudson laid waste these
blissful scenes, and Manetho took his flight beyond the great waters of

These, however, are very fabulous legends, to which very cautious
credence must be given; and though I am willing to admit the last quoted
orthography of the name as very fit for prose, yet is there another which
I peculiarly delight in, as at once poetical, melodious, and
significant--and which we have on the authority of Master Juet, who, in
his account of the voyage of the great Hudson, calls this Manna-hata--that
is to say, the island of manna--or, in other words, a land flowing with
milk and honey.

Still my deference to the learned obliges me to notice the opinion of the
worthy Dominie Heckwelder, which ascribes the name to a great drunken
bout, held on the island by the Dutch discoverers, whereat they made
certain of the natives most ecstatically drunk for the first time in their
lives; who, being delighted with their jovial entertainment, gave the
place the name of Mannahattanink--that is to say, the Island of Jolly
Topers--a name which it continues to merit to the present day.[32]


[31] Vide Hazard's Col. Stat. Pap.

[32] MSS. of the Rev. John Heckwelder, in the archives of the New
York Historical Society.


It having been solemnly resolved that the seat of empire should be removed
from the green shores of Pavonia to the pleasant island of Manna-hata,
everybody was anxious to embark under the standard of Oloffe the Dreamer,
and to be among the first sharers of the promised land. A day was
appointed for the grand migration, and on that day little Communipaw as in
a buzz and a bustle like a hive in swarming time. Houses were turned
inside out, and stripped of the venerable furniture which had come from
Holland; all the community, great and small, black and white, man, woman,
and child, was in commotion, forming lines from the houses to the water
side, like lines of ants from an ant-hill; everybody laden with some
article of household furniture; while busy housewifes plied backwards and
forwards along the lines, helping everything forward by the nimbleness of
their tongues.

By degrees a fleet of boats and canoes were piled up with all kinds of
household articles; ponderous tables; chests of drawers, resplendent with
brass ornaments, quaint corner cupboards; beds and bedsteads; with any
quantity of pots, kettles, frying-pans, and Dutch ovens. In each boat
embarked a whole family, from the robustious burgher down to the cats and
dogs and little negroes. In this way they set off across the mouth of the
Hudson, under the guidance of Oloffe the Dreamer, who hoisted his standard
on the leading boat.

This memorable migration took place on the first of May, and was long
cited in tradition as the grand moving. The anniversary of it was piously
observed among the "sons of the pilgrims of Communipaw," by turning their
houses topsy-turvy, and carrying all the furniture through the streets, in
emblem of the swarming of the parent hive; and this is the real origin of
the universal agitation and "moving" by which this most restless of cities
is literally turned out of doors on every May-day.

As the little squadron from Communipaw drew near to the shores of
Manna-hata, a sachem, at the head of a band of warriors, appeared to
oppose their landing. Some of the most zealous of the pilgrims were for
chastising this insolence with the powder and ball, according to the
approved mode of discoverers; but the sage Oloffe gave them the
significant sign of St. Nicholas, laying his finger beside his nose and
winking hard with one eye; whereupon his followers perceived that there
was something sagacious in the wind. He now addressed the Indians in the
blandest terms, and made such tempting display of beads, hawks's bells,
and red blankets, that he was soon permitted to land, and a great land
speculation ensued. And here let me give the true story of the original
purchase of the site of this renowned city, about which so much has been
said and written. Some affirm that the first cost was, but sixty guilders.
The learned Dominie Heckwelder records a tradition[33] that the Dutch
discoverers bargained for only so much land as the hide of a bullock would
cover; but that they cut the hide in strips no thicker than a child's
finger, so as to take in a large portion of land, and to take in the
Indians into the bargain This, however, is an old fable which the worthy
Dominie may have borrowed from antiquity. The true version is, that Oloffe
Van Kortlandt bargained for just so much land as a man could cover with
his nether garments. The terms being concluded, he produced his friend
Mynheer Ten Broeck, as the man whose breeches were to be used in
measurement. The simple savages, whose ideas of a man's nether garments
had never expanded beyond the dimensions of a breech clout, stared with
astonishment and dismay as they beheld this bulbous-bottomed burgher
peeled like an onion, and breeches after breeches spread forth over the
land until they covered the actual site of this venerable city.

This is the true history of the adroit bargain by which the Island of
Manhattan was bought for sixty guilders; and in corroboration of it I will
add that Mynheer Ten Breeches, for his services on this memorable
occasion, was elevated to the office of land measurer; which he ever
afterwards exercised in the colony.


[33] MSS. of the Rev. John Heckwelder: New York Historical Society.


The land being thus fairly purchased of the Indians, a circumstance very
unusual in the history of colonization, and strongly illustrative of the
honesty of our Dutch progenitors, a stockade fort and trading house were
forthwith erected on an eminence in front of the place where the good St.
Nicholas had appeared in a vision to Oloffe the Dreamer; and which, as has
already been observed, was the identical place at present known as the
Bowling Green.

Around this fort a progeny of little Dutch-built houses, with tiled roofs
and weathercocks, soon sprang up, nestling themselves under its walls for
protection, as a brood of half-fledged chickens nestle under the wings of
the mother hen. The whole was surrounded by an enclosure of strong
palisadoes, to guard against any sudden irruption of the savages. Outside
of these extended the corn-fields and cabbage-gardens of the community,
with here and there an attempt at a tobacco plantation; all covering those
tracts of country at present called Broadway, Wall Street, William Street,
and Pearl Street, I must not omit to mention, that in portioning out the
land a goodly "bowerie" or farm was allotted to the sage Oloffe, in
consideration of the service he had rendered to the public by his talent
at dreaming; and the site of his "bowerie" is known by the name of
Kortlandt (or Cortland) Street to the present day.

And now the infant settlement having advanced in age and stature, it was
thought high time it should receive an honest Christian name. Hitherto it
had gone by the original Indian name of Manna-hata, or, as some will have
it, "The Manhattoes;" but this was now decried as savage and heathenish,
and as tending to keep up the memory of the pagan brood that originally
possessed it. Many were the consultations held upon the subject without
coming to a conclusion, for though everybody condemned the old name,
nobody could invent a new one. At length, when the council was almost in
despair, a burgher, remarkable for the size and squareness of his head,
proposed that they should call it New Amsterdam. The proposition took
everybody by surprise; it was so striking, so apposite, so ingenious. The
name was adopted by acclamation, and New Amsterdam the metropolis was
thenceforth called. Still, however, the early authors of the province
continued to call it by the general appelation of "The Manhattoes," and
the poets fondly clung to the euphonious name of Manna-hata; but those are
a kind of folk whose tastes and notions should go for nothing in matters
of this kind.

Having thus provided the embryo city with a name, the next was to give it
an armorial bearing or device, as some cities have a rampant lion, others
a soaring eagle; emblematical, no doubt, of the valiant and high-flying
qualities of the inhabitants: so after mature deliberation a sleek beaver
was emblazoned on the city standard as indicative of the amphibious origin
and patient persevering habits of the New Amsterdamers.

The thriving state of the settlement and the rapid increase of houses soon
made it necessary to arrange some plan upon which the city should be
built; but at the very first consultation on the subject a violent
discussion arose; and I mention it with much sorrowing as being the first
altercation on record in the councils of New Amsterdam. It was, in fact, a
breaking forth of the grudge and heart-burning that had existed between
those two eminent burghers, Mynheers Ten Broeck and Harden Broeck, ever
since their unhappy dispute on the coast of Bellevue. The great Harden
Broeck had waxed very wealthy and powerful from his domains, which
embraced the whole chain of Apulean mountains that stretched along the
gulf of Kip's Bay, and from part of which his descendants have been
expelled in latter ages by the powerful clans of the Joneses and the

An ingenious plan for the city was offered by Mynheer Harden Broeck, who
proposed that it should be cut up and intersected by canals, after the
manner of the most admired cities in Holland. To this Mynheer Ten Broeck
was diametrically opposed, suggesting in place thereof that they should
run out docks and wharves, by means of piles driven into the bottom of the
river, on which the town should be built. "By these means," said he,
triumphantly, "shall we rescue a considerable space of territory from
these immense rivers, and build a city that shall rival Amsterdam, Venice,
or any amphibious city in Europe." To this proposition Harden Broeck (or
Tough Breeches) replied, with a look of as much scorn as he could possibly
assume. He cast the utmost censure upon the plan of his antagonist, as
being preposterous, and against the very order of things, as he would
leave to every true Hollander. "For what," said he, "is a town without
canals?--it is like a body without veins and arteries, and must perish for
want of a free circulation of the vital fluid."--Ten Breeches, on the
contrary, retorted with a sarcasm upon his antagonist, who was somewhat of
an arid, dry-boded habit; he remarked, that as to the circulation of the
blood being necessary to existence, Mynheer Tough Breeches was a living
contradiction to his own assertion; for everybody knew there had not a
drop of blood circulated through his wind-dried carcase for good ten
years, and yet there was not a greater busybody in the whole colony.
Personalities have seldom much effect in making converts in argument; nor
have I ever seen a man convinced of error by being convicted of deformity.
At least such was not the case at present. If Ten Breeches was very happy
in sarcasm, Tough Breeches, who was a sturdy little man, and never gave up
the last word, rejoined with increasing spirit; Ten Breeches had the
advantage of the greatest volubility, but Tough Breeches had that
invaluable coat of mail in argument called obstinacy; Ten Breeches had,
therefore, the most mettle, but Tough Breeches the best bottom--so that
though Ten Breeches made a dreadful clattering about his ears, and
battered and belabored him with hard words and sound arguments, yet Tough
Breeches hung on most resolutely to the last. They parted, therefore, as
is usual in all arguments where both parties are in the right, without
coming to any conclusion; but they hated each other most heartily for ever
after, and a similar breach with that between the houses of Capulet and
Montague did ensue between the families of Ten Breeches and Tough

I would not fatigue my reader with these dull matters of fact, but that my
duty as a faithful historian requires that I should be particular; and, in
truth, as I am now treating of the critical period when our city, like a
young twig, first received the twists and turns which have since
contributed to give it its present picturesque irregularity, I cannot be
too minute in detailing their first causes.

After the unhappy altercation I have just mentioned, I do not find that
anything further was said on the subject worthy of being recorded. The
council, consisting of the largest and oldest heads in the community, met
regularly once a week, to ponder on this momentous subject; but, either
they were deterred by the war of words they had witnessed, or they were
naturally averse to the exercise of the tongue, and the consequent
exercise of the brains--certain it is, the most profound silence was
maintained--the question, as usual, lay on the table--the members quietly
smoked their pipes, making but few laws, without ever enforcing any, and
in the meantime the affairs of the settlement went on--as it pleased God.

As most of the council were but little skilled in the mystery of
combining pot-hooks and hangers, they determined most judiciously not to
puzzle either themselves or posterity with voluminous records. The
secretary, however, kept the minutes of the council with tolerable
precision, in a large vellum folio, fastened with massy brass clasps; the
journal of each meeting consisted but of two lines, stating in Dutch that
"the council sat this day, and smoked twelve pipes on the affairs of the
colony." By which it appears that the first settlers did not regulate
their time by hours, but pipes, in the same manner as they measure
distances in Holland at this very time; an admirably exact measurement, as
a pipe in the mouth of a true-born Dutchman is never liable to those
accidents and irregularities that are continually putting our clocks out
of order.

In this manner did the profound council of New Amsterdam smoke, and doze,
and ponder, from week to week, month to month, and year to year, in what
manner they should construct their infant settlement; meanwhile the town
took care of itself, and, like a sturdy brat which is suffered to run
about wild, unshackled by clouts and bandages, and other abominations by
which your notable nurses and sage old women cripple and disfigure the
children of men, increased so rapidly in strength and magnitude, that
before the honest burgomasters had determined upon a plan it was too late
to put it in execution--whereupon they wisely abandoned the subject


There is something exceedingly delusive in thus looking back, through the
long vista of departed years, and catching a glimpse of the fairy realms
of antiquity. Like a landscape melting into distance, they receive a
thousand charms from their very obscurity, and the fancy delights to fill
up their outlines with graces and excellences of its own creation. Thus
loom on my imagination those happier days of our city, when as yet New
Amsterdam was a mere pastoral town, shrouded in groves of sycamores and
willows, and surrounded by trackless forests and wide-spreading waters,
that seemed to shut out all the cares and vanities of a wicked world.

In those days did this embryo city present the rare and noble spectacle of
a community governed without laws; and thus being left to its own course,
and the fostering care of Providence, increased as rapidly as though it
had been burdened with a dozen panniers full of those sage laws usually
heaped on the backs of young cities--in order to make them grow. And in
this particular I greatly admire the wisdom and sound knowledge of human
nature displayed by the sage Oloffe the Dreamer and his fellow
legislators. For my part, I have not so bad an opinion of mankind as many
of my brother philosophers. I do not think poor human nature so sorry a
piece of workmanship as they would make it out to be; and as far as I have
observed, I am fully satisfied that man, if left to himself, would about
as readily go right as wrong. It is only this eternally sounding in his
ears that it is his duty to go right which makes him go the very reverse.
The noble independence of his nature revolts at this intolerable tyranny
of law, and the perpetual interference of officious morality, which are
ever besetting his path with finger-posts and directions to "keep to the
right, as the law directs;" and like a spirited urchin, he turns directly
contrary, and gallops through mud and mire, over hedges and ditches,
merely to show that he is a lad of spirit, and out of his leading-strings.
And these opinions are amply substantiated by what I have above said of
our worthy ancestors; who never being be-preached and be-lectured, and
guided and governed by statutes and laws and by-laws, as are their more
enlightened descendants, did one and all demean themselves honestly and
peaceably, out of pure ignorance, or, in other words--because they knew no

Nor must I omit to record one of the earliest measures of this infant
settlement, inasmuch as it shows the piety of our forefathers, and that,
like good Christians, they were always ready to serve God, after they had
first served themselves. Thus, having quietly settled themselves down, and
provided for their own comfort, they bethought themselves of testifying
their gratitude to the great and good St. Nicholas, for his protecting
care in guiding them to this delectable abode. To this end they built a
fair and goodly chapel within the fort, which they consecrated to his
name; whereupon he immediately took the town of New Amsterdam under his
peculiar patronage, and he has even since been, and I devoutly hope will
ever be, the tutelar saint of this excellent city.

At this early period was instituted that pious ceremony, still religiously
observed in all our ancient families of the right breed, of hanging up a
stocking in the chimney on St. Nicholas Eve; which stocking is always
found in the morning miraculously filled; for the good St. Nicholas has
ever been a great giver of gifts, particularly to children.

I am moreover told that there is a little legendary book somewhere extant,
written in Low Dutch, which says that the image of this renowned saint,
which whilom graced the bow-sprit of the Goede Vrouw, was elevated in
front of this chapel, in the center of what in modern days is called the
Bowling Green--on the very spot, in fact, where he appeared in vision to
Oloffe the Dreamer. And the legend further treats of divers miracles
wrought by the mighty pipe which the saint held in his mouth; a whiff of
which was a sovereign cure for an indigestion--an invaluable relic in this
colony of brave trenchermen. As however, in spite of the most diligent
search, I cannot lay my hands upon this little book, I must confess that
I entertain considerable doubt on the subject.

Thus benignly fostered by the good St. Nicholas, the infant city thrived
apace. Hordes of painted savages, it is true, still lurked about the
unsettled parts of the island. The hunter still pitched his bower of skins
and bark beside the rills that ran through the cool and shady glens, while
here and there might be seen, on some sunny knoll, a group of Indian
wigwams whose smoke arose above the neighboring trees, and floated in the
transparent atmosphere. A mutual good-will, however, existed between these
wandering beings and the burghers of New Amsterdam. Our benevolent
forefathers endeavored as much as possible to ameliorate their situation,
by giving them gin, rum, and glass beads, in exchange for their peltries;
for it seems the kind-hearted Dutchmen had conceived a great friendship
for their savage neighbors, on account of their being pleasant men to
trade with, and little skilled in the art of making a bargain.

Now and then a crew of these half human sons of the forest would make
their appearance in the streets of New Amsterdam, fantastically painted
and decorated with beads and flaunting feathers, sauntering about with an
air of listless indifference--sometimes in the marketplace, instructing
the little Dutch boys in the use of the bow and arrow--at other times,
inflamed with liquor, swaggering, and whooping, and yelling about the town
like so many fiends, to the great dismay of all the good wives, who would
hurry their children into the house, fasten the doors, and throw water
upon the enemy from the garret windows. It is worthy of mention here that
our forefathers were very particular in holding up these wild men as
excellent domestic examples--and for reasons that may be gathered from the
history of Master Ogilby, who tells us that "for the least offence the
bridegroom soundly beats his wife and turns her out of doors, and marries
another, insomuch that some of them have every year a new wife." Whether
this awful example had any influence or not history does not mention; but
it is certain that our grandmothers were miracles of fidelity and

True it is that the good understanding between our ancestors and their
savage neighbors was liable to occasional interruptions, and I have heard
my grandmother, who was a very wise old woman, and well versed in the
history of these parts, tell a long story of a winter's evening, about a
battle between the New-Amsterdammers and the Indians, which was known by
the name of the Peach War, and which took place near a peach orchard, in a
dark glen, which for a long while went by the name of Murderer's Valley.

The legend of this sylvan war was long current among the nurses, old
wives, and other ancient chroniclers of the place; but time and
improvement have almost obliterated both the tradition and the scene of
battle; for what was once the blood-stained valley is now in the center of
this populous city, and known by the name of Dey Street.

I know not whether it was to this "Peach War," and the acquisitions of
Indian land which may have grown out of it, that we may ascribe the first
seeds of the spirit of "annexation" which now began to manifest
themselves. Hitherto the ambition of the worthy burghers had been confined
to the lovely island of Manna-hata; and Spiten Devil on the Hudson, and
Hell-gate on the Sound, were to them the pillars of Hercules, the _ne plus
ultra_ of human enterprise. Shortly after the Peach War however, a
restless spirit was observed among the New Amsterdammers, who began to
cast wistful looks upon the wild lands of their Indian neighbors; for
somehow or other wild Indian land always looks greener in the eyes of
settlers than the land they occupy. It is hinted that Oloffe the Dreamer
encouraged these notions; having, as has been shown, the inherent spirit
of a land speculator, which had been wonderfully quickened and expanded
since he had become a landholder. Many of the common people, who had never
before owned a foot of land, now began to be discontented with the town
lots which had fallen to their shares; others who had snug farms and
tobacco plantations found they had not sufficient elbow-room, and began to
question the rights of the Indians to the vast regions they pretended to
hold--while the good Oloffe indulged in magnificent dreams of foreign
conquest and great patroonships in the wilderness.

The result of these dreams were certain exploring expeditions sent forth
in various directions to "sow the seeds of empire," as it was said. The
earliest of these were conducted by Hans Reinier Oothout, an old navigator
famous for the sharpness of his vision, who could see land when it was
quite out of sight to ordinary mortals, and who had a spy-glass covered
with a bit of tarpaulin, with which he could spy up the crookedest river,
quite to its head waters. He was accompanied by Mynheer Ten Breeches, as
land measurer, in case of any dispute with the Indians.

What was the consequence of these exploring expeditions? In a little while
we find a frontier post or trading-house called Fort Nassau, established
far to the south on Delaware River; another called Fort Goed Hoop (or Good
Hope), on the Varsche or Fresh, or Connecticut River; and another called
Fort Aurania (now Albany) away up the Hudson River; while the boundaries
of the province kept extending on every side, nobody knew whither, far
into the regions of Terra Incognita.

Of the boundary feuds and troubles which the ambitious little province
brought upon itself by these indefinite expansions of its territory we
shall treat at large in the after pages of this eventful history;
sufficient for the present is it to say, that the swelling importance of
the Nieuw Nederlandts awakened the attention of the mother country, who,
finding it likely to yield much revenue and no trouble, began to take that
interest in its welfare which knowing people evince for rich relations.

But as this opens a new era in the fortunes of New Amsterdam I will here
put an end to this second book of my history, and will treat of the
maternal policy of the mother country in my next.




Grievous and very much to be commiserated is the task of the feeling
historian who writes the history of his native land. If it fell to his lot
to be the recorder of calamity or crime, the mournful page is watered with
his tears--nor can he recall the most prosperous and blissful era without
a melancholy sigh at the reflection that it has passed away for ever! I
know not whether it be owing to an immoderate love for the simplicity of
former times, or to that certain tenderness of heart incident to all
sentimental historians, but I candidly confess that I cannot look back on
the happier days of our city, which I now describe, without great
dejection of spirits. With faltering hand do I withdraw the curtain of
oblivion that veils the modest merit of our venerable ancestors, and as
their figures rise to my mental vision, humble myself before their mighty

Such are my feelings when I revisit the family mansion of the
Knickerbockers, and spend a lonely hour in the chamber where hang the
portraits of my forefathers, shrouded in dust like the forms they
represent. With pious reverence do I gaze on the countenances of those
renowned burghers who have preceded me in the steady march of
existence--whose sober and temperate blood now meanders through my veins,
flowing slower and slower in its feeble conduits, until its current shall
soon be stopped for ever!

These I say to myself are but frail memorials of the mighty men who
flourished in the days of the patriarchs: but who, alas! have long since
smouldered in that tomb towards which my steps are insensibly and
irresistibly hastening. As I pace the darkened chamber, and lose myself in
melancholy musings, the shadowy images around me almost seem to steal once
more into existence, their countenances to assume the animation of
life--their eyes to pursue me in every movement! Carried away by the
delusions of fancy, I almost imagine myself surrounded by the shades of
the departed, and holding sweet converse with the worthies of antiquity!
Ah, hapless Diedrich! born in a degenerate age, abandoned to the
buffetings of fortune--a stranger and weary pilgrim in thy native
land--blest with no weeping wife, nor family of helpless children; but
doomed to wander neglected through those crowded streets, and elbowed by
foreign upstarts from those fair abodes where once thine ancestors held
sovereign empire!

Let me not, however, lose the historian in the man, nor suffer the doting
recollections of age to overcome me, while dwelling with fond garrulity on
the virtuous days of the patriarchs--on those sweet days of simplicity and
ease, which never more will dawn on the lovely island of Manna-hata.

These melancholy reflections have been forced from me by the growing
wealth and importance of New Amsterdam, which, I plainly perceive, are to
involve it in all kinds of perils and disasters. Already, as I observed at
the close of my last book, they had awakened the attention of the mother
country. The usual mark of protection shown by mother countries to wealthy
colonies was forthwith manifested; a governor being sent out to rule over
the province, and squeeze out of it as much revenue as possible. The
arrival of a governor of course put an end to the protectorate of Oloffe
the Dreamer. He appears, however, to have dreamt to some purpose during
his sway, as we find him afterwards living as a patroon on a great landed
estate on the banks of the Hudson, having virtually forfeited all right to
his ancient appellation of Kortlandt, or Lackland.

It was in the year of our Lord 1629 that Mynheer Wouter Van Twiller was
appointed governor of the province of Nieuw Nederlands, under the
commission and control of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General
of the United Netherlands and the privileged West India Company.

This renowned old gentleman arrived at New Amsterdam in the merry month of
June, the sweetest month in all the year; when Dan Apollo seems to dance
up the transparent firmament--when the robin, the thrush, and a thousand
other wanton songsters make the woods to resound with amorous ditties, and
the luxurious little boblicon revels among the clover blossoms of the
meadows--all which happy coincidence persuaded the old dames of New
Amsterdam who were skilled in the art of foretelling events, that this was
to be a happy and prosperous administration.

The renowned Wouter, or Walter, Van Twiller was descended from a long line
of Dutch burgomasters, who had successively dozed away their lives, and
grown fat upon the bench of magistracy in Rotterdam; and who had empowered
themselves with such singular wisdom and propriety that they were never
either heard or talked of--which, next to being universally applauded,
should be the object of ambition of all magistrates and rulers. There are
two opposite ways by which some men make a figure in the world; one by
talking faster than they think, and the other by holding their tongues and
not thinking at all. By the first many a smatterer acquires the reputation
of a man of quick parts; by the other many a dunderpate, like the owl, the
stupidest of birds, comes to be considered the very type of wisdom. This,
by the way, is a casual remark, which I would not for the universe have
it thought I apply to Governor Van Twiller. It is true he was a man shut
up within himself, like an oyster, and rarely spoke except in
monosyllables; but then it was allowed he seldom said a foolish thing. So
invincible was his gravity that he was never known to laugh, or even to
smile, through the whole course of a long and prosperous life. Nay, if a
joke were uttered in his presence, that set light-minded hearers in a
roar, it was observed to throw him into a state of perplexity. Sometimes
he would deign to inquire into the matter, and when, after much
explanation, the joke was made as plain as a pike-staff, he would continue
to smoke his pipe in silence, and at length, knocking out the ashes, would
exclaim, "Well! I see nothing in all that to laugh about."

With all his reflective habits he never made up his mind on a subject. His
adherents accounted for this by the astonishing magnitude of his ideas. He
conceived every subject on so grand a scale that he had not room in his
head to turn it over and examine both sides of it. Certain it is that if
any matter were propounded to him, on which ordinary mortals would rashly
determine at first glance, he would put on a vague mysterious look, shake
his capacious head, smoke some time in profound silence, and at length
observe that "he had his doubts about the matter;" which gained him the
reputation of a man slow of belief, and not easily imposed upon. What is
more, it gained him a lasting name, for to this habit of the mind has been
attributed his surname of Twiller, which is said to be a corruption of the
original Twijfler, or, in plain English, Doubter.

The person of this illustrious old gentleman was formed and proportioned,
as though it had been moulded by the hands of some cunning Dutch statuary,
as a model of majesty and lordly grandeur. He was exactly five feet six
inches in height and six feet five inches in circumference. His head was
a perfect sphere, and of such stupendous dimensions, that Dame Nature,
with all her sex's ingenuity, would have been puzzled to construct a neck
capable of supporting it; wherefore, she wisely declined the attempt, and
settled it firmly on the top of his backbone; just between the shoulders.
His body was oblong and particularly capacious at bottom, which was wisely
ordered by Providence, seeing that he was a man of sedentary habits, and
very averse to the idle labor of walking.

His legs were short, but sturdy in proportion to the weight they had to
sustain; so that, when erect, he had not a little the appearance of a beer
barrel on skids. His face, that infallible index of the mind, presented a
vast expanse, unfurrowed by any of those lines and angles which disfigure
the human countenance with what is termed expression. Two small gray eyes
twinkled feebly in the midst, like two stars of lesser magnitude in a hazy
firmament; and his full-fed cheeks, which seemed to have taken toll of
everything that went into his mouth, were curiously mottled and streaked
with dusky red, like a Spitzenberg apple.

His habits were as regular as his person. He daily took his four stated
meals; appropriating exactly an hour to each; he smoked and doubted eight
hours, and he slept the remaining twelve of the four-and-twenty. Such was
the renowned Wouter Van Twiller--a true philosopher, for his mind was
either elevated above, or tranquilly settled below, the cares and
perplexities of this world. He had lived in it for years, without feeling
the least curiosity to know whether the sun revolved round it, or it round
the sun; and he had watched for at least half century the smoke curling
from his pipe to the ceiling, without once troubling his head with any of
those numerous theories by which a philosopher would have perplexed his
brain in accounting for its rising above the surrounding atmosphere.

In his council he presided with great state and solemnity. He sat in a
huge chair of solid oak, hewn in the celebrated forest of the Hague,
fabricated by an experienced timmerman of Amsterdam, and curiously carved
about the arms and feet into exact imitations of gigantic eagle's claws.
Instead of a scepter he swayed a long Turkish pipe, wrought with jasmin
and amber, which had been presented to a stadtholder of Holland, at the
conclusion of a treaty, with one of the petty Barbary Powers. In this
stately chair would he sit, and this magnificent pipe would he smoke,
shaking his right knee with a constant motion, and fixing his eye for
hours together upon a little print of Amsterdam, which hung in a black
frame against the opposite wall of the council chamber. Nay, it has even
been said, that when any deliberation of extraordinary length and
intricacy was on the carpet, the renowned Wouter would shut his eyes for
full two hours at a time, that he might not be disturbed by external
objects--and at such times the internal commotion of his mind was evinced
by certain regular guttural sounds, which his admirers declared were
merely the noise of conflict made by his contending doubts and opinions.

It is with infinite difficulty I have been enabled to collect these
biographical anecdotes of the great man under consideration. The facts
respecting him were so scattered and vague, and divers of them so
questionable in point of authenticity, that I have had to give up the
search after many, and decline the admission of still more, which would
have tended to heighten the coloring of his portrait.

I have been the more anxious to delineate fully the person and habits of
Wouter Van Twiller, from the consideration that he was not only the first,
but also the best governor, that ever presided over this ancient and
respectable province; and so tranquil and benevolent was his reign, that I
do not find throughout the whole of it a single instance of any offender
being brought to punishment--a most indubitable sign of a merciful
governor, and a case unparalleled, excepting in the reign of the
illustrious King Log, from whom, it is hinted, the renowned Van Twiller
was a lineal descendant.

The very outset of the career of this excellent magistrate was
distinguished by an example of legal acumen, that gave flattering presage
of a wise and equitable administration. The morning after he had been
installed in office, and at the moment that he was making his breakfast
from a prodigious earthen dish, filled with milk and Indian pudding, he
was interrupted by the appearance of Wandle Schoonhoven, a very important
old burgher of New Amsterdam, who complained bitterly of one Barent
Bleecker, inasmuch as he refused to come to a settlement of accounts,
seeing that there was a heavy balance in favor of the said Wandle.
Governor Van Twiller, as I have already observed, was a man of few words;
he was likewise a mortal enemy to multiplying writings, or being disturbed
at his breakfast. Having listened attentively to the statement of Wandle
Schoonhoven, giving an occasional grunt, as he shoveled a spoonful of
Indian pudding into his mouth--either as a sign that he relished the dish
or comprehended the story--he called unto his constable, and pulling out
of his breeches proper a huge jack-knife, dispatched it after the
defendant as a summons, accompanied by his tobacco box as a warrant.

This summary process was as effectual in those simple days as was the seal
ring of the great Haroun Alraschid among the true believers. The two
parties being confronted before him, each produced a book of accounts,
written in a language and character that would have puzzled any but a High
Dutch commentator, or a learned decipherer of Egyptian obelisks. The sage
Wouter took them one after the other, and having poised them in his hands,
and attentively counted over the number of leaves, fell straightway into a
very great doubt, and smoked for half an hour without saying a word; at
length, laying his finger beside his nose, and shutting his eyes for a
moment, with the air of a man who has just caught a subtle idea by the
tail, he slowly took his pipe from his mouth, puffed forth a column of
tobacco smoke, and with marvelous gravity and solemnity pronounced--that
having carefully counted over the leaves and weighed the books, it was
found that one was just as thick and as heavy as the other--therefore, it
was the final opinion of the court that the accounts were equally
balanced--therefore, Wandle should give Barent a receipt, and Barent
should give Wandle a receipt--and the constable should pay the costs.

This decision being straightway made known, diffused general joy
throughout New Amsterdam, for the people immediately perceived that they
had a very wise and equitable magistrate to rule over them. But its
happiest effect was, that not another lawsuit took place throughout the
whole of his administration--and the office of constable fell into such
decay, that there was not one of those losel scouts known in the province
for many years. I am the more particular in dwelling on this transaction,
not only because I deem it one of the most sage and righteous judgments on
record, and well worthy the attention of modern magistrates, but because
it was a miraculous event in the history of the renowned Wouter, being the
only time he was ever known to come to a decision in the whole course of
his life.


In treating of the early governors of the province I must caution my
readers against confounding them, in point of dignity and power, with
those worthy gentlemen who are whimsically denominated governors in this
enlightened republic--a set of unhappy victims of popularity, who are in
fact the most dependent, henpecked beings in the community, doomed to
bear the secret goadings and corrections of their own party, and the
sneers and revilings of the whole world beside--set up, like geese at
Christmas holidays, to be pelted and shot at by every whipster and
vagabond in the land. On the contrary, the Dutch governors enjoyed that
uncontrolled authority, vested in all commanders of distant colonies or
territories. They were in a manner absolute despots in their little
domains, lording it, if so disposed, over both law and gospel, and
accountable to none but the mother-country; which, it is well known, is
astonishingly deaf to all complaints against its governors, provided they
discharge the main duty of their station--squeezing out a good revenue.
This hint will be of importance to prevent my readers from being seized
with doubt and incredulity, whenever, in the course of this authentic
history, they encounter the uncommon circumstance of a governor acting
with independence, and in opposition to the opinions of the multitude.

To assist the doubtful Wouter in the arduous business of legislation, a
board of magistrates was appointed, which presided immediately over the
police. This potent body consisted of a schout, or bailiff, with powers
between those of the present mayor and sheriff--five burgermeesters, who
were equivalent to aldermen, and five schepens, who officiated as scrubs,
sub-devils, or bottle-holders to the burgermeesters, in the same manner as
do assistant aldermen to their principals at the present day; it being
their duty to fill the pipes of the lordly burgermeesters, hunt the
markets for delicacies for corporation dinners, and to discharge such
other little offices of kindness as were occasionally required. It was,
moreover, tacitly understood, though not specifically enjoined, that they
should consider themselves as butts for the blunt wits of the
burgermeesters, and should laugh most heartily at all their jokes; but
this last was a duty as rarely called in action in those days as it is at
present, and was shortly remitted, in consequence of the tragical death of
a fat little schepen, who actually died of suffocation in an unsuccessful
effort to force a laugh at one of burgermeester Van Zandt's best jokes.

In return for these humble services, they were permitted to say "yes" and
"no" at the council-board, and to have that enviable privilege, the run of
the public kitchen--being graciously permitted to eat, and drink, and
smoke, at all those snug junketing and public gormandisings, for which the
ancient magistrates were equally famous with their modern successors. The
post of schepen, therefore, like that of assistant alderman, was eagerly
coveted by all your burghers of a certain description, who have a huge
relish for good feeding, and an humble ambition to be great men in a small
way--who thirst after a little brief authority, that shall render them the
terror of the almshouse and the bridewell--that shall enable them to lord
it over obsequious poverty, vagrant vice, outcast prostitution, and
hunger-driven dishonesty--that shall give to their beck a hound-like pack
of catshpolls and bumbailiffs--tenfold greater rogues than the culprits
they hunt down! My readers will excuse this sudden warmth, which I confess
is unbecoming of a grave historian; but I have a mortal antipathy to
catchpolls, bumbailiffs, and little great men.

The ancient magistrates of this city corresponded with those of the
present time no less in form, magnitude, and intellect, than in
prerogative and privilege. The burgomasters, like our aldermen, were
generally chosen by weight--and not only the weight of the body, but
likewise the weight of the head. It is a maxim practically observed in all
honest, plain-thinking, regular cities, that an alderman should be fat;
and the wisdom of this can be proved to a certainty. That the body is in
some measure an image of the mind, or rather that the mind is moulded to
the body, like melted lead to the clay in which it is cast, has been
insisted on by many philosophers, who have made human nature their
peculiar study; for, as a learned gentleman of our own city observes,
"there is a constant relation between the moral character of all
intelligent creatures, and their physical constitution--between their
habits and the structure of their bodies." Thus we see that a lean, spare,
diminutive body is generally accompanied by a petulant, restless, meddling
mind; either the mind wears down the body, by its continual motion; or
else the body, not affording the mind sufficient house-room, keeps it
continually in a state of fretfulness, tossing and worrying about from the
uneasiness of its situation. Whereas your round, sleek, fat, unwieldly
periphery is ever attended by a mind like itself, tranquil, torpid, and at
ease; and we may alway observe, that your well-fed, robustious burghers
are in general very tenacious of their ease and comfort; being great
enemies to noise, discord, and disturbance--and surely none are more
likely to study the public tranquillity than those who are so careful of
their own. Who ever hears of fat men heading a riot, or herding together
in turbulent mobs! No--no--it is your lean, hungry men who are continually
worrying society, and setting the whole community by the ears.

The divine Plato, whose doctrines are not sufficiently attended to by
philosophers of the present age, allows to every man three souls--one
immortal and rational, seated in the brain, that it may overlook and
regulate the body; a second, consisting of the surly and irascible
passions which, like belligerent powers, lie encamped around the heart; a
third, mortal and sensual, destitute of reason, gross and brutal in its
propensities, and enchained in the belly, that it may not disturb the
divine soul by its ravenous howlings. Now, according to this excellent
theory, what can be more clear, than that your fat alderman is most
likely to have the most regular and well-conditioned mind. His head is
like a huge spherical chamber, containing a prodigious mass of soft
brains, whereon the rational soul lies softly and snugly couched, as on a
feather-bed; and the eyes which are the windows of the bedchamber, are
usually half-closed, that its slumberings may not be disturbed by external
objects. A mind thus comfortably lodged, and protected from disturbance,
is manifestly most like to perform its functions with regularly and ease.
By dint of good feeding, moreover, the mortal and malignant soul, which is
confined in the belly, and which, by its raging and roaring, puts the
irritable soul in the neighborhood of the heart in an intolerable passion,
and thus renders men crusty and quarrelsome when hungry, is completely
pacified, silenced, and put to rest; whereupon a host of honest,
good-fellow qualities and kind-hearted affections, which had lain perdue,
slily peeping out of the loopholes of the heart, finding this Cerberus
asleep, do pluck up their spirits, turn out one and all in their holiday
suits, and gambol up and down the diaphragm--disposing their possessor to
laughter, good humor, and a thousand friendly offices towards his

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest