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

Part 3 out of 6

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As a board of magistrates, formed on this principle, think but very
little, they are the less likely to differ and wrangle about favorite
opinions; and, as they generally transact business upon a hearty dinner,
they are naturally disposed to be lenient and indulgent in the
administration of their duties. Charlemagne was conscious of this, and
therefore ordered in his cartularies, that no judge should hold a court of
justice except in the morning on an empty stomach. A pitiful rule which I
can never forgive, and which I warrant bore hard upon all the poor
culprits in the kingdom. The more enlightened and humane generation of the
present day have taken an opposite course, and have so managed that the
alderman are the best fed men in the community; feasting lustily on the
fat things of the land, and gorging so heartily on oysters and turtles,
that in process of time they acquire the activity of the one, and the
form, the waddle, and the green fat of the other. The consequence is, as I
have just said, these luxurious feastings do produce such a dulcet
equanimity and repose of the soul, rational and irrational, that their
transactions are proverbial for unvarying monotony; and the profound laws
which they enact in their dozing moments, amid the labors of digestion,
are quietly suffered to remain as dead letters, and never enforced when
awake. In a word, your fair, round-bellied burgomaster, like a full-fed
mastiff, dozes quietly at the house-door, always at home, and always at
hand to watch over its safety; but as to electing a lean, meddling
candidate to the office, as has now and then been done, I would as lief
put a greyhound to watch the house, or a racehorse to draw an ox-wagon.

The burgomasters then, as I have already mentioned, were wisely chosen by
weight, and the schepens, or assistant aldermen, were appointed to attend
upon them, and help them eat; but the latter, in the course of time, when
they had been fed and fattened into sufficient bulk of body and drowsiness
of brain, became very eligible candidates for the burgomasters' chairs,
having fairly eaten themselves into office, as a mouse eats his way into a
comfortable lodgment in a goodly, blue-nosed, skimmed milk, New England
cheese. Nothing could equal the profound deliberations that took place
between the renowned Wouter and these his worthy compeers, unless it be
the sage divans of some of our modern corporations. They would sit for
hours smoking and dozing over public affairs, without speaking a word to
interrupt that perfect stillness so necessary to deep reflection. Under
the sober sway of Wouter Van Twiller and these his worthy coadjutors, the
infant settlement waxed vigorous apace, gradually emerging from the swamps
and forests, and exhibiting that mingled appearance of town and country
customary in new cities, and which at this day may be witnessed in the
city of Washington; that immense metropolis, which makes so glorious an
appearance on paper.

It was a pleasing sight in those times to behold the honest burgher, like
a patriarch of yore, seated on the bench at the door of his whitewashed
house, under the shade of some gigantic sycamore or overhanging willow.
Here would he smoke his pipe of a sultry afternoon, enjoying the soft
southern breeze and listening with silent gratulation to the clucking of
his hens, the cackling of his geese, and the sonorous grunting of his
swine; that combination of farmyard melody, which may truly be said to
have a silver sound, inasmuch as it conveys a certain assurance of
profitable marketing.

The modern spectator, who wanders through the streets of this populous
city, can scarcely form an idea of the different appearance they presented
in the primitive days of the doubter. The busy hum of multitudes, the
shouts of revelry, the rumbling equipages of fashion, the rattling of
accursed carts, and all the spirit-grieving sounds of brawling commerce,
were unknown in the settlement of New Amsterdam. The grass grew quietly in
the highways--the bleating sheep and frolicksome calves sported about the
verdant ridge, where now the Broadway loungers take their morning
stroll--the cunning fox or ravenous wolf skulked in the woods, where now
are to be seen the dens of Gomez and his righteous fraternity of
money-brokers--and flocks of vociferous geese cackled about the fields,
where now the great Tammany wigwam and the patriotic tavern of Martling
echo with the wranglings of the mob.

In these good times did a true and enviable equality of rank and property
prevail, equally removed from the arrogance of wealth, and the servility
and heart-burnings of repining poverty--and what in my mind is still more
conducive to tranquillity and harmony among friends, a happy equality of
intellect was likewise to be seen. The minds of the good burghers of New
Amsterdam seemed all to have been cast in one mould, and to be those
honest, blunt minds, which, like certain manufactures, are made by the
gross, and considered as exceedingly good for common use.

Thus it happens that your true dull minds are generally preferred for
public employ, and especially promoted to city honors; your keen
intellects, like razors, being considered too sharp for common service. I
know that it is common to rail at the unequal distribution of riches, as
the great source of jealousies, broils, and heart-breakings; whereas, for
my part, I verily believe it is the sad inequality of intellect that
prevails, that embroils communities more than anything else; and I have
remarked that your knowing people, who are so much wiser than anybody
else, are eternally keeping society in a ferment. Happily for New
Amsterdam, nothing of the kind was known within its walls--the very words
of learning, education, taste, and talents were unheard of--a bright
genius was an animal unknown, and a blue-stocking lady would have been
regarded with as much wonder as a horned frog or a fiery dragon. No man in
fact seemed to know more than his neighbor, nor any man to know more than
an honest man ought to know, who has nobody's business to mind but his
own; the parson and the council clerk were the only men that could read in
the community, and the sage Van Twiller always signed his name with a

Thrice happy and ever to be envied little burgh! existing in all the
security of harmless insignificance--unnoticed and unenvied by the world,
without ambition, without vain-glory, without riches, without learning,
and all their train of carking cares; and as of yore, in the better days
of man, the deities were wont to visit him on earth and bless his rural
habitations, so we are told, in the sylvan days of New Amsterdam, the
good St. Nicholas would often make his appearance in his beloved city, of
a holiday afternoon, riding jollily among the treetops, or over the roofs
of houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his
breeches pockets, and dropping them down the chimneys of his favorites.
Whereas, in these degenerate days of iron and brass he never shows us the
light of his countenance, nor ever visits us, save one night in the year;
when he rattles down the chimneys of the descendants of the patriarchs,
confining his presents merely to the children, in token of the degeneracy
of the parents.

Such are the comfortable and thriving effects of a fat government. The
province of the New Netherlands, destitute of wealth, possessed a sweet
tranquillity that wealth could never purchase. There were neither public
commotions, nor private quarrels; neither parties, nor sects, nor schisms;
neither persecutions, nor trials, nor punishments; nor were there
counsellors, attorneys, catchpolls, or hangmen. Every man attended to what
little business he was lucky enough to have, or neglected it if he
pleased, without asking the opinion of his neighbor. In those days nobody
meddled with concerns above his comprehension, nor thrust his nose into
other people's affairs, nor neglected to correct his own conduct and
reform his own character, in his zeal to pull to pieces the characters of
others; but in a word, every respectable citizen ate when he was not
hungry, drank when he was not thirsty, and went regularly to bed when the
sun set and the fowls went to roost, whether he were sleepy or not; all
which tended so remarkably to the population of the settlement, that I am
told every dutiful wife throughout New Amsterdam made a point of enriching
her husband with at least one child a year, and very often a brace--this
superabundance of good things clearly constituting the true luxury of
life, according to the favorite Dutch maxim, that "more than enough
constitutes a feast." Everything, therefore, went on exactly as it should
do, and in the usual words employed by historians to express the welfare
of a country, "the profoundest tranquillity and repose reigned throughout
the province."


Manifold are the tastes and dispositions of the enlightened _literati_ who
turn over the pages of history. Some there be whose hearts are brimful of
the yeast of courage, and whose bosoms do work, and swell, and foam with
untried valor, like a barrel of new cider, or a train-band captain fresh
from under the hands of his tailor. This doughty class of readers can be
satisfied with nothing but bloody battles, and horrible encounters; they
must be continually storming forts, sacking cities, springing mines,
marching up to the muzzles of cannon, charging bayonet through every page,
and revelling in gunpowder and carnage. Others, who are of a less martial,
but equally ardent imagination, and who, withal, are little given to the
marvelous, will dwell with wondrous satisfaction on descriptions of
prodigies, unheard of events, hair-breadth escapes, hardy adventures, and
all those astonishing narrations which just amble along the boundary line
of possibility. A third class, who, not to speak slightly of them, are of
a lighter turn, and skim over the records of past times, as they do over
the edifying pages of a novel, merely for relaxation and innocent
amusement, do singularly delight in treasons, executions, Sabine rapes,
Tarquin outrages, conflagrations, murders, and all the other catalogues of
hideous crimes, which, like cayenne in cookery, do give a pungency and
flavor to the dull detail of history; while a fourth class, of more
philosophic habits, do diligently pore over the musty chronicles of time,
to investigate the operations of the human kind, and watch the gradual
changes in men and manners, effected by the progress of knowledge, the
vicissitudes of events, or the influence of situation.

If the three first classes find but little wherewithal to solace
themselves in the tranquil reign of Wouter Van Twiller, I entreat them to
exert their patience for a while, and bear with the tedious picture of
happiness, prosperity, and peace, which my duty as a faithful historian
obliges me to draw; and I promise them that as soon as I can possibly
alight upon anything horrible, uncommon, or impossible, it shall go hard
but I will make it afford them entertainment. This being premised, I turn
with great complacency to the fourth class of my readers, who are men, or,
if possible, women after my own heart; grave, philosophical, and
investigating; fond of analyzing characters, of taking a start from first
causes, and so haunting a nation down, through all the mazes of innovation
and improvement. Such will naturally be anxious to witness the first
development of the newly-hatched colony, and the primitive manners and
customs prevalent among its inhabitants, during the halcyon reign of Van
Twiller, or the Doubter.

I will not grieve their patience, however, by describing minutely the
increase and improvement of New Amsterdam. Their own imaginations will
doubtless present to them the good burghers, like so many painstaking and
persevering beavers, slowly and surely pursuing their labors--they will
behold the prosperous transformation from the rude log hut to the stately
Dutch mansion, with brick front, glazed windows, and tiled roof; from the
tangled thicket to the luxuriant cabbage garden; and from the skulking
Indian to the ponderous burgomaster. In a word, they will picture to
themselves the steady, silent, and undeviating march of prosperity,
incident to a city destitute of pride or ambition, cherished by a fat
government, and whose citizens do nothing in a hurry.

The sage council, as has been mentioned in a preceding chapter, not being
able to determine upon any plan for the building of their city, the cows,
in a laudable fit of patriotism, took it under their peculiar charge, and
as they went to and from pasture, established paths through the bushes, on
each side of which the good folks built their houses; which is one cause
of the rambling and picturesque turns and labyrinths, which distinguish
certain streets of New York at this very day.

The houses of the higher class were generally constructed of wood,
excepting the gable end, which was of small black and yellow Dutch bricks,
and always faced on the street, as our ancestors, like their descendants,
were very much given to outward show, and were noted for putting the best
leg foremost. The house was always furnished with abundance of large doors
and small windows on every floor, the date of its erection was curiously
designated by iron figures on the front, and on the top of the roof was
perched a fierce little weathercock, to let the family into the important
secret which way the wind blew. These, like the weathercocks on the tops
of our steeples, pointed so many different ways, that every man could have
a wind to his mind;--the most staunch and loyal citizens, however, always
went according to the weathercock on the top of the governor's house,
which was certainly the most correct, as he had a trusty servant employed
every morning to climb up and set it to the right quarter.

In those good days of simplicity and sunshine, a passion for cleanliness
was the leading principle in domestic economy, and the universal test of
an able housewife--a character which formed the utmost ambition of our
unenlightened grandmothers. The front door was never opened except on
marriages, funerals, new year's days, the festival of St. Nicholas, or
some such great occasion. It was ornamented with a gorgeous brass knocker,
curiously wrought, sometimes in the device of a dog, and sometimes of a
lion's head, and was daily burnished with such religious zeal, that it was
oft-times worn out by the very precautions taken for its preservation. The
whole house was constantly in a state of inundation, under the discipline
of mops and brooms and scrubbing brushes; and the good housewives of those
days were a kind of amphibious animal, delighting exceedingly to be
dabbling in water--insomuch that an historian of the day gravely tells us,
that many of his townswomen grew to have webbed fingers like unto a duck;
and some of them, he had little doubt, could the matter be examined into,
would be found to have the tails of mermaids; but this I look upon to be a
mere sport of fancy, or, what is worse, a wilful misrepresentation.

The grand parlor was the _sanctum sanctorum_, where the passion for
cleaning was indulged without control. In this sacred apartment no one was
permitted to enter excepting the mistress and her confidential maid, who
visited it once a week, for the purpose of giving it a thorough cleaning,
and putting things to rights; always taking the precaution of leaving
their shoes at the door, and entering devoutly on their stocking feet.
After scrubbing the floor, sprinkling it with fine white sand, which was
curiously stroked into angles, and curves, and rhomboids with a broom;
after washing the windows, rubbing and polishing the furniture, and
putting a bunch of evergreens in the fireplace--the window shutters were
again closed to keep out the flies, and the room carefully locked up until
the revolution of time brought round the weekly cleaning day.

As to the family, they always entered in at the gate, and most generally
lived in the kitchen. To have seen a numerous household assembled round
the fire, one would have imagined that he was transported back to those
happy days of primeval simplicity, which float before our imaginations
like golden visions. The fireplaces were of a truly patriarchal magnitude,
where the whole family, old and young, master and servant, black and
white, nay, even the very cat and dog, enjoyed a community of privilege,
and had each a right to a corner. Here the old burgher would sit in
perfect silence, puffing his pipe, looking into the fire with half-shut
eyes, and thinking of nothing for hours together; the goede vrouw, on the
opposite side, would employ herself diligently in spinning yarn or
knitting stockings. The young folks would crowd around the hearth,
listening with breathless attention to some old crone of a negro, who was
the oracle of the family, and who, perched like a raven in the corner of a
chimney, would croak forth for a long winter afternoon a string of
incredible stories about New England witches, grisly ghosts, horses
without heads, and hair-breadth escapes and bloody encounters among the

In those happy days a well-regulated family always rose with the dawn,
dined at eleven, and went to bed at sunset. Dinner was invariably a
private meal, and the fat old burghers showed incontestable signs of
disapprobation and uneasiness at being surprised by a visit from a
neighbor on such occasions. But though our worthy ancestors were thus
singularly averse to giving dinners, yet they kept up the social bands of
intimacy by occasional banquettings, called tea-parties.

These fashionable parties were generally confined to the higher classes,
or noblesse: that is to say, such as kept their own cows and drove their
own waggons. The company commonly assembled at three o'clock, and went
away about six, unless it was in winter time, when the fashionable hours
were a little earlier, that the ladies might get home before dark. The
tea-table was crowned with a huge earthen dish, well stored with slices of
fat pork, fried brown, cut up into morsels, and swimming in gravy. The
company being seated round the genial board, and each furnished with a
fork, evinced their dexterity in launching at the fattest pieces in this
mighty dish--in much the same manner as sailors harpoon porpoises at sea,
or our Indians spear salmon in the lakes. Sometimes the table was graced
with immense apple-pies, or saucers full of preserved peaches and pears;
but it was always sure to boast an enormous dish of balls of sweetened
dough, fried in hog's fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks--a delicious
kind of cake, at present scarce known in this city, except in genuine
Dutch families.

The tea was served out of a majestic delf teapot, ornamented with
paintings of fat little Dutch shepherds and shepherdesses, tending pigs,
with boats sailing in the air, and houses built in the clouds, and sundry
other ingenious Dutch fantasies. The beaux distinguished themselves by
their adroitness in replenishing this pot from a huge copper tea-kettle,
which would have made the pigmy macaronies of these degenerate days sweat
merely to look at it. To sweeten the beverage, a lump of sugar was laid
beside each cup, and the company alternately nibbled and sipped with great
decorum; until an improvement was introduced by a shrewd and economic old
lady, which was to suspend a large lump directly over the tea-table by a
string from the ceiling, so that it could be swung from mouth to mouth--an
ingenious expedient, which is still kept up by some families in Albany,
but which prevails without exception in Communipaw, Bergen Flatbush, and
all our uncontaminated Dutch villages.

At these primitive tea parties the utmost propriety and dignity of
deportment prevailed. No flirting nor coquetting--no gambling of old
ladies, nor hoyden chattering and romping of young ones--no
self-satisfied struttings of wealthy gentlemen with their brains in their
pockets--nor amusing conceits and monkey divertissements of smart young
gentlemen with no brains at all. On the contrary, the young ladies seated
themselves demurely in their rush-bottomed chairs, and knit their own
woollen stockings; nor ever opened their lips excepting to say "_yah
Mynheer_," or "_yah ya Vrouw_," to any question that was asked them;
behaving, in all things, like decent, well-educated damsels. As to the
gentlemen, each of them tranquilly smoked his pipe, and seemed lost in
contemplation of the blue and white tiles with which the fireplaces were
decorated; wherein sundry passages of Scripture were piously
portrayed--Tobit and his dog figured to great advantage, Haman swung
conspicuously on his gibbet, and Jonah appeared most manfully bouncing out
of the whale like Harlequin through a barrel of fire.

The parties broke up without noise and without confusion. They were
carried home by their own carriages, that is to say, by the vehicles
nature had provided them, excepting such of the wealthy as could afford to
keep a wagon. The gentlemen gallantly attended their fair ones to their
respective abodes, and took leave of them with a hearty smack at the door;
which, as it was an established piece of etiquette, done in perfect
simplicity and honesty of heart, occasioned no scandal at that time, nor
should it at the present. If our great-grandfathers approved of the
custom, it would argue a great want of reverence in their descendants to
say a word against it.


In this dulcet period of my history, when the beauteous island of
Manna-hata presented a scene the very counterpart of those glowing
pictures drawn of the golden reign of Saturn, there was, as I have before
observed, a happy ignorance, an honest simplicity prevalent among its
inhabitants, which, were I even able to depict, would be but little
understood by the degenerate age for which I am doomed to write. Even the
female sex, those arch innovators upon the tranquillity, the honesty, and
grey-beard customs of society, seemed for a while to conduct themselves
with incredible sobriety and comeliness.

Their hair, untortured by the abominations of art, was scrupulously
pomatomed back from their foreheads with a candle, and covered with a
little cap of quilted calico, which fitted exactly to their heads. Their
petticoats of linsey-woolsey were striped with a variety of gorgeous
dyes--though I must confess these gallant garments were rather short,
scarce reaching below the knee; but then they made up in the number, which
generally equalled that of the gentleman's small clothes; and what is
still more praiseworthy, they were all of their own manufacture--of which
circumstance, as may well be supposed, they were not a little vain.

These were the honest days, in which every woman stayed at home, read the
Bible, and wore pockets--ay, and that too of a goodly size, fashioned with
patchwork into many curious devices, and ostentatiously worn on the
outside. These, in fact, were convenient receptacles, where all good
housewives carefully stored away such things as they wished to have at
hand, by which means they often came to be incredibly crammed; and I
remember there was a story current, when I was a boy, that the lady of
Wouter Van Twiller once had occasion to empty her right pocket in search
of a wooden ladle, when the contents filled a couple of corn baskets, and
the utensil was discovered lying among some rubbish in one corner; but we
must not give too much faith to all these stories, the anecdotes of those
remote periods being very subject to exaggeration.

Besides these notable pockets, they likewise wore scissors and pincushions
suspended from their girdles by red ribands, or among the more opulent and
showy classes by brass, and even silver, chains, indubitable tokens of
thrifty housewives and industrious spinsters. I cannot say much in
vindication of the shortness of the petticoats; it doubtless was
introduced for the purpose of giving the stockings a chance to be seen,
which were generally of blue worsted, with magnificent red clocks; or
perhaps to display a well-turned ankle, and a neat though serviceable
foot, set off by a high-heeled leathern shoe, with a large and splendid
silver buckle. Thus we find that the gentle sex in all ages have shown the
same disposition to infringe a little upon the laws of decorum, in order
to betray a lurking beauty, or gratify an innocent love of finery.

From the sketch here given, it will be seen that our good grandmothers
differed considerably in their ideas of a fine figure from their
scantily-dressed descendants of the present day. A fine lady, in those
times, waddled under more clothes, even on a fair summer's day, than would
have clad the whole bevy of a modern ball-room. Nor were they the less
admired by the gentlemen in consequence thereof. On the contrary, the
greatness of a lover's passion seemed to increase in proportion to the
magnitude of its object; and a voluminous damsel, arrayed in a dozen
petticoats, was declared by a low Dutch sonneteer of the province to be
radiant as a sunflower, and luxuriant as a full-blown cabbage. Certain it
is that in those day the heart of a lover could not contain more than one
lady at a time, whereas the heart of a modern gallant has often room
enough to accommodate half a dozen; the reason of which I conclude to be,
that either the hearts of the gentlemen have grown larger, or the persons
of the ladies smaller; this, however, is a question for physiologists to

But there was a secret charm in these petticoats, which, no doubt, entered
into the consideration of the prudent gallants. The wardrobe of a lady was
in those days her only fortune; and she who had a good stock of petticoats
and stockings was as absolutely an heiress as is a Kamschatka damsel with
a store of bear-skins, or a Lapland belle with a plenty of reindeer. The
ladies, therefore, were very anxious to display these powerful attractions
to the greatest advantage; and the best rooms in the house, instead of
being adorned with caricatures of Dame Nature, in water-colors and
needlework, were always hung round with abundance of homespun garments,
the manufacture and the property of the females; a piece of laudable
ostentation that still prevails among the heiresses of our Dutch villages.

The gentlemen, in fact, who figured in the circles of the gay world in
these ancient times, corresponded in most particulars with the beauteous
damsels whose smiles they were ambitious to deserve. True it is, their
merits would make but a very inconsiderable impression upon the heart of a
modern fair; they neither drove their curricles nor sported their tandems,
for as yet those gaudy vehicles were not even dreamt of; neither did they
distinguish themselves by their brilliancy at the table, and their
consequent rencontres with watchmen, for our forefathers were of too
pacific a disposition to need those guardians of the night, every soul
throughout the town being sound asleep before nine o'clock. Neither did
they establish their claims to gentility at the expense of their tailors
for as yet those offenders against the pockets of society, and the
tranquillity of all aspiring young gentlemen were unknown in New
Amsterdam; every good housewife made the clothes of her husband and
family, and even the goede vrouw of Van Twiller himself thought it no
disparagement to cut out her husband's linsey-woolsey galligaskins.

Not but what there were some two or three youngsters who manifested the
first dawning of what is called fire and spirit, who held all labor in
contempt, skulked about docks and market-places, loitered in the sunshine,
squandered what little money they could procure at hustle cap and chuck
farthing; swore, boxed, fought cocks, and raced their neighbor's horses;
in short, who promised to be the wonder, the talk, and abomination of the
town, had not their stylish career been unfortunately cut short by an
affair of honor with a whipping post.

Far other, however, was the truly fashionable gentleman of those days; his
dress, which served for both morning and evening, street and drawing-room,
was a linsey-woolsey coat, made, perhaps, by the fair hands of the
mistress of his affections, and gallantly bedecked with abundance of large
brass buttons--half a score of breeches heightened the proportions of his
figure--his shoes were decorated by enormous copper buckles--a low
crowned, broad-brimmed hat overshadowed his burly visage, and his hair
dangled down his back in a prodigious queue of sulskin.

Thus equipped, he would manfully sally forth with pipe in mouth to besiege
some fair damsel's obdurate heart--not such a pipe, good reader, as that
which Acis did sweetly tune in praise of his Galatea, but one of true delf
manufacture, and furnished with a charge of fragrant tobacco. With this
would he resolutely set himself down before the fortress, and rarely
failed, in the process of time, to smoke the fair enemy into a surrender
upon honorable terms.

Such was the happy reign of Wouter Van Twiller, celebrated in many a long
forgotten song as the real golden age, the rest being nothing but
counterfeit copper-washed coin. In that delightful period a sweet and holy
calm reigned over the whole province. The burgomaster smoked his pipe in
peace; the substantial solace of his domestic cares, after her daily toils
were done, sat soberly at the door, with her arms crossed over her apron
of snowy white without being insulted by ribald street walkers or vagabond
boys--those unlucky urchins who do so infest our streets, displaying under
the roses of youth the thorns and briars of iniquity. Then it was that the
lover with ten breeches, and the damsel with petticoats of half a score,
indulged in all the innocent endearments of virtuous love without fear and
without reproach; for what had that virtue to fear which was defended by a
shield of good linsey-woolsey, equal at least to the seven bull-hides of
the invincible Ajax?

Ah! blissful and never to be forgotten age! when everything was better
than it has ever been since, or ever will be again--when Buttermilk
Channel was quite dry at low water--when the shad in the Hudson were all
salmon, and when the moon shone with a pure and resplendent whiteness,
instead of that melancholy yellow light which is the consequence of her
sickening at the abominations she every night witnesses in this degenerate

Happy would it have been for New Amsterdam could it always have existed in
this state of blissful ignorance and lowly simplicity; but, alas! the days
of childhood are too sweet to last. Cities, like men, grow out of them in
time, and are doomed alike to grow into the bustle, the cares, and
miseries of the world. Let no man congratulate himself when he beholds the
child of his bosom, or the city of his birth, increasing in magnitude and
importance, let the history of his own life teach him the dangers of the
one, and this excellent little history of Manna-hata convince him of the
calamities of the other.


It has already been mentioned that, in the early times of Oloffe the
Dreamer, a frontier post, or trading house, called Fort Aurania, had been
established on the upper waters of the Hudson, precisely on the site of
the present venerable city of Albany, which was at time considered at the
very end of the habitable world. It was, indeed, a remote possession, with
which, for a long time, New Amsterdam held but little intercourse. Now and
then the "Company's Yacht," as it was called, was sent to the Fort with
supplies, and to bring away the peltries which had been purchased of the
Indians. It was like an expedition to the Indias, or the North Pole, and
always made great talk in the settlement. Sometimes an adventurous burgher
would accompany the expedition, to the great uneasiness of his friends;
but, on his return, had so many stories to tell of storms and tempests on
the Tappan Zee, of hobgoblins in the Highlands and at the Devil's Dane
Kammer, and of all the other wonders and perils with which the river
abounded in those early days, that he deterred the less adventurous
inhabitants from following his xample.

Matters were in this state, when, one day, as Walter the Doubter and his
burgermeesters were smoking and pondering over the affairs of the
province, they were roused by the report of a cannon. Sallying forth, they
beheld a strange vessel at anchor in the bay; it was unquestionably of
Dutch build, broad-brimmed and high-pooped, and bore the flag of their
High Mightinesses at the masthead.

After a while a boat put off for land, and a stranger stepped on shore, a
lofty, lordly kind of man, tall and dry, with a meager face, furnished
with hug mustachios. He was clad in Flemish doublet and hose, and an
insufferably tall hat, with a cocktail feather. Such was the patroon
Killian Van Rensellaer, who had come out from Holland to found a colony or
patroonship on a great tract of wild land, granted to him by their Hight
Mightinesses the Lords States General, in the upper regions of the Hudson.

Killian Van Rensellaer was a nine day's wonder in New Amsterdam, for he
carried a high head, looked down upon the portly, short-legged
burgomasters, and owned no allegiance to the governor himself; boasting
that he held his patroonship directly from the Lords States General.

He tarried but a short time in New Amsterdam merely to beat up recruits
for his colony. Few, however, ventured to enlist for those remote and
savage regions; and when they embarked, their friends took leave of them
as if they should never see them more; and stood gazing with tearful eyes
as the stout, round-sterned little vessel ploughed and splashed its way up
the Hudson, with great noise and little progress, taking nearly a day to
get out of sight of the city.

And now, from time to time, floated down tidings to the Manhattoes of the
growing importance of this new colony. Every account represented Killian
Van Rensellaer as rising in importance and becoming a mighty patroon in
the land. He had received more recruits from Holland. His patroonship of
Rensellaerwick lay immediately below Fort Aurania, and extended for
several miles on each side of the Hudson, beside embracing the mountainous
region of the Helderberg. Over all this he claimed to hold separate
jurisdiction independent of the colonial authorities at New Amsterdam.

All these assumptions of authority were duly reported to Governor Van
Twiller and his council, by dispatches from Fort Aurania, at each new
report the governor and his counsellors looked at each other, raised their
eyebrows, gave an extra puff or two of smoke, and then relapsed into
their usually tranquillity.

At length tidings came that the patroon of Rensellaerwick had extended his
usurpations along the river, beyond the limits granted him by their High
Mightinesses, and that he had even seized upon a rocky island in the
Hudson, commonly known by the name of Beern or Bear's Island, where he was
erecting a fortress, to be called by the lordly name of Rensellaersteen.

Wouter Van Twiller was roused by this intelligence. After consulting with
his burgomasters, he dispatched a letter to the patroon of Rensellaerwick,
demanding by what right he had seized upon this island, which lay beyond
the bounds of his patroonship. The answer of Killian Van Rensellaer was in
his own lordly style, "By _wapen recht!_" that is to say, by the right of
arms, or in common parlance, by club-law. This answer plunged the worthy
Wouter in one of the deepest doubts he had in the whole course of his
administration. In the meantime, while Wouter doubted, the lordly Killian
went on to finish his fortress of Rensellaersteen, about which I foresee I
shall have something to record in a future chapter of this most eventful


In the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and four, on a fine
afternoon in the glowing month of September, I took my customary walk upon
the battery, which is at once the pride and bulwark of this ancient and
impregnable city of New York. The ground on which is I trod was hallowed
by recollections of the past, and as I slowly wandered through the long
alley of poplars, which, like so many birch-brooms standing on end,
diffused a melancholy and lugubrious shade, my imagination drew a contrast
between the surrounding scenery, and what it was in the classic days of
our forefathers. Where the government house by name, but the customhouse
by occupation, proudly reared its brick walls and wooden pillars, there
whilom stood the low, but substantial red-tiled mansion of the renowned
Wouter Van Twiller. Around it the mighty bulwarks of Fort Amsterdam
frowned defiance to every absent foe; but, like many a whiskered warrior
and gallant militia captain, confined their martial deeds to frowns alone.
The mud breastworks had long been leveled with the earth, and their site
converted into the green lawns and leafy alleys of the battery, where the
gay apprentice sported his Sunday coat, and the laborious mechanic,
relieved from the dirt and drudgery of the week, poured his weekly tale of
love into the half averted ear of the sentimental chambermaid. The
capacious bay still presented the same expansive sheet of water, studded
with islands, sprinkled with fishing boats, and bounded by shores of
picturesque beauty. But the dark forests which once clothed those shores
had been violated by the savage hand of cultivation, and their tangled
mazes and impenetrable thickets had degenerated into teeming orchards, and
waving fields of grain. Even Governor's Island, once a smiling garden
appertaining to the sovereigns of the province, was now covered with
fortifications, inclosing a tremendous block house; so that this once
peaceful island resembled a fierce little warrior in a big cocked hat,
breathing gunpowder and defiance to the world!

For some time did I indulge in a pensive train of thought, contrasting in
sober sadness the present day with the hallowed years behind the
mountains, lamenting the melancholy progress of improvement, and praising
the zeal with which our worthy burghers endeavor to preserve the wrecks of
venerable customs, prejudices, and errors, from the overwhelming tide of
modern innovation; when, by degrees, my ideas took a different turn, and I
insensibly awakened to an enjoyment of the beauties around me.

It was one of those rich autumnal days, which heaven particularly bestows
upon the beauteous island of Mannahata and its vicinity; not a floating
cloud obscured the azure firmament; the sun rolling in glorious splendor
through his ethereal course, seemed to expand his honest Dutch countenance
into an unusual expression of benevolence, as he smiled his evening
salutation upon a city which he delights to visit with his most bounteous
beams; the very winds seemed to hold in their breaths in mute attention,
lest they should ruffle the tranquillity of the hour; and the waveless
bosom of the bay presented a polished mirror, in which Nature beheld
herself and smiled. The standard of our city, reserved like a choice
handkerchief for days of gala, hung motionless on the flag-staff which
forms the handle of a gigantic churn; and even the tremulous leaves of the
poplar and the aspen ceased to vibrate to the breath of heaven. Everything
seemed to acquiesce in the profound repose of Nature. The formidable
eighteen-pounders slept in the embrasures of the wooden batteries,
seemingly gathering fresh strength to fight the battles of their country
on the next fourth of July; the solitary drum on Governor's Island forgot
to call the garrison to the shovels; the evening gun had not yet sounded
its signal for all the regular well-meaning poultry throughout the country
to go to roost; and the fleet of canoes at anchor between Gibbet Island
and Communipaw slumbered on their rakes, and suffered the innocent oysters
to lie for a while unmolested in the soft mud of their native banks. My
own feelings sympathized with the contagious tranquillity, and I should
infallibly have dozed upon one of those fragments of benches which our
benevolent magistrates have provided for the benefit of convalescent
loungers had not the extraordinary inconvenience of the couch set all
repose at defiance.

In the midst of this slumber of the soul my attention was attracted to a
black speck, peering above the western horizon, just in the rear of Bergen
steeple; gradually it augments and overhangs the would-be cities of
Jersey, Harsimus, and Hoboken, which, like three jockeys, are starting on
the course of existence, and jostling each other at the commencement of
the race. Now it skirts the long shore of ancient Pavonia, spreading its
wide shadows from the high settlements of Weehawk quite to the lazaretto
and quarantine, erected by the sagacity of our police for the
embarrassment of commerce; now it climbs the serene vault of heaven, cloud
rolling over cloud, shrouding the orb of day, darkening the vast expanse,
and bearing thunder, and hail, and tempest, in its bosom. The earth seems
agitated at the confusion of the heavens--the late waveless mirror is
lashed into furious waves, that roll in hollow murmurs to the shore--the
oyster boats that erst sported in the placid vicinity of Gibbet Island,
now hurry affrighted to the land--the poplar writhes and twists, and
whistles in the blast--torrents of drenching rain and sounding hail deluge
the battery walks--the gates are thronged by apprentices, servant-maids,
and little Frenchmen, with pocket-handkerchiefs over their hats,
scampering from the storm--the late beauteous prospect presents one scene
of anarchy and wild uproar, as though old Chaos had resumed his reign, and
was hurling back into one vast turmoil the conflicting elements of Nature.

Whether I fled from the fury of the storm, or remained bodly at my post,
as our gallant train-band captains, who march their soldiers through the
rain without flinching, are points which I leave to the conjecture of the
reader. It is possible he may be a little perplexed also to know the
reason why I introduced this tremendous tempest to disturb the serenity of
my work. On this latter point I will gratuitously instruct his ignorance.
The panorama view of the battery was given to gratify the reader with a
correct description of that celebrated place, and the parts adjacent;
secondly, the storm was played off partly to give a little bustle and life
to this tranquil part of my work, and to keep my drowsy readers from
falling asleep, and partly to serve as an overture to the tempestuous
times which are about to assail the pacific province of Nieuw Nederlandts,
and which overhang the slumbrous administration of the renowned Wouter Van
Twiller. It is thus the experienced playwright puts all the fiddles, the
French-horns, the kettle drums, and trumpets of his orchestra, in
requisition, to usher in one of those horrible and brimstone uproars
called melodrames; and it is thus he discharges his thunder, his
lightning, his rosin, and saltpetre, preparatory to the rising of a ghost,
or the murdering of a hero. We will now proceed with our history.

Whatever may be advanced by philosophers to the contrary, I am of opinion
that, as to nations, the old maxim, that "honesty is the best policy," is
a sheer and ruinous mistake. It might have answered well enough in the
honest times when it was made; but, in these degenerate days, if a nation
pretends to rely merely upon the justice of its dealings, it will fare
something like the honest man who fell among thieves, and found his
honesty a poor protection against bad company. Such, at least, was the
case with the guileless government of the New Netherlands; which, like a
worthy, unsuspicious old burgher, quietly settled itself down in the city
of New Amsterdam as into a snug elbow-chair, and fell into a comfortable
nap, while, in the meantime, its cunning neighbors stepped in and picked
his pockets. In a word, we may ascribe the commencement of all the woes of
this great province and its magnificent metropolis to the tranquil
security, or, to speak more accurately, to the unfortunate honesty of its
government. But as I dislike to begin an important part of my history
towards the end of a chapter; and as my readers, like myself, must
doubtless be exceedingly fatigued with the long walk we have taken, and
the tempest we have sustained, I hold it meet we shut up the book, smoke a
pipe, and having thus refreshed our spirits, take a fair start in a new


That my readers may the more fully comprehend the extent of the calamity
at this very moment impending over the honest, unsuspecting province of
Nieuw Nederlandts and its dubious governor, it is necessary that I should
give some account of a horde of strange barbarians bordering upon the
eastern frontier.

Now so it came to pass that, many years previous to the time of which we
are treating, the sage Cabinet of England had adopted a certain national
creed, a kind of public walk of faith, or rather a religious turnpike, in
which every loyal subject was directed to travel to Zion, taking care to
pay the toll-gatherers by the way.

Albeit a certain shrewd race of men, being very much given to indulge
their own opinions on all manner of subjects (a propensity exceedingly
offensive to your free governments of Europe), did most presumptuously
dare to think for themselves in matters of religion, exercising what they
considered a natural and unextinguishable right-the liberty of conscience.

As, however, they possessed that ingenuous habit of mind which always
thinks aloud--which rides cock-a-hoop on the tongue, and is for ever
galloping into other people's ears--it naturally followed that their
liberty of conscience likewise implied liberty of speech, which being
freely indulged, soon put the country in a hubbub, and aroused the pious
indignation of the vigilant fathers of the Church.

The usual methods were adopted, to reclaim them, which in those days were
considered efficacious in bringing back stray sheep to the fold; that is
to say, they were coaxed, they were admonished, they were menaced, they
were buffeted--line upon line, precept upon precept, lash upon lash, here
a little and there a great deal, were exhausted without mercy and without
success; until worthy pastors of the Church, wearied out by their
unparalleled stubbornness, were driven in the excess of their tender mercy
to adopt the Scripture text, and literally to "heap live embers on their

Nothing, however, could subdue that independence of the tongue which has
ever distinguished this singular race, so that, rather than subject that
heroic member to further tyranny, they one and all embarked for the
wilderness of America, to enjoy, unmolested, the inestimable right of
talking. And, in fact, no sooner did they land upon the shore of this
free-spoken country, than they all lifted up their voices, and made such a
clamor of tongues, that we are told they frightened every bird and beast
out of the neighborhood, and struck such mute terror into certain fish,
that they have been called dumb-fish ever since.

This may appear marvelous, but it is nevertheless true; in proof of which
I would observe, that the dumb-fish has ever since become an object of
superstitious reverence, and forms the Saturday's dinner of every true

The simple aborigines of the land for a while contemplated these strange
folk in utter astonishment, but discovering that they wielded harmless,
though noisy weapons, and were a lively, ingenious, good-humored race of
men, they became very friendly and sociable, and gave them the name of
Yanokies, which in the Mais-Tchusaeg (or Massachusett) language signifies
silent men--a waggish appellation, since shortened into the familiar
epithet of Yankees, which they retain unto the present day.

True it is, and my fidelity as an historian will not allow me to pass over
the fact, that having served a regular apprenticeship in the school of
persecution, these ingenious people soon showed that they had become
masters of the art. The great majority were of one particular mode of
thinking in matters of religion; but, to their great surprise and
indignation, they found that divers Papists, Quakers, and Anabaptists were
springing up among them, and all claiming to use the liberty of speech.
This was at once pronounced a daring abuse of the liberty of conscience,
which they now insisted was nothing more than the liberty to think as one
pleased in matters of religion, provided one thought right; for otherwise
it would be giving a latitude to damnable heresies. Now as they, the
majority, were convinced that they alone thought right, it consequently
followed that whoever thought different from them thought wrong: and
whoever thought wrong, and obstinately persisted in not being convinced
and converted, was a flagrant violator of the inestimable liberty of
conscience, and a corrupt and infestious member of the body politic, and
deserved to be lopped off and cast into the fire. The consequence of all
which was a fiery persecution of divers sects, and especially of Quakers.

Now I'll warrant there are hosts of my readers ready at once to lift up
their hands and eyes, with that virtuous indignation with which we
contemplate the faults and errors of our neighbors, and to exclaim at the
preposterous idea of convincing the mind by tormenting the body, and
establishing the doctrine of charity and forbearance by intolerant
persecution. But, in simple truth, what are we doing at this very day, and
in this very enlightened nation, but acting upon the very same principle
in our political controversies? Have we not, within but a few years,
released ourselves from the shackles of a government which cruelly denied
us the privilege of governing ourselves, and using in full latitude that
invaluable member, the tongue? and are we not at this very moment striving
our best to tyrannize over the opinions, tie up the tongues, and ruin the
fortunes of one another? What are our great political societies but mere
political inquisitions--our pot-house committees but little tribunals of
denunciation--our newspapers but mere whipping-posts and pillories, where
unfortunate individuals are pelted with rotten eggs--and our council of
appointment but a grand auto-da-fe, where culprits are annually sacrificed
for their political heresies?

Where, then, is the difference in principle between our measures and those
you are so ready to condemn among the people I am treating of? There is
none; the difference is merely circumstantial. Thus we denounce, instead
of banishing--we libel, instead of scourging--we turn out of office,
instead of hanging--and where they burnt an offender in proper person, we
either tar and feather, or burn him in effigy--this political persecution
being, somehow or other, the grand palladium of our liberties, and an
incontrovertible proof that this is a free country!

But not withstanding the fervent zeal with which this holy war was
prosecuted against the whole race of unbelievers, we do not find that the
population of this new colony was in anywise hindered thereby; on the
contrary, they multiplied to a degree which would be incredible to any man
unacquainted with the marvelous fecundity of this growing country.

This amazing increase may, indeed, be partly ascribed to a singular custom
prevalent among them, commonly known by the name of bundling--a
superstitious rite observed by the young people of both sexes, with which
they usually terminated their festivities, and which was kept up with
religious strictness by the more bigoted part of the community. This
ceremony was likewise, in those primitive times, considered as an
indispensable preliminary to matrimony, their courtships commencing where
ours usually finish; by which means they acquired that intimate
acquaintance with each other's good qualities before marriage, which has
been pronounced by philosophers the sure basis of a happy union. Thus
early did this cunning and ingenious people display a shrewdness of making
a bargain which has ever since distinguished them, and a strict adherence
to the good old vulgar maxim about "buying a pig in a poke."

To this sagacious custom, therefore, do I chiefly attribute the
unparalleled increase of the Yanokie or Yankee race: for it is a certain
fact, well authenticated by court records and parish registers, that
wherever the practice of bundling prevailed, there was an amazing number
of sturdy brats annually born unto the state, without the license of the
law or the benefit of clergy. Neither did the irregularity of their birth
operate in the least to their disparagement. On the contrary, they grew up
a long-sided, raw-boned, hardy race of whalers, wood-cutters, fishermen,
and pedlars, and strapping corn-fed wenches, who, by their united efforts,
tended marvelously toward peopling those notable tracts of country called
Nantucket, Piscataway, and Cape Cod.


In the last chapter I have given a faithful and unprejudiced account of
the origin of that singular race of people inhabiting the country eastward
of the Nieuw Nederlandts, but I have yet to mention certain peculiar
habits which rendered them exceedingly annoying to our ever-honored Dutch

The most prominent of these was a certain rambling propensity with which,
like the sons of Ishmael, they seem to have been gifted by Heaven, and
which continually goads them on to shift their residence from place to
place, so that a Yankee farmer is in a constant state of migration,
tarrying occasionally here and there, clearing lands for other people to
enjoy, building houses for others to inhabit, and in a manner may be
considered the wandering Arab of America.

His first thought, on coming to the years of manhood, is to settle himself
in the world--which means nothing more nor less than to begin his rambles.
To this end he takes unto himself for a wife some buxom country heiress,
passing rich in red ribbons, glass beads, and mock-tortoiseshell combs,
with a white gown and morocco shoes for Sunday, and deeply skilled in the
mystery of making apple sweetmeats, long sauce, and pumpkin pie.

Having thus provided himself, like a pedlar, with a heavy knapsack,
wherewith to regale his shoulders through the journey of life, he
literally sets out on the peregrination. His whole family, household
furniture, and farming utensils are hoisted into a covered cart; his own
and his wife's wardrobe packed up in a firkin; which done, he shoulders
his axe, takes his staff in hand, whistles "Yankee doodle," and trudges
off to the woods, as confident of the protection of Providence, and
relying as cheerfully upon his own resources, as did ever a patriarch of
yore, when he journeyed into a strange country of the Gentiles. Having
buried himself in the wilderness, he builds himself a log hut, clears away
a corn-field and potato patch, and, Providence smiling upon his labors, is
soon surrounded by a snug farm and some half a score of flaxen-headed
urchins, who, by their size, seem to have sprung all at once out of the
earth like a crop of toadstools.

But it is not the nature of this most indefatigable of speculators to rest
contented with any state of sublunary enjoyment; improvement is his
darling passion, and having thus improved his lands, the next care is to
provide a mansion worthy the residence of a landholder. A huge palace of
pine boards immediately springs up in the midst of the wilderness, large
enough for a parish church, and furnished with windows of all dimensions,
but so rickety and flimsy withal, that every blast gives it a fit of the

By the time the outside of this mighty air castle is completed, either the
funds or the zeal of our adventurer are exhausted, so that he barely
manages to half finish one room within, where the whole family burrow
together, while the rest of the house is devoted to the curing of
pumpkins, or storing of carrots and potatoes, and is decorated with
fanciful festoons of dried apples and peaches. The outside, remaining
unpainted, grows venerably black with time; the family wardrobe is laid
under contribution for old hats, petticoats, and breeches, to stuff into
the broken windows, while the four winds of heaven keep up a whistling and
howling about this aerial palace, and play as many unruly gambols as they
did of yore in the cave of old AEolius.

The humble log hut which whilom nestled this improving family snugly
within its narrow but comfortable walls, stands hard by, in ignominious
contrast, degraded into a cow-house or pig-sty; and the whole scene
reminds one forcibly of a fable, which I am surprised has never been
recorded, of an aspiring snail who abandoned his humble habitation, which
he had long filled with great respectability, to crawl into the empty
shell of a lobster, where he would no doubt have resided with great style
and splendor, the envy and the hate of all the painstaking snails in the
neighborhood, had he not perished with cold in one corner of his
stupendous mansion.

Being thus completely settled, and, to use his own words, "to rights," one
would imagine that he would begin to enjoy the comforts of his situation,
to read newspapers, talk politics, neglect his own business, and attend
to the affairs of the nation like a useful and patriotic citizen; but now
it is that his wayward disposition begins again to operate. He soon grows
tired of a spot where there is no longer any room for improvement--sells
his farm, air castle, petticoat windows and all, reloads his cart,
shoulders his axe, puts himself at the head of his family, and wanders
away in search of new lands--again to fell trees--again to clear
corn-fields--again to build a shingle palace, and again to sell off and

Such were the people of Connecticut, who bordered upon the eastern
frontier of Nieuw Nederlandts, and my readers may easily imagine what
uncomfortable neighbors this light-hearted but restless tribe must have
been to our tranquil progenitors. If they cannot, I would ask them if they
have ever known one of our regular, well-organized Dutch families, whom it
hath pleased Heaven to afflict with the neighborhood of a French
boarding-house? The honest old burgher cannot take his afternoon's pipe on
the bench before his door but he is persecuted with the scraping of
fiddles, the chattering of women, and the squalling of children; he cannot
sleep at night for the horrible melodies of some amateur, who chooses to
serenade the moon, and display his terrible proficiency in execution on
the clarionet, hautboy, or some other soft-toned instrument; nor can he
leave the street door open, but his house is defiled by the unsavory
visits of a troop of pug dogs, who even sometimes carry their loathsome
ravages into the _sanctum sanctorum_, the parlor.

If my readers have ever witnessed the sufferings of such a family, so
situated, they may form some idea how our worthy ancestors were distressed
by their mercurial neighbors of Connecticut.

Gangs of these marauders, we are told, penetrated into the New-Netherland
settlements, and threw whole villages into consternation by their
unparalleled volubility, and their intolerable inquisitiveness--two evil
habits hitherto unknown in those parts, or only known to be abhorred; for
our ancestors were noted as being men of truly Spartan taciturnity, and
who neither knew nor cared aught about anybody's concerns but their own.
Many enormities were committed on the highways, where several unoffending
burghers were brought to a stand, and tortured with questions and guesses,
which outrages occasioned as much vexation and heart-burning as does the
modern right of search on the high seas.

Great jealousy did they likewise stir up by their intermeddling and
successes among the divine sex, for being a race of brisk, likely,
pleasant-tongued varlets, they soon seduced the light affections of the
simple damsels from their ponderous Dutch gallants. Among other hideous
customs, they attempted to introduce among them that bundling, which the
Dutch lasses of the Nederlandts, with that eager passion for novelty and
foreign fashions natural to their sex, seemed very well inclined to
follow, but that their mothers, being more experienced in the world, and
better acquainted with men and things, strenuously discountenanced all
such outlandish innovations.

But what chiefly operated to embroil our ancestors with these strange folk
was an unwarrantable liberty which they occasionally took of entering in
hordes into the territories of the New Netherlands, and settling
themselves down, without leave or license, to improve the land in the
manner I have before noticed. This unceremonious mode of taking possession
of new land was technically termed squatting, and hence is derived the
appellation of squatters, a name odious in the ears of all great
landholders, and which is given to those enterprising worthies who seize
upon land first, and take their chance to make good their title to it

All these grievances, and many others which were constantly accumulating,
tended to form that dark and portentious cloud which, as I observed in a
former chapter, was slowly gathering over the tranquil province of New
Netherlands. The pacific cabinet of Van Twiller, however, as will be
perceived in the sequel, bore them all with a magnanimity that redounds to
their immortal credit, becoming by passive endurance inured to this
increasing mass of wrongs, like that mighty man of old, who by dint of
carrying about a calf from the time it was born, continued to carry it
without difficulty when he had grown to be an ox.


By this time my readers must fully perceive what an arduous task I have
undertaken--exploring a little kind of Herculaneum of history, which had
lain nearly for ages buried under the rubbish of years, and almost totally
forgotten; raking up the limbs and fragments of disjointed facts, and
endeavoring to put them scrupulously together, so as to restore them to
their original form and connection; now lugging forth the character of an
almost forgotten hero, like a mutilated statue: now deciphering a
half-defaced inscription, and now lighting upon a mouldering manuscript,
which, after painful study, scarce repays the trouble of perusal.

In such cases how much has the reader to depend upon the honor and probity
of his author, lest, like a cunning antiquarian, he either impose upon him
some spurious fabrication of his own for a precious relic from antiquity,
or else dress up the dismembered fragment with such false trappings, that
it is scarcely possible to distinguish the truth from the fiction with
which it is enveloped. This is a grievance which I have more than once had
to lament, in the course of my wearisome researches among the works of my
fellow-historians, who have strangely disguised and distorted the facts
respecting this country, and particularly respecting the great province of
New Netherlands, as will be perceived by any who will take the trouble to
compare their romantic effusions, tricked out in the meretricious gauds of
fable, with this authentic history.

I have had more vexations of the kind to encounter, in those parts of my
history which treat of the transactions on the eastern border than in any
other, in consequence of the troops of historians who have infested those
quarters, and have shown the honest people of Nieuw Nederlands no mercy in
their works. Among the rest, Mr. Benjamin Trumbull arrogantly declares
that "the Dutch were always mere intruders." Now, to this I shall make no
other reply than to proceed in the steady narration of my history, which
will contain not only proofs that the Dutch had clear title and possession
in the fair valleys of the Connecticut, and that they were wrongfully
dispossessed thereof, but, likewise, that they have been scandalously
maltreated ever since by the misrepresentations of the crafty historians
of New England. And in this I shall be guided by a spirit of truth and
impartiality, and a regard to immortal fame; for I would not wittingly
dishonor my work by a single falsehood, misrepresentation, or prejudice,
though it should gain our forefathers the whole country of New England.

I have already noticed, in a former chapter of my history that the
territories of the Nieuw Nederlandts extended on the east quite to the
Varsche, or Fresh, or Connecticut River. Here, at an early period, had
been established a frontier post on the bank of the river, and called Fort
Goed Hoop, not far from the site of the present fair city of Hartford. It
was placed under the command of Jacobus Van Curlet, or Curlis, as some
historians will have it, a doughty soldier, of that stomachful class
famous for eating all they kill. He was long in the body and short in the
limb, as though a tall man's body had been mounted on a little man's legs.
He made up for this turnspit construction by striding to such an extent,
that you would have sworn he had on the seven-leagued boots of Jack the
Giant Killer; and so high did he tread on parade, that his soldiers were
sometimes alarmed lest he should trample himself under foot.

But not withstanding the erection of this fort, and the appointment of
this ugly little man of war as commander, the Yankees continued the
interlopings hinted at in my last chapter, and at length had the audacity
to squat themselves down within the jurisdiction of Fort Goed Hoop.

The long-bodied Van Curlet protested with great spirit against these
unwarrantable encroachments, couching his protest in Low Dutch, by way of
inspiring more terror, and forthwith dispatched a copy of the protest to
the governor at New Amsterdam, together with a long and bitter account of
the aggressions of the enemy. This done, he ordered his men, one and all,
to be of good cheer, shut the gate of the fort, smoked three pipes, went
to bed, and awaited the result with a resolute and intrepid tranquillity,
that greatly animated his adherents, and, no doubt, struck sore dismay and
affright into the hearts of the enemy.

Now it came to pass that, about this time, the renowned Wouter Van
Twiller, full of years and honors, and council dinners, had reached the
period of life and faculty which, according to the great Gulliver,
entitles a man to admission into the ancient order of Struldbruggs. He
employed his time in smoking his Turkish pipe amid an assemblage of sages
equally enlightened, and nearly as venerable, as himself, and who, for
their silence, their gravity, their wisdom, and their cautious averseness
to coming to any conclusion in business, are only to be equalled by
certain profound corporations which I have known in my time. Upon reading
the protest of the gallant Jacobus Van Curlet, therefore, His Excellency
fell straightway into one of the deepest doubts that ever he was known to
encounter; his capacious head gradually drooped on his chest; he closed
his eyes, and inclined his ear to one side, as if listening with great
attention to the discussion that was going on in his belly, and which all
who knew him declared to be the huge courthouse or council chamber of his
thoughts, forming to his head what the House of Representatives does to
the Senate. An inarticulate sound, very much resembling a snore,
occasionally escaped him; but the nature of this internal cogitation was
never known, as he never opened his lips on the subject to man, woman or
child. In the meantime, the protect of Van Curlet lay quietly on the
table, where it served to light the pipes of the venerable sages assembled
in council; and, in the great smoke which they raised, the gallant
Jacobus, his protest, and his mighty fort Goed Hoop, were soon as
completely beclouded and forgotten, as is a question of emergency
swallowed up in the speeches and resolutions of a modern session of

There are certain emergencies when your profound legislators and sage
deliberative councils are mightily in the way of a nation, and when an
ounce of hair-brained decision is worth a pound of sage doubt and cautious
discussion. Such, at least, was the case at present; for while the
renowned Wouter Van Twiller was daily battling with his doubts, and his
resolution growing weaker and weaker in the contest, the enemy pushed
farther and farther into his territories, and assumed a most formidable
appearance in the neighborhood of the Fort Goed Hoop. Here they founded
the mighty town of Pyquag, or, as it has since been called,
Weathersfield--a place which, if we may credit the assertions of that
worthy historian, John Josselyn, gent., "hath been infamous by reason of
the witches therein." And so daring did these men of Pyquag become, that
they extended those plantations of onions, for which their town is
illustrious, under the very noses of the garrison of Fort Goed Hoop,
insomuch that the honest Dutchmen could not look toward that quarter
without tears in their eyes.

This crying injustice was regarded with proper indignation by the gallant
Jacobus Van Curlet. He absolutely trembled with the violence of this
choler and the exacerbations of his valor, which were the more turbulent
in their workings from the length of the body in which they were agitated.
He forthwith proceeded to strengthen his redoubts, heighten his
breastworks, deepen his fosse, and fortify his position with a double row
of abattis; after which he dispatched a fresh courier with accounts of his
perilous situation.

The courier chosen to bear the dispatches was a fat, oily little man, as
being less liable to be worn out or to lose leather on the journey; and,
to insure his speed, he was mounted on the fleetest wagon horse in the
garrison, remarkable for length of limb, largeness of bone, and hardness
of trot; and so tall, that the little messenger was obliged to climb on
his back by means of his tail and crupper. Such extraordinary speed did he
make, that he arrived at Fort Amsterdam in a little less than a month,
though the distance was full two hundred pipes, or about one hundred and
twenty miles.

With an appearance of great hurry and business, and smoking a short
traveling pipe, he proceeded on a long swing trot through the muddy lanes
of the metropolis, demolishing whole batches of dirt pies which the little
Dutch children were making in the road, and for which kind of pastry the
children of this city have ever been famous. On arriving at the governor's
house, he climbed down from his steed, roused the gray-headed doorkeeper,
old Skaats, who, like his lineal descendant and faithful representative,
the venerable crier of our court, was nodding at his post, rattled at the
door of the council chamber, and startled the members as they were dozing
over a plan for establishing a public market.

At that very moment a gentle grunt, or rather a deep-drawn snore, was
heard from the chair of the governor, a whiff of smoke was at the same
instant observed to escape from his lips, and a light cloud to ascend from
the bowl of his pipe. The council, of course, supposed him engaged in deep
sleep for the good of the community, and according to custom, in all such
cases established, every man bawled out "Silence!" when, of a sudden, the
door flew open, and the little courier straddled into the apartment, cased
to the middle in a pair of Hessian boots, which he had got into for the
sake of expedition. In his right hand he held forth the ominous
dispatches, and with his left he grasped firmly the waistband of his
galligaskins, which had unfortunately given way in the exertion of
descending from his horse. He stumped resolutely up to the governor, and,
with more hurry than perspicuity, delivered his message. But, fortunately,
his ill tidings came too late to ruffle the tranquillity of this most
tranquil of rulers. His venerable Excellency had just breathed and smoked
his last; his lungs and his pipe having been exhausted together, and his
peaceful soul having escaped in the last whiff that curled from his
tobacco pipe. In a word, the renowned Walter the Doubter, who had so often
slumbered with his contemporaries, now slept with his fathers, and
Wilhelmus Kieft governed in his stead.




When the lofty Thucydides is about to enter upon his description of the
plague that desolated Athens, one of his modern commentators assures the
reader that the history is now going to be exceedingly solemn, serious and
pathetic; and hints, with that air of chuckling gratulation with which a
good dame draws forth a choice morsel from a cupboard to regale a
favorite, that this plague will give his history a most agreeable variety.

In like manner did my heart leap within me when I came to the dolorous
dilemma of Fort Good Hope, which I at once perceived to be the forerunner
of a series of great events and entertaining disasters. Such are the true
subjects for the historic pen. For what is history, in fact, but a kind of
Newgate Calendar--a register of the crimes and miseries that man has
inflicted on his fellow-men? It is a huge libel on human nature to which
we industriously add page after page, volume after volume, as if we were
building up a monument to the honor, rather than the infamy, of our
species. If we turn over the pages of these chronicles that man has
written of himself, what are the characters dignified by the appellation
of great, and held up to the admiration of posterity? Tyrants, robbers,
conquerors, renowned only for the magnitude of their misdeeds and the
stupendous wrongs and miseries they have inflicted on mankind--warriors,
who have hired themselves to the trade of blood, not from motives of
virtuous patriotism, or to protect the injured and defenseless, but merely
to gain the vaunted glory of being adroit and successful in massacring
their fellow-beings! What are the great events that constitute a glorious
era? The fall of empires, the desolation of happy countries, splendid
cities smoking in their ruins, the proudest works of art tumbled in the
dust, the shrieks and groans of whole nations ascending unto heaven!

It is thus the historians may be said to thrive on the miseries of
mankind, like birds of prey which hover over the field of battle to fatten
on the mighty dead. It was observed by a great projector of inland lock
navigation, that rivers, lakes, and oceans were only formed to feed
canals. In like manner I am tempted to believe that plots, conspiracies,
wars, victories, and massacres are ordained by Providence only as food for
the historian.

It is a source of great delight to the philosophers, in studying the
wonderful economy of nature, to trace the mutual dependencies of
things--how they are created reciprocally for each other, and how the most
noxious and apparently unnecessary animal has its uses. Thus those swarms
of flies which are so often execrated as useless vermin are created for
the sustenance of spiders; and spiders, on the other hand, are evidently
made to devour flies. So those heroes who have been such scourges to the
world were bounteously provided as themes for the poet and historian,
while the poet and the historian were destined to record the achievements
of heroes!

These and many similar reflections naturally arose in my mind as I took up
my pen to commence the reign of William Kieft; for now the stream of our
history, which hitherto has rolled in a tranquil current, is about to
depart, for ever from its peaceful haunts, and brawl through many a
turbulent and rugged scene.

As some sleek ox, sunk in the rich repose of a clover field, dozing and
chewing the cud, will bear repeated blows before it raises itself, so the
province of Nieuw Nederlandts, having waxed fat under the drowsy reign of
the Doubter, needed cuffs and kicks to rouse it into action. The reader
will now witness the manner in which a peaceful community advances towards
a state of war; which is apt to be like the approach of a horse to a drum,
with much prancing and little progress, and too often with the wrong end

Wilhelmus Kieft, who in 1634 ascended the gubernatorial chair, to borrow a
favorite though clumsy appellation of modern phraseologists, was of a
lofty descent, his father being inspector of windmills in the ancient town
of Saardam; and our hero, we are told, when a boy, made very curious
investigations into the nature and operation of these machines, which was
one reason why he afterwards came to be so ingenious a governor. His name,
according to the most authentic etymologists, was a corruption of Kyver;
that is to say, a wrangler or scolder; and expressed the characteristic of
his family, which for nearly two centuries had kept the windy town of
Saardam in hot water, and produced more tartars and brimstones than any
ten families in the place; and so truly did he inherit this family
peculiarity that he had not been a year in the government of the province
before he was universally denominated William the Testy. His appearance
answered to his name. He was a brisk, wiry, waspish little old gentleman,
such a one as may now and then be seen stumping about our city in a
broad-skirted coat with huge buttons, a cocked hat stuck on the back of
his head, and a cane as high as his chin. His face was broad, but his
features were sharp; his cheeks were scorched into a dusky red, by two
fiery little gray eyes, his nose turned up, and the corners of his mouth
turned down pretty much like the muzzle of an irritable pug-dog.

I have heard it observed by a profound adept in human physiology that if
a woman waxes fat with the progress of years her tenure of life is
somewhat precarious, but if haply she withers as she grows old, she lives
for ever. Such promised to be the case with William the Testy, who grew
tough in proportion as he dried. He had withered, in fact, not through the
process of years, but through the tropical fervor of his soul, which burnt
like a vehement rushlight in his bosom, inciting him to incessant broils
and bickerings. Ancient traditions speak much of his learning, and of the
gallant inroads he had made into the dead languages, in which he had made
captive a host of Greek nouns and Latin verbs, and brought off rich booty
in ancient saws and apophthegms, which he was wont to parade in his public
harangues, as a triumphant general of yore his _spolia opima_. Of
metaphysics he knew enough to confound all hearers and himself into the
bargain. In logic, he knew the whole family of syllogisms and dilemmas,
and was so proud of his skill that he never suffered even a self-evident
fact to pass unargued. It was observed, however, that he seldom got into
an argument without getting into a perplexity, and then into a passion
with his adversary for not being convinced gratis.

He had, moreover, skirmished smartly on the frontiers of several of the
sciences, was fond of experimental philosophy, and prided himself upon
inventions of all kinds. His abode, which he had fixed at a bowery, or
country seat, at a short distance from the city, just at what is now
called Dutch Street, soon abounded with proofs of his ingenuity; patent
smoke jacks that required a horse to work them; Dutch ovens that roasted
meat without fire; carts that went before the horses; weathercocks that
turned against the wind; and other wrong-headed contrivances that
astonished and confounded all beholders. The house, too, was beset with
paralytic cats and dogs, the subjects of his experimental philosophy; and
the yelling and yelping of the latter unhappy victims of science, while
aiding in the pursuit of knowledge, soon gained for the place the name of
"Dog's Misery," by which it continues to be known even at the present day.

It is in knowledge as in swimming, he who flounders and splashes on the
surface makes more noise and attracts more attention than the pearl diver
who quietly dives in quest of treasures to the bottom. The vast
acquirements of the new governor were the theme of marvel among the simple
burghers of New Amsterdam; he figured about the place as learned a man as
a Bonze at Pekin, who has mastered one-half of the Chinese alphabet; and
was unanimously pronounced a "universal genius!"

I have known in my time many a genius of this stamp; but, to speak my mind
freely, I never knew one who, for the ordinary purposes of life, was worth
his weight in straw. In this respect a little sound judgment and plain
common sense is worth all the sparkling genius that ever wrote poetry or
invented theories. Let us see how the universal acquirements of William
the Testy aided him in the affairs of government.


No sooner had this bustling little potentate been blown by a whiff of
fortune into the seat of government than he called his council together to
make them a speech on the state of affairs.

Caius Gracchus, it is said, when he harangued the Roman populace,
modulated his tone by an oratorical flute or pitch pipe. Wilhelmus Kieft,
not having such an instrument at hand, availed himself of that musical
organ or trump which nature has implanted in the midst of a man's face; in
other words, he preluded his address by a sonorous blast of the nose; a
preliminary flourish much in vogue among public orators.

He then commenced by expressing his humble sense of his utter unworthiness
of the high post to which he had been appointed, which made some of the
simple burghers wonder why he undertook it, not knowing that it is a point
of etiquette with a public orator never to enter upon office without
declaring himself unworthy to cross the threshold. He then proceeded, in a
manner highly classic and erudite, to speak of government generally, and
of the governments of ancient Greece in particular; together with the wars
of Rome and Carthage, and the rise and fall of sundry outlandish empires
which the worthy burghers had never read nor heard of. Having thus, after
the manner of your learned orators, treated of things in general, he came
by a natural roundabout transition to the matter in hand, namely, the
daring aggressions of the Yankees.

As my readers are well aware of the advantage a potentate has of handling
his enemies as he pleases in his speeches and bulletins, where he has the
talk all on his own side, they may rest assured that William the Testy did
not let such an opportunity escape of giving the Yankees what is called "a
taste of his quality." In speaking of their inroads into the territories
of their High Mightinesses, he compared them to the Gauls, who desolated
Rome; the Goths and Vandals, who overran the fairest plains of Europe; but
when he came to speak of the unparalleled audacity with which they at
Weathersfield had advanced their patches up to the very walls of Fort Goed
Hoop, and threatened to smother the garrison in onions, tears of rage
started into his eyes, as though he nosed the very offence in question.

Having thus wrought up his tale to a climax, he assumed a most belligerent
look, and assured the council that he had devised an instrument potent in
its effects, and which he trusted would soon drive the Yankees from the
land. So saying, he thrust his hand into one of the deep pockets of his
broad-skirted coat and drew forth, not an infernal machine, but an
instrument in writing, which he laid with great emphasis upon the table.

The burghers gazed at it for a time in silent awe, as a wary housewife
does at a gun, fearful it may go off half-cocked. The document in question
had a sinister look, it is true; it was crabbed in text, and from a broad
red ribbon dangled the great seal of the province, about the size of a
buckwheat pancake. Herein, however, existed the wonder of the invention.
The document in question was a proclamation, ordering the Yankees to
depart instantly from the territories of their High Mightinesses, under
pain of suffering all the forfeitures and punishments in such case made
and provided. It was on the moral effect of this formidable instrument
that Wilhelmus Kieft calculated; pledging his valor as a governor that,
once fulminated against the Yankees, it would in less than two months
drive every mother's son of them across the borders.

The council broke up in perfect wonder, and nothing was talked of for some
time among the old men and women of New Amsterdam but the vast genius of
the governor and his new and cheap mode of fighting by proclamation.

As to Wilhelmus Kieft, having dispatched his proclamation to the
frontiers, he put on his cocked hat and corduroy small clothes, and,
mounting a tall, raw-boned charger, trotted out to his rural retreat of
Dog's Misery. Here, like the good Numa, he reposed from the toils of
state, taking lessons in government, not from the nymph Egeria, but from
the honored wife of his bosom, who was one of that class of females, sent
upon the earth a little after the flood, as a punishment for the sins of
mankind, and commonly known by the appellation of knowing women. In fact,
my duty as an historian obliges me to make known a circumstance which was
a great secret at the time, and consequently was not a subject of scandal
at more than half the tea tables in New Amsterdam, but which, like many
other great secrets, has leaked out in the lapse of years; and this was,
that Wilhelmus the Testy, though one of the most potent little men that
ever breathed, yet submitted at home to a species of government, neither
laid down in Aristotle or Plato; in short, it partook of the nature of a
pure, unmixed tyranny, and is familiarly denominated petticoat government.
An absolute sway, which, although exceedingly common in these modern days,
was very rare among the ancients, if we may judge from the rout made about
the domestic economy of honest Socrates, which is the only ancient case on

The great Kieft, however, warded off all the sneers and sarcasms of his
particular friends, who are ever ready to joke with a man on sore points
of the kind, by alleging that it was a government of his own election, to
which he submitted through choice; adding, at the same time, a profound
maxim which he had found in an ancient author, that "he who would aspire
to govern should first learn to obey."


Never was a more comprehensive, a more expeditious, or, what is still
better, a more economical measure devised than this of defeating the
Yankees by proclamation--an expedient, likewise, so gentle and humane,
there were ten chances to one in favor of its succeeding; but then, there
was one chance to ten that it would not succeed. As the ill-natured Fates
would have it, that single chance carried the day! The proclamation was
perfect in all its parts, well constructed, well written, well sealed, and
well published; all that was wanting to insure its effect was, that the
Yankees should stand in awe of it; but, provoking to relate, they treated
it with the most absolute contempt, applied it to an unseemly purpose,
and thus did the first warlike proclamation come to a shameful end--a fate
which I am credibly informed has befallen but too many of its successors.

So far from abandoning the country, those varlets continued their
encroachments, squatting along the green banks of the Varsche river, and
founding Hartford, Stamford, New Haven, and other border towns. I have
already shown how the onion patches of Pyquag were an eyesore to Jacobus
Van Curlet and his garrison, but now these moss troopers increased in
their atrocities, kidnaping hogs, impounding horses, and sometimes
grievously rib-roasting their owners. Our worthy forefathers could
scarcely stir abroad without danger of being outjockeyed in horseflesh, or
taken in in bargaining; while, in their absence, some daring Yankee pedlar
would penetrate to their household, and nearly ruin the good housewives
with tinware and wooden bowls.[34]

I am well aware of the perils which environ me in this part of my
history. While raking, with curious hand but pious heart, among the
mouldering remains of former days, anxious to draw therefrom the honey of
wisdom, I may fare somewhat like that valiant worthy, Samson, who, in
meddling with the carcase of a dead lion, drew a swarm of bees about his
ears. Thus, while narrating the many misdeeds of the Yanokie or Yankee
race, it is ten chances to one but I offend the morbid sensibilities of
certain of their unreasonable descendants, who may fly out and raise such
a buzzing about this unlucky head of mine, that I shall need the tough
hide of an Achilles, or an Orlando Furioso, to protect me from their

Should such be the case, I should deeply and sincerely lament--not my
misfortune in giving offence--but the wrong-headed perverseness of an
ill-natured generation, in taking offence at anything I say. That their
ancestors did use my ancestors ill is true, and I am very sorry for it. I
would, with all my heart, the fact were otherwise; but as I am recording
the sacred events of history, I'd not bate one nail's breadth of the
honest truth, though I were sure the whole edition of my work would be
bought up and burnt by the common hangman of Connecticut. And in sooth,
now that these testy gentlemen have drawn me out, I will make bold to go
farther, and observe that this is one of the grand purposes for which we
impartial historians are sent into the world--to redress wrongs, and
render justice on the heads of the guilty. So that, though a powerful
nation may wrong its neighbors with temporary impunity, yet sooner or
later an historian springs up, who wreaks ample chastisement on it in

Thus these moss-troopers of the east little thought, I'll warrant it,
while they were harassing the inoffensive province of Nieuw Nederlandts,
and driving its unhappy governor to his wits' end, that an historian would
ever arise, and give them their own with interest. Since, then, I am but
performing my bounden duty as a historian in avenging the wrongs of our
reverend ancestors, I shall make no further apology; and, indeed, when it
is considered that I have all these ancient borderers of the east in my
power, and at the mercy of my pen, I trust that it will be admitted I
conduct myself with great humanity and moderation.

It was long before William the Testy could be persuaded that his
much-vaunted war measure was ineffectual; on the contrary, he flew in a
passion whenever it was doubted, swearing that though slow in operating,
yet when it once began to work it would soon purge the land of those
invaders. When convinced at length of the truth, like a shrewd physician,
he attributed the failure to the quantity, not the quality of the
medicine, and resolved to double the dose. He fulminated, therefore, a
second proclamation more vehement than the first, forbidding all
intercourse with these Yankee intruders; ordering the Dutch burghers on
the frontiers to buy none of their pacing horses, measly pork, apple
sweetmeats, Weathersfield onions, or wooden bowls, and to furnish them
with no supplies of gin, gingerbread, or sourkrout.

Another interval elapsed, during which the last proclamation was as little
regarded as the first, and the non-intercourse was especially set at
nought by the young folks of both sexes.

At length one day inhabitants of New Amsterdam were aroused by a furious
barking of dogs, great and small, and beheld to their surprise the whole
garrison of Fort Good Hope straggling into town all tattered and way-worn,
with Jacobus Van Curlet at their head, bringing the melancholy
intelligence of the capture of Fort Good Hope by the Yankees.

The fate of this important fortress is an impressive warning to all
military commanders. It was neither carried by storm nor famine; nor was
it undermined, nor bombarded, nor set on fire by red-hot shot, but was
taken by a stratagem no less singular than effectual, and which can never
fail of success whenever an opportunity occurs of putting it in practice.

It seems that the Yankees had received intelligence that the garrison of
Jacobus Van Curlet had been reduced nearly one-eighth by the death of two
of his most corpulent soldiers, who had over-eaten themselves on fat
salmon caught in the Varsche river. A secret expedition was immediately
set on foot to surprise the fortress. The crafty enemy, knowing the habits
of the garrison to sleep soundly after they had eaten their dinners and
smoked their pipes, stole upon them at the noonstide of a sultry summer's
day, and surprised them in the midst of their slumbers.

In an instant the flag of their High Mightinesses was lowered, and the
Yankee standard elevated in its stead, being a dried codfish, by way of a
spread eagle. A strong garrison was appointed of long-sided, hard-fisted
Yankees, with Weathersfield onions for cockades and feathers. As to
Jacobus Van Curlet and his men, they were seized by the nape of the neck,
conducted to the gate, and one by one dismissed with a kick in the
crupper, as Charles XII dismissed the heavy-bottomed Russians at the
battle of Narva; Jacobus Van Curlet receiving two kicks in consideration
of his official dignity.


[34] The following cases in point appear in Hazard's "Collection
of State Papers:"--"In the meantime, they of Hartford have not
onely usurped and taken in the lands of Connecticott, although
uprighteously and against the lawes of nations, but have hindered
our nation in sowing theire own purchased broken-up lands, but
have also sowed them with corne in the night, which the
Nederlanders had broken up and intended to sowe; and have beaten
the servants of the high and mighty the honored companie, which
were labouring upon theire masters' lands, from theire lands,
with sticks and plow staves in hostile manner laming, and, among
the rest, struck Ever Duckings [Evert Duyckink] a hole in his
head with a stick, so that the bloode ran downe very strongly
downe upon his body."

"Those of Hartford sold a hogg, that belonged to the honored
companie, under pretence that it had eaten of theire grounde
grass, when they had not any foot of inheritance. They proffered
the hogg for 5s. if the commissioners would have given 5s. for
damage; which the commissioners denied, because noe man's own
hogg (as men used to say), can trespass upon his owne master's


Language cannot express the awful ire of William the Testy on hearing of
the catastrophe at Fort Goed Hoop. For three good hours his rage was too
great for words, or rather the words were too great for him (being a very
small man), and he was nearly choked by the misshapen, nine-cornered Dutch
oaths and epithets which crowded at one into his gullet. At length his
words found vent, and for three days he kept up a constant discharge,
anathematising the Yankees, man, woman, and child, for a set of dieven,
schobbejacken, deugenieten, twist-zoekeren, blaes-kaken, loosen-schalken,
kakken-bedden, and a thousand other names, of which, unfortunately for
posterity, history does not make mention. Finally, he swore that he would
have nothing more to do with such a squatting, bundling, guessing,
questioning, swapping, pumpkin-eating, molasses-daubing,
shingle-splitting, cider-watering, horse-jockeying, notion-peddling
crew--that they might stay at Fort Goed Hoop and rot, before he would
dirty his hands by attempting to drive them away; in proof of which he
ordered the new-raised troops to be marched forthwith into winter
quarters, although it was not as yet quite midsummer. Great despondency
now fell upon the city of New Amsterdam. It was feared that the conquerors
of Fort Goed Hoop, flushed with victory and apple-brandy, might march on
to the capital, take it by storm, and annex the whole province to
Connecticut. The name of Yankee became as terrible among the Nieuw
Nederlanders as was that of Gaul among the ancient Romans, insomuch that
the good wives of the Manhattoes used it as a bugbear wherewith to
frighten their unruly children.

Everybody clamored round the governor, imploring him to put the city in a
complete posture of defence, and he listened to their clamors. Nobody
could accuse William the Testy of being idle in time of danger, or at any
other time. He was never idle, but then he was often busy to very little
purpose. When a youngling he had been impressed with the words of Solomon,
"Go to the ant, thou sluggard, observe her ways and be wise," in
conformity to which he had ever been of a restless, ant-like turn;
hurrying hither and thither, nobody knew why or wherefore, busying himself
about small matters with an air of great importance and anxiety, and
toiling at a grain of mustard-seed in the full conviction that he was
moving a mountain. In the present instance he called in all his inventive
powers to his aid, and was continually pondering over plans, making
diagrams, and worrying about with a troop of workmen and projectors at his
heels. At length, after a world of consultation and contrivance, his plans
of defence ended in rearing a great flag-staff in the center of the fort,
and perching a windmill on each bastion.

These warlike preparations in some measure allayed the public alarm,
especially after an additional means of securing the safety of the city
had been suggested by the governor's lady. It has already been hinted in
this most authentic history that in the domestic establishment of William
the Testy "the grey mare was the better horse;" in other words, that his
wife "ruled the roast," and, in governing the governor, governed the
province, which might thus be said to be under petticoat government.

Now it came to pass that this time there lived in the Manhattoes a jolly,
robustious trumpeter, named Anthony Van Corlear, famous for his long wind;
and who, as the story goes, could twang so potently upon his instrument
that the effect upon all within hearing was like that ascribed to the
Scotch bagpipe when it sings right lustily i' the nose.

This sounder of brass was moreover a lusty bachelor, with a pleasant,
burly visage, a long nose, and huge whiskers. He had his little bowery, or
retreat in the country, where he led a roystering life, giving dances to
the wives and daughters of the burghers of the Manhattoes, insomuch that
he became a prodigious favorite with all the women, young and old. He is
said to have been the first to collect that famous toll levied on the fair
sex at Kissing Bridge, on the highway to Hell-gate.[35]

To this sturdy bachelor the eyes of all the women were turned in this time
of darkness and peril, as the very man to second and carry out the plans
of defence of the governor. A kind of petticoat council was forthwith held
at the government house, at which the governor's lady presided: and this
lady, as has been hinted, being all potent with the governor, the result
of these councils was the elevation of Anthony the Trumpeter to the post
of commandant of windmills and champion of New Amsterdam.

The city being thus fortified and garrisoned, it would have done one's
heart good to see the governor snapping his fingers and fidgeting with
delight, as the trumpeter strutted up and down the ramparts twanging
defiance to the whole Yankee race, as does a modern editor to all the
principalities and powers on the other side of the Atlantic. In the hands
of Anthony Van Corlear this windy instrument appeared to him as potent as
the horn of the paladin Astolpho, or even the more classic horn of Alecto;
nay, he had almost the temerity to compare it with the rams' horns
celebrated in Holy Writ, at the very sound of which the walls of Jericho
fell down.

Be all this as it may, the apprehensions of hostilities from the east
gradually died away. The Yankees made no further invasion; nay, they
declared they had only taken possession of Fort Goed Hoop as being erected
within their territories. So far from manifesting hostility, they
continued to throng to New Amsterdam with the most innocent countenances
imaginable, filling the market with their notions, being as ready to trade
with the Netherlands as ever, and not a whit more prone to get to the
windward of them in a bargain.

The old wives of the Manhattoes who took tea with the governor's lady
attributed all this affected moderation to the awe inspired by the
military preparations of the governor, and the windy prowess of Anthony
the Trumpeter.

There were not wanting illiberal minds, however, who sneered at the
governor for thinking to defend his city as he governed it, by mere wind;
but William Kieft was not to be jeered out of his windmills; he had seen
them perched upon the ramparts of his native city of Saardam; and was
persuaded they were connected with the great science of defence; nay, so
much piqued was he by having them made a matter of ridicule, that he
introduced them into the arms of the city, where they remain to this day,
quartered with the ancient beaver of the Manhattoes, an emblem and memento
of his policy.

I must not omit to mention that certain wise old burghers of the
Manhattoes, skilful in expounding signs and mysteries, after events have
come to pass, consider this early intrusion of the windmill into the
escutcheon of our city, which before had been wholly occupied by the
beaver, as portentous of its after fortune, when the quiet Dutchman would
be elbowed aside by the enterprising Yankee, and patient industry
overtopped by windy speculation.


[35] The bridge here mentioned by Mr. Knickerbocker still exists;
but it is said that the toll is seldom collected nowadays
excepting on sleighing parties, by the descendants of the
patriarchs, who still preserve the traditions of the city.


Among the wrecks and fragments of exalted wisdom which have floated down
the stream of time from venerable antiquity, and been picked up by those
humble but industrious wights who ply along the shores of literature, we
find a shrewd ordinance of Charondas the Locrian legislator. Anxious to
preserve the judicial code of the state from the additions and amendments
of country members and seekers of popularity, he ordained that, whoever
proposed a new law should do it with a halter about his neck; whereby, in
case his proposition were rejected, they just hung him up--and there the
matter ended.

The effect was, that for more than two hundred years there was but one
trifling alteration in the judicial code; and legal matters were so clear
and simple that the whole race of lawyers starved to death for want of
employment. The Locrians, too, being freed from all incitement to
litigation, lived very lovingly together, and were so happy a people that
they make scarce any figure in history; it being only your litigatous,
quarrelsome, rantipole nations who make much noise in the world.

I have been reminded of these historical facts in coming to treat of the
internal policy of William the Testy. Well would it have been for him had
he in the course of his universal acquirements stumbled upon the
precaution of the good Charondas; or had he looked nearer home at the
protectorate of Oloffe the Dreamer, when the community was governed
without laws. Such legislation, however, was not suited to the busy,
meddling mind of William the Testy. On the contrary, he conceived that the
true wisdom of legislation consisted in the multiplicity of laws. He
accordingly had great punishments for great crimes, and little punishments
for little offences. By degrees the whole surface of society was cut up by
ditches and fences, and quickset hedges of the law, and even the
sequestered paths of private life so beset by petty rules and ordinances,
too numerous to be remembered, that one could scarce walk at large without
the risk of letting off a spring-gun or falling into a man-trap.

In a little while the blessings of innumerable laws became apparent; a
class of men arose to expound and confound them. Petty courts were
instituted to take cognizance of petty offences, pettifoggers began to
abound, and the community was soon set together by the ears.

Let me not be thought as intending anything derogatory to the profession
of the law, or to the distinguished members of that illustrious order.
Well am I aware that we have in this ancient city innumerable worthy
gentlemen, the knights-errant of modern days, who go about redressing
wrongs and defending the defenceless, not for the love of filthy lucre,
nor the selfish cravings of renown, but merely for the pleasure of doing
good. Sooner would I throw this trusty pen into the flames, and cork up my
ink-bottle for ever, than infringe even for a nail's breadth upon the
dignity of these truly benevolent champions of the distressed. On the
contrary, I allude merely to those caitiff scouts who, in these latter
days of evil, infest the skirts of the profession, as did the recreant
Cornish knights of yore the honorable order of chivalry; who, under its
auspices, commit flagrant wrongs; who thrive by quibbles, by quirks and
chicanery, and like vermin increase the corruption in which they are

Nothing so soon awakens the malevolent passions as the facility of
gratification. The courts of law would never be so crowded with petty,
vexatious, and disgraceful suits were it not for the herds of
pettifoggers. These tamper with the passions of the poorer and more
ignorant classes; who, as if poverty were not a sufficient misery in
itself, are ever ready to embitter it by litigation. These, like quacks in
medicine, excite the malady to profit by the cure, and retard the cure to
augment the fees. As the quack exhausts the constitution the pettifogger
exhausts the purse; and as he who has once been under the hands of a quack
is for ever after prone to dabble in drugs, and poison himself with
infallible prescriptions, so the client of the pettifogger is ever after
prone to embroil himself with his neighbors, and impoverish himself with
successful lawsuits. My readers will excuse this digression into which I
have been unwarily betrayed; but I could not avoid giving a cool and
unprejudiced account of an abomination too prevalent in this excellent
city, and with the effects of which I am ruefully acquainted, having been
nearly ruined by a lawsuit which was decided against me; and my ruin
having been completed by another, which was decided in my favor.

To return to our theme. There was nothing in the whole range of moral
offences against which the jurisprudence of William the Testy was more
strenuously directed than the crying sin of poverty. He pronounced it the
root of all evil, and determined to cut it up root and branch, and
extirpate it from the land. He had been struck, in the course of his
travels in the old countries of Europe, with the wisdom of those notices
posted up in country towns, that "any vagrant found begging there would be
put in the stocks," and he had observed that no beggars were to be seen in
these neighborhoods; having doubtless thrown off their rags and their
poverty, and become rich under the terror of the law. He determined to
improve upon this hint. In a little while a new machine of his own
invention was erected hard by Dog's Misery. This was nothing more nor less
than a gibbet, of a very strange, uncouth, and unmatchable construction,
far more efficacious, as he boasted, than the stocks, for the punishment
of poverty. It was for altitude not a whit inferior to that of Haman, so
renowned in Bible history; but the marvel of the contrivance was, that the
culprit, instead of being suspended by the neck according to venerable
custom, was hoisted by the waistband, and kept dangling and sprawling
between heaven and earth for an hour or two at a time, to the infinite
entertainment and edification of the respectable citizens who usually
attend exhibitions of the kind.

Such was the punishment of all petty delinquents, vagrants, and beggars
and others detected in being guilty of poverty in a small way. As to those
who had offended on a great scale, who had been guilty of flagrant
misfortunes and enormous backslidings of the purse, and who stood
convicted of large debts which they were unable to pay, William Kieft had
them straightway enclosed within the stone walls of a prison, there to
remain until they should reform and grow rich. This notable expedient,
however, does not appear to have been more efficacious under William the
Testy than in more modern days, it being found that the longer a poor
devil was kept in prison the poorer he grew.






The playful devices by which attention was directed to the coming
publication of the History of Diedrich Knickerbocker are represented in
the author's opening to the first volume. Irving joined afterward in
business as a sleeping partner, visited England in 1815, and, while
cordially welcomed here by Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, and others, the
failure of his brother's business obliged him to make writing his
profession. The publishers at first refused to take one of the most
charming of his works, the "Sketch Book"; but John Murray yielded at last
to the influence of Walter Scott, and paid L200 for the copyright of it, a
sum afterward increased to L400. "Bracebridge Hall" and the "Tales of a
Traveler" followed. Irving went to Spain with the American Ambassador to
translate documents and acquire experience which he used afterward in
successive books. "The Life and Voyages of Columbus" appeared in 1828, and
was followed by "Voyages of the Companions of Columbus."

In 1829 Washington Irving came again to England, this time as Secretary to
the American Legation. He published the "Conquest of Granada." In 1831 he
received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Oxford. Then
he returned to America, published in 1832 "The Alhambra;" in 1835 "Legends
of the Conquest of Spain." In 1842 he went again to Spain, this time as
American Minister. Other works were produced, and at the close of his life
he achieved his early ambition, by writing a Life of Washington, after
whom he had been named, and who had laid his hand upon his head and
blessed him when he was a child of five. Although the first of the five
volumes of the Life of Washington did not appear until he was more than
seventy years old, he lived to complete his work, and died on the 28th of
November, 1859. Washington Irving never married. He had loved in his early
years a daughter of his friend Mrs. Hoffman, had sat by her death-bed when
she was a girl of seventeen, and waited until his own death restored her
to him.



_BOOK IV_. (_continued._)


Next to his projects for the suppression of poverty may be classed those
of William the Testy for increasing the wealth of New Amsterdam. Solomon
of whose character for wisdom the little governor was somewhat emulous,
had made gold and silver as plenty as the stones in the streets of
Jerusalem. William Kieft could not pretend to vie with him as to the
precious metals, but he determined, as an equivalent, to flood the streets
of New Amsterdam with Indian money. This was nothing more nor less than
strings of beads wrought out of clams, periwinkles, and other shell-fish,
and called seawant or wampum. These had formed a native currency among the
simple savages, who were content to take them of the Dutchmen in exchange
for peltries. In an unlucky moment, William the Testy, seeing this money
of easy production, conceived the project of making it the current coin of
the province. It is true it had an intrinsic value among the Indians, who
used it to ornament their robes and moccasins; but among the honest
burghers it had no more intrinsic value than those rags which form the
paper currency of modern days. This consideration, however, had no weight
with William Kieft. He began by paying all the servants of the company and
all the debts of government, in strings of wampum. He sent emissaries to
sweep the shores of Long Island, which was the Ophir of this modern
Solomon, and abounded in shell-fish. These were transported in loads to
New Amsterdam, coined into Indian money, and launched into circulation.

And now for a time affairs went on swimmingly; money became as plentiful
as in the modern days of paper currency, and, to use the popular phrase,
"a wonderful impulse was given to public prosperity." Yankee traders
poured into the province, buying everything they could lay their hands on,
and paying the worthy Dutchmen their own price--in Indian money. If the
latter, however, attempted to pay the Yankees in the same coin for their
tinware and wooden bowls the case was altered; nothing would do but Dutch
guilders, and such-like "metallic currency." What was worse, the Yankees
introduced an inferior kind of wampum, made of oyster shells, with which
they deluged the province, carrying off all the silver and gold, the Dutch
herrings and Dutch cheeses: thus early did the knowing men of the East
manifest their skill in bargaining the New Amsterdammers out of the
oyster, and leaving them the shell.[36]

It was a long time before William the Testy was made sensible how
completely his grand project of finance was turned against him by his
eastern neighbors; nor would he probably have ever found it out had not
tidings been brought him that the Yankees had made a descent upon Long
Island, and had established a kind of mint at Oyster Bay, where they were
coining up all the oyster banks.

Now this was making a vital attack upon the province in a double sense,
financial and gastronomical. Ever since the council dinner of Oloffe the
Dreamer, at the founding of New Amsterdam, at which banquet the oyster
figured so conspicuously, this divine shell-fish has been held in a kind
of superstitious reverence at the Manhattoes; as witness the temples
erected to its cult in every street and lane and alley. In fact, it is the
standard luxury of the place, as is the terrapin at Philadelphia, the soft
crab at Baltimore, or the canvas-back at Washington.

The seizure of Oyster Bay, therefore, was an outrage not merely on the
pockets, but on the larders of the New Amsterdammers; the whole community
was aroused, and an oyster crusade was immediately set on foot against the
Yankees. Every stout trencherman hastened to the standard; nay, some of
the most corpulent burgomasters and schepens joined the expedition as a
_corps de reserve_, only to be called into action when the sacking

The conduct of the expedition was entrusted to a valiant Dutchman, who,
for size and weight, might have matched with Colbrand, the Danish
champion, slain by Guy of Warwick. He was famous throughout the province
for strength of arm and skill at quarter-staff, and hence was named
Stoffel Brinkerhoff; or rather, Brinkerhoofd; that is to say, Stoffel the

This sturdy commander, who was a man of few words but vigorous deeds, led
his troops resolutely on through Nineveh, and Babylon, and Jericho, and
Patch-hog, and other Long Island towns, without encountering any
difficulty of note, though it is said that some of the burgomasters gave
out at Hard-scramble Hill and Hungry Hollow; and that others lost heart,
and turned back at Puss-panick. With the rest he made good his march until
he arrived in the neighborhood of Oyster Bay.

Here he was encountered by a host of Yankee warriors, headed by Preserved
Fish, and Habakkuk Nutter, and Return Strong, and Zerubbabel Fisk, and
Determined Cock! at the sound of whose names Stoffel Brinkerhoff verily
believed the whole parliament of Praise-God Barebones had been let loose
upon him. He soon found, however, that they were merely the "select men"
of the settlement, armed with no weapon but the tongue, and disposed only
to meet him on the field of argument. Stoffel had but one mode of
arguing--that was with the cudgel; but he used it with such effect that he
routed his antagonists, broke up the settlement, and would have driven the
inhabitants into the sea, if they had not managed to escape across the
Sound to the mainland by the Devil's Stepping-stones, which remain to this
day monuments of this great Dutch victory over the Yankees.

Stoffel Brinkerhoff made great spoil of oysters and clams, coined and
uncoined, and then set out on his return to the Manhattoes. A grand
triumph, after the manner of the ancients, was prepared for him by William
the Testy. He entered New Amsterdam as a conqueror, mounted on a
Narraganset pacer. Five dried codfish on poles, standards taken from the
enemy, were borne before him; and an immense store of oysters and clams,
Weathersfield onions, and Yankee "notions" formed the _spolia opima;_
while several coiners of oyster-shells were led captive to grace the
hero's triumph.

The procession was accompanied by a full band of boys and negroes,
performing on the popular instruments of rattle-bones and clam-shells,
while Anthony Van Corlear sounded his trumpet from the ramparts.

A great banquet was served up in the Stadthouse from the clams and oysters
taken from the enemy, while the governor sent the shells privately to the
mint, and had them coined into Indian money, with which he paid his

It is moreover said that the governor, calling to mind the practice among
the ancients to honor their victorious generals with public statues,
passed a magnanimous decree, by which every tavern-keeper was permitted to
paint the head of Stoffel Brinkerhoff upon his sign!


[36] In a manuscript record of the province, dated 1659, Library
of the New York Historical Society, is the following mention of
Indian money:--"Seawant, alias wampum. Beads manufactured from
the Quahang or whelk, a shell-fish formerly abounding on our
coasts, but lately of more rare occurrence of two colors, black
and white; the former twice the value of the latter. Six beads of
the white and three of the black for an English penny. The
seawant depreciates from time to time. The New England people
make use of it as a means of barter, not only to carry away the
best cargoes which we send thither, but to accumulate a large
quantity of beavers' and other furs, by which the company is
defrauded of her revenues, and the merchants disappointed in
making returns with that speed with which they might wish to meet
their engagements; while their commissioners and the inhabitants
remain overstocked with seawant, a sort of currency of no value
except with the New Netherland savages," etc.


It has been remarked by the observant writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript,
that under the administration of William Kieft the disposition of the
inhabitants of New Amsterdam experienced an essential change, so that they
became very meddlesome and factious. The unfortunate propensity of the
little governor to experiment and innovation, and the frequent
exacerbations of his temper, kept his council in a continual worry; and
the council being to the people at large what yeast or leaven is to a
batch, they threw the whole community in a ferment; and the people at
large being to the city what the mind is to the body, the unhappy
commotions they underwent operated most disastrously upon New Amsterdam;
insomuch that, in certain of their paroxysms of consternation and
perplexity, they begat several of the most crooked, distorted, and
abominable streets, lanes, and alleys, with which this metropolis is

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