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

Part 4 out of 6

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The fact was, that about this time the community, like Balaam's ass, began
to grow more enlightened than its rider, and to show a disposition for
what is called "self-government." This restive propensity was first
evinced in certain popular meetings, in which the burghers of New
Amsterdam met to talk and smoke over the complicated affairs of the
province, gradually obfuscating themselves with politics and tobacco
smoke. Hither resorted those idlers and squires of low degree who hang
loose on society and are blown about by every wind of doctrine. Cobblers
abandoned their stalls to give lessons on political economy; blacksmiths
suffered their fires to go out, while they stirred up the fires of
faction; and even tailors, though said to be the ninth parts of humanity,
neglected their own measures to criticise the measures of government.

Strange! that the science of government, which seems to be so generally
understood, should invariably be denied to the only one called upon to
exercise it. Not one of the politicians in question, but, take his word
for it, could have administered affairs ten times better than William the

Under the instructions of these political oracles, the good people of New
Amsterdam soon became exceedingly enlightened; and, as a matter of course,
exceedingly discontented. They gradually found out the fearful error in
which they had indulged, of thinking themselves the happiest people in
creation; and were convinced that, all circumstances to the contrary not
withstanding, they were a very unhappy, deluded, and consequently ruined

We are naturally prone to discontent, and avaricious after imaginary
causes of lamentation. Like lubberly monks, we belabor our own shoulders,
and take a vast satisfaction in the music of our own groans. Nor is this
said by way of paradox; daily experience shows the truth of these
observations. It is almost impossible to elevate the spirits of a man
groaning under ideal calamities; but nothing is easier than to render him
wretched, though on the pinnacle of felicity: as it would be an herculean
task to hoist a man to the top of a steeple, though the merest child could
topple him off thence.

I must not omit to mention that these popular meetings were generally
held at some noted tavern; these public edifices possessing what in modern
times are thought the true fountains of political inspiration. The ancient
Germans deliberated upon a matter when drunk, and reconsidered it when
sober. Mob politicians in modern times dislike to have two minds upon a
subject, so they both deliberate and act when drunk; by this means a world
of delay is spared; and as it is universally allowed that a man when drunk
sees double, it follows conclusively that he sees twice as well as his
sober neighbors.


Wilhelmus Kieft, as has already been observed, was a great legislator on a
small scale, and had a microscopic eye in public affairs. He had been
greatly annoyed by the facetious meetings of the good people of New
Amsterdam, but observing that on these occasions the pipe was ever in
their mouth, he began to think that the pipe was at the bottom of the
affair, and that there was some mysterious affinity between politics and
tobacco smoke. Determined to strike at the root of the evil, he began
forthwith to rail at tobacco as a noxious, nauseous weed, filthy in all
its uses; and as to smoking, he denounced it as a heavy tax upon the
public pocket, a vast consumer of time, a great encourager of idleness,
and a deadly bane to the prosperity and morals of the people. Finally, he
issued an edict, prohibiting the smoking of tobacco throughout the New
Netherlands. Ill-fated Kieft! Had he lived in the present age, and
attempted to check the unbounded license of the press, he could not have
struck more sorely upon the sensibilities of the million. The pipe, in
fact, was the great organ of reflection and deliberation of the New
Netherlander. It was his constant companion and solace--was he gay, he
smoked: was he sad, he smoked; his pipe was never out of his mouth; it was
a part of his physiognomy; without it, his best friends would not know
him. Take away his pipe? You might as well take away his nose!

The immediate effect of the edict of William the Testy was a popular
commotion. A vast multitude, armed with pipes and tobacco-boxes, and an
immense supply of ammunition, sat themselves down before the governor's
house, and fell to smoking with tremendous violence. The testy William
issued forth like a wrathful spider, demanding the reason of this lawless
fumigation. The sturdy rioters replied by lolling back in their seats, and
puffing away with redoubled fury, raising such a murky cloud that the
governor was fain to take refuge in the interior of his castle.

A long negotiation ensued through the medium of Anthony the Trumpeter. The
governor was at first wrathful and unyielding, but was gradually smoked
into terms. He concluded by permitting the smoking of tobacco, but he
abolished the fair long pipes used in the days of Wouter Van Twiller,
denoting ease, tranquillity, and sobriety of deportment; these he
condemned as incompatible with the despatch of business; in place whereof
he substituted little captious short pipes, two inches in length, which,
he observed, could be stuck in one corner of the mouth, or twisted in the
hatband, and would never be in the way. Thus ended this alarming
insurrection, which was long known by the name of the Pipe Plot, and
which, it has been somewhat quaintly observed, did end, like most plots
and seditions, in mere smoke.

But mark, O reader! the deplorable evils which did afterward result. The
smoke of these villainous little pipes, continually ascending in a cloud
about the nose, penetrated into and befogged the cerebellum, dried up all
the kindly moisture of the brain, and rendered the people who used them as
vaporish and testy as the governor himself. Nay, what is worse, from
being goodly, burly, sleek-conditioned men, they became, like our Dutch
yeomanry who smoke short pipes, a lantern-jawed, smoke-dried,
leather-hided race.

Nor was this all. From this fatal schism in tobacco pipes we may date the
rise of parties in the Nieuw Nederlandts. The rich and self-important
burghers who had made their fortunes, and could afford to be lazy, adhered
to the ancient fashion, and formed a kind of aristocracy known as the Long
Pipes; while the lower order, adopting the reform of William Kieft as more
convenient in their handicraft employments, were branded with the plebeian
name of Short Pipes.

A third party sprang up, headed by the descendants of Robert Chewit, the
companion of the great Hudson. These discarded pipes altogether, and took
up chewing tobacco; hence they were called Quids; an appellation since
given to those political mongrels which sometimes spring up between two
great parties, as a mule is produced between a horse and an ass.

And here I would note the great benefit of party distinctions in saving
the people at large the trouble of thinking. Hesiod divides mankind into
three classes--those who think for themselves, those who think as others
think, and those who do not think at all. The second class comprises the
great mass of society; for most people require a set creed and a
file-leader. Hence the origin of party, which means a large body of
people, some few of whom think, and all the rest talk. The former take the
lead and discipline the latter, prescribing what they must say, what they
must approve, what they must hoot at, whom they must support, but, above
all, whom they must hate; for no one can be a right good partisan who is
not a thoroughgoing hater.

The enlightened inhabitants of the Manhattoes, therefore, being divided
into parties, were enabled to hate each other with great accuracy. And
now the great business of politics went bravely on, the Long Pipes and
Short Pipes assemblings in separate beer-houses, and smoking at each
other with implacable vehemence, to the great support of the state and
profit of the tavern-keepers. Some, indeed, went so far as to bespatter
their adversaries with those odoriferous little words which smell so
strong in the Dutch language; believing, like true politicians, that they
served their party and glorified themselves in proportion as they bewrayed
their neighbors. But, however they might differ among themselves, all
parties agreed in abusing the governor, seeing that he was not a governor
of their choice, but appointed by others to rule over them.

Unhappy William Kieft! exclaims the sage writer of the Stuyvesant
manuscript, doomed to contend with enemies too knowing to be entrapped,
and to reign over a people too wise to be governed. All his foreign
expeditions were baffled and set at naught by the all-pervading Yankees;
all his home measures were canvassed and condemned by "numerous and
respectable meetings" of pot-house politicians.

In the multitude of counsellors, we are told, there is safety; but the
multitude of counsellors was a continual source of perplexity to William
Kieft. With a temperament as hot as an old radish, and a mind subject to
perpetual whirlwinds and tornadoes, he never failed to get into a passion
with every one who undertook to advise him. I have observed, however, that
your passionate little men, like small boats with large sails, are easily
upset or blown out of their course; so was it with William the Testy, who
was prone to be carried away by the last piece of advice blown into his
ear. The consequence was that though a projector of the first class, yet,
by continually changing his projects, he gave none a fair trial; and by
endeavoring to do everything, he, in sober truth, did nothing.

In the meantime the sovereign people, having got into the saddle, showed
themselves, as usual, unmerciful riders; spurring on the little governor
with harangues and petitions, and thwarting him with memorials and
reproaches, in much the same way as holiday apprentices manage an unlucky
devil of a hack-horse; so that Wilhelmus Kieft was kept at a worry or a
gallop throughout the whole of his administration.


If we could but get a peep at the tally of Dame Fortune, where like a
vigilant landlady she chalks up the debtor and creditor accounts of
thoughtless mortals, we should find that every good is checked off by an
evil; and that however we may apparently revel scot-free for a season, the
time will come when we must ruefully pay off the reckoning. Fortune, in
fact, is a pestilent shrew, and, withal, an inexorable creditor; and
though for a time she may be all smiles and courtesies, and indulge us in
long credits, yet sooner or later she brings up her arrears with a
vengeance, and washes out her scores with our tears. "Since," says good
old Boethius, "no man can retain her at his pleasure, what are her favors
but sure prognostications of approaching trouble and calamity?"

This is the fundamental maxim of that sage school of philosophers, the
Croakers, who esteem it true wisdom to doubt and despond when other men
rejoice, well knowing that happiness is at best but transient; that the
higher one is elevated on the see-saw balance of fortune, the lower must
be his subsequent depression; that he who is on the uppermost round of a
ladder has most to suffer from a fall, while he who is at the bottom runs
very little risk of breaking his neck by tumbling to the top.

Philosophical readers of this stamp must have doubtless indulged in
dismal forebodings all through the tranquil reign of Walter the Doubter,
and considered it what Dutch seamen call a weather-breeder. They will not
be surprised, therefore, that the foul weather which gathered during his
days should now be rattling from all quarters on the head of William the

The origin of some of these troubles may be traced quite back to the
discoveries and annexations of Hans Reinier Oothout, the explorer, and
Wynant Ten Breeches, the land-measurer, made in the twilight days of
Oloffe the Dreamer, by which the territories of the Nieuw Nederlandts were
carried far to the south, to Delaware River and parts beyond. The
consequence was many disputes and brawls with the Indians, which now and
then reached the drowsy ears of Walter the Doubter and his council, like
the muttering of distant thunder from behind the mountains, without,
however, disturbing their repose. It was not till the time of William the
Testy that the thunderbolt reached the Manhattoes. While the little
governor was diligently protecting his eastern boundaries from the
Yankees, word was brought him of the irruption of a vagrant colony of
Swedes in the South, who had landed on the banks of the Delaware, and
displayed the banner of that redoubtable virago Queen Christina, and taken
possession of the country in her name. These had been guided in their
expedition by one Peter Minuits or Minnewits, a renegade Dutchman,
formerly in the service of their High Mightinesses; but who now declared
himself governor of all the surrounding country, to which was given the
name of the province of New Sweden.

It is an old saying, that "a little pot is soon hot," which was the case
with William the Testy. Being a little man, he was soon in a passion, and
once in a passion he soon boiled over. Summoning his council on the
receipt of this news, he belabored the Swedes in the longest speech that
had been heard in the colony since the wordy warfare of Ten Breeches and
Tough Breeches. Having thus taken off the fire-edge of his valor, he
resorted to his favorite measure of proclamation, and despatched a
document of the kind, ordering the renegade Minnewits and his gang of
Swedish vagabonds to leave the country immediately, under pain of
vengeance of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General, and of the
potentates of the Manhattoes.

This strong measure was not a whit more effectual than its predecessors
which had been thundered against the Yankees, and William Kieft was
preparing to follow it up with something still more formidable, when he
received intelligence of other invaders on his southern frontier, who had
taken possession of the banks of the Schuylkill, and built a fort there.
They were represented as a gigantic, gunpowder race of men, exceedingly
expert at boxing, biting, gouging, and other branches of the
rough-and-tumble mode of warfare, which they had learned from their
prototypes and cousins-german the Virginians, to whom they have ever borne
considerable resemblance. Like them, too, they were great roisterers, much
given to revel on hoe-cake and bacon, mint-julep and apple toddy; whence
their newly formed colony had already acquired the name of Merryland,
which, with a slight modification, it retains to the present day.

In fact, the Merrylanders and their cousins, the Virginians, were
represented to William Kieft as offsets from the same original stock as
his bitter enemies the Yanokie, or Yankee, tribes of the east; having both
come over to this country for the liberty of conscience, or, in other
words, to live as they pleased; the Yankees taking to praying and
money-making and converting Quakers, and the Southerners to horse-racing
and cock-fighting and breeding negroes.

Against these new invaders Wilhelmus Kieft immediately despatched a naval
armament of two sloops and thirty men, under Jan Jansen Alpendam, who was
armed to the very teeth with one of the little governor's most powerful
speeches, written in vigorous Low Dutch.

Admiral Alpendam arrived without accident in the Schuylkill, and came upon
the enemy just as they were engaged in a great "barbecue," a king of
festivity or carouse much practised in Merryland. Opening upon them with
the speech of William the Testy, he denounced them as a pack of lazy,
canting, julep-tippling, cock-fighting, horse-racing, slave-driving,
tavern-haunting, Sabbath-breaking, mulatto-breeding upstarts: and
concluded by ordering them to evacuate the country immediately; to which
they laconically replied in plain English, "They'd see him d----d first!"

Now this was a reply on which neither Jan Jansen Alpendam nor Wilhelmus
Kieft had made any calculation. Finding himself, therefore, totally
unprepared to answer so terrible a rebuff with suitable hostility, the
admiral concluded his wisest course would be to return home and report
progress. He accordingly steered his course back to New Amsterdam, where
he arrived safe, having accomplished this hazardous enterprise at small
expense of treasure, and no loss of life. His saving policy gained him the
universal appellation of the Savior of his Country, and his services were
suitably rewarded by a shingle monument, erected by subscription on the
top of Flattenbarrack Hill, where it immortalized his name for three whole
years, when it fell to pieces and was burnt for firewood.


About this time, the testy little governor of the New Netherlands appears
to have had his hands full, and with one annoyance and the other to have
been kept continually on the bounce. He was on the very point of following
up the expedition of Jan Jansen Alpendam by some belligerent measures
against the marauders of Merryland, when his attention was suddenly called
away by belligerent troubles springing up in another quarter, the seeds of
which had been sown in the tranquil days of Walter the Doubter.

The reader will recollect the deep doubt into which that most pacific
governor was thrown on Killian Van Rensellaer's taking possession of Bearn
Island by _wapen recht_. While the governor doubted and did nothing, the
lordly Killian went on to complete his sturdy little castellum of
Rensellaersteen, and to garrison it with a number of his tenants from the
Helderberg, a mountain region famous for the hardest heads and hardest
fists in the province. Nicholas Koorn, a faithful squire of the patroon,
accustomed to strut at his heels, wear his cast-off clothes, and imitate
his lofty bearing, was established in this post as wacht-meester. His duty
it was to keep an eye on the river, and oblige every vessel that passed,
unless on the service of their High Mightinesses, to strike its flag,
lower its peak, and pay toll to the Lord of Rensellaersteen.

This assumption of sovereign authority within the territories of the Lords
States General, however it might have been tolerated by Walter the
Doubter, had been sharply contested by William the Testy, on coming into
office and many written remonstrances had been addressed by him to Killian
Van Rensellaer, to which the latter never deigned a reply. Thus by degrees
a sore place, or, in Hibernian parlance, a raw, had been established in
the irritable soul of the little governor, insomuch that he winced at the
very name of Rensellaersteen.

Now it came to pass that, on a fine sunny day, the company's yacht, the
Half Moon, having been on one of its stated visits to Fort Aurania, was
quietly tiding it down the Hudson; the commander, Govert Lockerman, a
veteran Dutch skipper of few words but great bottom, was seated on the
high poop, quietly smoking his pipe, under the shadow of the proud flag
of Orange, when, on arriving abreast of Bearn Island, he was saluted by a
stentorian voice from the shore, "Lower thy flag, and be d----d to thee!"

Govert Lockerman, without taking his pipe out of his mouth, turned up his
eye from under his broad-brimmed hat to see who hailed him thus
discourteously. There, on the ramparts of the forts, stood Nicholas Koorn,
armed to the teeth, flourishing a brass-hilted sword, while a
steeple-crowned hat and cock's tail-feather, formerly worn by Killian Van
Rensellaer himself, gave an inexpressible loftiness to his demeanor.

Govert Lockerman eyed the warrior from top to toe, but was not to be
dismayed. Taking the pipe slowly out of his mouth, "To whom should I lower
my flag?" demanded he. "To the high and mighty Killian Van Rensellaer, the
lord of Rensellaersteen!" was the reply.

"I lower it to none but the Prince Orange and my masters, the Lords States
General." So saying, he resumed his pipe and smoked with an air of dogged

Bang! went a gun from the fortress; the ball cut both sail and rigging.
Govert Lockerman said nothing, but smoked the more doggedly.

Bang! went another gun; the shot whistling close astern.

"Fire, and be d----d," cried Govert Lockerman, cramming a new charge of
tobacco into his pipe, and smoking with still increasing vehemence.

Bang! went a third gun. The shot passed over his head, tearing a hole in
the "princely flag of Orange."

This was the hardest trial of all for the pride and patience of Govert
Lockerman; he maintained a stubborn though swelling silence, but his
smothered rage might be perceived by the short vehement puffs of smoke
emitted from his pipe, by which he might be tracked for miles, as he
slowly floated out of shot and out of sight of Bearn Island. In fact, he
never gave vent to his passion until he got fairly among the Highlands of
the Hudson, when he let fly whole volleys of Dutch oaths, which are said
to linger to this very day among the echoes of the Dunderberg, and to give
particular effect to the thunder-storms in that neighborhood.

It was the sudden apparition of Govert Lockerman at Dog's Misery, bearing
in his hand the tattered flag of Orange, that arrested the attention of
William the Testy, just as he was devising a new expedition against the
marauders of Merryland. I will not pretend to describe the passion of the
little man when he heard of the outrage of Rensellaersteen. Suffice it to
say, in the first transports of his fury, he turned Dog's Misery
topsy-turvy, kicked every cur out of doors, and threw the cats out of the
window; after which, his spleen being in some measure relieved, he went
into a council of war with Govert Lockerman, the skipper, assisted by
Anthony Van Corlear, the trumpeter.


The eyes of all New Amsterdam were now turned to see what would be the end
of this direful feud between William the Testy and the patron of
Rensellaerwick; and some, observing the consultations of the governor with
the skipper and the trumpeter, predicted warlike measures by sea and land.
The wrath of William Kieft, however, though quick to rise, was quick to
evaporate. He was a perfect brush-heap in a blaze, snapping and crackling
for a time, and then ending in smoke. Like many other valiant potentates,
his first thoughts were all for war, his sober second thoughts for

Accordingly Govert Lockerman was once more despatched up the river in the
company's yacht, the Goed Hoop, bearing Anthony the Trumpeter as
ambassador, to treat with the belligerent powers of Rensellaersteen. In
the fulness of time the yacht arrived before Bearn Island, and Anthony the
Trumpeter, mounting the poop, sounded a parly to the forces. In a little
while the steeple-crowned hat of Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, rose
above the battlements, followed by his iron visage, and ultimately his
whole person, armed, as before, to the very teeth; while one by one a
whole row of Helderbergers reared their round burly heads above the wall,
and beside each pumpkin-head peered the end of a rusty musket. Nothing
daunted by this formidable array, Anthony Van Corlear drew forth and read
with audible voice a missive from William the Testy, protesting against
the usurpation of Bearn Island, and ordering the garrison to quit the
premises, bag and baggage, on pain of the vengeance of the potentate of
the Manhattoes.

In reply, the wacht-meester applied the thumb of his right hand to the end
of his nose, and the thumb of the left hand to the little finger of the
right, and spreading each hand like a fan, made an aerial flourish with
his fingers. Anthony Van Corlear was sorely perplexed to understand this
sign, which seemed to him something mysterious and masonic. Not liking to
betray his ignorance, he again read with a loud voice the missive of
William the Testy, and again Nicholas Koorn applied the thumb of his right
hand to the end of his nose, and the thumb of his left hand to the little
finger of the right, and repeated this kind of nasal weathercock. Anthony
Van Corlear now persuaded himself that this was some short-hand sign or
symbol, current in diplomacy, which, though unintelligible to a new
diplomat like himself, would speak volumes to the experienced intellect of
William the Testy. Considering his embassy therefore at an end, he sounded
his trumpet with great complacency, and set sail on his return down the
river, every now and then practising this mysterious sign of the
wacht-meester, to keep it accurately in mind.

Arrived at New Amsterdam, he made a faithful report of his embassy to the
governor, accompanied by a manual exhibition of the response of Nicholas
Koorn. The governor was equally perplexed with his ambassador. He was
deeply versed in the mysteries of freemasonry, but they threw no light on
the matter. He knew ever variety of windmill and weathercock, but was not
a whit the wiser as to the aerial sign in question. He had even dabbled in
Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the mystic symbols of the obelisk, but none
furnished a key to the reply of Nicholas Koorn. He called a meeting of his
council. Anthony Van Corlear stood forth in the midst, and putting the
thumb of his right hand to his nose, and the thumb of his left hand to the
finger of the right, he gave a faithful fac-simile of the portentous sign.
Having a nose of unusual dimensions, it was as if the reply had been put
in capitals, but all in vain, the worthy burgomasters were equally
perplexed with the governor. Each one put his thumb to the end of his
nose, spread his fingers like a fan, imitated the motion of Anthony Van
Corlear, then smoked on in dubious silence. Several times was Anthony
obliged to stand forth like a fugleman and repeat the sign, and each time
a circle of nasal weathercocks might be seen in the council chamber.

Perplexed in the extreme, William the Testy sent for all the soothsayers
and fortune tellers and wise men of the Manhattoes, but none could
interpret the mysterious reply of Nicholas Koorn. The council broke up in
sore perplexity. The matter got abroad; Anthony Van Corlear was stopped at
every corner to repeat the signal to a knot of anxious newsmongers, each
of whom departed with his thumb to his nose and his fingers in the air, to
carry the story home of his family. For several days all business was
neglected in New Amsterdam; nothing was talked of but the diplomatic
mission of Anthony the Trumpeter, nothing was to be seen but knots of
politicians with their thumbs to their noses. In the meantime the fierce
feud between William the Testy and Killian Van Rensellaer, which at first
had menaced deadly warfare, gradually cooled off, like many other war
questions, in the prolonged delays of diplomacy.

Still, to this early affair of Rensellaersteen may be traced the remote
origin of those windy wars in modern days which rage in the bowels of the
Helderberg, and have well nigh shaken the great patroonship of the Van
Rensellaers to its foundation: for we are told that the bully boys of the
Helderberg, who served under Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, carried
back to their mountains the hieroglyphic sign which had so sorely puzzled
Anthony Van Corlear and the sages of the Manhattoes; so that to the
present day, the thumb to the nose and the fingers in the air is apt to be
the reply of the Helderbergers whenever called upon for any long arrears
of rent.


It was asserted by the wise men of ancient times who had a nearer
opportunity of ascertaining the fact, that at the gate of Jupiter's palace
lay two huge tuns, one filled with blessings, the other with misfortunes;
and it would verily seem as if the latter had been completely overturned,
and left to deluge the unlucky province of Nieuw Nederlandts; for about
this time, while harassed and annoyed from the south and the north,
incessant forays were made by the border chivalry of Connecticut upon the
pig-sties and hen-roosts of the Nederlanders. Every day or two some
broad-bottomed express rider, covered with mud and mire, would come
floundering into the gate of New Amsterdam, freighted with some new tale
of aggression from the frontier; whereupon Anthony Van Corlear, seizing
his trumpet, the only substitute for a newspaper in those primitive days,
would sound the tidings from the ramparts with such doleful notes and
disastrous cadence, as to throw half the old women in the city into
hysterics; all which tended greatly to increase his popularity, there
being nothing for which the public are more grateful than being frequently
treated to a panic--a secret well known to modern editors.

But oh, ye powers! into what a paroxysm of passion did each new outrage of
the Yankees throw the choleric little governor! Letter after letter,
protest after protest, bad Latin, worse English, and hideous Low Dutch,
were incessantly fulminated upon them, and the four-and-twenty letters of
the alphabet, which formed his standing army, were worn out by constant
campaigning. All, however, was ineffectual; even the recent victory at
Oyster Bay, which had shed such a gleam of sunshine between the clouds of
his foul weather reign, was soon followed by a more fearful gathering up
of those clouds and indications of more portentous tempests; for the
Yankee tribe on the banks of the Connecticut, finding on this memorable
occasion their incompetency to cope in fair fight with the sturdy chivalry
of the Manhattoes, had called to their aid all the ten tribes of their
brethren who inhabit the east country, which from them has derived the
name of Yankee land. This call was promptly responded to. The consequence
was a great confederacy of the tribes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New
Plymouth, and New Haven, under the title of the "United Colonies of New
England;" the pretended object of which was mutual defense against the
savages, but the real object the subjugation of the Nieuw Nederlandts.

For, to let the reader into one of the greatest secrets of history, the
Nieuw Nederlandts had long been regarded by the whole Yankee race as the
modern land of promise, and themselves as the chosen and peculiar people
destined, one day or other, by hook or by crook, to get possession of it.
In truth, they are a wonderful and all-prevalent people; of that class who
only require an inch to gain an ell; or a halter to gain a horse. From the
time they first gained a foothold on Plymouth Rock, they began to migrate,
progressing and progressing from place to place, and land to land, making
a little here and a little there, and controverting the old proverb, that
a rolling stone gathers no moss. Hence they have facetiously received the
nickname of "The Pilgrims," that is to say, a people who are always
seeking a better country than their own.

The tidings of this great Yankee league struck William Kieft with dismay,
and for once in his life he forgot to bounce on receiving a disagreeable
piece of intelligence. In fact, on turning over in his mind all that he
had read at the Hague about leagues and combinations, he found that this
was a counterpart of the Amphictyonic League, by which the states of
Greece attained such power and supremacy; and the very idea made his heart
quake for the safety of his empire at the Manhattoes.

The affairs of the confederacy were managed by an annual council of
delegates held at Boston, which Kieft denominated the Delphos of this
truly classic league. The very first meeting gave evidence of hostility to
the New Nederlanders, who were charged, in their dealings with the
Indians, with carrying on a traffic in "guns, powther, and shott--a trade
damnable and injurious to the colonists." It is true the Connecticut
traders were fain to dabble a little in this damnable traffic; but then
they always dealt in what were termed Yankee guns, ingeniously calculated
to burst in the pagan hands which used them.

The rise of this potent confederacy was a death-blow to the glory of
William the Testy, for from that day forward he never held up his head,
but appeared quite crestfallen. It is true, as the grand council augmented
in power, and the league, rolling onward, gathered about the red hills of
New Haven, threatening to overwhelm the Nieuw Nederlandts, he continued
occasionally to fulminate proclamations and protests, as a shrewd sea
captain fires his guns into a water spout, but, alas! they had no more
effect than so many blank cartridges.

Thus end the authenticated chronicles of the reign of William the Testy,
for henceforth, in the troubles, perplexities, and confusion of the times,
he seems to have been totally overlooked, and to have slipped for ever
through the fingers of scrupulous history. It is a matter of deep concern
that such obscurity should hang over his latter days; for he was in truth
a mighty and great little man, and worthy of being utterly renowned,
seeing that he was the first potentate that introduced into this land the
art of fighting by proclamation, and defending a country by trumpeters and

It is true that certain of the early provincial poets, of whom there were
great numbers in the Nieuw Nederlandts, taking advantage of his mysterious
exit, have fabled that, like Romulus, he was translated to the skies, and
forms a very fiery little star, somewhere on the left claw of the crab;
while others, equally fanciful, declare that he had experienced a fate
similar to that of the good King Arthur, who, we are assured by ancient
bards, was carried away to the delicious abodes of fairyland, where he
still exists in pristine worth and vigor, and will one day or another
return to restore the gallantry, the honor, and the immaculate probity,
which prevailed in the glorious days of the Round Table.[37]

All these, however, are but pleasing fantasies, the cobweb visions of
those dreaming varlets the poets, to which I would not have my judicious
reader attach any credibility. Neither am I disposed to credit an ancient
and rather apocryphal historian, who asserts that the ingenious Wilhelmus
was annihilated by the blowing down of one of his windmills, nor a writer
of later times, who affirms that he fell a victim to an experiment in
natural history, having the misfortune to break his neck from a garret
window of the stadthouse in attempting to catch swallows by sprinkling
salt upon their tails. Still less do I put my faith in the tradition that
he perished at sea in conveying home to Holland a treasure of golden ore,
discovered somewhere among the haunted regions of the Catskill

The most probable account declares, that what with the constant troubles
on his frontiers--the incessant schemings and projects going on in his own
pericranium--the memorials, petitions, remonstrances, and sage pieces of
advice of respectable meetings of the sovereign people, and the refractory
disposition of his councillors, who were sure to differ from him on every
point, and uniformly to be in the wrong--his mind was kept in a furnace
heat, until he became as completely burnt out as a Dutch family pipe which
has passed through three generations of hard smokers. In this manner did
he undergo a kind of animal combustion consuming away like a farthing
rushlight, so that when grim Death finally snuffed him out, there was
scarcely left enough of him to bury!


[37] "The old Welsh bards believed that King Arthur was not dead,
but carried awaie by the fairies into some pleasant place, where
he sholde remaine for a time, and then returne againe and reigne
in as great authority as ever."--_Holinshed_.

"The Britons suppose that he shall come yet and conquere all
Britaigne; for, certes, this is the prophicye of Merlyn--He say'd
that his deth shall be doubteous; and said soth, for men thereof
yet have doubte and shullen for evermore, for men wyt not whether
that he lyveth or is dede."--_De Leew Chron_.

[38] Diedrich Knickerbocker, in his scrupulous search after
truth, is sometimes too fastidious in regard to facts which
border a little on the marvelous. The story of the golden ore
rests on something better than mere tradition. The venerable
Adrian Van der Donck, Doctor of Laws, in his description of the
New Netherlands, asserts it from his own observation as an
eye-witness. He was present, he says, in 1645, at a treaty
between Governor Kieft and the Mohawk Indians, in which one of
the latter, in painting himself for the ceremony, used a pigment,
the weight and shining appearance of which excited the curiosity
of the governor and Mynheer Van der Donck. They obtained a lump
and gave it to be proved by a skillful doctor of medicine,
Johannes de la Montagne, one of the councillors of the New
Netherlands. It was put into a crucible, and yielded two pieces
of gold worth about three guilders. All this, continues Adrian
Van der Donck, was kept secret. As soon as peace was made with
the Mohawks, an officer and a few men were sent to the mountain,
in the region of the Kaatskill, under the guidance of an Indian,
to search for the precious mineral. They brought back a bucketful
of ore, which, being submitted to the crucible, proved as
productive as the first. William Kieft now thought the discovery
certain. He sent a confidential person, Arent Corsen, with a
bagful of the mineral to New Haven, to take passage in an English
ship for England, thence to proceed to Holland. The vessel sailed
at Christmas, but never reached her port. All on board

In the year 1647, Wilhelmus Kieft himself embarked on board the
_Princess_, taking with him specimens of the supposed mineral.
The ship was never heard of more!

Some have supposed that the mineral in question was not gold, but
pyrites; but we have the assertion of Adrian Van der Donck, an
eye-witness, and the experiment of Johannes de la Montagne, a
learned doctor of medicine, on the golden side of the question.
Cornelius Van Tienhooven, also, at that time secretary of the New
Netherlands, declared, in Holland, that he had tested several
specimens of the mineral, which proved satisfactory. It would
appear, however, that these golden treasures of the Kaatskill
always brought ill luck; as is evidenced in the fate of Arent
Corsen and Wilhelmus Kieft, and the wreck of the ships in which
they attempted to convey the treasure across the ocean. The
golden mines have never since been explored, but remain among the
mysteries of the Kaatskill mountains, and under the protection of
the goblins which haunt them.

[A] See Van der Donck's description of the New Netherlands,
Collect. New York Hist. Society, vol. i., p. 161.




To a profound philosopher like myself, who am apt to see clear through a
subject, where the penetration of ordinary people extends but half way,
there is no fact more simple and manifest than that the death of a great
man is a matter of very little importance. Much as we may think of
ourselves, and much as we may excite the empty plaudits of the million, it
is certain that the greatest among us do actually fill but an exceedingly
small space in the world; and it is equally certain, that even that small
space is quickly supplied when we leave it vacant. "Of what consequence is
it," said Pliny, "that individuals appear, or make their exit? the world
is a theater whose scenes and actors are continually changing." Never did
philosopher speak more correctly, and I only wonder that so wise a remark
could have existed so many ages, and mankind not have laid it more to
heart. Sage follows on in the footsteps of sage; one hero just steps out
of his triumphal car, to make way for the hero who comes after him; and of
the proudest monarch it is merely said that, "he slept with his fathers,
and his successor reigned in his stead."

The world, to tell the private truth, cares but little for their loss,
and, if left to itself, would soon forget to grieve; and though a nation
has often been figuratively drowned in tears on the death of a great man,
yet it is ten to one if an individual tear has been shed on the occasion,
excepting from the forlorn pen of some hungry author. It is the historian,
the biographer, and the poet, who have the whole burden of grief to
sustain; who, kind souls! like undertakers in England, act the part of
chief mourners; who inflate a nation with sighs it never heaved, and
deluge it with tears it never dreamt of shedding. Thus, while the
patriotic author is weeping and howling in prose, in blank verse, and in
rhyme, and collecting the drops of public sorrow into his volume, as into
a lachrymal vase, it is more than probable his fellow-citizens are eating
and drinking, fiddling and dancing, as utterly ignorant of the bitter
lamentations made in their name as are those men of straw, John Doe and
Richard Roe, of the plaintiffs for whom they are generously pleased to
become sureties.

The most glorious hero that ever desolated nations might have mouldered
into oblivion among the rubbish of his own monument, did not some
historian take him into favor, and benevolently transmit his name to
posterity; and much as the valiant William Kieft worried, and bustled, and
turmoiled, while he had the destinies of a whole colony in his hand, I
question seriously whether he will not be obliged to this authentic
history for all his future celebrity.

His exit occasioned no convulsion in the city of New Amsterdam nor its
vicinity; the earth trembled not, neither did any stars shoot from their
spheres; the heavens were not shrouded in black, as poets would fain
persuade us they have been, on the death of a hero; the rocks
(hard-hearted varlets!) melted not into tears, nor did the trees hang
their heads in silent sorrow; and as to the sun, he lay abed the next
night just as long, and showed as jolly a face when he rose, as he ever
did, on the same day of the month in any year, either before or since. The
good people of New Amsterdam, one and all, declared that he had been a
very busy, active, bustling little governor; that he was "the father of
his country;" that he was "the noblest work of God;" that "he was a man,
take him for all in all, they ne'er should look upon his like again;"
together with sundry other civil and affectionate speeches, regularly said
on the death of all great men; after which they smoked their pipes,
thought no more about him, and Peter Stuyvesant succeeded to his station.

Peter Stuyvesant was the last, and, like the renowned Wouter Van Twiller,
the best of our ancient Dutch governors; Wouter having surpassed all who
preceded him, and Pieter, or Piet, as he was sociably called by the old
Dutch burghers, who were ever prone to familiarize names, having never
been equalled by any successor. He was, in fact, the very man fitted by
Nature to retrieve the desperate fortunes of her beloved province, had not
the Fates, those most potent and unrelenting of all ancient spinsters,
destined them to inextricable confusion.

To say merely that he was a hero would be doing him great injustice; he
was, in truth, a combination of heroes; for he was of a sturdy, raw-boned
make, like Ajax Telamon, with a pair of round shoulders that Hercules
would have given his hide for (meaning his lion's hide) when he undertook
to ease old Atlas of his load. He was, moreover, as Plutarch describes
Coriolanus, not only terrible for the force of his arm, but likewise for
his voice, which sounded as though it came out of a barrel; and, like the
self-same warrior, he possessed a sovereign contempt for the sovereign
people, and an iron aspect, which was enough of itself to make the very
bowels of his adversaries quake with terror and dismay. All this martial
excellency of appearance was inexpressibly heightened by an accidental
advantage, with which I am surprised that neither Homer nor Virgil have
graced any of their heroes.

This was nothing less than a wooden leg, which was the only prize he had
gained in bravely fighting the battles of his country, but of which he was
so proud, that he was often heard to declare he valued it more than all
his other limbs put together; indeed, so highly did he esteem it, that he
had it gallantly enchased and relieved with silver devices, which caused
it to be related in divers histories and legends that he wore a silver

Like that choleric warrior Achilles, he was somewhat subject to extempore
bursts of passion, which were rather unpleasant to his favorites and
attendants, whose perceptions he was apt to quicken after the manner of
his illustrious imitator, Peter the Great, by anointing their shoulders
with his walking staff.

Though I cannot find that he had read Plato, or Aristotle, or Hobbes, or
Bacon, or Algernon Sydney, or Tom Paine, yet did he sometimes manifest a
shrewdness and sagacity in his measures that one would hardly expect from
a man who did not know Greek and had never studied the ancients. True it
is, and I confess it with sorrow, that he had an unreasonable aversion to
experiments, and was fond of governing his province after the simplest
manner; but then he contrived to keep it in better order than did the
erudite Kieft, though he had all the philosophers, ancient and modern, to
assist and perplex him. I must likewise own that he made but very few
laws, but then again he took care that those few were rigidly and
impartially enforced; and I do not know but justice, on the whole, was as
well administered as if there had been volumes of sage acts and statutes
yearly made, and daily neglected and forgotten.

He was, in fact, the very reverse of his predecessors, being neither
tranquil and inert, like Walter the Doubter, nor restless and fidgeting,
like William the Testy; but a man, or rather a governor, of such uncommon
activity and decision of mind, that he never sought nor accepted the
advice of others, depending bravely upon his single head, as would a hero
of yore upon his single arm, to carry him through all difficulties and
dangers. To tell the simple truth, he wanted nothing more to complete him
as a statesman than to think always right, for no one can say but that he
always acted as he thought. He was never a man to flinch when he found
himself in a scrape, but to dash forward through thick and thin, trusting,
by hook or by crook, to make all things straight in the end. In a word, he
possessed in an eminent degree that great quality in a statesman, called
perseverance by the polite, but nicknamed obstinacy by the vulgar. A
wonderful salve for official blunders; since he who perseveres in error
without flinching gets the credit of boldness and consistency, while he
who wavers, in seeking to do what is right, gets stigmatised as a trimmer.
This much is certain, and it is a maxim well worthy the attention of all
legislators great and small, who stand shaking in the wind, irresolute
which way to steer, that a ruler who follows his own will pleases himself,
while he who seeks to satisfy the wishes and whims of others runs great
risk of pleasing nobody. There is nothing, too, like putting down one's
foot resolutely when in doubt, and letting things take their course. The
clock that stands still points right twice in the four-and-twenty hours,
while others may keep going continually, and be continually going wrong.

Nor did this magnanimous quality escape the discernment of the good people
of Nieuw Nederlandts; on the contrary, so much were they struck with the
independent will and vigorous resolution displayed on all occasions by
their new governor, that they universally called him Hard Koppig Piet, or
Peter the Headstrong, a great compliment to the strength of his

If, from all that I have said, thou dost not gather, worthy reader, that
Peter Stuyvesant was a tough, sturdy, valiant, weather-beaten, mettlesome,
obstinate, leathern-sided, lion-hearted, generous-spirited old governor,
either I have written to but little purpose, or thou art very dull at
drawing conclusions.

This most excellent governor commenced his administration on the 29th of
May, 1647; a remarkably stormy day, distinguished in all the almanacks of
the time which have come down to us by the name of "Windy Friday." As he
was very jealous of his personal and official dignity, he was inaugurated
into office with great ceremony, the goodly oaken chair of the renowned
Wouter Van Twiller being carefully preserved for such occasions, in like
manner as the chair and stone were reverentially preserved at Scone, in
Scotland, for the coronation of the Caledonian monarchs.

I must not omit to mention that the tempestuous state of the elements,
together with its being that unlucky day of the week termed "hanging day,"
did not fail to excite much grave speculation and divers very reasonable
apprehensions among the more ancient and enlightened inhabitants; and
several of the sager sex, who were reputed to be not a little skilled in
the mysteries of astrology and fortune-telling, did declare outright that
they were omens of a disastrous administration; an event that came to be
lamentably verified, and which proves beyond dispute the wisdom of
attending to those preternatural intimations furnished by dreams and
visions, the flying of birds, falling of stones, and cackling of geese, on
which the sages and rulers of ancient times placed such reliance; or to
those shootings of stars, eclipses of the moon, howlings of dogs, and
flarings of candles, carefully noted and interpreted by the oracular
Sibyls of our day, who, in my humble opinion, are the legitimate
inheritors and preservers of the ancient science of divination. This much
is certain, that Governor Stuyvesant succeeded to the chair of state at a
turbulent period, when foes thronged and threatened from without, when
anarchy and stiff-necked opposition reigned rampant within; when the
authority of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General, though
supported by economy, and defended by speeches, protests, and
proclamations, yet tottered to its very center; and when the great city of
New Amsterdam, though fortified by flag-staffs, trumpeters, and windmills,
seemed, like some fair lady of easy virtue, to lie open to attack, and
ready to yield to the first invader.


[39] See the histories of Masters Josselyn and Blome.


The very first movements of the great Peter, on taking the reins of
government, displayed his magnanimity, though they occasioned not a little
marvel and uneasiness among the people of the Manhattoes. Finding himself
constantly interrupted by the opposition, and annoyed by the advice of his
privy council, the members of which had acquired the unreasonable habit of
thinking and speaking to themselves during the preceding reign, he
determined at once to put a stop to such grievous abominations. Scarcely,
therefore, had he entered upon his authority, than he turned out of office
all the meddlesome spirits of the factious cabinet of William the Testy;
in place of whom he chose unto himself councillors from those fat,
somniferous, respectable burghers who had flourished and slumbered under
the easy reign of Walter the Doubter. All these he caused to be furnished
with abundance of fair long pipes, and to be regaled with frequent
corporation dinners, admonishing them to smoke, and eat, and sleep for the
good of the nation, while he took the burden of government upon his own
shoulders--an arrangement to which they all gave hearty acquiescence.

Nor did he stop here, but made a hideous rout among the inventions and
expedients of his learned predecessor--rooting up his patent gallows,
where caitiff vagabonds were suspended by the waistband; demolishing his
flag-staffs and windmills, which, like mighty giants, guarded the ramparts
of New Amsterdam; pitching to the Duyvel whole batteries of Quaker guns;
and, in a word, turning topsy-turvy the whole philosophic, economic, and
windmill system of the immortal sage of Saardam.

The honest folk of New Amsterdam began to quake now for the fate of their
matchless champion, Antony the Trumpeter, who had acquired prodigious
favor in the eyes of the women by means of his whiskers and his trumpet.
Him did Peter the Headstrong cause to be brought into his presence, and
eyeing him for a moment from head to foot, with a countenance that would
have appalled anything else than a sounder of brass--"Pr'ythee, who and
what art thou?" said he. "Sire," replied the other, in no wise dismayed,
"for my name, it is Antony Van Corlear--for my parentage, I am the son of
my mother--for my profession, I am champion and garrison of this great
city of New Amsterdam." "I doubt me much," said Peter Stuyvesant, "that
thou art some scurvy costard-monger knave: how didst thou acquire this
paramount honor and dignity?" "Marry, sir," replied the other, "like many
a great man before me, simply by sounding my own trumpet." "Ay, is it so?"
quoth the governor; "why, then, let us have a relish of thy art."
Whereupon the good Antony put his instrument to his lips, and sounded a
charge with such tremendous outset, such a delectable quaver, and such a
triumphant cadence, that it was enough to make one's heart leap out of
one's mouth only to be within a mile of it. Like as a war-worn charger,
grazing in peaceful plains, starts at a strain of martial music, pricks up
his ears, and snorts, and paws, and kindles at the noise, so did the
heroic Peter joy to hear the clangor of the trumpet; for of him might
truly be said, what was recorded of the renowned St. George of England,
"there was nothing in all the world that more rejoiced his heart than to
hear the pleasant sound of war, and see the soldiers brandish forth their
steeled weapons." Casting his eye more kindly, therefore, upon the sturdy
Van Corlear, and finding him to be a jovial varlet, shrewd in his
discourse, yet of great discretion and immeasurable wind, he straightway
conceived a vast kindness for him, and discharging him from the
troublesome duty of garrisoning, defending, and alarming the city, ever
after retained him about his person, as his chief favorite, confidential
envoy, and trusty squire. Instead of disturbing the city with disastrous
notes, he was instructed to play so as to delight the governor while at
his repasts, as did the minstrels of yore in the days of glorious
chivalry; and on all public occasions to rejoice the ears of the people
with warlike melody, thereby keeping alive a noble and martial spirit.

But the measure of the valiant Peter which produced the greatest agitation
in the community was his laying his hand upon the currency. He had
old-fashioned notions in favor of gold and silver, which he considered the
true standards of wealth and mediums of commerce, and one of his first
edicts was that all duties to government should be paid in those precious
metals, and that seawant, or wampum, should no longer be a legal tender.

Here was a blow at public prosperity! All those who speculated on the rise
and fall of this fluctuating currency found their calling at an end;
those, too, who had hoarded Indian money by barrels full, found their
capital shrunk in amount; but, above all, the Yankee traders, who were
accustomed to flood the market with newly-coined oyster-shells, and to
abstract Dutch merchandise in exchange, were loud-mouthed in decrying this
"tampering with the currency." It was clipping the wings of commerce; it
was checking the development of public prosperity; trade would be at an
end; goods would moulder on the shelves; grain would rot in the granaries;
grass would grow in the marketplace. In a word, no one who has not heard
the outcries and howlings of a modern Tarshish, at any check upon "paper
money," can have any idea of the clamor against Peter the Headstrong for
checking the circulation of oyster-shells.

In fact, trade did shrink into narrower channels; but then the stream was
deep as it was broad. The honest Dutchman sold less goods; but then they
got the worth of them, either in silver and gold, or in codfish, tinware,
apple-brandy, Weathersfield onions, wooden bowls, and other articles of
Yankee barter. The ingenious people of the east, however, indemnified
themselves in another way for having to abandon the coinage of
oyster-shells, for about this time we are told that wooden nutmegs made
their first appearance in New Amsterdam, to the great annoyance of the
Dutch housewives.


From a manuscript record of the province (Lib, N.Y. Hist,
Soc.).--"We have been unable to render your inhabitants wiser,
and prevent their being, further imposed upon, than to declare,
absolutely and peremptorily, that henceforward seawant shall be
bullion--not longer admissable in trade, without any value, as it
is indeed. So that every one may be upon his guard to barter no
longer away his wares and merchandise for these baubles; at least
not to accept them at a higher rate, or in a larger quantity,
than as they may want them in their trade with the savages.

"In this way your English [Yankee] neighbors shall no longer be
enabled to draw the best wares and merchandise from our country
for nothing; the beavers and furs not excepted. This has, indeed,
long since been insufferable; although it ought chiefly to be
imputed to the imprudent penuriousness of our own merchants and
inhabitants, who, it is to be hoped, shall, through the abolition
of this seawant, become wiser and more prudent.

"27th January, 1662,

"Seawant falls into disrepute; duties to be paid in silver coin."


Now it came to pass, that while Peter Stuyvesant was busy regulating the
internal affairs of his domain, the great Yankee league, which had caused
such tribulation to William the Testy, continued to increase in extent and
power. The grand Amphictyonic council of the league was held at Boston,
where it spun a web which threatened to link within it all the mighty
principalities and powers of the east. The object proposed by this
formidable combination was mutual protection and defence against their
savage neighbors; but all the world knows the real aim was to form a grand
crusade against the Nieuw Nederlandts and to get possession of the city of
the Manhattoes--as devout an object of enterprise and ambition to the
Yankees as was ever the capture of Jerusalem to ancient Crusaders.

In the very year following the inauguration of Governor Stuyvesant, a
grand deputation departed from the city of Providence (famous for its
dusty streets and beauteous women) in behalf of the plantation of Rhode
Island, praying to be admitted into the league.

The following minute of this deputation appears in the ancient records of
the council.[40]

"Mr. Will. Cottington and Captain Partridg of Rhoode Island presented this
insewing request to the commissioners in wrighting----

"Our request and motion is in behalfe of Rhoode Iland, that wee
the ilanders of Rhoode Iland may be rescauied into combination
with all the united colonyes of New England in a firme and
perpetual league of friendship and amity of ofence and defence,
mutuall advice and succor upon all just occasions for our mutuall
safety and wellfaire, etc.


There was certainly something in the very physiognomy of this document
that might well inspire apprehension. The name of Alexander, however
mis-spelt, has been warlike in every age, and though its fierceness is in
some measure softened by being coupled with the gentle cognomen of
Partridge, still, like the color of scarlet, it bears an exceeding great
resemblance to the sound of a trumpet. From the style of the letter,
moreover, and the soldier-like ignorance of orthography displayed by the
noble Captain Alicxsander Partridg in spelling his own name, we may
picture to ourselves this mighty man of Rhodes, strong in arms, potent in
the field, and as great a scholar as though he had been educated among
that learned people of Thrace, who, Aristotle assures us, could not count
beyond the number four.

The result of this great Yankee league was augmented audacity on the part
of the moss-troopers of Connecticut, pushing their encroachments farther
and farther into the territories of their High Mightinesses, so that even
the inhabitants of New Amsterdam began to draw short breath, and to find
themselves exceedingly cramped for elbow-room.

Peter Stuyvesant was not a man to submit quietly to such intrusions; his
first impulse was to march at once to the frontier, and kick these
squatting Yankees out of the country; but, bethinking himself in time that
he was now a governor and legislator, the policy of the statesman for once
cooled the fire of the old soldier, and he determined to try his hand at
negotiation. A correspondence accordingly ensued between him and the great
council of the league, and it was agreed that commissioners from either
side should meet at Hartford, to settle boundaries, adjust grievances,
and establish a "perpetual and happy peace."

The commissioners on the part of the Manhattoes were chosen, according to
immemorial usage of that venerable metropolis, from among the "wisest and
weightiest" men of the community; that is to say, men with the oldest
heads and heaviest pockets. Among these sages the veteran navigator, Hans
Reinier Oothout, who had made such extensive discoveries during the time
of Oloffe the Dreamer, was looked up to as an oracle in all matters of the
kind; and he was ready to produce the very spy-glass with which he first
spied the mouth of the Connecticut river from his masthead, and all the
world knows that the discovery of the mouth of the river gives prior right
to all the lands drained by its waters.

It was with feelings of pride and exultation that the good people of the
Manhattoes saw two of the richest and most ponderous burghers departing on
this embassy; men whose word on 'Change was oracular, and in whose
presence no poor man ventured to appear without taking off his hat: when
it was seen, too, that the veteran Reinier Oothout accompanied them with
his spy-glass under his arm, all the old men and old women predicted that
men of such weight, with such evidence, would leave the Yankees no
alternative but to pack up their tin kettles and wooden wares, put wife
and children in a cart, and abandon all the lands of their High
Mightinesses on which they had squatted.

In truth, the commissioners sent to Hartford by the league seemed in no
wise calculated to compete with men of such capacity. They were two lean
Yankee lawyers, litigious-looking varlets, and evidently men of no
substance, since they had no rotundity in the belt, and there was no
jingling of money in their pockets; it is true they had longer heads than
the Dutchmen; but if the heads of the latter were flat at top, they were
broad at bottom, and what was wanting in height of forehead was made up
by a double chin.

The negotiation turned as usual upon the good old corner-stone of original
discovery; according to the principle that he who first sees a new country
has an unquestionable right to it. This being admitted, the veteran
Oothout, at a concerted signal, stepped forth in the assembly with the
identical tarpaulin spy-glass in his hand with which he had discovered the
mouth of the Connecticut, while the worthy Dutch commissioners lolled back
in their chairs, secretly chuckling at the idea of having for once got the
weather-gauge of the Yankees, but what was their dismay when the latter
produced a Nantucket whaler with a spy-glass, twice as long, with which he
discovered the whole coast, quite down to the Manhattoes: and so crooked
that he had spied with it up the whole course of the Connecticut river.
This principle pushed home, therefore, the Yankees had a right to the
whole country bordering on the Sound; nay, the city of New Amsterdam was a
mere Dutch squatting-place on their territories.

I forbear to dwell upon the confusion of the worthy Dutch commissioners at
finding their main pillar of proof thus knocked from under them; neither
will I pretend to describe the consternation of the wise men at the
Manhattoes when they learnt how their commissioner, had been out-trumped
by the Yankees, and how the latter pretended to claim to the very gates of
New Amsterdam.

Long was the negotiation protracted, and long was the public mind kept in
a state of anxiety. There are two modes of settling boundary questions,
when the claims of the opposite parties are irreconcilable. One is by an
appeal to arms, in which case the weakest party is apt to lose its right,
and get a broken head into the bargain; the other mode is by compromise,
or mutual concession--that is to say, one party cedes half of its claims,
and the other party half of its rights; he who grasps most gets most, and
the whole is pronounced an equitable division, "perfectly honorable to
both parties."

The latter mode was adopted in the present instance. The Yankees gave up
claims to vast tracts of the Nieuw Nederlandts which they had never seen,
and all right to the island of Manna-hata and the city of New Amsterdam,
to which they had no right at all; while the Dutch, in return, agreed that
the Yankees should retain possession of the frontier places where they had
squatted, and of both sides of the Connecticut river.

When the news of this treaty arrived at New Amsterdam, the whole city was
in an uproar of exultation. The old women rejoiced that there was to be no
war, the old men that their cabbage-gardens were safe from invasion; while
the political sages pronounced the treaty a great triumph over the
Yankees, considering how much they had claimed, and how little they had
been "fobbed off with."

And now my worthy reader is, doubtless, like the great and good Peter,
congratulating himself with the idea that his feelings will no longer be
harassed by afflicting details of stolen horses, broken heads, impounded
hogs, and all the other catalogue of heart-rending cruelties that
disgraced these border wars. But if he should indulge in such
expectations, it is a proof that he is but little versed in the
paradoxical ways of cabinets; to convince him of which I solicit his
serious attention to my next chapter, wherein I will show that Peter
Stuyvesant has already committed a great error in politics, and, by
effecting a peace, has materially hazarded the tranquillity of the


[40] Haz. Coll. Stat. Pap.


It was the opinion of that poetical philosopher, Lucretius, that war was
the original state of man, whom he described as being, primitively, a
savage beast of prey, engaged in a constant state of hostility with his
own species, and that this ferocious spirit was tamed and ameliorated by
society. The same opinion has been advocated by Hobbes;[41] nor have there
been wanting many other philosophers to admit and defend it.

For my part, though prodigiously fond of these valuable speculations, so
complimentary to human nature, yet, in this instance, I am inclined to
take the proposition by halves, believing with Horace,[42] that though war
may have been originally the favorite amusement and industrious employment
of our progenitors, yet, like many other excellent habits, so far from
being ameliorated, it has been cultivated and confirmed by refinement and
civilization, and increases in exact proportion as we approach towards
that state of perfection which is the _ne plus ultra_ of modern

The first conflict between man and man was the mere exertion of physical
force, unaided by auxiliary weapons--his arm was his buckler, his fist was
his mace, and a broken head the catastrophe of his encounters. The battle
of unassisted strength was succeeded by the more rugged one of stones and
clubs, and war assumed a sanguinary aspect. As man advanced in refinement,
as his faculties expanded, and as his sensibilities became more
exquisite, he grew rapidly more ingenious and experienced in the art of
murdering his fellow beings. He invented a thousand devices to defend and
to assault--the helmet, the cuirass, and the buckler, the sword, the dart,
and the javelin, prepared him to elude the wound as well as to launch the
blow. Still urging on, in the career of philanthropic invention, he
enlarges and heightens his powers of defense and injury. The aries, the
scorpio, the balista, and the catapulta, give a horror and sublimity to
war, and magnify its glory, by increasing its desolation. Still
insatiable, though armed with machinery that seemed to reach the limits of
destructive invention, and to yield a power of injury commensurate even
with the desires of revenge--still deeper researches must be made in the
diabolical arcana. With furious zeal he dives into the bowels of the
earth; he toils midst poisonous minerals, and deadly salts--the sublime
discovery of gunpowder blazes upon the world; and finally, the dreadful
art of fighting by proclamation seems to endow the demon of war with
ubiquity and omnipotence!

This, indeed, is grand!--this, indeed, marks the powers of mind, and
bespeaks that divine endowment of reason, which distinguishes us from the
animals, our inferiors. The unenlightened brutes content themselves with
the native force which Providence has assigned them. The angry bull butts
with his horns, as did his progenitors before him; the lion, the leopard,
and the tiger, seek only with their talons and their fangs to gratify
their sanguinary fury; and even the subtle serpent darts the same venom,
and uses the same wiles, as did his sire before the flood. Man alone,
blessed with the inventive mind, goes on from discovery to discovery,
enlarges and multiplies his powers of destruction; arrogates the
tremendous weapons of Deity itself, and tasks creation to assist him in
murdering his brother worm!

In proportion as the art of war has increased in improvement has the art
of preserving peace advanced in equal ratio; and as we have discovered, in
this age of wonders and inventions, that proclamation is the most
formidable engine of war, so have we discovered the no less ingenious mode
of maintaining peace by perpetual negotiations.

A treaty, or, to speak more correctly, a negotiation, therefore, according
to the acceptation of experienced statesmen learned in these matters, is
no longer an attempt to accommodate differences, to ascertain rights, and
to establish an equitable exchange of kind offices; but a contest of skill
between two powers which shall overreach and take in the other it is a
cunning endeavor to obtain by peaceful manoeuvre and the chicanery of
cabinets those advantages which a nation would otherwise have wrested by
force of arms; in the same manner as a conscientious highwayman reforms
and becomes a quiet and praiseworthy citizen, contenting himself with
cheating his neighbor out of that property he would formerly have seized
with open violence.

In fact, the only time when two nations can be said to be in a state of
perfect amity is when a negotiation is open and a treaty pending. Then,
when there are no stipulations entered into, no bonds to restrain the
will, no specific limits to awaken the captious jealousy of right
implanted in our nature; when each party has some advantage to hope and
expect from the other; then it is that the two nations are wonderfully
gracious and friendly, their ministers professing the highest mutual
regard, exchanging _billets-doux_, making fine speeches, and indulging in
all those little diplomatic flirtations, coquetries, and fondlings, that
do so marvelously tickle the good humor of the respective nations. Thus it
may paradoxically be said, that there is never so good an understanding
between two nations as when there is a little misunderstanding--and that
so long as they are on terms at all they are on the best terms in the

I do not by any means pretend to claim the merit of having made the above
discovery. It has, in fact, long been secretly acted upon by certain
enlightened cabinets, and is, together with divers other notable theories,
privately copied out of the commonplace book of an illustrious gentleman
who has been member of congress, and enjoyed the unlimited confidence of
heads of departments. To this principle may be ascribed the wonderful
ingenuity shown of late years in protracting and interrupting
negotiations. Hence the cunning measure of appointing as ambassador some
political pettifogger skilled in delays, sophisms, and misapprehensions,
and dexterous in the art of baffling argument; or some blundering
statesman, whose errors and misconstructions may be a plea for refusing to
ratify his engagements. And hence, too, that most notable expedient, so
popular with our government, of sending out a brace of ambassadors,
between whom, having each an individual will to consult, character to
establish, and interest to promote, you may as well look for unanimity and
concord as between two lovers with one mistress, two dogs with one bone,
or two naked rogues with one pair of breeches. This disagreement,
therefore, is continually breeding delays and impediments, in consequence
of which the negotiation goes on swimmingly, inasmuch as there is no
prospect of its ever coming to a close. Nothing is lost by these delays
and obstacles but time; and in a negotiation, according to the theory I
have exposed, all time lost is in reality so much time gained; with what
delightful paradoxes does modern political economy abound!

Now all that I have here advanced, is so notoriously true, that I almost
blush to take up the time of my readers, with treating of matters which
must many a time have stared them in the face. But the proposition to
which I would most earnestly call their attention is this, that though a
negotiation be the most harmonizing of all national transactions, yet a
treaty of peace is a great political evil, and one of the most fruitful
sources of war.

I have rarely seen an instance of any special contract between individuals
that did not produce jealousies, bickerings and often downright ruptures
between them; nor did I ever know of a treaty between two nations that did
not occasion continual misunderstandings. How many worthy country
neighbors have I known, who, after living in peace and good-fellowship for
years, have been thrown into a state of distrust, caviling, and animosity,
by some ill-starred agreement about fences, runs of water, and stray
cattle! and how many well-meaning nations, who would otherwise have
remained in the most amicable disposition towards each other, have been
brought to swords' points about the infringement or misconstruction of
some treaty, which in an evil hour they had concluded, by way of making
their amity more sure!

Treaties at best are but complied with so long as interest requires their
fulfilment; consequently they are virtually binding on the weaker party
only, or, in plain truth, they are not binding at all. No nation will
wantonly go to war with another if it has nothing to gain thereby, and
therefore needs no treaty to restrain it from violence; and if it have
anything to gain, I much question, from what I have witnessed of the
righteous conduct of nations, whether any treaty could be made so strong
that it could not thrust the sword through; nay, I would hold ten to one
the treaty itself would be the very source to which resort would be had to
find a pretext for hostilities.

Thus, therefore, I conclude--that though it is the best of all policies
for a nation to keep up a constant negotiation with its neighbors, yet it
is the summit of folly for it ever to be beguiled into a treaty; for then
comes on non-fulfillment and infraction, then remonstrance, then
altercation, then retaliation, then recrimination, and finally open war.
In a word, negotiation is like courtship, a time of sweet words, gallant
speeches, soft looks, and endearing caresses--but the marriage ceremony is
the signal for hostilities.

If my painstaking reader be not somewhat perplexed by the ratiocination of
the foregoing passage, he will perceive at a glance that the great Peter,
in concluding a treaty with his eastern neighbors, was guilty of
lamentable error in policy. In fact, to this unlucky agreement may be
traced a world of bickerings and heart-burnings between the parties, about
fancied or pretended infringements of treaty stipulations; in all which
the Yankees were prone to indemnify themselves by a "dig into the sides"
of the New Netherlands. But, in sooth, these border feuds, albeit they
gave great annoyance to the good burghers of Mannahata, were so pitiful in
their nature, that a grave historian like myself, who grudges the time
spent in anything less than the revolutions of states and fall of empires,
would deem them unworthy of being inscribed on his page. The reader is,
therefore, to take it for granted--though I scorn to waste in the detail
that time which my furrowed brow and trembling hand inform me is
invaluable--that all the while the great Peter was occupied in those
tremendous and bloody contests which I shall shortly rehearse, there was a
continued series of little, dirty, sniveling scourings, broils, and
maraudings, kept up on the eastern frontiers by the moss-troopers of
Connecticut. But, like that mirror of chivalry, the sage and valorous Don
Quixote, I leave these petty contests for some future Sancho Panza of an
historian, while I reserve my prowess and my pen for achievements of
higher dignity; for at this moment I hear a direful and portentous note
issuing from the bosom of the great council of the league, and resounding
throughout the regions of the east, menacing the fame and fortunes of
Peter Stuyvesant; I call, therefore, upon the reader to leave behind him
all the paltry brawls of the Connecticut borders, and to press forward
with me to the relief of our favorite hero, who, I foresee, will be
wofully beset by the implacable Yankees in the next chapter.


[41] Hobbes, Leviathan, part i., ch. 13.

"Cum prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
Mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter,
Unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus, atque its porro
Pugnabaut armis, quae post fabricaverat usus."
--Hor. _Sat._ lib. i. s. 3.


That the reader may be aware of the peril at this moment menacing Peter
Stuyvesant and his capital, I must remind him of the old charge advanced
in the council of the league in the time of William the Testy, that the
Nederlanders were carrying on a trade "damnable and injurious to the
colonists," in furnishing the savages with "guns, powther, and shott."
This, as I then suggested, was a crafty device of the Yankee confederacy
to have a snug cause of war _in petto_, in case any favorable opportunity
should present of attempting the conquest of the New Nederlands, the great
object of Yankee ambition.

Accordingly, we now find, when every other ground of complaint had
apparently been removed by treaty, this nefarious charge revived with
tenfold virulence, and hurled like a thunderbolt at the very head of Peter
Stuyvesant; happily his head, like that of the great bull of the Wabash,
was proof against such missiles.

To be explicit, we are told that, in the years 1651, the great confederacy
of the east accused the immaculate Peter, the soul of honor and heart of
steel, of secretly endeavoring, by gifts and promises, to instigate the
Narroheganset, Mohaque, and Pequot Indians to surprise and massacre the
Yankee settlements. "For," as the grand council observed, "the Indians
round about for divers hundred miles cercute seeme to have drunk deepe of
an intoxicating cupp, att or from the Manhattoes against the English,
whoe have sought their good, both in bodily and spirituall respects."

This charge they pretended to support by the evidence of divers Indians,
who were probably moved by that spirit of truth which is said to reside in
the bottle, and who swore to the fact as sturdily as though they had been
so many Christian troopers.

Though descended from a family which suffered much injury from the losel
Yankees of those times, my great-grandfather having had a yoke of oxen and
his best pacer stolen, and having received a pair of black eyes and a
bloody nose in one of these border wars; and my grandfather, when a very
little boy tending pigs, having been kidnaped and severely flogged by a
long-sided Connecticut schoolmaster--yet I should have passed over all
these wrongs with forgiveness and oblivion--I could even have suffered
them to have broken Everett Ducking's head; to have kicked the doughty
Jacobus Van Curlet and his ragged regiment out of doors; to have carried
every hog into captivity, and depopulated every hen-roost on the face of
the earth with perfect impunity--but this wanton attack upon one of the
most gallant and irreproachable heroes of modern times is too much even
for me to digest, and has overset, with a single puff, the patience of the
historian and the forbearance of the Dutchman.

Oh, reader, it was false! I swear to thee, it was false! If thou hast any
respect to my word, if the undeviating character for veracity, which I
have endeavored to maintain throughout this work, has its due weight with
thee, thou wilt not give thy faith to this tale of slander; for I pledge
my honor and my immortal fame to thee, that the gallant Peter Stuyvesant
was not only innocent of this foul conspiracy, but would have suffered his
right arm, or even his wooden leg, to consume with slow and everlasting
flames, rather than attempt to destroy his enemies in any other way than
open, generous warfare. Beshrew those caitiff scouts that conspired to
sully his honest name by such an imputation!

Peter Stuyvesant, though haply he may never have heard of a knight errant,
had as true a heart of chivalry as ever beat at the round table of King
Arthur. In the honest bosom of this heroic Dutchman dwelt the seven noble
virtues of knighthood, flourishing among his hardy qualities like wild
flowers among rocks. He was, in truth, a hero of chivalry struck off by
Nature at a single heat, and though little care may have been taken to
refine her workmanship, he stood forth a miracle of her skill. In all his
dealings he was headstrong perhaps, but open and above board; if there was
anything in the whole world he most loathed and despised, it was cunning
and secret wile; "straight forward" was his motto, and he at any time
rather run his hard head against a stone wall than attempt to get round

Such was Peter Stuyvesant, and if my admiration of him has on this
occasion transported my style beyond the sober gravity which becomes the
philosophic recorder of historic events, I must plead as an apology that
though a little grey-headed Dutchman, arrived almost at the down-hill of
life, I still retain a lingering spark of that fire which kindles in the
eye of youth when contemplating the virtues of ancient worthies. Blessed
thrice, and nine times blessed be the good St. Nicholas, if I have indeed
escaped that apathy which chills the sympathies of age and paralyses every
glow of enthusiasm.

The first measure of Peter Stuyvesant, on hearing of this slanderous
charge, would have been worthy of a man who had studied for years in the
chivalrous library of Don Quixote. Drawing his sword and laying it across
the table to put him in proper tune, he took pen in hand and indited a
proud and lofty letter to the council of the league, reproaching them with
giving ear to the slanders of heathen savages against a Christian, a
soldier, and a cavalier; declaring that whoever charged him with the plot
in question lied in his throat; to prove which he offered to meet the
president of the council, or any of his compeers; or their champion,
Captain Alexander Partridge, that mighty man of Rhodes, in single combat;
wherein he trusted to vindicate his honor by the prowess of his arm.

This missive was intrusted to his trumpeter and squire, Anthony Van
Corlear, that man of emergencies, with orders to travel night and day,
sparing neither whip nor spur, seeing that he carried the vindication of
his patron's fame in his saddle-bags. The loyal Anthony accomplished his
mission with great speed and considerable loss of leather. He delivered
his missive with becoming ceremony, accompanying it with a flourish of
defiance on his trumpet to the whole council, ending with a significant
and nasal twang full in the face of Captain Partridge, who nearly jumped
out of his skin in an ecstasy of astonishment.

The grand council was composed of men too cool and practical to be put
readily in a heat, or to indulge in knight-errantry, and above all to run
a tilt with such a fiery hero as Peter the Headstrong. They knew the
advantage, however, to have always a snug, justifiable cause of war in
reserve with a neighbor who had territories worth invading; so they
devised a reply to Peter Stuyvesant, calculated to keep up the "raw" which
they had established.

On receiving this answer, Anthony Van Corlear remounted the Flanders mare
which he always rode, and trotted merrily back to the Manhattoes, solacing
himself by the way according to his wont; twanging his trumpet like a very
devil, so that the sweet valleys and banks of the Connecticut, resounded
with the warlike melody; bringing all the folks to the windows as he
passed through Hartford and Pyquag and Middletown, and all the other
border towns; ogling and winking at the women, and making aerial
windmills from the end of his nose at their husbands; and stopping
occasionally in the villages to eat pumpkin-pies, dance at country
frolics, and bundle with the Yankee lasses, whom he rejoiced exceedingly
with his soul-stirring instrument.


The reply of the grand council to Peter Stuyvesant was couched in the
coolest and most diplomatic language. They assured him that "his confident
denials of the barbarous plot alleged against him would weigh little
against the testimony of divers sober and respectable Indians;" that "his
guilt was proved to their perfect satisfaction," so that they must still
require and seek due satisfaction and security; ending with--"so we rest,
sir--Yours in ways of righteousness."

I forbear to say how the lion-hearted Peter roared and ramped at finding
himself more and more entangled in the meshes thus artfully drawn round
him by the knowing Yankees. Impatient, however, of suffering so gross an
aspersion to rest upon his honest name, he sent a second messenger to the
council, reiterating his denial of the treachery imputed to him, and
offering to submit his conduct to the scrutiny of a court of honor. His
offer was readily accepted; and now he looked forward with confidence to
an august tribunal to be assembled at the Manhattoes, formed of
high-minded cavaliers, peradventure governors and commanders of the
confederate plantations, where the matter might be investigated by his
peers in a manner befitting his rank and dignity.

While he was awaiting the arrival of such high functionaries, behold, one
sunshiny afternoon there rode into the great gate of the Manhattoes two
lean, hungry-looking Yankees, mounted on Narraganset pacers, with
saddle-bags under their bottoms, and green satchels under their arms, who
looked marvelously like two pettifogging attorneys beating the hoof from
one county court to another in quest of lawsuits; and, in sooth, though
they may have passed under different names at the time, I have reason to
suspect they were the identical varlets who had negotiated the worthy
Dutch commissioners out of the Connecticut river.

It was a rule with these indefatigable missionaries never to let the grass
grow under their feet. Scarce had they, therefore, alighted at the inn and
deposited their saddle-bags, than they made their way to the residence of
the governor. They found him, according to custom, smoking his afternoon
pipe on the "stoop," or bench at the porch of his house, and announced
themselves at once as commissioners sent by the grand council of the east
to investigate the truth of certain charges advanced against him.

The good Peter took his pipe from his mouth, and gazed at them for a
moment in mute astonishment. By way of expediting business, they were
proceeding on the spot to put some preliminary questions; asking him,
peradventure, whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty; considering him
something in the light of a culprit at the bar; when they were brought to
a pause by seeing him lay down his pipe and begin to fumble with his
walking-staff. For a moment those present would not have given half a
crown for both the crowns of the commissioners; but Peter Stuyvesant
repressed his mighty wrath and stayed his hand; he scanned the varlets
from head to foot, satchels and all, with a look of ineffable scorn; then
strode into the house, slammed the door after him, and commanded that they
should never again be admitted to his presence.

The knowing commissioners winked to each other and made a certificate on
the spot that the governor had refused to answer their interrogatories or
to submit to their examination. They then proceeded to rummage about the
city for two or three days, in quest of what they called evidence,
perplexing Indians and old women with their cross-questioning until they
had stuffed their satchels and saddle-bags with all kinds of apocryphal
tales, rumors, and calumnies; with these they mounted their Narraganset
pacers, and travelled back to the grand council. Neither did the
proud-hearted Peter trouble himself to hinder their researches nor impede
their departure; he was too mindful of their sacred character as envoys;
but I warrant me had they played the same tricks with William the Testy,
he would have had them tucked up by the waistband, and treated to an
aerial gambol on his patent gallows.


The grand council of the east held a solemn meeting on the return of their
envoys. As no advocate appeared in behalf of Peter Stuyvesant, everything
went against him. His haughty refusal to submit to the questioning of the
commissioners was construed into a consciousness of guilt. The contents of
the satchels and saddle-bags were poured forth before the council, and
appeared a mountain of evidence. A pale bilious orator took the floor, and
declaimed for hours and in belligerent terms. He was one of those furious
zealots who blow the bellows of faction until the whole furnace of
politics is red-hot with sparks and cinders. What was it to him if he
should set the house on fire, so that he might boil his pot by the blaze?
He was from the borders of Connecticut; his constituents lived by
marauding their Dutch neighbors, and were the greatest poachers in
Christendom, excepting the Scotch border nobles. His eloquence had its
effect, and it was determined to set on foot an expedition against the
Nieuw Nederlandts.

It was necessary, however, to prepare the public mind for this measure.
Accordingly the arguments of the orator were echoed from the pulpit for
several succeeding Sundays, and a crusade was preached up against Peter
Stuyvesant and his devoted city.

This is the first we hear of the "drum ecclesiastic" beating up for
recruits in worldly warfare in our country. It has since been called into
frequent use. A cunning politician often lurks under the clerical robe;
things spiritual and things temporal are strangely jumbled together, like
drugs on an apothecary's shelf; and instead of a peaceful sermon, the
simple seeker after righteousness has often a political pamphlet thrust
down his throat, labeled with a pious text from Scripture.

And now nothing was talked of but an expedition against the Manhattoes. It
pleased the populace, who had a vehement prejudice against the Dutch,
considering them a vastly inferior race, who had sought the new world for
the lucre of gain, not the liberty of conscience: who were mere heretics
and infidels, inasmuch as the refused to believe in witches and
sea-serpents, and had, faith in the virtues of horse-shoes nailed to the
door; ate pork without molasses; held pumpkins in contempt, and were in
perpetual breach of the eleventh commandment of all true Yankees, "Thou
shalt have codfish dinners on Saturdays."

No sooner did Peter Stuyvesant get wind of the storm that was brewing in
the east, than he set to work to prepare for it. He was not one of those
economical rulers who postpone the expense of fortifying until the enemy
is at the door. There is nothing, he would say, that keeps off enemies and
crows more than the smell of gunpowder. He proceeded, therefore, with all
diligence, to put the province and its metropolis in a posture of defence.

Among the remnants which remained from the days of William the Testy were
the militia laws, by which the inhabitants were obliged to turn out twice
a year, with such military equipments as it pleased God; and were put
under the command of tailors and man-milliners, who, though on ordinary
occasions they might have been the meekest, most pippin-hearted little men
in the world, were very devils at parades, when they had cocked hats on
their heads and swords by their sides. Under the instructions of these
periodical warriors, the peaceful burghers of the Manhattoes were schooled
in iron war, and became so hardy in the process of time, that they could
march through sun and rain, from one end of the town to the other, without
flinching; and so intrepid and adroit, that they could face to the right,
wheel to the left, and fare without winking or blinking.

Peter Stuyvesant, like all old soldiers who have seen service and smelt
gunpowder, had no great respect for militia troops: however, he determined
to give them a trial, and accordingly called for a general muster,
inspection, and review. But, O Mars and Bellona! what a turning-out was
here! Here came old Roelant Cuckaburt, with a short blunderbuss on his
shoulder and a long horseman's sword trailing by his side; and Barent
Dirkson, with something that looked like a copper kettle, turned upside
down on his head, and a couple of old horse pistols in his belt; and Dirk
Volkertson, with a long duck fowling-piece without any ramrod, and a host
more, armed higgledy-piggledy with swords, hatchets, snickersnees,
crowbars, broomsticks, and what not; the officers distinguished from the
rest by having their slouched hats cocked up with pins and surmounted with
cocktail feathers.

The sturdy Peter eyed this nondescript host with some such rueful aspect
as a man would eye the devil, and determined to give his feather-bed
soldiers a seasoning. He accordingly put them through their manual
exercise over and over again, trudged them backwards and forwards about
the streets of New Amsterdam, until their short legs ached and their fat
sides sweated again, and finally encamped them in the evening on the
summit of a hill without the city, to give them a taste of camp life,
intending the next day to renew the toils and perils of the field. But so
it came to pass that in the night there fell a great and heavy rain, and
melted away the army, so that in the morning when Gaffer Phoebus shed his
first beams upon the camp, scarce a warrior remained, excepting Peter
Stuyvesant and his trumpeter, Van Corlear.

This awful desolation of a whole army would have appalled a commander of
less nerve; but it served to confirm Peter's want of confidence in the
militia system, which he thenceforward used to call, in joke--for he
sometimes indulged in a joke--William the Testy's broken reed. He now took
into his service a goodly number of burly, broad-shouldered,
broad-bottomed Dutchmen, whom he paid in good silver and gold, and of whom
he boasted that, whether they could stand fire or not, they were at least

He fortified the city, too, with pickets and palisadoes, extending across
the island from river to river; and above all cast up mud batteries or
redoubts on the point of the island where it divided the beautiful bosom
of the bay.

These latter redoubts, in process of time, came to be pleasantly overrun
by a carpet of grass and clover, and overshadowed by wide-spreading elms
and sycamores, among the branches of which the birds would build their
nests and rejoice the ear with their melodious notes. Under these trees,
too, the old burghers would smoke their afternoon pipe, contemplating the
golden sun as he sank in the west, an emblem of the tranquil end toward
which they were declining. Here, too, would the young men and maidens of
the town take their evening stroll, watching the silver moon beams as they
trembled along the calm bosom of the bay, or lit up the sail of some
gliding bark, and peradventure interchanging the soft vows of honest
affection; for to evening strolls in this favored spot were traced most of
the marriages in New Amsterdam.

Such was the origin of that renowned promenade, The Battery, which, though
ostensibly devoted to the stern purposes of war, has ever been consecrated
to the sweet delights of peace. The scene of many a gambol in happy
childhood--of many a tender assignation in riper years--of many a soothing
walk in declining age--the healthful resort of the feeble invalid--the
Sunday refreshment of the dusty tradesman--in fine, the ornament and
delight of New York, and the pride of the lovely island of Manna-hata.


Having thus provided for the temporary security of New Amsterdam, and
guarded it against any sudden surprise, the gallant Peter took a hearty
pinch of snuff, and snapping his fingers, set the great council of
Amphictyons and their champion, the redoubtable Alicxsander Partridg, at
defiance. In the meantime the moss-troopers of Connecticut, the warriors
of New Haven and Hartford, and Pyquag--otherwise called Weathersfield,
famous for its onions and its witches--and of all the other border towns,
were in a prodigious turmoil, furbishing up their rusty weapons, shouting
aloud for war, and anticipating easy conquests and glorious rummaging of
the fat little Dutch villages.

In the midst of these warlike preparations, however, they received the
chilling news that the colony of Massachusetts refused to back them in
this righteous war. It seems that the gallant conduct of Peter Stuyvesant,
the generous warmth of his vindication, and the chivalrous spirit of his
defiance, though lost upon the grand council of the league, had carried
conviction to the general court of Massachusetts, which nobly refused to
believe him guilty of the villainous plot laid at his door.[43]

The defection of so important a colony paralysed the councils of the
league. Some such dissension arose among its members as prevailed of yore
in the camp of the brawling warriors of Greece, and in the end the crusade
against the Manhattoes was abandoned.

It is said that the moss-troopers of Connecticut were sorely disappointed;
well for them that their belligerent cravings were not gratified, for, by
my faith, whatever might have been the ultimate result of a conflict with
all the powers of the east, in the interim the stomachful heroes of Pyquag
would have been choked with their own onions, and all the border towns of
Connecticut would have had such a scouring from the lion-hearted Peter and
his robustious myrmidons, that I warrant me they would not have had the
stomach to squat on the land, or invade the hen-roost of a Nederlander for
a century to come.

But it was not merely the refusal of Massachusetts to join in their unholy
crusade that confounded the councils of the league; for about this time
broke out in the New England provinces the awful plague of witchcraft,
which spread like pestilence through the land. Such a howling abomination
could not be suffered to remain long unnoticed; it soon excited the fiery
indignation of those guardians of the commonwealth, who whilom had evinced
such active benevolence in the conversion of Quakers and Anabaptists. The
grand council of the league publicly set their faces against the crime,
and bloody laws were enacted against all "solem conversing or compacting
with the devil by the way of conjuracion or the like."[44] Strict search,
too, was made after witches, who were easily detected by devil's pinches;
by being able to weep but three tears, and those out of the left eye; and
by having a most suspicious predilection for black cats and broomsticks!
What is particularly worthy of admiration is, that this terrible art,
which has baffled the studies and researches of philosophers, astrologers,
theurgists, and other sages, was chiefly confined to the most ignorant,
decrepid, and ugly old women in the community, with scarce more brains
than the broomsticks they rode upon.

When once an alarm is sounded, the public, who dearly love to be in a
panic, are always ready to keep it up. Raise but the cry of yellow fever,
and immediately every headache, indigestion, and overflowing of the bile
is pronounced the terrible epidemic; cry out mad dog, and every unlucky
cur in the street is in jeopardy; so in the present instance, whoever was
troubled with colic or lumbago was sure to be bewitched; and woe to any
unlucky old woman living in the neighborhood.

It is incredible the number of offences that were detected, "for every one
of which," says the Reverend Cotton Mather, in that excellent work, the
History of New England, "we have such a sufficient evidence, that no
reasonable man in this whole country ever did question them; and it will
be unreasonable to do it in any other."[45]

Indeed, that authentic and judicious historian, John Josselyn, gent.,
furnishes us with unquestionable facts on this subject. "There are none,"
observes he, "that beg in this country, but there be witches too
many--bottle-bellied witches and others, that produce many strange
apparitions, if you will believe report, of a shallop at sea manned with
women--and of a ship and great red horse standing by the mainmast; the
ship being in a small cove to the eastward vanished of a sudden," etc.

The number of delinquents, however, and their magical devices, were not
more remarkable than their diabolical obstinacy. Though exhorted in the
most solemn, persuasive and affectionate manner, to confess themselves
guilty, and be burnt for the good of religion, and the entertainment of
the public, yet did they most pertinaciously persist in asserting their
innocence. Such incredible obstinacy was in itself deserving of immediate
punishment, and was sufficient proof, if proof were necessary, that they
were in league with the devil, who is perverseness itself. But their
judges were just and merciful, and were determined to punish none that
were not convicted on the best of testimony; not that they needed any
evidence to satisfy their own minds, for, like true and experienced
judges, their minds were perfectly made up, and they were thoroughly
satisfied of the guilt of the prisoners before they proceeded to try them;
but still something was necessary to convince the community at large, to
quiet those praying quidnuncs who should come after them--in short, the
world must be satisfied. Oh, the world! the world! all the world knows the
world of trouble the world is eternally occasioning! The worthy judges,
therefore, were driven to the necessity of sifting, detecting and making
evident as noonday, matters which were at the commencement all clearly
understood and firmly decided upon in their own pericraniums; so that it
may truly be said that the witches were burnt to gratify the populace of
the day, but were tried for the satisfaction of the whole world that
should come after them.

Finding, therefore, that neither exhortation, sound reason, nor friendly
entreaty had any avail on these hardened offenders, they resorted to the
more urgent arguments of torture; and having thus absolutely wrung the
truth from their stubborn lips, they condemned them to undergo the
roasting due unto the heinous crimes they had confessed. Some even
carried their perverseness so far as to expire under the torture,
protesting their innocence to the last; but these were looked upon as
thoroughly and absolutely possessed by the devil, and the pious bystanders
only lamented that they had not lived a little longer to have perished in
the flames.

In the city of Ephesus, we are told that the plague was expelled by
stoning a ragged old beggar to death, whom Apollonius pointed out as being
the evil spirit that caused it, and who actually showed himself to be a
demon by changing into a shagged dog. In like manner, and by measures
equally sagacious, a salutary check was given to this growing evil. The
witches were all burnt, banished, or panic-stuck, and in a little while
there was not an ugly old woman to be found throughout New England; which
is doubtless one reason why all the young women there are so handsome.
Those honest folk who had suffered from their incantations gradually
recovered, excepting such as had been afflicted with twitches and aches,
which, however, assumed the less alarming aspects of rheumatism, ciatics,
and lumbagos; and the good people of New England, abandoning the study of
the occult sciences, turned their attention to the more profitable hocus
pocus of trade, and soon became expert in the legerdemain art of turning a
penny. Still, however, a tinge of the old leaven is discernible, even unto
this day, in their characters; witches occasionally start up among them in
different disguises, as physicians, civilians and divines. The people at
large show a keenness, a cleverness and a profundity of wisdom, that
savors strongly of witchcraft; and it has been remarked, that whenever any
stones fall from the moon, the greater part of them is sure to tumble into
New England.


[43] Hazard's State Papers.

[44] New Plymouth Record.

[45] Mather's Hist. New Eng. b. vi. ch. 7.


When treating of these tempestuous times, the unknown writer of the
Stuyvesant manuscript breaks out into an apostrophe in praise of the good
St. Nicholas, to whose protecting care he ascribes the dissensions which
broke out in the council of the league, and the direful witchcraft which
filled all Yankee land as with Egyptian darkness.

A portentous gloom, says he, hung lowering over the fair valleys of the
east; the pleasant banks of the Connecticut no longer echoed to the sounds
of rustic gayety; grisly phantoms glided about each wild brook and silent
glen; fearful apparitions were seen in the air; strange voices were heard
in solitary places, and the border towns were so occupied in detecting and
punishing losel witches, that for a time all talk of war was suspended,
and New Amsterdam and its inhabitants seemed to be totally forgotten.

I must not conceal the fact, that at one time there was some danger of
this plague of witchcraft extending into the New Netherlands; and certain
witches, mounted on broomsticks, are said to have been seen whisking in
the air over some of the Dutch villages near the borders; but the worthy
Nederlanders took the precaution to nail horse-shoes to their doors, which
it is well known are effectual barriers against all diabolical vermin of
the kind. Many of those horse-shoes may be seen at this very day on
ancient mansions and barns, remaining from the days of the patriarchs;
nay, the custom is still kept up among some of our legitimate Dutch
yeomanry, who inherit from their forefathers a desire to keep witches and
Yankees out of the country.

And now the great Peter, having no immediate hostility to apprehend from
the east, turned his face, with characteristic vigilance, to his southern
frontiers. The attentive reader will recollect that certain freebooting
Swedes had become very troublesome in this quarter in the latter part of
the reign of William the Testy, setting at naught the proclamations of
that veritable potentate, and putting his admiral, the intrepid Jan Jensen
Alpendam, to a perfect nonplus. To check the incursions of these Swedes,
Peter Stuyvesant now ordered a force to that frontier, giving the command
of it to General Jacobus Van Poffenburgh, an officer who had risen to
great importance during the reign of Wilhelmus Kieft. He had, if histories
speak true, been second in command to the doughty Van Curlet, when he and
his warriors were inhumanly kicked out of Fort Goed Hoop by the Yankees.
In that memorable affair Van Poffenburgh is said to have received more
kicks, in a certain honorable part, than any of his comrades; in
consequence of which, on the resignation of Van Curlet, he had been
promoted to his place, being considered a hero who had seen service, and
suffered in his country's cause.

It is tropically observed by honest old Socrates, that heaven infuses into
some men at their birth a portion of intellectual gold; into others, of
intellectual silver; while others are intellectually furnished with iron
and brass. Of the last class was General Van Poffenburgh, and it would
seem as if Dame Nature, who will sometimes be partial, had given him brass
enough for a dozen ordinary braziers. All this he had contrived to pass
off upon William the Testy for genuine gold; and the little governor would
sit for hours and listen to his gunpowder stories of exploits, which left
those of Tirante the White, Don Belianis of Greece, or St. George and the
Dragon, quite in the background. Having been promoted by William Kieft to
the command of his whole disposable forces, he gave importance to his
station by the grandiloquence of his bulletins, always styling himself
Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the New Netherlands; though in sober
truth these Armies were nothing more than a handful of hen-stealing,
bottle-bruising ragamuffins.

In person he was not very tall, but exceedingly round: neither did his
bulk proceed from his being fat, but windy; being blown up by a prodigious
conviction of his own importance, until he resembled one of those bags of
wind given by AEolus, in an incredible fit of generosity to that vagabond
warrior, Ulysses. His windy endowments had long excited the admiration of
Antony Van Corlear, who is said to have hinted more than once to William
the Testy, that in making Van Poffenburgh a general, he had spoiled an
admirable trumpeter.

As it is the practice in ancient story to give the reader a description of
the arms and equipments of every noted warrior, I will bestow a word upon
the dress of this redoubtable commander. It comported with his character,
being so crossed and slashed, and embroidered with lace and tinsel, that
he seemed to have as much brass without as nature had stored away within.
He was swathed too in a crimson sash, of the size and texture of a
fishing-net; doubtless to keep his swelling heart from bursting through
his ribs. His face glowed with furnace heat from between a huge pair of
well-powdered whiskers; and his valorous soul seemed ready to bounce out
of a pair of large, glassy, blinking eyes, projecting like those of a

I swear to thee, worthy reader, if history and tradition belie not this
warrior, I would give all the money in my pocket to have seen him
accoutred cap-a-pie--booted to the middle--sashed to the chin--collared to
the ears--whiskered to the teeth--crowned with an overshadowing cocked
hat, and girded with a leathern belt ten inches broad, from which trailed
a falchion, of a length that I dare not mention. Thus equipped, he
strutted about, as bitter looking a man of war as the far-famed More, of
More Hall, when he sallied forth to slay the Dragon of Wantley. For what
says the ballad?

"Had you but seen him in this dress,
How fierce he looked and how big,
You would have thought him for to be
Some Egyptian porcupig.
He frighted all--cats, dogs, and all,
Each cow, each horse, and each hog;
For fear did flee, for they took him to be
Some strange outlandish hedgehog."[46]

I must confess this general, with all his outward valor and ventosity, was
not exactly an officer to Peter Stuyvesant's taste, but he stood foremost
in the army list of William the Testy, and it is probable the good Peter,
who was conscientious in his dealings with all men, and had his military
notions of precedence, thought it but fair to give him a chance of proving
his right to his dignities.

To this copper captain, therefore, was confided the command of the troops
destined to protect the southern frontier; and scarce had he departed from
his station than bulletins began to arrive from him, describing his
undaunted march through savage deserts over insurmountable mountains,
across impassable rivers, and through impenetrable forests, conquering
vast tracts of uninhabited country, and encountering more perils than did
Xenophon in his far-famed retreat with his ten thousand Grecians.

Peter Stuyvesant read all these grandiloquent dispatches with a dubious
screwing of the mouth and shaking of the head; but Antony Van Corlear
repeated these contents in the streets and market-places with an
appropriate flourish upon his trumpet, and the windy victories of the
general resounded through the streets of New Amsterdam.

On arriving at the southern frontier, Van Poffenburgh proceeded to erect a
fortress, or stronghold, on the South of Delaware river. At first he
bethought him to call it Fort Stuyvesant, in honor of the governor, a
lowly kind of homage prevalent in our country among speculators, military
commanders, and office-seekers of all kinds, by which our maps come to be
studded with the names of political patrons and temporary great men; in
the present instance, Van Poffenburgh carried his homage to the most lowly
degree, giving his fortress the name of Fort Casimir, in honor, it is
said, of a favorite pair of brimstone trunk-breeches of his excellency.

As this fort will be found to give rise to important events, it may be
worth while to notice that it was afterwards called Nieuw-Amstel, and was
the germ of the present flourishing town of Newcastle, or, more properly
speaking, No Castle, there being nothing of the kind on the premises.

His fortress being finished, it would have done any man's heart good to
behold the swelling dignity with which the general would stride in and out
a dozen times a day, surveying it in front and in rear, on this side and
on that; how he would strut backwards and forwards, in full regimentals,
on the top of the ramparts, like a vain-glorious cock-pigeon, swelling and
vaporing on the top of a dovecote.

There is a kind of valorous spleen which, like wind, is apt to grow unruly
in the stomachs of newly-made soldiers, compelling them to box-lobby
brawls and brokenheaded quarrels, unless there can be found some more
harmless way to give it vent. It is recorded, in the delectable romance of
Pierce Forest, that a young knight, being dubbed by King Alexander, did
incontinently gallop into an adjacent forest, and belabor the trees with
such might and main, that he not merely eased off the sudden effervescence
of his valor, but convinced the whole court that he was the most potent
and courageous cavalier on the face of the earth. In like manner the
commander of Fort Casimir, when he found his martial spirit waxing too hot
within him, would sally forth into the fields and lay about him most
lustily with his sabre; decapitating cabbages by platoons; hewing down
lofty sunflowers, which he termed gigantic Swedes; and if, perchance, he
espied a colony of big-bellied pumpkins quietly basking in the sun, "Ah!
caitiff Yankees!" would he roar, "have I caught ye at last?" So saying,
with one sweep of his sword, he would cleave the unhappy vegetables from
their chins to their waist-bands; by which warlike havoc, his choler being
in some sort allayed, he would return into the fortress with the full
conviction that he was a very miracle of military prowess.

He was a disciplinarian, too, of the first order. Woe to any unlucky
soldier who did not hold up his head and turn out his toes when on parade;
or who did not salute the general in proper style as he passed. Having one
day, in his Bible researches, encountered the history of Absalom and his
melancholy end, the general bethought him that, in a country abounding
with forests, his soldiers were in constant risk of a like catastrophe; he
therefore, in an evil hour, issued orders for cropping the hair of both
officers and men throughout the garrison.

Now so it happened, that among his officers was a sturdy veteran named
Keldermeester, who had cherished, through a long life, a mop of hair not a
little resembling the shag of a Newfoundland dog, terminating in a queue
like the handle of a frying-pan, and queued so tightly to his head that
his eyes and mouth generally stood ajar, and his eyebrows were drawn up to
the top of his forehead. It may naturally be supposed that the possessor
of so goodly an appendage would resist with abhorrence an order condemning
it to the shears. On hearing the general orders, he discharged a tempest
of veteran, soldier-like oaths, and dunder and blixums--swore he would
break any man's head who attempted to meddle with his tail--queued it
stiffer than ever, and whisked it about the garrison as fiercely as the
tail of a crocodile.

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