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

Part 6 out of 6

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Peter Stuyvesant they had felt, with the instinctive perception which mobs
as well as cattle possess, that the reins of government had passed into
stronger hands, yet could they not help fretting and chafing and champing
upon, the bit in restive silence.

Scarcely, therefore, had he departed on his expedition against the Swedes,
than the whole factions of William Kieft's reign had again thrust their
heads above water. Pot-house meetings were again held to "discuss the
state of the nation," where cobblers, tinkers, and tailors, the
self-dubbed "friends of the people," once more felt themselves inspired
with the gift of legislation, and undertook to lecture on every movement
of government.

Now, as Peter Stuyvesant had a singular inclination to govern the province
by his individual will, his first move on his return, was to put a stop to
this gratuitous legislation. Accordingly, one evening, when an inspired
cobbler was holding forth to an assemblage of the kind, the intrepid Peter
suddenly made his appearance with his ominous walking staff in his hand,
and a countenance sufficient to petrify a millstone. The whole meeting was
thrown into confusion--the orators stood aghast, with open mouth and
trembling knees, while "Horror!" "Tyranny!" "Liberty!" "Rights!" "Taxes!"
"Death!" "Destruction!" and a host of other patriotic phrases, were bolted
forth before he had time to close his lips. Peter took no notice of the
skulking throng, but strode up to the brawling, bully-ruffian, and pulling
out a huge silver watch, which might have served in times of yore as a
town-clock, and which is still retained by his descendants as a family
curiosity, requested the orator to mend it and set it going. The orator
humbly confessed it was utterly out of his power, as he was unacquainted
with the nature of its construction. "Nay, but," said Peter, "try your
ingenuity, man; you see all the springs and wheels and how easily the
clumsiest hand may stop it, and pull it to pieces, and why should it not
be equally easy to regulate as to stop it?" The orator declared that his
trade was wholly different--that he was a poor cobbler, and had never
meddled with a watch in his life--that there were men skilled in the art
whose business it was to attend to those matters, but for his part he
should only mar the workmanship, and put the whole in confusion. "Why,
harkee, master of mine," cried Peter, turning suddenly upon him with a
countenance that almost petrified the patcher of shoes into a perfect
lapstone, "dost thou pretend to meddle with the movements of government to
regulate, and correct, and patch, and cobble a complicated machine, the
principles of which are above thy comprehension, and its simplest
operations too subtle for thy understanding, when thou canst not correct a
trifling error in a common piece of mechanism, the whole mystery of which
is open to thy inspection?--Hence with thee to the leather and stone,
which are emblems of thy head; cobble thy shoes, and confine thyself to
the vocation for which Heaven has fitted thee; but," elevating his voice
until it made the welkin ring, "if ever I catch thee, or any of thy tribe,
meddling again with affairs of government, by St. Nicholas, but I'll have
every mother's bastard of ye flayed alive, and your hides stretched for
drumheads, that ye may thenceforth make a noise to some purpose!"

This threat and the tremendous voice in which it was uttered, caused the
whole multitude to quake with fear. The hair of the orator rose on his
head like his own swine's bristles; and not a knight of the thimble
present but his heart died within him, and he felt as though he could have
verily escaped through the eye of a needle. The assembly dispersed in
silent consternation: the pseudo-statesmen who had hitherto undertaken to
regulate public affairs were now fain to stay at home, hold their tongues,
and take care of their families; and party feuds died away to such a
degree, that many thriving keepers of taverns and dram-shops were utterly
ruined for want of business. But though this measure produced the desired
effect in putting an extinguisher on the new lights just brightening up,
yet did it tend to injure the popularity of the great Peter with the
thinking part of the community; that is to say, that part which think for
others instead of for themselves; or, in other words, who attend to
everybody's business but their own. These accused the old governor of
being highly aristocratical, and in truth there seems to have been some
ground for such an accusation, for he carried himself with a lofty,
soldier-like air, and was somewhat particular in his dress, appearing,
when not in uniform, in rich apparel of the antique flaundish cut, and was
especially noted for having his sound leg, which was a very comely one,
always arrayed in a red stocking and high-heeled shoe.

Justice he often dispensed in the primitive patriarchal way, seated on the
"stoep" before the door, under the shade of a great button-wood tree, but
all visits of form and state were received with something of court
ceremony in the best parlor, where Antony the Trumpeter officiated as high
chamberlain. On public occasions he appeared with great pomp of equipage,
and always rode to church in a yellow wagon with flaming red wheels.

These symptoms of state and ceremony, as we have hinted, were much caviled
at by the thinking, and talking, part of the community. They had been
accustomed to find easy access to their former governors, and in
particular had lived on terms of extreme intimacy with William the Testy,
and they accused Peter Stuyvesant of assuming too much dignity and
reserve, and of wrapping himself in mystery. Others, however, have
pretended to discover in all this a shrewd policy on the part of the old
governor. It is certainly of the first importance, say they, that a
country should be governed by wise men; but then it is almost equally
important that the people should think them wise; for this belief alone
can produce willing subordination. To keep up, however, this desirable
confidence in rulers, the people should be allowed to see as little of
them as possible. It is the mystery which envelopes great men that gives
them half their greatness. There is a kind of superstitious reverence for
office which leads us to exaggerate the merits of the occupant, and to
suppose that he must be wiser than common men. He, however, who gains
access to cabinets, soon finds out by what foolishness the world is
governed. He finds that there is quackery in legislation as in everything
else; that rulers have their whims and errors as well as other men, and
are not so wonderfully superior as he had imagined, since even he may
occasionally confute them in argument. Thus awe subsides into confidence,
confidence inspires familiarity, and familiarity produces contempt. Such
was the case, say they, with William the Testy. By making himself too easy
of access, he enabled every scrub-politician to measure wits with him, and
to find out the true dimensions not only of his person, but of his mind;
and thus it was that, by being familiarly scanned, he was discovered to be
a very little man. Peter Stuyvesant, on the contrary, say they, by
conducting himself with dignity and loftiness, was looked up to with great
reverence. As he never gave his reasons for anything he did, the public
gave him credit for very profound ones; every movement, however
intrinsically unimportant, was a matter of speculation; and his very red
stockings excited some respect, as being different from the stockings of
other men.

Another charge against Peter Stuyvesant was, that he had a great leaning
in favor of the patricians; and, indeed, in his time rose many of those
mighty Dutch families which have taken such vigorous root, and branched
out so luxuriantly in our state. Some, to be sure, were of earlier date,
such as the Van Kortlandts, the Van Zandts, the Ten Broecks, the Harden
Broecks, and others of Pavonian renown, who gloried in the title of
"Discoverers," from having been engaged in the nautical expedition from
Communipaw, in which they so heroically braved the terrors of Hell-gate
and Buttermilk-channel, and discovered a site for New Amsterdam.

Others claimed to themselves the appellation of Conquerors, from their
gallant achievements in New Sweden and their victory over the Yankees at
Oyster Bay. Such was that list of warlike worthies heretofore enumerated,
beginning with the Van Wycks, the Van Dycks, and the Ten Eycks, and
extending to the Rutgers, the Bensons, the Brinkerhoffs, and the
Schermerhorns; a roll equal to the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror,
and establishing the heroic origin of many an ancient aristocratical Dutch
family. These, after all, are the only legitimate nobility and lords of
the soil; these are the real "beavers of the Manhattoes;" and much does it
grieve me in modern days to see them elbowed aside by foreign invaders,
and more especially by those ingenious people, "the Sons of the Pilgrims;"
who out-bargain them in the market, out-speculate them on the exchange,
out-top them in fortune, and run up mushroom palaces so high, that the
tallest Dutch family mansion has not wind enough left for its weathercock.

In the proud days of Peter Stuyvesant, however, the good old Dutch
aristocracy loomed out in all its grandeur. The burly burgher, in
round-crowned flaunderish hat with brim of vast circumference, in portly
gaberdine and bulbous multiplicity of breeches, sat on his "stoep" and
smoked his pipe in lordly silence; nor did it ever enter his brain that
the active, restless Yankee, whom he saw through his half-shut eyes
worrying about in dog day heat, ever intent on the main chance, was one
day to usurp control over these goodly Dutch domains. Already, however,
the races regarded each other with disparaging eyes. The Yankees
sneeringly spoke of the round-crowned burghers of the Manhattoes as the
"Copper-heads;" while the latter, glorying in their own nether rotundity,
and observing the slack galligaskins of their rivals, flapping like an
empty sail against the mast, retorted upon them with the opprobrious
appellation of "Platter-breeches."


From what I have recounted in the foregoing chapter, I would not have it
imagined that the great Peter was a tyrannical potentate, ruling with a
rod of iron. On the contrary, where the dignity of office permitted, he
abounded in generosity and condescension. If he refused the brawling
multitude the right of misrule, he at least endeavored to rule them in
righteousness. To spread abundance in the land, he obliged the bakers to
give thirteen loaves to the dozen--a golden rule which remains a monument
of his beneficence. So far from indulging in unreasonable austerity, he
delighted to see the poor and the laboring man rejoice; and for this
purpose he was a great promoter of holidays. Under his reign there was a
great cracking of eggs at Paas or Easter; Whitsuntide or Pinxter also
flourished in all its bloom; and never were stockings better filled on the
eve of the blessed St. Nicholas.

New Year's Day, however, was his favorite festival, and was ushered in by
the ringing of bells and firing of guns. On that genial day the fountains
of hospitality were broken up, and the whole community was deluged with
cherry-brandy, true hollands, and mulled cider; every house was a temple
to the jolly god; and many a provident vagabond got drunk out of pure
economy, taking in liquor enough gratis to serve him half a year

The great assemblage, however, was at the governor's house, whither
repaired all the burghers of New Amsterdam with their wives and daughters,
pranked out in their best attire. On this occasion the good Peter was
devoutly observant of the pious Dutch rite of kissing the women-kind for
a happy new year; and it is traditional that Antony the trumpeter, who
acted as gentleman usher, took toll of all who were young and handsome, as
they passed through the ante-chamber. This venerable custom, thus happily
introduced, was followed with such zeal by high and low that on New Year's
Day, during the reign of Peter Stuyvesant, New Amsterdam was the most
thoroughly be-kissed community in all Christendom.

Another great measure of Peter Stuyvesant for public improvement was the
distribution of fiddles throughout the land. These were placed in the
hands of veteran negroes, who were despatched as missionaries to every
part of the province. This measure, it is said, was first suggested by
Antony the Trumpeter, and the effect was marvelous. Instead of those
"indignation meetings" set on foot in the time of William the Testy, where
men met together to rail at public abuses, groan over the evils of the
times, and make each other miserable, there were joyous gatherings of the
two sexes to dance and make merry. Now were instituted "quilting bees,"
and "husking bees," and other rural assemblages, where, under the
inspiring influence of the fiddle, toil was enlivened by gayety and
followed up by the dance. "Raising bees" also were frequent, where houses
sprang up at the wagging of the fiddle-stick, as the walls of Thebes
sprang up of yore to the sound of the lyre of Amphion.

Jolly autumn, which pours its treasures over hill and dale, was in those
days a season for the lifting of the heel as well as the heart; labor came
dancing in the train of abundance, and frolic prevailed throughout the
land. Happy days! when the yeomanry of the Nieuw Nederlands were merry
rather than wise; and when the notes of the fiddle, those harbingers of
good humor and good will, resounded at the close of the day from every
hamlet along the Hudson!

Nor was it in rural communities alone that Peter Stuyvesant introduced his
favorite engine of civilization. Under his rule the fiddle acquired that
potent sway in New Amsterdam which it has ever since retained. Weekly
assemblages were held, not in heated ball-rooms at midnight hours, but on
Saturday afternoons, by the golden light of the sun, on the green lawn of
the Battery; with Antony the Trumpeter for master of ceremonies. Here
would the good Peter take his seat under the spreading trees, among the
old burghers and their wives, and watch the mazes of the dance. Here would
he smoke his pipe, crack his joke, and forget the rugged toils of war, in
the sweet oblivious festivities of peace, giving a nod of approbation to
those of the young men who shuffled and kicked most vigorously; and now
and then a hearty smack, in all honesty of soul, to the buxom lass who
held out longest, and tired down every competitor--infallible proof of her
being the best dancer.

Once, it is true, the harmony of these meetings was in danger of
interruption. A young belle, just returned from a visit to Holland, who of
course led the fashions, made her appearance in not more than half-a-dozen
petticoats, and these of alarming shortness. A whisper and a flutter ran
through the assembly. The young men of course were lost in admiration, but
the old ladies were shocked in the extreme, especially those who had
marriageable daughters; the young ladies blushed and felt excessively for
the "poor thing," and even the governor himself appeared to be in some
kind of perturbation.

To complete the confusion of the good folk she undertook, in the course of
a jig, to describe some figures in algebra taught her by a dancing-master
at Rotterdam. Unfortunately, at the highest flourish of her feet, some
vagabond zephyr obtruded his services, and a display of the graces took
place, at which all the ladies present were thrown into great
consternation; several grave country members were not a little moved, and
the good Peter Stuyvesant himself was grievously scandalized.

The shortness of the female dresses, which had continued in fashion ever
since the days of William Kieft, had long offended his eye; and though
extremely averse to meddling with the petticoats of the ladies, yet he
immediately recommended that every one should be furnished with a flounce
to the bottom. He likewise ordered that the ladies, and indeed the
gentlemen, should use no other step in dancing than "shuffle and turn,"
and "double trouble;" and forbade, under pain of his high displeasure, any
young lady thenceforth to attempt what was termed "exhibiting the graces."

These were the only restrictions he ever imposed upon the sex, and these
were considered by them as tyrannical oppressions, and resisted with that
becoming spirit manifested by the gentle sex whenever their privileges are
invaded. In fact, Antony Van Corlear, who, as has been shown, was a
sagacious man, experienced in the ways of women, took a private occasion
to intimate to the governor that a conspiracy was forming among the young
vrouws of New Amsterdam; and that, if the matter were pushed any further,
there was danger of their leaving off petticoats altogether; whereupon the
good Peter shrugged his shoulders, dropped the subject, and ever after
suffered the women to wear their petticoats, and cut their capers as high
as they pleased, a privilege which they have jealously maintained in the
Manhattoes unto the present day.


In the last two chapters I have regaled the reader with a delectable
picture of the good Peter and his metropolis during an interval of peace.
It was, however, but a bit of blue sky in a stormy day; the clouds are
again gathering up from all points of the compass, and, if I am not
mistaken in my forebodings, we shall have rattling weather in the ensuing

It is with some communities, as it is with certain meddlesome
individuals--they have a wonderful facility at getting into scrapes; and I
have always remarked that those are most prone to get in who have the
least talent at getting out again. This is doubtless owing to the
excessive valor of those states; for I have likewise noticed that this
rampant quality is always most frothy and fussy where most confined; which
accounts for its vaporing so amazingly in little states, little men and
ugly little women more especially.

Such is the case with this little province of the Nieuw Nederlands; which,
by its exceeding valor, has already drawn upon itself a host of enemies;
has had fighting enough to satisfy a province twice its size, and is in a
fair way of becoming an exceedingly forlorn, well-belabored, and woebegone
little province. All which was providentially ordered to give interest and
sublimity to this pathetic history.

The first interruption to the halcyon quiet of Peter Stuyvesant was caused
by hostile intelligence from the old belligerent nest of Rensellaersteen.
Killian, the lordly patroon of Rensellaerwick, was again in the field, at
the head of his myrmidons of the Helderberg seeking to annex the whole of
the Catskill mountains to his domains. The Indian tribes of these
mountains had likewise taken up the hatchet, and menaced the venerable
Dutch settlements of Esopus.

Fain would I entertain the reader with the triumphant campaign of Peter
Stuyvesant in the haunted regions of those mountains, but that I hold all
Indian conflicts to be mere barbaric brawls, unworthy of the pen which has
recorded the classic war of Fort Christina; and as to these Helderberg
commotions, they are among the flatulencies which from time to time
afflict the bowels of this ancient province, as with a wind-colic, and
which I deem it seemly and decent to pass over in silence.

The next storm of trouble was from the south. Scarcely had the worthy
Mynheer Beekman got warm in the seat of authority on the South River, than
enemies began to spring up all around him. Hard by was a formidable race
of savages inhabiting the gentle region watered by the Susquehanna, of
whom the following mention is made by Master Hariot in his excellent

"The Susquesahanocks are a giantly people, strange in proportion, behavior,
and attire--their voice sounding from them as out of a cave. Their
tobacco-pipes were three-quarters of a yard long; carved at the great end
with a bird, beare, or other device, sufficient to beat out the brains of
a horse. The calfe of one of their legges measured three-quarters of a
yard about; the rest of the limbs proportionable."[57]

These gigantic savages and smokers caused no little disquiet in the mind
of Mynheer Beekman, threatening to cause a famine of tobacco in the land;
but his most formidable enemy was the roaring, roistering English colony
of Maryland, or, as it was anciently written, Merryland; so called because
the inhabitants, not having the fear of the Lord before their eyes, were
prone to make merry and get fuddled with mint-julep and apple-toddy. They
were, moreover, great horse-racers and cock-fighters, mighty wrestlers and
jumpers, and enormous consumers of hoe-cake and bacon. They lay claim to
be the first inventors of those recondite beverages, cock-tail,
stone-fence, and sherry-cobbler, and to have discovered the gastronomical
merits of terrapins, soft crabs, and canvas-back ducks.

This rantipole colony, founded by Lord Baltimore, a British nobleman, was
managed by his agent, a swaggering Englishman, commonly called Fendall,
that is to say, "offend all," a name given him for his bullying
propensities. These were seen in a message to Mynheer Beekman, threatening
him, unless he immediately swore allegiance to Lord Baltimore as the
rightful lord of the soil, to come at the head of the roaring boys of
Merryland and the giants of the Susquehanna, and sweep him and his
Nederlanders out of the country.

The trusty sword of Peter Stuyvesant almost leaped from its scabbard, when
he received missives from Mynheer Beekman, informing him of the swaggering
menaces of the bully Fendall; and as to the giantly warriors of the
Susquehanna, nothing would have more delighted him than a bout, hand to
hand, with half a score of them, having never encountered a giant in the
whole course of his campaigns, unless we may consider the stout Risingh as
such, and he was but a little one.

Nothing prevented his marching instantly to the South River, and enacting
scenes still more glorious than those of Fort Christina, but the necessity
of first putting a stop to the increasing aggressions and inroads of the
Yankees, so as not to leave an enemy in his rear; but he wrote to Mynheer
Beekman to keep up a bold front and a stout heart, promising, as soon as
he had settled affairs in the east, that he would hasten to the south with
his burly warriors of the Hudson, to lower the crests of the giants, and
mar the merriment of the Merrylanders.


[57] Hariot's Journal, Purch. Pilgrims.


To explain the apparently sudden movement of Peter Stuyvesant against the
crafty men of the East Country, I would observe that, during his campaigns
on the South River, and in the enchanted regions of the Catskill
Mountains, the twelve tribes of the East had been more than usually
active in prosecuting their subtle scheme for the subjugation of the Nieuw

Independent of the incessant maraudings among hen-roosts and squattings
along the border, invading armies would penetrate, from time to time, into
the very heart of the country. As their prototypes of yore went forth into
the land of Canaan, with their wives and their children, their
men-servants and their maid-servants, their flocks and herds, to settle
themselves down in the land and possess it; so these chosen people of
modern days would progress through the country in patriarchal style,
conducting carts and waggons laden with household furniture, with women
and children piled on top, and pots and kettles dangling beneath. At the
tail of these vehicles would stalk a crew of long-limbed, lank-sided
varlets with axes on their shoulders, and packs on their backs, resolutely
bent upon "locating" themselves, as they termed it, and improving the
country. These were the most dangerous kind of invaders. It is true they
were guilty of no overt acts of hostility; but it was notorious that,
wherever they got a footing, the honest Dutchmen gradually disappeared,
retiring slowly as do the Indians before the white men; being in some way
or other talked and chaffered, and bargained and swapped, and, in plain
English, elbowed out of all those rich bottoms and fertile nooks in which
our Dutch yeomanry are prone to nestle themselves.

Peter Stuyvesant was at length roused to this kind of war in disguise, by
which the Yankees were craftily aiming to subjugate his dominions.

He was a man easily taken in, it is true, as all great-hearted men are apt
to be; but if he once found it out, his wrath was terrible. He now threw
diplomacy to the dogs, determined to appear no more by ambassadors, but to
repair in person to the great council of the Amphictyons, bearing the
sword in one hand and the olive-branch in the other, and giving them
their choice of sincere and honest peace, or open and iron war.

His privy council were astonished and dismayed when he announced his
determination. For once they ventured to remonstrate, setting forth the
rashness of venturing his sacred person in the midst of a strange and
barbarous people. They might as well have tried to turn a rusty
weathercock with a broken-winded bellows. In the fiery heart of the
iron-headed Peter sat enthroned the five kinds of courage described by
Aristotle, and had the philosopher enumerated five hundred more, I verily
believed he would have possessed them all. As to that better part of valor
called discretion, it was too cold-blooded a virtue for his tropical

Summoning, therefore, to his presence his trusty follower, Antony Van
Corlear, he commanded him to hold himself in readiness to accompany him
the following morning on this his hazardous enterprise.

Now Antony the Trumpeter was by this time a little stricken in years, yet
by dint of keeping up a good heart, and having never known care or sorrow
(having never been married), he was still a hearty, jocund, rubicund,
gamesome wag, and of great capacity in the doublet. This last was ascribed
to his living a jolly life on those domains at the Hook, which Peter
Stuyvesant had granted to him for his gallantry at Fort Casimir.

Be this as it may, there was nothing that more delighted Antony than this
command of the great Peter, for he could have followed the stout-hearted
old governor to the world's end, with love and loyalty--and he moreover
still remembered the frolicing, and dancing, and bundling, and other
disports of the east country, and entertained dainty recollections of
numerous kind and buxom lasses, whom he longed exceedingly again to

Thus then did this mirror of hardihood set forth, with no other attendant
but his trumpeter, upon one of the most perilous enterprises ever
recorded in the annals of knight-errantry. For a single warrior to venture
openly among a whole nation of foes--but, above all, for a plain,
downright Dutchman to think of negotiating with the whole council of New
England!--never was there known a more desperate undertaking! Ever since I
have entered upon the chronicles of this peerless, but hitherto
uncelebrated, chieftain, has he kept me in a state of incessant action and
anxiety with the toils and dangers he is constantly encountering. Oh, for
a chapter of the tranquil reign of Wouter Van Twiller, that I might repose
on it as on a feather-bed!

Is it not enough, Peter Stuyvesant, that I have once already rescued thee
from the machinations of these terrible Amphictyons, by bringing the
powers of witchcraft to thine aid? Is it not enough that I have followed
thee undaunted, like a guardian spirit, into the midst of the horrid
battle of Fort Christina? That I have been put incessantly to my trumps to
keep them safe and sound--now warding off with my single pen the shower of
dastard blows that fell upon thy rear--now narrowly shielding thee from a
deadly thrust by a mere tobacco-box--now casing thy dauntless skull with
adamant, when even thy stubborn ram beaver failed to resist the sword of
the stout Risingh--and now, not merely bringing thee off alive, but
triumphant, from the clutches of the gigantic Swede, by the desperate
means of a paltry stone pottle? Is not all this enough, but must thou
still be plunging into new difficulties, and hazarding in headlong
enterprises thyself, thy trumpeter, and thy historian?

And now the ruddy-faced Aurora, like a buxom chambermaid, draws aside the
sable curtains of the night, and out bounces from his bed the jolly
red-haired Phoebus, startled at being caught so late in the embraces of
Dame Thetis. With many a stable-boy oath he harnesses his brazen-footed
steeds, and whips, and lashes, and splashes up the firmament, like a
loitering coachman, half-an-hour behind his time. And now behold that imp
of fame and prowess, the headstrong Peter, bestriding a raw-boned,
switch-tailed charger, gallantly arrayed in full regimentals, and bracing
on his thigh that trusty, brass-hilted sword, which had wrought such
fearful deeds on the banks of the Delaware.

Behold hard after him his doughty trumpeter, Van Corlear, mounted on a
broken-winded, walleyed, calico mare; his stone pottle, which had laid low
the mighty Risingh, slung under his arm; and his trumpet displayed
vauntingly in his right hand, decorated with a gorgeous banner, on which
is emblazoned the great beaver of the Manhattoes. See them proudly issuing
out of the city gate, like an iron clad hero of yore, with his faithful
squire at his heels; the populace following with their eyes, and shouting
many a parting wish and hearty cheering, Farewell, Hardkoppig Piet!
Farewell, honest Antony! pleasant be your wayfaring, prosperous your
return!--the stoutest hero that ever drew a sword, and the worthiest
trumpeter that ever trod shoe-leather!

Legends are lamentably silent about the events that befell our adventurers
in this their adventurous travel, excepting the Stuyvesant manuscript,
which gives the substance of a pleasant little heroic poem, written on the
occasion by Dominie AEgidius Luyck,[58] who appears to have been the poet
laureate of New Amsterdam. This inestimable manuscript assures us that it
was a rare spectacle to behold the great Peter and his loyal follower
hailing the morning sun, and rejoicing in the clear countenance of Nature,
as they pranced it through the pastoral scenes of Bloemen Dael; which in
those days was a sweet and rural valley, beautiful with many a bright
wild flower, refreshed by many a pure streamlet, and enlivened here and
there by a delectable little Dutch cottage, sheltered under some sloping
hill, and almost buried in embowering trees.

Now did they enter upon the confines of Connecticut, where they
encountered many grievous difficulties and perils. At one place they were
assailed by a troop of country squires and militia colonels, who, mounted
on goodly steeds, hung upon their rear for several miles, harassing them
exceedingly with guesses and questions, more especially the worthy Peter,
whose silver-chased leg excited not a little marvel. At another place,
hard by the renowned town of Stamford, they were set upon by a great and
mighty legion of church deacons, who imperiously demanded of them five
shillings for traveling on Sunday, and threatened to carry them captive to
a neighboring church, whose steeple peered above the trees; but these the
valiant Peter put to rout with little difficulty, insomuch that they
bestrode their canes and galloped off in horrible confusion, leaving their
cocked hats behind in the hurry of their flight. But not so easily did he
escape from the hands of a crafty man of Pyquag; who, with undaunted
perseverance and repeated onsets, fairly bargained him out of his goodly
switch-tailed charger, leaving in place thereof a villainous, foundered
Narraganset pacer.

But, maugre all these hardships, they pursued their journey cheerily along
the course of the soft flowing Connecticut, whose gentle waves, says the
song, roll through many a fertile vale and sunny plain; now reflecting the
lofty spires of the bustling city, and now the rural beauties of the
humble hamlet; now echoing with the busy hum of commerce, and now with the
cheerful song of the peasant.

At every town would Peter Stuyvesant, who was noted for warlike punctilio,
order the sturdy Antony to sound a courteous salutation; though the
manuscript observes that the inhabitants were thrown into great dismay
when they heard of his approach. For the fame of his incomparable
achievements on the Delaware had spread throughout the east country, and
they dreaded lest he had come to take vengeance on their manifold

But the good Peter rode through these towns with a smiling aspect, waving
his hand with inexpressible majesty and condescension; for he verily
believed that the old clothes which these ingenious people had thrust into
their broken windows, and the festoons of dried apples and peaches which
ornamented the fronts of their houses, were so many decorations in honor
of his approach, as it was the custom in the days of chivalry to
compliment renowned heroes by sumptuous displays of tapestry and gorgeous
furniture. The women crowded to the doors to gaze upon him as he passed,
so much does prowess in arms delight the gentler sex. The little children,
too, ran after him in troops, staring with wonder at his regimentals, his
brimstone breeches, and the silver garniture of his wooden leg. Nor must I
omit to mention the joy which many strapping wenches betrayed at beholding
the jovial Van Corlear, who had whilom delighted them so much with his
trumpet, when he bore the great Peter's challenge to the Amphictyons. The
kind-hearted Antony alighted from his calico mare, and kissed them all
with infinite loving kindness, and was right pleased to see a crew of
little trumpeters crowding round him for his blessing, each of whom he
patted on the head, bade him be a good boy, and gave him a penny to buy
molasses candy.


[58] This Luyck was, moreover, rector of the Latin School in
Nieuw Nederlands, 1663. There are two pieces addressed to AEgidius
Luyck in D. Selyn's MSS. of poesies, upon his marriage with
Judith Isendoorn. (Old MSS.)


Now so it happened, that while the great and good Peter Stuyvesant,
followed by his trusty squire, was making his chivalric progress through
the east country, a dark and direful scheme of war against his beloved
province was forming in that nursery of monstrous projects, the British

This, we are confidently informed, was the result of the secret
instigations of the great council of the league; who, finding themselves
totally incompetent to vie in arms with the heavy-sterned warriors of the
Manhattoes and their iron-headed commander, sent emissaries to the British
Government, setting forth in eloquent language the wonders and delights of
this delicious little Dutch Canaan, and imploring that a force might be
sent out to invade it by sea, while they should co-operate by land.

These emissaries arrived at a critical juncture, just as the British Lion
was beginning to bristle up his mane and wag his tail; for we are assured
by the anonymous writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript that the astounding
victory of Peter Stuyvesant at Fort Christina had resounded throughout
Europe, and his annexation of the territory of New Sweden had awakened the
jealousy of the British Cabinet for their wild lands at the south. This
jealousy was brought to a head by the representations of Lord Baltimore,
who declared that the territory thus annexed lay within the lands granted
to him by the British Crown, and he claimed to be protected in his rights.
Lord Sterling, another British subject, claimed the whole of Nassau, or
Lond Island, once the Ophir of William the Testy, but now the
kitchen-garden of the Manhattoes, which he declared to be British
territory by the right of discovery, but unjustly usurped by the

The result of all these rumors and representations was a sudden zeal on
the part of his Majesty Charles the Second for the safety and well-being
of his transatlantic possessions, and especially for the recovery of the
New Netherlands, which Yankee logic had, somehow or other, proved to be a
continuity of the territory taken possession of for the British Crown by
the pilgrims when they landed on Plymouth Rock, fugitives from British
oppression. All this goodly land thus wrongfully held by the Dutchmen, he
presented, in a fit of affection, to his brother the Duke of York, a
donation truly royal, since none but great sovereigns have a right to give
away what does not belong to them. That this munificent gift might not be
merely nominal, his Majesty ordered that an armament should be straightway
despatched to invade the city of New Amsterdam by land and water, and put
his brother in complete possession of the premises.

Thus critically situated are the affairs of the New Nederlanders. While
the honest burghers are smoking their pipes in somber security, and the
privy councillors are snoring in the council chamber, while Peter the
Headstrong is undauntedly making his way through the east country, in the
confident hope by honest words and manly deeds to bring the grand council
to terms, a hostile fleet is sweeping like a thunder-cloud across the
Atlantic, soon to rattle a storm of war about the ears of the dozing
Nederlanders, and to put the mettle of their governor to the trial.

But come what may, I here pledge my veracity that in all warlike conflicts
and doubtful perplexities he will every acquit himself like a gallant,
noble-minded, obstinate old cavalier. Forward, then, to the charge! Shine
out, propitious stars, on the renowned city of the Manhattoes; and the
blessing of St. Nicholas go with thee, honest Peter Stuyvesant.


Great nations resemble great men in this particular, that their greatness
is seldom known until they get in trouble; adversity, therefore, has been
wisely denominated the ordeal of true greatness, which, like gold, can
never receive its real estimation until it has passed through the furnace.
In proportion, therefore, as a nation, a community, or an individual
(possessing the inherent quality of greatness) is involved in perils and
misfortunes, in proportion does it rise in grandeur; and even when sinking
under calamity, makes, like a house on fire, a more glorious display than
ever it did in the fairest period of its prosperity.

The vast Empire of China, though teeming with population and imbibing and
concentrating the wealth of nations, has vegetated through a succession of
drowsy ages; and were it not for its internal revolution, and the
subversion of its ancient government by the Tartars, might have presented
nothing but a dull detail of monotonous prosperity. Pompeii and
Herculaneum might have passed into oblivion, with a herd of their
contemporaries, had they not been fortunately overwhelmed by a volcano.
The renowned city of Troy acquired celebrity only from its ten years'
distress and final conflagration. Paris rose in importance by the plots
and massacres which ended in the exaltation of Napoleon; and even the
mighty London has skulked through the records of time, celebrated for
nothing of moment excepting the Plague, the Great Fire, and Guy Faux's
Gunpowder Plot! Thus cities and empires creep along, enlarging in silent
obscurity, until they burst forth in some tremendous calamity, and snatch,
as it were, immortality from the explosion.

The above principle being admitted, my reader will plainly perceive that
the city of New Amsterdam and its dependent province are on the high road
to greatness. Dangers and hostilities threaten from every side, and it is
really a matter of astonishment how so small a State has been able in so
short a time to entangle itself in so many difficulties. Ever since the
province was first taken by the nose, at the Fort of Good Hope, in the
tranquil days of Wouter Van Twiller, has it been gradually increasing in
historic importance: and never could it have had a more appropriate
chieftain to conduct it to the pinnacle of grandeur than Peter Stuyvesant.

This truly headstrong hero having successfully effected his daring
progress through the east country, girded up his loins as he approached
Boston, and prepared for the grand onslaught with the Amphictyons, which
was to be the crowning achievement of the campaign. Throwing Antony Van
Corlear, who, with his calico mare, formed his escort and army, a little
in the advance, and bidding him be of stout heart and great mind, he
placed himself firmly in his saddle, cocked his hat more fiercely over his
left eye, summoned all the heroism of his soul into his countenance, and,
with one arm akimbo, the hand resting on the pommel of his sword, rode
into the great metropolis of the league, Antony sounding his trumpet
before him in a manner to electrify the whole community.

Never was there such a stir in Boston as on this occasion; never such a
hurrying hither and thither about the streets; such popping of heads out
of windows; such gathering of knots in market-places Peter Stuyvesant was
a straightforward man, and prone to do everything above board. He would
have ridden at once to the great council-house of the league and sounded a
parley; but the grand council knew the mettlesome hero they had to deal
with, and were not for doing things in a hurry. On the contrary, they sent
forth deputations to meet him on the way, to receive him in a style
befitting the great potentate of the Manhattoes, and to multiply all
kinds of honors, and ceremonies, and formalities, and other courteous
impediments in his path. Solemn banquets were accordingly given him, equal
to thanksgiving feasts. Complimentary speeches were made him, wherein he
was entertained with the surpassing virtues, long sufferings, and
achievements of the Pilgrim Fathers; and it is even said he was treated to
a sight of Plymouth Rock, that great corner-stone of Yankee empire.

I will not detain my readers by recounting the endless devices by which
time was wasted, and obstacles and delays multiplied to the infinite
annoyance of the impatient Peter. Neither will I fatigue them by dwelling
on his negotiations with the grand council, when he at length brought them
to business. Suffice it to say, it was like most other diplomatic
negotiations; a great deal was said and very little done; one conversation
led to another; one conference begot misunderstandings which it took a
dozen conferences to explain, at the end of which both parties found
themselves just where they had begun, but ten times less likely to come to
an agreement.

In the midst of these perplexities, which bewildered the brain and
incensed the ire of honest Peter, he received private intelligence of the
dark conspiracy matured in the British Cabinet, with the astounding fact
that a British squadron was already on the way to invade New Amsterdam by
sea, and that the grand council of Amphictyons, while thus beguiling him
with subtleties, were actually prepared to co-operate by land!

Oh! how did the sturdy old warrior rage and roar when he found himself
thus entrapped, like a lion in the hunter's toil! Now did he draw his
trusty sword, and determine to break in upon the council of the
Amphictyons, and put every mother's son of them to death. Now did he
resolve to fight his way throughout all the regions of the east, and to
lay waste Connecticut river.

Gallant, but unfortunate Peter! Did I not enter with sad forebodings on
this ill-starred expedition? Did I not tremble when I saw thee, with no
other councillor than thine own head; no other armour but an honest
tongue, a spotless conscience, and a rusty sword; no other protector but
St. Nicholas, and no other attendant but a trumpeter--did I not tremble
when I beheld thee thus sally forth to contend with all the knowing powers
of New England?

It was a long time before the kind-hearted expostulations of Antony Van
Corlear, aided by the soothing melody of his trumpet, could lower the
spirits of Peter Stuyvesant from their warlike and vindictive tone, and
prevent his making widows and orphans of half the population of Boston.
With great difficulty he was prevailed upon to bottle up his wrath for the
present; to conceal from the council his knowledge of their machinations;
and by effecting his escape, to be able to arrive in time for the
salvation of the Manhattoes.

The latter suggestion awakened a new ray of hope in his bosom; he
forthwith dispatched a secret message to his councillors at New Amsterdam,
apprising them of their danger, and commanding them to put the city in a
posture of defense, promising to come as soon as possible to their
assistance. This done, he felt marvelously relieved, rose slowly, shook
himself like a rhinoceros, and issued forth from his den, in much the same
manner as Giant Despair is described to have issued from Doubting Castle,
in the chivalric history of the Pilgrim's Progress.

And now much does it grieve me that I must leave the gallant Peter in this
imminent jeopardy; but it behooves us to hurry back and see what is going
on at New Amsterdam, for greatly do I fear that city is already in a
turmoil. Such was ever the fate of Peter Stuyvesant; while doing one thing
with heart and soul he was too apt to leave everything else at sixes and
sevens. While, like a potentate of yore, he was absent attending to those
things in person which in modern days are trusted to generals and
ambassadors, his little territory at home was sure to get in an
uproar--all which was owing to that uncommon strength of intellect which
induced him to trust to nobody but himself, and which had acquired him the
renowned appellation of Peter the Headstrong.


There is no sight more truly interesting to a philosopher than a community
where every individual has a voice in public affairs; where every
individual considers himself the Atlas of the nation; and where every
individual thinks it his duty to bestir himself for the good of his
country--I say, there is nothing more interesting to a philosopher than
such a community in a sudden bustle of war. Such clamor of tongues--such
patriotic bawling--such running hither and thither--everybody in a
hurry--everybody in trouble--everybody in the way, and everybody
interrupting his neighbor--who is busily employed in doing nothing! It is
like witnessing a great fire, where the whole community are agog--some
dragging about empty engines, others scampering with full buckets, and
spilling the contents into their neighbors' boots, and others ringing the
church bells all night, by way of putting out the fire. Little firemen,
like sturdy little knights storming a breach, clambering up and down
scaling-ladders, and bawling through tin trumpets, by way of directing the
attack. Here a fellow, in his great zeal to save the property of the
unfortunate, catches up some article of no value, and gallants it off with
an air of as much self-importance as if he had rescued a pot of money;
there another throws looking-glasses and china out of the window, to save
them from the flames; whilst those who can do nothing else run up and down
the streets, keeping up an incessant cry of "Fire! fire! fire!"

"When the news arrived at Sinope," says Lucian--though I own the story is
rather trite-"that Philip was about to attack them, the inhabitants were
thrown into a violent alarm. Some ran to furbish up their arms; others
rolled stones to build up the walls; everybody, in short, was employed,
and everybody in the way of his neighbor. Diogenes alone could find
nothing to do; whereupon, not to be idle when the welfare of his country
was at stake, he tucked up his robe, and fell to rolling his tub with
might and main up and down the Gymnasium." In like manner did every
mother's son in the patriotic community of New Amsterdam, on receiving the
missives of Peter Stuyvesant, busy himself most mightily in putting things
in confusion, and assisting the general uproar. "Every man," said the
Stuyvesant manuscript, "flew to arms!" by which is meant that not one of
our honest Dutch citizens would venture to church or to market without an
old-fashioned spit of a sword dangling at his side, and a long Dutch
fowling-piece on his shoulder; nor would he go out of a night without a
lantern, nor turn a corner without first peeping cautiously round, lest he
should come unawares upon a British army; and we are informed that Stoffel
Brinkerhoff, who was considered by the old women almost as brave a man as
the governor himself, actually had two one-pound swivels mounted in his
entry, one pointing out at the front door, and the other at the back.

But the most strenuous measure resorted to on this awful occasion, and one
which has since been found of wonderful efficacy, was to assemble popular
meetings. These brawling convocations, I have already shown, were
extremely offensive to Peter Stuyvesant; but as this was a moment of
unusual agitation, and as the old governor was not present to repress
them, they broke out with intolerable violence. Hither, therefore, the
orators and politicians repaired, striving who should bawl loudest, and
exceed the others in hyperbolical bursts of patriotism, and in resolutions
to uphold and defend the government. In these sage meetings it was
resolved that they were the most enlightened, the most dignified, the most
formidable, and the most ancient community upon the face of the earth.
This resolution being carried unanimously, another was immediately
proposed--whether it were not possible and politic to exterminate Great
Britain? upon which sixty-nine members spoke in the affirmative, and only
one arose to suggest some doubts, who, as a punishment for his treasonable
presumption, was immediately seized by the mob, and tarred and feathered,
which punishment being equivalent to the Tarpeian Rock, he was afterwards
considered as an outcast from society, and his opinion went for nothing.
The question, therefore, being unanimously carried in the affirmative, it
was recommended to the grand council to pass it into a law; which was
accordingly done. By this measure the hearts of the people at large were
wonderfully encouraged, and they waxed exceeding choleric and valorous.
Indeed, the first paroxysm of alarm having in some measure subsided, the
old women having buried all the money they could lay their hands on, and
their husbands daily getting fuddled with what was left, the community
began even to stand on the offensive. Songs were manufactured in Low
Dutch, and sung about the streets, wherein the English were most woefully
beaten, and shown no quarter; and popular addresses were made, wherein it
was proved to a certainty that the fate of Old England depended upon the
will of the New Amsterdammers.

Finally, to strike a violent blow at the very vitals of Great Britain, a
multitude of the wiser inhabitants assembled, and having purchased all
the British manufactures they could find, they made thereof a huge
bonfire, and in the patriotic glow of the moment, every man present who
had a hat or breeches of English workmanship pulled it off, and threw it
into the flames, to the irreparable detriment, loss and ruin of the
English manufacturers! In commemoration of this great exploit they erected
a pole on the spot, with a device on the top intended to represent the
province of Nieuw Nederlandts destroying Great Britain, under the
similitude of an eagle picking the little island of Old England out of the
globe; but either through the unskillfulness of the sculptor, or his
ill-timed waggery, it bore a striking resemblance to a goose vainly
striving to get hold of a dumpling.


It will need but little penetration in any one conversant with the ways of
that wise but windy potentate, the sovereign people, to discover that not
withstanding all the warlike bluster and bustle of the last chapter, the
city of New Amsterdam was not a whit more prepared for war than before.
The privy councillors of Peter Stuyvesant were aware of this; and, having
received his private orders to put the city in an immediate posture of
defense, they called a meeting of the oldest and richest burghers to
assist them with their wisdom. These were of that order of citizens
commonly termed "men of the greatest weight in the community;" their
weight being estimated by the heaviness of their heads and of their
purses. Their wisdom in fact is apt to be of a ponderous kind, and to hang
like a millstone round the neck of the community.

Two things were unanimously determined in this assembly of venerables:
first, that the city required to be put in a state of defense; and second,
that, as the danger was imminent, there should be no time lost; which
points being settled, they fell to making long speeches, and belaboring
one another in endless and intemperate disputes. For about this time was
this unhappy city first visited by that talking endemic so prevalent in
this country, and which so invariably evinces itself wherever a number of
wise men assemble together, breaking out in long windy speeches; caused,
as physicians suppose, by the foul air which is ever generated in a crowd.
Now it was, moreover, that they first introduced the ingenious method of
measuring the merits of an harangue by the hour-glass, he being considered
the ablest orator who spoke longest on a question. For which excellent
invention, it is recorded, we are indebted to the same profound Dutch
critic who judged of books by their size.

This sudden passion for endless harangues, so little consonant with the
customary gravity and taciturnity of our sage forefathers, was supposed by
certain philosophers to have been imbibed, together with divers other
barbarous propensities, from their savage neighbors, who were peculiarly
noted for long talks and council fires; and never undertook any affair of
the least importance without previous debates and harangues among their
chiefs and old men. But the real cause was, that the people, in electing
their representatives to the grand council, were particular in choosing
them for their talents at talking, without inquiring whether they
possessed the more rare, difficult, and oft-times important talent of
holding their tongues. The consequence was, that this deliberative body
was composed of the most loquacious men in the community. As they
considered themselves placed there to talk, every man concluded that his
duty to his constituents, and, what is more, his popularity with them,
required that he should harangue on every subject, whether he understood
it or not. There was an ancient mode of burying a chieftain, by every
soldier throwing his shield full of earth on the corpse, until a mighty
mound was formed; so, whenever a question was brought forward in this
assembly, every member pressing forward to throw on his quantum of wisdom,
the subject was quickly buried under a mountain of words.

We are told that disciples on entering the school of Pythagoras were for
two years enjoined silence, and forbidden either to ask questions or make
remarks. After they had thus acquired the inestimable art of holding their
tongues they were gradually permitted to make inquiries, and finally to
communicate their own opinions.

With what a beneficial effect could this wise regulation of Pythagoras be
introduced in modern legislative bodies--and how wonderfully would it have
tended to expedite business in the grand council of the Manhattoes.

At this perilous juncture the fatal word economy, the stumbling block of
William the Testy, had been once more set afloat, according to which the
cheapest plan of defense was insisted upon as the best; it being deemed a
great stroke of policy in furnishing powder to economise in ball.

Thus old Dame Wisdom (whom the wags of antiquity have humorously
personified as a woman) seem to take a mischievous pleasure in jilting the
venerable councillors of New Amsterdam. To add to the confusion, the old
factions of Short Pipes and Long Pipes, which had been almost strangled by
the Herculean grasp of Peter Stuyvesant, now sprang up with tenfold vigor.
Whatever was proposed by a Short Pipe was opposed by the whole tribe of
Long Pipes, who, like true partisans, deemed it their first duty to effect
the downfall of their rivals, their second to elevate themselves, and
their third to consult the public good; though many left the third
consideration out of question altogether.

In this great collision of hard heads it is astonishing the number of
projects that were struck out; projects which threw the windmill system of
William the Testy completely in the background. These were almost
uniformly opposed by the "men of the greatest weight in the community;"
your weighty men, though slow to devise, being always great at
"negativing." Among these were a set of fat, self-important old burghers,
who smoked their pipes, and said nothing except to negative every plan of
defence proposed. These were that class of "conservatives" who, having
amassed a fortune, button up their pockets, shut their mouths, sink, as it
were, into themselves, and pass the rest of their lives in the indwelling
beatitude of conscious wealth; as some phlegmatic oyster, having swallowed
a pearl, closes its shell, sinks in the mud, and devotes the rest of its
life to the conservation of its treasure. Every plan of defence seemed to
these worthy old gentlemen pregnant with ruin. An armed force was a legion
of locusts preying upon the public property; to fit out a naval armament
was to throw their money into the sea; to build fortifications was to bury
it in the dirt. In short, they settled it as a sovereign maxim, so long as
their pockets were full, no matter how much they were drubbed. A kick left
no scar; a broken head cured itself; but an empty purse was of all
maladies the slowest to heal, and one in which nature did nothing for the

Thus did this venerable assembly of sages lavish away their time, which
the urgency of affairs rendered invaluable, in empty brawls and
long-winded speeches, without ever agreeing, except on the point with
which they started, namely, that there was no time to be lost, and delay
was ruinous. At length, St. Nicholas taking compassion on their distracted
situation, and anxious to preserve them from anarchy, so ordered, that in
the midst of one of their most noisy debates on the subject of
fortification and defence, when they had nearly fallen to loggerheads in
consequence of not being able to convince each other, the question was
happily settled by the sudden entrance of a messenger, who informed them
that a hostile fleet had arrived, and was actually advancing up the bay!


Like as an assemblage of belligerent cats, gibbering and caterwauling,
eyeing one another with hideous grimaces and contortions, spitting in each
other's faces, and on the point of a general clapper-clawing, are suddenly
put to scampering rout and confusion by the appearance of a house-dog, so
was the no less vociferous council of New Amsterdam amazed, astounded, and
totally dispersed by the sudden arrival of the enemy. Every member waddled
home as fast as his short legs could carry him, wheezing as he went with
corpulency and terror. Arrived at his castle, he barricaded the
street-door, and buried himself in the cider-cellar, without venturing to
peep out, lest he should have his head carried off by a cannon ball.

The sovereign people crowded into the marketplace, herding together with
the instinct of sheep, who seek safety in each other's company when the
shepherd and his dog are absent, and the wolf is prowling round the fold.
Far from finding relief, however, they only increased each other's
terrors. Each man looked ruefully in his neighbor's face, in search of
encouragement, but only found in its woebegone lineaments a confirmation
of his own dismay. Not a word now was to be heard of conquering Great
Britain, not a whisper about the sovereign virtues of economy--while the
old women heightened the general gloom by clamorously bewailing their
fate, and calling for protection on St. Nicholas and Peter Stuyvesant.

Oh, how did they bewail the absence of the lion-hearted Peter! and how
did they long for the comforting presence of Antony Van Corlear! Indeed a
gloomy uncertainty hung over the fate of these adventurous heroes. Day
after day had elapsed since the alarming message from the governor without
bringing any further tidings of his safety. Many a fearful conjecture was
hazarded as to what had befallen him and his loyal squire. Had they not
been devoured alive by the cannibals of Marblehead and Cape Cod? Had they
not been put to the question by the great council of Amphictyons? Had they
not been smothered in onions by the terrible men of Pyquag? In the midst
of this consternation and perplexity, when horror, like a mighty
nightmare, sat brooding upon the little, fat, plethoric city of New
Amsterdam, the ears of the multitude were suddenly startled by the distant
sound of a trumpet;--it approached--it grew louder and louder--and now it
resounded at the city gate. The public could not be mistaken in the
well-known sound; a shout of joy burst from their lips as the gallant
Peter, covered with dust, and followed by his faithful trumpeter, came
galloping into the marketplace.

The first transports of the populace having subsided, they gathered round
the honest Antony, as he dismounted, overwhelming him with greetings and
congratulations. In breathless accents, he related to them the marvelous
adventures through which the old governor and himself had gone, in making
their escape from the clutches of the terrible Amphictyons. But though the
Stuyvesant manuscript, with its customary minuteness where anything
touching the great Peter is concerned, is very particular as to the
incidents of this masterly retreat, the state of the public affairs will
not allow me to indulge in a full recital thereof. Let it suffice to say,
that, while Peter Stuyvesant was anxiously revolving in his mind how he
could make good his escape with honor and dignity, certain of the ships
sent out for the conquest of the Manhattoes touched at the eastern ports
to obtain supplies, and to call on the grand council of the league for its
promised co-operation. Upon hearing of this, the vigilant Peter,
perceiving that a moment's delay were fatal, made a secret and precipitate
decampment, though much did it grieve his lofty soul to be obliged to turn
his back even upon a nation of foes. Many hair-breadth escapes and divers
perilous mishaps did they sustain, as they scourged, without sound of
trumpet, through the fair regions of the east. Already was the country in
an uproar with hostile preparation, and they were obliged to take a large
circuit in their flight, lurking along through the woody mountains of the
Devil's Backbone; whence the valiant Peter sallied forth, one day like a
lion, and put to rout a whole legion of squatters, consisting of three
generations of a prolific family, who were already on their way to take
possession of some corner of the New Netherlands. Nay, the faithful Antony
had great difficulty, at sundry times, to prevent him, in the excess of
his wrath, from descending down from the mountains, and falling, sword in
hand, upon certain of the border-towns, who were marshaling forth their
draggle-tailed militia.

The first movement of the governor, on reaching his dwelling, was to mount
the roof, whence he contemplated with rueful aspect the hostile squadron.
This had already come to anchor in the bay, and consisted of two stout
frigates, having on board, as John Josselyn, gent., informs us, "three
hundred valiant red coats." Having taken this survey, he sat himself down,
and wrote an epistle to the commander, demanding the reason of his
anchoring in the harbor without obtaining previous permission so to do.
This letter was couched in the most dignified and courteous terms, though
I have it from undoubted authority that his teeth were clinched, and he
had a bitter sardonic grin upon his visage all the while he wrote. Having
despatched his letter, the grim Peter stumped to and fro about the town,
with a most war-betokening countenance, his hands thrust into his breeches
pockets, and whistling a low Dutch psalm-tune, which bore no small
resemblance to the music of a northeast wind, when a storm is brewing. The
very dogs, as they eyed him, skulked away in dismay; while all the old and
ugly women of New Amsterdam ran howling at his heels, imploring him to
save them from murder, robbery, and pitiless ravishment!

The reply of Colonel Nicholas, who commanded the invaders, was couched in
terms of equal courtesy with the letter of the governor, declaring the
right and title of his British Majesty to the province, where he affirmed
the Dutch to be mere interlopers; and demanding that the town, forts,
etc., should be forthwith rendered into his majesty's obedience and
protection; promising at the same time, life, liberty, estate, and free
trade, to every Dutch denizen who should readily submit to his Majesty's

Peter Stuyvesant read over this friendly epistle with some such harmony of
aspect as we may suppose a crusty farmer reads the loving letter of John
Stiles, warning him of an action of ejectment. He was not, however, to be
taken by surprise; but, thrusting the summons into his breeches pocket,
stalked three times across the room, took a pinch of snuff with great
vehemence, and then, loftily waving his hand, promised to send an answer
the next morning. He now summoned a general meeting of his privy
councillors and burgomasters, not to ask their advice, for confident in
his own strong head, he needed no man's counsel, but apparently to give
them a piece of his mind on their late craven conduct.

His orders being duly promulgated, it was a piteous sight to behold the
late valiant burgomasters, who had demolished the whole British empire in
their harangues, peeping ruefully out of their hiding-places; crawling
cautiously forth; dodging through narrow lanes and alleys; starting at
every little dog that barked; mistaking lamp-posts for British grenadiers;
and, in the excess of their panic, metamorphosing pumps into formidable
soldiers, levelling blunderbusses at their bosoms! Having, however, in
despite of numerous perils and difficulties of the kind, arrived safe,
without the loss of a single man, at the hall of assembly, they took their
seats, and awaited in fearful silence the arrival of the governor. In a
few moments the wooden leg of the intrepid Peter was heard in regular and
stout-hearted thumps upon the staircase. He entered the chamber, arrayed
in full suit of regimentals, and carrying his trusty toledo, not girded on
his thigh, but tucked under his arm. As the governor never equipped
himself in this portentious manner unless something of martial nature were
working within his pericranium, his council regarded him ruefully, as if
they saw fire and sword in his iron countenance, and forgot to light their
pipes in breathless suspense.

His first words were to rate his council soundly for having wasted in idle
debate and party feud the time which should have been devoted to putting
the city in a state of defence. He was particularly indignant at those
brawlers who had disgraced the councils of the province by empty
bickerings and scurrilous invectives against an absent enemy. He now
called upon them to make good their words by deeds, as the enemy they had
defied and derided was at the gate. Finally, he informed them of the
summons he had received to surrender, but concluded by swearing to defend
the province as long as Heaven was on his side, and he had a wooden leg to
stand upon; which warlike sentence he emphasized by a thwack with the flat
of his sword upon the table that quite electrified his auditors.

The privy councillors who had long since been brought into as perfect
discipline as were ever the soldiers of the great Frederick, knew there
was no use in saying a word, so lighted their pipes, and smoked away in
silence like fat and discreet councillors. But the burgomasters, being
inflated with considerable importance and self-sufficiency acquired at
popular meetings, were not so easily satisfied. Mustering up fresh spirit,
when they found there was some chance of escaping from their present
jeopardy without the disagreeable alternative of fighting, they requested
a copy of the summons to surrender, that they might show it to a general
meeting of the people.

So insolent and mutinous a request would have been enough to have roused
the gorge of the tranquil Van Twiller himself--what, then, must have been
its effect upon the great Stuyvesant, who was not only a Dutchman, a
governor, and a valiant wooden-legged soldier to boot, but withal a man of
the most stomachful and gunpowder disposition? He burst forth into a blaze
of indignation--swore not a mother's son of them should see a syllable of
it; that as to their advice or concurrence, he did not care a whiff of
tobacco for either; that they might go home and go to bed like old women,
for he was determined to defend the colony himself without the assistance
of them or their adherents! So saying, he tucked his sword under his arm,
cocked his hat upon his head, and girding up his loins, stumped
indignantly out of the council chamber, everybody making room for him as
he passed.

No sooner was he gone than the busy burgomasters called a public meeting
in front of the stadthouse, where they appointed as chairman one Dofue
Roerback, formerly a meddlesome member of the cabinet during the reign of
William the Testy, but kicked out of office by Peter Stuyvesant on taking
the reins of government. He was, withal, a mighty gingerbread baker in the
land, and reverenced by the populace as a man of dark knowledge, seeing
that he was the first to imprint New-year cakes with the mysterious
hieroglyphics of the Cock and Breeches, and such-like magical devices.

This burgomaster, who still chewed the cud of ill-will against Peter
Stuyvesant, addressed the multitude in what is called a patriotic speech,
informing them of the courteous summons which the governor had received to
surrender, of his refusal to comply therewith, and of his denying the
public even a sight of the summons, which doubtless contained conditions
highly to the honor and advantage of the province.

He then proceeded to speak of his excellency in high-sounding terms of
vituperation, suited to the dignity of his station; comparing him to Nero,
Caligula, and other flagrant great men of yore; assuring the people that
the history of the world did not contain a despotic outrage equal to the
present; that it would be recorded in letters of fire on the blood-stained
tablet of history; that ages would roll back with sudden horror when they
came to view it; that the womb of time (by the way, your orators and
writers take strange liberties with the womb of time, though some would
fain have us believe that time is an old gentleman)--that the womb of
time, pregnant as it was with direful horrors, would never produce a
parallel enormity: with a variety of other heart-rending, soul-stirring
tropes and figures, which I cannot enumerate; neither, indeed, need I, for
they were of the kind which even to the present day form the style of
popular harangues and patriotic orations, and may be classed in rhetoric
under the general title of Rigmarole.

The result of this speech of the inspired burgomaster was a memorial
addressed to the governor, remonstrating in good round terms on his
conduct. It was proposed that Dofue Roerback himself should be the bearer
of this memorial; but this he warily declined, having no inclination of
coming again within kicking distance of his excellency. Who did deliver
it has never been named in history; in which neglect he has suffered
grievous wrong, seeing that he was equally worthy of blazon with him
perpetuated in Scottish song and story by the surname of Bell-the-cat. All
we know of the fate of this memorial is, that it was used by the grim
Peter to light his pipe, which, from the vehemence with which he smoked
it, was evidently anything but a pipe of peace.


Now did the high-minded Peter de Groodt shower down a pannier load of
maledictions upon his burgomaster for a set of self-willed, obstinate,
factious varlets, who would neither be convinced nor persuaded. Nor did he
omit to bestow some left-handed compliments upon the sovereign people, as
a heard of poltroons, who had no relish for the glorious hardships and
illustrious misadventures of battle, but would rather stay at home, and
eat and sleep in ignoble ease, than fight in a ditch for immortality and a
broken head.

Resolutely bent, however, upon defending his beloved city, in despite even
of itself, he called unto him his trusty Van Corlear, who was his
right-hand man in all times of emergency. Him did he adjure to take his
war-denouncing trumpet, and mounting his horse, to beat up the country
night and day--sounding the alarm along the pastoral border of the
Bronx--startling the wild solitudes of Croton--arousing the rugged
yeomanry of Weehawk and Hoboken--the mighty men of battle of Tappan
Bay--and the brave boys of Tarry-Town, Petticoat-Lane, and
Sleepy-Hollow--charging them one and all to sling their powder-horns,
shoulder their fowling-pieces, and march merrily down to the Manhattoes.

Now there was nothing in all the world, the divine sex excepted, that
Antony Van Corlear loved better than errands of this kind. So just
stopping to take a lusty dinner, and bracing to his side his junk bottle,
well charged with heart-inspiring Hollands, he issued jollily from the
city gate, which looked out upon what is at present called Broadway;
sounding a farewell strain, that rung in sprightly echoes through the
winding streets of New Amsterdam. Alas! never more were they to be
gladdened by the melody of their favorite trumpeter.

It was a dark and stormy night when the good Antony arrived at the creek
(sagely denominated Haerlem river) which separates the island of
Manna-hata from the mainland. The wind was high, the elements were in an
uproar, and no Charon could be found to ferry the adventurous sounder of
brass across the water. For a short time he vapored like an impatient
ghost upon the brink, and then, bethinking himself of the urgency of his
errand, took a hearty embrace of his stone bottle, swore most valorously
that he would swim across in spite of the devil (_spyt den duyvel_), and
daringly plunged into the stream. Luckless Antony! scarce had he buffeted
half-way over when he was observed to struggle violently, as if battling
with the spirit of the waters. Instinctively he put his trumpet to his
mouth, and giving a vehement blast sank for ever to the bottom.

The clangor of his trumpet, like that of the ivory horn of the renowned
Paladin Orlando, when expiring in the glorious field of Roncesvalles, rang
far and wide through the country, alarming the neighbors round, who
hurried in amazement to the spot. Here an old Dutch burgher, famed for his
veracity, and who had been a witness of the fact, related to them the
melancholy affair; with the fearful addition (to which I am slow of giving
belief) that he saw the duyvel, in the shape of a huge mossbonker, seize
the sturdy Antony by the leg and drag him beneath the waves. Certain it
is, the place, with the adjoining promontory, which projects into the
Hudson, has been called _Spyt den Duyvel_ ever since; the ghost of the
unfortunate Antony still haunts the surrounding solitudes, and his trumpet
has often been heard by the neighbors of a stormy night, mingling with the
howling of the blast.

Nobody ever attempts to swim across the creek after dark; on the contrary,
a bridge has been built to guard against such melancholy accidents in the
future; and as to moss-bonkers, they are held in such abhorrence that no
true Dutchman will admit them to his table who loves good fish and hates
the devil.

Such was the end of Antony Van Corlear--a man deserving of a better fate.
He lived roundly and soundly, like a true and jolly bachelor, until the
day of his death; but though he was never married, yet did he leave behind
some two or three dozen children in different parts of the country--fine,
chubby, brawling, flatulent little urchins, from whom, if legends speak
true (and they are not apt to lie), did descend the innumerable race of
editors who people and defend this country, and who are bountifully paid
by the people for keeping up a constant alarm and making them miserable.
It is hinted, too, that in his various expeditions into the east he did
much towards promoting the population of the country, in proof of which is
adduced the notorious propensity of the people of those parts to sound
their own trumpet.

As some way-worn pilgrim, when the tempest whistles through his locks, and
night is gathering round, beholds his faithful dog, the companion and
solace of his journeying, stretched lifeless at his feet, so did the
generous-hearted hero of the Manhattoes contemplate the untimely end of
Antony Van Corlear. He had been the faithful attendant of his footsteps;
he had charmed him in many a weary hour by his honest gayety and the
martial melody of his trumpet, and had followed him with unflinching
loyalty and affection through many a scene of direful peril and mishap. He
was gone for ever! and that, too, at a moment when every mongrel cur was
skulking from his side. This, Peter Stuyvesant, was the moment to try thy
fortitude; and this was the moment when thou didst indeed shine
forth--Peter the Headstrong!

The glare of day had long dispelled the horrors of the stormy night; still
all was dull and gloomy. The late jovial Apollo hid his face behind
lugubrious clouds, peeping out now and then for an instant, as if anxious,
yet fearful, to see what was going on in his favorite city. This was the
eventful morning when the Great Peter was to give his reply to the summons
of the invaders. Already was he closeted with his privy council, sitting
in grim state, brooding over the fate of his favorite trumpeter, and anon
boiling with indignation as the insolence of his recreant burgomasters
flashed upon his mind. While in this state of irritation, a courier
arrived in all haste from Winthrop, the subtle governor of Connecticut,
counseling him, in the most affectionate and disinterested manner, to
surrender the province, and magnifying the dangers and calamities to which
a refusal would subject him. What a moment was this to intrude officious
advice upon a man who never took advice in his whole life! The fiery old
governor strode up and down the chamber with a vehemence that made the
bosoms of his councillors to quake with awe; railing at his unlucky fate,
that thus made him the constant butt of factious subjects and jesuitical

Just at this ill-chosen juncture the officious burgomasters, who had heard
of the arrival of mysterious despatches, came marching in a body into the
room, with a legion of schepens and toad-eaters at their heels, and
abruptly demanded a perusal of the letter. This was too much for the
spleen of Peter Stuyvesant. He tore the letter in a thousand pieces--threw
it in the face of the nearest burgomaster--broke his pipe over the head
of the next--hurled his spitting-box at an unlucky schepen, who was just
retreating out at the door; and finally prorogued the whole meeting _sine
die_, by kicking them downstairs with his wooden leg.

As soon as the burgomasters could recover from their confusion, and had
time to breathe, they called a public meeting, where they related at full
length, and with appropriate coloring and exaggeration, the despotic and
vindictive deportment of the governor, declaring that, for their own
parts, they did not value a straw the being kicked, cuffed, and mauled by
the timber toe of his excellency, but that they felt for the dignity of
the sovereign people, thus rudely insulted by the outrage committed on the
seat of honor of their representatives. The latter part of the harangue
came home at once to that delicacy of feeling and jealous pride of
character vested in all true mobs; who, though they may bear injuries
without a murmur, yet are marvelously jealous of their sovereign dignity;
and there is no knowing to what act of resentment they might have been
provoked, had they not been somewhat more afright of their sturdy old
governor than they were of St. Nicholas, the English, or the d----l


There is something exceedingly sublime and melancholy in the spectacle
which the present crisis of our history presents. An illustrious and
venerable little city--the metropolis of a vast extent of uninhabited
country--garrisoned by a doughty host of orators, chairmen, committee-men,
burgomasters, schepens, and old women--governed by a determined and
strong-headed warrior, and fortified by mud batteries, palisadoes, and
resolutions--blockaded by sea, beleaguered by land, and threatened with
direful desolation from without; while its very vitals are torn with
internal faction and commotion! Never did historic pen record a page of
more complicated distress, unless it be the strife that distracted the
Israelites during the siege of Jerusalem, where discordant parties were
cutting each other's throats at the moment when the victorious legions of
Titus had toppled down their bulwarks, and were carrying fire and sword
into the very _sanctum sanctorum_ of the temple!

Governor Stuyvesant having triumphantly put his grand council to the rout,
and delivered himself from a multitude of impertinent advisers, despatched
a categorical reply to the commanders of the invading squadron, wherein he
asserted the right and title of their High Mightinesses the Lords States
General to the province of New Netherlands, and trusting in the
righteousness of his cause, set the whole British nation at defiance!

My anxiety to extricate my readers and myself from these disastrous scenes
prevents me from giving the whole of this gallant letter, which concluded
in these manly and affectionate terms:----

"As touching the threats in your conclusion, we have nothing to
answer, only that we fear nothing but what God (who is as just as
merciful) shall lay upon us; all things being in His gracious
disposal, and we may as well be preserved by Him with small
forces as by a great army, which makes us to wish you all
happiness and prosperity, and recommend you to His
protection.--My lords, your thrice humble and affectionate
servant and friend,


Thus having thrown his gauntlet, the brave Peter stuck a pair of
horse-pistols in his belt, girded an immense powder-horn on his side,
thrust his sound leg into a Hessian boot, and clapping his fierce little
war-hat on the top of his head, paraded up and down in front of his house,
determined to defend his beloved city to the last.

While all these struggles and dissentions were prevailing in the unhappy
city of New Amsterdam, and while its worthy but ill-starred governor was
framing the above quoted letter, the English commanders did not remain
idle. They had agents secretly employed to foment the fears and clamors of
the populace; and moreover circulated far and wide through the adjacent
country a proclamation, repeating the terms they had already held out in
their summons to surrender, at the same time beguiling the simple
Nederlanders with the most crafty and conciliating professions. They
promised that every man who voluntarily submitted to the authority of his
British Majesty should retain peaceful possession of his house, his vrouw,
and his cabbage-garden. That he should be suffered to smoke his pipe,
speak Dutch, wear as many beeches as he pleased, and import bricks, tiles,
and stone jugs from Holland, instead of manufacturing them on the spot.
That he should on no account be compelled to learn the English language,
nor eat codfish on Saturdays, nor keep accounts in any other way than by
casting them up on his fingers, and chalking them down upon the crown of
his hat; as is observed among the Dutch yeomanry at the present day. That
every man should be allowed quietly to inherit his father's hat, coat,
shoe-buckles, pipe, and every other personal appendage; and that no man
should be obliged to conform to any improvements, inventions, or any other
modern innovations; but, on the contrary, should be permitted to build his
house, follow his trade, manage his farm, rear his hogs, and educate his
children, precisely as his ancestors had done before him from time
immemorial. Finally, that he should have all the benefits of free trade,
and should not be required to acknowledge any other saint in the calendar
than St. Nicholas, who should thenceforward, as before, be considered the
tutelar saint of the city.

These terms, as may be supposed, appeared very satisfactory to the people,
who had a great disposition to enjoy their property unmolested, and a most
singular aversion to engage in a contest, where they could gain little
more than honor and broken heads: the first of which they held in
philosophic indifference, the latter in utter detestation. By these
insidious means, therefore, did the English succeed in alienating the
confidence and affections of the populace from their gallant old governor,
whom they considered as obstinately bent upon running them into hideous
misadventures; and did not hesitate to speak their minds freely, and abuse
him most heartily, behind his back.

Like as a mighty grampus, when assailed and buffeted by roaring waves and
brawling surges, still keeps on an undeviating course, rising above the
boisterous billows, spouting and blowing as he emerges, so did the
inflexible Peter pursue, unwavering, his determined career, and rise,
contemptuous, above the clamors of the rabble.

But when the British warriors found that he set their power at defiance,
they despatched recruiting officers to Jamaica, and Jericho, and Nineveh,
and Quag, and Patchog, and all those towns on Long Island which had been
subdued of yore by Stoffel Brinkerhoff, stirring up the progeny of
Preserved Fish and Determined Cock, and those other New England squatters,
to assail the city of New Amsterdam by land, while the hostile ships
prepared for an assault by water.

The streets of New Amsterdam now presented a scene of wild dismay and
consternation. In vain did Peter Stuyvesant order the citizens to arm and
assemble on the Battery. Blank terror reigned over the community. The
whole party of Short Pipes in the course of a single night had changed
into arrant old women--a metamorphosis only to be paralleled by the
prodigies recorded by Livy as having happened at Rome at the approach of
Hannibal, when statues sweated in pure affright, goats were converted into
sheep, and cocks, turning into hens, ran cackling about the street.

Thus baffled in all attempts to put the city in a state of defence,
blockaded from without, tormented from within, and menaced with a Yankee
invasion, even the stiff-necked will of Peter Stuyvesant for once gave
way, and in spite of his mighty heart, which swelled in his throat until
it nearly choked him, he consented to a treaty of surrender.

Words cannot express the transports of the populace on receiving this
intelligence; had they obtained a conquest over their enemies, they could
not have indulged greater delight. The streets resounded with their
congratulations--they extolled their governor as the father and deliverer
of his country--they crowded to his house to testify their gratitude, and
were ten times more noisy in their plaudits than when he returned, with
victory perched upon his beaver, from the glorious capture of Fort
Christina. But the indignant Peter shut his doors and windows, and took
refuge in the innermost recesses of his mansion, that he might not hear
the ignoble rejoicings of the rabble.

Commissioners were now appointed on both sides, and a capitulation was
speedily arranged; all that was wanting to ratify it was that it should be
signed by the governor. When the commissioners waited upon him for this
purpose they were received with grim and bitter courtesy. His warlike
accoutrements were laid aside; an old Indian night-gown was wrapped about
his rugged limbs; a red nightcap overshadowed his frowning brow; an
iron-grey beard of three days' growth gave additional grimness to his
visage. Thrice did he seize a worn-out stump of a pen, and essay to sign
the loathsome paper; thrice did he clinch his teeth, and make a horrible
countenance, as though a dose of rhubarb-senna, and ipecacuanha, had been
offered to his lips. At length, dashing it from him, he seized his
brass-hilted sword, and jerking it from the scabbard, swore by St.
Nicholas to sooner die than yield to any power under heaven.

For two whole days did he persist in this magnanimous resolution, during
which his house was besieged by the rabble, and menaces and clamorous
revilings exhausted to no purpose. And now another course was adopted to
soothe, if possible, his mighty ire. A procession was formed by the
burgomasters and schepens, followed by the populace, to bear the
capitulation in state to the governor's dwelling. They found the castle
strongly barricaded, and the old hero in full regimentals, with his cocked
hat on his head, posted with a blunderbuss at the garret window.

There was something in this formidable position that struck even the
ignoble vulgar with awe and admiration. The brawling multitude could not
but reflect with self-abasement upon their own pusillanimous conduct, when
they beheld their hardy but deserted old governor, thus faithful to his
post, like a forlorn hope, and fully prepared to defend his ungrateful
city to the last. These compunctions, however, were soon overwhelmed by
the recurring tide of public apprehension. The populace arranged
themselves before the house, taking off their hats with most respectful
humility; Burgomaster Roerback, who was of that popular class of orators
described by Sallust as being "talkative rather than eloquent," stepped
forth and addressed the governor in a speech of three hours' length,
detailing, in the most pathetic terms, the calamitous situation of the
province, and urging him, in a constant repetition of the same arguments
and words, to sign the capitulation.

The mighty Peter eyed him from his garret window in grim silence. Now and
then his eye would glance over the surrounding rabble, and an indignant
grin, like that of an angry mastiff, would mark his iron visage. But
though a man of most undaunted mettle--though he had a heart as big as an
ox, and a head that would have set adamant to scorn--yet after all he was
a mere mortal. Wearied out by these repeated oppositions, and this eternal
haranguing, and perceiving that unless he complied the inhabitants would
follow their own inclination, or rather their fears, without waiting for
his consent; or, what was still worse, the Yankees would have time to pour
in their forces and claim a share in the conquest, he testily ordered them
to hand up the paper. It was accordingly hoisted to him on the end of a
pole, and having scrawled his hand at the bottom of it, he anathematised
them all for a set of cowardly, mutinous, degenerate poltroons--threw the
capitulation at their heads, slammed down the window, and was heard
stumping downstairs with vehement indignation. The rabble incontinently
took to their heels; even the burgomasters were not slow in evacuating the
premises, fearing lest the sturdy Peter might issue from his den, and
greet them with some unwelcome testimonial of his displeasure.

Within three hours after the surrender, a legion of British beef-fed
warriors poured into New Amsterdam, taking possession of the fort and
batteries. And now might be heard from all quarters the sound of hammers
made by the old Dutch burghers, in nailing up their doors and windows, to
protect their vrouws from these fierce barbarians, whom they contemplated
in silent sullenness from the garret windows as they paraded through the

Thus did Colonel Richard Nichols, the commander of the British forces,
enter into quiet possession of the conquered realm, as _locum tenens_ for
the Duke of York. The victory was attended with no other outrage than that
of changing the name of the province and its metropolis, which thenceforth
were denominated New York, and so have continued to be called unto the
present day. The inhabitants, according to treaty, were allowed to
maintain quiet possession of their property, but so inveterately did they
retain their abhorrence of the British nation that in a private meeting of
the leading citizens it was unanimously determined never to ask any of
their conquerors to dinner.


Modern historians assert that when the New Netherlands were thus
overrun by the British, as Spain in ancient days by the Saracens,
a resolute band refused to bend the neck to the invader. Led by
one Garret Van Horne, a valorous and gigantic Dutchman, they
crossed the bay and buried themselves among the marshes and
cabbage gardens of Communipaw, as did Pelayo and his followers
among the mountains of Asturias. Here their descendants have
remained ever since, keeping themselves apart, like seed corn, to
repeople the city with the genuine breed, whenever it shall be
effectually recovered from its intruders. It is said the genuine
descendants of the Nederlanders who inhabit New York still look
with longing eyes to the green marshes of ancient Pavonia, as did
the conquered Spaniards of yore to the stern mountains of
Asturias, considering these the regions whence deliverance is to


Thus then have I concluded this great historical enterprise; but before I
lay aside my weary pen, there yet remains to be performed one pious duty.
If, among the variety of readers who may peruse this book, there should
haply be found any of those souls of true nobility, which glow with
celestial fire at the history of the generous and the brave, they will
doubtless be anxious to know the fate of the gallant Peter Stuyvesant. To
gratify one such sterling heart of gold, I would go more lengths than to
instruct the cold-blooded curiosity of a whole fraternity of philosophers.

No sooner had that high-mettled cavalier signed the articles of
capitulation, than, determined not to witness the humiliation of his
favorite city, he turned his back on its walls, and made a growling
retreat to his bowery, or country seat, which was situated about two miles
off; where he passed the remainder of his days in patriarchal retirement.
There he enjoyed that tranquillity of mind which he had never known amid
the distracting cares of government, and tasted the sweets of absolute and
uncontrolled authority, which his factious subjects had so often dashed
with the bitterness of opposition.

No persuasion should ever induce him to revisit the city; on the contrary,
he would always have his great arm-chair placed with its back to the
windows which looked in that direction, until a thick grove of trees,
planted by his own hand, grew up and formed a screen that effectually
excluded it from the prospect. He railed continually at the degenerate
innovations and improvements introduced by the conquerors--forbade a word
of their detested language to be spoken in his family, a prohibition
readily obeyed, since none of the household could speak anything but
Dutch, and even ordered a fine avenue to be cut down in front of his house
because it consisted of English cherry trees.

The same incessant vigilance, which blazed forth when he had a vast
province under his care, now showed itself with equal vigor, though in
narrower limits. He patroled with unceasing watchfulness the boundaries of
his little territory, repelled every encroachment with intrepid
promptness: punished every vagrant depredation upon his orchard or his
farmyard with inflexible severity, and conducted every stray hog or cow in
triumph to the pound. But to the indigent neighbor, the friendless
stranger, or the weary wanderer, his spacious doors were ever open, and
his capacious fireplace, that emblem of his own warm and generous heart,
had always a corner to receive and cherish them. There was an exception to
this, I must confess, in case the ill-starred applicant were an
Englishman or a Yankee; to whom, though he might extend the hand of
assistance, he could never be brought to yield the rites of hospitality.
Nay, if peradventure some straggling merchant of the East should stop at
his door, with his cart-load of tinware or wooden bowls, the fiery Peter
would issue forth like a giant from his castle, and make such a furious
clattering among his pots and kettles, that the vender of "notions" was
fain to betake himself to instant flight.

His suit of regimentals, worn threadbare by the brush, was carefully hung
up in the state bedchamber, and regularly aired the first fair day of
every month, and his cocked hat and trusty sword were suspended in grim
repose over the parlor mantelpiece, forming supporters to a full-length
portrait of the renowned admiral Van Tromp. In his domestic empire he
maintained strict discipline, and a well organized despotic government;
but though his own will was the supreme law, yet the good of his subjects
was his constant object. He watched over not merely their immediate
comforts, but their morals and their ultimate welfare; for he gave them
abundance of excellent admonition; nor could any of them complain, that,
when occasion required, he was by any means niggardly in bestowing
wholesome correction.

The good old Dutch festivals, those periodical demonstrations of an
overflowing heart and a thankful spirit, which are falling into sad disuse
among my fellow citizens, were faithfully observed in the mansion of
Governor Stuyvesant. New year was truly a day of open-handed liberality,
of jocund revelry and warm-hearted congratulation, when the bosom swelled
with genial good-fellowship, and the plenteous table was attended with an
unceremonious freedom and honest broad-mouthed merriment unknown in these
days of degeneracy and refinement. Paas and Pinxter were scrupulously
observed throughout his dominions; nor was the day of St. Nicholas
suffered to pass by without making presents, hanging the stocking in the
chimney, and complying with all its other ceremonies.

Once a year, on the first day of April, he used to array himself in full
regimentals, being the anniversary of his triumphal entry into New
Amsterdam, after the conquest of New Sweden. This was always a kind of
saturnalia among the domestics, when they considered themselves at
liberty, in some measure, to say and do what they pleased, for on this day
their master was always observed to unbend and become exceedingly pleasant
and jocose, sending the old gray-headed negroes on April-fool's errands
for pigeons' milk; not one of whom but allowed himself to be taken in, and
humored his old master's jokes, as became a faithful and well disciplined
dependent. Thus did he reign, happily and peacefully on his own land,
injuring no man, envying no man, molested by no outward strifes, perplexed
by no internal commotions; and the mighty monarchs of the earth, who were
vainly seeking to maintain peace, and promote the welfare of mankind by
war and desolation, would have done well to have made a voyage to the
little island of Manna-hata, and learned a lesson in government from the
domestic economy of Peter Stuyvesant.

In process of time, however, the old governor, like all other children of
mortality, began to exhibit evident tokens of decay. Like an aged oak,
which, though it long has braved the fury of the elements, and still
retains its gigantic proportions, begins to shake and groan, with every
blast--so was it with the gallant Peter; for though he still bore the port
and semblance of what he was in the days of his hardihood and chivalry,
yet did age and infirmity begin to sap the vigor of his frame--but his
heart, that unconquerable citadel, still triumphed unsubdued. With
matchless avidity would he listen to every article of intelligence
concerning the battles between the English and Dutch; still would his
pulse beat high, whenever he heard of the victories of De Ruyter--and his
countenance lower, and his eyebrows knit, when fortune turned in favor of
the English. At length, as on a certain day he had just smoke his fifth
pipe, and was napping after dinner in his arm-chair, conquering the whole
British nation in his dreams, he was suddenly aroused by a ringing of
bells, rattling of drums, and roaring of cannon, that put all his blood in
a ferment. But when he learnt that these rejoicings were in honor of a
great victory obtained by the combined English and French fleets over the
brave De Ruyter and the younger Van Tromp, it went so much to his heart
that he took to his bed, and in less than three days was brought to
death's door by a violent cholera morbus! Even in this extremity he still
displayed the unconquerable sprit of Peter the Headstrong--holding out to
the last gasp with inflexible obstinacy against a whole army of old women,
who were bent upon driving the enemy out of his bowels, in the true Dutch
mode of defense, by inundation.

While he thus lay, lingering on the verge of dissolution, news was brought
him that the brave De Ruyter had made good his retreat with little loss,
and meant once more to meet the enemy in battle. The closing eye of the
old warrior kindled with martial fire at the words. He partly raised
himself in bed, clinched his withered hand as if he felt within his gripe
that sword which waved in triumph before the walls of Port Christina, and
giving a grim smile of exultation, sank back upon his pillow, and expired.
Thus died Peter Stuyvesant, a valiant soldier, a loyal subject, an upright
governor, and an honest Dutchman, who wanted only a few empires to
desolate to have been immortalized as a hero!

His funeral obsequies were celebrated with the utmost grandeur and
solemnity. The town was perfectly emptied of its inhabitants, who crowded
in throngs to pay the last sad honors to their good old governor. All his
sterling qualities rushed in full tide upon their recollection, while the
memory of his foibles and his faults had expired with him. The ancient
burghers contended who should have the privilege of bearing the pall; the
populace strove who should walk nearest to the bier, and the melancholy
procession was closed by a number of gray-bearded negroes, who had
wintered and summered in the household of their departed master for the
greater part of a century.

With sad and gloomy countenances the multitude gathered round the grave.
They dwelt with mournful hearts on the sturdy virtues, the signal
services, and the gallant exploits of the brave old worthy. They recalled,
with secret upbraiding, their own factious oppositions to his government;
and many an ancient burgher, whose phlegmatic features had never been
known to relax, nor his eyes to moisten, was now observed to puff a
pensive pipe, and the big drop to steal down his cheek; while he muttered,
with affectionate accent, and melancholy shake of the head, "Well,
den!--Hardkoppig Peter ben gone at last!"

His remains were deposited in the family vault, under a chapel which he
had piously erected on his estate, and dedicated to St. Nicholas, and
which stood on the identical spot at present occupied by St. Mark's
church, where his tombstone is still to be seen. His estate, or bowery, as
it was called, has ever continued in the possession of his descendants,
who, by the uniform integrity of their conduct, and their strict adherence
to the customs and manners that prevailed in the "good old times," have
proved themselves worthy of their illustrious ancestor. Many a time and
oft has the farm been haunted at night by enterprising money-diggers, in
quest of pots of gold, said to have been buried by the old governor,
though I cannot learn that any of them have ever been enriched by their
researches; and who is there, among my native-born fellow-citizens, that
does not remember when, in the mischievous days of his boyhood, he
conceived it a great exploit to rob "Stuyvesant's orchard" on a holiday

At this stronghold of the family may still be seen certain memorials of
the immortal Peter. His full-length portrait frowns in martial terrors
from the parlor wall, his cocked hat and sword still hang up in the best
bed-room; his brimstone-colored breeches were for a long while suspended
in the hall, until some years since they occasioned a dispute between a
new-married couple; and his silver-mounted wooden leg is still treasured
up in the store-room as an invaluable relique.


Among the numerous events, which are each in their turn the most direful
and melancholy of all possible occurrences, in your interesting and
authentic history, there is none that occasions such deep and
heart-rending grief as the decline and fall of your renowned and mighty
empires. Where is the reader who can contemplate without emotion the
disastrous events by which the great dynasties of the world have been
extinguished? While wandering, in imagination, among the gigantic ruins of
states and empires, and marking the tremendous convulsions that wrought
their overthrow, the bosom of the melancholy inquirer swells with sympathy
commensurate to the surrounding desolation. Kingdoms, principalities, and
powers, have each had their rise, their progress, and their downfall; each
in its turn has swayed a potent sceptre; each has returned to its primeval
nothingness. And thus did it fare with the empire of their High
Mightinesses, at the Manhattoes, under the peaceful reign of Walter the
Doubter, the fretful reign of William the Testy, and the chivalric reign
of Peter the Headstrong.

Its history is fruitful of instruction, and worthy of being pondered over
attentively; for it is by thus raking among the ashes of departed
greatness that the sparks of true knowledge are to be found and the lamp
of wisdom illuminated. Let then the reign of Walter the Doubter warn
against yielding to that sleek, contented security, and that overweening
fondness for comfort and repose, which are produced by a state of
prosperity and peace. These tend to unnerve a nation; to destroy its pride
of character; to render it patient of insult; deaf to the calls of honor
and of justice; and cause it to cling to peace, like the sluggard to his
pillow, at the expense of every valuable duty and consideration. Such
supineness ensures the very evil from which it shrinks. One right yielded
up produces the usurpation of a second; one encroachment passively
suffered makes way for another; and the nation which thus, through a
doting love of peace, has sacrificed honor and interest, will at length
have to fight for existence.

Let the disastrous reign of William the Testy serve as a salutary warning
against that fitful, feverish mode of legislation, which acts without
system, depends on shifts and projects, and trusts to lucky contingencies;
which hesitates, and wavers, and at length decides with the rashness of
ignorance and imbecility; which stoops for popularity by courting the
prejudices and flattering the arrogance, rather than commanding the
respect, of the rabble; which seeks safety in a multitude of counsellors,
and distracts itself by a variety of contradictory schemes and opinions;
which mistakes procrastination for weariness--hurry for
decision--parsimony for economy--bustle for business, and vaporing for
valor; which is violent in council, sanguine in expectation, precipitate
in action, and feeble in execution; which undertakes enterprises without
forethought, enters upon them without preparation, conducts them without
energy, and ends them in confusion and defeat.

Let the reign of the good Stuyvesant show the effects of vigor and
decision, even when destitute of cool judgment, and surrounded by
perplexities. Let it show how frankness, probity, and high-souled courage
will command respect and secure honor, even where success is unattainable.
But, at the same time, let it caution against a too ready reliance on the
good faith of others, and a too honest confidence in the loving
professions of powerful neighbors, who are most friendly when they most
mean to betray. Let it teach a judicious attention to the opinions and
wishes of the many, who, in times of peril, must be soothed and led, or
apprehension will overpower the deference to authority.

Let the empty wordiness of his factious subjects, their intemperate
harangues, their violent "resolutions," their hectorings against an absent
enemy, and their pusillanimity on his approach, teach us to distrust and
despise those clamorous patriots whose courage dwells but in the tongue.
Let them serve as a lesson to repress that insolence of speech, destitute
of real force, which too often breaks forth in popular bodies, and
bespeaks the vanity rather than the spirit of a nation. Let them caution
us against vaunting too much of our own power and prowess, and reviling a
noble enemy. True gallantry of soul would always lead us to treat a foe
with courtesy and proud punctilio; a contrary conduct but takes from the
merit of victory, and renders defeat doubly disgraceful.

But I cease to dwell on the stores of excellent examples to be drawn from
the ancient chronicles of the Manhattoes. He who reads attentively will
discover the threads of gold which run throughout the web of history, and
are invisible to the dull eye of ignorance. But before I conclude let me
point out a solemn warning furnished in the subtle chain of events by
which the capture of Fort Casimir has produced the present convulsions of
our globe.

Attend then, gentle reader, to this plain deduction, which, if thou art a
king, an emperor, or other powerful potentate, I advise thee to treasure
up in thy heart, though little expectation have I that my work will fall
into such hands; for well I know the care of crafty ministers, to keep all
grave and edifying books of the kind out of the way of unhappy monarchs,
lest peradventure they should read them and learn wisdom.

By the treacherous surprisal of Fort Casimir, then, did the crafty Swedes
enjoy a transient triumph; but drew upon their heads the vengeance of
Peter Stuyvesant, who wrested all New Sweden from their hands. By the
conquest of New Sweden Peter Stuyvesant aroused the claims of Lord
Baltimore, who appealed to the Cabinet of Great Britain, who subdued the
whole province of New Netherlands. By this great achievement, the whole
extent of North America, from Nova Scotia to the Floridas, was rendered
one entire dependency upon the British crown. But mark the consequence:
the hitherto-scattered colonies being thus consolidated, and having no
rival colonies to check or keep them in awe, waxed great and powerful, and
finally becoming too strong for the mother country, were enabled to shake
off its bonds, and by a glorious revolution became an independent empire.
But the chain of effects stopped not here; the successful revolution in
America produced the sanguinary revolution in France which produced the
puissant Bonaparte, who produced the French despotism, which has thrown
the whole world in confusion! Thus have these great Powers been
successively punished for their ill-starred conquests; and thus, as I
asserted, have all the present convulsions, revolutions, and disasters
that overwhelm mankind, originated in the capture of the little Fort
Casimir, as recorded in this eventful history.

And now, worthy reader, ere I take a sad farewell, which, alas! must be
for ever--willingly would I part in cordial fellowship, and bespeak thy
kind-hearted remembrance. That I have not written a better history of the
days of the patriarchs is not my fault; had any other person written one
as good, I should not have attempted it at all. That many will hereafter
spring up and surpass me in excellence I have very little doubt, and still
less care; well knowing that, when the great Christovallo Colon (who is
vulgarly called Columbus) had once stood his egg upon its end every one at
table could stand his up a thousand times more dexterously. Should any
reader find matter of offence in this history, I should heartily grieve,
though I would on no account question his penetration by telling him he
was mistaken--his good-nature by telling him he was captious--or his pure
conscience by telling him he was startled at a shadow. Surely, when so
ingenious in finding offence where none was intended, it were a thousand
pities he should not be suffered to enjoy the benefit of his discovery.

I have too high an opinion of the understanding of my fellow-citizens to
think of yielding them instruction, and I covet too much their good-will
to forfeit it by giving them good advice. I am none of those cynics who
despise the world, because it despises them; on the contrary, though but
low in its regard, I look up to it with the most perfect good-nature, and
my only sorrow is, that it does not prove itself more worthy of the
unbounded love I bear it.

If, however, in this my historic production, the scanty fruit of a long
and laborious life, I have failed to gratify the dainty palate of the age,
I can only lament my misfortune, for it is too late in the season for me
even to hope to repair it. Already has withering age showered his sterile
snows upon my brow; in a little while, and this genial warmth which still
lingers around my heart, and throbs, worthy reader, throbs kindly toward
thyself, will be chilled for ever. Haply this frail compound of dust,
which while alive may have given birth to naught but unprofitable weeds,
may form a humble sod of the valley, whence may spring many a sweet wild
flower, to adorn my beloved island of Mannahata!


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