Knickerbocker’s History of New York Vol II by Washington Irving - Read online
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The playful devices by which attention was directed to the coming publication of the History of Diedrich Knickerbocker are represented in the author's opening to the first volume. Irving joined afterward in business as a sleeping partner, visited England in 1815, and, while cordially welcomed here by Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, and others, the failure of his brother's business obliged him to make writing his profession. The publishers at first refused to take one of the most charming of his works, the "Sketch Book"; but John Murray yielded at last to the influence of Walter Scott, and paid £200 for the copyright of it, a sum afterward increased to £400. "Bracebridge Hall" and the "Tales of a Traveler" followed. Irving went to Spain with the American Ambassador to translate documents and acquire experience which he used afterward in successive books. "The Life and Voyages of Columbus" appeared in 1828, and was followed by "Voyages of the Companions of Columbus."
In 1829 Washington Irving came again to England, this time as Secretary to the American Legation. He published the "Conquest of Granada." In 1831 he received the honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Oxford. Then he returned to America, published in 1832 "The Alhambra;" in 1835 "Legends of the Conquest of Spain." In 1842 he went again to Spain, this time as American Minister. Other works were produced, and at the close of his life he achieved his early ambition, by writing a Life of Washington, after whom he had been named, and who had laid his hand upon his head and blessed him when he was a child of five. Although the first of the five volumes of the Life of Washington did not appear until he was more than seventy years old, he lived to complete his work, and died on the 28th of November, 1859. Washington Irving never married. He had loved in his early years a daughter of his friend Mrs. Hoffman, had sat by her death-bed when she was a girl of seventeen, and waited until his own death restored her to him.
Next to his projects for the suppression of poverty may be classed those of William the Testy for increasing the wealth of New Amsterdam. Solomon of whose character for wisdom the little governor was somewhat emulous, had made gold and silver as plenty as the stones in the streets of Jerusalem. William Kieft could not pretend to vie with him as to the precious metals, but he determined, as an equivalent, to flood the streets of New Amsterdam with Indian money. This was nothing more nor less than strings of beads wrought out of clams, periwinkles, and other shell-fish, and called seawant or wampum. These had formed a native currency among the simple savages, who were content to take them of the Dutchmen in exchange for peltries. In an unlucky moment, William the Testy, seeing this money of easy production, conceived the project of making it the current coin of the province. It is true it had an intrinsic value among the Indians, who used it to ornament their robes and moccasins; but among the honest burghers it had no more intrinsic value than those rags which form the paper currency of modern days. This consideration, however, had no weight with William Kieft. He began by paying all the servants of the company and all the debts of government, in strings of wampum. He sent emissaries to sweep the shores of Long Island, which was the Ophir of this modern Solomon, and abounded in shell-fish. These were transported in loads to New Amsterdam, coined into Indian money, and launched into circulation.
And now for a time affairs went on swimmingly; money became as plentiful as in the modern days of paper currency, and, to use the popular phrase, "a wonderful impulse was given to public prosperity." Yankee traders poured into the province, buying everything they could lay their hands on, and paying the worthy Dutchmen their own price—in Indian money. If the latter, however, attempted to pay the Yankees in the same coin for their tinware and wooden bowls the case was altered; nothing would do but Dutch guilders, and such-like "metallic currency." What was worse, the Yankees introduced an inferior kind of wampum, made of oyster shells, with which they deluged the province, carrying off all the silver and gold, the Dutch herrings and Dutch cheeses: thus early did the knowing men of the East manifest their skill in bargaining the New Amsterdammers out of the oyster, and leaving them the shell.
It was a long time before William the Testy was made sensible how completely his grand project of finance was turned against him by his eastern neighbors; nor would he probably have ever found it out had not tidings been brought him that the Yankees had made a descent upon Long Island, and had established a kind of mint at Oyster Bay, where they were coining up all the oyster banks.
Now this was making a vital attack upon the province in a double sense, financial and gastronomical. Ever since the council dinner of Oloffe the Dreamer, at the founding of New Amsterdam, at which banquet the oyster figured so conspicuously, this divine shell-fish has been held in a kind of superstitious reverence at the Manhattoes; as witness the temples erected to its cult in every street and lane and alley. In fact, it is the standard luxury of the place, as is the terrapin at Philadelphia, the soft crab at Baltimore, or the canvas-back at Washington.
The seizure of Oyster Bay, therefore, was an outrage not merely on the pockets, but on the larders of the New Amsterdammers; the whole community was aroused, and an oyster crusade was immediately set on foot against the Yankees. Every stout trencherman hastened to the standard; nay, some of the most corpulent burgomasters and schepens joined the expedition as a corps de reserve, only to be called into action when the sacking commenced.
The conduct of the expedition was entrusted to a valiant Dutchman, who, for size and weight, might have matched with Colbrand, the Danish champion, slain by Guy of Warwick. He was famous throughout the province for strength of arm and skill at quarter-staff, and hence was named Stoffel Brinkerhoff; or rather, Brinkerhoofd; that is to say, Stoffel the Head-breaker.
This sturdy commander, who was a man of few words but vigorous deeds, led his troops resolutely on through Nineveh, and Babylon, and Jericho, and Patch-hog, and other Long Island towns, without encountering any difficulty of note, though it is said that some of the burgomasters gave out at Hard-scramble Hill and Hungry Hollow; and that others lost heart, and turned back at Puss-panick. With the rest he made good his march until he arrived in the neighborhood of Oyster Bay.
Here he was encountered by a host of Yankee warriors, headed by Preserved Fish, and Habakkuk Nutter, and Return Strong, and Zerubbabel Fisk, and Determined Cock! at the sound of whose names Stoffel Brinkerhoff verily believed the whole parliament of Praise-God Barebones had been let loose upon him. He soon found, however, that they were merely the "select men" of the settlement, armed with no weapon but the tongue, and disposed only to meet him on the field of argument. Stoffel had but one mode of arguing—that was with the cudgel; but he used it with such effect that he routed his antagonists, broke up the settlement, and would have driven the inhabitants into the sea, if they had not managed to escape across the Sound to the mainland by the Devil's Stepping-stones, which remain to this day monuments of this great Dutch victory over the Yankees.
Stoffel Brinkerhoff made great spoil of oysters and clams, coined and uncoined, and then set out on his return to the Manhattoes. A grand triumph, after the manner of the ancients, was prepared for him by William the Testy. He entered New Amsterdam as a conqueror, mounted on a Narraganset pacer. Five dried codfish on poles, standards taken from the enemy, were borne before him; and an immense store of oysters and clams, Weathersfield onions, and Yankee "notions" formed the spolia opima; while several coiners of oyster-shells were led captive to grace the hero's triumph.
The procession was accompanied by a full band of boys and negroes, performing on the popular instruments of rattle-bones and clam-shells, while Anthony Van Corlear sounded his trumpet from the ramparts.
A great banquet was served up in the Stadthouse from the clams and oysters taken from the enemy, while the governor sent the shells privately to the mint, and had them coined into Indian money, with which he paid his troops.
It is moreover said that the governor, calling to mind the practice among the ancients to honor their victorious generals with public statues, passed a magnanimous decree, by which every tavern-keeper was permitted to paint the head of Stoffel Brinkerhoff upon his sign!
It has been remarked by the observant writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript, that under the administration of William Kieft the disposition of the inhabitants of New Amsterdam experienced an essential change, so that they became very meddlesome and factious. The unfortunate propensity of the little governor to experiment and innovation, and the frequent exacerbations of his temper, kept his council in a continual worry; and the council being to the people at large what yeast or leaven is to a batch, they threw the whole community in a ferment; and the people at large being to the city what the mind is to the body, the unhappy commotions they underwent operated most disastrously upon New Amsterdam; insomuch that, in certain of their paroxysms of consternation and perplexity, they begat several of the most crooked, distorted, and abominable streets, lanes, and alleys, with which this metropolis is disfigured.
The fact was, that about this time the community, like Balaam's ass, began to grow more enlightened than its rider, and to show a disposition for what is called "self-government." This restive propensity was first evinced in certain popular meetings, in which the burghers of New Amsterdam met to talk and smoke over the complicated affairs of the province, gradually obfuscating themselves with politics and tobacco smoke. Hither resorted those idlers and squires of low degree who hang loose on society and are blown about by every wind of doctrine. Cobblers abandoned their stalls to give lessons on political economy; blacksmiths suffered their fires to go out, while they stirred up the fires of faction; and even tailors, though said to be the ninth parts of humanity, neglected their own measures to criticise the measures of government.
Strange! that the science of government, which seems to be so generally understood, should invariably be denied to the only one called upon to exercise it. Not one of the politicians in question, but, take his word for it, could have administered affairs ten times better than William the Testy.
Under the instructions of these political oracles, the good people of New Amsterdam soon became exceedingly enlightened; and, as a matter of course, exceedingly discontented. They gradually found out the fearful error in which they had indulged, of thinking themselves the happiest people in creation; and were convinced that, all circumstances to the contrary not withstanding, they were a very unhappy, deluded, and consequently ruined people!
We are naturally prone to discontent, and avaricious after imaginary causes of lamentation. Like lubberly monks, we belabor our own shoulders, and take a vast satisfaction in the music of our own groans. Nor is this said by way of paradox; daily experience shows the truth of these observations. It is almost impossible to elevate the spirits of a man groaning under ideal calamities; but nothing is easier than to render him wretched, though on the pinnacle of felicity: as it would be an herculean task to hoist a man to the top of a steeple, though the merest child could topple him off thence.
I must not omit to mention that these popular meetings were generally held at some noted tavern; these public edifices possessing what in modern times are thought the true fountains of political inspiration. The ancient Germans deliberated upon a matter when drunk, and reconsidered it when sober. Mob politicians in modern times dislike to have two minds upon a subject, so they both deliberate and act when drunk; by this means a world of delay is spared; and as it is universally allowed that a man when drunk sees double, it follows conclusively that he sees twice as well as his sober neighbors.
Wilhelmus Kieft, as has already been observed, was a great legislator on a small scale, and had a microscopic eye in public affairs. He had been greatly annoyed by the facetious meetings of the good people of New Amsterdam, but observing that on these occasions the pipe was ever in their mouth, he began to think that the pipe was at the bottom of the affair, and that there was some mysterious affinity between politics and tobacco smoke. Determined to strike at the root of the evil, he began forthwith to rail at tobacco as a noxious, nauseous weed, filthy in all its uses; and as to smoking, he denounced it as a heavy tax upon the public pocket, a vast consumer of time, a great encourager of idleness, and a deadly bane to the prosperity and morals of the people. Finally, he issued an edict, prohibiting the smoking of tobacco throughout the New Netherlands. Ill-fated Kieft! Had he lived in the present age, and attempted to check the unbounded license of the press, he could not have struck more sorely upon the sensibilities of the million. The pipe, in fact, was the great organ of reflection and deliberation of the New Netherlander. It was his constant companion and solace—was he gay, he smoked: was he sad, he smoked; his pipe was never out of his mouth; it was a part of his physiognomy; without it, his best friends would not know him. Take away his pipe? You might as well take away his nose!
The immediate effect of the edict of William the Testy was a popular commotion. A vast multitude, armed with pipes and tobacco-boxes, and an immense supply of ammunition, sat themselves down before the governor's house, and fell to smoking with tremendous violence. The testy William issued forth like a wrathful spider, demanding the reason of this lawless fumigation. The sturdy rioters replied by lolling back in their seats, and puffing away with redoubled fury, raising such a murky cloud that the governor was fain to take refuge in the interior of his castle.
A long negotiation ensued through the medium of Anthony the Trumpeter. The governor was at first wrathful and unyielding, but was gradually smoked into terms. He concluded by permitting the smoking of tobacco, but he abolished the fair long pipes used in the days of Wouter Van Twiller, denoting ease, tranquillity, and sobriety of deportment; these he condemned as incompatible with the despatch of business; in place whereof he substituted little captious short pipes, two inches in length, which, he observed, could be stuck in one corner of the mouth, or twisted in the hatband, and would never be in the way. Thus ended this alarming insurrection, which was long known by the name of the Pipe Plot, and which, it has been somewhat quaintly observed, did end, like most plots and seditions, in mere smoke. But mark, O reader! the deplorable evils which did afterward result. The smoke of these villainous little pipes, continually ascending in a cloud about the nose, penetrated into and befogged the cerebellum, dried up all the kindly moisture of the brain, and rendered the people who used them as vaporish and testy as the governor himself. Nay, what is worse, from being goodly, burly, sleek-conditioned men, they became, like our Dutch yeomanry who smoke short pipes, a lantern-jawed, smoke-dried, leather-hided race.
Nor was this all. From this fatal schism in tobacco pipes we may date the rise of parties in the Nieuw Nederlandts. The rich and self-important burghers who had made their fortunes, and could afford to be lazy, adhered to the ancient fashion, and formed a kind of aristocracy known as the Long Pipes; while the lower order, adopting the reform of William Kieft as more convenient in their handicraft employments, were branded with the plebeian name of Short Pipes. A third party sprang up, headed by the descendants of Robert Chewit, the companion of the great Hudson. These discarded pipes altogether, and took up chewing tobacco; hence they were called Quids; an appellation since given to those political mongrels which sometimes spring up between two great parties, as a mule is produced between a horse and an ass.
And here I would note the great benefit of party distinctions in saving the people at large the trouble of thinking. Hesiod divides mankind into three classes—those who think for themselves, those who think as others think, and those who do not think at all. The second class comprises the great mass of society; for most people require a set creed and a file-leader. Hence the origin of party, which means a large body of people, some few of whom think, and all the rest talk. The former take the lead and discipline the latter, prescribing what they must say, what they must approve, what they must hoot at, whom they must support, but, above all, whom they must hate; for no one can be a right good partisan who is not a thoroughgoing hater.
The enlightened inhabitants of the Manhattoes, therefore, being divided into parties, were enabled to hate each other with great accuracy. And now the great business of politics went bravely on, the Long Pipes and Short Pipes assemblings in separate beer-houses, and smoking at each other with implacable vehemence, to the great support of the state and profit of the tavern-keepers. Some, indeed, went so far as to bespatter their adversaries with those odoriferous little words which smell so strong in the Dutch language; believing, like true politicians, that they served their party and glorified themselves in proportion as they bewrayed their neighbors. But, however they might differ among themselves, all parties agreed in abusing the governor, seeing that he was not a governor of their choice, but appointed by others to rule over them. Unhappy William Kieft! exclaims the sage writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript, doomed to contend with enemies too knowing to be entrapped, and to reign over a people too wise to be governed. All his foreign expeditions were baffled and set at naught by the all-pervading Yankees; all his home measures were canvassed and condemned by "numerous and respectable meetings" of pot-house politicians.
In the multitude of counsellors, we are told, there is safety; but the multitude of counsellors was a continual source of perplexity to William Kieft. With a temperament as hot as an old radish, and a mind subject to perpetual whirlwinds and tornadoes, he never failed to get into a passion with every one who undertook to advise him. I have observed, however, that your passionate little men, like small boats with large sails, are easily upset or blown out of their course; so was it with William the Testy, who was prone to be carried away by the last piece of advice blown into his ear. The consequence was that though a projector of the first class, yet, by continually changing his projects, he gave none a fair trial; and by endeavoring to do everything, he, in sober truth, did nothing.
In the meantime the sovereign people, having got into the saddle, showed themselves, as usual, unmerciful riders; spurring on the little governor with harangues and petitions, and thwarting him with memorials and reproaches, in much the same way as holiday apprentices manage an unlucky devil of a hack-horse; so that Wilhelmus Kieft was kept at a worry or a gallop throughout the whole of his administration.
If we could but get a peep at the tally of Dame Fortune, where like a vigilant landlady she chalks up the debtor and creditor accounts of thoughtless mortals, we should find that every good is checked off by an evil; and that however we may apparently revel scot-free for a season, the time will come when we must ruefully pay off the reckoning. Fortune, in fact, is a pestilent shrew, and, withal, an inexorable creditor; and though for a time she may be all smiles and courtesies, and indulge us in long credits, yet sooner or later she brings up her arrears with a vengeance, and washes out her scores with our tears. "Since," says good old Boethius, "no man can retain her at his pleasure, what are her favors but sure prognostications of approaching trouble and calamity?"
This is the fundamental maxim of that sage school of philosophers, the Croakers, who esteem it true wisdom to doubt and despond when other men rejoice, well knowing that happiness is at best but transient; that the higher one is elevated on the see-saw balance of fortune, the lower must be his subsequent depression; that he who is on the uppermost round of a ladder has most to suffer from a fall, while he who is at the bottom runs very little risk of breaking his neck by tumbling to the top.
Philosophical readers of this stamp must have doubtless indulged in dismal forebodings all through the tranquil reign of Walter the Doubter, and considered it what Dutch seamen call a weather-breeder. They will not be surprised, therefore, that the foul weather which gathered during his days should now be rattling from all quarters on the head of William the Testy.
The origin of some of these troubles may be traced quite back to the discoveries and annexations of Hans Reinier Oothout, the explorer, and Wynant Ten Breeches, the land-measurer, made in the twilight days of Oloffe the Dreamer, by which the territories of the Nieuw Nederlandts were carried far to the south, to Delaware River and parts beyond. The consequence was many disputes and brawls with the Indians, which now and then reached the drowsy ears of Walter the Doubter and his council, like the muttering of distant thunder from behind the mountains, without, however, disturbing their repose. It was not till the time of William the Testy that the thunderbolt reached the Manhattoes. While the little governor was diligently protecting his eastern boundaries from the Yankees, word was brought him of the irruption of a vagrant colony of Swedes in the South, who had landed on the banks of the Delaware, and displayed the banner of that redoubtable virago Queen Christina, and taken possession of the country in her name. These had been guided in their expedition by one Peter Minuits or Minnewits, a renegade Dutchman, formerly in the service of their High Mightinesses; but who now declared himself governor of all the surrounding country, to which was given the name of the province of New Sweden.
It is an old saying, that "a little pot is soon hot," which was the case with William the Testy. Being a little man, he was soon in a passion, and once in a passion he soon boiled over. Summoning his council on the receipt of this news, he belabored the Swedes in the longest speech that had been heard in the colony since the wordy warfare of Ten Breeches and Tough Breeches. Having thus taken off the fire-edge of his valor, he resorted to his favorite measure of proclamation, and despatched a document of the kind, ordering the renegade Minnewits and his gang of Swedish vagabonds to leave the country immediately, under pain of vengeance of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General, and of the potentates of the Manhattoes.
This strong measure was not a whit more effectual than its predecessors which had been thundered against the Yankees, and William Kieft was preparing to follow it up with something still more formidable, when he received intelligence of other invaders on his southern frontier, who had taken possession of the banks of the Schuylkill, and built a fort there. They were represented as a gigantic, gunpowder race of men, exceedingly expert at boxing, biting, gouging, and other branches of the rough-and-tumble mode of warfare, which they had learned from their prototypes and cousins-german the Virginians, to whom they have ever borne considerable resemblance. Like them, too, they were great roisterers, much given to revel on hoe-cake and bacon, mint-julep and apple toddy; whence their newly formed colony had already acquired the name of Merryland, which, with a slight modification, it retains to the present day.
In fact, the Merrylanders and their cousins, the Virginians, were represented to William Kieft as offsets from the same original stock as his bitter enemies the Yanokie, or Yankee, tribes of the east; having both come over to this country for the liberty of conscience, or, in other words, to live as they pleased; the Yankees taking to praying and money-making and converting Quakers, and the Southerners to horse-racing and cock-fighting and breeding negroes.
Against these new invaders Wilhelmus Kieft immediately despatched a naval armament of two sloops and thirty men, under Jan Jansen Alpendam, who was armed to the very teeth with one of the little governor's most powerful speeches, written in vigorous Low Dutch.
Admiral Alpendam arrived without accident in the Schuylkill, and came upon the enemy just as they were engaged in a great "barbecue," a king of festivity or carouse much practised in Merryland. Opening upon them with the speech of William the Testy, he denounced them as a pack of lazy, canting, julep-tippling, cock-fighting, horse-racing, slave-driving, tavern-haunting, Sabbath-breaking, mulatto-breeding upstarts: and concluded by ordering them to evacuate the country immediately; to which they laconically replied in plain English, "They'd see him d——d first!"
Now this was a reply on which neither Jan Jansen Alpendam nor Wilhelmus Kieft had made any calculation. Finding himself, therefore, totally unprepared to answer so terrible a rebuff with suitable hostility, the admiral concluded his wisest course would be to return home and report progress. He accordingly steered his course back to New Amsterdam, where he arrived safe, having accomplished this hazardous enterprise at small expense of treasure, and no loss of life. His saving policy gained him the universal appellation of the Savior of his Country, and his services were suitably rewarded by a shingle monument, erected by subscription on the top of Flattenbarrack Hill, where it immortalized his name for three whole years, when it fell to pieces and was burnt for firewood.
About this time, the testy little governor of the New Netherlands appears to have had his hands full, and with one annoyance and the other to have been kept continually on the bounce. He was on the very point of following up the expedition of Jan Jansen Alpendam by some belligerent measures against the marauders of Merryland, when his attention was suddenly called away by belligerent troubles springing up in another quarter, the seeds of which had been sown in the tranquil days of Walter the Doubter.
The reader will recollect the deep doubt into which that most pacific governor was thrown on Killian Van Rensellaer's taking possession of Bearn Island by wapen recht. While the governor doubted and did nothing, the lordly Killian went on to complete his sturdy little castellum of Rensellaersteen, and to garrison it with a number of his tenants from the Helderberg, a mountain region famous for the hardest heads and hardest fists in the province. Nicholas Koorn, a faithful squire of the patroon, accustomed to strut at his heels, wear his cast-off clothes, and imitate his lofty bearing, was established in this post as wacht-meester. His duty it was to keep an eye on the river, and oblige every vessel that passed, unless on the service of their High Mightinesses, to strike its flag, lower its peak, and pay toll to the Lord of Rensellaersteen.
This assumption of sovereign authority within the territories of the Lords States General, however it might have been tolerated by Walter the Doubter, had been sharply contested by William the Testy, on coming into office and many written remonstrances had been addressed by him to Killian Van Rensellaer, to which the latter never deigned a reply. Thus by degrees a sore place, or, in Hibernian parlance, a raw, had been established in the irritable soul of the little governor, insomuch that he winced at the very name of Rensellaersteen.
Now it came to pass that, on a fine sunny day, the company's yacht, the Half Moon, having been on one of its stated visits to Fort Aurania, was quietly tiding it down the Hudson; the commander, Govert Lockerman, a veteran Dutch skipper of few words but great bottom, was seated on the high poop, quietly smoking his pipe, under the shadow of the proud flag of Orange, when, on arriving abreast of Bearn Island, he was saluted by a stentorian voice from the shore, "Lower thy flag, and be d——d to thee!"
Govert Lockerman, without taking his pipe out of his mouth, turned up his eye from under his broad-brimmed hat to see who hailed him thus discourteously. There, on the ramparts of the forts, stood Nicholas Koorn, armed to the teeth, flourishing a brass-hilted sword, while a steeple-crowned hat and cock's tail-feather, formerly worn by Killian Van Rensellaer himself, gave an inexpressible loftiness to his demeanor.
Govert Lockerman eyed the warrior from top to toe, but was not to be dismayed. Taking the pipe slowly out of his mouth, "To whom should I lower my flag?" demanded he. "To the high and mighty Killian Van Rensellaer, the lord of Rensellaersteen!" was the reply.
"I lower it to none but the Prince Orange and my masters, the Lords States General." So saying, he resumed his pipe and smoked with an air of dogged determination.
Bang! went a gun from the fortress; the ball cut both sail and rigging. Govert Lockerman said nothing, but smoked the more doggedly.
Bang! went another gun; the shot whistling close astern.
"Fire, and be d——d," cried Govert Lockerman, cramming a new charge of tobacco into his pipe, and smoking with still increasing vehemence.
Bang! went a third gun. The shot passed over his head, tearing a hole in the "princely flag of Orange."
This was the hardest trial of all for the pride and patience of Govert Lockerman; he maintained a stubborn though swelling silence, but his smothered rage might be perceived by the short vehement puffs of smoke emitted from his pipe, by which he might be tracked for miles, as he slowly floated out of shot and out of sight of Bearn Island. In fact, he never gave vent to his passion until he got fairly among the Highlands of the Hudson, when he let fly whole volleys of Dutch oaths, which are said to linger to this very day among the echoes of the Dunderberg, and to give particular effect to the thunder-storms in that neighborhood.
It was the sudden apparition of Govert Lockerman at Dog's Misery, bearing in his hand the tattered flag of Orange, that arrested the attention of William the Testy, just as he was devising a new expedition against the marauders of Merryland. I will not pretend to describe the passion of the little man when he heard of the outrage of Rensellaersteen. Suffice it to say, in the first transports of his fury, he turned Dog's Misery topsy-turvy, kicked every cur out of doors, and threw the cats out of the window; after which, his spleen being in some measure relieved, he went into a council of war with Govert Lockerman, the skipper, assisted by Anthony Van Corlear, the trumpeter.
The eyes of all New Amsterdam were now turned to see what would be the end of this direful feud between William the Testy and the patron of Rensellaerwick; and some, observing the consultations of the governor with the skipper and the trumpeter, predicted warlike measures by sea and land. The wrath of William Kieft, however, though quick to rise, was quick to evaporate. He was a perfect brush-heap in a blaze, snapping and crackling for a time, and then ending in smoke. Like many other valiant potentates, his first thoughts were all for war, his sober second thoughts for diplomacy.
Accordingly Govert Lockerman was once more despatched up the river in the company's yacht, the Goed Hoop, bearing Anthony the Trumpeter as ambassador, to treat with the belligerent powers of Rensellaersteen. In the fulness of time the yacht arrived before Bearn Island, and Anthony the Trumpeter, mounting the poop, sounded a parly to the forces. In a little while the steeple-crowned hat of Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, rose above the battlements, followed by his iron visage, and ultimately his whole person, armed, as before, to the very teeth; while one by one a whole row of Helderbergers reared their round burly heads above the wall, and beside each pumpkin-head peered the end of a rusty musket. Nothing daunted by this formidable array, Anthony Van Corlear drew forth and read with audible voice a missive from William the Testy, protesting against the usurpation of Bearn Island, and ordering the garrison to quit the premises, bag and baggage, on pain of the vengeance of the potentate of the Manhattoes.
In reply, the wacht-meester applied the thumb of his right hand to the end of his nose, and the thumb of the left hand to the little finger of the right, and spreading each hand like a fan, made an aerial flourish with his fingers. Anthony Van Corlear was sorely perplexed to understand this sign, which seemed to him something mysterious and masonic. Not liking to betray his ignorance, he again read with a loud voice the missive of William the Testy, and again Nicholas Koorn applied the thumb of his right hand to the end of his nose, and the thumb of his left hand to the little finger of the right, and repeated this kind of nasal weathercock. Anthony Van Corlear now persuaded himself that this was some short-hand sign or symbol, current in diplomacy, which, though unintelligible to a new diplomat like himself, would speak volumes to the experienced intellect of William the Testy. Considering his embassy therefore at an end, he sounded his trumpet with great complacency, and set sail on his return down the river, every now and then practising this mysterious sign of the wacht-meester, to keep it accurately in mind.
Arrived at New Amsterdam, he made a faithful report of his embassy to the governor, accompanied by a manual exhibition of the response of Nicholas Koorn. The governor was equally perplexed with his ambassador. He was deeply versed in the mysteries of freemasonry, but they threw no light on the matter. He knew ever variety of windmill and weathercock, but was not a whit the wiser as to the aerial sign in question. He had even dabbled in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the mystic symbols of the obelisk, but none furnished a key to the reply of Nicholas Koorn. He called a meeting of his council. Anthony Van Corlear stood forth in the midst, and putting the thumb of his right hand to his nose, and the thumb of his left hand to the finger of the right, he gave a faithful fac-simile of the portentous sign. Having a nose of unusual dimensions, it was as if the reply had been put in capitals, but all in vain, the worthy burgomasters were equally perplexed with the governor. Each one put his thumb to the end of his nose, spread his fingers like a fan, imitated the motion of Anthony Van Corlear, then smoked on in dubious silence. Several times was Anthony obliged to stand forth like a fugleman and repeat the sign, and each time a circle of nasal weathercocks might be seen in the council chamber.
Perplexed in the extreme, William the Testy sent for all the soothsayers and fortune tellers and wise men of the Manhattoes, but none could interpret the mysterious reply of Nicholas Koorn. The council broke up in sore perplexity. The matter got abroad; Anthony Van Corlear was stopped at every corner to repeat the signal to a knot of anxious newsmongers, each of whom departed with his thumb to his nose and his fingers in the air, to carry the story home of his family. For several days all business was neglected in New Amsterdam; nothing was talked of but the diplomatic mission of Anthony the Trumpeter, nothing was to be seen but knots of politicians with their thumbs to their noses. In the meantime the fierce feud between William the Testy and Killian Van Rensellaer, which at first had menaced deadly warfare, gradually cooled off, like many other war questions, in the prolonged delays of diplomacy.
Still, to this early affair of Rensellaersteen may be traced the remote origin of those windy wars in modern days which rage in the bowels of the Helderberg, and have well nigh shaken the great patroonship of the Van Rensellaers to its foundation: for we are told that the bully boys of the Helderberg, who served under Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, carried back to their mountains the hieroglyphic sign which had so sorely puzzled Anthony Van Corlear and the sages of the Manhattoes; so that to the present day, the thumb to the nose and the fingers in the air is apt to be the reply of the Helderbergers whenever called upon for any long arrears of rent.
It was asserted by the wise men of ancient times who had a nearer opportunity of ascertaining the fact, that at the gate of Jupiter's palace lay two huge tuns, one filled with blessings, the other with misfortunes; and it would verily seem as if the latter had been completely overturned, and left to deluge the unlucky province of Nieuw Nederlandts; for about this time, while harassed and annoyed from the south and the north, incessant forays were made by the border chivalry of Connecticut upon the pig-sties and hen-roosts of the Nederlanders. Every day or two some broad-bottomed express rider, covered with mud and mire, would come floundering into the gate of New Amsterdam, freighted with some new tale of aggression from the frontier; whereupon Anthony Van Corlear, seizing his trumpet, the only substitute for a newspaper in those primitive days, would sound the tidings from the ramparts with such doleful notes and disastrous cadence, as to throw half the old women in the city into hysterics; all which tended greatly to increase his popularity, there being nothing for which the public are more grateful than being frequently treated to a panic—a secret well known to modern editors.
But oh, ye powers! into what a paroxysm of passion did each new outrage of the Yankees throw the choleric little governor! Letter after letter, protest after protest, bad Latin, worse English, and hideous Low Dutch, were incessantly fulminated upon them, and the four-and-twenty letters of the alphabet, which formed his standing army, were worn out by constant campaigning. All, however, was ineffectual; even the recent victory at Oyster Bay, which had shed such a gleam of sunshine between the clouds of his foul weather reign, was soon followed by a more fearful gathering up of those clouds and indications of more portentous tempests; for the Yankee tribe on the banks of the Connecticut, finding on this memorable occasion their incompetency to cope in fair fight with the sturdy chivalry of the Manhattoes, had called to their aid all the ten tribes of their brethren who inhabit the east country, which from them has derived the name of Yankee land. This call was promptly responded to. The consequence was a great confederacy of the tribes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Plymouth, and New Haven, under the title of the "United Colonies of New England;" the pretended object of which was mutual defense against the savages, but the real object the subjugation of the Nieuw Nederlandts.
For, to let the reader into one of the greatest secrets of history, the Nieuw Nederlandts had long been regarded by the whole Yankee race as the modern land of promise, and themselves as the chosen and peculiar people destined, one day or other, by hook or by crook, to get possession of it. In truth, they are a wonderful and all-prevalent people; of that class who only require an inch to gain an ell; or a halter to gain a horse. From the time they first gained a foothold on Plymouth Rock, they began to migrate, progressing and progressing from place to place, and land to land, making a little here and a little there, and controverting the old proverb, that a rolling stone gathers no moss. Hence they have facetiously received the nickname of "The Pilgrims," that is to say, a people who are always seeking a better country than their own.
The tidings of this great Yankee league struck William Kieft with dismay, and for once in his life he forgot to bounce on receiving a disagreeable piece of intelligence. In fact, on turning over in his mind all that he had read at the Hague about leagues and combinations, he found that this was a counterpart of the Amphictyonic League, by which the states of Greece attained such power and supremacy; and the very idea made his heart quake for the safety of his empire at the Manhattoes.
The affairs of the confederacy were managed by an annual council of delegates held at Boston, which Kieft denominated the Delphos of this truly classic league. The very first meeting gave evidence of hostility to the New Nederlanders, who were charged, in their dealings with the Indians, with carrying on a traffic in "guns, powther, and shott—a trade damnable and injurious to the colonists." It is true the Connecticut traders were fain to dabble a little in this damnable traffic; but then they always dealt in what were termed Yankee guns, ingeniously calculated to burst in the pagan hands which used them.
The rise of this potent confederacy was a death-blow to the glory of William the Testy, for from that day forward he never held up his head, but appeared quite crestfallen. It is true, as the grand council augmented in power, and the league, rolling onward, gathered about the red hills of New Haven, threatening to overwhelm the Nieuw Nederlandts, he continued occasionally to fulminate proclamations and protests, as a shrewd sea captain fires his guns into a water spout, but, alas! they had no more effect than so many blank cartridges.
Thus end the authenticated chronicles of the reign of William the Testy, for henceforth, in the troubles, perplexities, and confusion of the times, he seems to have been totally overlooked, and to have slipped for ever through the fingers of scrupulous history. It is a matter of deep concern that such obscurity should hang over his latter days; for he was in truth a mighty and great little man, and worthy of being utterly renowned, seeing that he was the first potentate that introduced into this land the art of fighting by proclamation, and defending a country by trumpeters and windmills.
It is true that certain of the early provincial poets, of whom there were great numbers in the Nieuw Nederlandts, taking advantage of his mysterious exit, have fabled that, like Romulus, he was translated to the skies, and forms a very fiery little star, somewhere on the left claw of the crab; while others, equally fanciful, declare that he had experienced a fate similar to that of the good King Arthur, who, we are assured by ancient bards, was carried away to the delicious abodes of fairyland, where he still exists in pristine worth and vigor, and will one day or another return to restore the gallantry, the honor, and the immaculate probity, which prevailed in the glorious days of the Round Table.
All these, however, are but pleasing fantasies, the cobweb visions of those dreaming varlets the poets, to which I would not have my judicious reader attach any credibility. Neither am I disposed to credit an ancient and rather apocryphal historian, who asserts that the ingenious Wilhelmus was annihilated by the blowing down of one of his windmills, nor a writer of later times, who affirms that he fell a victim to an experiment in natural history, having the misfortune to break his neck from a garret window of the stadthouse in attempting to catch swallows by sprinkling salt upon their tails. Still less do I put my faith in the tradition that he perished at sea in conveying home to Holland a treasure of golden ore, discovered somewhere among the haunted regions of the Catskill mountains.
The most probable account declares, that what with the constant troubles on his frontiers—the incessant schemings and projects going on in his own pericranium—the memorials, petitions, remonstrances, and sage pieces of advice of respectable meetings of the sovereign people, and the refractory disposition of his councillors, who were sure to differ from him on every point, and uniformly to be in the wrong—his mind was kept in a furnace heat, until he became as completely burnt out as a Dutch family pipe which has passed through three generations of hard smokers.
In this manner did he undergo a kind of animal combustion consuming away like a farthing rushlight, so that when grim Death finally snuffed him out, there was scarcely left enough of him to bury!
To a profound philosopher like myself, who am apt to see clear through a subject, where the penetration of ordinary people extends but half way, there is no fact more simple and manifest than that the death of a great man is a matter of very little importance. Much as we may think of ourselves, and much as we may excite the empty plaudits of the million, it is certain that the greatest among us do actually fill but an exceedingly small space in the world; and it is equally certain, that even that small space is quickly supplied when we leave it vacant. "Of what consequence is it," said Pliny, "that individuals appear, or make their exit? the world is a theater whose scenes and actors are continually changing." Never did philosopher speak more correctly, and I only wonder that so wise a remark could have existed so many ages, and mankind not have laid it more to heart. Sage follows on in the footsteps of sage; one hero just steps out of his triumphal car, to make way for the hero who comes after him; and of the proudest monarch it is merely said that, "he slept with his fathers, and his successor reigned in his stead."
The world, to tell the private truth, cares but little for their loss, and, if left to itself, would soon forget to grieve; and though a nation has often been figuratively drowned in tears on the death of a great man, yet it is ten to one if an individual tear has been shed on the occasion, excepting from the forlorn pen of some hungry author. It is the historian, the biographer, and the poet, who have the whole burden of grief to sustain; who, kind souls! like undertakers in England, act the part of chief mourners; who inflate a nation with sighs it never heaved, and deluge it with tears it never dreamt of shedding. Thus, while the patriotic author is weeping and howling in prose, in blank verse, and in rhyme, and collecting the drops of public sorrow into his volume, as into a lachrymal vase, it is more than probable his fellow-citizens are eating and drinking, fiddling and dancing, as utterly ignorant of the bitter lamentations made in their name as are those men of straw, John Doe and Richard Roe, of the plaintiffs for whom they are generously pleased to become sureties.
The most glorious hero that ever desolated nations might have mouldered into oblivion among the rubbish of his own monument, did not some historian take him into favor, and benevolently transmit his name to posterity; and much as the valiant William Kieft worried, and bustled, and turmoiled, while he had the destinies of a whole colony in his hand, I question seriously whether he will not be obliged to this authentic history for all his future celebrity.
His exit occasioned no convulsion in the city of New Amsterdam nor its vicinity; the earth trembled not, neither did any stars shoot from their spheres; the heavens were not shrouded in black, as poets would fain persuade us they have been, on the death of a hero; the rocks (hard-hearted varlets!) melted not into tears, nor did the trees hang their heads in silent sorrow; and as to the sun, he lay abed the next night just as long, and showed as jolly a face when he rose, as he ever did, on the same day of the month in any year, either before or since. The good people of New Amsterdam, one and all, declared that he had been a very busy, active, bustling little governor; that he was "the father of his country;" that he was "the noblest work of God;" that "he was a man, take him for all in all, they ne'er should look upon his like again;" together with sundry other civil and affectionate speeches, regularly said on the death of all great men; after which they smoked their pipes, thought no more about him, and Peter Stuyvesant succeeded to his station.
Peter Stuyvesant was the last, and, like the renowned Wouter Van Twiller, the best of our ancient Dutch governors; Wouter having surpassed all who preceded him, and Pieter, or Piet, as he was sociably called by the old Dutch burghers, who were ever prone to familiarize names, having never been equalled by any successor. He was, in fact, the very man fitted by Nature to retrieve the desperate fortunes of her beloved province, had not the Fates, those most potent and unrelenting of all ancient spinsters, destined them to inextricable confusion.
To say merely that he was a hero would be doing him great injustice; he was, in truth, a combination of heroes; for he was of a sturdy, raw-boned make, like Ajax Telamon, with a pair of round shoulders that Hercules would have given his hide for (meaning his lion's hide) when he undertook to ease old Atlas of his load. He was, moreover, as Plutarch describes Coriolanus, not only terrible for the force of his arm, but likewise for his voice, which sounded as though it came out of a barrel; and, like the self-same warrior, he possessed a sovereign contempt for the sovereign people, and an iron aspect, which was enough of itself to make the very bowels of his adversaries quake with terror and dismay. All this martial excellency of appearance was inexpressibly heightened by an accidental advantage, with which I am surprised that neither Homer nor Virgil have graced any of their heroes.
This was nothing less than a wooden leg, which was the only prize he had gained in bravely fighting the battles of his country, but of which he was so proud, that he was often heard to declare he valued it more than all his other limbs put together; indeed, so highly did he esteem it, that he had it gallantly enchased and relieved with silver devices, which caused it to be related in divers histories and legends that he wore a silver leg.
Like that choleric warrior Achilles, he was somewhat subject to extempore bursts of passion, which were rather unpleasant to his favorites and attendants, whose perceptions he was apt to quicken after the manner of his illustrious imitator, Peter the Great, by anointing their shoulders with his walking staff.
Though I cannot find that he had read Plato, or Aristotle, or Hobbes, or Bacon, or Algernon Sydney, or Tom Paine, yet did he sometimes manifest a shrewdness and sagacity in his measures that one would hardly expect from a man who did not know Greek and had never studied the ancients. True it is, and I confess it with sorrow, that he had an unreasonable aversion to experiments, and was fond of governing his province after the simplest manner; but then he contrived to keep it in better order than did the erudite Kieft, though he had all the philosophers, ancient and modern, to assist and perplex him. I must likewise own that he made but very few laws, but then again he took care that those few were rigidly and impartially enforced; and I do not know but justice, on the whole, was as well administered as if there had been volumes of sage acts and statutes yearly made, and daily neglected and forgotten.
He was, in fact, the very reverse of his predecessors, being neither tranquil and inert, like Walter the Doubter, nor restless and fidgeting, like William the Testy; but a man, or rather a governor, of such uncommon activity and decision of mind, that he never sought nor accepted the advice of others, depending bravely upon his single head, as would a hero of yore upon his single arm, to carry him through all difficulties and dangers. To tell the simple truth, he wanted nothing more to complete him as a statesman than to think always right, for no one can say but that he always acted as he thought. He was never a man to flinch when he found himself in a scrape, but to dash forward through thick and thin, trusting, by hook or by crook, to make all things straight in the end. In a word, he possessed in an eminent degree that great quality in a statesman, called perseverance by the polite, but nicknamed obstinacy by the vulgar. A wonderful salve for official blunders; since he who perseveres in error without flinching gets the credit of boldness and consistency, while he who wavers, in seeking to do what is right, gets stigmatised as a trimmer. This much is certain, and it is a maxim well worthy the attention of all legislators great and small, who stand shaking in the wind, irresolute which way to steer, that a ruler who follows his own will pleases himself, while he who seeks to satisfy the wishes and whims of others runs great risk of pleasing nobody. There is nothing, too, like putting down one's foot resolutely when in doubt, and letting things take their course. The clock that stands still points right twice in the four-and-twenty hours, while others may keep going continually, and be continually going wrong.
Nor did this magnanimous quality escape the discernment of the good people of Nieuw Nederlandts; on the contrary, so much were they struck with the independent will and vigorous resolution displayed on all occasions by their new governor, that they universally called him Hard Koppig Piet, or Peter the Headstrong, a great compliment to the strength of his understanding.
If, from all that I have said, thou dost not gather, worthy reader, that Peter Stuyvesant was a tough, sturdy, valiant, weather-beaten, mettlesome, obstinate, leathern-sided, lion-hearted, generous-spirited old governor, either I have written to but little purpose, or thou art very dull at drawing conclusions.
This most excellent governor commenced his administration on the 29th of May, 1647; a remarkably stormy day, distinguished in all the almanacks of the time which have come down to us by the name of "Windy Friday." As he was very jealous of his personal and official dignity, he was inaugurated into office with great ceremony, the goodly oaken chair of the renowned Wouter Van Twiller being carefully preserved for such occasions, in like manner as the chair and stone were reverentially preserved at Scone, in Scotland, for the coronation of the Caledonian monarchs.
I must not omit to mention that the tempestuous state of the elements, together with its being that unlucky day of the week termed "hanging day," did not fail to excite much grave speculation and divers very reasonable apprehensions among the more ancient and enlightened inhabitants; and several of the sager sex, who were reputed to be not a little skilled in the mysteries of astrology and fortune-telling, did declare outright that they were omens of a disastrous administration; an event that came to be lamentably verified, and which proves beyond dispute the wisdom of attending to those preternatural intimations furnished by dreams and visions, the flying of birds, falling of stones, and cackling of geese, on which the sages and rulers of ancient times placed such reliance; or to those shootings of stars, eclipses of the moon, howlings of dogs, and flarings of candles, carefully noted and interpreted by the oracular Sibyls of our day, who, in my humble opinion, are the legitimate inheritors and preservers of the ancient science of divination.
This much is certain, that Governor Stuyvesant succeeded to the chair of state at a turbulent period, when foes thronged and threatened from without, when anarchy and stiff-necked opposition reigned rampant within; when the authority of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General, though supported by economy, and defended by speeches, protests, and proclamations, yet tottered to its very center; and when the great city of New Amsterdam, though fortified by flag-staffs, trumpeters, and windmills, seemed, like some fair lady of easy virtue, to lie open to attack, and ready to yield to the first invader.
The very first movements of the great Peter, on taking the reins of government, displayed his magnanimity, though they occasioned not a little marvel and uneasiness among the people of the Manhattoes. Finding himself constantly interrupted by the opposition, and annoyed by the advice of his privy council, the members of which had acquired the unreasonable habit of thinking and speaking to themselves during the preceding reign, he determined at once to put a stop to such grievous abominations. Scarcely, therefore, had he entered upon his authority, than he turned out of office all the meddlesome spirits of the factious cabinet of William the Testy; in place of whom he chose unto himself councillors from those fat, somniferous, respectable burghers who had flourished and slumbered under the easy reign of Walter the Doubter. All these he caused to be furnished with abundance of fair long pipes, and to be regaled with frequent corporation dinners, admonishing them to smoke, and eat, and sleep for the good of the nation, while he took the burden of government upon his own shoulders—an arrangement to which they all gave hearty acquiescence. Nor did he stop here, but made a hideous rout among the inventions and expedients of his learned predecessor—rooting up his patent gallows, where caitiff vagabonds were suspended by the waistband; demolishing his flag-staffs and windmills, which, like mighty giants, guarded the ramparts of New Amsterdam; pitching to the Duyvel whole batteries of Quaker guns; and, in a word, turning topsy-turvy the whole philosophic, economic, and windmill system of the immortal sage of Saardam.
The honest folk of New Amsterdam began to quake now for the fate of their matchless champion, Antony the Trumpeter, who had acquired prodigious favor in the eyes of the women by means of his whiskers and his trumpet. Him did Peter the Headstrong cause to be brought into his presence, and eyeing him for a moment from head to foot, with a countenance that would have appalled anything else than a sounder of brass—"Pr'ythee, who and what art thou?" said he. "Sire," replied the other, in no wise dismayed, "for my name, it is Antony Van Corlear—for my parentage, I am the son of my mother—for my profession, I am champion and garrison of this great city of New Amsterdam." "I doubt me much," said Peter Stuyvesant, "that thou art some scurvy costard-monger knave: how didst thou acquire this paramount honor and dignity?" "Marry, sir," replied the other, "like many a great man before me, simply by sounding my own trumpet." "Ay, is it so?" quoth the governor; "why, then, let us have a relish of thy art." Whereupon the good Antony put his instrument to his lips, and sounded a charge with such tremendous outset, such a delectable quaver, and such a triumphant cadence, that it was enough to make one's heart leap out of one's mouth only to be within a mile of it. Like as a war-worn charger, grazing in peaceful plains, starts at a strain of martial music, pricks up his ears, and snorts, and paws, and kindles at the noise, so did the heroic Peter joy to hear the clangor of the trumpet; for of him might truly be said, what was recorded of the renowned St. George of England, "there was nothing in all the world that more rejoiced his heart than to hear the pleasant sound of war, and see the soldiers brandish forth their steeled weapons." Casting his eye more kindly, therefore, upon the sturdy Van Corlear, and finding him to be a jovial varlet, shrewd in his discourse, yet of great discretion and immeasurable wind, he straightway conceived a vast kindness for him, and discharging him from the troublesome duty of garrisoning, defending, and alarming the city, ever after retained him about his person, as his chief favorite, confidential envoy, and trusty squire. Instead of disturbing the city with disastrous notes, he was instructed to play so as to delight the governor while at his repasts, as did the minstrels of yore in the days of glorious chivalry; and on all public occasions to rejoice the ears of the people with warlike melody, thereby keeping alive a noble and martial spirit. But the measure of the valiant Peter which produced the greatest agitation in the community was his laying his hand upon the currency. He had old-fashioned notions in favor of gold and silver, which he considered the true standards of wealth and mediums of commerce, and one of his first edicts was that all duties to government should be paid in those precious metals, and that seawant, or wampum, should no longer be a legal tender.
Here was a blow at public prosperity! All those who speculated on the rise and fall of this fluctuating currency found their calling at an end; those, too, who had hoarded Indian money by barrels full, found their capital shrunk in amount; but, above all, the Yankee traders, who were accustomed to flood the market with newly-coined oyster-shells, and to abstract Dutch merchandise in exchange, were loud-mouthed in decrying this "tampering with the currency." It was clipping the wings of commerce; it was checking the development of public prosperity; trade would be at an end; goods would moulder on the shelves; grain would rot in the granaries; grass would grow in the marketplace. In a word, no one who has not heard the outcries and howlings of a modern Tarshish, at any check upon "paper money," can have any idea of the clamor against Peter the Headstrong for checking the circulation of oyster-shells.
In fact, trade did shrink into narrower channels; but then the stream was deep as it was broad. The honest Dutchman sold less goods; but then they got the worth of them, either in silver and gold, or in codfish, tinware, apple-brandy, Weathersfield onions, wooden bowls, and other articles of Yankee barter. The ingenious people of the east, however, indemnified themselves in another way for having to abandon the coinage of oyster-shells, for about this time we are told that wooden nutmegs made their first appearance in New Amsterdam, to the great annoyance of the Dutch housewives.
From a manuscript record of the province (Lib, N.Y. Hist, Soc.).—"We have been unable to render your inhabitants wiser, and prevent their being, further imposed upon, than to declare, absolutely and peremptorily, that henceforward seawant shall be bullion—not longer admissable in trade, without any value, as it is indeed. So that every one may be upon his guard to barter no longer away his wares and merchandise for these baubles; at least not to accept them at a higher rate, or in a larger quantity, than as they may want them in their trade with the savages.
"In this way your English [Yankee] neighbors shall no longer be enabled to draw the best wares and merchandise from our country for nothing; the beavers and furs not excepted. This has, indeed, long since been insufferable; although it ought chiefly to be imputed to the imprudent penuriousness of our own merchants and inhabitants, who, it is to be hoped, shall, through the abolition of this seawant, become wiser and more prudent.
"27th January, 1662,
"Seawant falls into disrepute; duties to be paid in silver coin."
Now it came to pass, that while Peter Stuyvesant was busy regulating the internal affairs of his domain, the great Yankee league, which had caused such tribulation to William the Testy, continued to increase in extent and power. The grand Amphictyonic council of the league was held at Boston, where it spun a web which threatened to link within it all the mighty principalities and powers of the east. The object proposed by this formidable combination was mutual protection and defence against their savage neighbors; but all the world knows the real aim was to form a grand crusade against the Nieuw Nederlandts and to get possession of the city of the Manhattoes—as devout an object of enterprise and ambition to the Yankees as was ever the capture of Jerusalem to ancient Crusaders.
In the very year following the inauguration of Governor Stuyvesant, a grand deputation departed from the city of Providence (famous for its dusty streets and beauteous women) in behalf of the plantation of Rhode Island, praying to be admitted into the league.
The following minute of this deputation appears in the ancient records of the council.
"Mr. Will. Cottington and Captain Partridg of Rhoode Island presented this insewing request to the commissioners in wrighting——
"Our request and motion is in behalfe of Rhoode Iland, that wee the ilanders of Rhoode Iland may be rescauied into combination with all the united colonyes of New England in a firme and perpetual league of friendship and amity of ofence and defence, mutuall advice and succor upon all just occasions for our mutuall safety and wellfaire, etc.
There was certainly something in the very physiognomy of this document that might well inspire apprehension. The name of Alexander, however mis-spelt, has been warlike in every age, and though its fierceness is in some measure softened by being coupled with the gentle cognomen of Partridge, still, like the color of scarlet, it bears an exceeding great resemblance to the sound of a trumpet. From the style of the letter, moreover, and the soldier-like ignorance of orthography displayed by the noble Captain Alicxsander Partridg in spelling his own name, we may picture to ourselves this mighty man of Rhodes, strong in arms, potent in the field, and as great a scholar as though he had been educated among that learned people of Thrace, who, Aristotle assures us, could not count beyond the number four.
The result of this great Yankee league was augmented audacity on the part of the moss-troopers of Connecticut, pushing their encroachments farther and farther into the territories of their High Mightinesses, so that even the inhabitants of New Amsterdam began to draw short breath, and to find themselves exceedingly cramped for elbow-room.
Peter Stuyvesant was not a man to submit quietly to such intrusions; his first impulse was to march at once to the frontier, and kick these squatting Yankees out of the country; but, bethinking himself in time that he was now a governor and legislator, the policy of the statesman for once cooled the fire of the old soldier, and he determined to try his hand at negotiation. A correspondence accordingly ensued between him and the great council of the league, and it was agreed that commissioners from either side should meet at Hartford, to settle boundaries, adjust grievances, and establish a "perpetual and happy peace."
The commissioners on the part of the Manhattoes were chosen, according to immemorial usage of that venerable metropolis, from among the "wisest and weightiest" men of the community; that is to say, men with the oldest heads and heaviest pockets. Among these sages the veteran navigator, Hans Reinier Oothout, who had made such extensive discoveries during the time of Oloffe the Dreamer, was looked up to as an oracle in all matters of the kind; and he was ready to produce the very spy-glass with which he first spied the mouth of the Connecticut river from his masthead, and all the world knows that the discovery of the mouth of the river gives prior right to all the lands drained by its waters.
It was with feelings of pride and exultation that the good people of the Manhattoes saw two of the richest and most ponderous burghers departing on this embassy; men whose word on 'Change was oracular, and in whose presence no poor man ventured to appear without taking off his hat: when it was seen, too, that the veteran Reinier Oothout accompanied them with his spy-glass under his arm, all the old men and old women predicted that men of such weight, with such evidence, would leave the Yankees no alternative but to pack up their tin kettles and wooden wares, put wife and children in a cart, and abandon all the lands of their High Mightinesses on which they had squatted.
In truth, the commissioners sent to Hartford by the league seemed in no wise calculated to compete with men of such capacity. They were two lean Yankee lawyers, litigious-looking varlets, and evidently men of no substance, since they had no rotundity in the belt, and there was no jingling of money in their pockets; it is true they had longer heads than the Dutchmen; but if the heads of the latter were flat at top, they were broad at bottom, and what was wanting in height of forehead was made up by a double chin.
The negotiation turned as usual upon the good old corner-stone of original discovery; according to the principle that he who first sees a new country has an unquestionable right to it. This being admitted, the veteran Oothout, at a concerted signal, stepped forth in the assembly with the identical tarpaulin spy-glass in his hand with which he had discovered the mouth of the Connecticut, while the worthy Dutch commissioners lolled back in their chairs, secretly chuckling at the idea of having for once got the weather-gauge of the Yankees, but what was their dismay when the latter produced a Nantucket whaler with a spy-glass, twice as long, with which he discovered the whole coast, quite down to the Manhattoes: and so crooked that he had spied with it up the whole course of the Connecticut river. This principle pushed home, therefore, the Yankees had a right to the whole country bordering on the Sound; nay, the city of New Amsterdam was a mere Dutch squatting-place on their territories.
I forbear to dwell upon the confusion of the worthy Dutch commissioners at finding their main pillar of proof thus knocked from under them; neither will I pretend to describe the consternation of the wise men at the Manhattoes when they learnt how their commissioner, had been out-trumped by the Yankees, and how the latter pretended to claim to the very gates of New Amsterdam.
Long was the negotiation protracted, and long was the public mind kept in a state of anxiety. There are two modes of settling boundary questions, when the claims of the opposite parties are irreconcilable. One is by an appeal to arms, in which case the weakest party is apt to lose its right, and get a broken head into the bargain; the other mode is by compromise, or mutual concession—that is to say, one party cedes half of its claims, and the other party half of its rights; he who grasps most gets most, and the whole is pronounced an equitable division, "perfectly honorable to both parties."
The latter mode was adopted in the present instance. The Yankees gave up claims to vast tracts of the Nieuw Nederlandts which they had never seen, and all right to the island of Manna-hata and the city of New Amsterdam, to which they had no right at all; while the Dutch, in return, agreed that the Yankees should retain possession of the frontier places where they had squatted, and of both sides of the Connecticut river.
When the news of this treaty arrived at New Amsterdam, the whole city was in an uproar of exultation. The old women rejoiced that there was to be no war, the old men that their cabbage-gardens were safe from invasion; while the political sages pronounced the treaty a great triumph over the Yankees, considering how much they had claimed, and how little they had been "fobbed off with."
And now my worthy reader is, doubtless, like the great and good Peter, congratulating himself with the idea that his feelings will no longer be harassed by afflicting details of stolen horses, broken heads, impounded hogs, and all the other catalogue of heart-rending cruelties that disgraced these border wars. But if he should indulge in such expectations, it is a proof that he is but little versed in the paradoxical ways of cabinets; to convince him of which I solicit his serious attention to my next chapter, wherein I will show that Peter Stuyvesant has already committed a great error in politics, and, by effecting a peace, has materially hazarded the tranquillity of the province.
It was the opinion of that poetical philosopher, Lucretius, that war was the original state of man, whom he described as being, primitively, a savage beast of prey, engaged in a constant state of hostility with his own species, and that this ferocious spirit was tamed and ameliorated by society. The same opinion has been advocated by Hobbes; nor have there been wanting many other philosophers to admit and defend it.
For my part, though prodigiously fond of these valuable speculations, so complimentary to human nature, yet, in this instance, I am inclined to take the proposition by halves, believing with Horace, that though war may have been originally the favorite amusement and industrious employment of our progenitors, yet, like many other excellent habits, so far from being ameliorated, it has been cultivated and confirmed by refinement and civilization, and increases in exact proportion as we approach towards that state of perfection which is the ne plus ultra of modern philosophy.
The first conflict between man and man was the mere exertion of physical force, unaided by auxiliary weapons—his arm was his buckler, his fist was his mace, and a broken head the catastrophe of his encounters. The battle of unassisted strength was succeeded by the more rugged one of stones and clubs, and war assumed a sanguinary aspect. As man advanced in refinement, as his faculties expanded, and as his sensibilities became more exquisite, he grew rapidly more ingenious and experienced in the art of murdering his fellow beings. He invented a thousand devices to defend and to assault—the helmet, the cuirass, and the buckler, the sword, the dart, and the javelin, prepared him to elude the wound as well as to launch the blow. Still urging on, in the career of philanthropic invention, he enlarges and heightens his powers of defense and injury. The aries, the scorpio, the balista, and the catapulta, give a horror and sublimity to war, and magnify its glory, by increasing its desolation. Still insatiable, though armed with machinery that seemed to reach the limits of destructive invention, and to yield a power of injury commensurate even with the desires of revenge—still deeper researches must be made in the diabolical arcana. With furious zeal he dives into the bowels of the earth; he toils midst poisonous minerals, and deadly salts—the sublime discovery of gunpowder blazes upon the world; and finally, the dreadful art of fighting by proclamation seems to endow the demon of war with ubiquity and omnipotence!
This, indeed, is grand!—this, indeed, marks the powers of mind, and bespeaks that divine endowment of reason, which distinguishes us from the animals, our inferiors. The unenlightened brutes content themselves with the native force which Providence has assigned them. The angry bull butts with his horns, as did his progenitors before him; the lion, the leopard, and the tiger, seek only with their talons and their fangs to gratify their sanguinary fury; and even the subtle serpent darts the same venom, and uses the same wiles, as did his sire before the flood. Man alone, blessed with the inventive mind, goes on from discovery to discovery, enlarges and multiplies his powers of destruction; arrogates the tremendous weapons of Deity itself, and tasks creation to assist him in murdering his brother worm!
In proportion as the art of war has increased in improvement has the art of preserving peace advanced in equal ratio; and as we have discovered, in this age of wonders and inventions, that proclamation is the most formidable engine of war, so have we discovered the no less ingenious mode of maintaining peace by perpetual negotiations.
A treaty, or, to speak more correctly, a negotiation, therefore, according to the acceptation of experienced statesmen learned in these matters, is no longer an attempt to accommodate differences, to ascertain rights, and to establish an equitable exchange of kind offices; but a contest of skill between two powers which shall overreach and take in the other it is a cunning endeavor to obtain by peaceful manoeuvre and the chicanery of cabinets those advantages which a nation would otherwise have wrested by force of arms; in the same manner as a conscientious highwayman reforms and becomes a quiet and praiseworthy citizen, contenting himself with cheating his neighbor out of that property he would formerly have seized with open violence.
In fact, the only time when two nations can be said to be in a state of perfect amity is when a negotiation is open and a treaty pending. Then, when there are no stipulations entered into, no bonds to restrain the will, no specific limits to awaken the captious jealousy of right implanted in our nature; when each party has some advantage to hope and expect from the other; then it is that the two nations are wonderfully gracious and friendly, their ministers professing the highest mutual regard, exchanging billets-doux, making fine speeches, and indulging in all those little diplomatic flirtations, coquetries, and fondlings, that do so marvelously tickle the good humor of the respective nations. Thus it may paradoxically be said, that there is never so good an understanding between two nations as when there is a little misunderstanding—and that so long as they are on terms at all they are on the best terms in the world!
I do not by any means pretend to claim the merit of having made the above discovery. It has, in fact, long been secretly acted upon by certain enlightened cabinets, and is, together with divers other notable theories, privately copied out of the commonplace book of an illustrious gentleman who has been member of congress, and enjoyed the unlimited confidence of heads of departments. To this principle may be ascribed the wonderful ingenuity shown of late years in protracting and interrupting negotiations. Hence the cunning measure of appointing as ambassador some political pettifogger skilled in delays, sophisms, and misapprehensions, and dexterous in the art of baffling argument; or some blundering statesman, whose errors and misconstructions may be a plea for refusing to ratify his engagements. And hence, too, that most notable expedient, so popular with our government, of sending out a brace of ambassadors, between whom, having each an individual will to consult, character to establish, and interest to promote, you may as well look for unanimity and concord as between two lovers with one mistress, two dogs with one bone, or two naked rogues with one pair of breeches. This disagreement, therefore, is continually breeding delays and impediments, in consequence of which the negotiation goes on swimmingly, inasmuch as there is no prospect of its ever coming to a close. Nothing is lost by these delays and obstacles but time; and in a negotiation, according to the theory I have exposed, all time lost is in reality so much time gained; with what delightful paradoxes does modern political economy abound!
Now all that I have here advanced, is so notoriously true, that I almost blush to take up the time of my readers, with treating of matters which must many a time have stared them in the face. But the proposition to which I would most earnestly call their attention is this, that though a negotiation be the most harmonizing of all national transactions, yet a treaty of peace is a great political evil, and one of the most fruitful sources of war.
I have rarely seen an instance of any special contract between individuals that did not produce jealousies, bickerings and often downright ruptures between them; nor did I ever know of a treaty between two nations that did not occasion continual misunderstandings. How many worthy country neighbors have I known, who, after living in peace and good-fellowship for years, have been thrown into a state of distrust, caviling, and animosity, by some ill-starred agreement about fences, runs of water, and stray cattle! and how many well-meaning nations, who would otherwise have remained in the most amicable disposition towards each other, have been brought to swords' points about the infringement or misconstruction of some treaty, which in an evil hour they had concluded, by way of making their amity more sure!
Treaties at best are but complied with so long as interest requires their fulfilment; consequently they are virtually binding on the weaker party only, or, in plain truth, they are not binding at all. No nation will wantonly go to war with another if it has nothing to gain thereby, and therefore needs no treaty to restrain it from violence; and if it have anything to gain, I much question, from what I have witnessed of the righteous conduct of nations, whether any treaty could be made so strong that it could not thrust the sword through; nay, I would hold ten to one the treaty itself would be the very source to which resort would be had to find a pretext for hostilities.
Thus, therefore, I conclude—that though it is the best of all policies for a nation to keep up a constant negotiation with its neighbors, yet it is the summit of folly for it ever to be beguiled into a treaty; for then comes on non-fulfillment and infraction, then remonstrance, then altercation, then retaliation, then recrimination, and finally open war. In a word, negotiation is like courtship, a time of sweet words, gallant speeches, soft looks, and endearing caresses—but the marriage ceremony is the signal for hostilities.
If my painstaking reader be not somewhat perplexed by the ratiocination of the foregoing passage, he will perceive at a glance that the great Peter, in concluding a treaty with his eastern neighbors, was guilty of lamentable error in policy. In fact, to this unlucky agreement may be traced a world of bickerings and heart-burnings between the parties, about fancied or pretended infringements of treaty stipulations; in all which the Yankees were prone to indemnify themselves by a "dig into the sides" of the New Netherlands. But, in sooth, these border feuds, albeit they gave great annoyance to the good burghers of Mannahata, were so pitiful in their nature, that a grave historian like myself, who grudges the time spent in anything less than the revolutions of states and fall of empires, would deem them unworthy of being inscribed on his page. The reader is, therefore, to take it for granted—though I scorn to waste in the detail that time which my furrowed brow and trembling hand inform me is invaluable—that all the while the great Peter was occupied in those tremendous and bloody contests which I shall shortly rehearse, there was a continued series of little, dirty, sniveling scourings, broils, and maraudings, kept up on the eastern frontiers by the moss-troopers of Connecticut. But, like that mirror of chivalry, the sage and valorous Don Quixote, I leave these petty contests for some future Sancho Panza of an historian, while I reserve my prowess and my pen for achievements of higher dignity; for at this moment I hear a direful and portentous note issuing from the bosom of the great council of the league, and resounding throughout the regions of the east, menacing the fame and fortunes of Peter Stuyvesant; I call, therefore, upon the reader to leave behind him all the paltry brawls of the Connecticut borders, and to press forward with me to the relief of our favorite hero, who, I foresee, will be wofully beset by the implacable Yankees in the next chapter.
That the reader may be aware of the peril at this moment menacing Peter Stuyvesant and his capital, I must remind him of the old charge advanced in the council of the league in the time of William the Testy, that the Nederlanders were carrying on a trade "damnable and injurious to the colonists," in furnishing the savages with "guns, powther, and shott." This, as I then suggested, was a crafty device of the Yankee confederacy to have a snug cause of war in petto, in case any favorable opportunity should present of attempting the conquest of the New Nederlands, the great object of Yankee ambition.
Accordingly, we now find, when every other ground of complaint had apparently been removed by treaty, this nefarious charge revived with tenfold virulence, and hurled like a thunderbolt at the very head of Peter Stuyvesant; happily his head, like that of the great bull of the Wabash, was proof against such missiles.
To be explicit, we are told that, in the years 1651, the great confederacy of the east accused the immaculate Peter, the soul of honor and heart of steel, of secretly endeavoring, by gifts and promises, to instigate the Narroheganset, Mohaque, and Pequot Indians to surprise and massacre the Yankee settlements. "For," as the grand council observed, "the Indians round about for divers hundred miles cercute seeme to have drunk deepe of an intoxicating cupp, att or from the Manhattoes against the English, whoe have sought their good, both in bodily and spirituall respects."
This charge they pretended to support by the evidence of divers Indians, who were probably moved by that spirit of truth which is said to reside in the bottle, and who swore to the fact as sturdily as though they had been so many Christian troopers.
Though descended from a family which suffered much injury from the losel Yankees of those times, my great-grandfather having had a yoke of oxen and his best pacer stolen, and having received a pair of black eyes and a bloody nose in one of these border wars; and my grandfather, when a very little boy tending pigs, having been kidnaped and severely flogged by a long-sided Connecticut schoolmaster—yet I should have passed over all these wrongs with forgiveness and oblivion—I could even have suffered them to have broken Everett Ducking's head; to have kicked the doughty Jacobus Van Curlet and his ragged regiment out of doors; to have carried every hog into captivity, and depopulated every hen-roost on the face of the earth with perfect impunity—but this wanton attack upon one of the most gallant and irreproachable heroes of modern times is too much even for me to digest, and has overset, with a single puff, the patience of the historian and the forbearance of the Dutchman.
Oh, reader, it was false! I swear to thee, it was false! If thou hast any respect to my word, if the undeviating character for veracity, which I have endeavored to maintain throughout this work, has its due weight with thee, thou wilt not give thy faith to this tale of slander; for I pledge my honor and my immortal fame to thee, that the gallant Peter Stuyvesant was not only innocent of this foul conspiracy, but would have suffered his right arm, or even his wooden leg, to consume with slow and everlasting flames, rather than attempt to destroy his enemies in any other way than open, generous warfare. Beshrew those caitiff scouts that conspired to sully his honest name by such an imputation!
Peter Stuyvesant, though haply he may never have heard of a knight errant, had as true a heart of chivalry as ever beat at the round table of King Arthur. In the honest bosom of this heroic Dutchman dwelt the seven noble virtues of knighthood, flourishing among his hardy qualities like wild flowers among rocks. He was, in truth, a hero of chivalry struck off by Nature at a single heat, and though little care may have been taken to refine her workmanship, he stood forth a miracle of her skill. In all his dealings he was headstrong perhaps, but open and above board; if there was anything in the whole world he most loathed and despised, it was cunning and secret wile; "straight forward" was his motto, and he at any time rather run his hard head against a stone wall than attempt to get round it.
Such was Peter Stuyvesant, and if my admiration of him has on this occasion transported my style beyond the sober gravity which becomes the philosophic recorder of historic events, I must plead as an apology that though a little grey-headed Dutchman, arrived almost at the down-hill of life, I still retain a lingering spark of that fire which kindles in the eye of youth when contemplating the virtues of ancient worthies. Blessed thrice, and nine times blessed be the good St. Nicholas, if I have indeed escaped that apathy which chills the sympathies of age and paralyses every glow of enthusiasm.
The first measure of Peter Stuyvesant, on hearing of this slanderous charge, would have been worthy of a man who had studied for years in the chivalrous library of Don Quixote. Drawing his sword and laying it across the table to put him in proper tune, he took pen in hand and indited a proud and lofty letter to the council of the league, reproaching them with giving ear to the slanders of heathen savages against a Christian, a soldier, and a cavalier; declaring that whoever charged him with the plot in question lied in his throat; to prove which he offered to meet the president of the council, or any of his compeers; or their champion, Captain Alexander Partridge, that mighty man of Rhodes, in single combat; wherein he trusted to vindicate his honor by the prowess of his arm.
This missive was intrusted to his trumpeter and squire, Anthony Van Corlear, that man of emergencies, with orders to travel night and day, sparing neither whip nor spur, seeing that he carried the vindication of his patron's fame in his saddle-bags. The loyal Anthony accomplished his mission with great speed and considerable loss of leather. He delivered his missive with becoming ceremony, accompanying it with a flourish of defiance on his trumpet to the whole council, ending with a significant and nasal twang full in the face of Captain Partridge, who nearly jumped out of his skin in an ecstasy of astonishment.
The grand council was composed of men too cool and practical to be put readily in a heat, or to indulge in knight-errantry, and above all to run a tilt with such a fiery hero as Peter the Headstrong. They knew the advantage, however, to have always a snug, justifiable cause of war in reserve with a neighbor who had territories worth invading; so they devised a reply to Peter Stuyvesant, calculated to keep up the "raw" which they had established.
On receiving this answer, Anthony Van Corlear remounted the Flanders mare which he always rode, and trotted merrily back to the Manhattoes, solacing himself by the way according to his wont; twanging his trumpet like a very devil, so that the sweet valleys and banks of the Connecticut, resounded with the warlike melody; bringing all the folks to the windows as he passed through Hartford and Pyquag and Middletown, and all the other border towns; ogling and winking at the women, and making aerial windmills from the end of his nose at their husbands; and stopping occasionally in the villages to eat pumpkin-pies, dance at country frolics, and bundle with the Yankee lasses, whom he rejoiced exceedingly with his soul-stirring instrument.
The reply of the grand council to Peter Stuyvesant was couched in the coolest and most diplomatic language. They assured him that "his confident denials of the barbarous plot alleged against him would weigh little against the testimony of divers sober and respectable Indians;" that "his guilt was proved to their perfect satisfaction," so that they must still require and seek due satisfaction and security; ending with—"so we rest, sir—Yours in ways of righteousness."
I forbear to say how the lion-hearted Peter roared and ramped at finding himself more and more entangled in the meshes thus artfully drawn round him by the knowing Yankees. Impatient, however, of suffering so gross an aspersion to rest upon his honest name, he sent a second messenger to the council, reiterating his denial of the treachery imputed to him, and offering to submit his conduct to the scrutiny of a court of honor. His offer was readily accepted; and now he looked forward with confidence to an august tribunal to be assembled at the Manhattoes, formed of high-minded cavaliers, peradventure governors and commanders of the confederate plantations, where the matter might be investigated by his peers in a manner befitting his rank and dignity.
While he was awaiting the arrival of such high functionaries, behold, one sunshiny afternoon there rode into the great gate of the Manhattoes two lean, hungry-looking Yankees, mounted on Narraganset pacers, with saddle-bags under their bottoms, and green satchels under their arms, who looked marvelously like two pettifogging attorneys beating the hoof from one county court to another in quest of lawsuits; and, in sooth, though they may have passed under different names at the time, I have reason to suspect they were the identical varlets who had negotiated the worthy Dutch commissioners out of the Connecticut river.
It was a rule with these indefatigable missionaries never to let the grass grow under their feet. Scarce had they, therefore, alighted at the inn and deposited their saddle-bags, than they made their way to the residence of the governor. They found him, according to custom, smoking his afternoon pipe on the "stoop," or bench at the porch of his house, and announced themselves at once as commissioners sent by the grand council of the east to investigate the truth of certain charges advanced against him.
The good Peter took his pipe from his mouth, and gazed at them for a moment in mute astonishment. By way of expediting business, they were proceeding on the spot to put some preliminary questions; asking him, peradventure, whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty; considering him something in the light of a culprit at the bar; when they were brought to a pause by seeing him lay down his pipe and begin to fumble with his walking-staff. For a moment those present would not have given half a crown for both the crowns of the commissioners; but Peter Stuyvesant repressed his mighty wrath and stayed his hand; he scanned the varlets from head to foot, satchels and all, with a look of ineffable scorn; then strode into the house, slammed the door after him, and commanded that they should never again be admitted to his presence.
The knowing commissioners winked to each other and made a certificate on the spot that the governor had refused to answer their interrogatories or to submit to their examination. They then proceeded to rummage about the city for two or three days, in quest of what they called evidence, perplexing Indians and old women with their cross-questioning until they had stuffed their satchels and saddle-bags with all kinds of apocryphal tales, rumors, and calumnies; with these they mounted their Narraganset pacers, and travelled back to the grand council. Neither did the proud-hearted Peter trouble himself to hinder their researches nor impede their departure; he was too mindful of their sacred character as envoys; but I warrant me had they played the same tricks with William the Testy, he would have had them tucked up by the waistband, and treated to an aerial gambol on his patent gallows.
The grand council of the east held a solemn meeting on the return of their envoys. As no advocate appeared in behalf of Peter Stuyvesant, everything went against him. His haughty refusal to submit to the questioning of the commissioners was construed into a consciousness of guilt. The contents of the satchels and saddle-bags were poured forth before the council, and appeared a mountain of evidence. A pale bilious orator took the floor, and declaimed for hours and in belligerent terms. He was one of those furious zealots who blow the bellows of faction until the whole furnace of politics is red-hot with sparks and cinders. What was it to him if he should set the house on fire, so that he might boil his pot by the blaze? He was from the borders of Connecticut; his constituents lived by marauding their Dutch neighbors, and were the greatest poachers in Christendom, excepting the Scotch border nobles. His eloquence had its effect, and it was determined to set on foot an expedition against the Nieuw Nederlandts.
It was necessary, however, to prepare the public mind for this measure. Accordingly the arguments of the orator were echoed from the pulpit for several succeeding Sundays, and a crusade was preached up against Peter Stuyvesant and his devoted city.
This is the first we hear of the "drum ecclesiastic" beating up for recruits in worldly warfare in our country. It has since been called into frequent use. A cunning politician often lurks under the clerical robe; things spiritual and things temporal are strangely jumbled together, like drugs on an apothecary's shelf; and instead of a peaceful sermon, the simple seeker after righteousness has often a political pamphlet thrust down his throat, labeled with a pious text from Scripture.
And now nothing was talked of but an expedition against the Manhattoes. It pleased the populace, who had a vehement prejudice against the Dutch, considering them a vastly inferior race, who had sought the new world for the lucre of gain, not the liberty of conscience: who were mere heretics and infidels, inasmuch as the refused to believe in witches and sea-serpents, and had, faith in the virtues of horse-shoes nailed to the door; ate pork without molasses; held pumpkins in contempt, and were in perpetual breach of the eleventh commandment of all true Yankees, "Thou shalt have codfish dinners on Saturdays."
No sooner did Peter Stuyvesant get wind of the storm that was brewing in the east, than he set to work to prepare for it. He was not one of those economical rulers who postpone the expense of fortifying until the enemy is at the door. There is nothing, he would say, that keeps off enemies and crows more than the smell of gunpowder. He proceeded, therefore, with all diligence, to put the province and its metropolis in a posture of defence.
Among the remnants which remained from the days of William the Testy were the militia laws, by which the inhabitants were obliged to turn out twice a year, with such military equipments as it pleased God; and were put under the command of tailors and man-milliners, who, though on ordinary occasions they might have been the meekest, most pippin-hearted little men in the world, were very devils at parades, when they had cocked hats on their heads and swords by their sides. Under the instructions of these periodical warriors, the peaceful burghers of the Manhattoes were schooled in iron war, and became so hardy in the process of time, that they could march through sun and rain, from one end of the town to the other, without flinching; and so intrepid and adroit, that they could face to the right, wheel to the left, and fare without winking or blinking.
Peter Stuyvesant, like all old soldiers who have seen service and smelt gunpowder, had no great respect for militia troops: however, he determined to give them a trial, and accordingly called for a general muster, inspection, and review. But, O Mars and Bellona! what a turning-out was here! Here came old Roelant Cuckaburt, with a short blunderbuss on his shoulder and a long horseman's sword trailing by his side; and Barent Dirkson, with something that looked like a copper kettle, turned upside down on his head, and a couple of old horse pistols in his belt; and Dirk Volkertson, with a long duck fowling-piece without any ramrod, and a host more, armed higgledy-piggledy with swords, hatchets, snickersnees, crowbars, broomsticks, and what not; the officers distinguished from the rest by having their slouched hats cocked up with pins and surmounted with cocktail feathers.
The sturdy Peter eyed this nondescript host with some such rueful aspect as a man would eye the devil, and determined to give his feather-bed soldiers a seasoning. He accordingly put them through their manual exercise over and over again, trudged them backwards and forwards about the streets of New Amsterdam, until their short legs ached and their fat sides sweated again, and finally encamped them in the evening on the summit of a hill without the city, to give them a taste of camp life, intending the next day to renew the toils and perils of the field. But so it came to pass that in the night there fell a great and heavy rain, and melted away the army, so that in the morning when Gaffer Phoebus shed his first beams upon the camp, scarce a warrior remained, excepting Peter Stuyvesant and his trumpeter, Van Corlear.
This awful desolation of a whole army would have appalled a commander of less nerve; but it served to confirm Peter's want of confidence in the militia system, which he thenceforward used to call, in joke—for he sometimes indulged in a joke—William the Testy's broken reed. He now took into his service a goodly number of burly, broad-shouldered, broad-bottomed Dutchmen, whom he paid in good silver and gold, and of whom he boasted that, whether they could stand fire or not, they were at least water-proof.
He fortified the city, too, with pickets and palisadoes, extending across the island from river to river; and above all cast up mud batteries or redoubts on the point of the island where it divided the beautiful bosom of the bay.
These latter redoubts, in process of time, came to be pleasantly overrun by a carpet of grass and clover, and overshadowed by wide-spreading elms and sycamores, among the branches of which the birds would build their nests and rejoice the ear with their melodious notes. Under these trees, too, the old burghers would smoke their afternoon pipe, contemplating the golden sun as he sank in the west, an emblem of the tranquil end toward which they were declining. Here, too, would the young men and maidens of the town take their evening stroll, watching the silver moon beams as they trembled along the calm bosom of the bay, or lit up the sail of some gliding bark, and peradventure interchanging the soft vows of honest affection; for to evening strolls in this favored spot were traced most of the marriages in New Amsterdam.
Such was the origin of that renowned promenade, The Battery, which, though ostensibly devoted to the stern purposes of war, has ever been consecrated to the sweet delights of peace. The scene of many a gambol in happy childhood—of many a tender assignation in riper years—of many a soothing walk in declining age—the healthful resort of the feeble invalid—the Sunday refreshment of the dusty tradesman—in fine, the ornament and delight of New York, and the pride of the lovely island of Manna-hata.
Having thus provided for the temporary security of New Amsterdam, and guarded it against any sudden surprise, the gallant Peter took a hearty pinch of snuff, and snapping his fingers, set the great council of Amphictyons and their champion, the redoubtable Alicxsander Partridg, at defiance. In the meantime the moss-troopers of Connecticut, the warriors of New Haven and Hartford, and Pyquag—otherwise called Weathersfield, famous for its onions and its witches—and of all the other border towns, were in a prodigious turmoil, furbishing up their rusty weapons, shouting aloud for war, and anticipating easy conquests and glorious rummaging of the fat little Dutch villages.
In the midst of these warlike preparations, however, they received the chilling news that the colony of Massachusetts refused to back them in this righteous war. It seems that the gallant conduct of Peter Stuyvesant, the generous warmth of his vindication, and the chivalrous spirit of his defiance, though lost upon the grand council of the league, had carried conviction to the general court of Massachusetts, which nobly refused to believe him guilty of the villainous plot laid at his door.
The defection of so important a colony paralysed the councils of the league. Some such dissension arose among its members as prevailed of yore in the camp of the brawling warriors of Greece, and in the end the crusade against the Manhattoes was abandoned.
It is said that the moss-troopers of Connecticut were sorely disappointed; well for them that their belligerent cravings were not gratified, for, by my faith, whatever might have been the ultimate result of a conflict with all the powers of the east, in the interim the stomachful heroes of Pyquag would have been choked with their own onions, and all the border towns of Connecticut would have had such a scouring from the lion-hearted Peter and his robustious myrmidons, that I warrant me they would not have had the stomach to squat on the land, or invade the hen-roost of a Nederlander for a century to come.
But it was not merely the refusal of Massachusetts to join in their unholy crusade that confounded the councils of the league; for about this time broke out in the New England provinces the awful plague of witchcraft, which spread like pestilence through the land. Such a howling abomination could not be suffered to remain long unnoticed; it soon excited the fiery indignation of those guardians of the commonwealth, who whilom had evinced such active benevolence in the conversion of Quakers and Anabaptists. The grand council of the league publicly set their faces against the crime, and bloody laws were enacted against all "solem conversing or compacting with the devil by the way of conjuracion or the like." Strict search, too, was made after witches, who were easily detected by devil's pinches; by being able to weep but three tears, and those out of the left eye; and by having a most suspicious predilection for black cats and broomsticks! What is particularly worthy of admiration is, that this terrible art, which has baffled the studies and researches of philosophers, astrologers, theurgists, and other sages, was chiefly confined to the most ignorant, decrepid, and ugly old women in the community, with scarce more brains than the broomsticks they rode upon.
When once an alarm is sounded, the public, who dearly love to be in a panic, are always ready to keep it up. Raise but the cry of yellow fever, and immediately every headache, indigestion, and overflowing of the bile is pronounced the terrible epidemic; cry out mad dog, and every unlucky cur in the street is in jeopardy; so in the present instance, whoever was troubled with colic or lumbago was sure to be bewitched; and woe to any unlucky old woman living in the neighborhood.
It is incredible the number of offences that were detected, "for every one of which," says the Reverend Cotton Mather, in that excellent work, the History of New England, "we have such a sufficient evidence, that no reasonable man in this whole country ever did question them; and it will be unreasonable to do it in any other."
Indeed, that authentic and judicious historian, John Josselyn, gent., furnishes us with unquestionable facts on this subject. "There are none," observes he, "that beg in this country, but there be witches too many—bottle-bellied witches and others, that produce many strange apparitions, if you will believe report, of a shallop at sea manned with women—and of a ship and great red horse standing by the mainmast; the ship being in a small cove to the eastward vanished of a sudden," etc.
The number of delinquents, however, and their magical devices, were not more remarkable than their diabolical obstinacy. Though exhorted in the most solemn, persuasive and affectionate manner, to confess themselves guilty, and be burnt for the good of religion, and the entertainment of the public, yet did they most pertinaciously persist in asserting their innocence. Such incredible obstinacy was in itself deserving of immediate punishment, and was sufficient proof, if proof were necessary, that they were in league with the devil, who is perverseness itself. But their judges were just and merciful, and were determined to punish none that were not convicted on the best of testimony; not that they needed any evidence to satisfy their own minds, for, like true and experienced judges, their minds were perfectly made up, and they were thoroughly satisfied of the guilt of the prisoners before they proceeded to try them; but still something was necessary to convince the community at large, to quiet those praying quidnuncs who should come after them—in short, the world must be satisfied. Oh, the world! the world! all the world knows the world of trouble the world is eternally occasioning! The worthy judges, therefore, were driven to the necessity of sifting, detecting and making evident as noonday, matters which were at the commencement all clearly understood and firmly decided upon in their own pericraniums; so that it may truly be said that the witches were burnt to gratify the populace of the day, but were tried for the satisfaction of the whole world that should come after them.
Finding, therefore, that neither exhortation, sound reason, nor friendly entreaty had any avail on these hardened offenders, they resorted to the more urgent arguments of torture; and having thus absolutely wrung the truth from their stubborn lips, they condemned them to undergo the roasting due unto the heinous crimes they had confessed. Some even carried their perverseness so far as to expire under the torture, protesting their innocence to the last; but these were looked upon as thoroughly and absolutely possessed by the devil, and the pious bystanders only lamented that they had not lived a little longer to have perished in the flames.
In the city of Ephesus, we are told that the plague was expelled by stoning a ragged old beggar to death, whom Apollonius pointed out as being the evil spirit that caused it, and who actually showed himself to be a demon by changing into a shagged dog. In like manner, and by measures equally sagacious, a salutary check was given to this growing evil. The witches were all burnt, banished, or panic-stuck, and in a little while there was not an ugly old woman to be found throughout New England; which is doubtless one reason why all the young women there are so handsome. Those honest folk who had suffered from their incantations gradually recovered, excepting such as had been afflicted with twitches and aches, which, however, assumed the less alarming aspects of rheumatism, ciatics, and lumbagos; and the good people of New England, abandoning the study of the occult sciences, turned their attention to the more profitable hocus pocus of trade, and soon became expert in the legerdemain art of turning a penny. Still, however, a tinge of the old leaven is discernible, even unto this day, in their characters; witches occasionally start up among them in different disguises, as physicians, civilians and divines. The people at large show a keenness, a cleverness and a profundity of wisdom, that savors strongly of witchcraft; and it has been remarked, that whenever any stones fall from the moon, the greater part of them is sure to tumble into New England.
When treating of these tempestuous times, the unknown writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript breaks out into an apostrophe in praise of the good St. Nicholas, to whose protecting care he ascribes the dissensions which broke out in the council of the league, and the direful witchcraft which filled all Yankee land as with Egyptian darkness.
A portentous gloom, says he, hung lowering over the fair valleys of the east; the pleasant banks of the Connecticut no longer echoed to the sounds of rustic gayety; grisly phantoms glided about each wild brook and silent glen; fearful apparitions were seen in the air; strange voices were heard in solitary places, and the border towns were so occupied in detecting and punishing losel witches, that for a time all talk of war was suspended, and New Amsterdam and its inhabitants seemed to be totally forgotten.
I must not conceal the fact, that at one time there was some danger of this plague of witchcraft extending into the New Netherlands; and certain witches, mounted on broomsticks, are said to have been seen whisking in the air over some of the Dutch villages near the borders; but the worthy Nederlanders took the precaution to nail horse-shoes to their doors, which it is well known are effectual barriers against all diabolical vermin of the kind. Many of those horse-shoes may be seen at this very day on ancient mansions and barns, remaining from the days of the patriarchs; nay, the custom is still kept up among some of our legitimate Dutch yeomanry, who inherit from their forefathers a desire to keep witches and Yankees out of the country.
And now the great Peter, having no immediate hostility to apprehend from the east, turned his face, with characteristic vigilance, to his southern frontiers. The attentive reader will recollect that certain freebooting Swedes had become very troublesome in this quarter in the latter part of the reign of William the Testy, setting at naught the proclamations of that veritable potentate, and putting his admiral, the intrepid Jan Jensen Alpendam, to a perfect nonplus. To check the incursions of these Swedes, Peter Stuyvesant now ordered a force to that frontier, giving the command of it to General Jacobus Van Poffenburgh, an officer who had risen to great importance during the reign of Wilhelmus Kieft. He had, if histories speak true, been second in command to the doughty Van Curlet, when he and his warriors were inhumanly kicked out of Fort Goed Hoop by the Yankees. In that memorable affair Van Poffenburgh is said to have received more kicks, in a certain honorable part, than any of his comrades; in consequence of which, on the resignation of Van Curlet, he had been promoted to his place, being considered a hero who had seen service, and suffered in his country's cause.
It is tropically observed by honest old Socrates, that heaven infuses into some men at their birth a portion of intellectual gold; into others, of intellectual silver; while others are intellectually furnished with iron and brass. Of the last class was General Van Poffenburgh, and it would seem as if Dame Nature, who will sometimes be partial, had given him brass enough for a dozen ordinary braziers. All this he had contrived to pass off upon William the Testy for genuine gold; and the little governor would sit for hours and listen to his gunpowder stories of exploits, which left those of Tirante the White, Don Belianis of Greece, or St. George and the Dragon, quite in the background. Having been promoted by William Kieft to the command of his whole disposable forces, he gave importance to his station by the grandiloquence of his bulletins, always styling himself Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the New Netherlands; though in sober truth these Armies were nothing more than a handful of hen-stealing, bottle-bruising ragamuffins.
In person he was not very tall, but exceedingly round: neither did his bulk proceed from his being fat, but windy; being blown up by a prodigious conviction of his own importance, until he resembled one of those bags of wind given by Æolus, in an incredible fit of generosity to that vagabond warrior, Ulysses. His windy endowments had long excited the admiration of Antony Van Corlear, who is said to have hinted more than once to William the Testy, that in making Van Poffenburgh a general, he had spoiled an admirable trumpeter.
As it is the practice in ancient story to give the reader a description of the arms and equipments of every noted warrior, I will bestow a word upon the dress of this redoubtable commander. It comported with his character, being so crossed and slashed, and embroidered with lace and tinsel, that he seemed to have as much brass without as nature had stored away within. He was swathed too in a crimson sash, of the size and texture of a fishing-net; doubtless to keep his swelling heart from bursting through his ribs. His face glowed with furnace heat from between a huge pair of well-powdered whiskers; and his valorous soul seemed ready to bounce out of a pair of large, glassy, blinking eyes, projecting like those of a lobster.
I swear to thee, worthy reader, if history and tradition belie not this warrior, I would give all the money in my pocket to have seen him accoutred cap-a-pie—booted to the middle—sashed to the chin—collared to the ears—whiskered to the teeth—crowned with an overshadowing cocked hat, and girded with a leathern belt ten inches broad, from which trailed a falchion, of a length that I dare not mention. Thus equipped, he strutted about, as bitter looking a man of war as the far-famed More, of More Hall, when he sallied forth to slay the Dragon of Wantley. For what says the ballad?
"Had you but seen him in this dress,
How fierce he looked and how big,
You would have thought him for to be
Some Egyptian porcupig.
He frighted all—cats, dogs, and all,
Each cow, each horse, and each hog;
For fear did flee, for they took him to be
Some strange outlandish hedgehog."
I must confess this general, with all his outward valor and ventosity, was not exactly an officer to Peter Stuyvesant's taste, but he stood foremost in the army list of William the Testy, and it is probable the good Peter, who was conscientious in his dealings with all men, and had his military notions of precedence, thought it but fair to give him a chance of proving his right to his dignities.
To this copper captain, therefore, was confided the command of the troops destined to protect the southern frontier; and scarce had he departed from his station than bulletins began to arrive from him, describing his undaunted march through savage deserts over insurmountable mountains, across impassable rivers, and through impenetrable forests, conquering vast tracts of uninhabited country, and encountering more perils than did Xenophon in his far-famed retreat with his ten thousand Grecians.
Peter Stuyvesant read all these grandiloquent dispatches with a dubious screwing of the mouth and shaking of the head; but Antony Van Corlear repeated these contents in the streets and market-places with an appropriate flourish upon his trumpet, and the windy victories of the general resounded through the streets of New Amsterdam.
On arriving at the southern frontier, Van Poffenburgh proceeded to erect a fortress, or stronghold, on the South of Delaware river. At first he bethought him to call it Fort Stuyvesant, in honor of the governor, a lowly kind of homage prevalent in our country among speculators, military commanders, and office-seekers of all kinds, by which our maps come to be studded with the names of political patrons and temporary great men; in the present instance, Van Poffenburgh carried his homage to the most lowly degree, giving his fortress the name of Fort Casimir, in honor, it is said, of a favorite pair of brimstone trunk-breeches of his excellency.
As this fort will be found to give rise to important events, it may be worth while to notice that it was afterwards called Nieuw-Amstel, and was the germ of the present flourishing town of Newcastle, or, more properly speaking, No Castle, there being nothing of the kind on the premises.
His fortress being finished, it would have done any man's heart good to behold the swelling dignity with which the general would stride in and out a dozen times a day, surveying it in front and in rear, on this side and on that; how he would strut backwards and forwards, in full regimentals, on the top of the ramparts, like a vain-glorious cock-pigeon, swelling and vaporing on the top of a dovecote.
There is a kind of valorous spleen which, like wind, is apt to grow unruly in the stomachs of newly-made soldiers, compelling them to box-lobby brawls and brokenheaded quarrels, unless there can be found some more harmless way to give it vent. It is recorded, in the delectable romance of Pierce Forest, that a young knight, being dubbed by King Alexander, did incontinently gallop into an adjacent forest, and belabor the trees with such might and main, that he not merely eased off the sudden effervescence of his valor, but convinced the whole court that he was the most potent and courageous cavalier on the face of the earth. In like manner the commander of Fort Casimir, when he found his martial spirit waxing too hot within him, would sally forth into the fields and lay about him most lustily with his sabre; decapitating cabbages by platoons; hewing down lofty sunflowers, which he termed gigantic Swedes; and if, perchance, he espied a colony of big-bellied pumpkins quietly basking in the sun, "Ah! caitiff Yankees!" would he roar, "have I caught ye at last?" So saying, with one sweep of his sword, he would cleave the unhappy vegetables from their chins to their waist-bands; by which warlike havoc, his choler being in some sort allayed, he would return into the fortress with the full conviction that he was a very miracle of military prowess.
He was a disciplinarian, too, of the first order. Woe to any unlucky soldier who did not hold up his head and turn out his toes when on parade; or who did not salute the general in proper style as he passed. Having one day, in his Bible researches, encountered the history of Absalom and his melancholy end, the general bethought him that, in a country abounding with forests, his soldiers were in constant risk of a like catastrophe; he therefore, in an evil hour, issued orders for cropping the hair of both officers and men throughout the garrison.
Now so it happened, that among his officers was a sturdy veteran named Keldermeester, who had cherished, through a long life, a mop of hair not a little resembling the shag of a Newfoundland dog, terminating in a queue like the handle of a frying-pan, and queued so tightly to his head that his eyes and mouth generally stood ajar, and his eyebrows were drawn up to the top of his forehead. It may naturally be supposed that the possessor of so goodly an appendage would resist with abhorrence an order condemning it to the shears. On hearing the general orders, he discharged a tempest of veteran, soldier-like oaths, and dunder and blixums—swore he would break any man's head who attempted to meddle with his tail—queued it stiffer than ever, and whisked it about the garrison as fiercely as the tail of a crocodile.
The eelskin queue of old Keldermeester became instantly an affair of the utmost importance. The commander-in-chief was too enlightened an officer not to perceive that the discipline of the garrison, the subordination and good order of the armies of the Nieuw-Nederlands, the consequent safety of the whole province, and ultimately the dignity and prosperity of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General, imperiously demanded the docking of that stubborn queue. He decreed, therefore, that old Keldermeester should be publicly shorn of his glories in presence of the whole garrison—the old man as resolutely stood on the defensive-whereupon he was arrested and tried by a court-martial for mutiny, desertion, and all the other list of offences noticed in the articles of war, ending with a "videlicet, in wearing an eelskin queue, three feet long, contrary to orders." Then came on arraignments, and trials, and pleadings; and the whole garrison was in a ferment about this unfortunate queue. As it is well known that the commander of a frontier post has the power of acting pretty much after his own will, there is little doubt but that the veteran would have been hanged or shot at least, had he not luckily fallen ill of a fever, through mere chagrin and mortification—and deserted from all earthly command, with his beloved locks unviolated. His obstinacy remained unshaken to the very last moment, when he directed that he should be carried to his grave with his eelskin queue sticking out of a hole in his coffin.
This magnanimous affair obtained the general great credit as a disciplinarian; but it is hinted that he was ever afterwards subject to bad dreams and fearful visitations in the night, when the grizzly spectrum of old Keldermeester would stand sentinel by his bedside, erect as a pump, his enormous queue strutting out like the handle.
Hitherto, most venerable and courteous reader, have I shown thee the administration of the valorous Stuyvesant, under the mild moonshine of peace, or rather the grim tranquillity of awful expectation; but now the war-drum rumbles from afar, the brazen trumpet brays its thrilling note, and the rude clash of hostile arms speaks fearful prophecies of coming troubles. The gallant warrior starts from soft repose—from golden visions and voluptuous ease; where, in the dulcet "piping time of peace," he sought sweet solace after all his toils. No more in Beauty's siren lap reclined he weaves fair garlands for his lady's brows; no more entwines with flowers his shining sword nor through the livelong lazy summer's day chants forth his love-sick soul in madrigals. To manhood roused, he spurns the amorous flute, doffs from his brawny back the robe of peace, and clothes his pampered limbs in panoply of steel. O'er his dark brow, where late the myrtle waved, where wanton roses breathed enervate love, he rears the beaming casque and nodding plume; grasps the bright shield, and shakes the ponderous lance; or mounts with eager pride his fiery steed, and burns for deeds of glorious chivalry.
But soft, worthy reader! I would not have you imagine that any preux chevalier, thus hideously begirt with iron, existed in the city of New Amsterdam. This is but a lofty and gigantic mode, in which we heroic writers always talk of war, thereby to give it a noble and imposing aspect; equipping our warriors with bucklers, helms, and lances, and such-like outlandish and obsolete weapons, the like of which perchance they had never seen or heard of; in the same manner that a cunning statuary arrays a modern general or an admiral in the accoutrements of a Cæsar or an Alexander. The simple truth, then, of all this oratorical flourish is this: that the valiant Peter Stuyvesant all of a sudden found it necessary to scour his rusty blade, which too long had rusted in its scabbard, and prepare himself to undergo those hardy toils of war, in which his mighty soul so much delighted.
Methinks I at this moment behold him in my imagination; or rather, I behold his goodly portrait, which still hangs in the family mansion of the Stuyvesants, arrayed in all the terrors of a true Dutch general. His regimental coat of German blue, gorgeously decorated with a goodly show of large brass buttons, reaching from his waistband to his chin; the voluminous skirts turned up at the corners, and separating gallantly behind, so as to display the seat of a sumptuous pair of brimstone-colored trunk-breeches, a graceful style still prevalent among the warriors of our day, and which is in conformity to the custom of ancient heroes, who scorned to defend themselves in rear. His face, rendered exceeding terrible and warlike by a pair of black mustachios; his hair strutting out on each side in stiffly pomatumed ear-locks, and descending in a rat-tail queue below his waist; a shining stock of black leather supporting his chin, and a little but fierce cocked hat, stuck with a gallant and fiery air over his left eye. Such was the chivalric port of Peter the Headstrong; and when he made a sudden halt, planted himself firmly on his solid supporter, with his wooden leg inlaid with silver a little in advance, in order to strengthen his position, his right hand grasping a gold-headed cane, his left resting upon the pummel of his sword, his head dressing spiritedly to the right, with a most appalling and hard-favored frown upon his brow, he presented altogether one of the most commanding, bitter-looking, and soldier-like figures that ever strutted upon canvas. Proceed we now to inquire the cause of this warlike preparation.
In the preceding chapter we have spoken of the founding of Fort Casimir, and of the merciless warfare waged by its commander upon cabbages, sunflowers, and pumpkins, for want of better occasion to flesh his sword. Now it came to pass that higher up the Delaware, at his stronghold of Tinnekonk, resided one Jan Printz, who styled himself Governor of New Sweden. If history belie not this redoubtable Swede, he was a rival worthy of the windy and inflated commander of Fort Casimir; for Master David Pieterzen de Vrie, in his excellent book of voyages, describes him as "weighing upwards of four hundred pounds," a huge feeder, and bouser in proportion, taking three potations, pottle-deep, at every meal. He had a garrison after his own heart at Tinnekonk, guzzling, deep-drinking swashbucklers, who made the wild woods ring with their carousals.
No sooner did this robustious commander hear of the erection of Fort Casimir, than he sent a message to Van Poffenburgh, warning him off the land, as being within the bounds of his jurisdiction.
To this General Van Poffenburgh replied that the land belonged to their High Mightinesses, having been regularly purchased of the natives as discoverers from the Manhattoes, as witness the breeches of their land measurer, Ten Broeck.
To this the governor rejoined that the land had previously been sold by the Indians to the Swedes, and consequently was under the petticoat government of her Swedish majesty, Christina; and woe be to any mortal that wore a breeches who should dare to meddle even with the hem of her sacred garment. I forbear to dilate upon the war of words which was kept up for some time by these windy commanders; Van-Poffenburgh, however, had served under William the Testy, and was a veteran in this kind of warfare. Governor Printz, finding he was not to be dislodged by these long shots, now determined upon coming to closer quarters. Accordingly he descended the river in great force and fume, and erected a rival fortress just one Swedish mile below Fort Casimir, to which he gave the name of Helsenburg. And now commenced a tremendous rivalry between these two doughty commanders, striving to outstrut and outswell each other, like a couple of belligerent turkey-cocks. There was a contest who should run up the tallest flag-staff and display the broadest flag; all day long there was a furious rolling of drums and twanging of trumpets in either fortress, and, whichever had the wind in its favor, would keep up a continual firing of cannon, to taunt its antagonist with the smell of gunpowder.
On all these points of windy warfare the antagonists were well matched; but so it happened that the Swedish fortress being lower down the river, all the Dutch vessels, bound to Fort Casimir with supplies, had to pass it. Governor Printz at once took advantage of this circumstance, and compelled them to lower their flags as they passed under the guns of his battery.
This was a deadly wound to the Dutch pride of General Van Poffenburgh, and sorely would he swell when from the ramparts of Fort Casimir he beheld the flag of their High Mightinesses struck to the rival fortress. To heighten his vexation, Governor Printz, who, as has been shown, was a huge trencherman, took the liberty of having the first rummage of every Dutch merchant-ship, and securing to himself and his guzzling garrison all the little round Dutch cheeses, all the Dutch herrings, the gingerbread, the sweetmeats, the curious stone jugs of gin, and all the other Dutch luxuries, on their way for the solace of Fort Casimir. It is possible he may have paid to the Dutch skippers the full value of their commodities, but what consolation was this to Jacobus Van Poffenburgh and his garrison, who thus found their favorite supplies cut off, and diverted into the larders of the hostile camps? For some time this war of the cupboard was carried on to the great festivity and jollification of the Swedes, while the warriors of Fort Casimir found their hearts, or rather their stomachs, daily failing them. At length the summer heats and summer showers set in, and now, lo and behold! a great miracle was wrought for the relief of the Nederlands, not a little resembling one of the plagues of Egypt; for it came to pass that a great cloud of mosquitos arose out of the marshy borders of the river, and settled upon the fortress of Helsenburg, being doubtless attracted by the scent of the fresh blood of the Swedish gormandisers. Nay, it is said that the body of Jan Printz alone, which was as big and as full of blood as that of a prize ox, was sufficient to attract the mosquito from every part of the country. For some time the garrison endeavored to hold out, but it was all in vain; the mosquitos penetrated into every chink and crevice, and gave them no rest day nor night; and as to Governor Jan Printz, he moved about as in a cloud, with mosquito music in his ears, and mosquito stings to the very end of his nose. Finally, the garrison was fairly driven out of the fortress, and obliged to retreat to Tinnekonk; nay, it is said that the mosquitos followed Jan Printz even thither, and absolutely drove him out of the country; certain it is, he embarked for Sweden shortly afterward, and Jan Claudius Risingh was sent to govern New Sweden in his stead.
Such was the famous mosquito war on the Delaware, of which General Van Poffenburgh would fain have been the hero; but the devout people of the Nieuw-Nederlands always ascribed the discomfiture of the Swedes to the miraculous intervention of St. Nicholas. As to the fortress of Helsenburg, it fell to ruin, but the story of its strange destruction was perpetuated by the Swedish name of Myggen-borg, that is to say, Mosquito Castle.
Jan Claudius Risingh, who succeeded to the command of New Sweden, looms largely in ancient records as a gigantic Swede, who, had he not been rather knock-kneed and splay-footed, might have served for the model of a Samson or a Hercules. He was no less rapacious than mighty, and withal, as crafty as he was rapacious, so that there is very little doubt that, had he lived some four or five centuries since, he would have figured as one of those wicked giants, who took a cruel pleasure in pocketing beautiful princesses and distressed damsels, when gadding about the world, and locking them up in enchanted castles, without a toilet, a change of linen, or any other convenience. In consequence of which enormities they fell under the high displeasure of chivalry, and all true, loyal, and gallant knights were instructed to attack and slay outright any miscreant they might happen to find above six feet high; which is doubtless one reason why the race of large men is nearly extinct, and the generations of latter ages are so exceedingly small.
Governor Risingh, not withstanding his giantly condition, was, as I have hinted, a man of craft. He was not a man to ruffle the vanity of General Van Poffenburgh, or to rub his self-conceit against the grain. On the contrary, as he sailed up the Delaware, he paused before Fort Casimir, displayed his flag, and fired a royal salute before dropping anchor. The salute would doubtless have been returned, had not the guns been dismounted; as it was, a veteran sentinel who had been napping at his post, and had suffered his match to go out, returned the compliment by discharging his musket with the spark of a pipe borrowed from a comrade. Governor Risingh accepted this as a courteous reply, and treated the fortress to a second salute, well knowing its commander was apt to be marvelously delighted with these little ceremonials, considering them so many acts of homage paid to his greatness. He then prepared to land with a military retinue of thirty men, a prodigious pageant in the wilderness.
And now took place a terrible rummage and racket in Fort Casimir, to receive such a visitor in proper style, and to make an imposing appearance. The main guard was turned out as soon as possible, equipped to the best advantage in the few suits of regimentals, which had to do duty, by turns, with the whole garrison. One tall, lank fellow appeared in a little man's coat, with the buttons between his shoulders; the skirts scarce covering his bottom; his hands hanging like spades out of the sleeves; and the coat linked in front by worsted loops made out of a pair of red garters. Another had a cocked hat stuck on the back of his head, and decorated with a bunch of cocks' tails; a third had a pair of rusty gaiters hanging about his heels; while a fourth, a little duck-legged fellow, was equipped in a pair of the general's cast-off breeches, which he held up with one hand while he grasped his firelock with the other. The rest were accoutred in similar style, excepting three ragamuffins without shirts, and with but a pair and a half of breeches between them; wherefore they were sent to the black hole, to keep them out of sight, that they might not disgrace the fortress.
His men being thus gallantly arrayed—those who lacked muskets shouldering spades and pickaxes, and every man being ordered to tuck in his shirttail and pull up his brogues—General Van Poffenburgh first took a sturdy draught of foaming ale, which, like the magnanimous More, of More Hall, was his invariable practice on all great occasions; this done, he put himself at their head, and issued forth from his castle like a mighty giant just refreshed with wine. But when the two heroes met, then began a scene of warlike parade that beggars all description. The shrewd Risingh, who had grown grey much before his time, in consequence of his craftiness, saw at one glance the ruling passion of the great Van Poffenburgh, and humored him in all his valorous fantasies.
Their detachments were accordingly drawn up in front of each other, they carried arms and they presented arms, they gave the standing salute and the passing salute, they rolled their drums, they flourished their fifes, and they waved their colors; they faced to the left, and they faced to the right, and they faced to the right about; they wheeled forward, and they wheeled backward, and they wheeled into echelon; they marched and they countermarched, by grand divisions, by single divisions, and by subdivisions; by platoons, by sections, and by files; in quick time, in slow time, and in no time at all; for, having gone through all the evolutions of two great armies, including the eighteen manoeuvres of Dundas; having exhausted all that they could recollect or image of military tactics, including sundry strange and irregular evolutions, the like of which were never seen before or since, excepting among certain of our newly-raised militia, the two commanders and their respective troops came at length to a dead halt, completely exhausted by the toils of war. Never did two valiant train-band captains, or two buskined theatric heroes, in the renowned tragedies of Pizarro, Tom Thumb, or any other heroical and fighting tragedy, marshal their gallows-looking, duck-legged, heavy-heeled myrmidons with more glory and self-admiration.
These military compliments being finished, General Van Poffenburgh escorted his illustrious visitor, with great ceremony, into the fort, attended him throughout the fortifications, showed him the horn-works, crown-works, half-moons, and various other outworks, or rather the places where they ought to be erected, and where they might be erected if he pleased; plainly demonstrating that it was a place of "great capability," and though at present but a little redoubt, yet that it was evidently a formidable fortress in embryo. This survey over, he next had the whole garrison put under arms, exercised, and reviewed, and concluded by ordering the three Bridewell birds to be hauled out of the black hole, brought up to the halberds, and soundly flogged for the amusement of his visitors, and to convince him that he was a great disciplinarian.
The cunning Risingh, while he pretended to be struck dumb outright with the puissance of the great Van Poffenburgh, took silent note of the incompetency of his garrison, of which he gave a wink to his trusty followers, who tipped each other the wink, and laughed most obstreperously in their sleeves.
The inspection, review, and flogging being concluded, the party adjourned to the table; for, among his other great qualities, the general was remarkably addicted to huge carousals, and in one afternoon's campaign would leave more dead men on the field than he ever did in the whole course of his military career. Many bulletins of these bloodless victories do still remain on record, and the whole province was once thrown in amaze by the return of one of his campaigns, wherein it was stated, that though, like Captain Bobadil, he had only twenty men to back him, yet in the short space of six months he had conquered and utterly annihilated sixty oxen, ninety hogs, one hundred sheep, ten thousand cabbages, one thousand bushels of potatoes, one hundred and fifty kilderkins of small beer, two thousand seven hundred and thirty-five pipes, seventy-eight pounds of sugar-plums, and forty bars of iron, besides sundry small meats, game, poultry, and garden stuff: an achievement unparalleled since the days of Pantagruel and his all-devouring army, and which showed that it was only necessary to let Van Poffenburgh and his garrison loose in an enemy's country, and in a little while they would breed a famine, and starve all the inhabitants.
No sooner, therefore, had the general received intimation of the visit of Governor Risingh, than he ordered a great dinner to be prepared, and privately sent out a detachment of his most experienced veterans to rob all the hen-roosts in the neighborhood, and lay the pigstyes under contribution: a service which they discharged with such zeal and promptitude, that the garrison table groaned under the weight of their spoils.
I wish, with all my heart, my readers could see the valiant Van Poffenburgh, as he presided at the head of the banquet: it was a sight worth beholding: there he sat in his greatest glory, surrounded by his soldiers, like that famous wine-bibber, Alexander, whose thirsty virtues he did most ably imitate, telling astounding stories of his hair-breadth adventures and heroic exploits; at which, though all his auditors knew them to be incontinent lies and outrageous gasconades, yet did they cast up their eyes in admiration, and utter many interjections of astonishment. Nor could the general pronounce anything that bore the remotest resemblance to a joke, but the stout Risingh would strike his brawny fist upon the table till every glass rattled again, throw himself back in the chair, utter gigantic peals of laughter, and swear most horribly it was the best joke he ever heard in his life. Thus all was rout and revelry and hideous carousal within Fort Casimir, and so lustily did Van Poffenburgh ply the bottle, that in less than four short hours he made himself and his whole garrison, who all sedulously emulated the deeds of their chieftain, dead drunk, with singing songs, quaffing bumpers, and drinking patriotic toasts, none of which but was as long as a Welsh pedigree or a plea in Chancery.
No sooner did things come to this pass, than Risingh and his Swedes, who had cunningly kept themselves sober, rose on their entertainers, tied them neck and heels, and took formal possession of the fort and all its dependencies, in the name of Queen Christina of Sweden, administering at the same time an oath of allegiance to all the Dutch soldiers who could be made sober enough to swallow it. Risingh then put the fortifications in order, appointed his discreet and vigilant friend Suen Schute, otherwise called Skytte, a tall, wind-dried, water-drinking Swede, to the command, and departed, bearing with him this truly amiable garrison and its puissant commander, who, when brought to himself by a sound drubbing, bore no little resemblance to a "deboshed fish," or bloated sea-monster, caught upon dry land.
The transportation of the garrison was done to prevent the transmission of intelligence to New Amsterdam; for much as the cunning Risingh exulted in his stratagem, yet did he dread the vengeance of the sturdy Peter Stuyvesant, whose name spread as much terror in the neighborhood as did whilom that of the unconquerable Scanderbeg among his scurvy enemies the Turks.
Whoever first described common fame, or rumor, as belonging to the sager sex, was a very owl for shrewdness. She has in truth certain feminine qualities to an astonishing degree, particularly that benevolent anxiety to take care of the affairs of others, which keeps her continually hunting after secrets and gadding about proclaiming them. Whatever is done openly and in the face of the world, she takes but transient notice of; but whenever a transaction is done in a corner, and attempted to be shrouded in mystery, then her goddess-ship is at her wits' end to find it out, and takes a most mischievous and lady-like pleasure in publishing it to the world.
It is this truly feminine propensity which induces her continually to be prying into the cabinets of princes, listening at the key-holes of senate chambers, and peering through chinks and crannies, when our worthy congress are sitting with closed doors, deliberating between a dozen excellent modes of ruining the nation. It is this which makes her so baneful to all wary statesmen and intriguing commanders—such a stumbling-block to private negotiations and secret expeditions; betraying them by means and instruments which never would have been thought of by any but a female head.
Thus it was in the case of the affair of Fort Casimir. No doubt the cunning Risingh imagined, that, by securing the garrison he should for a long time prevent the history of its fate from reaching the ears of the gallant Stuyvesant; but his exploit was blown to the world when he least expected, and by one of the last beings he would ever have suspected of enlisting as trumpeter to the wide-mouthed deity.
This was one Dirk Schuiler (or Skulker), a kind of hanger-on to the garrison, who seemed to belong to nobody, and in a manner to be self-outlawed. He was one of those vagabond cosmopolites who shark about the world, as if they had no right or business in it, and who infest the skirts of society like poachers and interlopers. Every garrison and country village has one or more scapegoats of this kind, whose life is a kind of enigma, whose existence is without motive, who comes from the Lord knows where, who lives the Lord knows how, and who seems created for no other earthly purpose but to keep up the ancient and honorable order of idleness. This vagrant philosopher was supposed to have some Indian blood in his veins, which was manifested by a certain Indian complexion and cast of countenance, but more especially by his propensities and habits. He was a tall, lank fellow, swift of foot, and long-winded. He was generally equipped in a half Indian dress, with belt, leggings, and moccasins. His hair hung in straight gallows locks about his ears, and added not a little to his sharking demeanor. It is an old remark, that persons of Indian mixture, are half civilized, half savage, and half devil—a third half being provided for their particular convenience. It is for similar reasons, and probably with equal truth, that the backwoodsmen of Kentucky are styled half man, half horse, and half alligator by the settlers on the Mississippi, and held accordingly in great respect and abhorrence.
The above character may have presented itself to the garrison as applicable to Dirk Schuiler, whom they familiarly dubbed Gallows Dirk. Certain it is, he acknowledged allegiance to no one—was an utter enemy to work, holding it in no manner of estimation—but lounging about the fort, depending upon chance for a subsistence, getting drunk whenever he could get liquor, and stealing whatever he could lay his hands on. Every day or two he was sure to get a sound rib-roasting for some of his misdemeanors; which, however, as it broke no bones, he made very light of, and scrupled not to repeat the offence whenever another opportunity presented. Sometimes, in consequence of some flagrant villainy, he would abscond from the garrison, and be absent for a month at a time; skulking about the woods and swamps, with a long fowling-piece on his shoulder, lying in ambush for game, or squatting himself down on the edge of a pond catching fish for hours together, and bearing no little resemblance to that notable bird of the crane family, yclept the mudpoke. When he thought his crimes had been forgotten or forgiven, he would sneak back to the fort with a bundle of skins or a load of poultry, which, perchance, he had stolen, and would exchange them for liquor, with which having well soaked his carcase, he would lie in the sun, and enjoy all the luxurious indolence of that swinish philosopher Diogenes. He was the terror of all the farmyards in the country, into which he made fearful inroads; and sometimes he would make his sudden appearance in the garrison at daybreak, with the whole neighborhood at his heels; like the scoundrel thief of a fox, detected in his maraudings and hunted to his hole. Such was this Dirk Schuiler; and from the total indifference he showed to the world and its concerns, and from his truly Indian stoicism and taciturnity, no one would ever have dreamt that he would have been the publisher of the treachery of Risingh.
When the carousal was going on, which proved so fatal to the brave Poffenburgh and his watchful garrison, Dirk skulked about from room to room, being a kind of privileged vagrant, or useless hound whom nobody noticed. But though a fellow of few words, yet, like your taciturn people, his eyes and ears were always open, and in the course of his prowlings he overheard the whole plot of the Swedes. Dirk immediately settled in his own mind how he should turn the matter to his own advantage. He played the perfect jack-of-both-sides—that is to say, he made a prize of everything that came in his reach, robbed both parties, stuck the copper-bound cocked hat of the puissant Van Poffenburgh on his head, whipped a huge pair of Risingh's jack-boots under his arms, and took to his heels, just before the catastrophe and confusion at the garrison.
Finding himself completely dislodged from his haunt in this quarter, he directed his flight towards his native place, New Amsterdam, whence he had formerly been obliged to abscond precipitately, in consequence of misfortune in business—that is to say, having been detected in the act of sheep-stealing. After wandering many days in the woods, toiling through swamps, fording brooks, swimming various rivers, and encountering a world of hardships that would have killed any other being but an Indian, a backwoodsman, or the devil, he at length arrived, half famished, and lank as a starved weasel, at Communipaw, where he stole a canoe, and paddled over to New Amsterdam. Immediately on landing, he repaired to Governor Stuyvesant, and in more words than he had ever spoken before in the whole course of his life, gave an account of the disastrous affair.
On receiving these direful tidings, the valiant Peter started from his seat—dashed the pipe he was smoking against the back of the chimney—thrust a prodigious quid of tobacco into his left cheek—pulled up his galligaskins, and strode up and down the room, humming, as was customary with him when in a passion, a hideous north-west ditty. But, as I have before shown, he was not a man to vent his spleen in idle vaporing. His first measure, after the paroxysm of wrath had subsided, was to stump upstairs to a huge wooden chest which served as his armory, from whence he drew forth that identical suit of regimentals described in the preceding chapter. In these portentous habiliment she arrayed himself, like Achilles in the armor of Vulcan, maintaining all the while an appalling silence, knitting his brows, and drawing his breath through his clenched teeth. Being hastily equipped, he strode down into the parlor, and jerked down his trusty sword from over the fireplace, where it was usually suspended; but before he girded it on his thigh, he drew it from its scabbard, and as his eye coursed along the rusty blade, a grim smile stole over his iron visage; it was the first smile that had visited his countenance for five long weeks; but every one who beheld it prophesied that there would soon be warm work in the province!
Thus armed at all points, with grisly war depicted in each feature, his very cocked hat assuming an air of uncommon defiance, he instantly put himself upon the alert, and dispatched Antony Van Corlear hither and thither, this way and that way, through all the muddy streets and crooked lanes of the city, summoning by sound of trumpet his trusty peers to assemble in instant council. This done, by way of expediting matters, according to the custom of people in a hurry, he kept in continual bustle, shifting from chair to chair, popping his head out of every window, and stumping up and downstairs with his wooden leg in such brisk and incessant motion, that, as we are informed by an authentic historian of the times, the continual clatter bore no small resemblance to the music of a cooper hooping a flour-barrel.
A summons so peremptory, and from a man of the governor's mettle, was not to be trifled with; the sages forthwith repaired to the council chamber, seated themselves with the utmost tranquillity, and lighting their long pipes, gazed with unruffled composure on his excellency and his regimentals; being, as all counsellors should be, not easily flustered, nor taken by surprise. The governor, looking around for a moment with a lofty and soldier-like air, and resting one hand on the pommel of his sword, and flinging the other forth in a free and spirited manner, addressed them in a short but soul-stirring harangue.
I am extremely sorry that I have not the advantages of Livy, Thucydides, Plutarch, and others of my predecessors, who were furnished, as I am told, with the speeches of all their heroes taken down in short-hand by the most accurate stenographers of the time, whereby they were enabled wonderfully to enrich their histories, and delight their readers with sublime strains of eloquence. Not having such important auxiliaries, I cannot possibly pronounce what was the tenor of Governor Stuyvesant's speech. I am bold, however, to say, from the tenor of his character, that he did not wrap his rugged subject in silks and ermines, and other sickly trickeries of phrase, but spoke forth like a man of nerve and vigor, who scorned to shrink in words from those dangers which he stood ready to encounter in very deed. This much is certain, that he concluded by announcing his determination to lead on his troops in person, and rout these costard-monger Swedes from their usurped quarters at Fort Casimir. To this hardy resolution, such of his council as were awake gave their usual signal of concurrence; and as to the rest, who had fallen asleep about the middle of the harangue (their "usual custom in the afternoon"), they made not the least objection.
And now was seen in the fair city of New Amsterdam a prodigious bustle and preparation for iron war. Recruiting parties marched hither and thither, calling lustily upon all the scrubs, the runagates, and tatterdemalions of the Manhattoes and its vicinity, who had any ambition of sixpence a day, and immortal fame into the bargain, to enlist in the cause of glory; for I would have you note that you warlike heroes who trudge in the rear of conquerors are generally of that illustrious class of gentlemen who are equal candidates for the army or the bridewell, the halberds or the whipping-post, for whom Dame Fortune has cast an even die whether they shall make their exit by the sword or the halter, and whose deaths shall, at all events, be a lofty example to their countrymen.
But, not withstanding all this martial rout and invitation, the ranks of honor were but scantily supplied, so averse were the peaceful burghers of New Amsterdam from enlisting in foreign broils, or stirring beyond that home which rounded all their earthly ideas. Upon beholding this, the great Peter, whose noble heart was all on fire with war, and sweet revenge, determined to wait no longer for the tardy assistance of these oily citizens, but to muster up his merry men of the Hudson, who, brought up among woods, and wilds, and savage beasts, like our yeomen of Kentucky, delighted in nothing so much as desperate adventures and perilous expeditions through the wilderness. Thus resolving, he ordered his trusty squire, Antony Van Corlear, to have his state galley prepared and duly victualed; which being performed, he attended public service at the great church of St. Nicholas, like a true and pious governor; and then leaving peremptory orders with his council to have the chivalry of the Manhattoes marshaled out and appointed against his return, departed upon his recruiting voyage up the waters of the Hudson.
Now did the soft breezes of the south steal sweetly over the face of nature, tempering the panting heats of summer into genial and prolific warmth, when that miracle of hardihood and chivalric virtue, the dauntless Peter Stuyvesant, spread his canvas to the wind, and departed from the fair island of Manna-hata. The galley in which he embarked was sumptuously adorned with pendants and streamers of gorgeous dyes, which fluttered gayly in the wind, or drooped their ends into the bosom of the stream. The bow and poop of this majestic vessel were gallantly bedight, after the rarest Dutch fashion, with figures of little pursy Cupids with periwigs on their heads, and bearing in their hands garlands of flowers the like of which are not to be found in any book of botany, being the matchless flowers which flourished in the golden age, and exist no longer, unless it be in the imaginations of ingenious carvers of wood and discolorers of canvas.
Thus rarely decorated, in style befitting the puissant potentate of the Manhattoes, did the galley of Peter Stuyvesant launch forth upon the bosom of the lordly Hudson, which, as it rolled its broad waves to the ocean, seemed to pause for a while and swell with pride, as if conscious of the illustrious burden it sustained.
But trust me, gentlefolk, far other was the scene presented to the contemplation of the crew from that which may be witnessed at this degenerate day. Wildness and savage majesty reigned on the borders of this mighty river; the hand of cultivation had not as yet laid low the dark forest and tamed the features of the landscape, nor had the frequent sail of commerce broken in upon the profound and awful solitude of ages. Here and there might be seen a rude wigwam perched among the cliffs of the mountains, with its curling column of smoke mounting in the transparent atmosphere, but so loftily situated that the whoopings of the savage children, gamboling on the margin of the dizzy heights, fell almost as faintly on the ear as do the notes of the lark when lost in the azure vault of heaven. Now and then, from the beetling brow of some precipice, the wild deer would look timidly down upon the splendid pageant as it passed below, and then, tossing his antlers in the air, would bound away into the thickets of the forest.
Through such scenes did the stately vessel of Peter Stuyvesant pass. Now did they skirt the bases of the rocky heights of Jersey, which sprang up like everlasting walls, reaching from the waves unto the heavens, and were fashioned, if tradition may be believed, in times long past, by the mighty spirit of Manetho, to protect his favorite abodes from the unhallowed eyes of mortals. Now did they career it gayly across the vast expanse of Tappan Bay, whose wide extended shores present a variety of delectable scenery; here the bold promontory, crowned with embowering trees, advancing into the bay; there the long woodland slope, sweeping up from the shore in rich luxuriance, and terminating in the upland precipice, while at a distance, a long waving line of rocky heights threw their gigantic shades across the water. Now would they pass where some modest little interval, opening among these stupendous scenes, yet retreating as it were for protection into the embraces of the neighboring mountains, displayed a rural paradise, fraught with sweet and pastoral beauties; the velvet-tufted lawn, the bushy copse, the tinkling rivulet, stealing through the fresh and vivid verdure, on whose banks was situated some little Indian village, or, peradventure, the rude cabin of some solitary hunter.
The different periods of the revolving day seemed each, with cunning magic, to diffuse a different charm over the scene. Now would the jovial sun break gloriously from the east, blazing from the summits of the hills, and sparkling the landscape with a thousand dewy gems; while along the borders of the river were seen heavy masses of mist, which, like midnight caitiffs, disturbed at his reproach, made a sluggish retreat, rolling in sullen reluctance upon the mountains. As such times all was brightness, and life, and gayety; the atmosphere was of an indescribable pureness and transparency; the birds broke forth in wanton madrigals, and the freshening breezes wafted the vessel merrily on her course. But when the sun sunk amid a flood of glory in the west, mantling the heavens and the earth with a thousand gorgeous dyes, then all was calm, and silent, and magnificent. The late swelling sail hung lifelessly against the mast; the seamen, with folded arms, leaned against the shrouds, lost in that involuntary musing which the sober grandeur of nature commands in the rudest of her children. The vast bosom of the Hudson was like an unruffled mirror, reflecting the golden splendor of the heavens; excepting that now and then a bark canoe would steal across its surface, filled with painted savages, whose gay feathers glared brightly, as perchance a lingering ray of the setting sun gleamed upon them from the western mountains.
But when the hour of twilight spread its majestic mists around, then did the face of nature assume a thousand fugitive charms, which to the worthy heart that seeks enjoyment in the glorious works of its Maker are inexpressibly captivating. The mellow dubious light that prevailed just served to tinge with illusive colors the softened features of the scenery. The deceived but delighted eye sought vainly to discern, in the broad masses of shade, the separating line between the land and water, or to distinguish the fading objects that seemed sinking into chaos. Now did the busy fancy supply the feebleness of vision, producing with industrious craft a fairy creation of her own. Under her plastic wand the barren rocks frowned upon the watery waste, in the semblance of lofty towers, and high embattled castles; trees assumed the direful forms of mighty giants, and the inaccessible summits of the mountains seemed peopled with a thousand shadowy beings.
Now broke forth from the shores the notes of an innumerable variety of insects, which filled the air with a strange but not inharmonious concert; while ever and anon was heard the melancholy plaint of the whip-poor-will, who, perched on some lone tree, wearied the ear of night with his incessant moanings. The mind, soothed into a hallowed melancholy, listened with pensive stillness to catch and distinguish each sound that vaguely echoed from the shore—now and then startled, perchance, by the whoop of some straggling savage, or by the dreary howl of a wolf, stealing forth upon his nightly prowlings.
Thus happily did they pursue their course, until they entered upon those awful defiles denominated the Highlands, where it would seem that the gigantic Titans had erst waged their impious war with heaven, piling up cliffs on cliffs, and hurling vast masses of rock in wild confusion. But in sooth very different is the history of these cloud-capped mountains. These in ancient days, before the Hudson poured its waters from the lakes, formed one vast prison, within whose rocky bosom the omnipotent Manetho confined the rebellious spirits who repined at his control. Here, bound in adamantine chains, or jammed in rifted pines, or crushed by ponderous rocks, they groaned for many an age. At length the conquering Hudson, in its career toward the ocean, burst open their prison-house, rolling its tide triumphantly through the stupendous ruins.
Still, however, do many of them lurk about their old abodes; and these it is, according to venerable legends, that cause the echoes which resound throughout these awful solitudes, which are nothing but their angry clamors when any noise disturbs the profoundness of their repose. For when the elements are agitated by tempest, when the winds are up and the thunder rolls, then horrible is the yelling and howling of these troubled spirits, making the mountains to re-bellow with their hideous uproar; for at such times it is said that they think the great Manetho is returning once more to plunge them in gloomy caverns, and renew their intolerable captivity.
But all these fair and glorious scenes were lost upon the gallant Stuyvesant; nought occupied his mind but thoughts of iron war, and proud anticipations of hardy deeds of arms. Neither did his honest crew trouble their heads with any romantic speculations of the kind. The pilot at the helm quietly smoked his pipe, thinking of nothing either past, present, or to come; those of his comrades who were not industriously smoking under the hatches were listening with open mouths to Antony Van Corlear, who, seated on the windlass, was relating to them the marvelous history of those myriads of fireflies, that sparkled like gems and spangles upon the dusky robe of night. These, according to tradition, were originally a race of pestilent sempiternous beldames, who peopled these parts long before the memory of man, being of that abominated race emphatically called brimstones; and who, for their innumerable sins against the children of men, and to furnish an awful warning to the beauteous sex, were doomed to infest the earth in the shade of these threatening and terrible little bugs; enduring the internal torments of that fire, which they formerly carried in their hearts and breathed forth in their words, but now are sentenced to bear about for ever—in their tails!
And now I am going to tell a fact, which I doubt much my readers will hesitate to believe; but if they do, they are welcome not to believe a word in this whole history—for nothing which it contains is more true. It must be known then that the nose of Antony the Trumpeter was of a very lusty size, strutting boldly from his countenance like a mountain of Golconda, being sumptuously bedecked with rubies and other precious stones, the true regalia of a king of good fellows, which jolly Bacchus grants to all who bouse it heartily at the flagon. Now thus it happened, that bright and early in the morning, the good Antony, having washed his burly visage, was leaning over the quarter-railing of the galley, contemplating it in the glassy wave below. Just at this moment the illustrious sun, breaking in all his splendor from behind a high bluff of the Highlands, did dart one of his most potent beams full upon the refulgent nose of the sounder of brass; the reflection of which shot straightway down, hissing hot, into the water, and killed a mighty sturgeon that was sporting beside the vessel! This huge monster being with infinite labor hoisted on board, furnished a luxurious repast to all the crew, being accounted of excellent flavor, excepting about the wound, where it smacked a little of brimstone; and this, on my veracity, was the first time that ever sturgeon was eaten in those parts by Christian people.
When this astonishing miracle came to be made known to Peter Stuyvesant, and that he tasted of the unknown fish, he, as may well be supposed, marveled exceedingly: and as a monument thereof, he gave the name of Antony's Nose to a stout promontory in the neighborhood; and it has continued to be called Antony's Nose ever since that time.
But hold, whither am I wandering? By the mass, if I attempt to accompany the good Peter Stuyvesant on this voyage, I shall never make an end; for never was there a voyage so fraught with marvelous incidents, nor a river so abounding with transcendent beauties, worthy of being severally recorded. Even now I have it on the point of my pen to relate how his crew were most horribly frightened, on going on shore above the Highlands, by a gang of merry roistering devils, frisking and curveting on a flat rock, which projected into the river, and which is called the Duyvel's Dans-Kamer to this very day. But no! Diedrich Knickerbocker, it becomes thee not to idle thus in thy historic wayfaring.
Recollect, that while dwelling with the fond garrulity of age over these fairy scenes, endeared to thee by the recollections of thy youth, and the charms of a thousand legendary tales, which beguiled the simple ear of thy childhood—recollect that thou art trifling with those fleeting moments which should be devoted to loftier themes. Is not Time, relentless Time! shaking, with palsied hand, his almost exhausted hour-glass before thee?—hasten then to pursue thy weary task, lest the last sands be run ere thou hast finished thy history of the Manhattoes.
Let us, then, commit the dauntless Peter, his brave galley, and his loyal crew, to the protection of the blessed St. Nicholas, who, I have no doubt, will prosper him in his voyage, while we await his return at the great city of New Amsterdam.
While thus the enterprising Peter was coasting, with flowing sail, up the shores of the lordly Hudson, and arousing all the phlegmatic little Dutch settlements upon its borders, a great and puissant concourse of warriors was assembling at the city of New Amsterdam. And here that invaluable fragment of antiquity, the Stuyvesant manuscript, is more than commonly particular; by which means I am enabled to record the illustrious host that encamped itself in the public square in front of the fort, at present denominated the Bowling Green.
In the center, then, was pitched the tent of the men of battle of the manhattoes, who being the inmates of the metropolis, composed the lifeguards of the governor. These were commanded by the valiant Stoffel Brinkerhoff, who whilom had acquired such immortal fame at Oyster Bay; they displayed as a standard a beaver rampant on a field of orange, being the arms of the province, and denoting the persevering industry and the amphibious origin of the Nederlanders.
On their right hand might be seen the vassals of that renowned Mynheer, Michael Paw, who lorded it over the fair regions of ancient Pavonia, and the lands away south, even unto the Navesink Mountains, and was, moreover, patroon of Gibbet Island. His standard was borne by his trusty squire, Cornelius Van Vorst, consisting of a huge oyster recumbent upon a sea-green field, being the armorial bearings of his favorite metropolis, Communipaw. He brought to the camp a stout force of warriors, heavily armed, being each clad in ten pair of linsey-woolsey breeches, and overshadowed by broad-brimmed beavers, with short pipes twisted in their hat-bands. These were the men who vegetated in the mud along the shores of Pavonia, being of the race of genuine copper-heads, and were fabled to have sprung from oysters.
At a little distance was encamped the tribe of warriors who came from the neighborhood of Hell-gate. These were commanded by the Suy Dams and the Van Dams, incontinent hard swearers, as their names betoken; they were terrible looking fellows, clad in broad-skirted gaberdines, of that curious colored cloth called thunder and lightning, and bore as a standard three devil's darning-needles, volant, in a flame-colored field.
Hard by was the tent of the men of battle from the marshy borders of the Waale-Boght and the country thereabouts; these were of a sour aspect, by reason that they lived on crabs, which abound in these parts. They were the first institutors of that honorable order of knighthood, called Flymarket shirks; and, if tradition speak true, did likewise introduce the far-famed step in dancing, called "double trouble." They were commanded by the fearless Jacobus Varra Vanger, and had, moreover, a jolly band of Breuckelen ferry-men, who performed a brave concerto on conch shells.
But I refrain from pursuing this minute description, which goes on to describe the warriors of Bloemen-dael, and Weehawk, and Hoboken, and sundry other places, well known in history and song—for now do the notes of martial music alarm the people of New Amsterdam, sounding afar from beyond the walls of the city. But this alarm was in a little while relieved; for, lo! from the midst of a vast cloud of dust, they recognized the brimstone-colored breeches and splendid silver leg of Peter Stuyvesant, glaring in the sunbeams; and beheld him approaching at the head of a formidable army, which he had mustered along the banks of the Hudson. And here the excellent but anonymous writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript breaks out into a brave and glorious description of the forces, as they defiled through the principal gate of the city, that stood by the head of Wall Street.
First of all came the Van Brummels, who inhabit the pleasant borders of the Bronx: these were short fat men, wearing exceeding large trunk-breeches, and were renowned for feats of the trencher; they were the first inventors of suppawn, or mush and milk. Close in their rear marched the Van Vlotens, or Kaats-kill, horrible quavers of new cider, and arrant braggarts in their liquor. After them came the Van Pelts of Groodt Esopus, dexterous horsemen, mounted upon goodly switch-tailed steeds of the Esopus breed; these were mighty hunters of minks and musk-rats, whence came the word Peltry. Then the Van Nests of Kinderhoeck, valiant robbers of birds' nests, as their name denotes; to these, if report may be believed, are we indebted for the invention of slap-jacks, or buckwheat cakes. Then the Van Higginbottoms, of Wapping's Creek; these came armed with ferrules and birchen rods, being a race of schoolmasters, who first discovered the marvelous sympathy between the seat of honor and the seat of intellect. Then the Van Grolls, of Antony's Nose, who carried their liquor in fair round little pottles, by reason they could not bouse it out of their canteens, having such rare long noses. Then the Gardeniers, of Hudson and thereabouts, distinguished by many triumphant feats: such as robbing water-melon patches, smoking rabbits out of their holes, and the like, and by being great lovers of roasted pigs' tails; these were the ancestors of the renowned congressman of that name. Then the Van Hoesens, of Sing-Sing, great choristers and players upon the jewsharp; these marched two and two, singing the great song of St. Nicholas. Then the Couenhovens of Sleepy Hollow; these gave birth to a jolly race of publicans, who first discovered the magic artifice of conjuring a quart of wine into a pint bottle. Then the Van Kortlandts, who lived on the wild banks of the Croton, and were great killers of wild ducks, being much spoken of for their skill in shooting with the long bow. Then the Van Bunschotens, of Nyack and Kakiat, who were the first that did ever kick with the left foot; they were gallant bush-whackers and hunters of raccoons by moonlight. Then the Van Winkles, of Haerlem, potent suckers of eggs, and noted for running of horses, and running up of scores at taverns; they were the first that ever winked with both eyes at once. Lastly came the Knickerbockers, of the great town of Schaghtikoke, where the folk lay stones upon the houses in windy weather, lest they should be blown away. These derive their name, as some say, from Knicker, to shake, and Beker, a goblet, indicating thereby that they were sturdy toss-pots of yore; but, in truth, it was derived from Knicker, to nod, and Boeken, books; plainly meaning that they were great nodders or dozers over books; from them did descend the writer of this history.
Such was the legion of sturdy bush-beaters that poured in at the grand gate of New Amsterdam; the Stuyvesant manuscript, indeed, speaks of many more, whose names I omit to mention, seeing that it behooves me to hasten to matters of greater moment. Nothing could surpass the joy and martial pride of the lion-hearted Peter as he reviewed this mighty host of warriors, and he determined no longer to defer the gratification of his much-wished-for revenge upon the scoundrel Swedes at Fort Casimir.
But before I hasten to record those unmatchable events, which will be found in the sequel of this faithful history, let us pause to notice the fate of Jacobus Van Poffenburgh, the discomfited commander-in-chief of the armies of the New Netherlands. Such is the inherent uncharitableness of human nature that scarcely did the news become public of his deplorable discomfiture at Fort Casimir, than a thousand scurvy rumors were set afloat in New Amsterdam, wherein it was insinuated that he had in reality a treacherous understanding with the Swedish commander; that he had long been in the practice of privately communicating with the Swedes; together with divers hints about "secret service money." To all which deadly charges I do not give a jot more credit than I think they deserve.
Certain it is that the general vindicated his character by the most vehement oaths and protestations, and put every man out of the ranks of honor who dared to doubt his integrity. Moreover, on returning to New Amsterdam, he paraded up and down the streets with a crew of hard swearers at his heels—sturdy bottle companions, whom he gorged and fattened, and who were ready to bolster him through all the courts of justice—heroes of his own kidney, fierce-whiskered, broad-shouldered, colbrand-looking swaggerers—not one of whom but looked as though he could eat up an ox, and pick his teeth with the horns. These lifeguard men quarreled all his quarrels, were ready to fight all his battles, and scowled at every man that turned up his nose at the general, as though they would devour him alive. Their conversation was interspersed with oaths like minute-guns, and every bombastic rhodomontade was rounded off by a thundering execration, like a patriotic toast honored with a discharge of artillery.
All these valorous vaporings had a considerable effect in convincing certain profound sages, who began to think the general a hero, of unmatchable loftiness and magnanimity of soul; particularly as he was continually protesting on the honor of a soldier—a marvelously high-sounding asseveration. Nay, one of the members of the council went so far as to propose they should immortalise him by an imperishable statue of plaster of Paris.
But the vigilant Peter the Headstrong was not thus to be deceived. Sending privately for the commander-in-chief of all the armies, and having heard all his story, garnished with the customary pious oaths, protestations, and ejaculations—"Harkee, comrade," cried he, "though by your own account you are the most brave, upright, and honorable man in the whole province, yet do you lie under the misfortune of being damnably traduced, and immeasurably despised. Now, though it is certainly hard to punish a man for his misfortunes, and though it is very possible you are totally innocent of the crimes laid to your charge; yet as heaven, doubtless for some wise purpose, sees fit at present to withhold all proofs of your innocence, far be it from me to counteract its sovereign will. Besides, I cannot consent to venture my armies with a commander whom they despise, nor to trust the welfare of my people to a champion whom they distrust. Retire therefore, my friend, from the irksome toils and cares of public life, with this comforting reflection—that if guilty, you are but enjoying your just reward—and if innocent, you are not the first great and good man who has most wrongfully been slandered and maltreated in this wicked world—doubtless to be better treated in a better world, where there shall be neither error, calumny, nor persecution. In the meantime, let me never see your face again, for I have a horrible antipathy to the countenances of unfortunate great men like yourself."
As my readers and myself are about entering on as many perils as ever a confederacy of meddlesome knights-errant wilfully ran their heads into it is meet that, like those hardy adventurers, we should join hands, bury all differences, and swear to stand by one another, in weal or woe, to the end of the enterprise. My readers must doubtless perceive how completely I have altered my tone and deportment since we first set out together. I warrant they then thought me a crabbed, cynical, impertinent little son of a Dutchman; for I scarcely ever gave them a civil word, nor so much as touched my beaver, when I had occasion to address them. But as we jogged along together on the high road of my history, I gradually began to relax, to grow more courteous, and occasionally to enter into familiar discourse, until at length I came to conceive a most social, companionable kind of regard for them. This is just my way—I am always a little cold and reserved at first, particularly to people whom I neither know nor care for and am only to be completely won by long intimacy.
Besides, why should I have been sociable to the crowd of how-d'ye-do acquaintances that flocked around me at my first appearance? Many were merely attracted by a new face; and having stared me full in the title page walked off without saying a word; while others lingered yawningly through the preface, and, having gratified their short-lived curiosity, soon dropped off one by one, but more especially to try their mettle, I had recourse to an expedient, similar to one which, we are told, was used by that peerless flower of chivalry, King Arthur; who, before he admitted any knight to his intimacy, first required that he should show himself superior to danger or hardships, by encountering unheard-of mishaps, slaying some dozen giants, vanquishing wicked enchanters, not to say a word of dwarfs, hippogriffs, and fiery dragons. On a similar principle did I cunningly lead my readers, at the first sally, into two or three knotty chapters, where they were most woefully belabored and buffeted by a host of pagan philosophers and infidel writers. Though naturally a very grave man, yet could I scarce refrain from smiling outright at seeing the utter confusion and dismay of my valiant cavaliers. Some dropped down dead (asleep) on the field; others threw down my book in the middle of the first chapter, took to their heels, and never ceased scampering until they had fairly run it out of sight; when they stopped to take breath, to tell their friends what troubles they had undergone, and to warn all others from venturing on so thankless an expedition. Every page thinned my ranks more and more; and of the vast multitude that first set out, but a comparatively few made shift to survive, in exceedingly battered condition, through the five introductory chapters.
What, then! would you have had me take such sunshine, faint-hearted recreants to my bosom at our first acquaintance? No—no; I reserved my friendship for those who deserved it, for those who undauntedly bore me company, in despite of difficulties, dangers, and fatigues. And now, as to those who adhere to me at present, I take them affectionately by the hand. Worthy and thrice-beloved readers! brave and well-tried comrades! who have faithfully followed my footsteps through all my wanderings—I salute you from my heart—I pledge myself to stand by you to the last; and to conduct you (so Heaven speed this trusty weapon which I now hold between my fingers) triumphantly to the end of this our stupendous undertaking.
But, hark! while we are thus talking, the city of New Amsterdam is in a bustle. The host of warriors encamped in the Bowling Green are striking their tents; the brazen trumpet of Antony Van Corlear makes the welkin to resound with portentous clangour—the drums beat—the standards of the Manhattoes, of Hell-gate, and of Michael Paw wave proudly in the air. And now behold where the mariners are busily employed, hoisting the sails of yon topsail schooner and those clump-built sloops which are to waft the army of the Nederlanders to gather immortal honors on the Delaware!
The entire population of the city, man, woman, and child, turned out to behold the chivalry of New Amsterdam, as it paraded the streets previous to embarkation. Many a handkerchief was waved out of the windows, many a fair nose was blown in melodious sorrow on the mournful occasion. The grief of the fair dames and beauteous damsels of Grenada could not have been more vociferous on the banishment of the gallant tribe of Abencerrages than was that of the kind-hearted fair ones of New Amsterdam on the departure of their intrepid warriors. Every love-sick maiden fondly crammed the pockets of her hero with gingerbread and doughnuts; many a copper ring was exchanged, and crooked sixpence broken, in pledge of eternal constancy: and there remain extant to this day some love verses written on that occasion, sufficiently crabbed and incomprehensible to confound the whole universe.
But it was a moving sight to see the buxom lasses how they hung about the doughty Antony Van Corlear; for he was a jolly, rosy-faced, lusty bachelor, fond of his joke, and withall a desperate rogue among the women. Fain would they have kept him to comfort them while the army was away, for besides what I have said of him, it is no more than justice to add that he was a kind-hearted soul, noted for his benevolent attentions in comforting disconsolate wives during the absence of their husbands; and this made him to be very much regarded by the honest burghers of the city. But nothing could keep the valiant Antony from following the heels of the old governor, whom he loved as he did his very soul: so embracing all the young vrouws, and giving every one of them, that had good teeth and rosy lips, a dozen hearty smacks, he departed, loaded with their kind wishes.
Nor was the departure of the gallant Peter among the least causes of public distress. Though the old governor was by no means indulgent to the follies and waywardness of his subjects, yet somehow or other he had become strangely popular among the people. There is something so captivating in personal bravery that, with the common mass of mankind, it takes the lead of most other merits. The simple folk of New Amsterdam looked upon Peter Stuyvesant as a prodigy of valor. His wooden leg, that trophy of his martial encounters, was regarded with reverence and admiration. Every old burgher had a budget of miraculous stories to tell about the exploits of Hardkoppig Piet, wherewith he regaled his children of a long winter night, and on which he dwelt with as much delight and exaggeration as do our honest country yeomen on the hardy adventures of old General Putnam (or, as he is familiarly termed, Old Put) during our glorious revolution.
Not an individual but verily believed the old governor was a match for Beelzebub himself; and there was even a story told, with great mystery, and under the rose, of his having shot the devil with a silver bullet one dark stormy night as he was sailing in a canoe through Hell-gate; but this I do not record as being an absolute fact. Perish the man who would let fall a drop to discolor the pure stream of history!
Certain it is, not an old woman in New Amsterdam but considered Peter Stuyvesant as a tower of strength, and rested satisfied that the public welfare was secure, so long as he was in the city. It is not surprising, then, that they looked upon his departure as a sore affliction. With heavy hearts they dragged at the heels of his troop, as they marched down to the riverside to embark. The governor from the stern of his schooner gave a short but truly patriarchal address to his citizens, wherein he recommended them to comport like loyal and peaceable subjects—to go to church regularly on Sundays, and to mind their business all the week besides. That the women should be dutiful and affectionate to their husbands—looking after nobody's concerns but their own, eschewing all gossipings and morning gaddings, and carrying short tongues and long petticoats. That the men should abstain from intermeddling in public concerns, intrusting the cares of government to the officers appointed to support them—staying at home, like good citizens, making money for themselves, and getting children for the benefit of the country. That the burgomasters should look well to the public interest—not oppressing the poor nor indulging the rich—not tasking their ingenuity to devise new laws, but faithfully enforcing those which were already made—rather bending their attention to prevent evil than to punish it; ever recollecting that civil magistrates should consider themselves more as guardians of public morals than ratcatchers, employed to entrap public delinquents. Finally, he exhorted them, one and all, high and low, rich and poor, to conduct themselves as well as they could, assuring them that if they faithfully and conscientiously complied with this golden rule, there was no danger but that they would all conduct themselves well enough. This done, he gave them a paternal benediction, the sturdy Anthony sounded a most loving farewell with his trumpet, the jolly crews put up a shout of triumph, and the invincible armada swept off proudly down the bay.
The good people of New Amsterdam crowded down to the Battery—that blest resort, from whence so many a tender prayer has been wafted, so many a fair hand waved, so many a tearful look been cast by love-sick damsel, after the lessening barque, bearing her adventurous swain to distant climes! Here the populace watched with straining eyes the gallant squadron, as it slowly floated down the bay, and when the intervening land at the Narrows shut it from their sight, gradually dispersed with silent tongues and downcast countenances.
A heavy gloom hung over the late bustling city; the honest burghers smoked their pipes in profound thoughtfulness, casting many a wistful look to the weathercock on the church of St. Nicholas; and all the old women, having no longer the presence of Peter Stuyvesant to hearten them, gathered their children home, and barricaded the doors and windows every evening at sun down.
In the meanwhile the armada of the sturdy Peter proceeded prosperously on its voyage, and after encountering about as many storms, and waterspouts, and whales, and other horrors and phenomena, as generally befall adventurous landsmen in perilous voyages of the kind; and after undergoing a severe scouring from that deplorable and unpitied malady, called sea-sickness, the whole squadron arrived safely in the Delaware.
Without so much as dropping anchor, and giving his wearied ships time to breathe, after laboring so long on the ocean, the intrepid Peter pursued his course up the Delaware, and made a sudden appearance before Fort Casimir. Having summoned the astonished garrison by a terrific blast from the trumpet of the long-winded Van Corlear, he demanded, in a tone of thunder, an instant surrender of the fort. To this demand, Suen Skytte, the wind-dried commandant, replied in a shrill, whiffling voice, which, by reason of his extreme spareness, sounded like the wind whistling through a broken bellows—"that he had no very strong reason for refusing, except that the demand was particularly disagreeable, as he had been ordered to maintain his post to the last extremity." He requested time, therefore, to consult with Governor Risingh, and proposed a truce for that purpose.
The choleric Peter, indignant at having his rightful fort so treacherously taken from him, and thus pertinaciously withheld, refused the proposed armistice, and swore by the pipe of St. Nicholas, which, like the sacred fire, was never extinguished, that unless the fort were surrendered in ten minutes, he would incontinently storm the works, make all the garrison run the gauntlet, and split their scoundrel of a commander like a pickled shad. To give this menace the greater effect, he drew forth his trusty sword, and shook it at them with such a fierce and vigorous motion that doubtless, if it had not been exceeding rusty, it would have lightened terror into the eyes and hearts of the enemy. He then ordered his men to bring a broadside to bear upon the fort, consisting of two swivels, three muskets, a long duck fowling-piece, and two braces of horse-pistols.
In the meantime the sturdy Van Corlear marshaled all his forces, and commenced his warlike operations. Distending his cheeks like a very Boreas, he kept up a most horrific twanging of his trumpet—the lusty choristers of Sing-Sing broke forth into a hideous song of battle—the warriors of Breuckelen and the Wallabout blew a potent and astounding blast on their conch shells, altogether forming as outrageous a concerto as though five thousand French fiddlers were displaying their skill in a modern overture.
Whether the formidable front of war thus suddenly presented smote the garrison with sore dismay—or whether the concluding terms of the summons, which mentioned that he should surrender "at discretion," were mistaken by Suen Skytte, who, though a Swede, was a very considerate, easy-tempered man, as a compliment to his discretion, I will not take upon me to say; certain it is he found it impossible to resist so courteous a demand. Accordingly, in the very nick of time, just as the cabin-boy had gone after a coal of fire to discharge the swivel, a chamade was beat on the rampart by the only drum in the garrison, to the no small satisfaction of both parties; who, not withstanding their great stomach for fighting, had full as good an inclination to eat a quiet dinner as to exchange black eyes and bloody noses.
Thus did this impregnable fortress once more return to the domination of their High Mightinesses; Skytte and his garrison of twenty men were allowed to march out with the honors of war; and the victorious Peter, who was as generous as brave, permitted them to keep possession of all their arms and ammunition—the same on inspection being found totally unfit for service, having long rusted in the magazine of the fortress, even before it was wrested by the Swedes from the windy Van Poffenburgh. But I must not omit to mention that the governor was so well pleased with the service of his faithful squire Van Corlear, in the reduction of this great fortress, that he made him on the spot lord of a goodly domain in the vicinity of New Amsterdam, which goes by the name of Corlear's Hook unto this very day.
The unexampled liberality of Peter Stuyvesant towards the Swedes occasioned great surprise in the city of New Amsterdam; nay, certain factious individuals, who had been enlightened by political meetings in the days of William the Testy, but who had not dared to indulge their meddlesome habits under the eye of their present ruler, now emboldened by his absence, gave vent to their censures in the street. Murmurs were heard in the very council-chamber of New Amsterdam; and there is no knowing whether they might not have broken out into downright speeches and invectives, had not Peter Stuyvesant privately sent home his walking-stick to be laid as a mace on the table of the council-chamber, in the midst of his counsellors, who, like wise men, took the hint, and for ever after held their peace.
Like as a mighty alderman, when at a corporation feast the first spoonful of turtle-soup salutes his palate, feels his appetite but tenfold quickened, and redoubles his vigorous attacks upon the tureen, while his projecting eyes rolled greedily round, devouring everything at table; so did the mettlesome Peter Stuyvesant feel that hunger for martial glory, which raged within his bowels, inflamed by the capture of Fort Casimir, and nothing could allay it but the conquest of all New Sweden. No sooner, therefore, had he secured his conquest than he stumped resolutely on, flushed with success, to gather fresh laurels at Fort Christina.
This was the grand Swedish post, established on a small river (or, as it is improperly termed, creek) of the same name; and here that crafty governor Jan Risingh lay grimly drawn up, like a grey-bearded spider in the citadel of his web.
But before we hurry into the direful scenes which must attend the meeting of two such potent chieftains, it is advisable to pause for a moment, and hold a kind of warlike council. Battles should not be rushed into precipitately by the historian and his readers, any more than by the general and his soldiers. The great commanders of antiquity never engaged the enemy without previously preparing the minds of their followers by animating harangues; spiriting them up to heroic deeds, assuring them of the protection of the gods, and inspiring them with a confidence in the prowess of their leaders. So the historian should awaken the attention and enlist the passions of his readers; and having set them all on fire with the importance of his subject, he should put himself at their head, flourish his pen, and lead them on to the thickest of the fight.
An illustrious example of this rule may be seen in that mirror of historians, the immortal Thucydides. Having arrived at the breaking out of the Peloponnesian War, one of his commentators observes that "he sounds that charge in all the disposition and spirit of Homer. He catalogues the allies on both sides. He awakens our expectations, and fast engages our attention. All mankind are concerned in the important point now going to be decided. Endeavors are made to disclose futurity. Heaven itself is interested in the dispute. The earth totters, and nature seems to labor with the great event. This is his solemn, sublime manner of setting out. Thus he magnifies a war between two, as Rapin styles them, petty states; and thus artfully he supports a little subject by treating it in a great and noble method."
In like manner, having conducted my readers into the very teeth of peril: having followed the adventurous Peter and his band into foreign regions, surrounded by foes, and stunned by the horrid din of arms, at this important moment, while darkness and doubt hang o'er each coming chapter, I hold it meet to harangue them, and prepare them for the events that are to follow.
And here I would premise one great advantage, which, as historian, I possess over my reader; and this it is, that though I cannot save the life of my favorite hero, nor absolutely contradict the event of a battle (both which liberties, though often taken by the French writers of the present reign, I hold to be utterly unworthy of a scrupulous historian), yet I can now and then make him bestow on his enemy a sturdy back stroke sufficient to fell a giant; though, in honest truth, he may never have done anything of the kind; or I can drive his antagonist clear round and round the field, as did Homer make that fine fellow Hector scamper like a poltroon round the walls of Troy; for which, if ever they have encountered one another in the Elysian Fields, I'll warrant the prince of poets has had to make the most humble apology.
I am aware that many conscientious readers will be ready to cry out, "foul play!" whenever I render a little assistance to my hero; but I consider it one of those privileges exercised by historians of all ages, and one which has never been disputed. An historian is in fact, as it were, bound in honor to stand by his hero—the fame of the latter is intrusted to his hands, and it is his duty to do the best by it he can. Never was there a general, an admiral, or any other commander, who, in giving an account of any battle he had fought, did not sorely belabor the enemy; and I have no doubt that, had my heroes written the history of their own achievements, they would have dealt much harder blows than any that I shall recount. Standing forth, therefore, as the guardian of their fame, it behoves me to do them the same justice they would have done themselves; and if I happen to be a little hard upon the Swedes, I give free leave to any of their descendants, who may write a history of the State of Delaware, to take fair retaliation, and belabor Peter Stuyvesant as hard as they please.
Therefore stand by for broken heads and bloody noses! My pen hath long itched for a battle—siege after siege have I carried on without blows or bloodshed; but now I have at length got a chance, and I vow to Heaven and St. Nicholas that, let the chronicles of the times say what they please, neither Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, Polybius, nor any other historian did ever record a fiercer fight than that in which my valiant chieftains are now about to engage.
And you, O most excellent readers, whom, for your faithful adherence, I could cherish in the warmest corner of my heart, be not uneasy—trust the fate of our favorite Stuyvesant with me; for by the rood, come what may, I'll stick by Hardkoppig Piet to the last. I'll make him drive about these losels vile, as did the renowned Launcelot of the Lake a herd of recreant Cornish knights; and if he does fall, let me never draw my pen to fight another battle in behalf of a brave man, if I don't make these lubberly Swedes pay for it.
No sooner had Peter Stuyvesant arrived before Forth Christina, than he proceeded without delay to entrench himself, and immediately on running his first parallel, dispatched Antony Van Corlear to summon the fortress to surrender. Van Corlear was received with all due formality, hoodwinked at the portal, and conducted through a pestiferous smell of salt fish and onions to the citadel, a substantial hut built of pine logs. His eyes were here uncovered, and he found himself in the august presence of Governor Risingh. This chieftain, as I have before noted, was a very giantly man, and was clad in a coarse blue coat, strapped round the waist with a leathern belt, which caused the enormous skirts and pockets to set off with a very warlike sweep. His ponderous legs were cased in a pair of foxy-colored jack-boots, and he was straddling in the attitude of the Colossus of Rhodes, before a bit of broken looking-glass, shaving himself with a villainously dull razor. This afflicting operation caused him to make a series of horrible grimaces, which heightened exceedingly the grisly terrors of his visage. On Antony Van Corlear's being announced, the grim commander paused for a moment, in the midst of one of his most hard-favored contortions, and after eyeing him askance over the shoulder, with a kind of snarling grin on his countenance, resumed his labors at the glass.
This iron harvest being reaped, he turned once more to the trumpeter, and demanded the purport of his errand. Antony Van Corlear delivered in a few words, being a kind of short-hand speaker, a long message from his excellency, recounting the whole history of the province, with a recapitulation of grievances, and enumeration of claims, and concluding with a peremptory demand of instant surrender; which done, he turned aside, took his nose between his thumb and finger, and blew a tremendous blast, not unlike the flourish of a trumpet of defiance, which it had doubtless learned from a long and intimate neighborhood with that melodious instrument.
Governor Risingh heard him through trumpet and all, but with infinite impatience; leaning at times, as was his usual custom, on the pommel of his sword, and at times twirling a huge steel watch-chain, or snapping his fingers. Van Corlear having finished, he bluntly replied, that Peter Stuyvesant and his summons might go to the d——, whither he hoped to send him and his crew of ragamuffins before supper time. Then unsheathing his brass-hilted sword, and throwing away the scabbard, "'Fore gad," quoth he, "but I will not sheathe thee again until I make a scabbard of the smoke-dried leathern hide of this runagate Dutchman." Then having flung a fierce defiance in the teeth of his adversary, by the lips of his messenger, the latter was reconducted to the portal, with all the ceremonious civility due to the trumpeter, squire, and ambassador, of so great a commander; and being again unblinded, was courteously dismissed with a tweak of the nose, to assist him in recollecting his message.
No sooner did the gallant Peter receive this insolent reply, than he let fly a tremendous volley of red-hot execrations, which would infallibly have battered down the fortifications, and blown up the powder magazine about the ears of the fiery Swede had not the ramparts been remarkably strong, and the magazine bomb proof. Perceiving that the works withstood this terrific blast, and that it was utterly impossible, as it really was in those unphilosophic days, to carry on a war with words, he ordered his merry men all to prepare for an immediate assault. But here a strange murmur broke out among his troops, beginning with the tribe of the Van Bummels, those valiant trenchermen of the Bronx, and spreading from man to man, accompanied with certain mutinous looks and discontented murmurs. For once in his life, and only for once, did the great Peter turn pale; for he verily thought his warriors were going to falter in this hour of perilous trial, and thus to tarnish forever the fame of the province of New Netherlands.
But soon did he discover, to his great joy, that in this suspicion he deeply wronged this most undaunted army; for the cause of this agitation and uneasiness simply was that the hour of dinner was at hand, and it would almost have broken the hearts of these regular Dutch warriors to have broken in upon the invariable routine of their habits. Besides, it was an established rule among our ancestors always to fight upon a full stomach, and to this may be doubtless attributed the circumstance that they came to be so renowned in arms.
And now are the hearty men of the Manhattoes, and their no less hearty comrades, all lustily engaged under the trees, buffeting stoutly with the contents of their wallets, and taking such affectionate embraces of their canteens and pottles as though they verily believed they were to be the last. And as I foresee we shall have hot work in a page or two, I advise my readers to do the same, for which purpose I will bring this chapter to a close; giving them my word of honor that no advantage shall be taken of this armistice to surprise, or in anywise molest the honest Nederlanders while at their vigorous repast.
"Now had the Dutchmen snatched a huge repast," and finding themselves wonderfully encouraged and animated thereby, prepared to take the field. Expectation, says the writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript, expectation now stood on stilts. The world forgot to turn round, or rather stood still, that it might witness the affray, like a round-bellied alderman watching the combat of two chivalrous flies upon his jerkin. The eyes of all mankind, as usual in such cases, were turned upon Fort Cristina. The sun, like a little man in a crowd at a puppet-show, scampered about the heavens, popping his head here and there, and endeavoring to get a peep between the unmannerly clouds that obtruded themselves in his way. The historians filled their inkhorns; the poets went without their dinners, either that they might buy paper and goose-quills, or because they could not get anything to eat. Antiquity scowled sulkily out of its grave to see itself outdone; while even Posterity stood mute, gazing in gaping ecstasy of retrospection on the eventful field.
The immortal deities, who whilom had seen service at the "affair" of Troy, now mounted their feather-bed clouds, and sailed over the plain, or mingled among the combatants in different disguises, all itching to have a finger in the pie. Jupiter sent off his thunderbolt to a noted coppersmith to have it furbished up for the direful occasion. Venus vowed by her chastity to patronize the Swedes, and in semblance of a blear-eyed trull paraded the battlements of Fort Christina, accompanied by Diana, as a sergeant's widow, of cracked reputation. The noted bully Mars stuck two horse-pistols into his belt, shouldered a rusty firelock, and gallantly swaggered at their elbow as a drunken corporal, while Apollo trudged in their rear as a bandy-legged fifer, playing most villainously out of tune.
On the other side the ox-eyed Juno, who had gained a pair of black eyes over night, in one of her curtain lectures with old Jupiter, displayed her haughty beauties on a baggage wagon; Minerva, as a brawny gin-suttler, tacked up her skirts, brandished her fists, and swore most heroically, in exceeding bad Dutch, (having but lately studied the language), by way of keeping up the spirits of the soldiers; while Vulcan halted as a club-footed blacksmith, lately promoted to be a captain of militia. All was silent awe or bustling preparation, war reared his horrid front, gnashed loud his iron fangs, and shook his direful crest of bristling bayonets.
And now the mighty chieftains marshaled out their hosts. Here stood stout Risingh, firm as a thousand rocks, incrusted with stockades and in trenched to the chin in mud batteries. His valiant soldiery lined the breastwork in grim array, each having his mustachios fiercely greased, and his hair pomatumed back, and queued so stiffly, that he grinned above the ramparts like a grisly death's head.
There came on the intrepid Peter, his brows knit, his teeth set, his fists clenched, almost breathing forth volumes of smoke, so fierce was the fire that raged within his bosom. His faithful squire Van Corlear trudged valiantly at his heels, with his trumpet gorgeously bedecked with red and yellow ribands, the remembrances of his fair mistresses at the Manhattoes. Then came waddling on the sturdy chivalry of the Hudson. There were the Van Wycks, and the Van Dycks, and the Ten Eycks; the Van Nesses, the Van Tassels, the Van Grolls; the Van Hoesens, the Van Giesons, and the Van Blarcoms; the Van Warts, the Van Winkles, the Van Dams; the Van Pelts, the Van Rippers, and the Van Brunts. There were the Van Hornes, the Van Hooks, the Van Bunschotens; the Van Gelders, the Van Arsdales, and the Van Bummels; the Vander Belts, the Vander Hoofs, the Vander Voorts, the Vander Lyns, the Vander Pools, and the Vander Spiegles; there came the Hoffmans, the Hooglands, the Hoppers, the Cloppers, the Ryckmans, the Dyckmans, the Hogebooms, the Rosebooms, the Oothouts, the Quackenbosses, the Roerbacks, the Garrebrantzes, the Bensons, the Brouwers, the Waldrons, the Onderdonks, the Varra Vangers, the Schermerhorns, the Stoutenburghs, the Brinkerhoffs, the Bontecous, the Knickerbockers, the Hockstrassers, the Ten Breecheses, and the Tough Breecheses, with a host more of worthies, whose names are too crabbed to be written, or if they could be written, it would be impossible for man to utter—all fortified with a mighty dinner, and, to use the words of a great Dutch poet,
"Brimful of wrath and cabbage."
For an instant the mighty Peter paused in the midst of his career, and mounting on a stump, addressed his troops in eloquent Low Dutch, exhorting them to fight like duyvels, and assuring them that if they conquered, they should get plenty of booty; if they fell, they should be allowed the satisfaction, while dying, of reflecting that it was in the service of their country; and after they were dead, of seeing their names inscribed in the temple of renown, and handed down, in company with all the other great men of the year, for the admiration of posterity. Finally, he swore to them, on the word of a governor (and they knew him too well to doubt it for a moment), that if he caught any mother's son of them looking pale, or playing craven, he would curry his hide till he made him run out of it like a snake in spring time. Then lugging out his trusty sabre, he brandished it three times over his head, ordered Van Corlear to sound a charge, and shouting the words, "St. Nicholas and the Manhattoes!" courageously dashed forwards. His warlike followers, who had employed the interval in lighting their pipes, instantly stuck them into their mouths, gave a furious puff, and charged gallantly under cover of the smoke.
The Swedish garrison, ordered by the cunning Risingh not to fire until they could distinguish the whites of their assailants' eyes, stood in horrid silence on the covert-way, until the eager Dutchmen had ascended the glacis. Then did they pour into them such a tremendous volley that the very hills quaked around, and were terrified even into an incontinence of water, insomuch that certain springs burst forth from their sides, which continue to run unto the present day. Not a Dutchman but would have bitten the dust beneath that dreadful fire had not the protecting Minerva kindly taken care that the Swedes should, one and all, observe their usual custom of shutting their eyes, and turning away their heads at the moment of discharge.
The Swedes followed up their fire by leaping the counterscarp, and falling tooth and nail upon the foe with furious outcries. And now might be seen prodigies of valor, unmatched in history or song. Here was the sturdy Stoffel Brinkerhoff brandishing his quarter-staff like the giant Blanderon his oak tree (for he scorned to carry any other weapon), and drumming a horrific tune upon the hard heads of the Swedish soldiery. There were the Van Kortlandts, posted at a distance, like the Locrian archers of yore, and plying it most potently with the long-bow, for which they were so justly renowned. On a rising knoll were gathered the valiant men of Sing-Sing, assisting marvellously in the fight, by chanting the great song of St. Nicholas; but as to the Gardeniers of Hudson, they were absent on a marauding party, laying waste the neighboring water-melon patches.
In a different part of the field were the Van Grolls of Anthony's Nose, struggling to get to the thickest of the fight, but horribly perplexed in a defile between two hills, by reason of the length of their noses. So also the Van Bunschotens of Nyack and Kakiat, so renowned for kicking with the left foot, were brought to a stand for want of wind, in consequence of the hearty dinner they had eaten, and would have been put to utter rout but for the arrival of a gallant corps of voltigeurs, composed of the Hoppers, who advanced nimbly to their assistance on one foot. Nor must I omit to mention the valiant achievements of Antony Van Corlear, who, for a good quarter of an hour, waged stubborn fight with a little pursy Swedish drummer, whose hide he drummed most magnificently, and whom he would infallibly have annihilated on the spot, but that he had come into the battle with no other weapon but his trumpet.
But now the combat thickened. On came the mighty Jacobus Varra Vanger and the fighting men of the Wallabout; after them thundered the Van Pelts of Esopus, together with the Van Riepers and the Van Brunts, bearing down all before them; then the Suy Dams and the Van Dams, pressing forward with many a blustering oath, at the head of the warriors of Hell-gate, clad in their thunder and lightning gaberdines; and, lastly, the standard-bearers and body-guards of Peter Stuyvesant, bearing the great beaver of the Manhattoes.
And now commenced the horrid din, the desperate struggle, the maddening ferocity, the frantic desperation, the confusion, and self-abandonment of war. Dutchman and Swede commingled, tugged, panted, and blowed. The heavens were darkened with a tempest of missives. Bang! went the guns; whack! went the broad-swords! thump! went the cudgels; crash! went the musket-strocks; blows, kicks, cuffs, scratches, black eyes, and bloody noses swelling the horrors of the scene! Thick thwack, cut and hack, helter skelter, higgledy-piggledy, hurly-burly, head over heels, rough and tumble! Dunder and blixum! swore the Dutchmen; splitter and splutter! cried the Swedes. Storm the works, shouted Hardkoppig Peter. Fire the mine, roared stout Risingh. Tanta-ra-ra-ra! twanged the trumpet of Antony Van Corlear, until all voice and sound became unintelligible; grunts of pain, yells of fury, and shouts of triumph mingling in one hideous clamor. The earth shook as if struck with a paralytic stroke; trees shrunk aghast, and withered at the sight; rocks burrowed in the ground like rabbits; and even Christina Creek turned from its course, and ran up a hill in breathless terror!
Long hung the contest doubtful; for though a heavy shower of rain, sent by the "cloud-compelling Jove," in some measure cooled their ardor, as doth a bucket of water thrown on a group of fighting mastiffs, yet did they but pause for a moment, to return with tenfold fury to the charge. Just at this juncture a vast and dense column of smoke was seen slowly rolling toward the scene of battle. The combatants paused for a moment, gazing in mute astonishment until the wind, dispelling the murky cloud, revealed the flaunting banner of Michael Paw, the patroon of Communipaw. That valiant chieftain came fearlessly on at the head of a phalanx of oyster-fed Pavonians and a corps de reserve of the Van Arsdales and Van Bummels, who had remained behind to digest the enormous dinner they had eaten. These now trudged manfully forward, smoking their pipes with outrageous vigor, so as to raise the awful cloud that has been mentioned; but marching exceedingly slow, being short of leg, and of great rotundity in the belt.
And now the deities who watched over the fortunes of the Nederlanders, having unthinkingly left the field and stepped into a neighboring tavern to refresh themselves with a pot of beer, a direful catastrophe had well-night ensued. Scarce had the myrmidons of Michael Paw attained the front of battle, when the Swedes, instructed by the cunning Risingh, levelled a shower of blows full at their tobacco-pipes. Astounded at this assault, and dismayed at the havoc of their pipes, these ponderous warriors gave way, and like a drove of frightened elephants, broke through the ranks of their own army. The little Hoppers were borne down in the surge; the sacred banner emblazoned with the gigantic oyster of Communipaw was trampled in the dirt; on blundered and thundered the heavy-sterned fugitives, the Swedes pressing on their rear, and applying their feet a parte poste of the Van Arsdales and the Van Bummels with a vigor that prodigiously accelerated their movements; nor did the renowned Michael Paw himself fail to receive divers grievous and dishonorable visitations of shoe leather.
But what, O Muse! was the rage of Peter Stuyvesant, when from afar he saw his army giving way! In the transports of his wrath he sent forth a roar, enough to shake the very hills. The men of the Manhattoes plucked up new courage at the sound; or rather, they rallied at the voice of their leader, of whom they stood more in awe than of all the Swedes in Christendom. Without waiting for their aid, the daring Peter dashed, sword in hand, into the thickest of the foe. Then might be seen achievements worthy of the days of the giants. Wherever he went, the enemy shrank before him; the Swedes fled to right and left, or were driven, like dogs, into the own ditch; but, as he pushed forward singly with headlong courage, the foe closed behind and hung upon his rear. One aimed a blow full at his heart; but the protecting power which watches over the great and the good turned aside the hostile blade, and directed it to a side pocket, where reposed an enormous iron tobacco-box, endowed, like the shield of Achilles, with supernatural powers, doubtless from bearing the portrait of the blessed St. Nicholas. Peter Stuyvesant turned like an angry bear upon the foe, and seizing him as he fled, by an immeasurable queue, "Ah, whoreson caterpillar," roared he, "here's what shall make worms' meat of thee!" So saying, he whirled his sword, and dealt a blow that would have decapitated the varlet, but that the pitying steel struck short, and shaved the queue for ever from his crown. At this moment an arquebusier levelled his piece from a neighboring mound, with deadly aim; but the watchful Minerva, who had just stopped to tie up her garter, seeing the peril of her favorite hero, sent old Boreas with his bellows, who, as the match descended to the pan, gave a blast that blew the priming from the touch-hole.
Thus waged the fight, when the stout Risingh, surveying the field from the top of a little ravelin, perceived his troops banged, beaten, and kicked by the invincible Peter. Drawing his falchion, and uttering a thousand anathemas, he strode down to the scene of combat with some such thundering strides as Jupiter is said by Hesiod to have taken when he strode down the spheres to hurl his thunderbolts at the Titans.
When the rival heroes came face to face, each made prodigious start, in the style of a veteran stage champion. Then did they regard each other for a moment with the bitter aspect of two furious ram-cats on the point of a clapper-clawing. Then did they throw themselves into one attitude, then into another, striking their swords on the ground, first on the right side, then on the left; at last at it they went, with incredible ferocity. Words cannot tell the prodigies of strength and valor displayed in this direful encounter—an encounter compared to which the far-famed battles of Ajax with Hector, of Aeneas with Turnus, Orlando with Rodomont, Guy of Warwick and Colbrand the Dane, or of that renowned Welsh knight, Sir Owen of the Mountains, with the giant Guylon, were all gentle sports and holiday recreations. At length the valiant Peter, watching his opportunity, aimed a blow, enough to cleave his adversary to the very chine; but Risingh, nimbly raising his sword, warded it off so narrowly, that glancing on one side, it shaved away a huge canteen in which he carried his liquor: thence pursuing its trenchant course, it severed off a deep coat pocket, stored with bread and cheese which provant rolling among the armies, occasioned a fearful scrambling between the Swedes and Dutchmen, and made the general battle wax ten times more furious than ever.
Enraged to see his military stores laid waste, the stout Risingh, collecting all his forces, aimed a mighty blow full at the hero's crest. In vain did his fierce little cocked hat oppose its course. The biting steel clove through the stubborn ram beaver, and would have cracked the crown of any one not endowed with supernatural hardness of head; but the brittle weapon shivered in pieces on the skull of Hardkoppig Piet, shedding a thousand sparks, like beams of glory, round his grizzly visage.
The good Peter reeled with the blow, and turning up his eyes, beheld a thousands suns, beside moons and stars, dancing about the firmament; at length, missing his footing, by reason of his wooden leg, down he came on his seat of honor with a crash which shook the surrounding hills, and might have wrecked his frame had he not been received into a cushion softer than velvet, which Providence or Minerva, or St. Nicholas, or some kindly cow, had benevolently prepared for his reception.
The furious Risingh, in despite of the maxim, cherished by all true knights, that "fair play is a jewel," hastened to take advantage of the hero's fall; but, as he stooped to give a fatal blow, Peter Stuyvesant dealt him a thwack over the sconce with his wooden leg, which set a chime of bells ringing triple bob majors in his cerebellum.
The bewildered Swede staggered with the blow, and the wary Peter seizing a pocket-pistol which lay hard by, discharged it full at the head of the reeling Risingh. Let not my reader mistake; it was not a murderous weapon loaded with powder and ball, but a little sturdy stone pottle charged to the muzzle with a double dram of true Dutch courage, which the knowing Antony Van Corlear carried about him by way of replenishing his valor, and which had dropped from his wallet during his furious encounter with the drummer. The hideous weapon sang through the air, and true to its course, as was the fragment of a rock discharged at Hector by bully Ajax, encountered the head of the gigantic Swede with matchless violence.
This heaven-directed blow decided the battle. The ponderous pericranium of General Jan Risingh sank upon his breast; his knees tottered under him; a death-like torpor seized upon his frame, and he tumbled to the earth with such violence that old Pluto started with affright, lest he should have broken through the roof of his infernal palace.
His fall was the signal of defeat and victory; the Swedes gave way, the Dutch pressed forward; the former took to their heels, the latter hotly pursued. Some entered with them pell mell through the sallyport, others stormed the bastion, and others scrambled over the curtain. Thus in a little while the fortress of Fort Christina, which, like another Troy, had stood a siege of full ten hours, was carried by assault, without the loss of a single man on either side.
Victory, in the likeness of a gigantic ox-fly, sat perched on the cocked hat of the gallant Stuyvesant; and it was declared by all the writers whom he hired to write the history of his expedition that on this memorable day he gained a sufficient quantity of glory to immortalize a dozen of the greatest heroes in Christendom!
Thanks to St. Nicholas, we have safely finished this tremendous battle. Let us sit down, my worthy reader, and cool ourselves, for I am in a prodigious sweat and agitation. Truly this fighting of battles is hot work! and if your great commanders did but know what trouble they give their historians, they would not have the conscience to achieve so many horrible victories. But methinks I hear my reader complain that throughout this boasted battle there is not the least slaughter, nor a single individual maimed, if we except the unhappy Swede, who was shorn of his queue by the trenchant blade of Peter Stuyvesant; all of which, he observes, as a great outrage on probability, and highly injurious to the interest of the narration.
This is certainly an objection of no little moment, but it arises entirely from the obscurity enveloping the remote periods of time about which I have undertaken to write. Thus, though doubtless, from the importance of the object, and the prowess of the parties concerned, there must have been terrible carnage and prodigies of valor displayed before the walls of Christina, yet, not withstanding that I have consulted every history, manuscript, and tradition, touching this memorable though long-forgotten battle, I cannot find mention made of a single man killed or wounded in the whole affair.
This is, without doubt, owing to the extreme modesty of our forefathers, who, unlike their descendants, were never prone to vaunt of their achievements; but it is a virtue which places their historian in a most embarrassing predicament; for, having promised my readers a hideous and unparalleled battle, and having worked them up into a warlike and blood-thirsty state of mind, to put them off without any havoc and slaughter would have been as bitter a disappointment as to summon a multitude of good people to attend an execution, and then cruelly balk them by a reprieve.
Had the Fates allowed me some half a score of dead men, I had been content; for I would have made them such heroes as abounded in the olden time, but whose race is now unfortunately extinct; any one of whom, if we may believe those authentic writers, the poets, could drive great armies, like sheep before him, and conquer and desolate whole cities by his single arm.
But seeing that I had not a single life at my disposal, all that was left me was to make the most I could of my battle, by means of kicks, and cuffs, and bruises, and such-like ignoble wounds. And here I cannot but compare my dilemma, in some sort, to that of the divine Milton, who, having arrayed with sublime preparation his immortal hosts against each other, is sadly put to it how to manage them, and how he shall make the end of his battle answer to the beginning; inasmuch as, being mere spirits, he cannot deal a mortal blow, nor even give a flesh wound to any of his combatants. For my part, the greatest difficulty I found was, when I had once put my warriors in a passion, and let them loose into the midst of the enemy, to keep them from doing mischief. Many a time had I to restrain the sturdy Peter from cleaving a gigantic Swede to the very waistband, or spitting half a dozen little fellows on his sword, like so many sparrows. And when I had set some hundred of missives flying in the air, I did not dare to suffer one of them to reach the ground, lest it should have put an end to some unlucky Dutchman.
The reader cannot conceive how mortifying it is to a writer thus in a manner to have his hands tied, and how many tempting opportunities I had to wink at, where I might have made as fine a death-blow as any recorded in history or song.
From my own experience I begin to doubt most potently of the authenticity of many of Homer's stories. I verily believe that when he had once launched one of his favorite heroes among a crowd of the enemy, he cut down many an honest fellow, without any authority for so doing, excepting that he presented a fair mark; and that often a poor fellow was sent to grim Pluto's domains, merely because he had a name that would give a sounding turn to a period. But I disclaim all such unprincipled liberties: let me but have truth and the law on my side, and no man would fight harder than myself, but since the various records I consulted did not warrant it, I had too much conscience to kill a single soldier. By St. Nicholas, but it would have been a pretty piece of business! My enemies, the critics, who I foresee will be ready enough to lay any crime they can discover at my door, might have charged me with murder outright; and I should have esteemed myself lucky to escape with no harsher verdict than manslaughter!
And now, gentle reader, that we are tranquilly sitting down here, smoking our pipes, permit me to indulge in a melancholy reflection which at this moment passes across my mind. How vain, how fleeting, how uncertain are all those gaudy bubbles after which we are panting and toiling in this world of fair delusions! The wealth which the miser has amassed with so many weary days, so many sleepless nights, a spendthrift heir may squander away in joyless prodigality; the noblest monuments which pride has ever reared to perpetuate a name, the hand of time will shortly tumble into ruins; and even the brightest laurels, gained by feats of arms, may wither, and be for ever blighted by the chilling neglect of mankind. "How many illustrious heroes," says the good Boetius, "who were once the pride and glory of the age, hath the silence of historians buried in eternal oblivion!" And this it was that induced the Spartans, when they went to battle, solemnly to sacrifice to the Muses, supplicating that their achievements might be worthily recorded. Had not Homer turned his lofty lyre, observes the elegant Cicero, the valor of Achilles had remained unsung. And such, too, after all the toils and perils he had braved, after all the gallant actions he had achieved, such too had nearly been the fate of the chivalric Peter Stuyvesant, but that I fortunately stepped in and engraved his name on the indellible tablet of history, just as the caitiff Time was silently brushing it away for ever!
The more I reflect, the more I am astonished at the important character of the historian. He is the sovereign censor, to decide upon the renown or infamy of his fellow-men. He is the patron of kings and conquerors on whom it depends whether they shall live in after ages, or be forgotten as were their ancestors before them. The tyrant may oppress while the object of his tyranny exists; but the historian possesses superior might, for his power extends even beyond the grave. The shades of departed and long-forgotten heroes anxiously bend down from above, while he writes, watching each movement of his pen, whether it shall pass by their names with neglect, or inscribe them on the deathless pages of renown. Even the drop of ink which hangs trembling on his pen, which he may either dash upon the floor, or waste in idle scrawlings—that very drop, which to him is not worth the twentieth part of a farthing, may be of incalculable value to some departed worthy—may elevate half a score, in one moment, to immortality, who would have given worlds, had they possessed them, to ensure the glorious meed.
Let not my readers imagine, however, that I am indulging in vain-glorious boastings, or am anxious to blazon forth the importance of my tribe. On the contrary, I shrink when I reflect on the awful responsibility we historians assume; I shudder to think what direful commotions and calamities we occasion in the world; I swear to thee, honest reader, as I am a man, I weep at the very idea! Why, let me ask, are so many illustrious men daily tearing themselves away from the embraces of their families, slighting the smiles of beauty, despising the allurements of fortune, and exposing themselves to the miseries of war? Why are kings desolating empires, and depopulating whole countries? In short, what induces all great men, of all ages and countries, to commit so many victories and misdeeds, and inflict so many miseries upon mankind and upon themselves, but the mere hope that some historian will kindly take them into notice, and admit them into a corner of his volume? For, in short, the mighty object of all their toils, their hardships, and privations, is nothing but immortal fame. And what is immortal fame? Why, half a page of dirty paper! Alas, alas! how humiliating the idea, that the renown of so great a man as Peter Stuyvesant should depend upon the pen of so little a man as Diedrich Knickerbocker!
And now, having refreshed ourselves after the fatigues and perils of the field, it behoves us to return once more to the scene of conflict, and inquire what were the results of this renowned conquest. The fortress of Christina being the fair metropolis, and in a manner the key to New Sweden, its capture was speedily followed by the entire subjugation of the province. This was not a little promoted by the gallant and courteous deportment of the chivalric Peter. Though a man terrible in battle, yet in the hour of victory was he endued with a spirit generous, merciful and humane. He vaunted not over his enemies, nor did he make defeat more galling by unmanly insults; for, like that mirror of knightly virtue, the renowned Paladin Orlando, he was more anxious to do great actions than to talk of them after they were done. He put no man to death, ordered no houses to be burnt down, permitted no ravages to be perpetrated on the property of the vanquished, and even gave one of his bravest officers a severe punishment with his walking-staff, for having been detected in the act of sacking a hen-roost.
He moreover issued a proclamation, inviting the inhabitants to submit to the authority of their High Mightinesses, but declaring, with unexampled clemency, that whoever refused should be lodged, at the public expense, in a goodly castle provided for the purpose, and have an armed retinue to wait on them in the bargain. In consequence of these beneficent terms, about thirty Swedes stepped manfully forward and took the oath of allegiance; in reward for which they were graciously permitted to remain on the banks of the Delaware, where their descendants reside at this very day. I am told, however, by divers observant travelers, that they have never been able to get over the chap-fallen looks of their ancestors; but that they still do strangely transmit, from father to son, manifest marks of the sound drubbing given them by the sturdy Amsterdammers.
The whole country of New Sweden having thus yielded to the arms of the triumphant Peter, was reduced to a colony called South River, and placed under the superintendence of a lieutenant-governor, subject to the control of the supreme government of New Amsterdam. This great dignitary was called Mynheer William Beekman, or rather Beck-man, who derived his surname, as did Ovidius Naso of yore, from the lordly dimensions of his nose, which projected from the center of his countenance like the beak of a parrot. He was the great progenitor of the tribe of the Beekmans, one of the most ancient and honorable families of the province; the members of which do gratefully commemorate the origin of their dignity, nor as your noble families in England would do by having a glowing proboscis emblazoned in their escutcheon, but by one and all wearing a right goodly nose stuck in the very middle of their faces.
Thus was this perilous enterprise gloriously terminated, with the loss of only two men—Wolfet Van Horne, a tall spare man, who was knocked overboard by the boom of a sloop in a flaw of wind, and fat Brom Van Bummel, who was suddenly carried off by an indigestion; both, however, were immortalized as having bravely fallen in the service of their country. True it is, Peter Stuyvesant had one of his limbs terribly fractured in the act of storming the fortress; but as it was fortunately his wooden leg, the wound was promptly and effectually healed.
And now nothing remains to this branch of my history but to mention that this immaculate hero and his victorious army returned joyously to the Manhattoes, where they made a solemn and triumphant entry, bearing with them the conquered Risingh, and the remnant of his battered crew who had refused allegiance; for it appears that the gigantic Swede had only fallen into a swoon at the end of the battle, from which he was speedily restored by a wholesome tweak of the nose.
These captive heroes were lodged, according to the promise of the governor, at the public expense, in a fair and spacious castle, being the prison of state of which Stoffel Brinkerhoff, the immortal conqueror of Oyster Bay, was appointed governor, and which has ever since remained in the possession of his descendants.
It was a pleasant and goodly sight to witness the joy of the people of New Amsterdam at beholding their warriors once more return from this war in the wilderness. The old women thronged round Antony Van Corlear, who gave the whole history of the campaign with matchless accuracy, saving that he took the credit of fighting the whole battle himself, and especially of vanquishing the stout Risingh, which he considered himself as clearly entitled to, seeing that it was effected by his own stone pottle.
The schoolmasters throughout the town gave holiday to their little urchins who followed in droves after the drums, with paper caps on their heads and sticks in their breeches, thus taking the first lesson in the art of war. As to the sturdy rabble, they thronged at the heels of Peter Stuyvesant wherever he went, waving their greasy hats in the air, and shouting, "Hardkoppig Piet forever!"
It was indeed a day of roaring rout and jubilee. A huge dinner was prepared at the stadthouse in honor of the conquerors, where were assembled, in one glorious constellation, the great and little luminaries of New Amsterdam. There were the lordly Schout and his obsequious deputy, the burgomasters with their officious schepens at their elbows, the subaltern officers at the elbows of the schepens, and so on, down to the lowest hanger-on of police; every tag having his rag at his side, to finish his pipe, drink off his heel-taps, and laugh at his flights of immortal dulness. In short—for a city feast is a city feast all over the world, and has been a city feast ever since the creation—the dinner went off much the same as do our great corporation junketings and Fourth of July banquets. Loads of fish, flesh, and fowl were devoured, oceans of liquor drunk, thousands of pipes smoked, and many a dull joke honored with much obstreperous fat-sided laughter.
I must not omit to mention that to this far-famed victory Peter Stuyvesant was indebted for another of his many titles, for so hugely delighted were the honest burghers with his achievements, that they unanimously honored him with the name of Pieter de Groodt; that is to say, Peter the Great; or, as it was translated into English by the people of New Amsterdam, for the benefit of their New England visitors, Piet de pig—an appellation which he maintained even unto the day of his death.
The history of the reign of Peter Stuyvesant furnishes an edifying picture of the cares and vexations inseparable from sovereignty, and a solemn warning to all who are ambitious of attaining the seat of honor. Though returning in triumph and crowned with victory, his exultation was checked on observing the abuses which had sprung up in New Amsterdam during his short absence. His walking-staff which he had sent home to act as his vicegerent, had, it is true, kept his council chamber in order; the counsellors eyeing it with awe as it lay in grim repose upon the table, and smoking their pipes in silence; but its control extended not out of doors.
The populace unfortunately had had too much their own way under the slack though fitful reign of William the Testy; and though upon the accession of 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 afterwards.
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 piousDutch 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 thecompass, and, if I am not mistaken in my forebodings, we shall have rattling weather in the ensuing chapters.
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 history:——
"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."
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.
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 Nederlands.
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 temperament.
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 encounter.
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 Ægidius Luyck, 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 transgressions.
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.
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 Cabinet.
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 Nederlanders.
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 patient.
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 government.
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 advisers.
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 himself.
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 streets.
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 come.
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 afternoon?
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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 In a manuscript record of the province, dated 1659, Library of the New York Historical Society, is the following mention of Indian money:—"Seawant, alias wampum. Beads manufactured from the Quahang or whelk, a shell-fish formerly abounding on our coasts, but lately of more rare occurrence of two colors, black and white; the former twice the value of the latter. Six beads of the white and three of the black for an English penny. The seawant depreciates from time to time. The New England people make use of it as a means of barter, not only to carry away the best cargoes which we send thither, but to accumulate a large quantity of beavers' and other furs, by which the company is defrauded of her revenues, and the merchants disappointed in making returns with that speed with which they might wish to meet their engagements; while their commissioners and the inhabitants remain overstocked with seawant, a sort of currency of no value except with the New Netherland savages," etc.
 "The old Welsh bards believed that King Arthur was not dead, but carried awaie by the fairies into some pleasant place, where he sholde remaine for a time, and then returne againe and reigne in as great authority as ever."—Holinshed.
"The Britons suppose that he shall come yet and conquere all Britaigne; for, certes, this is the prophicye of Merlyn—He say'd that his deth shall be doubteous; and said soth, for men thereof yet have doubte and shullen for evermore, for men wyt not whether that he lyveth or is dede."—De Leew Chron.
 Diedrich Knickerbocker, in his scrupulous search after truth, is sometimes too fastidious in regard to facts which border a little on the marvelous. The story of the golden ore rests on something better than mere tradition. The venerable Adrian Van der Donck, Doctor of Laws, in his description of the New Netherlands, asserts it from his own observation as an eye-witness. He was present, he says, in 1645, at a treaty between Governor Kieft and the Mohawk Indians, in which one of the latter, in painting himself for the ceremony, used a pigment, the weight and shining appearance of which excited the curiosity of the governor and Mynheer Van der Donck. They obtained a lump and gave it to be proved by a skillful doctor of medicine, Johannes de la Montagne, one of the councillors of the New Netherlands. It was put into a crucible, and yielded two pieces of gold worth about three guilders. All this, continues Adrian Van der Donck, was kept secret. As soon as peace was made with the Mohawks, an officer and a few men were sent to the mountain, in the region of the Kaatskill, under the guidance of an Indian, to search for the precious mineral. They brought back a bucketful of ore, which, being submitted to the crucible, proved as productive as the first. William Kieft now thought the discovery certain. He sent a confidential person, Arent Corsen, with a bagful of the mineral to New Haven, to take passage in an English ship for England, thence to proceed to Holland. The vessel sailed at Christmas, but never reached her port. All on board perished.
In the year 1647, Wilhelmus Kieft himself embarked on board the Princess, taking with him specimens of the supposed mineral. The ship was never heard of more!
Some have supposed that the mineral in question was not gold, but pyrites; but we have the assertion of Adrian Van der Donck, an eye-witness, and the experiment of Johannes de la Montagne, a learned doctor of medicine, on the golden side of the question. Cornelius Van Tienhooven, also, at that time secretary of the New Netherlands, declared, in Holland, that he had tested several specimens of the mineral, which proved satisfactory. It would appear, however, that these golden treasures of the Kaatskill always brought ill luck; as is evidenced in the fate of Arent Corsen and Wilhelmus Kieft, and the wreck of the ships in which they attempted to convey the treasure across the ocean. The golden mines have never since been explored, but remain among the mysteries of the Kaatskill mountains, and under the protection of the goblins which haunt them.
 See the histories of Masters Josselyn and Blome.
 Haz. Coll. Stat. Pap.
 Hobbes, Leviathan, part i., ch. 13.
 "Cum prorepserunt primis animalia terris,
Mutum et turpe pecus, glandem atque cubilia propter,
Unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus, atque its porro
Pugnabaut armis, quæ post fabricaverat usus."
—Hor. Sat. lib. i. s. 3.
 Hazard's State Papers.
 New Plymouth Record
 Mather's Hist. New Eng. b. vi. ch. 7.
 Ballad of Dragon of Wantley
 Acrelius' History N. Sweden. For some notices of this miraculous discomfiture of the Swedes, see N.Y. Hist. Col., new series, vol. i., p. 412.
 "As soon as he rose,
To make him strong and mighty,
He drank by the tale, six pots of ale,
And a quart of aqua vitæ."
Dragon of Wantley.
 The learned Hans Megapolonsis, treating of the country about Albany, in a letter which was written some time after the settlement thereof, says, "There is in the river great plenty of sturgeon, which we Christians do not make use of, but the Indians eat them greedily."
 This was likewise a great seal of the New Netherlands, as may still be seen in ancient records
 Besides what is related in the Stuyvesant MS., I have found mention made of this illustrious patroon in another manuscript, which says, "De Heer (or the squire) Michael Paw, a Dutch subject, about 10th Aug., 1630, by deed purchased Staten Island. N.B.—The same Michael Paw had what the Dutch call a colonie at Pavonia, on the Jersey shore, opposite New York: and his overseer, in 1636, was named Corns. Van Vorst, a person of the same name, in 1769, owned Pawles Hook, and a large farm at Pavonia, and is a lineal descendant from Van Vorst."
 So called from the Navesink tribe of Indians that inhabited these parts. At present they are erroneously denominated the Neversink, or Neversunk, mountains
 Since corrupted into the Wallabout, the bay where the navy-yard is situated.
 Now spelt Brooklyn
 At present a flourishing town, called Christiana, or Christeen, about thirty-seven miles from Philadelphia, on the post road to Baltimore
 This castle, though very much altered, and modernized, is still in being and stands at the corner of Pearl Street, facing Coentie's Slip
 Hariot's Journal, Purch. Pilgrims
 This Luyck was, moreover, rector of the Latin School in Nieuw Nederlands, 1663. There are two pieces addressed to Ægidius Luyck in D. Selyn's MSS. of poesies, upon his marriage with Judith Isendoorn. (Old MSS.)
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