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Ch. 4: From Hudson to Stuyvesant

There are two scenes in the career of Henry Hudson which can never be
forgotten by Americans. One is in the first week in September, 1609. A
little vessel, of eighty tons, is lying on the smooth waters of a large
harbor. She has the mounded stern and bluff bows of the ships of that day;
one of her masts has evidently been lately stepped; the North American
pine of which it is made shows the marks of the ship-carpenter's ax, and
the whiteness of the fresh wood. The square sails have been rent, and
mended with seams and patches; the sides and bulwarks of the vessel have
been buffeted by heavy seas off the Newfoundland coast; the paint and
varnish which shone on them as she dropped down the reaches of the Zuyder
Zee from Amsterdam, five months ago, have become whitened with salt and
dulled by fog and sun and driving spray. Across her stern, above the
rudder of massive oaken plank clamped with iron, is painted the name "HALF
MOON," in straggling letters. On her poop stands Henry Hudson, leaning
against the tiller; beside him is a young man, his son; along the bulwark
lounge the crew, half Englishmen, half Dutch; broad-beamed, salted tars,
with pigtails and rugged visages, who are at home in Arctic fields and in
Equatorial suns, and who now stare out toward the low shores to the north
and west, and converse among themselves in the nameless jargon--the rude
compromise between guttural Dutch, and husky English--which has served
them as a medium of communication during the long voyage. It is a good
harbor, they think, and a likely country. They are impatient for the
skipper to let them go ashore, and find out what grows in the woods.

Meanwhile the great navigator, supporting himself, with folded arms,
against the creaking tiller, absorbs the scene through his deep-set eyes
in silence. Many a haven had he visited in his time; he had been within
ten degrees of the North Pole; he had seen the cliffs of Spitzbergen loom
through the fog, and had heard the sound of Greenland glaciers breaking
into vast icebergs where they overhung the sea; he had lain in the
thronged ports of the Netherlands, where the masts cluster like naked
forests, and the commerce of the world seethes and murmurs continually; he
had dropped anchor in quiet English harbors, under cool gray skies, with
undulating English hills in the distance, and prosperous wharfs and busy
streets in front. He had sweltered, no doubt, beneath the heights of
Hong-Kong, amid a city of swarming junks; and further south had smelled
the breeze that blows through the straits of the Spice Islands. He knew
the surface of the earth, as a farmer knows his farm; but never, he
thought, had he beheld a softer and more inviting prospect than this which
spread before him now, mellowed by the haze of the mild September morning.

On all sides the shores were wooded to the water's edge: a giant forest,
unbroken, dense and tall, flourishing from its own immemorial decay,
matted with wild grape vine, choked with brush, wild as when the Creator
made it; untouched, since then. It was as remote--as lost to mankind--as
it was beautiful. The hum and turmoil of the civilized world was like the
memory of a dream in this tranquil region, where untrammeled nature had
worked her teeming will for centuries upon silent centuries. Here were
such peace and stillness that the cry of the blue jay seemed audacious;
the dive of a gull into the smooth water was a startling event. To the
imaginative mind of Hudson this spot seemed to have been set apart by
Providence, hidden away behind the sandy reaches of the outer coast, so
that irreverent man, who turns all things to gain, might never discover
and profane its august solitudes. Here the search for wealth was never to
penetrate; the only gold was in the tender sunshine, and in the foliage of
here and there a giant tree, which the distant approach of winter was
lulling into golden slumber. But then, with a sigh, he reflected that all
the earth was man's, and the fullness thereof; and that here too, perhaps,
would one day appear clearings in the primeval forest, and other vessels
would ride at anchor, and huts would peep out from beneath the
overshadowing foliage on the shores. But it was hard to conjure up such a
picture; it was difficult to imagine so untamed a wilderness subdued, in
ever so small a degree, by the hand of industry and commerce.

Northwestward, across the green miles of whispering leaves, the land
appeared to rise in long, level bluffs, still thronged with serried trees;
a great arm of the sea, a mile or two in breadth, extended east of north,
and thither, the mariner dreamed, might lie the long-sought pathway to the
Indies. A tongue of land, broadening as it receded, and swelling in low
undulations, divided this wide strait from a narrower one more to the
east. All was forest; and eastward still was more forest, stretching
seaward. Southward, the land was low--almost as low and flat as the
Netherlands themselves; an unexplored immensity, whose fertile soil had
for countless ages been hidden from the sun by the impervious shelter of
interlacing boughs. No--never had Hudson seen a land of such enduring
charm and measureless promise as this: and here, in this citadel of
loneliness, which no white man's foot had ever trod, which, till then,
only the eyes of the corsair Verrazano had seen, near a century before
--here was to arise, like Aladdin's Palace, the metropolis of the western
world; enormous, roaring, hurrying, trafficking, grasping, swarming with
its millions upon millions of striving, sleepless, dauntless, exulting,
despairing, aspiring human souls; the home of unbridled luxury, of abysmal
poverty, of gigantic industries, of insolent idleness, of genius, of
learning, of happiness and of misery; of far-reaching enterprise, of
political glory and shame, of science and art; here human life was to
reach its intensest, most breathless, relentless and insatiable
expression; here was to stand a city whose arms should reach westward over
a continent, and eastward round the world; here were to thunder the
streets and tower the buildings and reek the chimneys and arch the bridges
and rumble the railways and throb the electric wires of American New York,
the supreme product of Nineteenth Century civilization, radiant with the
virtues and grimy with the failings that mankind has up to this time

On the 23d of June, two years later, Henry Hudson was the central figure
in another scene. He sat in a small, open boat, hoary with frozen spray;
he was muffled in the shaggy hide of a white bear, roughly fashioned into
a coat; a sailor's oilskin hat was drawn down over his brow, and beneath
its rim his eyes gazed sternly out over a wide turbulence of gray waters,
tossing with masses of broken ice. His dark beard was grizzled with frost;
his cheeks were gaunt with the privations of a long, arctic winter spent
amid endless snows, in darkness unrelieved, smitten by storms, struggling
with savage beasts and harried by more inhuman men. He sat with his hand
at the helm; against his other shoulder leaned his son, his inseparable
companion, now sinking into unconsciousness; the six rowers--the stanch
comrades who, with him, had been thrust forth to perish by the mutineers
--plied their work heavily and hopelessly; their rigid jaws were set; no
words nor complaints broke from them, though was slowly settling round
their valiant hearts. Overhead brooded a somber vault of clouds; the
circle of the horizon, which seemed to creep in upon them, was one
unbroken sweep of icy dreariness, save where, to the southeast, the dark
hull of the "Discovery," and her pallid sails, rocked and leaned across
the sullen heave of the waters. She was bound for Europe; but whither is
Hudson bound?

His end befitted his life; he vanished into the unknown, as he had come
from it. There is no record of the time or place of his birth, or of his
early career, nor can any tell where lie his bones; we only know that his
limbs were made in England, and that the great inland sea, called after
him, ebbs and flows above his grave. He first comes into the ken of
history, sailing on the seas, resolute to discover virgin straits and
shores; and when we see him last, he is still toiling onward over the
waves, peering into the great mystery. Possibly, as has been suggested, he
may have been the descendant of the Hudson who was one of the founders of
the Muscovy Company, in whose service the famous navigator afterward
voyaged on various errands. It matters not; he lived, and did his work,
and is no more; his strong heart burned within him; he saw what none had
seen; he triumphed, and he was overcome. But the doubt that shrouds his
end has given him to legend, and the thunder that rolls brokenly among the
dark crags and ravines of the Catskills brings his name to the hearer's

The Dutch had had many opportunities offered to them to discover New
York, before they accepted the services of Henry Hudson, who was willing
to go out of his own country to find backers, so only that he might be
afloat. Almost every year, from 1581 onward, the mariners of the
Netherlands strove, by east and by west, to pass the barrier that America
interposed between them and the Eastern trade they coveted. The Dutch East
India Company was the first trading corporation of Europe; and after the
war with Spain, during the twelve years' truce, the little country was
overflowing with men eager to undertake any enterprise, and with money to
fit them out. The Netherlands suddenly bloomed out the most prosperous
country in the world.

They would not be hurried; they took their time to think it over, as
Dutchmen will; but at length they conceived an immense project for
acquiring all the trade, or the best part of it, of both the West and the
East. They studied the subject with the patient particularity of their
race; they outclassed Spain on the seas, and they believed they could
starve out her commerce. Some there were, however, who feared that in
finding new countries they would lose their own; Europe was again in a
turmoil, and they were again fighting Spain before New Amsterdam was
founded. But meanwhile, in 1609, quite inadvertently, Henry Hudson
discovered it for them at a moment when they supposed him to be battling
with freezing billows somewhere north of Siberia. When he was stopped by
Nova Zembla ice, he put about and crossed the Atlantic to Nova Scotia, and
so down the coast, as we have seen, to the Chesapeake, the Delaware, and
finally the Hudson. He told his tale in glowing words when he got back;
but the Dutch merchants perhaps fancied he was spinning sailors' yarns,
and heeded not his report till long after.

Hudson, after passing the Narrows, anchored near the Jersey shore, and
received a visit from some Indians with native commodities to exchange for
knives and beads. They presented the usual Indian aspect as regarded dress
and arms; but they wore ornaments of red copper under their feather
mantles, and carried pipes of copper and clay. They were affable, but
untrustworthy, stealing what they could lay their hands on, and a few days
later shooting arrows at a boatload of seamen from the ship, and killing
one John Colman. Hudson went ashore, and was honored with dances and
chants; upon the whole, the impression mutually created seems to have been
favorable. An abundance of beans and oysters was supplied to the crew; and
no doubt trade was carried on to the latter's advantage; we know that
years afterward the whole of Manhattan Island was purchased of its owners
for four-and-twenty dollars. The present inhabitants of New York City
could not be so easily overreached.

Hudson now began the first trip ever made by white men up the great
river. How many millions have made it since! But he, at this gentlest time
of year, won with the magic not only of what he saw, but of the unknown
that lay before him--what must have been his sensations! As reach after
reach of the incomparable panorama spread itself out quietly before him,
with its beauty of color, its majesty of form, its broad gleam of placid
current, the sheer lift of its brown cliffs, its mighty headlands setting
their titanic shoulders across his path, its toppling pinnacles assuming
the likeness of giant visages, its swampy meadows and inlets, lovely with
flowers and waving with rushes, its royal eagles stemming the pure air
aloft, its fish leaping in the ripples--and then, as he sailed on, mute
with enchantment, the blue magnificence of the mountains soaring
heavenward and melting into the clouds that hung about their summits--as
all this multifarious beauty unfolded itself, Hudson may well have thought
that the lost Eden of the earth was found at last. And ere long, he
dreamed, the vast walls through which the river moved would diverge and
cease, like another Pillars of Hercules, and his ship would emerge into
another ocean. It was verily a voyage to be remembered; and perhaps it
returned in a vision to his dimming eyes, that day he steered his open
boat through the arctic surges of Hudson's Bay.

For ten days or more he pressed onward before a southerly breeze, until,
in the neighborhood of what now is Albany, it became evident that the
Pacific was not to be found in northern New York. He turned, therefore,
and drifted slowly downward with the steady current, while the matchless
lines of the American autumn glowed every day more sumptuously from the
far-billowing woods. What sunrises and what sunsets dyed the waters with
liquid splendor: what moons, let us hope, turned the glories of day into
the spiritual mysteries of fairyland! Hudson was not born for repose; his
fate was to sail unrestingly till he died; but as he passed down through
this serene carnival of opulent nature, he may well have wished that here,
after all voyages were done, his lot might finally be cast; he may well
have wondered whether any race would be born so great and noble as to
merit the gift of such a river and such a land.

He landed at various places on the way, and was always civilly and
hospitably welcomed by the red men, who brought him their wild abundance,
and took in return what he chose to give. The marvelous richness of the
vegetation, and the vegetable decay of ages, had rendered the margins of
the stream as deadly as they were lovely; fever lurked in every glade and
bower, and serpents whose bite was death basked in the sun or crept among
the rocks. All was as it had always been; the red men, living in the midst
of nature, were a part of nature themselves; nothing was changed by their
presence; they altered not the flutter of a leaf or the posture of a
stone, but stole in and out noiseless and lithe, and left behind them no
trace of their passage. It is not so with the white man: before him,
nature flies and perishes; he clothes the earth in the thoughts of his own
mind, cast in forms of matter, and contemplates them with pride; but when
he dies, another comes, and refashions the materials to suit himself. So
one follows another, and nothing endures that man has made; for this is
his destiny. And at length, when the last man has dressed out his dolls
and built his little edifice of stones and sticks, and is gone: nature,
who was not dead, but sleeping, awakes, and resumes her ancient throne,
and her eternal works declare themselves once more; and she dissolves the
bones in the grave, and the grave itself vanishes, with its record of what
man had been. What says our poet?--

"How am I theirs,
When they hold not me,
But I hold them?"

In 1613, or thereabout, Christianson and Block visited the harbor and got
furs, and also a couple of Indian boys to show the burghers of Amsterdam,
since they could not fetch the great river to Holland. In 1614 they went
again with five ships--the "Fortune of Amsterdam," the "Fortune of Hoorn,"
and the "Tiger of Amsterdam" (which was burned), and two others. Block
built himself a boat of sixteen tons, and explored the Sound, and the New
England coast as far as Massachusetts Bay; touched at the island known by
his name, and forgathered with the Indian tribes all along his route. The
explorers were granted a charter in the same year, giving them a three
years' monopoly of the trade, and in this charter the title New Netherland
is bestowed upon the region. The Dutch were at last bestirring themselves.
Two years after, Schouten of Hoorn saw the southernmost point of Tierra
del Fuego, and gave it the name of his home port as he swept by; and three
other Netherlanders penetrated to the wilds of Philadelphia that was to
be. A fortified trading post was built at Albany, where now legislation
instead of peltries is the subject of barter. At this juncture internal
quarrels in the Dutch government led to tragic events, which stimulated
plans of western colonization, and the desire to start a commonwealth on
Hudson River to forestall the English--for the latter as well as the Dutch
and Spanish claimed everything in sight. The Dutch East India Company
began business in 1621 with a twenty-four year charter, renewable. It was
given power to create an independent nation; the world was invited to buy
its stock, and the States-General invested a million guilders in it. Its
field was the entire west coast of Africa, and the east coast of North and
South America. Such schemes are of planetary magnificence; but of all this
realm, the Dutch now hold the little garden patch of Dutch Guiana only,
and the pleasant records of their sojourn on Manhattan Island between the
years 1623 and 1664.

Indeed, the Dutch episode in our history is in all respects refreshing
and agreeable; the burghers set us an example of thrift and steadiness too
good for us to follow it; and they deeded to us some of our best citizens,
and most engaging architectural traditions. But it is not after all for
these and other material benefits that we are indebted to them; we thank
them still more for being what they were (and could not help being): for
their character, their temperament, their costume, their habits, their
breadth of beam, their length of pipes, the deliberation of their
courtships, the hardness of their bargains, the portentousness of their
tea-parties, the industrious decorum of their women, the dignity of their
patroons, the strictness of their social conduct, the soundness of their
education, the stoutness of their independence, the excellence of their
good sense, the simplicity of their prudence, and above all, for the
wooden leg of Peter Stuyvesant. In a word, the humorous perception of the
American people has made a pet of the Dutch tradition in New York and
Pennsylvania; as, likewise, of the childlike comicalities of the
plantation negro; the arch waggishness of the Irish emigrants, and the
cherubic shrewdness of the newly-acquired German. The Dutch gained much,
on the sentimental score, by transplantation; their old-world flavor and
rich coloring are admirably relieved against the background of unbaked
wilderness. We could not like them so much or laugh at them at all, did we
not so thoroughly respect them; the men of New Amsterdam were worthy of
their national history, which recounts as stirring a struggle as was ever
made by the love of liberty against the foul lust of oppression. The Dutch
are not funny anywhere but in Seventeenth Century Manhattan; nor can this
singularity be explained by saying that Washington Irving made them so. It
inheres in the situation; and the delightful chronicles of Diedrich
Knickerbocker owe half their enduring fascination to their sterling
veracity--the veracity which is faithful to the spirit and gambols only
with the letter. The humor of that work lies in its sympathetic and
creative insight quite as much as in the broad good-humor and imaginative
whimsicality with which the author handles his theme. The caricature of a
true artist gives a better likeness than any photograph.

The first ship containing families of colonists went out early in 1623,
under the command of Cornelis May; he broke ground on Manhattan, while
Joris built Fort Orange at Albany, and a little group of settlers squatted
round it. May acted as director for the first year or two; the trade in
furs was prosecuted, and the first Dutch-American baby was born at Fort

Fortune was kind. King Charles, instead of discussing prior rights,
offered an alliance; at home, the bickerings of sects were healed. Peter
Minuit came out as director-general and paid his twenty-four dollars for
the Island--a little less than a thousand acres for a dollar. At all
events, the Indians seemed satisfied from Albany to the Narrows. The
Battery was designed, and there was quite a cluster of houses on the
clearing back of it. An atmosphere of Dutch homeliness began to temper the
thin American air. The honest citizens were pious, and had texts read to
them on Sundays; but they did not torture their consciences with spiritual
self-questionings like the English Puritans, nor dream of disciplining or
banishing any of their number for the better heavenly security of the
rest. The souls of these Netherlander fitted their bodies far better than
was the case with the colonists of Boston and Salem. Instead of starving
and rending them, their religion made them happy and comfortable. Instead
of settling the ultimate principles of theology and government, they
enjoyed the consciousness of mutual good-will, and took things as they
came. The new world needed men of both kinds. It must, however, be
admitted that the people of New Amsterdam were not wholly harmonious with
those of Plymouth. Minuit and Bradford had some correspondence, in which,
while professions of mutual esteem and love were exchanged, uneasy things
were let fall about clear titles and prior rights. Minuit was resolute for
his side, and the attitude of Bradford prompted him to send for a company
of soldiers from home. But there was probably no serious anticipation of
coming to blows on either part. There was space enough in the continent
for the two hundred and seventy inhabitants of New Amsterdam and for the
Pilgrim Fathers, for the present.

Spain was an unwilling contributor to the prosperity of the Dutch
colonists, by the large profits which the latter gained from the capture
of Spanish galleons; but in 1629 the charter creating the order of
Patroons laid the foundation for abuses and discontent which afflicted the
settlers for full thirty years. Upon the face of it, the charter was
liberal, and promised good results; but it made the mistake of not
securing popular liberties. The Netherlands were no doubt a free country,
as freedom was at that day understood in Europe; but this freedom did not
involve independence for the individual. The only recognized individuality
was that of the municipalities, the rulers of which were not chosen by
popular franchise. This system answered well enough in the old home, but
proved unsuited to the conditions of settlers in the wilderness. The
American spirit seemed to lurk like some subtle contagion in the remotest
recesses of the forest, and those who went to live there became affected
with it. It was longer in successfully vindicating itself than in New
England, because it was not stimulated on the banks of the Hudson by the
New England religious fervor; it was supported on grounds of practical
expediency merely. Men could not prosper unless they received the rewards
of industry, and were permitted to order their private affairs in a manner
to make their labor pay. They were not content to have the Patroon devour
their profits, leaving them enough only for a bare subsistence. The Dutch
families scattered throughout the domain could not get ahead, while yet
they could not help feeling that the bounty of nature ought to benefit
those whose toil made it available, at least as much as it did those who
toiled not, but simply owned the land in virtue of some documentary
transaction with the powers above, and therefore claimed ownership also
over the poor emigrant who settled on it--having nowhere else to go. The
emigrants were probably helped to comprehend and formulate their own
misfortunes by communications with stragglers from New England, who
regaled them with tales of such liberties as they had never before
imagined. But the seed thus sown by the Englishmen fell on fruitful soil,
and the crop was reaped in due season.

The charter intended, primarily, the encouragement of emigration, and did
not realize that it needed very little encouragement. The advantages
offered were more alluring than they need have been. Any person who,
within four years, could establish a colony of fifty persons, was given
privileges only comparable to those of independent princes. They were
allowed to take up tracts of land many square miles in area, to govern
them absolutely (according to the laws of the realm), to found and
administer cities, and in a word to drink from Baucis's pitcher to their
hearts' content. In return, the home administration expected the benefit
of their trade. Two stipulations only restrained them: they were to buy
titles to their land from the Indians, and they were to permit, on penalty
of removal, no cotton or woolen manufactures in the country. That was a
monopoly which was reserved to the weavers in the old country.

This was excellent for such as could afford to become patroons; but what
about the others? The charter provided that any emigrant who could pay for
his exportation might take up what land he required for his needs, and
cultivate it independently. Other emigrants, unable to pay their fare out,
might have it paid for them, but in that case, of course, incurred a
mortgage to their benefactors. In effect, they could not own the product
of the work of their hands, until it had paid their sponsors for their
outlay, together with such additions in the way of interest on capital as
might seem to the sponsors equitable.

The Company further undertook to supply slaves to the colony, should they
prove to be a paying investment; and it was chiefly because the climate of
New York was less favorable to the Guinea Coast negro than was that
further south, that African slavery did not take early and firm root in
the former region. Philosophers have long recognized the influence of
degrees of latitude upon human morality. The patroon planters could
dispense with black slaves, since they had white men enough who cost them
no more than their keep, and would, presumably, not involve the expense of
overseers. Everything, therefore, seemed harmonious and sunshiny, and the
Company congratulated itself.

But the patroons, through their agents, began buying up all the land that
was worth having, and found it easy to evade the stipulation restricting
them to sixteen miles apiece. One of them had an estate running
twenty-four miles on either bank of the Hudson, below Albany (or Fort
Orange as it was then), and forty-eight miles inland. It was superb; but
it was as far as possible from being democracy; and the portly Van
Rensselaer of Rennselaerwyck would have shuddered to his marrow, could he
have cast a prophetic eye into the Nineteenth Century.

The Company at home presently discovered that its incautious liberality
had injured its own interests, as well as those of poor settlers; for the
estates of the patroons covered the trading posts where the Indians came
to traffic, and all the profits from the latter swelled the pockets of the
patroons. But the charter could not be withdrawn; the directors must be
content with whatever sympathetic benefits might be conferred by the
increasing wealth of the colony. The patroons were becoming more powerful
than their creators, and took things more and more into their own lordly
hands. Neither patroons nor Company concerned themselves about the people.
The charter had, indeed, mentioned the subjects of schools and religious
instructors for the emigrants, but had made no provision for the
maintenance of such; and the patroons conceived that such luxuries were
deserving of but the slightest encouragement. The more a poor man knows,
the less contented is he. Such was the argument then, and it is
occasionally heard to-day, when our trusts and corporations are annoyed by
the complaints and disaffections of their only half ignorant employés.

Governor Minuit was not held to be the best man in the world for his
position, and he was recalled in 1632, and Wouter Van Twiller, who
possessed all of his predecessor's faults and none of his virtues, took
his place. A governor with the American idea in him would have saved
Manhattan a great deal of trouble, and perhaps have enabled the Dutch to
keep their hold upon it; but no such governor was available, and worse
than Van Twiller was yet to come. A colony had already been planted in
Delaware, but unjust dealings with the Indians led to a massacre which
left nothing of the Cape Henlopen settlement but bones and charred
timbers. The English to the south were led to renew the assertion of their
never-abandoned claim to the region; there were encroachments by the
English settlers on the Connecticut boundary, and the Dutch, deprived by
the wars in Europe of the support of their countrymen at home, were too
feeble to do more than protest. But protests from those unable to enforce
them have never been listened to with favor--not even by the English.
Besides, the Dutch, though amenable to religious observances, were far
from making them the soul and end of all thought and action; and this lack
of aggressive religious fiber put them at a decided political disadvantage
with their rivals. Man for man, they were the equals of the English, or of
any other people; as they magnificently demonstrated, forty years
afterward, by defeating allied and evil-minded Europe in its attempt to
expunge them as a nation. But the indomitable spirit of Van Tromp and De
Ruyter was never awakened in the New Netherlands; commercial
considerations were paramount; and though the Dutch settlers remained, and
were always welcome, the colony finally passed from the jurisdiction of
their own government, with their own expressed consent.

Van Twiller vanished after eight years' mismanagement, and the sanguinary
Kieft took the reins. But before his incumbency, Sweden, at the instance
of Gustavus Adolphus, and by the agency of his chancellor Oxenstiern, both
men of the first class, lodged a colony on Delaware Bay, which subsisted
for seventeen years, and was absorbed, at last, without one stain upon its
fair record. Minuit, being out of a job, offered his experienced services
in bringing the emigrating Swedes and Finns to their new abode, and they
began their sojourn in 1638. They were industrious, peaceable, religious
and moral, and they declared against any form of slavery. They threw out a
branch toward Philadelphia. But Gustavus Adolphus had died at Luetzen
before the Swedes came over, and Queen Christina had not the ability to
carry out his ideas, even had she possessed the power. The Dutch began to
dispute the rights of the Scandinavians; Rysingh took their fort Casimir
in 1654, and Peter Stuyvesant with six hundred men received their
submission in the same year. But this success was of no benefit to the
Dutch; the tyrannous monopolies which the Company tried to establish in
Delaware, instead of creating revenues, caused the country to be deserted
by the settlers, who betook themselves to the less oppressive English
administrations to the southward; and it was not until the English took
possession of both Delaware and the rest of the New Netherlands that it
began to yield a fair return on the investment.

But we must return to the ill-omened Kieft. It was upon the Indian
question that he made shipwreck, not only incurring their deadly enmity,
but alienating from himself the sympathies and support of his own
countrymen. The Algonquin tribe, which inhabited the surrounding country,
had been constantly overreached in their trade with the Dutchmen; the
principle upon which barter was carried on with the untutored savage
being, "I'll take the turkey, and you keep the buzzard: or you take the
buzzard, and I'll keep the turkey." This sounded fair; but when the Indian
came to examine his assets, it always appeared that a buzzard was all he
could make of it. Partly, perhaps, by way of softening the asperities of
such a discovery, the Dutch merchant had been wont to furnish his victim
with brandy (not eleemosynary, of course); but the results were
disastrous. The Indians, transported by the alcohol beyond the
anything-but-restricted bounds which nature had imposed upon them, felt
the insult of the buzzard more keenly than ever, and signified their
resentment in ways consistent with their instincts and traditions. In 1640
an army of them fell upon the colony in Staten Island, and slaughtered
them, man, woman and child, with the familiar Indian accessories of
tomahawk, scalping-knife and torch. The Staten Islanders, it should be
stated, had done nothing to merit this treatment; but Indian logic
interprets the legal maxim "Qui facit per alium, facit per se," as meaning
that if one white man cheats him, he can get his satisfaction out of the
next one who happens in sight. Staten Island was a definite and convenient
area, and when its population had been exterminated, the Indians could
feel relieved from their obligation. Not long afterward an incident such
as romancers love to feign actually took place; an Indian brave who, as a
child years before, had seen his uncle robbed and slain, and had vowed
revenge, now having become of age, or otherwise qualified himself for the
enterprise, went upon the warpath, and returned with the long-coveted
scalp at his girdle. Evidently the time had come for Governor Kieft to
assert himself.

It was of small avail to invade the wilds of New Jersey, or to offer
rewards for Raritans, dead or alive. The sachems were willing to express
their regret, but they would not surrender the culprits, and declared that
the Dutchmen's own brandy was the really guilty party. Kieft would not
concede the point, and the situation was strained. At this juncture, the
unexpected happened. The Mohawks, a kingly tribe of red men, who claimed
all Northeast America from the St. Lawrence to the Delaware, and who had
already driven the Algonquins before them like chaff, sent down a war
party from northern New York, and demanded tribute from them. There were
more Algonquins than there were Mohawks; but one eagle counts for more
than many kites. The kites came fluttering to Fort Orange for protection:
not so much that they feared death or torture, but they were overawed by
the spirit of the Mohawk, and could not endure to face him. Kieft fancied
that he saw his opportunity. He would teach the red scoundrels a lesson
they would remember. There was a company of soldiers in the Fort, and in
the river were moored some vessels with crews of Dutch privateers on
board. Kieft made up his party, and when night had fallen he sent them on
their bloody errand, guided by one who knew all the camps and
hiding-places of the doomed tribe. It was a revolting episode; a hundred
Indians were unresistingly murdered. They would have made a stronger
defense had they not been under the impression that it was the Mohawks who
were upon them; and to be killed by a Mohawk was no more than an Algonquin
should expect. But when it transpired that the Dutch were the
perpetrators, the whole nation gave way to a double exasperation: first,
that their friends had been killed, and secondly that they had suffered
under a misapprehension. The settlers, in disregard of advice, were living
in scattered situations over a large territory, and they were all in
danger, and defenseless, even if New Amsterdam itself could escape. Kieft
was heartily cursed by all impartially; he was compelled to make overtures
for peace, and a pow-wow was held in Rockaway woods, in the spring of
1643. Terms were agreed upon, and, according to Indian usage, gifts were
exchanged. But those of the chiefs so far exceeded in value the offerings
of Kieft that these were regarded as a fresh insult; war was declared,
and dragged along for two years more. It was not until 1645 that the
grand meeting of the settlers and the Five Nations took place at Fort
Amsterdam, and the treaty of lasting peace was ratified. Kieft sailed from
New Amsterdam with the consciousness of having injured his countrymen more
than had any enemy; but he was drowned off the Welsh coast, without having
brought forth fruits meet for repentance.

Peter Stuyvesant is a favorite character in our history because he was a
manly and straightforward man, faithful to his employers, fearless in
doing and saying what he thought was right, and endowed with a full share
of obstinate, homely, kindly human nature. He was not in advance of his
age, or superior to his training; he was the plain product of both, but
free from selfishness, malice, and unworthy ambitions. He was born in
1602, and came to America a warrior from honorable wars, seamed and
knotty, with a famous wooden leg which all New Yorkers, at any rate love
to hear stumping down the corridors of time. His administration, the last
of the Dutch regime, wiped out the stains inflicted by his predecessors,
and resisted with equal energy encroachments from abroad and innovations
at home. He was a true Dutchman, with most of the limitations and all the
virtues of his race; fond of peace and of dwelling in his own "Bowery,"
yet not afraid to fight when he deemed that his duty. His tenure of office
lasted from 1647 till 1664, a period of seventeen active years; after the
English took possession of the town and called it New York, Peter went
back to Holland, unwilling to live in the presence of new things; but he
found that, at the age of sixty-three, he could not be happy away from the
home that he had made for himself in the new world; so he returned to
Manhattan Island, and completed the tale of his eighty years on the farm
which is now the most populous and democratic of New York's thoroughfares.
There he smoked his long-stemmed pipe and drank his schnapps, and thought
over old times, and criticised the new. After two and a half centuries,
the memory of him is undimmed; and it is to be wished that some fitting
memorial of him may be erected in the city which his presence honored.

The very next year after his arrival, free trade was established in New
Amsterdam. There had been a strict monopoly till then; but in one way or
another it was continually evaded, and the New Amsterdam merchants found
themselves so much handicapped by the restrictions, that their inability
reacted upon the managers at home. There were not at that time any infant
industries in need of protection, and the colony was large and capacious
enough to take what the mother country sent it, and more also. But in
order to prevent loss, an export duty was enforced, which pressed lightly
on those who paid it, and comforted those to whom it was paid. Commerce
was greatly stimulated, and the merchants of old Amsterdam sent
compliments and prophesies of future greatness to their brethren across
the sea. Every new-hatched settlement that springs up on the borders of
the wilderness is liable to be "hailed" by its promoters as destined to
become the Queen City of its region; the wish fathers the word, and the
word is an advertisement. But the merchant princes of Amsterdam spoke by
the card; they perceived the almost unique advantages of geographical
position and local facilities of their American namesake; with such a bay
and water front, with such a river, with such a soil and such openings for
trade, what might it not become! Yes: but--"Sic vos noa vobis
aedificatis!" The English reaped what the Dutch had sown, and New York
inherits the glory and power predicted for New Amsterdam.

The soil of Manhattan Island being comparatively poor, the place was
destined to be used as a residence merely, and the houses of prosperous
traders and burghers began to assemble and bear likeness to a town. The
primeval forest still clothed the upper part of the island; but the
visible presence of a municipality in the southern extremity prompted the
inhabitants to suggest a remodeling of the government somewhat after the
New England pattern, where patroons were unknown and impossible. It is not
surprising that suggestions to this effect from the humbler members of the
community were not cordially embraced by either the patroons or their
creators at home; in fact, it was still-born. That the people should rule
themselves was as good as to say that the horse should loll in the
carriage while his master toiled between the shafts. The thing was
impossible, and should be unmentionable. The people, however, continued to
mention it, and even to neglect paying the taxes which had been imposed
with no regard to their reasonable welfare. A deputation went to Holland
to tell the directors that they could neither farm nor trade with profit
unless the burdens were lightened; the directors thought otherwise, and
the consequence was that devices were practiced to lighten them illicitly.
This added to the interest of life, but subverted the welfare of the
state. Where political rights are not secured to all men by constitutional
right, those who are unable to get them by privilege, intrigue to steal
what such rights would guarantee. At this rate, there would presently be a
Council of Ten and an Inquisition in New Amsterdam. In 1653, the Governor
was constrained to admit the deputies from the various settlements to an
interview, in which they said their say, and he his. "We have come here at
our own expense," they observed, "from various countries of Europe,
expecting to be given protection while earning our living; we have turned
your wilderness into a fruitful garden for you, and you, in return, impose
on us laws which disable us from profiting by our labor. We ask you to
repeal these laws, allow us to make laws to meet our needs, and appoint
none to office who has not our approbation." Thus, in substance, spoke the
people; and we, at the end of the Nineteenth Century, may think they were
uttering the veriest axioms of political common sense. What sturdy Peter
Stuyvesant thought is perfectly expressed in what he replied.

"The old laws will stand. Directors and council only shall be law-makers:
never will they make themselves responsible to the people. As to officers
of government, were their election left to the rabble, we should have
thieves on horseback and honest men on foot." And with that, we may
imagine, the Governor stamped his wooden toe.

The people shrugged their shoulders. "We aim but at the general good,"
said they. "All men have a natural right to constitute society, and to
assemble to protect their liberties and property."

"I declare this assembly dissolved," Peter retorted. "Assemble again at
your peril! The authority which rules you is derived not from the whim of
a few ignorant malcontents." Alas! the seed of the American Idea had
never germinated in Peter's soldierly bosom; and when the West India
Company learned of the dialogue, they spluttered with indignation. "The
people be d----d." was the sense of their message. "Let them no longer
delude themselves with the fantasy that taxes require their assent." With
that, they dismissed the matter from their minds. Yet even then, the
Writing was on the wall. The flouted people were ripe to welcome England;
and England, in the shape of Charles II., who had come at last to his own,
meditated wiping the Dutch off the Atlantic seaboard. It availed not to
plead rights: Lord Baltimore snapped his fingers. Lieutenant-governor
Beekman, indeed, delayed the appropriation of Delaware; but Long Island
was being swallowed up, and nobody except the government cared. The people
may be incompetent to frame laws: but what if they decline to fight for
you when called upon? If they cannot make taxes to please themselves, at
all events they will not make war to please anybody else. If they are poor
and ignorant, that is not their fault. The English fleet was impending;
what was to be done? Could Stuyvesant but have multiplied himself into a
thousand Stuyvesants, he knew what he would do; but he was impotent. In
August, 1664, here was the fleet actually anchored in Gravesend Bay, with
Nicolls in command. "What did they want?" the Governor inquired.
"Immediate recognition of English sovereignty," replied Nicolls curtly;
and the gentler voice of Winthrop of Boston was heard, advising surrender.
"Surrender would be reproved at home," said poor Stuyvesant, refusing to
know when he was beaten. He was doing his best to defeat the army and navy
of England single-handed. But the burgomasters went behind him, and
capitulated, and--Peter to the contrary for four days more notwithstanding
--New Amsterdam became New York.

The English courted favor by liberal treatment of their new dependants on
the western shore of the Hudson; whatever the Dutch had refused to do,
they did. The Governor and Council were to be balanced by the people's
representatives; no more arbitrary taxation; citizens might think and pray
as best pleased them; land tenure was made easy, and seventy-five acres
was the bounty for each emigrant imported, negroes included. By such
inducements the wilderness of New Jersey, assigned to Berkeley and
Carteret, was peopled by Scots, New Englanders and Quakers. Settlement
proceeded rapidly, and in 1668 a colonial legislature met in the town
named after Elizabeth Carteret. There were so many Puritans in the
assembly, and their arguments were so convincing, that New Jersey law bore
a strong family resemblance to that of New England. This had its effect,
when, in 1670, the rent question came up for settlement. The Puritans
contended that the Indians held from Noah, and as they were lawful heirs
of the Indians, they declined to pay rents to the English proprietors.
There was no means of compelling them to do so, and they had their way.
The Yankees were already going ahead.

Manhattan did not get treated quite so well. The Governor had everything
his own way, the council being his creatures, and the justices his
appointees. The people were permitted no voice in affairs, and might as
well have had Stuyvesant back again. After Nicolls had strutted his term,
Lord Lovelace came, and outdid him. His idea of how to govern was
formulated in his instructions to an agent: "Lay such taxes," said he, "as
may give them liberty for no thought but how to discharge them." Lord
Lovelace was an epigrammatist; but in the end he had to pay for his wit.
He attempted to levy a tax for defense, and was met with refusal; the
towns of Long Island had not one cent either for tribute or defense; his
lordship swore at them heartily, but they heeded him not; and he found
himself in the shoes of the ousted Dutch Governor in an another sense than
he desired. And then was poetical justice made complete; for who should
appear before the helpless forts but Evertsen with a Dutch fleet! New
York, New Jersey and Delaware surrendered to him almost with enthusiasm,
and the work of England seemed to be all undone.

But larger events were to control the lesser. France and England combined
in an iniquitous conspiracy to destroy the Dutch Republic, and swooped
down upon the coast with two hundred thousand men. The story has often
been told how the Dutch, tenfold outnumbered, desperately and gloriously
defended themselves. They finally swept the English from the seas, and
patroled the Channel with a broom at the masthead. By the terms of the
treaty of peace which Charles was obliged by his own parliament to make,
all conquests were mutually restored, and New York consequently reverted
to England. West Jersey was bought by the Quakers; the eastern half of the
province was restored to the rule of Carteret. The Atlantic coast, from
Canada down to Florida, continuously, was English ground, and so remained
until, a century later, the transplanted spirit of liberty, born in
England, threw down the gauntlet to the spirit of English tyranny, and
won independence for the United States.

When we remember that the Dutch maintained their government in the new
world for little more than fifty years, it is surprising how deep a mark
they made there. It is partly because their story lends itself to
picturesque and graphic treatment; it is so rich in character and color,
and telling in incident. Then, too, it has a beginning, middle and end,
which is what historians as well as romancers love. But most of all,
perhaps, their brief chronicles as a distinct political phenomenon
illustrate the profound problem of self-government in mankind. The
Netherlander had proved, before any of them came hither, with what
inflexible courage they could resent foreign tyranny; and the
municipalities, as well as the nation, had grasped the principles of
independence. But it was not until they erected their little commonwealth
amid the forests of the Hudson that they awakened to the conception that
every man should bear his part in the government of all. To attain this,
it was necessary to break through a crust of conservatism almost as
stubborn as that of Spain. The authority of their upper classes had never
been questioned; the idea had never been entertained that a citizen in
humble life could claim any right to influence the conditions under which
his life should be carried on. That innate and inalienable right of the
individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which Jefferson
asserted, and which has become an axiom to every American school-boy, does
not appear, upon investigation, to be either inalienable or innate. The
history of mankind shows that it has been constantly alienated from them;
and if we pass in review the population of the world, from the oldest to
contemporary times, and from savages tribes to the most highly civilized
nations, we find the plebeian bowing before the patrician, the poor man
serving the wealthy. The conception of human equality before the law is
not a congenital endowment, but an accomplishment, arduously acquired and
easily forfeited. The first impulse of weakness in the presence of
strength is to bow down before it; it is the impulse of the animal, and of
the unspiritual, the unregenerate nature in man. The ability to recognize
the solidarity of man, and therefore the equality of spiritual manhood,
involves an uplifting of the mind, an illumination of the soul, which can
be regarded as the result of nothing less than a revelation. It is not
developed from below--it is received from above; it is a divine whisper in
the ear of fallen man, transfiguring him, and opening before him the way
of life. It postulates no loss of humility; it does not disturb the truth
that some must serve and some must direct; that some shall have charge
over many things, and some over but few. It does not supersede the outward
order of society. But it affirms that to no man or body of men, no matter
how highly endowed by nature or circumstance with intellect, position or
riches, shall be accorded the right to dispose arbitrarily of the lives
and welfare of the masses. Not elsewhere than in the hands of the entire
community shall be lodged the reins of government. The administration
shall be with the chosen ones whose training and qualifications fit them
for that function; but the principles on which their administration is
conducted shall be determined by the will and vote of all.

This is not lightly to be believed or understood; Peter Stuyvesant voiced
the unenlightened thought when he said that, should the rabble rule, order
and honesty must be overthrown. This is the inevitable conclusion of
materialistic logic. Like produces like; evil, evil; ignorance, ignorance.
Only by inspired faith will the experiment be tried of trusting the
Creator to manifest His purposes, not by the conscious wisdom of any man
or men, but through the unconscious, organic tendency, mental and moral,
of universal man. We may call it "the tendency, not ourselves, which makes
for righteousness"; or we may analyze it into the resultant of innumerable
forces, taking a direction independent of them all; or we may say simply
that it is the Divine method of leading us upward; it is all one.
Universal suffrage is an act of faith; and, faithfully carried out, it
brings political and religious emancipation to the people. How far it has
been carried out in this country is a question we shall have to answer
hereafter; we may say here that our forefathers realized its value, and
gave to us in our Constitution the mechanism whereby to practice it. To it
they added the memory of their courage and their sacrifices in its behalf;
and more than this was not theirs to give.

The English Puritans received their revelation in one way; the Dutch
traders and farmers in another; but it was the same revelation. To neither
could it be imparted in Europe, but only in the virgin solitudes of an
untrodden continent. There man, already civilized, was enabled to perceive
the inefficiency and distortion of his civilization, and to grasp the
cure. Hudson, an Englishman, but at the moment in Dutch service, opened
the gates to the Netherlanders, and thus enabled their emigrants to
perfect the work of emancipation which had been brought to the highest
stage it could reach at home. They were opposed by the directors in
Amsterdam, by their own governors and patroons, and by the errors which
immemorial usage had ingrained in them as individuals. They overcame these
forces, not by their own strength, nor by any violent act of revolution,
but by the slow, irresistible energy of natural law, with which, as with a
gravitative force, they had placed themselves in harmony. Thus they
exemplified one of the several ways in which freedom comes to man, and
took their place as a component element in the limitless cosmopolitanism
of our population.

Their subsequent history shows that nothing truly valuable is lost in
democracy. The high behavior and dignified manners which belonged to their
patroons may be observed among their descendants in contemporary New York;
the men whose ancestors controlled a thousand tenants have not lost the
powers of handling large matters in a large spirit; but they exercise it
now for worthier ends than of old. Similarly, the Dutch stolidity which
amuses us in the chronicles, reappears to-day in the form of steadiness
and judgment; the obstinacy of headstrong Peter, as self-confidence and
perseverance; the physical grossness of the old burghers, as
constitutional vigor. Many of their customs too have come down to us;
their heavy afternoon teas are recalled in our informal receptions; their
New Year's Day sociability in our calls, their Christmas celebrations in
our festival of Santa Claus. Much of our domestic architecture reflects
their influence: the gabled fronts, the tiled fireplaces, the high
"stoops," and the custom of sitting on them in summer evenings. In general
it is seen that the effect of democratic institutions is to save the grain
and reject the chaff, because criticism becomes more close and punctual,
abuses and license are not chartered, and the individual is bereft of
artificial supports and disguises, and must appear more nearly as God made

Julian Hawthorne