I have sometimes wondered why we are inclined to associate something slightly comical with the names "Dutch" and "Dutchmen." That there is some such inclination is, I think, undeniable; but the origin of it is not obvious. All Germans call themselves Dutch, while Dutchmen call themselves by a territorial designation, as Hollanders or Netherlanders; but when we call a German a Dutchman we do it with a smile. It seems to be implied, though ever so slightly, that there is something funny in being a Dutchman. We cannot ascribe this feeling to the effect left upon our minds by Irving's humorous pictures of old dignitaries and his charming legends of the Hudson, for the feeling is older than Irving and gave him his clue for the Knickerbocker chronicles. I think it must be referred to the seventeenth century, that period of keen rivalry and occasional warfare between the English and their Netherland cousins, when they were more in each other's minds than ever before or since. It is then that we begin to encounter such disparaging expressions as "Dutch comforters" for those who bid you thank God it's no worse, "Dutch bargains" where the wits are clouded with beer, "Dutch courage" such as comes from ardent spirits, or "Dutch defence" for a premature and cowardly surrender. Shakespeare never uses any of these phrases, and I have not found them in any of the Elizabethan playwriters, but they were in common use by the time of Charles II. Some of them are very silly, coming from people who had lately found in Dutchmen the toughest antagonists they had ever encountered. There is more savour of spleen than of wit in such phrases.
p139 But besides this we must bear in mind that neighbouring or closely related communities are apt to make generalizations about one another that are either ill-natured or patronizing, and in either case convey some implication of superiority. With communities that are widely different there is less temptation to do this. The existence of wide differences is taken for granted, and our own immeasurable superiority, on whichever side we may happen to be, goes without saying. When the differences are slight, self-flattery thrives by harping upon them, and sometimes leads to queer statements. For example, there is a kind of American humour to which Englishmen do not always quickly respond, and forthwith we hear it said that Englishmen have no sense of humour, — a strange charge to bring against the countrymen of Dickens and Thackeray and Lewis Carroll! The Englishman sometimes brings the same charge against the countrymen of Scott and Burns! Every one has heard the famous remark of Sydney Smith, but the delicious reply of the great Scottish humourist, John Wilson, is not so generally known. Smith had said, "You cannot get jokes into a Scotchman's head without a surgical operation." "Ay, to be sure," retorted Wilson, — "English jokes!"
It was in the spirit here illustrated that ancient Athenian writers used to allude to their near neighbours, with such effect that the prevailing population conception of Boeotians is that of a thick-witted people with small interest in art or literature.a Yet from this people came Hesiod and Pindar and Plutarch, with the painters, Nicomachus and Aristeides, and the general, statesman, orator, and scholar, Epaminondas, in whom the moral grandeur of a Washington was united with the brilliant versatility of a Raleigh. In a learned monograph on the Boeotians, in which a modern Welsh scholar, Professor Rhys Roberts, shows how little there is to support the traditional view,b there is a chapter on the Boeotians as the Dutchmen of Greece. The references there collected show that other Greeks regarded them as comfortable and easy-going people, fond of good dinners, p140and not averse to a social glass. The conception answers very closely to Irving's picture of the inhabitants of New Netherland. When his Knickerbocker was first published, in 1809, many people of Dutch descent in New York and Albany read it with fierce indignation. In certain quarters there was an attempt to frown the youthful author out of society. Nine years afterward, Mr. Gulian Verplanck, in an address before the New York Historical Society, called it a "coarse caricature." Irving might have replied that it was meant for caricature and is not coarse. One sometimes wonders what there can be in the climate of North America that makes its inhabitants so morbidly sensitive to banter. But the kindliness of Irving's humour, the total absence of malice, ended by winning all hearts; and the name of Knickerbocker has come to be regarded almost as a title of nobility by the children of those whom it once so sorely offended.
At the close of the preceding chapter we left Director Van Twiller in great and growing difficulties on his Connecticut frontier. In the opposite direction there was further cause for anxiety. Lord Baltimore's people began coming to Maryland in 1634, and the next year a small party from Virginia came up the Delaware River and took possession of Fort Nassau, which the Dutch had abandoned. As soon as Van Twiller heard of this, he despatched a warship thither, which captured all the English and brought them to New Amsterdam. The question what should be done with them called for all the Doubter's powers of meditation; but Captain De Vries, who had stopped in the harbour on his way to Virginia, relieved his perplexity by carrying all the prisoners to Point Comfort. There they found a second English ship just starting for Fort Nassau, but the return of this first company, with its tale of discomfiture, put an end to the enterprise.
The history of Van Twiller's administration is in great part a monotonous record of such bickerings with the English. But this did not prevent very brisk commercial intercourse. p142Salt and tobacco were carried in Dutch vessels from Manhattan to Boston and Salem, and horses and oxen of the finest breeds were brought over from Holland for use in New England. The voyage between Amsterdam and Boston usually took from five to six weeks. In the general increase of commercial activity which was due to the founding of so many English colonies, New Amsterdam had its share; and its profits were enhanced by the prerogative known as "staple right," according to which all passing vessels must either stop and unload their cargoes to be sold on the spot, or else pay a duty for the privilege of passing. Quite a number of yellow brick houses were built, as also a wooden church and parsonage, a few shops, three windmills, and a brewery. Two houses were also built at Pavonia, on the Jersey shore, and nine at Fort Orange. Agriculture made some progress at Manhattan, and it is worthy of note that the first successful crop was tobacco. Of the Virginians who were taken prisoners at Fort Nassau, two or three found New Amsterdam so pleasant that they stayed there and introduced the culture of tobacco. It was not long before tobacco grown near the site of the present City Hall was exported in considerable quantities to Holland, where it brought nearly as good prices as tobacco from Virginia. Large estates were bought by Van Twiller and his friends, in the expectation of a rise in values. Among these was the little island in the bay, which the Indians called Pagganck, and the chapel Nut Island, but which ever since Van Twiller's purchase has been known as Governor's Island. Other such estates were on Long Island, comprising the present town of Flatlands. The Indian occupants of these lands were paid for them after the usual fashion, but in order to get a valid title under the West India Company's regulations, it was necessary that such purchases should be formally approved in the Amsterdam Chamber. Van Twiller foolishly disregarded this rule, and thus laid himself open to imputations of dishonest dealing, imputations that were damaging, even if not sustained p143by adequate proofs. It was also observed that his farms prospered much better than those of the Company, and it was hinted that he took advantage of his position to secure for himself the best service that was to be had, without a proper regard for the interests of his employers.
While he indulged in these irregularities, Van Twiller's arbitrary temper got him into many quarrels with merchants and skippers and magistrates, and presently with Dominie Bogardus, who once called him a "child of Satan" and threatened to preach him such a sermon next Sunday as would make him shake in his shoes! From such indication we may gather that the parson's gentleness was not precisely dove-like, and in fact he was said to be a sturdy guzzler, like the Director. According to De Vries the orgies at Manhattan were frequent and unseemly. In June, 1636, that excellent mariner, returning from Virginia, had his leaky ship hauled up and careened on the site of Maiden Lane for repairs. Van Twiller informed him that Cornelius van Voorst had just arrived as superintendent of Pauw's estate of Pavonia. Van Voorst had brought with him a few cases of prime claret, and so the Director, with De Vries and Bogardus, went over to pay their respects to him. The sequel suggests that the claret must have been followed by cognac or schnapps. The Director, the parson, and the superintendent got into a hot altercation over a murder lately committed in the neighbourhood; but presently peace and good-will were restored. As the visitors were stepping down to their boats, Van Voorst gave them a parting salute with an old swivel which stood in front of his house, but bungled it in such a wise as to shower sparks on the roof, and in less than half an hour the building was reduced to ashes. A few weeks later, on a warm morning in August, as De Vries was about to weigh anchor for Holland, the constable of New Amsterdam gave him a farewell banquet, under a large open tent where the assembled company could look down upon the blue water and catch the salt breeze blowing over the bay. Wine flowed freely, and the hilarity p144was growing somewhat boisterous, when suddenly the trumpeter, Anthony van Corlear, blew a blast and made several persons jump. Thereupon the koopman of stores and the koopman of cargoes upbraided the trumpeter and called him by divers opprobrious names, until that doughty musician assaulted them both and thrashed them soundly. The koopmen, with aching sides, ran home to get their swords, vowing with mighty oaths that they would carve and eat Van Corlear; but the pot-valiant threat was never fulfilled.
Among the officers at New Amsterdam who disapproved of the Director's methods and manners was the schout-financial, or treasurer, Lubbertus Van Dincklagen, one of the ablest men in the Company's service. His criticisms were so freely expressed that the angry Van Twiller dismissed him from office and sent him back to Holland. On the Director's part this was a rash proceeding, for Van Dincklagen immediately drew up a formal complaint against him and lodged it with the States General. It was a moment of bitter discontent and disapproval of the course which things had taken in New Netherland. There was nothing there yet that could with confidence be called a permanent colony; there was only a considerable trading station, with a group of tiny settlements. Colonists would not come out in any number as tenants on the great manors, and the patroons, neglecting agriculture for the more lucrative fur trade, kept working at cross purposes with the Company. During the last five years the population of Manhattan had slightly diminished, while the neighbouring English colonies to the east and to the south were rapidly expanding and threatening to overwhelm it. Something must be done to mend matters, and first of all the competency of the government must be ensured. The States General instructed the Company that they must either refute the charges against Van Twiller or recall him. This was throwing the burden of proof upon the Company. They could not refute the charges, and accordingly Van Twiller was removed from office. He continued for some years to live in New Amsterdam, p145but played no important part there. We have the record of his death in Holland, early in 1657, but nothing is known of the circumstances of his return.
The person appointed to succeed Van Twiller as Director General was named William Kieft. He was appointed in September, 1637, and arrived at New Amsterdam in March, 1638. He was a very different sort of person from his predecessor, and the change was like that from King Log to King Stork. Kieft was a man of restless activity. The picture of him given by Knickerbocker p146is of course based upon fancy, but it gives a correct impression of his type of character; "a brisk, wiry, waspish little old gentleman," with sharp features, "cheeks scorched into a dusky red by two fiery little gray eyes; his nose turned up and the corners of his mouth turned down, pretty much like the muzzle of an irritable pug dog." This Kieft seems to have had a good education, and is said to have been fond of interlarding his talk with scraps from Greek and Latin authors. As a merchant he had once been bankrupt, and his enemies accused him of crooked conduct on at least one occasion, when, as it was said, he had been entrusted with money for redeeming certain Christian captives from Turkish bondage, and had secreted part of it for his own use and behoof. Either the Company did not believe these charges, or perhaps they were willing to accept his energy as covering up a multitude of sins. Unfortunately they did not take sufficient pains to inquire into his character for prudence and tact; in these qualities he was wofully wanting.
In coming to this new country Director Kieft knew that he would be held responsible for the government of his province, and therefore he wished to have absolute control, so far as possible. Therefore, while he retained the advisory council, he reduced it to two persons, — himself and one councillor. In this council of two the Director had two votes and the other man one, so that Kieft was practically an autocrat. The choice of a councilor, however, was a good one, — Jean de la Montagne, a keen and forceful Huguenot physician. The only other officers of importance were the koopman, or commissary of the Company, and the schout, or treasurer and general executive p147officer. Kieft's ordinary method of governing was to issue proclamations or edicts, and it was the business of the schout to see that they were duly enforced. On extraordinary occasions special councillors, usually some of the company's salaried servants, were added to the council, and Kieft followed their advice or not, just as he pleased.
Our petty autocrat found a sad state of things in New Netherland. We have seen how it was complained of Van Twiller that he devoted more thought to his own interests than to those of his employers, surely a grave offence in a governor. With the patroons, who were open to the same charge, the offence was perhaps somewhat more venial; but the bad example infected the whole community. Illicit traffic in peltries was universal. People visited the warehouses and bought for themselves the most valuable furs, until only the poorest ones were left to be shipped on account of the Company; and by this means not only were its receipts diminished, but its reputation suffered in the European market, and in the keen competition with Russian traders the Dutch found themselves losing ground.
Accordingly one of Kieft's first acts was to issue a proclamation forbidding the Company's servants trading in peltries, under penalty of forfeiting their wages and all such claims as they might have against the Company. No person whatever was to engage in trade of any sort, within the limits of New Netherland, without a license. Any trader who could not show a license was to suffer confiscation of all his goods, and was liable to further punishment at the discretion of the Director. Communication between people ashore and ships in the bay was most jealously guarded, and no sailor was allowed to stay on shore a sundown without express permission, under penalty of forfeiting two months' wages for the first offence and instant dismissal without any pay for the second offence. Life and property were so insecure that it had been found necessary to modify the provision that capital punishment should not be inflicted in the colony. A gallows in Holland was too p148remote to inspire terror in evil-doers, and accordingly murderers were publicly executed at Manhattan. Kieft's earliest proclamations announced that no mercy would be shown to criminals. Penalties were fixed upon hard drinking. Any keeper of a tavern or alehouse who sold liquor to tipsy customers or allowed brawls upon his premises was liable to a fine of 25 guilders and the loss of all his stock. No doubt, if proclamations could reform society, the waspish and wiry little governor would have had the millennium in full operation in New Netherland within a twelvemonth.
But one of the lessons which history inculcates with strongest and most reiterated emphasis is this: that by no conceivable ingenuity of legislation or vehemence of proclamation can you ever make a sound society out of unsound individuals. Now at the time of Kieft's arrival the small population of New Netherland was unquestionably poor in quality. That it did not represent the good people of Holland seems quite clear. In Holland, even in the humblest society, it was very unusual to find a person who could not read and write; and so it had been for more than a century at the time of which we are treating. But in Manhattan it was only a small minority of the population that could read or write.1 For the most part it was still a waterside population of sailors, wharf-keepers, and longshoremen, including a fair proportion of rough and shiftless characters. The thrifty and respectable people of Holland had not yet begun to come in any considerable numbers to the New World.
And now the patroons came forward with a proposal which, had it been adopted, would have made matters still worse. They laid before the States General their so‑called "New Project," concerning which it is not worth our while here to notice more than one provision. Since the inducements offered under the manorial system had not proved sufficient to draw free and thrifty yeomanry from Holland to America, the patroons requested p149the States General to furnish them with white servile labour such as England was then sending to Virginia, — convicts and vagabonds, outcasts and paupers, to serve under indentures for a term of years and then to receive their freedom.
Fortunately this request was not granted, but recourse was had to far more wholesome measures. In September, 1638, after consultation with the States General, the West India Company issued a proclamation which marked the beginning of a new era. The previous monopolies, alike in trade and in agriculture, were renounced and abolished. p150The fur trade and the right to hold and cultivate land in free allodial proprietorship were thrown open to the whole world. The same privileges in New Netherland were extended to foreigners as to Dutchmen, while all alike were subject to only a few moderate regulations. The only monopoly retained by the Company was that of carrying the settlers with their merchandise and cattle, at a reasonable charge for the service rendered. At the same time the prohibition upon manufactures was removed.
Besides this abandonment of monopoly, certain direct encouragements for immediate emigration were provided. A farmer who was willing to start at once for New Netherland was carried thither with his family without any charge; on his arrival he was furnished, for a term of six years, with a farm of such size as he could profitably cultivate, together with a house and barn, four horses, four cows, sundry sheep and swine, and the needful tools; for all of which he was to pay a yearly rent in money equivalent to about $200 of the present day, besides 80 pounds of butter. At the end of the six years he was to restore the equivalent of the live stock originally furnished, retaining for himself all the increase. Provisions were made for supplying clothes and other necessaries on credit, in certain cases, as well as loans of money.
The effect of these measures was remarkable. Settlers of excellent quality began coming in considerable numbers, so that, for example, in the year 1639 the seven farms or bouweries on Manhattan increased to more than thirty. Not only single families came, but large parties conducted by men of substance. The first of these parties came with De Vries at Christmas, 1638, and began building houses on Staten Island. In the following June came Joachim Kuyter, of Darmstadt, and Cornelius Melyn, of Antwerp, whom we shall meet again in the course of our story. About the same time Antoine Jansen, a Huguenot, began the settlement at Gravesend. Englishmen came also. Some came from Virginia and engaged in planting p151tobacco, or in raising orchards of peaches and cherries. Many also came from Massachusetts, where they were finding the rule of the theocracy oppressive. Englishmen, indeed, came in such numbers that, in view of possible complications with the English government, it was deemed wise to make sure of their being on the right side. An oath of allegiance to the States General, to the Prince of Orange, and to the Director of New Netherland was accordingly required of them. This question of allegiance having once been disposed of, no distinction whatever was made in New Netherland between Dutchmen and foreigners, but the same rights and privileges were enjoyed by all.
Even now, however, the rate of increase was far from keeping pace with that of New England. The pursuit and slaughter of the wretched remnant of Pequots had just revealed to English eyes the rich and beautiful shores between Saybrook and Fairfield, when there came another great wave of migration from the mother country. Under the lead of Eaton and Davenport these people sailed from Boston to the place which the red men knew as Quinnipiack, and which Adrian Block had baptized as Roodenberg, or Red Mount; there they founded the town and colony of New Haven in 1638. By June of the following year there were fifty houses at Stratford; Norwalk and Stamford had come into existence, and two houses marked the beginning of Greenwich, within thirty miles of New Amsterdam. This year 1639 witnessed that league of three river towns which began the organization of the state of Connecticut. Of these towns Hartford already had more than a hundred houses, with a spacious church. Fort Good Hope still existed on sufferance, though there were brawls between the garrison and the neighbouring farmers.
It must be borne in mind that of the new settlements along the Sound, the towns of New Haven, Guildford, Branford, Milford, and Stamford, together with Southold, on the opposite shore of Long Island, were about this time united into the federal republic of New p152Haven, the most theocratic and aristocratic of the New England colonies; while the intervening towns of Stratford, Fairfield, and Norwalk, whose settlers came chiefly through Hartford and Windsor, were joined to the comparatively liberal and democratic colony of Connecticut. The fort at Saybrook remained separate, and as for Greenwich, the Dutch laid hands upon it. Quite recently Jonas Bronck had reared an outpost for New Amsterdam in the region now known as Westchester County, where Bronx River still bears his name. Thoroughly alarmed at the solid and steady advance of the English settlers, Director Kieft lost no time in buying from the Indians the triangle between Norwalk and the site of Sing Sing. He then so far overawed the settlers of Greenwich as to make them acknowledge Dutch jurisdiction; and thus the republic of New Haven and the countship of New Netherland actually touched one another.
But the chief controversy was now concerned with Long Island. The Dutch already had settlements at Wallabout and Gravesend, and on the site of Flatlands, and at Breuckelen, so called after a pretty village on the road between Amsterdam and Utrecht. Presently they acquired from the red men a title to all the territory now comprised within the counties of Kings and Queens. Until the arrival of the New Haven people the greater part of the island remained undisturbed in the hands of its aboriginal possessors; but the Dutch had free access to its shores, and this was of great value to them. Those shores were a kind of primitive American mint. For ages untold the currency of the red men had been wampum, or strings of beads made from sea-shells. There were two sorts, the white beads made from a kind of periwinkle, and the black beads made from the clam. It had some of the features of a double standard, inasmuch as black wampum was worth about twice as much as white; but as no legal tender act obliged anybody to take the poorer coin for more than its intrinsic value, no confusion resulted. It was good currency, for it had an intrinsic value that was well understood and p153remarkably steady so long as Indians continued to form an important portion of the trading world. For any material to be fit to serve as a currency three conditions are indispensable: 1. It must be an object of desire for its own sake, apart from its use as currency. 2. It must be difficult to obtain. 3. Its value must not be subject to fluctuations. Wampum satisfied these conditions. It was used for a number of purposes, and in particular was highly prized for personal adornment. In order to find it, one must go to its native coasts and gather the shells and prepare them, and the areas in which these shells occurred were limited. Since wampum thus cost labour it could easily serve as a measure of other labour. The amount of effort involved in getting a beaver skin could readily be estimated in terms of the effort involved in getting a fathom of beads. The relations between wampum and beaver were subject to but slight variation; immemorial custom, the net result of ages of barbaric experience, had determined them. As for gold and silver, the red men cared much less for them than for the venerated medium of traffic and diplomacy, the repository of tribal records, the coveted decoration alike for men and women. Throughout the seventeenth century wampum played almost as important a part in the northern colonies as tobacco played in Virginia, and as a medium of exchange it was far better than tobacco. It has been well said that "wampum was the magnet which drew the beaver out of interior forests;"2 or in other words, it was for the white man a currency redeemable in those peltries which were wanted throughout the civilized world.
Now the shores of Long Island abounded in the shells of which wampum is made, and the Indians upon those shores were the chief manufacturers of wampum on the whole Atlantic coast. The Pequots in swarms of canoes used to cross the Sound and make raids upon this convenient mint; and when the dreaded Mohawk came down the River of the Mountains, collecting tribute from all the Algonquin tribes, it is said that he would now p154and then prolong his journey and levy blackmail upon the primeval treasuries of Great South and Shinnecock bays. Here Indians were wont to throng, and one of the many earmarks of truth in Verrazano's narrative is his notice of the fact.
The presence of this treasure, at the very doors of the Dutch, had given them great advantages in trading with the Indians. They were the first to perceive the economic significance of these wampum shores, and it was now with great disgust that they witnessed the approach of the English. In 1635 the Earl of Stirling obtained a grant of Long Island, and soon afterward proceeded to dispose of portions of its territory. In 1639 Lyon Gardiner bought Gardiner's Island, and in the following year a party from Lynn advanced as far as Cow Bay in Queens County. There they tore down the arms of the States General and carved a fool's head on the tree to which they had been hung. These invaders were presently driven away by Kieft's orders, and then retreated to the eastern part of the island, and on its south shore built Southampton. The founding of Southold, on the north shore, by the New Haven people, came at the same time.
The policy of Director Kieft, however, was destined to do more to shake the hold of the Dutch upon Long Island than all these aggressive advances of their rivals. The circumstances of New Amsterdam were such as to call for sagacity and tact on the part of the government in dealing with the Indians of the neighbourhood; but Kieft had neither tact nor sagacity in such matters. In explaining the case, it must be remembered that all the Indians upon the lower Hudson and on both sides of it, all the way from the Delaware River to the Connecticut and far beyond, belonged to the Algonquin family. Under various local names, — such as Raritans, Manhattans, Weckquaesgecks, Tappans, etc., — most of those with whom our story deals were either members or detached fragments of the widespread and extremely loose Algonquin confederacy known as Delawares p155or Lenni-Lenapé. All had suffered unspeakable humiliation at the hands of the terrible Iroquois, to whom they were now compelled to pay tribute. No enmity known to history was ever more deadly than that between Algonquin and Iroquois. Now the Dutch had from the first entered into a treaty of friendship with the Iroquois, and such a fact was of itself calculated to discredit them with their Algonquin neighbours. Nevertheless the Dutch had hitherto contrived to keep on very pleasant terms with these also. Minuit and Van Twiller had treated them well, and the of De Vries upon them was always excellent. But under Kieft the increase of farming population began to cause inconvenience to the red men; they complained bitterly that stray cattle spoiled their unfenced fields of growing corn, and sometimes they protected their crops by killing the cattle, which led to reprisals.
But far more serious trouble came indirectly from supplying the Iroquois with firearms. A rule of the West India Company, approved by the States General, forbade the selling of such weapons to any Indians whatever, under penalty of death. Now the government at Manhattan rigorously enforced this prohibition in the neighbourhood, but with regard to the distant Iroquois the enforcement was comparatively lax. When a Mohawk was glad to give twenty beaver skins for a musket, he was pretty sure to get it; and as the Iroquois had great wealth of furs at their disposal, no other red men enjoyed such faculties for acquiring firearms. The effects of this were prodigious. Already the superior organization of the confederated Iroquois tribes had made them invincible; now, armed with the white man's weapons, they became irresistible. In the next half century they reduced to a tributary condition nearly all the northwestern tribes as far as the Mississippi River.
Now when the Algonquins around Manhattan found that the Dutch would sell firearms to the Iroquois but not to themselves, they were not only offended but alarmed; for p156how could such a preference for their deadly enemies forebode anything be mischief? At this juncture the unhappy Kieft ventured upon what seemed to him a brilliant stroke of policy. He was spending a good deal of money in repairing Fort Amsterdam and other works which he said were a protection to the Indians as well as to the white men; therefore they must be made to pay their share for such protection, they must be taxed! Accordingly he sent his collectors to the Tappans, demanding corn, furs, and wampum. The Indians were sarcastic; surely, they said, the white sachem at Fort Amsterdam must be a mean fellow to ask them to give him their property for nothing. Protection, indeed! his fort was no protection to them. They had not asked him to build it, and were not going to help maintain it.
While these things were going on new settlements were springing up around Manhattan. Cornelius Melyn and his people occupied portions of Staten Island, where the little colony of De Vries was flourishing. That able patroon also began a new colony, called Vriesendael, on land which he had bought from the Indians at Tappan. In 1641 another settlement was made at Hackensack. And now came an explosion. Some wretches in the Company's service, on their way to the South River, landed on Staten Island and stole some pigs belonging to De Vries. The offence was charged upon the Raritans, and Kieft, without any investigation, sent out a party of fifty men who slew several of those Indians and burned their crops. In revenge the Raritans swooped upon De Vries's plantation and destroyed it, and massacred his people. Then Kieft issued a proclamation offering a bounty of •ten fathoms of wampum to every one who should bring in a Raritan's head.
It was thus already a very pretty quarrel when a further complication arose. Fifteen years before, while Minuit was building Fort Amsterdam, an Indian of the Weckquaesgeck tribe, at Yonkers, came down to Manhattan with furs to sell, and was foully waylaid and murdered by white men. His p157little nephew, who witnessed the deed, silently vowed revenge. On a summer day of 1641 this nephew, grown to manhood, stopped at the lonely house of one Claes Smit, a wheelwright, on the East River, near the site of Forty-fifth Street. He wanted to buy a piece of coarse cloth known as duffels, and when the unsuspecting Dutchman turned to get it, the Indian seized an axe and beat his brains out. As soon as this was known, Kieft sent up to Yonkers and demanded the murderer, but the Weckquaesgeck sachem refused to give him up. He had only been doing a sum in Indian arithmetic, just balancing a little account; why should he be given up?
And now there came up the situation which has so often recurred in the history of despotism. A war is expensive, and when the ruler would undertake it he must sometimes consult his people, no matter how disagreeable such a step may be. Kieft therefore reluctantly convened an assembly of heads of families, to consider the question of peace or war. "In case the Indians persist in refusing to surrender this murderer, is it not proper to destroy their whole village? and if so, when and how shall this best be done?" The assembly chose a board of Twelve Men, with De Vries for chairman, to consider these questions. The board, after deliberation, agreed that the surrender of the murderer must be insisted on, but they would not consent to a war at present because the necessary preparations had not been made. To this decision Kieft, though chafing, felt it prudent to yield. In the following winter, as no reparation had been made for the murder, the Twelve Men promised to support the Director in his war measures, in return for a redress of grievances. We have seen how ingeniously Kieft had constructed his council, with only one member besides himself. When sometimes for the sake of appearances he had thought fit to enlarge it, he had been wont to call to it not the most able and upright men of the colony, in whom the settlers would be sure to have confidence, but only the inferior agents of the Company — p158"common folk" who were dependent upon him for their salaries, and were accordingly afraid to oppose his wishes. The Twelve Men now demanded that the council should hereafter be composed of not less than five members, of whom four should be chosen by a popular vote, and that the "common folk" of the Company should no longer be admitted to seats in the council. In return for this and some other concessions of less importance, the Twelve Men gave their consent to an expedition against the Weckquaesgecks. This reform would have gone far toward limiting the Director's absolutism in future, and in the emergency Kieft's behaviour was that of the typical despot. He began by denying the competency of the Twelve Men to undertake to bind him by any such agreement; next he promised, though in a sulky and gingerly fashion, to grant the demands of this tiny parliament; finally, he dissolved it and forgot all about his promise. He did not forget, however, to proclaim that no public meetings should be held in New Amsterdam without his express permission.
The first expedition into Westchester County was a ridiculous fiasco; it served to scare the Indians into promising to give up Smit's murderer, but the promise was not kept. There was a moment's respite, during which more outlying and exposed settlements were made, chiefly by English people who found Massachusetts an uncomfortable place for free thinkers. One was Rev. Francis Doughty, who, while preaching at Cohasset, was dragged from his pulpit and thrust out of doors for saying that "Abraham's children ought to have been baptized." Doughty brought a party of adherents with him, and received a tract of •13,000 acres on Long Island. Another of these heretics was John Throgmorton, who settled with 35 English families on the peninsula now known as Throg's Neck, opposite Flushing. A third was the celebrated Anne Hutchinson, who came with her large family to Pelham Neck, the next peninsula east of Throg's Neck. So many English had now come to New Netherland that it was found necessary to have an English p159secretary as one of the permanent colonial officials; and so many coasting vessels stopped at Manhattan that a large stone tavern was built on Pearl Street, fronting on the East River. The next thing we need, said De Vries, is a respectable church, and he subscribed 100 guilders toward it. A few days afterward the daughter of Dominie Bogardus was married, and at the wedding breakfast, after wine had circulated pretty freely, Kieft passed around a paper and got it covered with such generous subscriptions that the morrow dawned upon some repentant souls. The church was built of stone within the enclosure of Fort Amsterdam.
While this church was building, on an evening of January, 1643, De Vries, with his musket shouldered, was walking from Vriesendael toward the new settlement at Hackensack, when he met a drunken Indian. Some people at Hackensack had plied him with brandy and then had stolen his coat; he was going for his bow and arrows in order to square accounts by killing somebody. De Vries tried in vain to soothe him, and when he arrived at Hackensack he warned the people to be on their guard. But next day one of the settlers who was thatching the roof of a house was slain by an arrow shot by this revengeful Indian. Then the chiefs of the murderer's tribe were seized with fear. They durst not for their lives go near Kieft, but they hastened to De Vries at Vriesendael and sought his advice and aid. They were willing to pay a liberal weregild, •200 fathoms of wampum, to the murdered man's widow, and thought that any reasonable person ought to be satisfied with this. De Vries went with them to Fort Amsterdam, but Kieft would hear of nothing but the surrender of the p160murderer. But the chiefs said he had fled up the river to the Haverstraws, and thereupon Kieft sent to Pacham, the wily chief of the Haverstraws, a peremptory demand for his surrender.
February arrived, and Pacham had not obeyed, when suddenly a force of 90 Mohawks, every one of them armed with a musket, came down to gather tribute from the river tribes. These human tigers were not particular as to how many of their tributaries they might happen to kill. Thus they drove before them several hundred terror-stricken fugitives, who swarmed into Vriesendael and begged the patroon for aid against their tyrants. De Vries explained that the Dutch were bound by treaty with the Iroquois and could not interfere between them and Algonquins, but he would give the refugees such shelter as he could. Hour by hour the stampede of river Indians increased till there were more than 1000 encamped by the oyster banks at Pavonia, while another force crossed to Manhattan and occupied the fields near Corlear's Hook, on the East River, not far from the site of Grand Street Ferry.
Now the wise De Vries saw that the moment had come when a courteous and pacific intervention might call off the Mohawks without offending them, and also win the gratitude of the persecuted Algonquins. To such diplomacy he was doubtless equal. But the short-sighted and waspish Kieft saw nothing but the chance for striking a blow at the Algonquins who had put themselves within his reach without ever having given up the assassins of Smit and the roofer at Hackensack. His views were upheld by a hot-headed creature named Adriansen; and in spite of the passionate protests of De Vries, of Dr. La Montagne, and of Dominie Bogardus, the infatuated Director proceeded to strike his blow. It was a base and cruel affair. At midnight of February 25, Sergeant Rodolf with a party of soldiers rushed into the sleeping encampment at Pavonia and massacred 80 Indians, while Adriansen in similar wise murdered 40 more at Corlear's Hook. In the morning the p161soldiers marched exultingly back to Fort Amsterdam bringing many severed heads of their victims. Kieft called it a truly Roman achievement. It seemed as if madness lurked in the very air and infected those who breathed it. The Marechkawiecks of Breuckelen were a strong tribe and had never offended the Dutch, but in the general fury some settlers of Flatlands attacked a party of them without provocation, slew three or four warriors, and carried off two wagon-loads of their corn.
The results of this insane conduct were appalling. Eleven Algonquin tribes at once took up the hatchet, and on every trail between the Raritan River and the Housatonic was repeated the direful spectacle of burning homesteads and mangled corpses. Even Vriesendael was attacked; the cattle, crops, and outhouses were destroyed, and the settlers were besieged in the stout manor-house; but at this stage something happened worth noting. An Indian arriving upon the scene spoke in praise of De Vries and expostulated with the besiegers, whereupon they all desisted and went away, and leaving even the brewery undisturbed, much as they craved its copper kettle to make arrow-heads.
Popular indignation waxed strong against Kieft, and there was some talk of putting him on a ship and sending him back to Holland. His alarm revealed the meanness of his spirit, as he tried to throw the blame upon his advisers, and especially upon Adriansen. This man's farm had just been destroyed by the Indians, and his temper was ugly. Hearing what had been said, Adriansen seized pistol and cutlass and with half a dozen comrades rushed into the Director's room, called him a liar, and was just pulling trigger when Kieft's servants grappled with him. One of his comrades fired at Kieft and missed, whereupon he was instantly shot and his head mounted on the public gallows.
After some weeks of such anarchy and distress, the efforts of De Vries secured a peace, first with the Long Island p162tribes, and afterwards with the tribes along the North River. But the respite was of short duration. Pacham, the crafty chief of the Haverstraws, believed it possible to exterminate the white men, and at his instigation the war was renewed in August by attacking a boat on its way down from Fort Orange with 400 beaver skins. In September a party of Weckquaesgecks destroyed Mrs. Hutchinson's homestead and murdered that lady with all her household except a little eight-year‑old granddaughter, who was carried into captivity. Throgmorton's settlement was the next to be destroyed, and then Doughty's; and so everything on Long Island was overwhelmed, save at Gravesend, where Lady Moody, an Anabaptist from Salem, with her forty brave colonists, repulsed the barbarians. Before the end of October nothing was to be seen at Hackensack and Pavonia but smoking ruins, while on Manhattan itself, from the site of Canal Street up to Harlem River, no more than five or six bouweries remained. At this time New Netherland lost its ablest citizen; circumstances obliged De Vries to return to Holland. He left in gloom and bitterness, declaring that God would avenge upon the Director's own head the shedding of so much innocent blood.
But while the province lost this excellent patroon, who ought for all these years to have been its Director instead of such men as Van Twiller and Kieft, she received compensation in the shape of an eminently skilful and accomplished soldier. Captain John Underhill, who divided with John Mason the laurels of the Pequot War, had in his versatile capacity of swashbuckler, heretic, and gay Lothario, found Boston an uncomfortable home. After trying his fortune in the Piscataqua country, and then at Stamford, he came at this most critical moment and gave the tottering colony of New Netherland the benefit of his military skill and experience. Perhaps it would not be extravagant to call him the saviour of New Netherland. Things had reached a point where the civilized methods of De Vries were of no more avail. An annihilating blow was needed, and p163Underhill was the man for such work. His crowning exploit was almost an exact repetition of the storming of the Pequot village, except for the absence of the element of surprise. The Indians had a very strong palisaded village in the rugged mountain country north of Stamford, and there in March, 1644, more than 700 warriors were congregated. Underhill came from Manhattan, with 150 Dutch soldiers, in three yachts, and landed at Greenwich, whence a long day's march took them to the mountain. There was a full moon, as on the Pequot night, and the white snow made it like day, when at midnight they rushed upon the stronghold. The Indians were keeping a vigilant watch, but fared no better than the Pequots. Before daybreak all was over. The village was in ashes, eight Indians had escaped and seven hundred corpses lay reddening the snow, while the Dutch had lost but fifteen men.
The immediate result of this appalling blow was the breaking up of the formidable league of tribes against the Dutch. By the middle of April the tribes of Long Island and Westchester sued for peace, and before the close of the summer every tomahawk was quiet. Thus ended a war which endangered the very existence of New Netherland, and was fraught with manifold consequences the consideration of which must be deferred to the next chapter.
1 O'Callaghan, I.187.
2 Weeden, Economic History of New England, I.39.
b The work by W. Rhys Roberts, running about 90 pages, is The ancient Boeotians: Their Character and Culture, and Their Reputation (Cambridge University Press, 1895). It is online, sort of, in a Google photocopy, with the usual mangled map that no one bothered to unfold before copying. A review of the book is onsite; Holland and New York are part of the discussion.
Images with borders lead to more information.
on Dutch History
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 31 Dec 13