The year 1651 was an important date in English history. The passage of the Navigation Act in that year marked the beginning of a commercial policy which soon led to disturbances in Massachusetts and Virginia, and in the end played a considerable part among the causes of the separation of the American colonies from the mother country. It also marked a sudden and violent change in the relations between the English and the Dutch. From time immemorial there had been unbroken friendship between the two peoples, and for three centuries the intimacy had been extremely close. In 1584, after the assassination of William the Silent, the people of the Netherlands sent to Elizabeth of England a formal invitation to become their sovereign; but this honour she declined, while she actively intervened in their behalf and sent an army across the Channel to aid them. Now in 1651, after the premature death of William's grandson, William II, a similar proposal to unite the two countries under one government was made by the English and refused by the Dutch. Let us observe how peculiarly the two countries were then situated with reference to each other.
The treaty of Münster, in 1648, had at last and forever rid the Dutch of the incubus of Spain. The United Netherlands ranked as the wealthiest nation in the world, with by far the largest merchant marine, and a navy which was rivalled only by that of England. The seven states were united in a loose confederation somewhat like that of the American States between 1776 and 1789. Their States General, assembled at the Hague had more the character of p212 of a diplomatic body than of a sovereign legislature; it was more a congress than a parliament. State rights flourished at the expense of national unity and strength, but there was a party that dreaded too much national unity, very much as it was dreaded in America by Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams. The States General constituted but one chamber, but there was another body which discharged many of the functions of an upper house and which represented the nation at large. This was the council of State, consisting of eighteen men, who were obliged to forswear allegiance to their own states and to take an oath of allegiance to the United Netherlands. The principal executive officer was the Stadholder, a word which is commonly misspelled with a t after the first d, because it looks as if it meant "town-holder," or perhaps "state-holder." In reality it means "stead-holder," a substitute or deputy. It is exactly translated by "lieutenant." The stadholder was in the old days the sovereign's lieutenant, and there was one in each of the provinces, the chief executive magistrate and commander of the army. In 1555 the Emperor Charles V appointed William, Prince of Orange, his stadholder for Holland and Zealand, and after the rebellion had broken out those states and others continued him in his place by election and under the old title. His two illustrious sons, Maurice and Frederick, succeeded him by election, and there was visible the usual tendency for an elective life-magistracy to lapse into hereditary monarchy. The great personal qualities of these men and their incomparable services to their country made this tendency very strong. William the Silent might have been king had he been willing to accept such a dignity. There was nothing too good for the House of Orange; such was the feeling in most of the states, but it was by no means universal. There were those who dreaded the tendency toward monarchy, and this Republican party was strongest in the state or province of Holland, which contained most of the large cities, and in population and wealth outweighed the other six provinces p213 together. This party had once been represented by Olden Barneveld; its present leader, just coming to the front, was John De Witt; it had grown in strength since the peace of 1648 made it no longer necessary to smite the Spaniard; and it sympathized warmly with the Roundhead party in England.
On the other hand, there was at this moment strong sympathy between the House of Orange and the House of Stuart. The great stadholder Frederick died in 1647, and was succeeded by his son William II, then twenty-one years of age. In the opinion of De Witt this young prince was an abler man than his father or his uncle. At the age of fifteen, he had been married to Mary, daughter of Charles I, so that he was formally admitted to p214 the fellowship of crowned heads. The son of this marriage was that William III under whom for a few years at the end of the century England and Holland were to be united.
Now the first great event in this young stadholder's administration, the treaty of Münster, was a bitter disappointment to him, as it was to his neighbour and ally, Cardinal Mazarin. If the war could be continued both hoped to profit by the misfortunes of Spain. William II thirsted for military glory, and would have been glad to free the Flemish Netherlands from the Spanish yoke. The treaty of Münster was as odious to him as the Twelve Years' Truce had been to his uncle Maurice. But perhaps it was not irrevocable. The treaty had been the work of the Republican party, the burghers of Amsterdam and other great cities, the extreme advocate of state sovereignty. But the Orange party, which stood for Dutch national unity, and which had a majority in all the states except Holland, would be glad to see the interminable war renewed. Accordingly Mazarin made secret overtures to the States General in the hope of inducing them to cancel the treaty, and William entered into a compact with Mazarin, some features of which have not been known until recently, while other aspects of it were correctly inferred at the time from the general situation. On the whole it was a very ambitious programme. The combined armies of France and Holland were to set free the Flemish Netherlands, and also to interfere in England on behalf of Charles II. When this scheme was devised, in October, 1650, the battle of Dunbar had just been fought, and one is inclined to wonder how it would have fared with young William of Orange and his cousin, Marshal Turenne, if they had succeeded in landing an army in England, and had come into collision with the mighty Oliver.
But scarcely had the compact been made when the young prince suddenly died, and the Orange party in the Netherlands instantly became powerless. Within a week after William's death the babe was born who was p215 to become illustrious as William III. Until this child should grow up there was nobody to represent the monarchical principle that held the party together. A long minority is a misfortune to an established monarchy; it is likely to be fatal when the monarchy is only a matter of aspiration. The Republican ascendency now became pronounced. Nobody was elected to the stadholdership, but the office was held in abeyance for more than twenty years, while John De Witt, as Grand Pensionary or president of the States General, was virtually chief magistrate of the Netherlands. The Dutch Republic now proceeded to recognize the English Commonwealth, p216 and two ambassadors, Walter Strickland and Oliver St. John, were sent by Parliament to the Hague, to negotiate a league of perpetual friendship between the two nations. What was proposed was a kind of federal union under a council of Englishmen and Dutchmen, which was to hold its meetings in London. To many persons such a union seemed much more natural than the union of England and Scotland under a single sovereign. The relations between English and Scotch had for several centuries been hostile, while those between English and Dutch had been friendly. It was important for civilization that the alliance between two great liberal and Protestant powers should be made perpetual.
Matters, however, were not well managed. St. John and Strickland insisted as a preliminary that all English fugitive royalists should be expelled from the Netherlands, but the Dutch policy was to make their own country an asylum for political fugitives, and they could not be persuaded to break this rule. Now James, Duke of York, and his sister the Princess Royal were then tarrying at the Hague, and almost daily they drove slowly past the ambassadors' house, staring and pointing at it in an insulting fashion, while a rabble would gather and hoot at the nation which had sacrilegiously beheaded the royal grandsire of the baby Prince of Orange. The ambassadors were further warned that royalist fanatics at Rotterdam were planning to murder them. So after six months they returned to London with nothing to show for their mission.
There was a circumstance which tended to alienate the English and Dutch nations in spite of the many ties of friendship between them. This was their keen commercial rivalry. Now that the common enemy, Spain, was out of the way this rivalry became a predominant motive, and even while the discussion with St. John and Strickland was going on, the States General concluded a treaty with Denmark concerning the customs of the Sound, which was calculated to work mischief to the English. The shores of the Baltic p218 Sea were a great storehouse for naval materials, and this treaty hindered England's access to them. In revenge the Long Parliament passed the Navigation Act, which turned out to be the first nail in the coffin of Dutch maritime supremacy. Before 1651 three fourths of England's carrying trade had been done in Dutch vessels by Dutch skippers.
As an immediate consequence of the Navigation Act, the two nations, instead of embracing, came to blows, and the English Channel saw some of the hottest sea fighting that the world has ever known. Equal heroism and skill were shown by the two sides; Monk and Blake were fairly matched against Tromp and De Ruyter. One marvels at such splendid fighting, and wishes it had been done in some worthy cause, and not in this wicked fratricidal quarrel. One fact was elicited by the fighting. The English had been improving the build of their warships, increasing the weight and strength without losing in agility, and the war revealed their superiority. The Dutch merchant shipping suffered so severely that in 1654 they were anxious for peace, and Cromwell, who had lately turned out the Long Parliament, and had sorely grieved over such a war between the two Protestant powers, was glad to make peace. He insisted upon the permanent exclusion of the baby Prince of Orange from the stadholdership, and the state of Holland, in submitting to such dictation, prevailed over the other six states.
On the restoration of the Stuart monarchy the Dutch instantly repealed this exclusion clause. Charles II had of course no objection to this. The second war with Holland, which began in 1664 with the capture of New Amsterdam, and ended in 1667 with the treaty of Breda, was purely a quarrel between commercial rivals. In the course of it Dutch warships actually entered the Medway and the Thames, but the terms of peace left the English in possession of New York.
The third Dutch war, which began in 1672 and ended in p220 1674, was different from the others. It marked the beginning of that period of infamy when Charles II became the paid tool of Louis XIV in his great assault upon political liberty. Then came the Dutch frenzy, the cruel murder of De Witt and his brother, the election of William III to the stadholdership, and the magnificent resistance in which Holland defied the united forces of Louis and Charles.
This period of shame for England ended with the expulsion of James II and the union of the English and Dutch nations for thirteen years under the masterful leadership of the third William of Orange. We must now turn our attention to New Netherland, and see how it was affected by the course of events in the Old World.
Bickerings between the Dutch and English communities in America continued to go on in Stuyvesant's time as in the times of Van Twiller and Kieft. Upon the breaking up of the Council for New England in 1635, Charles I granted Long Island to William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, who was secretary of state for Scotland. The attempts of his agents to take possession of the island were always resisted by the Dutch, although, as we have seen, many English people settled there. Shortly after Stuyvesant's arrival in New Amsterdam a strange visitor from Scotland called upon him. He name was Andrew Forrester, of Dundee, and he had been sent out by Lord Stirling's widow to take possession of Long Island. He would fain inspect the Dutch Director's commission; if it should turn out to be a better document than his own power of attorney from Lady Stirling, he would give way to Stuyvesant; otherwise Stuyvesant must give way to him. In the Director's bosom for a moment amusement may well have contended with indignation for the mastery. He lost no time in putting the bold Scotchman on board a ship bound for Holland, but the ship happened to stop at an English port and her prisoner escaped.
p221 At about the same time, Van Tienhoven, the secretary of New Netherland, happened to go to New Haven, and there in the harbour he found a Dutch ship, the San Beninio, which had been quietly riding at anchor for several weeks, doing a brisk trade with the English, in total defiance of the rules which required a license from the West India Company. The owners of the cargo requested a license from New Amsterdam, promising to pay the customary exorbitant duties. On his return to man the secretary obtained the license and sent it to New Haven. A fortnight later one of the owners, Mynheer Samuel Goedenhuyzen, made his appearance at Manhattan, but as to paying duties or even showing his invoices, gave p222 no sign. When, therefore, he let fall the imprudent remark that the San Beninio was about ready to sail for Virginia, it was not unnaturally inferred that he was meditating a fraud upon the Company. It was now the Director's opportunity to show the long reach of his arm. He had recently sold one of the Company's ships to Stephen Goodyear, the deputy governor of New Haven, and had agreed to deliver her at that port. In this vessel Stuyvesant now embarked a military force under Captain Paul van der Grist, with orders to seize the San Beninio in New Haven harbour and bring her to Manhattan. It was a venturesome deed, as the San Beninio mounted ten guns, but it was most neatly and successfully done. On a Sunday morning in October, when all the people were in church, — and very little truancy on such occasions was permitted by the magistrates of that devout colony, — the Dutch captain brought his ship alongside of Master Goedenhuyzen's craft, when in a trice he boarded her, overpowered her crew, and steered her out of the harbour. There was clamour and cursing enough to disturb Parson Davenport's sermon, and some rushing from the pews to the meeting-house door ensued, but it was too late to stop the exultant Dutchman as he sped away with his prize up the Sound before a spanking breeze. On the next day the San Beninio was condemned at New Amsterdam and duly confiscated for violating the Dutch revenue law; on Tuesday Stuyvesant issued a proclamation declaring that New Netherland extended from Cape Henlopen to Cape Cod, and that duties would be rigorously levied by him upon all vessels trading at ports on the Sound.
His notification of these proceedings to Governor Eaton, p223 of New Haven, was considered by that gentleman discourteous; on the following Monday he thus wrote to Stuyvesant: "Sir, by your agent, Mr. Govert, I received two pages from you, the one sealed the other open, but neither of them written either in Latin, as your predecessors used, or in English, as you yourself have formerly done, both to me, and to the other colonies; but in Low Dutch, whereof I understand little; nor would your messenger, though desired, interpret anything in them, so that part, at least, must lie by me till I meet with an interpreter." Governor Eaton knew enough of what had happened, however, to bring a heavy indictment against the Director for "disturbing the peace between the English and Dutch in these parts." He pressed the matter so earnestly as to call forth a soothing reply from Stuyvesant, who could be made to realize the imprudence of proceeding to extremities.
Meanwhile three delinquent servants of the West India Company had fled to New Haven, where they were arrested and sent to jail. Provisions for the mutual extradition of fugitives had been in force since 1643 between New Netherland and the United Colonies of New England, and Eaton had accordingly promised to surrender these prisoners. But now that Stuyvesant had claimed sovereignty over New Haven, Eaton was unwilling to do anything that malicious critics might interpret as obeying the behest of an overlord, and therefore he withheld the prisoners and took them into the service of the colony. The General Court at Boston wrote to Eaton, seeking to dissuade him from this course, but he was obdurate. Stuyvesant thereupon in retaliation proclaimed that "if any person, noble or ignoble, freeman or slave, debtor or creditor, yea, to the lowest prisoner included, run away from the Colony of New Haven, or seek refuge in our limits, he shall remain free, under our protection, on taking the oath of allegiance." This measure was generally condemned. The good people of New Amsterdam feared it might make their pleasant little town a refuge for criminals, and the Company deemed it p224 unwise to give needless offence to England. Stuyvesant was thus placed in an awkward position, from which he withdrew himself by a sudden stroke of genius. He contrived to convey to the fugitives in New Haven an assurance of full pardon and kind treatment if they would at once return to Manhattan. They were prompt to avail themselves of the promise from a man whose word could be trusted; and as soon as they had safely arrived, the Director was enabled with easy grace to annul his rash proclamation.
The seizure of the San Beninio was but a single incident in a general policy so rigorous as to frighten away many skippers who would have been glad to trade with Manhattan, and Stuyvesant's conduct met with sharp criticism at the firesides of the burghers and in the board of Nine Men. His unselfish devotion to the interests of the Company was a continual source of irritation to the people, whose obvious needs sometimes suffered neglect. The year 1650 came in with weather so cold that "ink froze in the pen," and while Manhattan was actually suffering from dearth of food the Director obeyed the Company's order to send a supply of food away to Curaçoa. By the next August civil dudgeon had grown so high that Stuyvesant drove out the Nine Men from the pew in church "with which they had been honoured by the consistory," and caused the seats to be removed, so that they might not return to it. As Van Dincklagen, from Melyn's stockaded domain on Staten Island, wrote to Van der Donck at the Hague: "Our great Muscovy Duke goes on as usual, resembling somewhat the wolf; the older he gets the worse he bites." It was but natural that the Nine Men, speaking for the people of New Amsterdam, should address a memorial to the States General, begging for a change of government. But, curiously enough, the Director found supporters and apologists among the English settlers on Long Island. The Englishman who wielded most political influence at that time was George Baxter, of Gravesend, who was Stuyvesant's English secretary of state. The letters addressed by the magistrates p225 of Gravesend and Heemstede to the Amsterdam Chamber breathe a spirit of sycophancy toward the Director.1 They express a fervent hope that no change will be made; they are deeply convinced of the desirableness of a strong government; and, in particular, they disapprove the suggestion that the people of New Netherland should elect their own governor, forasmuch as the sure result would be anarchy and ruin. Thus did Stuyvesant, the faithful servant of the Company, find himself in a singular position, defended by his alien subjects while condemned by nine in ten of his own countrymen.
It was at this time that he visited Hartford and engaged in a conference with the Federal Commissioners of New England. As he rode through the flourishing townships along the shore of the Sound, and then proceeded up the beautiful valley of the Connecticut, he was everywhere greeted with marked courtesy, but every mile must have impressed him with the utter improbability that the English grasp upon that country could ever be shaken. The idea of ousting the inhabitants was ridiculous; and as for extending his jurisdiction over them, it would be impossible without a much greater force than the States General were ever likely to be able to send him. Even the two colonies, Connecticut and New Haven, would be more than a match for him; but an attack upon either of these would be an attack upon the Confederacy, and would at once bring Massachusetts and Plymouth into the lists. In case of war, while the Netherlands could still cope with England on fairly even terms, they were not likely to have much spare energy to devote to America. Stuyvesant was too much of a soldier not to realize the military weakness of his position. His claim to the whole coast from Delaware Bay to Cape Cod, and his masterful demeanour toward his neighbours at New Haven, were fine exhibitions of bluff. But when he came face to face with the commissioners for settling questions of jurisdiction that gravely concerned the peace of p226 Christendom, he showed his good sense by knowing how to yield.
At the start, however, Stuyvesant put forth the customary bravado. He wrote a statement of his case, which he dated at "Hartford in New Netherland," and in the course of which he took pains to twit Connecticut and New Haven with their lack of charters by calling them "pretendant colonies." But after a few quips and grimaces thus evoked had cleared the atmosphere, business went on serenely. The Dutch claim promptly receded from Cape Cod to Point Judith, but presently the whole question of boundaries was left to a board of four arbiters. One of those selected by Stuyvesant was his own English secretary, George Baxter, already mentioned; why he should have appointed another Englishman (Thomas Willet, merchant, of Plymouth)a has not been satisfactorily explained. This board of arbitration speedily decided that on Long Island the boundary between the Dutch and English jurisdictions should run across from Oyster Bay to the Atlantic Ocean. On the mainland it should start west of Greenwich Bay, four miles from Stamford, and thence run northerly, but was never to come within ten miles of Henry Hudson's river. As for the disputed region near Hartford, the Dutch were to have jurisdiction only over such lands as were actually in their possession and determined by metes and bounds.
Such was the famous treaty of Hartford, September 19, 1650, by which Stuyvesant practically abandoned all claim to New England territory. It astounded the Dutch. "All the arbitrators were English," wrote Van der Donck, and "they pulled the wool over the Director's eyes."2 Or, as another writer said, "they entertained him like a prince" at Hartford, but "he never imagined that such hard pills would be given him to digest. New England speaks of him in terms of great praise, . . . because he hath allowed himself to be entrapped by her courtesy."3 When the Director heard the p227 decision of the board, he is said to have cried out, "I've been betrayed; I've been betrayed!" It is pretty clear, however, that he was not so much astonished as other people; he was simply yielding after his own fashion to what he knew was inevitable. On returning to New Amsterdam he kept the matter secret from his council, and late in November an indignant letter from the Nine Men to Van der Donck says: "The annexed news from New England, which has been brought here and thrown into a certain English house, where the English themselves laugh at the Director, is, we fear, too true, as it is also confirmed by daily rumours." It is significant that Stuyvesant, in his report to the Company, withheld the text of the treaty, and no authoritative copy of it reached Holland until 1656, when the States General, by ratifying it, plainly indicated their consciousness that the concessions made were inevitable. Attempts were made to induce the English government to ratify it, but in vain. England never extended to New Netherland the recognition which such an act of ratification would have involved.
In the midsummer of 1652 broke out the first war between the Dutch Republic and England. On the western shores of the Atlantic there was no inhabited spot which had such good cause for alarm as New Amsterdam. The little fortress which had watched over it since the days of Peter Minuit was unequal to the demands of such a crisis. Not only must the fort be repaired, but a wall must be built across the island at the northern limit of the city, for hostile forces might be landed at almost any point above. This wall, which was finished by May-day of 1653, was the beginning of one of the most famous streets in the world, one of the chief centres of commerce and finance, none other than Wall Street. There was a line of round palisades, •six inches in diameter and twelve feet in height, strengthened at intervals of a rod by stout posts to which split rails were fastened at a height of •ten feet from the ground. Within this line of palisades was a sloping p228 earthwork •four feet in height. The wall ran up the East River a little way to the Water Gate, near the present junction of Pearl and Wall streets, and then followed the line of the latter to the Land Gate at the corner of Broadway, and thence westward to the steep bluff which overlooked the North River near the site of Greenwich Street.4
The building of these fortifications was a fresh source of contention between Stuyvesant and the burghers. The duties from exported furs, amounting to scarcely 23,000 guilders ($9000) yearly, were not enough to cover public expenses in war time; and a public loan had been made, but still more money was needed. The burghers held that it was the business of the Company to defend them. The excise on wine and beer, which had been established in Kieft's time, was always unpopular; and the burghers now insisted that Stuyvesant must apply this excise to the military needs of the city before they would consent to another loan. In this matter the Director was obliged to give way, though but partially and with an ill grace.5 He consented to surrender to the city the excise upon liquors consumed within its limits; a fair source of revenue, one might suppose, since we are told that one fourth of the entire number of buildings in New Amsterdam were inns or tap-houses for the sale of beer and spirits.6 One of the most striking features of the great cosmopolitan city in these modern days is the frequency of such places for quenching thirst, insomuch that the wayfarer upon Third Avenue or Sixth Avenue, who passes whole blocks consisting entirely of tap-rooms, is inclined to wonder how so many competitors can earn a livelihood. It is interesting to find that this feature of city life already characterized New Amsterdam, and we are assured by De Vries that from the outset the beer brewed there vied in excellence with that of the Fatherland.
p229 The strength of Stuyvesant's palisadoes was never put to the test of war. The Director's wish to preserve peace found support in Massachusetts, the strongest of the New England colonies, and thus the fire-eaters of New Haven and Connecticut were restrained. It was rumoured that the Mohegan chief Uncas had accused Stuyvesant of inciting the Nyantics and other neighbouring tribes to make a concerted attack upon the English. As soon as the Director heard of this slander he met it with prompt and vigorous denial. The chiefs in question also denied it, and the Nyantic sachem Ninigret undertook to show its absurdity, so far as he was concerned. He had visited Manhattan with a pass from John Winthrop, governor of Connecticut. His object in going there was to try the efficacy of some Dutch medicine of which he had heard, but his reception was not such as to make him love Dutchmen. "It was winter time," said Ninigret, "and I stood a great part of a winter day before the governor's door, and he would neither open it nor suffer others to let me in. I am not wont to find such carriage from my English friends." But these denials did not satisfy the people of Connecticut p230 and New Haven. It was asserted that Ninigret brought back from Manhattan a stock of powder and ball, besides "wild-fire which, when shot with arrows, will burn anything;" and he was moreover said to have promised his thirsty braves unstinted fire-water. Moreover, some Dutchman at Manhattan, it was said, had threatened the English with an "East India breakfast, in which, it is conceived, they allude to the horrid, treacherous, and cruel plot and execution at Amboyna."7 Commissioners from the New England Confederacy visited Manhattan to make inquiries of Stuyvesant, whom they treated with great rudeness, while they gave heed only to such sayings and acts as might seem to incriminate his people.
In these accusations there was perhaps just a grain of truth. Agents of Stuyvesant had probably sounded sundry Indians to learn whether their help could be obtained in case of an attack upon Manhattan by the English. Such measures had been recommended, as a matter of prudence, by the Amsterdam Chamber. The employment of barbarian allies was easily tolerated in that age, nor was it effectively condemned until since the beginning of the nineteenth century. But between what Stuyvesant may have honestly intended and the outrage with which he was charged, the difference was a very wide one. In the midst of his denials of treachery, he did not hesitate to declare that, should the English make war on him he should get from the Indians what help he could.
The eccentric John Underhill here appears once more upon the scene. To this doughty champion, as to the Gow Chrom on the North Inch of Perth,8 it seems to have made little difference on which side he fought. He now busied himself in gathering testimony in support of the charges against Stuyvesant. This led to his arrest and brief imprisonment at New Amsterdam. On his return to his home on Long Island he boldly hoisted the Parliament's flag at p231 Heemstede and Flushing, and issued a manifesto setting forth the reasons which impelled him to abjure the iniquitous government of prisoner Stuyvesant over the people living on Long Island. That tyrant, said the manifesto, had seized upon land belonging to private individuals, he had imposed taxes that were excessive and without due warrant of law, he had violated liberty of conscience by acts of religious persecution, he had kept men in prison without trial, he had "imposed magistrates on freemen without election and voting," he had "treacherously undoubtedly conspired to murder all the English," he had "both guilty of the unheard-of act of striking with his cane an old gentleman, a member of his council," and he had "publicly threatened every freeman" who failed to conform to his pleasure. "The above grounds, "continued Underhill, "are sufficient for all honest hearts that seek the glory of God and their own peace and prosperity to throw off this tyrannical yoke. Accept and submit ye, then, to the Parliament of England, and beware ye of becoming traitors to one another, for the sake of your own quiet and welfare."9
When this address was published, Underhill was immediately ordered to quit New Netherland. He fled to Narragansett Bay and sent a letter to the Federal Commissioners at Boston, offering them his military services, while for the moment he accepted a commission from Providence Plantations analogous to a letter of marque, giving him authority to capture Dutch vessels. The same privilege was conferred upon William Dyer, first secretary of Rhode Island.10 Underhill's first exploit shows him to have been a master of the art of "liberal construction;" if he might capture a Dutch ship on the high sea, why not a p232 Dutch fortress on the mainland? So he sailed up the Connecticut River to Hartford and nailed a placard upon the abandoned Fort Good Hope, declaring that he confiscated it as a piece of Dutch property, and held it subject to the General Court of Connecticut. Then he proceeded to sell the property for his own behoof; but in quiet disregard of all this, the General Court next year laid hands upon it as public domain.11 Thus was the last vestige of Dutch dominion in New England wiped out.
In this conquest of anyº empty blockhouse there was not much glory for Underhill. As he will not come into our story again, we may here dismiss him with the remark that he lived to see New Amsterdam become New York, and his last years were spent at Oyster Bay, on Long Island, where he died in 1672.
The letters of marque issued by the Narragansett Bay magistrates gave rise to more or less privateering on the Sound, which came perilously near to piracy, as when Edward Hull captured a French ship, and when Thomas Baxter preyed upon Dutch and English commerce with strict impartiality and unimpeachable loyalty to pelf. More serious warfare was averted, chiefly through the action of Massachusetts. The fear of Indian attack kept the towns along the Connecticut River and the Sound in perpetual agitation, and they clamoured for a campaign that might overthrow New Netherland and bring all the neighbouring Algonquin tribes under English control. The government of Massachusetts, more remote from the frontier panic, seems to have realized Stuyvesant's situation more accurately and to have understood that there was more safety in maintaining peace than in rushing into war. For this attitude the men of Boston were roundly blamed at Hartford and New Haven, and there were moments when the strain seemed so severe as to threaten the dissolution of the Confederacy. There were excited meetings of armed men at Fairfield and Stamford, and an appeal was made to p233 Oliver Cromwell. A pamphlet appeared in London, entitled "The Second Part of the Amboyna Tragedy; or, True account of a bloody, treacherous, and cruel plot of the Dutch in America, purporting the total ruin and murder of all the English colonists in New England." The Amsterdam Chamber without delay brought out a Dutch translation of this pamphlet and stigmatized it as "an infamous, lying libel, at which the Devil in Hell would have been startled."12 How far Oliver may have been influenced by such tales is uncertain, but he was persuaded by the agents of New Haven and Connecticut to send four ships of war to America. This little fleet, upon which 200 soldiers were embarked, was commanded by Major Robert Sedgwick and Captain John Leverett. They carried a letter from the Lord Protector to the New England governors, requesting prompt and hearty coöperation. Massachusetts refused to take an active part in the enterprise, but allowed 300 volunteers to enlist; Plymouth promised to contribute 50 men, but failed to get them ready; Connecticut raised 200 men, and New Haven 133; so that in all there were 833, a force with which Stuyvesant could not cope. The days of New Netherland seemed numbered, when suddenly on a July day of 1654, just as Sedgwick's fleet was preparing to sail out from Boston harbour, an English ship came sailing in with the news that peace had been made between their High Mightinesses and the Lord Protector.
A weight was lifted from the anxious hearts of the worthy burghers at Manhattan. To the danger from without there had been added danger from within. The English upon Long Island, who had once been Stuyvesant's staunchest supporters, now showed strong symptoms of disaffection. In a spirit of mistaken caution the West India Company had instructed the Director to give the public offices to none but Dutchmen; whereupon it began presently to appear that the men of Gravesend and Flushing were no longer so fond of "strong government" p235 as formerly; they had come to dread anarchy less and tyranny more. Foremost among the leaders of this opposition was George Baxter, who had once been a confidential agent of the Director and one of the arbiters in the treaty of Hartford. The political troubles came to a crisis in December, 1653, when the Director, with extreme reluctance, allowed a "landdag" or popular convention to assemble at New Amsterdam for a discussion of public affairs. Four Dutch and four English towns13 were represented in this convention by ten Dutch and nine English delegates. A remonstrance addressed to the States General was drawn up by George Baxter and adopted by the convention. It grouped the grievances of the people under six heads: 1. "Our apprehension of the establishment of an arbitrary government amongst us;" 2. The protection afforded by government against the Indians is grossly inadequate; 3. Officers and magistrates are appointed without the nomination or consent of the people, and contrary to the laws of the Netherlands; 4. Long-forgotten orders and decrees of the Director and council are raked up for the confusion and punishment of persons who could not be supposed to know them; 5. Promised grants, on the faith of which large tracts of land had been improved, have been withheld; 6. Immense estates have been granted to favourites, whereby sundry villages and towns have suffered detriment.
This remonstrance was signed by all the nineteen delegates, and sent to the Director, with the request that he would return a specific and categorical answer to each of its allegations. His answer was neither specific nor categorical, but it was characteristic. It was full of the evasions and subterfuges in which unconstitutional rulers in all ages and countries have been wont to indulge. "Arbitrary government, indeed!" he would like to know what they meant by p236 that. Had not all the remonstrants sworn to obey the present government? Well, then, if they would make out their case it was incumbent on them to show that it was more arbitrary than Kieft's! As for appointments contrary to the laws of the Netherlands, what did George Baxter, an Englishman, know about the laws of the Netherlands? And as for this convention, whose acts "smelt of rebellion," by what right did it come together to heap unprovoked affronts and contumely upon those in authority? What nonsense — to say that "the law of Nature" authorizes men to hold meetings to concert measures for the protection of their lives and property! It is only magistrates and not common folk who have any right thus to assemble. "We derive our authority from God and the Company, not from a few ignorant subjects, and we alone can call the inhabitants together." With such words did hard-headed Peter turn the convention out of doors. It had sat four days.14
When the West India Company heard of these proceedings, it emphatically approved Stuyvesant's conduct, only chiding him gently for his misplaced courtesy in condescending to parley with the leaders of the rabble. Thereupon the Director expelled from their civil offices the two gentlemen, George Baxter and James Hubbard, who had sat as delegates from Gravesend. They retorted briskly by flying the English flag at Gravesend and proclaiming Oliver Cromwell, whereupon Stuyvesant sent a party of soldiers who arrested Hubbard and Baxter, brought them up the bay to Fort Amsterdam, and locked them up. The Director's triumph was complete.
But trouble soon came from a new quarter. In the summer of 1655 occurred the grand expedition to the Delaware River, when an end was put to the political existence of New Sweden, as narrated in the preceding chapter. While Stuyvesant p237 was absent on that expedition, with nearly the whole military force of the colony, an Indian war suddenly broke out.
Among the philanthropic friends of the red man there are some who not only are inclined to accredit him with all the Christian virtues, but in particular maintain that he is by temperament a lover of peace, and would never think of lifting the tomahawk unless goaded beyond endurance by unscrupulous white men. The advocates of this paradox must take pleasure in recalling the circumstances of the Indian massacre of 1655. The blame seems to rest entirely on one Dutchman, Hendrick van Dyck, who had been schout-fiscal of New Netherland. Van Dyck's comfortable house, with its garden and orchard, stood on the west side of Broadway, a little way above the Bowling Green; and next to him lived Paul van der Grist, the sturdy sea-dog who had captured the San Beninio in New Haven harbour. The front part of this veteran's house was a shop in which he retailed groceries, dry goods, and knickknacks. On a September afternoon Van Dyck came upon an Indian squaw in his openly, stealing peaches, and instantly drew his pistol and killed her. It was a cruel act and incredibly stupid. For ten years, ever since the conclusion of Kieft's war, the Indians had made no trouble. Stuyvesant in his dealings with them was firm, truthful, and just, and had reason to feel proud of his success in winning their friendship. The wretched Van Dyck put an end to this peace and security. Before daybreak of September 15, while the little town was still wrapt in slumber, a swarm of canoes came gliding through the water, and nearly 2000 tawny Algonquins from Esopus and Hackensack, Tappan and Stamford, leaped ashore on Manhattan and thronged through the streets. They offered no violence to anybody, but here and there a party of them burst into a house, under pretence of searching for Mohawks. Some of the city magistrates succeeded in getting the sachems to come into the fort, where a parley was held. As a result of p238 the conference the warriors took their canoes and paddled off to Governor's Island, but at sundown they returned. A party of them landed at the Battery, rushed up Broadway to Van Dyck's door, and sent an arrow through his heart, while his neighbour Van der Grist, coming to his rescue, was struck dead with a tomahawk. The citizens turned out so promptly that the Indians retreated to their canoes and aimed their blow at the villages on the mainland. Hoboken and Pavonia were laid in ashes, and then Staten Island was devastated. Within three days 100 persons had been murdered, 150 had been carried into captivity, and 300 had lost their homes. Not less than 500 head of cattle were killed or driven away, and an immense quantity of grain was burnt. Of the victims seven men and one woman were put to death in cold blood, with fiendish cruelties.15
Stuyvesant was hastily summoned back from the Delaware River, but by the time he returned the Indians, having assuaged their thirst for vengeance, had become eager to get rid of their prisoners, whose board made alarming inroads upon their larders. So the Director succeeded in ransoming some of them, at the rate of 78 pounds of gunpowder and 40 staves of lead for 28 Christians. But the Esopus chiefs insisted on keeping several of their prisoners as hostages for Dutch good behaviour; and so matters languished for a while. In May, 1658, the Indians at Esopus killed a farmer and burned two houses, whereupon Stuyvesant went up the river with 50 soldiers, and called the sachems to account. There was a conference under an ancient tree of vast expanse, and the cinnamon-skinned chieftains vied in oratory with Father Wooden Leg. He scolded them soundly and threatened them with war should they fail to give up the murderer. The Indian reply was characteristic: they would not surrender the culprit, for he was not one of their tribe, but a Minisink, and he had fled into the great woods, no one could say just where, but doubtless many days' journey. Then with more frankness he complained p239 of the damage wrought by the white man's fire-water; but as for attacking the settlers, they had done it not through any malice, but simply because their young men were rabid with desire to kill somebody.
If the dusky speaker had felt called upon to explain this thirst for blood, he might have said that in no well-regulated Indian community can a youthful warrior hope to win favours from the young squaws until he can point to the scalps of enemies whom he has slain. This causa teterrima has been responsible for countless secret assassinations and open massacres; and the confession of the Esopus chieftain has all the earmarks of truth.
Father Wooden Leg's retort was prompt and fierce. If the young braves were so eager for scalps, let them come on and try. He would match twenty of his Dutchmen against forty of them. What! why this hesitation? Surely, they cannot be afraid! Yes, the Algonquin valour had evaporated, and the chiefs came forward with belts of wampum, begging for peace and forgiveness. A village with a blockhouse was then built at Esopus, but in the autumn the troubles were renewed. Once more we find the white men to blame. A party of Indians employed by one of the settlers got hold of a jug of fire-water and made the night air so hideous with their tipsy yells that a panic was started among the farmers, and in spite of stringent orders from the commander of the blockhouse, some foolish people fired at the Indians and wounded two or three. This was the first act in a war in which several Dutchmen were burned at the stake, and the Algonquin braves gathered a plentiful harvest of scalps. It became necessary to call in the aid of the Mohawks to chastise these fractious tributaries, and it was not until July, 1660, that peace was made.
But in the very act of making this peace the worthy Director unwitting generally sowed the seeds of another war. Instead of setting all his prisoners free, he shipped some of them off to Curaçoa, and thus created a fresh blood-debt which the braves at Esopus patiently awaited their chance to liquidate. p240 The growth of the settlements in that neighbourhood was watched by these barbarians with an evil eye. When the blow fell, in June, 1663, it was like a thunderbolt. Two villages were reduced to ashes, and the fields far and near were strewn with mangled corpses of men, women, and children, the victims of one of the worst Indian massacres. The ensuing war lasted nearly a year, it course of which the red men were thoroughly beaten. The last treaty of peace between Dutchmen and Algonquins was made in May, 1664.
These Indian wars of Stuyvesant's time were small affairs in comparison with the war that Kieft had provoked in 1643. The earlier conflict imperilled the existence of the colony; the later ones did not perceptibly retard its progress. The nine years of Stuyvesant's rule after the fall of New Sweden, the period during which these wars occurred, was a period of unexampled growth and prosperity. By 1664 the population of New Amsterdam had reached 1600, and signal improvements in the building and furnishing of houses marked the general increase in wealth and comfort. At the same time the entire population of the province had reached 10,000 souls.
Nevertheless, the military situation of New Netherland, at the time of the Restoration of Charles II, was lamentably weak. The population of New England was not less than 50,000, that of Virginia was about 35,000, and that of Maryland about 15,000. The emigration from England, therefore, had been ten times as voluminous as the emigration from Holland. But this is an understatement of the case; for in New Netherland itself there were so many Englishmen that, as we have seen, there had for years been two secretaries of state, one Dutch and one English. The principal English strength was in the towns on Long Island, and in recent years these towns had shown symptoms of recklessness under Stuyvesant's rule. Since 1655 the New England population, overflowing the boundary at Greenwich, had pressed into Westchester p241 County. In that year Thomas Pell, without so much as saying "By your leave" to the government at New Amsterdam, had bought from the Indians and begun to colonize the domain now known as Pelham Manor, but then as Annie's Hook, the peninsula where the unfortunate Anne Hutchinson had made her last home on earth. Stuyvesant protested against this act as a violation of the treaty of Hartford, and ordered the said Pell to depart within fifteen days — "with your people, servants or slaves, furniture, cattle, implements, and every article of property you and your nation have brought hither" — or take the consequences.16 But the said Pell did not budge, and whatever the consequences may have been, they were not fatal.
Although Massachusetts had in 1653 refused to go to war with New Netherland, yet it could not be overlooked that her charter gave her sovereignty as far west as the Pacific Ocean, and hints were sometimes heard that the patroon of Rensselaerwyck owed allegiance to a suzerain at the mouth of the Charles River rather than of the Hudson. In 1662 the learned and courtly governor of Connecticut, the younger John Winthrop, went to London with a charter in his pocket which he had drawn up himself, and which fully sanctioned the free republican government under which Connecticut had been living from the day of its foundation by Thomas Hooker. It is said that when Winthrop was admitted to an audience by Charles II, he wore upon his finger a very handsome ring which Charles I had presented to his grandmother. Before entering upon business he called attention to this ring, and drawing it from his finger gave it to the king, whose feelings were strongly moved thereby. At such a moment it would have seemed ungracious not to sign the charter, and Charles II was not ungracious. Besides, he had some spiteful impulses of his own to gratify. New Haven must be punished for sheltering the regicides, and stiff-necked Massachusetts must be made to see the unwelcome sight of a rival sister waxing as strong as p242 herself. So New Haven was summarily annexed to Connecticut, and that commonwealth was made virtually as big as Massachusetts by assigning the Pacific Ocean as her western boundary.
In this famous charter the existence of New Netherland was simply ignored, as the English government had always ignored it. When Stuyvesant heard of it, he said with truth that it completely nullified the treaty of Hartford, and left him legally and morally free to renew his old claims upon all the territory west of Cape Cod. After an angry correspondence with Winthrop, the latter called upon the people of Westchester and the Long Island towns to choose representatives to sit in the next General Court of Connecticut. In so far as any principles of international law in such matters could as yet be said to be recognized by the foremost nations of Europe, the Dutch would seem to have held New Netherland by as good a title as that by which the English held New England. The first nation which laid claim to the New World, by the right of discovery, was Spain; but in order to set aside this claim, and justify herself in the possession of the Atlantic coast of North America which the Cabots had discovered for her grandfather, Queen Elizabeth in 1580 laid down the principle that "prescription without possession is of no avail." According to this principle France would have a valid title to Canada, because she had actually taken possession of the country; but Spain could not set up a valid claim to the Atlantic coast of North America, because, except in the case of Florida, she had never taken possession of it. In the seventeenth century Spain was in no condition to dispute this principle with England; and as it was England that first announced and maintained the principle, she was clearly bound to abide by it. But without deserting this principle, how could England call in question the Dutch title to New Netherland? In the charter of 1620, providing for the colonization of New England, it was expressly declared that the king granted no land that was already occupied by "any other Christian prince p243 or estate." The Dutch could maintain that since their colony of New Netherland had been in existence since 1614, it was clearly covered by the terms of this proviso; but the English would reply by denying that the scanty settlement made in 1614 constituted an occupation of the country in any proper sense of the word. In 1621 the House of Commons distinctly reaffirmed Queen Elizabeth's doctrine, and laid it down as a principle of international law by which with the English government must be guided.
But the English never admitted that the case of New Netherland was covered by this general principle. According to the English view of the matter, James I took possession of the whole American coast between the 34th and 45th parallels when he issued his great charter for the London and Plymouth companies in 1606. In pursuance of the scheme then set on foot, permanent occupation began in 1607 at Jamestown and in 1620 at Plymouth. The English would say that no Dutch occupation of the Hudson River worthy of the name took place before 1623, and then that territory, as lying between Jamestown and Plymouth, was virtually preoccupied by the English. The Dutch might plant trading stations there and boweries and manors, and from such beginnings towns might grow, but from first to last for everything they had on that soil they owed allegiance, not to the States General, but to the English crown. If they had put on airs of sovereignty there for forty years and more, it was only upon sufferance, and at any moment the English crown had a perfect right to step in and take possession of its own. To this view, though based upon very questionable premises, the English persistently clung, and there is no reason for doubting the honesty of their convictions.
By the time of Charles II it was clear that there were strong reasons for stepping in and asserting the claim upon New Netherland. Among the provisions of the Navigation Laws it was enacted that no European goods should be brought into the English colonies in America except in English p244 ships sailing from England. Not so much as a Dutch cheese could be carried in a Dutch ship from Amsterdam to Boston without being subject to confiscation. But there was nothing to hinder the Dutch cheese from being carried to New Amsterdam and there exchanged for a pound of tobacco grown in Virginia; and as the Dutch commercial policy was very liberal, a brisk and thriving trade went on between the English colonies and New Netherland in spite of all the navigation laws it might please Parliament to enact. Obviously none of these restrictive laws could be enforced in America so long as the Dutch retained control of New Netherland, and this alone would sufficiently explain the desire of the English to wrest the province from their rivals. When we add that the Hudson River was the main pathway of the lucrative fur trade which England sorely coveted, and also that the control of this region was absolutely necessary for the military command of the continent, it is quite clear that the doom of the Dutch colony was sooner or later inevitable. From so rich a prize the hands of England could not be kept off.
In the summer of 1663 there were beheld such dire signs and portents as in ancient heathen philosophy proclaimed the deep sympathy of nature in the presence of impending calamity. An earthquake shook the valley of the Hudson, all the way from Beverwyck down to Fort Amsterdam, and sent reverberations far into Canada and Acadia. Then the mighty river overflowed its banks in a freshet unprecedented magnitude which ruined the standing corn. There was a fearful visitation of small-pox, and for a climax to the misery and gloom came the horrible Indian massacre at Esopus. Many said that the wrath of God was kindled against New Netherland.
The curtain was soon to rise upon the last act of the drama. Busy intriguers were near the throne. There was George Baxter, now ready to turn the tables on Stuyvesant; and with him John Scott, a bold unscrupulous adventurer who had been dismissed p245 from the royalist army for a misdemeanour, and had afterward been upon the Cromwellian side, but who knew how to gain the ear of Charles II. Along with Baxter and Scott was Samuel Maverick, who had some old scores to settle with Massachusetts, and was glad to assist the king in making up his mind that the time had come for him to assert his royal authority decisively and forcefully along the American coast. These men assured Charles that the Navigation Act would never be anything but a dead letter so long as the Dutch controlled the Hudson River. One result of all their conferences was that Scott sailed for America in the autumn, armed with royal letters of recommendation to Winthrop and the other New England governors.
As for Winthrop, he clearly realized Stuyvesant's helplessness. In October, while Scott was upon the ocean, the Director sent envoys to Hartford, where they found cold comfort. They protested against the claim of Connecticut to Westchester County and the Long Island towns west of Oyster Bay. A committee of the General Court was appointed to confer with them, and the preliminary skirmish was ominous. "If Connecticut extends to the Pacific Ocean, where lies New Netherland?" asked the Dutchman. "We know not," said the men of Hartford, "unless you can show us your charter." Then the Dutchman referred to the charter of the West India Company, but the Hartford men replied that by such a charter their High Mightinesses had only conferred trading rights upon the West India Company; they could not grant away territory that belonged to the King of England. Then the astonished Dutchmen asked, if the Hudson River belonged to the King of England, in what light was the treaty of Hartford to be regarded. As mere waste paper, was the reply; it had never been ratified by any governing authority in England, p246 whether parliament, lord protector, or king. As to the domains immediately in dispute, the Connecticut men insisted upon having Westchester, but were willing to keep their hands off from Flushing, Hempstead, and the neighbour towns, provided the Dutch would do the same. But to such humiliation the indignant Dutchmen would not stoop, and so the conference ended.17 Then Stuyvesant wrote home to the Company, begging them to send soldiers and supplies; otherwise, said he, "we declare that it is wholly out of our power to keep the sinking ship afloat any longer."18
When Scott arrived in December he was well received in Connecticut and by the Long Island towns. The latter had just taken matters into their own hands and proclaimed King Charles. Stuyvesant then accepted the Connecticut terms; he gave up Westchester and agreed in leaving the Long Island towns to themselves. Scott announced that Long Island was about to be granted to the Duke of York. Meanwhile the towns of Hempstead, Gravesend, Flushing, Oyster Bay, Middleburgh, and Jamaica formed themselves provisionally into a league and chose Scott for their president. All things did not go smoothly, however. The son of a burgomaster refused to take off his hat to the English flag, and President Scott dealt him a blow, whereupon he was told that he had better strike grown men, not boys, and altercations ensued which grew into a series of petty riots. There was so much turbulence that Stuyvesant sent his able and accomplished councillor, Nicasius de Sille, across the East River with an armed force, to protect the Dutch towns, Brooklyn and Flatbush.
The crisis was so serious that in April, 1664, a landdag or convention was assembled in New Amsterdam, to consider what should be done. Jeremias van Rensselaer, from Rensselaerwyck, presided. Very little was accomplished, for the more the situation was discussed the worse it looked. It was agreed that it would not be prudent to use military force p247 against President Scott, inasmuch as Connecticut would aid him, and New Netherland was not a match for Connecticut. So said Cornelius Beekman, and the convention mournfully assented. But Connecticut, on her part, concluded that Scott was putting on too many airs of sovereignty; Governor Winthrop had him arrested and locked up in Hartford, and then visited Long Island in person to win the favour of the people. In June he had an interview with Stuyvesant at Gravesend, but it came to nothing.
During this prolonged state of tension in the New World there was profound peace between the Netherlands and England. Peace had now lasted ten years. Nevertheless Charles II had made up his mind to seize New Netherland by surprise. Some sovereigns would have waited for the next year, a few might have picked a quarrel on purpose, but Charles knew better. He preferred to take the almost certain chance of bringing on a war by seizing the coveted treasure in the first place. According to the English theory it was rightfully his already; surely he could expel intruders from his own territory without asking permission or notifying anybody! So Lord Stirling's claim upon Long Island was bought up for £3500, and then the island was granted to the king's worthy brother, James, Duke of York and Albany, with all the rights of a lord proprietary. Together with Long Island the grant included the mainland with its rivers west of the Connecticut River as far as the Delaware. This covered not only the whole of New Netherland, but half of the actual territory of Connecticut, to say nothing of Connecticut's extension to the Pacific Ocean. It was thus in flat violation of the charter granted two years before to Winthrop, but no Stuart king ever heeded such trifles as merely giving away to one man what he had already given away to another.19
An expedition was organized in deepest secrecy, lest their High Mightinesses should take alarm and send a fleet to the p248 defence of New Amsterdam. Four ships were fitted out, and 500 veteran troops were embarked in them, under command of Colonel Richard Nicolls, groom of the bed-chamber to the Duke of York, and already appointed governor of the province about to be seized, or — as he would have phrased it — from which a trespassing government was to be expelled. In spite of all precautions, some rumours were whispered in New England and found their way to the ears of Stuyvesant, who prepared for defence as best he might, and in particular detained some warships which were ready to start for Curaçoa. But a despatch from Amsterdam induced a false feeling of security. It announced that the English squadron was sent out with the purpose of enforcing Episcopacy upon the New England colonies. For this report there was a sufficient basis. The expedition had a double purpose which served finely to mislead the Dutch. Along with Colonel Nicolls were embarked Colonel George Cartwright, Sir Robert Carr, and Mr. Samuel Maverick, and these four gentlemen were a royal commission empowered to look into American affairs generally, and in particular to overhaul and investigate the arrogant theocratic government of Massachusetts. Boston was, indeed, the little fleet's immediate destination, and this circumstance helped to lull suspicion at New Amsterdam. The royal commissioners were authorized to raise troops in New England, but from Massachusetts they got no help worth mentioning. So far as the Navigation Act was concerned, she was not anxious to see it enforced, and Dutch rule at Manhattan was more convenient for her than English. For the Stuart king she had no love, and his commissioners were to her simply men of p249 Belial. The ingenuity of the able Boston magistrates was devoted to baffling their designs upon Massachusetts, and, naturally enough, small zeal was shown in aiding their designs upon New Netherland.
With Connecticut, of course, the case was very different, and it was well understood that her whole military force was at Colonel Nicolls' disposal. The fleet lingered a month in Boston harbour, while the commissioners were engaged in subtle argument with the hard-headed and sharp-witted Puritan magistrates, and nobody in public as much as winked in the direction of New Amsterdam. So the Director allowed the Curaçoa ships to go on their way, and then, he was obliged to go up to Rensselaerwyck, where the red men were burning and scalping. The unquenchable feud between Mohawk and Mohegan had once more burst into flames, and some skulls of the Mohawks' white allies were cleft by Mohegan tomahawks. While Stuyvesant was busy with this affair a courier came spurring in wild haste to tell him that the English fleet had sailed from Boston and was hourly expected to show itself off Coney Island. Leaving the people of Rensselaerwyck to deal with the savages, Stuyvesant hurried down the river. The day after his arrival at Manhattan, the stately black frigates, with the red ensign of England flying at their mastheads, were seen coming up the Lower Bay, where they anchored just below the Narrows, and sent ashore a company of soldiers, who seized the blockhouse on Staten Island.
The situation was without a single ray of hope. Stuyvesant had at his command about 150 trained soldiers, besides 250 citizens capable of bearing arms, and among these there were many disaffected. Fort Amsterdam mounted 20 guns, with a very inadequate supply of powder; at the north was the Wall Street palisade, and both the river banks were completely defenceless against the approach of four frigates carrying not less than 120 guns, while the enemy's men, including New England volunteers, must have numbered nearly 1000. Yet Stuyvesant was determined to p250 resist. On Saturday, August 30, Colonel Cartwright came up the bay with a summons to surrender the province of New Netherland, with an assurance that no harm should be done to life or property. It was found that Nicolls had forgotten to sign this paper, and while it was taken back for his signature, Stuyvesant consulted with the burgomasters and schepens, and found them strongly inclined to submission, but all the while all hands were kept bravely at work repairing the crazy fortifications.
On Tuesday morning a boat with a flag of truce rowed up to Whitehall, and Governor Winthrop, with half a dozen other gentlemen, came ashore. They were escorted to the parlor of the nearest tavern, where Stuyvesant and the city magistrates received them politely. Winthrop in his most kindly manner tried to persuade the gallant Director to accept the inevitable, but his arguments fell upon deaf ears. Then Winthrop handed a letter to Stuyvesant, and the English gentlemen returned to their boat, while the Dutch dignitaries proceeded to the fort. The letter, addressed by Nicolls to Winthrop, was then read aloud by Stuyvesant:—
"Mr. Winthrop: As to those particulars you spoke to me, I do assure you that if the Manhadoes be delivered up to his Majesty, I shall not hinder, but any people from the Netherlands may freely come and plant there or thereabouts; and such vessels of their own country may freely come thither, and any of them may as freely return home, in vessels of their own country; and this and much more is contained in the privilege of his Majesty's English subjects; and thus much you may, by what means you please, assure the Governor from, Sir, your very affectionate servant,
p251 This wise and kindly document wrought a visible effect upon the burgomasters present, and they wished that it might be read to the citizens who were gathered in a vast crowd outside. But Stuyvesant, who did not wish to have any such effect produced, stoutly refused, and when the burgomasters insisted, he flew into a rage and tore the letter into small pieces. Thereupon several of the magistrates, gravely offended, left the room. The news was told the throng of people, who received it with hisses and growls. Three prominent citizens came in where the Director was standing, and demanded the letter. Amid vociferous uproar Stuyvesant retreated into the council-chamber, while Nicholas Bayard, who had gathered up the fragments of the letter, pieced them together and made a true copy, which was read aloud to the people with marked and wholesome effect. There were many in the town who did not regard a surrender to east as the worst of misfortunes. They were weary of hard-headed Peter's arbitrary ways and disgusted with their High Mightinesses and the West India Company for leaving them unprotected; and in this mood they lent a willing ear to the offer of English liberties. Was it not better to surrender on favourable terms than to lose their lives in behalf of — what? their homes and families? No, indeed, but in behalf of a remote government which had done little or nothing for them! If they were lost to Holland, it was Holland's loss, not theirs. With such a temper the tact and moderation of Colonel Nicolls were likely to prevail.
Meanwhile Stuyvesant wrote an elaborate argument to prove the justice and soundness of the Dutch title to New Netherland, and sent it by four trusty friends to Nicolls. The reply was what might have been expected. Nicolls was not there to argue the point. He stood upon no question of right; that was a matter for his Majesty and their High Mightinesses. He was only a soldier acting under orders, and if his terms were refused he must p252 attack. "On Thursday," quoth he, "I shall speak with you at the Manhattans." He was told that he would be welcome if he were to come as a friend. "I shall come with ships and soldiers," said Nicolls, "hoist a white flag at the force, and I may consider your proposals."
Accordingly on Thursday, September 4, two of the frigates came up and dropped anchor near Governor's Island, while Nicolls marched with three companies to the site of the Brooklyn end of Fulton Ferry, where he was joined by a large force from Connecticut and the English towns of Long Island. Among these appeared the quondam President Scott, who had been freed from durance upon the arrival of the fleet and now commanded a small troop of cavalry. The other two frigates came on past Fort Amsterdam under full canvas and with all their guns loaded. "Resistance is not soldiership," said De Sille, "it is sheer madness." But Stuyvesant hesitated while the gunners, with lighted matches, awaited his order. Then Dominie Megapolensis laid his hand upon the veteran's shoulder, and mildly said, "Of what avail are our poor guns against that broadside of more than sixty? It is wrong to shed blood to no purpose." The order to fire was not given, and the frigates passed quietly into the North River. Leaving De Sille in command of the fort, the Director took 100 men and hurried up town to check any attempt of the enemy to land. He was met by a remonstrance signed by 93 leading citizens, among whose names he read that of his own son, Balthazar. Women and children flocked about the brave old man and added their tearful entreaties. "Well, let it be so," he said, "I had rather be carried to my grave."21 p253 In a few moments the white flag fluttered over ramparts of Fort Amsterdam, and so the rule of Holland in America came peacefully to an end.
It would be hard to find any canon of political morality upon which this achievement of Charles II could be defended.22 It may well be said to have merited the revenge which the Dutch took in the ensuing war, when they sailed up the Medway, burned the fleet at Chatham, and blockaded the Thames — the sorest military humiliation that England has ever known since William the Norman landed in Sussex. If the conquest of New Netherland itself was bloodless, on the other hand the ensuing carnage at Lowestoft and the North Foreland has hardly been equalled in the annals of naval warfare.
Looked at merely with reference to its place in the chain of historic causation, the acquisition of New Netherland by the English was an event scarcely second in magnitude to the conquest of Canada in later days. The position of Nicolls in the seventeenth century answers to that of Wolfe in the eighteenth. The earlier conquest was the first great link in the chain of events that brought about the latter, for it brought the British frontier into direct and important contact with the French frontier, all the way from the headwaters of the Hudson River to those of the Ohio. It gave to the English the command of the commercial and military centre of the Atlantic coast of North America; and by bringing New England into closer relations with Virginia and Maryland, it prefigured and made possible a general union of Atlantic states.
About a year after the surrender of New Amsterdam, the Director returned to Holland to make his report to the States General. His reception was at first rather a cold p254 one. The directors of the West India Company were angry and wanted somebody to punish, and so the vials of their wrath were poured out upon poor Stuyvesant. But when he wrote to New York for testimony in justification of his conduct, it came in such plentiful amount and of such unimpeachable character that the good man was triumphantly vindicated, and the tongues of his detractors were silenced. He returned to New York in 1667 and passed the brief remainder of his life in peaceful retirement on his bowery, which occupied the space now bounded by Fourth Avenue and the East River, and by Sixth and Seventeenth Streets. His wooden house, of two stories with projecting rafters, stood at a point a little east of Third Avenue and just north of Tenth Street. The approach to it led through a garden, bright with Dutch flowers arranged in beds of geometrical pattern, after the stiff fashion that has generally prevailed in continental Europe. There the aged Stuyvesant spent in private life what were doubtless his happiest years. His city house, known p255 as the Whitehall, about on the site of the South Ferry, became the official residence of his successor, Governor Nicolls. A warm friendship sprang up between the genial Englishman and the gallant old Dutchman, and many were the toothsome dinners, well salted with wit and moistened with good Rhenish, of which Nicolls partook at the bowery. Stuyvesant was much interested in church affairs and in city improvements, and his venerable figure was one of the picturesque sights of the town. The long stormy day had a bright sunset. He died at the bowery in 1672, at the age of eighty, and was buried in the little church that stood just east of his house. The will of his widow, who died in 1687, founded St. Mark's church, and upon the very same site the present church edifice was built in 1802.b A tablet in its walls tells us that Peter Stuyvesant lies buried within. Memorials of him remain in sundry local names, and until lately there stood at the corner of Third Avenue and Thirteenth Street, encircled by an iron fence, a solitary pear-tree which he planted there on his return from Holland in 1667. After weathering two hundred winters it was crushed and blown down in the great snowstorm of February, 1867. A scion from it was afterward planted within the same railing, a pleasant testimony to the enduring interest which attaches to the memory of the noble, honest, headstrong, opinionated, generous, kindly, conscientious, eager, lion-hearted old soldier, p256 under whose rule the greatest of American commonwealths first took on strength and assumed coherent shape. Stuyvesant is one of the most picturesque figures of a strenuous and stirring time, none the less lovable and admirable because he stood for principles of government that have become discredited. He was a sterling gentleman of the old stripe, of whom there have been many that have deserved well of mankind, loyal and sound to the core, but without a particle of respect for popular liberty or for what in these latter days are known as the "rights of man." From such a standpoint the principles of Thomas Jefferson would have seemed fraught with ruin to the human race. This arbitrary theory of government has never flourished on the soil of the New World, and its career on Manhattan Island was one of its first and most significant failures.
1 N. Y. Colonial Documents, II.154-156.
2 N. Y. Colonial MSS., II.458, Holland Documents, VI.
3 Newes from New England, 1650.
4 See Villard's Early History of Wall Street, in that excellent little group of monographs "The Half Moon Series," New York, 1897.
5 New Amsterdam Records, anno 1653.
6 Cutting, Old Taverns and Posting Inns, Half Moon Series, II.246.
8 In Scott's novel, The Fair Maid of Perth.
9 New York Colonial MSS., II.154, Holland Documents, VI.
10 Husband of the Quaker lady who seven years afterward was cruelly hanged on Boston Common.
11 Hartford Records, Towns and Lands, I.77, 81, 86-88.
12 Albany Records VIII; O'Callaghan, Hist. N. N., II.571.
13 The Dutch towns were New Amsterdam, Brooklyn, Flatlands, and Flatbush; the English were Flushing, Middleburg, Hempstead, and Gravesend.
14 Holland Documents, XV.168-175; Albany Records, IX.5, 15, 17-24, 26, 28-56.
15 Albany Records, X.165.
16 New York Colonial MSS., II.162, Holland Documents, IX. Letter G.
17 Albany Records, XVI.292-315.
18 New York Colonial MSS., II.484, Holland Documents, XII No. 7.
19 See my Old Virginia and her Neighbours, Illustrated Edition, I.271.
20 Book of General Entries, I.12.
21 "Doch de Requirant het selve tot het laeste toe hadde geweygert, seggende dat hy veel liever daaruyt gedragen wilde werden." Holland Documents, XII.279; deposition of Adrian Lock.
22 Professor Thorold Rogers (The Story of Holland, p265) makes the surprising statement that "Charles disavowed the acts of Nicolls, and even imprisoned him, but made no restitution." One would like to know what could ever have suggested such a blunder.
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