Read BOOK IV. of Knickerbocker's History of New York, free online book, by Washington Irving, on



When the lofty Thucydides is about to enter upon his description of the plague that desolated Athens, one of his modern commentators assures the reader that the history is now going to be exceedingly solemn, serious and pathetic; and hints, with that air of chuckling gratulation with which a good dame draws forth a choice morsel from a cupboard to regale a favorite, that this plague will give his history a most agreeable variety.

In like manner did my heart leap within me when I came to the dolorous dilemma of Fort Good Hope, which I at once perceived to be the forerunner of a series of great events and entertaining disasters.  Such are the true subjects for the historic pen.  For what is history, in fact, but a kind of Newgate Calendar ­a register of the crimes and miseries that man has inflicted on his fellow-men?  It is a huge libel on human nature to which we industriously add page after page, volume after volume, as if we were building up a monument to the honor, rather than the infamy, of our species.  If we turn over the pages of these chronicles that man has written of himself, what are the characters dignified by the appellation of great, and held up to the admiration of posterity?  Tyrants, robbers, conquerors, renowned only for the magnitude of their misdeeds and the stupendous wrongs and miseries they have inflicted on mankind ­warriors, who have hired themselves to the trade of blood, not from motives of virtuous patriotism, or to protect the injured and defenseless, but merely to gain the vaunted glory of being adroit and successful in massacring their fellow-beings!  What are the great events that constitute a glorious era?  The fall of empires, the desolation of happy countries, splendid cities smoking in their ruins, the proudest works of art tumbled in the dust, the shrieks and groans of whole nations ascending unto heaven!

It is thus the historians may be said to thrive on the miseries of mankind, like birds of prey which hover over the field of battle to fatten on the mighty dead.  It was observed by a great projector of inland lock navigation, that rivers, lakes, and oceans were only formed to feed canals.  In like manner I am tempted to believe that plots, conspiracies, wars, victories, and massacres are ordained by Providence only as food for the historian.

It is a source of great delight to the philosophers, in studying the wonderful economy of nature, to trace the mutual dependencies of things ­how they are created reciprocally for each other, and how the most noxious and apparently unnecessary animal has its uses.  Thus those swarms of flies which are so often execrated as useless vermin are created for the sustenance of spiders; and spiders, on the other hand, are evidently made to devour flies.  So those heroes who have been such scourges to the world were bounteously provided as themes for the poet and historian, while the poet and the historian were destined to record the achievements of heroes!

These and many similar reflections naturally arose in my mind as I took up my pen to commence the reign of William Kieft; for now the stream of our history, which hitherto has rolled in a tranquil current, is about to depart, for ever from its peaceful haunts, and brawl through many a turbulent and rugged scene.

As some sleek ox, sunk in the rich repose of a clover field, dozing and chewing the cud, will bear repeated blows before it raises itself, so the province of Nieuw Nederlandts, having waxed fat under the drowsy reign of the Doubter, needed cuffs and kicks to rouse it into action.  The reader will now witness the manner in which a peaceful community advances towards a state of war; which is apt to be like the approach of a horse to a drum, with much prancing and little progress, and too often with the wrong end foremost.

Wilhelmus Kieft, who in 1634 ascended the gubernatorial chair, to borrow a favorite though clumsy appellation of modern phraseologists, was of a lofty descent, his father being inspector of windmills in the ancient town of Saardam; and our hero, we are told, when a boy, made very curious investigations into the nature and operation of these machines, which was one reason why he afterwards came to be so ingenious a governor.  His name, according to the most authentic etymologists, was a corruption of Kyver; that is to say, a wrangler or scolder; and expressed the characteristic of his family, which for nearly two centuries had kept the windy town of Saardam in hot water, and produced more tartars and brimstones than any ten families in the place; and so truly did he inherit this family peculiarity that he had not been a year in the government of the province before he was universally denominated William the Testy.  His appearance answered to his name.  He was a brisk, wiry, waspish little old gentleman, such a one as may now and then be seen stumping about our city in a broad-skirted coat with huge buttons, a cocked hat stuck on the back of his head, and a cane as high as his chin.  His face was broad, but his features were sharp; his cheeks were 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.

I have heard it observed by a profound adept in human physiology that if a woman waxes fat with the progress of years her tenure of life is somewhat precarious, but if haply she withers as she grows old, she lives for ever.  Such promised to be the case with William the Testy, who grew tough in proportion as he dried.  He had withered, in fact, not through the process of years, but through the tropical fervor of his soul, which burnt like a vehement rushlight in his bosom, inciting him to incessant broils and bickerings.  Ancient traditions speak much of his learning, and of the gallant inroads he had made into the dead languages, in which he had made captive a host of Greek nouns and Latin verbs, and brought off rich booty in ancient saws and apophthegms, which he was wont to parade in his public harangues, as a triumphant general of yore his spolia opima.  Of metaphysics he knew enough to confound all hearers and himself into the bargain.  In logic, he knew the whole family of syllogisms and dilemmas, and was so proud of his skill that he never suffered even a self-evident fact to pass unargued.  It was observed, however, that he seldom got into an argument without getting into a perplexity, and then into a passion with his adversary for not being convinced gratis.

He had, moreover, skirmished smartly on the frontiers of several of the sciences, was fond of experimental philosophy, and prided himself upon inventions of all kinds.  His abode, which he had fixed at a bowery, or country seat, at a short distance from the city, just at what is now called Dutch Street, soon abounded with proofs of his ingenuity; patent smoke jacks that required a horse to work them; Dutch ovens that roasted meat without fire; carts that went before the horses; weathercocks that turned against the wind; and other wrong-headed contrivances that astonished and confounded all beholders.  The house, too, was beset with paralytic cats and dogs, the subjects of his experimental philosophy; and the yelling and yelping of the latter unhappy victims of science, while aiding in the pursuit of knowledge, soon gained for the place the name of “Dog’s Misery,” by which it continues to be known even at the present day.

It is in knowledge as in swimming, he who flounders and splashes on the surface makes more noise and attracts more attention than the pearl diver who quietly dives in quest of treasures to the bottom.  The vast acquirements of the new governor were the theme of marvel among the simple burghers of New Amsterdam; he figured about the place as learned a man as a Bonze at Pekin, who has mastered one-half of the Chinese alphabet; and was unanimously pronounced a “universal genius!”

I have known in my time many a genius of this stamp; but, to speak my mind freely, I never knew one who, for the ordinary purposes of life, was worth his weight in straw.  In this respect a little sound judgment and plain common sense is worth all the sparkling genius that ever wrote poetry or invented theories.  Let us see how the universal acquirements of William the Testy aided him in the affairs of government.


No sooner had this bustling little potentate been blown by a whiff of fortune into the seat of government than he called his council together to make them a speech on the state of affairs.

Caius Gracchus, it is said, when he harangued the Roman populace, modulated his tone by an oratorical flute or pitch pipe.  Wilhelmus Kieft, not having such an instrument at hand, availed himself of that musical organ or trump which nature has implanted in the midst of a man’s face; in other words, he preluded his address by a sonorous blast of the nose; a preliminary flourish much in vogue among public orators.

He then commenced by expressing his humble sense of his utter unworthiness of the high post to which he had been appointed, which made some of the simple burghers wonder why he undertook it, not knowing that it is a point of etiquette with a public orator never to enter upon office without declaring himself unworthy to cross the threshold.  He then proceeded, in a manner highly classic and erudite, to speak of government generally, and of the governments of ancient Greece in particular; together with the wars of Rome and Carthage, and the rise and fall of sundry outlandish empires which the worthy burghers had never read nor heard of.  Having thus, after the manner of your learned orators, treated of things in general, he came by a natural roundabout transition to the matter in hand, namely, the daring aggressions of the Yankees.

As my readers are well aware of the advantage a potentate has of handling his enemies as he pleases in his speeches and bulletins, where he has the talk all on his own side, they may rest assured that William the Testy did not let such an opportunity escape of giving the Yankees what is called “a taste of his quality.”  In speaking of their inroads into the territories of their High Mightinesses, he compared them to the Gauls, who desolated Rome; the Goths and Vandals, who overran the fairest plains of Europe; but when he came to speak of the unparalleled audacity with which they at Weathersfield had advanced their patches up to the very walls of Fort Goed Hoop, and threatened to smother the garrison in onions, tears of rage started into his eyes, as though he nosed the very offence in question.

Having thus wrought up his tale to a climax, he assumed a most belligerent look, and assured the council that he had devised an instrument potent in its effects, and which he trusted would soon drive the Yankees from the land.  So saying, he thrust his hand into one of the deep pockets of his broad-skirted coat and drew forth, not an infernal machine, but an instrument in writing, which he laid with great emphasis upon the table.

The burghers gazed at it for a time in silent awe, as a wary housewife does at a gun, fearful it may go off half-cocked.  The document in question had a sinister look, it is true; it was crabbed in text, and from a broad red ribbon dangled the great seal of the province, about the size of a buckwheat pancake.  Herein, however, existed the wonder of the invention.  The document in question was a proclamation, ordering the Yankees to depart instantly from the territories of their High Mightinesses, under pain of suffering all the forfeitures and punishments in such case made and provided.  It was on the moral effect of this formidable instrument that Wilhelmus Kieft calculated; pledging his valor as a governor that, once fulminated against the Yankees, it would in less than two months drive every mother’s son of them across the borders.

The council broke up in perfect wonder, and nothing was talked of for some time among the old men and women of New Amsterdam but the vast genius of the governor and his new and cheap mode of fighting by proclamation.

As to Wilhelmus Kieft, having dispatched his proclamation to the frontiers, he put on his cocked hat and corduroy small clothes, and, mounting a tall, raw-boned charger, trotted out to his rural retreat of Dog’s Misery.  Here, like the good Numa, he reposed from the toils of state, taking lessons in government, not from the nymph Egeria, but from the honored wife of his bosom, who was one of that class of females, sent upon the earth a little after the flood, as a punishment for the sins of mankind, and commonly known by the appellation of knowing women.  In fact, my duty as an historian obliges me to make known a circumstance which was a great secret at the time, and consequently was not a subject of scandal at more than half the tea tables in New Amsterdam, but which, like many other great secrets, has leaked out in the lapse of years; and this was, that Wilhelmus the Testy, though one of the most potent little men that ever breathed, yet submitted at home to a species of government, neither laid down in Aristotle or Plato; in short, it partook of the nature of a pure, unmixed tyranny, and is familiarly denominated petticoat government.  An absolute sway, which, although exceedingly common in these modern days, was very rare among the ancients, if we may judge from the rout made about the domestic economy of honest Socrates, which is the only ancient case on record.

The great Kieft, however, warded off all the sneers and sarcasms of his particular friends, who are ever ready to joke with a man on sore points of the kind, by alleging that it was a government of his own election, to which he submitted through choice; adding, at the same time, a profound maxim which he had found in an ancient author, that “he who would aspire to govern should first learn to obey.”


Never was a more comprehensive, a more expeditious, or, what is still better, a more economical measure devised than this of defeating the Yankees by proclamation ­an expedient, likewise, so gentle and humane, there were ten chances to one in favor of its succeeding; but then, there was one chance to ten that it would not succeed.  As the ill-natured Fates would have it, that single chance carried the day!  The proclamation was perfect in all its parts, well constructed, well written, well sealed, and well published; all that was wanting to insure its effect was, that the Yankees should stand in awe of it; but, provoking to relate, they treated it with the most absolute contempt, applied it to an unseemly purpose, and thus did the first warlike proclamation come to a shameful end ­a fate which I am credibly informed has befallen but too many of its successors.

So far from abandoning the country, those varlets continued their encroachments, squatting along the green banks of the Varsche river, and founding Hartford, Stamford, New Haven, and other border towns.  I have already shown how the onion patches of Pyquag were an eyesore to Jacobus Van Curlet and his garrison, but now these moss troopers increased in their atrocities, kidnaping hogs, impounding horses, and sometimes grievously rib-roasting their owners.  Our worthy forefathers could scarcely stir abroad without danger of being outjockeyed in horseflesh, or taken in in bargaining; while, in their absence, some daring Yankee pedlar would penetrate to their household, and nearly ruin the good housewives with tinware and wooden bowls.

I am well aware of the perils which environ me in this part of my history.  While raking, with curious hand but pious heart, among the mouldering remains of former days, anxious to draw therefrom the honey of wisdom, I may fare somewhat like that valiant worthy, Samson, who, in meddling with the carcase of a dead lion, drew a swarm of bees about his ears.  Thus, while narrating the many misdeeds of the Yanokie or Yankee race, it is ten chances to one but I offend the morbid sensibilities of certain of their unreasonable descendants, who may fly out and raise such a buzzing about this unlucky head of mine, that I shall need the tough hide of an Achilles, or an Orlando Furioso, to protect me from their stings.

Should such be the case, I should deeply and sincerely lament ­not my misfortune in giving offence ­but the wrong-headed perverseness of an ill-natured generation, in taking offence at anything I say.  That their ancestors did use my ancestors ill is true, and I am very sorry for it.  I would, with all my heart, the fact were otherwise; but as I am recording the sacred events of history, I’d not bate one nail’s breadth of the honest truth, though I were sure the whole edition of my work would be bought up and burnt by the common hangman of Connecticut.  And in sooth, now that these testy gentlemen have drawn me out, I will make bold to go farther, and observe that this is one of the grand purposes for which we impartial historians are sent into the world ­to redress wrongs, and render justice on the heads of the guilty.  So that, though a powerful nation may wrong its neighbors with temporary impunity, yet sooner or later an historian springs up, who wreaks ample chastisement on it in return.

Thus these moss-troopers of the east little thought, I’ll warrant it, while they were harassing the inoffensive province of Nieuw Nederlandts, and driving its unhappy governor to his wits’ end, that an historian would ever arise, and give them their own with interest.  Since, then, I am but performing my bounden duty as a historian in avenging the wrongs of our reverend ancestors, I shall make no further apology; and, indeed, when it is considered that I have all these ancient borderers of the east in my power, and at the mercy of my pen, I trust that it will be admitted I conduct myself with great humanity and moderation.

It was long before William the Testy could be persuaded that his much-vaunted war measure was ineffectual; on the contrary, he flew in a passion whenever it was doubted, swearing that though slow in operating, yet when it once began to work it would soon purge the land of those invaders.  When convinced at length of the truth, like a shrewd physician, he attributed the failure to the quantity, not the quality of the medicine, and resolved to double the dose.  He fulminated, therefore, a second proclamation more vehement than the first, forbidding all intercourse with these Yankee intruders; ordering the Dutch burghers on the frontiers to buy none of their pacing horses, measly pork, apple sweetmeats, Weathersfield onions, or wooden bowls, and to furnish them with no supplies of gin, gingerbread, or sourkrout.

Another interval elapsed, during which the last proclamation was as little regarded as the first, and the non-intercourse was especially set at nought by the young folks of both sexes.

At length one day inhabitants of New Amsterdam were aroused by a furious barking of dogs, great and small, and beheld to their surprise the whole garrison of Fort Good Hope straggling into town all tattered and way-worn, with Jacobus Van Curlet at their head, bringing the melancholy intelligence of the capture of Fort Good Hope by the Yankees.

The fate of this important fortress is an impressive warning to all military commanders.  It was neither carried by storm nor famine; nor was it undermined, nor bombarded, nor set on fire by red-hot shot, but was taken by a stratagem no less singular than effectual, and which can never fail of success whenever an opportunity occurs of putting it in practice.

It seems that the Yankees had received intelligence that the garrison of Jacobus Van Curlet had been reduced nearly one-eighth by the death of two of his most corpulent soldiers, who had over-eaten themselves on fat salmon caught in the Varsche river.  A secret expedition was immediately set on foot to surprise the fortress.  The crafty enemy, knowing the habits of the garrison to sleep soundly after they had eaten their dinners and smoked their pipes, stole upon them at the noonstide of a sultry summer’s day, and surprised them in the midst of their slumbers.

In an instant the flag of their High Mightinesses was lowered, and the Yankee standard elevated in its stead, being a dried codfish, by way of a spread eagle.  A strong garrison was appointed of long-sided, hard-fisted Yankees, with Weathersfield onions for cockades and feathers.  As to Jacobus Van Curlet and his men, they were seized by the nape of the neck, conducted to the gate, and one by one dismissed with a kick in the crupper, as Charles XII dismissed the heavy-bottomed Russians at the battle of Narva; Jacobus Van Curlet receiving two kicks in consideration of his official dignity.

“Those of Hartford sold a hogg, that belonged to the honored companie, under pretence that it had eaten of theire grounde grass, when they had not any foot of inheritance.  They proffered the hogg for 5s. if the commissioners would have given 5s. for damage; which the commissioners denied, because noe man’s own hogg (as men used to say), can trespass upon his owne master’s grounde.”


Language cannot express the awful ire of William the Testy on hearing of the catastrophe at Fort Goed Hoop.  For three good hours his rage was too great for words, or rather the words were too great for him (being a very small man), and he was nearly choked by the misshapen, nine-cornered Dutch oaths and epithets which crowded at one into his gullet.  At length his words found vent, and for three days he kept up a constant discharge, anathematising the Yankees, man, woman, and child, for a set of dieven, schobbejacken, deugenieten, twist-zoekeren, blaes-kaken, loosen-schalken, kakken-bedden, and a thousand other names, of which, unfortunately for posterity, history does not make mention.  Finally, he swore that he would have nothing more to do with such a squatting, bundling, guessing, questioning, swapping, pumpkin-eating, molasses-daubing, shingle-splitting, cider-watering, horse-jockeying, notion-peddling crew ­that they might stay at Fort Goed Hoop and rot, before he would dirty his hands by attempting to drive them away; in proof of which he ordered the new-raised troops to be marched forthwith into winter quarters, although it was not as yet quite midsummer.  Great despondency now fell upon the city of New Amsterdam.  It was feared that the conquerors of Fort Goed Hoop, flushed with victory and apple-brandy, might march on to the capital, take it by storm, and annex the whole province to Connecticut.  The name of Yankee became as terrible among the Nieuw Nederlanders as was that of Gaul among the ancient Romans, insomuch that the good wives of the Manhattoes used it as a bugbear wherewith to frighten their unruly children.

Everybody clamored round the governor, imploring him to put the city in a complete posture of defence, and he listened to their clamors.  Nobody could accuse William the Testy of being idle in time of danger, or at any other time.  He was never idle, but then he was often busy to very little purpose.  When a youngling he had been impressed with the words of Solomon, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, observe her ways and be wise,” in conformity to which he had ever been of a restless, ant-like turn; hurrying hither and thither, nobody knew why or wherefore, busying himself about small matters with an air of great importance and anxiety, and toiling at a grain of mustard-seed in the full conviction that he was moving a mountain.  In the present instance he called in all his inventive powers to his aid, and was continually pondering over plans, making diagrams, and worrying about with a troop of workmen and projectors at his heels.  At length, after a world of consultation and contrivance, his plans of defence ended in rearing a great flag-staff in the center of the fort, and perching a windmill on each bastion.

These warlike preparations in some measure allayed the public alarm, especially after an additional means of securing the safety of the city had been suggested by the governor’s lady.  It has already been hinted in this most authentic history that in the domestic establishment of William the Testy “the grey mare was the better horse;” in other words, that his wife “ruled the roast,” and, in governing the governor, governed the province, which might thus be said to be under petticoat government.

Now it came to pass that this time there lived in the Manhattoes a jolly, robustious trumpeter, named Anthony Van Corlear, famous for his long wind; and who, as the story goes, could twang so potently upon his instrument that the effect upon all within hearing was like that ascribed to the Scotch bagpipe when it sings right lustily i’ the nose.

This sounder of brass was moreover a lusty bachelor, with a pleasant, burly visage, a long nose, and huge whiskers.  He had his little bowery, or retreat in the country, where he led a roystering life, giving dances to the wives and daughters of the burghers of the Manhattoes, insomuch that he became a prodigious favorite with all the women, young and old.  He is said to have been the first to collect that famous toll levied on the fair sex at Kissing Bridge, on the highway to Hell-gate.

To this sturdy bachelor the eyes of all the women were turned in this time of darkness and peril, as the very man to second and carry out the plans of defence of the governor.  A kind of petticoat council was forthwith held at the government house, at which the governor’s lady presided:  and this lady, as has been hinted, being all potent with the governor, the result of these councils was the elevation of Anthony the Trumpeter to the post of commandant of windmills and champion of New Amsterdam.

The city being thus fortified and garrisoned, it would have done one’s heart good to see the governor snapping his fingers and fidgeting with delight, as the trumpeter strutted up and down the ramparts twanging defiance to the whole Yankee race, as does a modern editor to all the principalities and powers on the other side of the Atlantic.  In the hands of Anthony Van Corlear this windy instrument appeared to him as potent as the horn of the paladin Astolpho, or even the more classic horn of Alecto; nay, he had almost the temerity to compare it with the rams’ horns celebrated in Holy Writ, at the very sound of which the walls of Jericho fell down.

Be all this as it may, the apprehensions of hostilities from the east gradually died away.  The Yankees made no further invasion; nay, they declared they had only taken possession of Fort Goed Hoop as being erected within their territories.  So far from manifesting hostility, they continued to throng to New Amsterdam with the most innocent countenances imaginable, filling the market with their notions, being as ready to trade with the Netherlands as ever, and not a whit more prone to get to the windward of them in a bargain.

The old wives of the Manhattoes who took tea with the governor’s lady attributed all this affected moderation to the awe inspired by the military preparations of the governor, and the windy prowess of Anthony the Trumpeter.

There were not wanting illiberal minds, however, who sneered at the governor for thinking to defend his city as he governed it, by mere wind; but William Kieft was not to be jeered out of his windmills; he had seen them perched upon the ramparts of his native city of Saardam; and was persuaded they were connected with the great science of defence; nay, so much piqued was he by having them made a matter of ridicule, that he introduced them into the arms of the city, where they remain to this day, quartered with the ancient beaver of the Manhattoes, an emblem and memento of his policy.

I must not omit to mention that certain wise old burghers of the Manhattoes, skilful in expounding signs and mysteries, after events have come to pass, consider this early intrusion of the windmill into the escutcheon of our city, which before had been wholly occupied by the beaver, as portentous of its after fortune, when the quiet Dutchman would be elbowed aside by the enterprising Yankee, and patient industry overtopped by windy speculation.


Among the wrecks and fragments of exalted wisdom which have floated down the stream of time from venerable antiquity, and been picked up by those humble but industrious wights who ply along the shores of literature, we find a shrewd ordinance of Charondas the Locrian legislator.  Anxious to preserve the judicial code of the state from the additions and amendments of country members and seekers of popularity, he ordained that, whoever proposed a new law should do it with a halter about his neck; whereby, in case his proposition were rejected, they just hung him up ­and there the matter ended.

The effect was, that for more than two hundred years there was but one trifling alteration in the judicial code; and legal matters were so clear and simple that the whole race of lawyers starved to death for want of employment.  The Locrians, too, being freed from all incitement to litigation, lived very lovingly together, and were so happy a people that they make scarce any figure in history; it being only your litigatous, quarrelsome, rantipole nations who make much noise in the world.

I have been reminded of these historical facts in coming to treat of the internal policy of William the Testy.  Well would it have been for him had he in the course of his universal acquirements stumbled upon the precaution of the good Charondas; or had he looked nearer home at the protectorate of Oloffe the Dreamer, when the community was governed without laws.  Such legislation, however, was not suited to the busy, meddling mind of William the Testy.  On the contrary, he conceived that the true wisdom of legislation consisted in the multiplicity of laws.  He accordingly had great punishments for great crimes, and little punishments for little offences.  By degrees the whole surface of society was cut up by ditches and fences, and quickset hedges of the law, and even the sequestered paths of private life so beset by petty rules and ordinances, too numerous to be remembered, that one could scarce walk at large without the risk of letting off a spring-gun or falling into a man-trap.

In a little while the blessings of innumerable laws became apparent; a class of men arose to expound and confound them.  Petty courts were instituted to take cognizance of petty offences, pettifoggers began to abound, and the community was soon set together by the ears.

Let me not be thought as intending anything derogatory to the profession of the law, or to the distinguished members of that illustrious order.  Well am I aware that we have in this ancient city innumerable worthy gentlemen, the knights-errant of modern days, who go about redressing wrongs and defending the defenceless, not for the love of filthy lucre, nor the selfish cravings of renown, but merely for the pleasure of doing good.  Sooner would I throw this trusty pen into the flames, and cork up my ink-bottle for ever, than infringe even for a nail’s breadth upon the dignity of these truly benevolent champions of the distressed.  On the contrary, I allude merely to those caitiff scouts who, in these latter days of evil, infest the skirts of the profession, as did the recreant Cornish knights of yore the honorable order of chivalry; who, under its auspices, commit flagrant wrongs; who thrive by quibbles, by quirks and chicanery, and like vermin increase the corruption in which they are engendered.

Nothing so soon awakens the malevolent passions as the facility of gratification.  The courts of law would never be so crowded with petty, vexatious, and disgraceful suits were it not for the herds of pettifoggers.  These tamper with the passions of the poorer and more ignorant classes; who, as if poverty were not a sufficient misery in itself, are ever ready to embitter it by litigation.  These, like quacks in medicine, excite the malady to profit by the cure, and retard the cure to augment the fees.  As the quack exhausts the constitution the pettifogger exhausts the purse; and as he who has once been under the hands of a quack is for ever after prone to dabble in drugs, and poison himself with infallible prescriptions, so the client of the pettifogger is ever after prone to embroil himself with his neighbors, and impoverish himself with successful lawsuits.  My readers will excuse this digression into which I have been unwarily betrayed; but I could not avoid giving a cool and unprejudiced account of an abomination too prevalent in this excellent city, and with the effects of which I am ruefully acquainted, having been nearly ruined by a lawsuit which was decided against me; and my ruin having been completed by another, which was decided in my favor.

To return to our theme.  There was nothing in the whole range of moral offences against which the jurisprudence of William the Testy was more strenuously directed than the crying sin of poverty.  He pronounced it the root of all evil, and determined to cut it up root and branch, and extirpate it from the land.  He had been struck, in the course of his travels in the old countries of Europe, with the wisdom of those notices posted up in country towns, that “any vagrant found begging there would be put in the stocks,” and he had observed that no beggars were to be seen in these neighborhoods; having doubtless thrown off their rags and their poverty, and become rich under the terror of the law.  He determined to improve upon this hint.  In a little while a new machine of his own invention was erected hard by Dog’s Misery.  This was nothing more nor less than a gibbet, of a very strange, uncouth, and unmatchable construction, far more efficacious, as he boasted, than the stocks, for the punishment of poverty.  It was for altitude not a whit inferior to that of Haman, so renowned in Bible history; but the marvel of the contrivance was, that the culprit, instead of being suspended by the neck according to venerable custom, was hoisted by the waistband, and kept dangling and sprawling between heaven and earth for an hour or two at a time, to the infinite entertainment and edification of the respectable citizens who usually attend exhibitions of the kind.

Such was the punishment of all petty delinquents, vagrants, and beggars and others detected in being guilty of poverty in a small way.  As to those who had offended on a great scale, who had been guilty of flagrant misfortunes and enormous backslidings of the purse, and who stood convicted of large debts which they were unable to pay, William Kieft had them straightway enclosed within the stone walls of a prison, there to remain until they should reform and grow rich.  This notable expedient, however, does not appear to have been more efficacious under William the Testy than in more modern days, it being found that the longer a poor devil was kept in prison the poorer he grew.


Next to his projects for the suppression of poverty may be classed those of William the Testy for increasing the wealth of New Amsterdam.  Solomon of whose character for wisdom the little governor was somewhat emulous, had made gold and silver as plenty as the stones in the streets of Jerusalem.  William Kieft could not pretend to vie with him as to the precious metals, but he determined, as an equivalent, to flood the streets of New Amsterdam with Indian money.  This was nothing more nor less than strings of beads wrought out of clams, periwinkles, and other shell-fish, and called seawant or wampum.  These had formed a native currency among the simple savages, who were content to take them of the Dutchmen in exchange for peltries.  In an unlucky moment, William the Testy, seeing this money of easy production, conceived the project of making it the current coin of the province.  It is true it had an intrinsic value among the Indians, who used it to ornament their robes and moccasins; but among the honest burghers it had no more intrinsic value than those rags which form the paper currency of modern days.  This consideration, however, had no weight with William Kieft.  He began by paying all the servants of the company and all the debts of government, in strings of wampum.  He sent emissaries to sweep the shores of Long Island, which was the Ophir of this modern Solomon, and abounded in shell-fish.  These were transported in loads to New Amsterdam, coined into Indian money, and launched into circulation.

And now for a time affairs went on swimmingly; money became as plentiful as in the modern days of paper currency, and, to use the popular phrase, “a wonderful impulse was given to public prosperity.”  Yankee traders poured into the province, buying everything they could lay their hands on, and paying the worthy Dutchmen their own price ­in Indian money.  If the latter, however, attempted to pay the Yankees in the same coin for their tinware and wooden bowls the case was altered; nothing would do but Dutch guilders, and such-like “metallic currency.”  What was worse, the Yankees introduced an inferior kind of wampum, made of oyster shells, with which they deluged the province, carrying off all the silver and gold, the Dutch herrings and Dutch cheeses:  thus early did the knowing men of the East manifest their skill in bargaining the New Amsterdammers out of the oyster, and leaving them the shell.

It was a long time before William the Testy was made sensible how completely his grand project of finance was turned against him by his eastern neighbors; nor would he probably have ever found it out had not tidings been brought him that the Yankees had made a descent upon Long Island, and had established a kind of mint at Oyster Bay, where they were coining up all the oyster banks.

Now this was making a vital attack upon the province in a double sense, financial and gastronomical.  Ever since the council dinner of Oloffe the Dreamer, at the founding of New Amsterdam, at which banquet the oyster figured so conspicuously, this divine shell-fish has been held in a kind of superstitious reverence at the Manhattoes; as witness the temples erected to its cult in every street and lane and alley.  In fact, it is the standard luxury of the place, as is the terrapin at Philadelphia, the soft crab at Baltimore, or the canvas-back at Washington.

The seizure of Oyster Bay, therefore, was an outrage not merely on the pockets, but on the larders of the New Amsterdammers; the whole community was aroused, and an oyster crusade was immediately set on foot against the Yankees.  Every stout trencherman hastened to the standard; nay, some of the most corpulent burgomasters and schepens joined the expedition as a corps de reserve, only to be called into action when the sacking commenced.

The conduct of the expedition was entrusted to a valiant Dutchman, who, for size and weight, might have matched with Colbrand, the Danish champion, slain by Guy of Warwick.  He was famous throughout the province for strength of arm and skill at quarter-staff, and hence was named Stoffel Brinkerhoff; or rather, Brinkerhoofd; that is to say, Stoffel the Head-breaker.

This sturdy commander, who was a man of few words but vigorous deeds, led his troops resolutely on through Nineveh, and Babylon, and Jericho, and Patch-hog, and other Long Island towns, without encountering any difficulty of note, though it is said that some of the burgomasters gave out at Hard-scramble Hill and Hungry Hollow; and that others lost heart, and turned back at Puss-panick.  With the rest he made good his march until he arrived in the neighborhood of Oyster Bay.

Here he was encountered by a host of Yankee warriors, headed by Preserved Fish, and Habakkuk Nutter, and Return Strong, and Zerubbabel Fisk, and Determined Cock! at the sound of whose names Stoffel Brinkerhoff verily believed the whole parliament of Praise-God Barebones had been let loose upon him.  He soon found, however, that they were merely the “select men” of the settlement, armed with no weapon but the tongue, and disposed only to meet him on the field of argument.  Stoffel had but one mode of arguing ­that was with the cudgel; but he used it with such effect that he routed his antagonists, broke up the settlement, and would have driven the inhabitants into the sea, if they had not managed to escape across the Sound to the mainland by the Devil’s Stepping-stones, which remain to this day monuments of this great Dutch victory over the Yankees.

Stoffel Brinkerhoff made great spoil of oysters and clams, coined and uncoined, and then set out on his return to the Manhattoes.  A grand triumph, after the manner of the ancients, was prepared for him by William the Testy.  He entered New Amsterdam as a conqueror, mounted on a Narraganset pacer.  Five dried codfish on poles, standards taken from the enemy, were borne before him; and an immense store of oysters and clams, Weathersfield onions, and Yankee “notions” formed the spolia opima; while several coiners of oyster-shells were led captive to grace the hero’s triumph.

The procession was accompanied by a full band of boys and negroes, performing on the popular instruments of rattle-bones and clam-shells, while Anthony Van Corlear sounded his trumpet from the ramparts.

A great banquet was served up in the Stadthouse from the clams and oysters taken from the enemy, while the governor sent the shells privately to the mint, and had them coined into Indian money, with which he paid his troops.

It is moreover said that the governor, calling to mind the practice among the ancients to honor their victorious generals with public statues, passed a magnanimous decree, by which every tavern-keeper was permitted to paint the head of Stoffel Brinkerhoff upon his sign!


It has been remarked by the observant writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript, that under the administration of William Kieft the disposition of the inhabitants of New Amsterdam experienced an essential change, so that they became very meddlesome and factious.  The unfortunate propensity of the little governor to experiment and innovation, and the frequent exacerbations of his temper, kept his council in a continual worry; and the council being to the people at large what yeast or leaven is to a batch, they threw the whole community in a ferment; and the people at large being to the city what the mind is to the body, the unhappy commotions they underwent operated most disastrously upon New Amsterdam; insomuch that, in certain of their paroxysms of consternation and perplexity, they begat several of the most crooked, distorted, and abominable streets, lanes, and alleys, with which this metropolis is disfigured.

The fact was, that about this time the community, like Balaam’s ass, began to grow more enlightened than its rider, and to show a disposition for what is called “self-government.”  This restive propensity was first evinced in certain popular meetings, in which the burghers of New Amsterdam met to talk and smoke over the complicated affairs of the province, gradually obfuscating themselves with politics and tobacco smoke.  Hither resorted those idlers and squires of low degree who hang loose on society and are blown about by every wind of doctrine.  Cobblers abandoned their stalls to give lessons on political economy; blacksmiths suffered their fires to go out, while they stirred up the fires of faction; and even tailors, though said to be the ninth parts of humanity, neglected their own measures to criticise the measures of government.

Strange! that the science of government, which seems to be so generally understood, should invariably be denied to the only one called upon to exercise it.  Not one of the politicians in question, but, take his word for it, could have administered affairs ten times better than William the Testy.

Under the instructions of these political oracles, the good people of New Amsterdam soon became exceedingly enlightened; and, as a matter of course, exceedingly discontented.  They gradually found out the fearful error in which they had indulged, of thinking themselves the happiest people in creation; and were convinced that, all circumstances to the contrary not withstanding, they were a very unhappy, deluded, and consequently ruined people!

We are naturally prone to discontent, and avaricious after imaginary causes of lamentation.  Like lubberly monks, we belabor our own shoulders, and take a vast satisfaction in the music of our own groans.  Nor is this said by way of paradox; daily experience shows the truth of these observations.  It is almost impossible to elevate the spirits of a man groaning under ideal calamities; but nothing is easier than to render him wretched, though on the pinnacle of felicity:  as it would be an herculean task to hoist a man to the top of a steeple, though the merest child could topple him off thence.

I must not omit to mention that these popular meetings were generally held at some noted tavern; these public edifices possessing what in modern times are thought the true fountains of political inspiration.  The ancient Germans deliberated upon a matter when drunk, and reconsidered it when sober.  Mob politicians in modern times dislike to have two minds upon a subject, so they both deliberate and act when drunk; by this means a world of delay is spared; and as it is universally allowed that a man when drunk sees double, it follows conclusively that he sees twice as well as his sober neighbors.


Wilhelmus Kieft, as has already been observed, was a great legislator on a small scale, and had a microscopic eye in public affairs.  He had been greatly annoyed by the facetious meetings of the good people of New Amsterdam, but observing that on these occasions the pipe was ever in their mouth, he began to think that the pipe was at the bottom of the affair, and that there was some mysterious affinity between politics and tobacco smoke.  Determined to strike at the root of the evil, he began forthwith to rail at tobacco as a noxious, nauseous weed, filthy in all its uses; and as to smoking, he denounced it as a heavy tax upon the public pocket, a vast consumer of time, a great encourager of idleness, and a deadly bane to the prosperity and morals of the people.  Finally, he issued an edict, prohibiting the smoking of tobacco throughout the New Netherlands.  Ill-fated Kieft!  Had he lived in the present age, and attempted to check the unbounded license of the press, he could not have struck more sorely upon the sensibilities of the million.  The pipe, in fact, was the great organ of reflection and deliberation of the New Netherlander.  It was his constant companion and solace ­was he gay, he smoked:  was he sad, he smoked; his pipe was never out of his mouth; it was a part of his physiognomy; without it, his best friends would not know him.  Take away his pipe?  You might as well take away his nose!

The immediate effect of the edict of William the Testy was a popular commotion.  A vast multitude, armed with pipes and tobacco-boxes, and an immense supply of ammunition, sat themselves down before the governor’s house, and fell to smoking with tremendous violence.  The testy William issued forth like a wrathful spider, demanding the reason of this lawless fumigation.  The sturdy rioters replied by lolling back in their seats, and puffing away with redoubled fury, raising such a murky cloud that the governor was fain to take refuge in the interior of his castle.

A long negotiation ensued through the medium of Anthony the Trumpeter.  The governor was at first wrathful and unyielding, but was gradually smoked into terms.  He concluded by permitting the smoking of tobacco, but he abolished the fair long pipes used in the days of Wouter Van Twiller, denoting ease, tranquillity, and sobriety of deportment; these he condemned as incompatible with the despatch of business; in place whereof he substituted little captious short pipes, two inches in length, which, he observed, could be stuck in one corner of the mouth, or twisted in the hatband, and would never be in the way.  Thus ended this alarming insurrection, which was long known by the name of the Pipe Plot, and which, it has been somewhat quaintly observed, did end, like most plots and séditions, in mere smoke.

But mark, O reader! the deplorable evils which did afterward result.  The smoke of these villainous little pipes, continually ascending in a cloud about the nose, penetrated into and befogged the cerebellum, dried up all the kindly moisture of the brain, and rendered the people who used them as vaporish and testy as the governor himself.  Nay, what is worse, from being goodly, burly, sleek-conditioned men, they became, like our Dutch yeomanry who smoke short pipes, a lantern-jawed, smoke-dried, leather-hided race.

Nor was this all.  From this fatal schism in tobacco pipes we may date the rise of parties in the Nieuw Nederlandts.  The rich and self-important burghers who had made their fortunes, and could afford to be lazy, adhered to the ancient fashion, and formed a kind of aristocracy known as the Long Pipes; while the lower order, adopting the reform of William Kieft as more convenient in their handicraft employments, were branded with the plebeian name of Short Pipes.

A third party sprang up, headed by the descendants of Robert Chewit, the companion of the great Hudson.  These discarded pipes altogether, and took up chewing tobacco; hence they were called Quids; an appellation since given to those political mongrels which sometimes spring up between two great parties, as a mule is produced between a horse and an ass.

And here I would note the great benefit of party distinctions in saving the people at large the trouble of thinking.  Hesiod divides mankind into three classes ­those who think for themselves, those who think as others think, and those who do not think at all.  The second class comprises the great mass of society; for most people require a set creed and a file-leader.  Hence the origin of party, which means a large body of people, some few of whom think, and all the rest talk.  The former take the lead and discipline the latter, prescribing what they must say, what they must approve, what they must hoot at, whom they must support, but, above all, whom they must hate; for no one can be a right good partisan who is not a thoroughgoing hater.

The enlightened inhabitants of the Manhattoes, therefore, being divided into parties, were enabled to hate each other with great accuracy.  And now the great business of politics went bravely on, the Long Pipes and Short Pipes assemblings in separate beer-houses, and smoking at each other with implacable vehemence, to the great support of the state and profit of the tavern-keepers.  Some, indeed, went so far as to bespatter their adversaries with those odoriferous little words which smell so strong in the Dutch language; believing, like true politicians, that they served their party and glorified themselves in proportion as they bewrayed their neighbors.  But, however they might differ among themselves, all parties agreed in abusing the governor, seeing that he was not a governor of their choice, but appointed by others to rule over them.

Unhappy William Kieft! exclaims the sage writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript, doomed to contend with enemies too knowing to be entrapped, and to reign over a people too wise to be governed.  All his foreign expeditions were baffled and set at naught by the all-pervading Yankees; all his home measures were canvassed and condemned by “numerous and respectable meetings” of pot-house politicians.

In the multitude of counsellors, we are told, there is safety; but the multitude of counsellors was a continual source of perplexity to William Kieft.  With a temperament as hot as an old radish, and a mind subject to perpetual whirlwinds and tornadoes, he never failed to get into a passion with every one who undertook to advise him.  I have observed, however, that your passionate little men, like small boats with large sails, are easily upset or blown out of their course; so was it with William the Testy, who was prone to be carried away by the last piece of advice blown into his ear.  The consequence was that though a projector of the first class, yet, by continually changing his projects, he gave none a fair trial; and by endeavoring to do everything, he, in sober truth, did nothing.

In the meantime the sovereign people, having got into the saddle, showed themselves, as usual, unmerciful riders; spurring on the little governor with harangues and petitions, and thwarting him with memorials and reproaches, in much the same way as holiday apprentices manage an unlucky devil of a hack-horse; so that Wilhelmus Kieft was kept at a worry or a gallop throughout the whole of his administration.


If we could but get a peep at the tally of Dame Fortune, where like a vigilant landlady she chalks up the debtor and creditor accounts of thoughtless mortals, we should find that every good is checked off by an evil; and that however we may apparently revel scot-free for a season, the time will come when we must ruefully pay off the reckoning.  Fortune, in fact, is a pestilent shrew, and, withal, an inexorable creditor; and though for a time she may be all smiles and courtesies, and indulge us in long credits, yet sooner or later she brings up her arrears with a vengeance, and washes out her scores with our tears.  “Since,” says good old Boethius, “no man can retain her at his pleasure, what are her favors but sure prognostications of approaching trouble and calamity?”

This is the fundamental maxim of that sage school of philosophers, the Croakers, who esteem it true wisdom to doubt and despond when other men rejoice, well knowing that happiness is at best but transient; that the higher one is elevated on the see-saw balance of fortune, the lower must be his subsequent depression; that he who is on the uppermost round of a ladder has most to suffer from a fall, while he who is at the bottom runs very little risk of breaking his neck by tumbling to the top.

Philosophical readers of this stamp must have doubtless indulged in dismal forebodings all through the tranquil reign of Walter the Doubter, and considered it what Dutch seamen call a weather-breeder.  They will not be surprised, therefore, that the foul weather which gathered during his days should now be rattling from all quarters on the head of William the Testy.

The origin of some of these troubles may be traced quite back to the discoveries and annexations of Hans Reinier Oothout, the explorer, and Wynant Ten Breeches, the land-measurer, made in the twilight days of Oloffe the Dreamer, by which the territories of the Nieuw Nederlandts were carried far to the south, to Delaware River and parts beyond.  The consequence was many disputes and brawls with the Indians, which now and then reached the drowsy ears of Walter the Doubter and his council, like the muttering of distant thunder from behind the mountains, without, however, disturbing their repose.  It was not till the time of William the Testy that the thunderbolt reached the Manhattoes.  While the little governor was diligently protecting his eastern boundaries from the Yankees, word was brought him of the irruption of a vagrant colony of Swedes in the South, who had landed on the banks of the Delaware, and displayed the banner of that redoubtable virago Queen Christina, and taken possession of the country in her name.  These had been guided in their expedition by one Peter Minuits or Minnewits, a renegade Dutchman, formerly in the service of their High Mightinesses; but who now declared himself governor of all the surrounding country, to which was given the name of the province of New Sweden.

It is an old saying, that “a little pot is soon hot,” which was the case with William the Testy.  Being a little man, he was soon in a passion, and once in a passion he soon boiled over.  Summoning his council on the receipt of this news, he belabored the Swedes in the longest speech that had been heard in the colony since the wordy warfare of Ten Breeches and Tough Breeches.  Having thus taken off the fire-edge of his valor, he resorted to his favorite measure of proclamation, and despatched a document of the kind, ordering the renegade Minnewits and his gang of Swedish vagabonds to leave the country immediately, under pain of vengeance of their High Mightinesses the Lords States General, and of the potentates of the Manhattoes.

This strong measure was not a whit more effectual than its predecessors which had been thundered against the Yankees, and William Kieft was preparing to follow it up with something still more formidable, when he received intelligence of other invaders on his southern frontier, who had taken possession of the banks of the Schuylkill, and built a fort there.  They were represented as a gigantic, gunpowder race of men, exceedingly expert at boxing, biting, gouging, and other branches of the rough-and-tumble mode of warfare, which they had learned from their prototypes and cousins-german the Virginians, to whom they have ever borne considerable resemblance.  Like them, too, they were great roisterers, much given to revel on hoe-cake and bacon, mint-julep and apple toddy; whence their newly formed colony had already acquired the name of Merryland, which, with a slight modification, it retains to the present day.

In fact, the Merrylanders and their cousins, the Virginians, were represented to William Kieft as offsets from the same original stock as his bitter enemies the Yanokie, or Yankee, tribes of the east; having both come over to this country for the liberty of conscience, or, in other words, to live as they pleased; the Yankees taking to praying and money-making and converting Quakers, and the Southerners to horse-racing and cock-fighting and breeding negroes.

Against these new invaders Wilhelmus Kieft immediately despatched a naval armament of two sloops and thirty men, under Jan Jansen Alpendam, who was armed to the very teeth with one of the little governor’s most powerful speeches, written in vigorous Low Dutch.

Admiral Alpendam arrived without accident in the Schuylkill, and came upon the enemy just as they were engaged in a great “barbecue,” a king of festivity or carouse much practised in Merryland.  Opening upon them with the speech of William the Testy, he denounced them as a pack of lazy, canting, julep-tippling, cock-fighting, horse-racing, slave-driving, tavern-haunting, Sabbath-breaking, mulatto-breeding upstarts:  and concluded by ordering them to evacuate the country immediately; to which they laconically replied in plain English, “They’d see him d ­d first!”

Now this was a reply on which neither Jan Jansen Alpendam nor Wilhelmus Kieft had made any calculation.  Finding himself, therefore, totally unprepared to answer so terrible a rebuff with suitable hostility, the admiral concluded his wisest course would be to return home and report progress.  He accordingly steered his course back to New Amsterdam, where he arrived safe, having accomplished this hazardous enterprise at small expense of treasure, and no loss of life.  His saving policy gained him the universal appellation of the Savior of his Country, and his services were suitably rewarded by a shingle monument, erected by subscription on the top of Flattenbarrack Hill, where it immortalized his name for three whole years, when it fell to pieces and was burnt for firewood.


About this time, the testy little governor of the New Netherlands appears to have had his hands full, and with one annoyance and the other to have been kept continually on the bounce.  He was on the very point of following up the expedition of Jan Jansen Alpendam by some belligerent measures against the marauders of Merryland, when his attention was suddenly called away by belligerent troubles springing up in another quarter, the seeds of which had been sown in the tranquil days of Walter the Doubter.

The reader will recollect the deep doubt into which that most pacific governor was thrown on Killian Van Rensellaer’s taking possession of Béarn Island by wapen recht.  While the governor doubted and did nothing, the lordly Killian went on to complete his sturdy little castellum of Rensellaersteen, and to garrison it with a number of his tenants from the Helderberg, a mountain region famous for the hardest heads and hardest fists in the province.  Nicholas Koorn, a faithful squire of the patroon, accustomed to strut at his heels, wear his cast-off clothes, and imitate his lofty bearing, was established in this post as wacht-meester.  His duty it was to keep an eye on the river, and oblige every vessel that passed, unless on the service of their High Mightinesses, to strike its flag, lower its peak, and pay toll to the Lord of Rensellaersteen.

This assumption of sovereign authority within the territories of the Lords States General, however it might have been tolerated by Walter the Doubter, had been sharply contested by William the Testy, on coming into office and many written remonstrances had been addressed by him to Killian Van Rensellaer, to which the latter never deigned a reply.  Thus by degrees a sore place, or, in Hibernian parlance, a raw, had been established in the irritable soul of the little governor, insomuch that he winced at the very name of Rensellaersteen.

Now it came to pass that, on a fine sunny day, the company’s yacht, the Half Moon, having been on one of its stated visits to Fort Aurania, was quietly tiding it down the Hudson; the commander, Govert Lockerman, a veteran Dutch skipper of few words but great bottom, was seated on the high poop, quietly smoking his pipe, under the shadow of the proud flag of Orange, when, on arriving abreast of Béarn Island, he was saluted by a stentorian voice from the shore, “Lower thy flag, and be d ­d to thee!”

Govert Lockerman, without taking his pipe out of his mouth, turned up his eye from under his broad-brimmed hat to see who hailed him thus discourteously.  There, on the ramparts of the forts, stood Nicholas Koorn, armed to the teeth, flourishing a brass-hilted sword, while a steeple-crowned hat and cock’s tail-feather, formerly worn by Killian Van Rensellaer himself, gave an inexpressible loftiness to his demeanor.

Govert Lockerman eyed the warrior from top to toe, but was not to be dismayed.  Taking the pipe slowly out of his mouth, “To whom should I lower my flag?” demanded he.  “To the high and mighty Killian Van Rensellaer, the lord of Rensellaersteen!” was the reply.

“I lower it to none but the Prince Orange and my masters, the Lords States General.”  So saying, he resumed his pipe and smoked with an air of dogged determination.

Bang! went a gun from the fortress; the ball cut both sail and rigging.  Govert Lockerman said nothing, but smoked the more doggedly.

Bang! went another gun; the shot whistling close astern.

“Fire, and be d ­d,” cried Govert Lockerman, cramming a new charge of tobacco into his pipe, and smoking with still increasing vehemence.

Bang! went a third gun.  The shot passed over his head, tearing a hole in the “princely flag of Orange.”

This was the hardest trial of all for the pride and patience of Govert Lockerman; he maintained a stubborn though swelling silence, but his smothered rage might be perceived by the short vehement puffs of smoke emitted from his pipe, by which he might be tracked for miles, as he slowly floated out of shot and out of sight of Béarn Island.  In fact, he never gave vent to his passion until he got fairly among the Highlands of the Hudson, when he let fly whole volleys of Dutch oaths, which are said to linger to this very day among the echoes of the Dunderberg, and to give particular effect to the thunder-storms in that neighborhood.

It was the sudden apparition of Govert Lockerman at Dog’s Misery, bearing in his hand the tattered flag of Orange, that arrested the attention of William the Testy, just as he was devising a new expedition against the marauders of Merryland.  I will not pretend to describe the passion of the little man when he heard of the outrage of Rensellaersteen.  Suffice it to say, in the first transports of his fury, he turned Dog’s Misery topsy-turvy, kicked every cur out of doors, and threw the cats out of the window; after which, his spleen being in some measure relieved, he went into a council of war with Govert Lockerman, the skipper, assisted by Anthony Van Corlear, the trumpeter.


The eyes of all New Amsterdam were now turned to see what would be the end of this direful feud between William the Testy and the patron of Rensellaerwick; and some, observing the consultations of the governor with the skipper and the trumpeter, predicted warlike measures by sea and land.  The wrath of William Kieft, however, though quick to rise, was quick to evaporate.  He was a perfect brush-heap in a blaze, snapping and crackling for a time, and then ending in smoke.  Like many other valiant potentates, his first thoughts were all for war, his sober second thoughts for diplomacy.

Accordingly Govert Lockerman was once more despatched up the river in the company’s yacht, the Goed Hoop, bearing Anthony the Trumpeter as ambassador, to treat with the belligerent powers of Rensellaersteen.  In the fulness of time the yacht arrived before Béarn Island, and Anthony the Trumpeter, mounting the poop, sounded a parly to the forces.  In a little while the steeple-crowned hat of Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, rose above the battlements, followed by his iron visage, and ultimately his whole person, armed, as before, to the very teeth; while one by one a whole row of Helderbergers reared their round burly heads above the wall, and beside each pumpkin-head peered the end of a rusty musket.  Nothing daunted by this formidable array, Anthony Van Corlear drew forth and read with audible voice a missive from William the Testy, protesting against the usurpation of Béarn Island, and ordering the garrison to quit the premises, bag and baggage, on pain of the vengeance of the potentate of the Manhattoes.

In reply, the wacht-meester applied the thumb of his right hand to the end of his nose, and the thumb of the left hand to the little finger of the right, and spreading each hand like a fan, made an aerial flourish with his fingers.  Anthony Van Corlear was sorely perplexed to understand this sign, which seemed to him something mysterious and masonic.  Not liking to betray his ignorance, he again read with a loud voice the missive of William the Testy, and again Nicholas Koorn applied the thumb of his right hand to the end of his nose, and the thumb of his left hand to the little finger of the right, and repeated this kind of nasal weathercock.  Anthony Van Corlear now persuaded himself that this was some short-hand sign or symbol, current in diplomacy, which, though unintelligible to a new diplomat like himself, would speak volumes to the experienced intellect of William the Testy.  Considering his embassy therefore at an end, he sounded his trumpet with great complacency, and set sail on his return down the river, every now and then practising this mysterious sign of the wacht-meester, to keep it accurately in mind.

Arrived at New Amsterdam, he made a faithful report of his embassy to the governor, accompanied by a manual exhibition of the response of Nicholas Koorn.  The governor was equally perplexed with his ambassador.  He was deeply versed in the mysteries of freemasonry, but they threw no light on the matter.  He knew ever variety of windmill and weathercock, but was not a whit the wiser as to the aerial sign in question.  He had even dabbled in Egyptian hieroglyphics, and the mystic symbols of the obelisk, but none furnished a key to the reply of Nicholas Koorn.  He called a meeting of his council.  Anthony Van Corlear stood forth in the midst, and putting the thumb of his right hand to his nose, and the thumb of his left hand to the finger of the right, he gave a faithful fac-simile of the portentous sign.  Having a nose of unusual dimensions, it was as if the reply had been put in capitals, but all in vain, the worthy burgomasters were equally perplexed with the governor.  Each one put his thumb to the end of his nose, spread his fingers like a fan, imitated the motion of Anthony Van Corlear, then smoked on in dubious silence.  Several times was Anthony obliged to stand forth like a fugleman and repeat the sign, and each time a circle of nasal weathercocks might be seen in the council chamber.

Perplexed in the extreme, William the Testy sent for all the soothsayers and fortune tellers and wise men of the Manhattoes, but none could interpret the mysterious reply of Nicholas Koorn.  The council broke up in sore perplexity.  The matter got abroad; Anthony Van Corlear was stopped at every corner to repeat the signal to a knot of anxious newsmongers, each of whom departed with his thumb to his nose and his fingers in the air, to carry the story home of his family.  For several days all business was neglected in New Amsterdam; nothing was talked of but the diplomatic mission of Anthony the Trumpeter, nothing was to be seen but knots of politicians with their thumbs to their noses.  In the meantime the fierce feud between William the Testy and Killian Van Rensellaer, which at first had menaced deadly warfare, gradually cooled off, like many other war questions, in the prolonged delays of diplomacy.

Still, to this early affair of Rensellaersteen may be traced the remote origin of those windy wars in modern days which rage in the bowels of the Helderberg, and have well nigh shaken the great patroonship of the Van Rensellaers to its foundation:  for we are told that the bully boys of the Helderberg, who served under Nicholas Koorn, the wacht-meester, carried back to their mountains the hieroglyphic sign which had so sorely puzzled Anthony Van Corlear and the sages of the Manhattoes; so that to the present day, the thumb to the nose and the fingers in the air is apt to be the reply of the Helderbergers whenever called upon for any long arrears of rent.


It was asserted by the wise men of ancient times who had a nearer opportunity of ascertaining the fact, that at the gate of Jupiter’s palace lay two huge tuns, one filled with blessings, the other with misfortunes; and it would verily seem as if the latter had been completely overturned, and left to deluge the unlucky province of Nieuw Nederlandts; for about this time, while harassed and annoyed from the south and the north, incessant forays were made by the border chivalry of Connecticut upon the pig-sties and hen-roosts of the Nederlanders.  Every day or two some broad-bottomed express rider, covered with mud and mire, would come floundering into the gate of New Amsterdam, freighted with some new tale of aggression from the frontier; whereupon Anthony Van Corlear, seizing his trumpet, the only substitute for a newspaper in those primitive days, would sound the tidings from the ramparts with such doleful notes and disastrous cadence, as to throw half the old women in the city into hysterics; all which tended greatly to increase his popularity, there being nothing for which the public are more grateful than being frequently treated to a panic ­a secret well known to modern editors.

But oh, ye powers! into what a paroxysm of passion did each new outrage of the Yankees throw the choleric little governor!  Letter after letter, protest after protest, bad Latin, worse English, and hideous Low Dutch, were incessantly fulminated upon them, and the four-and-twenty letters of the alphabet, which formed his standing army, were worn out by constant campaigning.  All, however, was ineffectual; even the recent victory at Oyster Bay, which had shed such a gleam of sunshine between the clouds of his foul weather reign, was soon followed by a more fearful gathering up of those clouds and indications of more portentous tempests; for the Yankee tribe on the banks of the Connecticut, finding on this memorable occasion their incompetency to cope in fair fight with the sturdy chivalry of the Manhattoes, had called to their aid all the ten tribes of their brethren who inhabit the east country, which from them has derived the name of Yankee land.  This call was promptly responded to.  The consequence was a great confederacy of the tribes of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Plymouth, and New Haven, under the title of the “United Colonies of New England;” the pretended object of which was mutual defense against the savages, but the real object the subjugation of the Nieuw Nederlandts.

For, to let the reader into one of the greatest secrets of history, the Nieuw Nederlandts had long been regarded by the whole Yankee race as the modern land of promise, and themselves as the chosen and peculiar people destined, one day or other, by hook or by crook, to get possession of it.  In truth, they are a wonderful and all-prevalent people; of that class who only require an inch to gain an ell; or a halter to gain a horse.  From the time they first gained a foothold on Plymouth Rock, they began to migrate, progressing and progressing from place to place, and land to land, making a little here and a little there, and controverting the old proverb, that a rolling stone gathers no moss.  Hence they have facetiously received the nickname of “The Pilgrims,” that is to say, a people who are always seeking a better country than their own.

The tidings of this great Yankee league struck William Kieft with dismay, and for once in his life he forgot to bounce on receiving a disagreeable piece of intelligence.  In fact, on turning over in his mind all that he had read at the Hague about leagues and combinations, he found that this was a counterpart of the Amphictyonic League, by which the states of Greece attained such power and supremacy; and the very idea made his heart quake for the safety of his empire at the Manhattoes.

The affairs of the confederacy were managed by an annual council of delegates held at Boston, which Kieft denominated the Delphos of this truly classic league.  The very first meeting gave evidence of hostility to the New Nederlanders, who were charged, in their dealings with the Indians, with carrying on a traffic in “guns, powther, and shott ­a trade damnable and injurious to the colonists.”  It is true the Connecticut traders were fain to dabble a little in this damnable traffic; but then they always dealt in what were termed Yankee guns, ingeniously calculated to burst in the pagan hands which used them.

The rise of this potent confederacy was a death-blow to the glory of William the Testy, for from that day forward he never held up his head, but appeared quite crestfallen.  It is true, as the grand council augmented in power, and the league, rolling onward, gathered about the red hills of New Haven, threatening to overwhelm the Nieuw Nederlandts, he continued occasionally to fulminate proclamations and protests, as a shrewd sea captain fires his guns into a water spout, but, alas! they had no more effect than so many blank cartridges.

Thus end the authenticated chronicles of the reign of William the Testy, for henceforth, in the troubles, perplexities, and confusion of the times, he seems to have been totally overlooked, and to have slipped for ever through the fingers of scrupulous history.  It is a matter of deep concern that such obscurity should hang over his latter days; for he was in truth a mighty and great little man, and worthy of being utterly renowned, seeing that he was the first potentate that introduced into this land the art of fighting by proclamation, and defending a country by trumpeters and windmills.

It is true that certain of the early provincial poets, of whom there were great numbers in the Nieuw Nederlandts, taking advantage of his mysterious exit, have fabled that, like Romulus, he was translated to the skies, and forms a very fiery little star, somewhere on the left claw of the crab; while others, equally fanciful, declare that he had experienced a fate similar to that of the good King Arthur, who, we are assured by ancient bards, was carried away to the delicious abodes of fairyland, where he still exists in pristine worth and vigor, and will one day or another return to restore the gallantry, the honor, and the immaculate probity, which prevailed in the glorious days of the Round Table.

All these, however, are but pleasing fantasies, the cobweb visions of those dreaming varlets the poets, to which I would not have my judicious reader attach any credibility.  Neither am I disposed to credit an ancient and rather apocryphal historian, who asserts that the ingenious Wilhelmus was annihilated by the blowing down of one of his windmills, nor a writer of later times, who affirms that he fell a victim to an experiment in natural history, having the misfortune to break his neck from a garret window of the stadthouse in attempting to catch swallows by sprinkling salt upon their tails.  Still less do I put my faith in the tradition that he perished at sea in conveying home to Holland a treasure of golden ore, discovered somewhere among the haunted regions of the Catskill mountains.

The most probable account declares, that what with the constant troubles on his frontiers ­the incessant schemings and projects going on in his own pericranium ­the memorials, petitions, remonstrances, and sage pieces of advice of respectable meetings of the sovereign people, and the refractory disposition of his councillors, who were sure to differ from him on every point, and uniformly to be in the wrong ­his mind was kept in a furnace heat, until he became as completely burnt out as a Dutch family pipe which has passed through three generations of hard smokers.  In this manner did he undergo a kind of animal combustion consuming away like a farthing rushlight, so that when grim Death finally snuffed him out, there was scarcely left enough of him to bury!

“The Britons suppose that he shall come yet and conquere all Britaigne; for, certes, this is the prophicye of Merlyn ­He say’d that his deth shall be doubteous; and said soth, for men thereof yet have doubte and shullen for evermore, for men wyt not whether that he lyveth or is dede.” ­De Leew Chron.

        In the year 1647, Wilhelmus Kieft himself embarked on board the
        Princess, taking with him specimens of the supposed mineral. 
        The ship was never heard of more!

Some have supposed that the mineral in question was not gold, but pyrites; but we have the assertion of Adrian Van der Donck, an eye-witness, and the experiment of Johannes de la Montagne, a learned doctor of medicine, on the golden side of the question.  Cornelius Van Tienhooven, also, at that time secretary of the New Netherlands, declared, in Holland, that he had tested several specimens of the mineral, which proved satisfactory.  It would appear, however, that these golden treasures of the Kaatskill always brought ill luck; as is evidenced in the fate of Arent Corsen and Wilhelmus Kieft, and the wreck of the ships in which they attempted to convey the treasure across the ocean.  The golden mines have never since been explored, but remain among the mysteries of the Kaatskill mountains, and under the protection of the goblins which haunt them.

See Van der Donck’s description of the New Netherlands,
Collect.  New York Hist.  Society, vol. i., .