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great marvel and admiration among his countrymen; he figured about at the Hague with as much vain glory as does a profound Bonze at Pekin, who has mastered half the letters of the Chinese alphabet; and, in a word, was unanimously pronounced a universal genius!—I have known many universal geniuses in my time, though to speak my mind freely, I never knew one, who for the ordinary purposes of life, was worth his weight in straw; but, for the purposes of government, a little sound judgment, and plain common sense, is worth all the sparkling genius that ever wrote poetry, or invented theories.
Strange as it may sound, therefore, the universal acquirements of the illustrious Wilhelmus were very much in his way; and had he been less a learned man, it is possible he would have been a much greater governor. He was exceedingly fond of trying philosophical and political experiments: and having stuffed his head full of scraps and remnants of ancient republics, and oligarchies, and aristocracies, and monarchies, and the laws of Solon, and Lycurgus, and Charondas, and the imaginary commonwealth of Plato, and the Pandects of Justinian, and a thousand other fragments of venerable antiquity, he was for ever bent upon introducing some one or other of them into use; so that between one contradictory measure and another, he entangled the government of the little province of Nieuw Nederlandts in more knots, during his administration, than half a dozen successors could have untied. No sooner had this bustling little man been blown by a whiff of fortune into the seat of government, then he called together his council, and delivered a very animated speech on the affairs of the province. As every body knows what a glorious opportunity a governor, a president, or even an emperor has of drubbing his enemies in his speeches, messages, and bulletins, where he has the talk all on his own side, they may be sure the high-mettled William Kieft did not suffer so favourable an occasion to escape him, of evincing
that gallantry of tongue common to all able legislators. Before he commenced, it is recorded that he took out his pocket handkerchief, and gave a very sonorous blast of the nose, according to the usual custom of great orators. This, in general, I believe is intended as a signal trumpet, to call the attention of the auditors; but with William the Testy it boasted a more classic cause, for he had read of the singular expedient of that famous demagogue Caius Gracchus, who, when he harangued the Roman populace, modulated his tones by an oratorical flute or pitch-pipe.
This preparatory symphony being performed, he commenced by expressing an humble sense of his own want of talents, his utter unworthiness of the honour conferred upon him, and his humiliating incapacity to discharge the important duties of his new station; in short, he expressed so contemptible an opinion of himself, that many simple country members present, ignorant that these were mere words of course, always used on such occasions, were very uneasy, and even felt wrath that he should accept an office for which he was consciously so inadequate.
He- then proceeded in a manner highly classic, profoundly erudite, and nothing at all to the purpose; being nothing more than a pompous account of all the governments of ancient Greece, and the wars of Rome and Carthage, together with the rise and fall of sundry outlandish empires, about which the assembly knew no more than their great grand-children who were yet unborn. Thus having, after the manner of your learned orators, convinced the audience that he was a man of many words and great erudition, he at length came to the less important part of his speech, the situation of the province; and here he soon worked himself into a fearful rage against the Yankees, whom he compared to the Gauls who desolated Rome, and the Goths and Vandals who overran the fairest plains of Europe—nor did he forget to mention, in terms of adequate oppro
brium, the insolence with which they had encroached upon the territories of New Netherlands, and the unparalleled audacity with which they had commenced the town of New Plymouth, and planted the onion patches of Weathersfield under the very walls of Fort Goed Hoop.
Having thus artfully wrought up his tale of terror to a climax, he assumed a self-satisfied look, and declared, with a nod of knowing import, that he had taken measures to put a final stop to these encroachments—that he had been obliged to have recourse to a dreadful engine of warfare, lately invented, awful in its effects, but authorized by direful necessity. In a word, he was resolved to conquer the Yankees by proclamation.
For this purpose he had prepared a tremendous instrument of the kind, ordering, commanding, and enjoining the intruders aforesaid, forthwith to remove, depart, and withdraw from the districts, regions, and territories aforesaid, under the pain of suffering all the penalties, forfeitures, and punishments, in such case made and provided, &c. This proclamation, he assured them, would at once exterminate the enemy from the face of the country; and he pledged his valour as a governor, that within two months after it was published, not one stone should remain on another in any of the towns which they had built.
The council remained for some time silent after he had finished; whether struck dumb with admiration at the brilliancy of his project, or put to sleep by the length of his harangue, the history of the times doth not mention. Suffice it to say, they at length gave a general grunt of acquiescence; the proclamation was immediately despatched with due ceremony, having the great seal of the province, which was about the size of a buckwheat pancake, attached to it by a broad red riband. Governor Kieft, having thus vented his indignation, felt greatly relievedadjourned the council sine die-put on his cocked
hat and corduroy small-clothes, and, mounting on a tall raw-boned charger, trotted out to his country seat, which was situated in a sweet sequestered swamp, now called Dutch Street, but more commonly known by the name of Dog's Misery.
Here, like the good Numā, he reposed from the toils of legislation, taking lessons in Government, not from the Nymph Ageria, but from the honoured wife of his bosom; who was one of that peculiar kind of females, sent upon earth a little before the flood, as a punishment for the sins of mankind, and commonly known by the appeilation 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 of New-Amsterdam, but which, like many other great secrets, has leaked out in the lapse of years; and this was, that the great 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 nor Plato; in short, it partook of the nature of a pure, unmixed tyranny, and is familiarly denominated petticoat government. An absolute sway, which, though 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 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."
AND THE VALIANT PETER.
This was one Dirk Schuiler (or Skulker,) a kind of hanger-on to the garrison, who seemed to belong to nobody, and in a manner to be self-outlawed. He was one of those vagabond cosmopolites, who shark about the world as if they had no right or business in it; and who infest the skirts of society, like poachers and interlopers. Every garrison and country village has one or more scape-goats of this kind, whose life is a kind of enigma, whose existence is without motive, who comes from the Lord knows where, who lives the Lord knows how, and seems to be made for no earthly purpose but to keep up the ancient and honourable order of idleness. This vagabond philosopher was supposed to have some Indian blood in his veins, which was manifested by a certain Indian complexion and cast of countenance; but more especially by his propensities and habits. He was a tall, lank fellow, swift of foot, and long-winded. He was generally equipped in a half Indian dress, with belt, leggings, and moccasons. His hair hung in straight gallows-locks about his ears, and added not a little to his sharking demeanour. It is an old remark, that persons of Indian mixture are half civilized, half savage, and half devil; a third half being expressly provided for their particular convenience. It is for similar reasons, and probably with equal truth, that the back-wood men of Kentucky are styled half man, half horse, and half alligator by the settlers on the Mississippi, and held accordingly in great respect and abhorrence. The above character may have presented itself to