Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

plexed by no internal commotions; and the mighty monarchs of the earth, who were vainly seeking to maintain peace, and promote the welfare of mankind, by war and desolation, would have done well to have made a voyage to the little Island of Mannahatta, and learned a lesson in government from the domestic economy of Peter Stuyvesant.

In process of time, however, the old governor, like all other children of mortality, began to exhibit evident tokens of decay. Like an aged oak, which, though it long has braved the fury of the elements, and still retains its gigantic proportions, yet begins to shake and groan with every blast, so the gallant Peter, though he still bore the port and semblance of what he was in the days of his hardihood and chivalry—yet did age and infirmity begin to sap the vigour of his frame; but his heart, that most unconquerable citadel, still triumphed unsubdued. With matchless avidity would he listen to every article of intelligence concerning the battles between the English and Dutch. Still would his pulse beat high whenever he heard of the victories of De Ruyter; and his countenance lower, and his eyebrows knit, when fortune turned in favour of the English. At length, as on a certain day, he had just smoked his fifth pipe, and was napping after dinner, in his arm chair, conquering the whole British nation, in his dreams, he was suddenly aroused by a fearful ringing of bells, rattling of drums, and roaring of cannon, that put all his blood in a ferment. But when he learned that these rejoicings were in honour of a great victory obtained by the combined English and French fleets over the brave De Ruyter and the younger Von Tromp, it went so much to his heart, that he took to his bed, and in less than three days, was brought to death's door by a violent cholera morbus! But even in this extremity, he still displayed the unconquerable spirit of Peter the Headstrong-holding out, to the last gasp, with the most inflexible obstinacy, against a whole army of old

women, who were bent upon driving the enemy out. of his bowels, after a true Dutch mode of defence, by inundating the seat of war with catnip and pennyroyal.

While he thus lay, lingering on the verge of dis. solution, news was brought him, that the brave Ruyter had suffered but little loss—had made good his retreat; and meant once more to meet the enemy in battle. The closing eye of the old warrior kindled at the words: he partly raised himself in bed-a flash of martial fire beamed across his visage-he clenched his withered hand as if he felt within his gripe that sword which waved in triumph before the walls of Fort Christina, and giving a grim smile of exultation, sunk back upon his pillow, and expired.

Thus died Peter Stuyvesant-a valiant soldier, a loyal subject, an upright governor, and an honest Dutchman-who wanted only a few empires to desolate, to have been immortalized as a hero!

His funeral obsequies were celebrated with the utmost grandeur and soleinnity. The town was perfectly emptied of its inhabitants, who crowded in throngs to pay the last sad honours to their good old governor. All his sterling qualities rushed in full tide upon their recollections, while the memory of his foibles and his faults had expired with him. The ancient burghers contended who should have the privilege of bearing the pall—the populace strove who should walk nearest to the bier; and the melancholy procession was closed by a number of grayheaded negroes, who had wintered and summered in the household of their departed master for the greater part of a century.

With sad and gloomy countenances, the multitude gathered round the grave. They dwelt with mournful hearts on the sturdy virtues, the signal services, and the gallant exploits of the brave old worthy. They recalled with secret upbraidings, their own factious oppositions to his government; and many an ancient burgher, whose phlegmatic features had

never been known to relax, nor his eyes to moisten, was now observed to puff a pensive pipe, and the big drop to steal down his cheek—while he muttered, with affectionate accent and melancholy shake of the head—“ Well den !-Hard-Koppig Peter ben gone at last."

His remains were deposited in the family vault, under a chapel, which he had piously erected on his estate, and dedicated to St. Nicholas--and which stood on the identical spot at present occupied by St. Mark's Church, where his tombstone is still to be seen. His estate, or Bouwery, as it was called, has ever continued in the possession of his descendants, who, by the uniform integrity of their conduct, and their strict adherence to the customs and manners that prevailed in the “good old times," have proved themselves worthy of their illustrious ancestor. Many a time and oft has the farm been haunted at night by enterprising money diggers, in quest of pots of gold, said to have been buried by the old governor—though I cannot learn that any of them have ever been enriched by their researches; and · who is there, among my native born fellow citizens, that does not remember, when in the mischievous days of his boyhood, he conceived it a great exploit to rob “ Stuyvesant's orchard,” on a holiday afternoon?

At this strong hold of the family may still be seen certain memorials of the immortal Peter. His full length portrait frowns in martial terrors from the parlour wall-his cocked hat and sword still hang up in the best bedroom. His brimstone coloured breeches were for a long while suspended in the hall, until some years since they occasioned a dispute between a new-married couple. And his silver mounted wooden leg is still treasured up in the store-room as an invaluable relic.


And now the rosy blush of morn began to mantle in the east, and soon the rising sun, emerging from amidst golden and purple clouds, shed his blithesome rays on the tin weathercocks of Communipaw. It was that delicious season of the year, when nature, breaking from the chilling thraldom of old winter, like a blooming damsel from the tyranny of a sordid father, threw herself, blushing with ten thousand charms, into the arms of youthful spring. Every tufted copse and blooming grove resounded with the notes of hymeneal love. The very insects, as they sipped the dew that gemmed the tender grass of the meadows, joined in the joyous epithalamium-the virgin bud timidly put forth its blushes, “ the voice of the turtle was heard in the land,” and the heart of man dissolved away in tenderness.



I am aware that I shall incur the censure of numerous very learned and judicious critics, for indulging too frequently in the bold excursive manner of my favourite Herodotus. And, to be candid, I have found it impossible always to resist the allurements of those pleasing episodes which, like flowery banks and fragrant bowers, beset the dusty road of the historian, and entice him to turn aside and refresh himself from his wayfaring. But I trust it will be found that I have always resumed my staff, and addressed myself to my weary journey with renovated

spirits, so that both my readers and myself have been benefited by the relaxation.

Indeed, though it has been my constant wish and uniform endeavour to rival Polybius himself, in observing the requisite unity of History, yet the loose and unconnected manner in which many of the facts herein recorded have come to hand, rendered such an attempt extremely difficult. This difficulty was likewise increased by one of the grand objects contemplated in my work, which was to trace the rise of sundry customs and institutions in this best of cities, and to compare them when in the germ of infancy with what they are in the present old age of knowledge and improvement.

But the chief merit on which I value myself, and found my hopes for future regard, is that faithful veracity with which I have compiled this invaluable little work; carefully winnowing away the chaff of hypothesis, and discarding the tares of fable, which are too apt to spring up and choke the seeds of truth and wholesome knowledge. Had I been anxious to captivate the superficial throng, who skim like swallows over the surface of literature; or had I been anxious to commend my writings to the pampered palates of literary epicures- I might have availed myself of the obscurity that overshadows the infant years of our city, to introduce a thousand pleasing fictions. But I have scrupulously discarded many a pithy tale and marvellous adventure, whereby the drowsy air of summer indolence might be enthralled; jealously maintaining that fidelity, gravity, and dignity which should ever distinguish the historian.


I ROSE and prepared to leave the abbey. As I descended the flight of steps which lead into the body

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »