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helped to discover a country did not know how it ought to be governed was preposterous in the extreme. It would have been deemed as much a heresy as, at the present day, to question the political talents and universal infallibility of our old “heroes of '76”—and to doubt that he who had fought for a government, however stupid he might naturally be, was not competent to fill any station under it.
But as Peter Stuyvesant had a singular inclination to govern his province without the assistance of his subjects, he felt highly incensed on his return to find the factious appearance they had assumed during his absence. His first measure, therefore, was to restore perfect order, by prostrating the dignity of the sovereign people.
He accordingly watched his opportunity, and one evening when the enlightened mob was gathered together, listening to a patriotic speech from an inspired cobbler, the intrepid Peter, like his great namesake of all the Russias, all at once appeared among them, with a countenance suf. ficient to petrify a millstone. The whole meeting was thrown into consternation-the orator seemed to have received a paralytic stroke in the very middle of a sublime sentence, and stood aghast with open mouth and trembling knees, whilst the words horror! tyranny! liberty! rights! taxes! death! destruction! and a deluge of other patrio tic phrases came roaring from his throat, before he had power to close his lips. The shrewd Peter took no potict of the skulking throng around him, but advancing to the brawling bully ruffian, and drawing out a hugesilverwatch, which might have served in times of yore as a town-clock, and which is still retained by his descendants as a family curiosity, requested the orator to mend it, and set it going. The orater humbly confessed it was utterly out of his power, as he was unacquainted with the nature of its construction. “ Nay, but,” said Peter, " try your ingenuity, man: you see all the springs and wheels, and how easily the clumsiest hand may stop it, and pull it to pieces; and why should it not be equally easy to regulate as to stop it?” The orator declared that his trade was wholly different, he was a poor cobbler, and had never meddled
with a watch in his life. That there were men skilled in the art, whose business it was to attend to those matters; but for his part 'he should only mar the workmanship, and put the whole in confusion-"Why, harkee, master of mine," cried Peter, turning suddenly upon him, with a countenance that almost petrified the patcher of shoes into a perfect lapstone" dost thou pretend to meddle with the movements of government to regulate and correct, and patch, and cobble, a complicated machine, the principles of which are above thy comprehension, and its sim. plest operations too subtle for thy understanding, when thou canst not correct a trifling error in a common piece of mechanism, the whole mystery of which is open to thyinspection ?-Hence with thee to the leather and stone, which are emblems of thy head; cobble thy shoes, and confine thyself to the vocation for which heaven has fitted thee But," elevating his voice until it made the welkin ring, “ if ever I catch thee, or any of thy tribe, meddling again with the affairs of government-by St. Nicholas, but I'll have every mother's bastard of ye flea'd alive, and your hides stretched for drum-heads, that ye may thenceforth make a noise to some purpose!"
This threat, and the tremendous voice in which it was uttered, caused the whole multitude to quake with fear. The hair of the orator rose on his head like his own swine's bristles, and not a knight of the thimble present but his heart died within him, and he felt as though he could have verily escaped through the eye of a needle.
But though this measure produced the desired effect in reducing the community to order, yet it tended to injure the popularity of the great Peter among the enlightened vulgar. Many accused him of entertaining highly aristocratic sentiments, and of leaning too much in favour of the patricians. Indeed there appeared to be some grounds for such an accusation, as he always carried himself with a very lofty soldier-like port, and was somewhat particular in his dress; dressing himself, when not in uniform, in simple but rich apparel; and was especially noted for having his sound leg (which was a very comely one) always arrayed in a red stocking and high-heeled shoe
Though a man of great simplicity of manners, yet there was something about him that repelled rude familiarity, while it encouraged frank, and even social intercourse.
He likewise observed some appearance of court ceremony and etiquette. He received the common class of visitors on the stoop*, before his door, according to the custom of our Dutch ancestors. But when visitors were formally received in his parlour, it was expected they would appear in clean linen; by no means to be bare footed, and always to take their hats off. On public occasions he appeared with great pomp of equipage (for, in truth, his station required a little show and dignity), and always rode to church in a yellow waggon with flaming red wheels.
These symptoms of state and ceremony occasioned considerable discontent among the vulgar. They had been accustomed to find easy access to their former governors, and in particular had lived on terms of extreme familiarity with William the Testy. They therefore were very impatient of these dignified precautions, which discouraged intrusion. But Peter Stuyvesant had his own way of thinking in these matters, and was a staunch upholder of the dignity of office.
He always maintained that government to be the least popular, which is most open to popular access and control; and that the very brawlers against court ceremony, and the reserve of men in power, would soon despise rulers among whom they found even themselves to be of consequence. . Such, at least, had been the case with the administration of William the Testy; who, bent on making himself popular, had listened to every man's advice, suffered every person to have admittance to his person at all hours; and, in a word, treated every one as his thorough equal. By this means every scrub politician and public busybody was enabled to measure wits with him, and to find out the true dimensions, not only of his person,
*Properly spelled stoeb : the porch commonly built in front of Dutch houses, with benches on each side.
but his mind. And what great man can stand suck scrutiny?
It is the mystery that envelopes great men, that gives them half their greatness. We are always inclined to think highly of those who hold themselves aloof from our examinations. There is likewise a kind of superstịtious reverence for office, which leads us to exaggerate the merits and abilities of men of power, and to suppose that they must be constituted different from other men, And, indeed, faith is as necessary in politics as in religion. It certainly is of the first importance, that a country should be governed by wise men; but then it is almost equally important, that the people should believe them to be wise ; for this belief alone can produce willing subordination.
To keep up, therefore, this desirable confidence in rulers, the people should be allowed to see as little of them as possible. He who gains access to cabinets soon finds out by what foolishness the world is governed. He discovers that there is a quackery in legislation, as well as in every thing else; that many a measure, which is supposed by the million to be the result of great wisdom and deep deliberation, is the effect of mere chance, or perhaps of hair-brained experiment.--Thatrulers have their whims and errors as well as other men, and after all are not so wonderfully superior to their fellow-creatures as he at first imagined; since he finds that even his own opinions have had some weight with them. Thus awe subsides into confidence, confidence inspires familiarity, and familiarity produces contempt. Peter Stuyvesant, on the contrary, by conducting himself with dignity and loftiness, was looked up to with great reverence. As he never gave his reasons for any thing he did, the public always gave him credit for very profound ones. Every movement, however intrinsically unimportant, was a matter of speculation; and his very red stocking excited some respect, as being different from the stockings of other men.
To these times we may refer the rise of family pride and aristocratic distinctions*; and indeed I cannot but
* In a work published many years after the time here treated of (in 1761, by C. W. A. M.) it is mentioned that Frederick Philipse was
look back with reverence to the early planting of those mighty Dutch families, which have taken such vigorous root, and branched out so luxuriantly in our state. The blood which has flowed down uncontaminated through a succession of steady, virtuous generations, since the times of the patriarchs of Communipaw, must certainly be pure and worthy. And if so, then are the Van Rensellaers, the Van Zandts, the Van Hornes, the Rutgers, the Bensons, the Brinkerhoffs, the Skermerhorns, and all the true descendants of the ancient Pavonians, the only legitimate nobility and real lords of the soil.
I have been led to mention thus particularly the well authenticated claims of our genuine Dutch families, because I have noticed with great sorrow and vexation, that they have been somewhat elbowed aside in latter days, by foreign intruders. It is really astonishing to behold how many great families have sprung up of late years, who pride themselves excessively on the score of ancestry. Thus he who can look up to his father without humiliation assumes not a little importance-he who can safely talk of his grandfather is still more vainglorious—but he who can look back to his great grandfather without blushing is absolutely intolerable in his pretensions to family. -Bless us ! what a piece of work is here, between these mushrooms of an hour and these mushrooms of a day!
But from what I have recounted in the former part of this chapter, I would not have my reader imagine that the great Peter was a tyrannical governor, ruling his subjects with a rod of iron-on the contrary, where the dignity of authority was not implicated, he abounded with generosity and courteous condescension. In fact he really believed, though I fear ny more enlightened repúblican readers will consider it a proof of his ignorance and illiberality, that in preventing the cup of social life from
counted the richest Mynheer in New-York, and was said to have whole hogsheads of Indian money or wampum; and had a son and daughter, who, according to the Dutch custom, should divide if equally.