Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

tain; so that when erect he had not a little the appearance of a robustious beer barrel, standing on skids. His face, that infallible index of the mind, presented a vast expanse perfectly unfurrowed or deformed by any of those lines and angles which disfigure the human countenance with what is termed expression. Two small gray eyes twinkled feebly in the midst, like two stars of lesser magnitude, in a hazy firmament; and his full-fed cheeks, which seemed to have taken toll of every thing that went into his mouth, were curiously mottled and streaked with dusky red, like a Spitzenberg apple.

His hạbits were as regular as his person. He daily took his four stated meals, appropriating exactly an hour to each; he smoked and doubtod eight hours, and he slept the remaining twelve of the four-and-twenty. Such was the renowned Wouter Van Twiller-a true philosopher, for his mind was either elevated above, or tranquilly set: tled below, the cares and perplexities of this world. He had lived in it for years, without feeling the least curiosity to know whether the sun revolved round it, or it round the sun; and he had even watched for at least balf a century, the smoke curling from his pipe to the ceiling, with out once troubling his head with any of those numerous theories, by which a philosopher would have perplexed his brain, in accounting for its rising above the surrounding atmosphere

In his council he presided with great state and solemnity. He sat in a huge chair of solid oak hewn in the celebrated forest of the Hague, fabricated by an experienced Timmerman of Amsterdam, and curiously carved about the arms and feet, into exact imitations of gigantic eagles' claws. Instead of a sceptre, he swayed a long Turkish pipe, wrought with jasmin and amber, which had been presented to a stadtholder of Holland, at the conclusion of a treaty with one of the petty Barbary powers. In this stately chair would he sit, and this magnificent pipe would he smoke, shaking his right knee with a constant motion, and fixing his eyes for hours together upon a little print of Amsterdam, which hung in a black frame against the opposite wall of the council chamber. Nay,

it has even been said, that when any deliberation of extraordinary length and intricacy was on the carpet, the renowned Wouter would absolutely shut his eyes for full two hours at a time, that he might not be disturbed by external objects; and at such times the internal commo. tion of his mind was evinced by certain regular guttural sounds, which his admirers declared were merely the noise of conflict made by his contending doubts and opinions.

It is with infinite difficulty I have been enabled to colo lect these biographical anecdotes of the great man under consideration. The facts respecting hina were so scattered and vague, and divers of them so questionable in point of authenticity, that I have had to give up the search after many, and decline the admission of still more, which would have tended to heighten the colouring of his portrait.

I have been the more anxious to delineate fully the person and habits of the renowned Van Twiller, from the consideration that he was not only the first, but also the best governor that ever presided over this ancient and respectable province; and so tranquil and benevolent was his reign that I do not find, throughout the whole of it, a single instance of any offender being brought to punishment;

a most indubitable sign of a merciful governor, and a case unparalleled, excepting in the reign of the illustrious King Log, from whom, it is hinted, the renowned Van Twiller was a lineal descendent.

The very outset of the career of this excellent magis trate, like that of Solomon, or to speak more appropriately, like that of the illustrious governor of Barataria, was distinguished by an example of legal acumen, that gave flattering presage of a wise and equitable administration. The very morning after he had been solemnly installed in office, and at the moment that he was making bis breakfast from a prodigious earthen dish, filled with milk and Indian pudding he was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of one Wandle Schoonhoven, a very important old burgher of New-Amsterdam, who complained bitterly of one Barent Bleecker, inasmuch as he fraudu

The sage

lently refused to come to a settlement of accounts, seeing that there was a heavy balance in favour of the said Wandle. Governor Van Twiller, as I have already observed, was a man of few words; he was likewise a mortal enemy to multiplying writings, or being disturbed at his breakfast. Having listened attentively to the statement of Wandle Schoonhoven, giving an occasional grunt, as he shovelled a mighty spoonful of Indian pudding into his mouth-either as a sign that he relished the dish, or comprehended the story: be called unto him his constable, and pulling out of his breeches pocket a huge jackknife, despatched it after the defendant as a summons, accompanied by his tobacco box as a warrant.

This summary process was as effectual in those simple days as was the seal ring of the great Haroun Alraschid among the true believers.

The two parties, being confronted before him, each produced a book of accounts, written in a language and character that would have puzzled any but a high Dutch commentator, or a learned decipherer of Egyptian obelisks, to understand. Wouter took them one after the other, and having poised them in his hands, and attentively counted over the number of leaves, fell straightway into a very great doubt, and smoked for half an hour without saying a word; at length, laying his finger beside his nose, and shutting bis eyes for a moment, with the air of a man who has just caught a subtle idea by the tail, he slowly took his pipe from his mouth, puffed forth a column of tobacco smoke, and with marvellous gravity and solemnity pronounced that having carefully counted over the leaves, and weighed the books, it was found, that one was just as thick and as heavy as the other therefore it was the final opinion of the court, that the accounts were equally balanced-therefore Wandle should give Barent a receipt, and Barent should give Wandle a receipt-and the constable should pay the costs.

This decision being straightway made known, diffused general joy throughout New-Amsterdam; for the people immediately perceived, that they had a very wise and equitable magistrate to rule over them. But its happiest

I am

effect was, that not another lawsuit took place throughout the whole of his administration; and the office of constable fell into such decay, that there was not one of those losel scouts known in the province for many years. the more particular in dwelling on this transaction, not only because I deem it one of the most sage and righteous judgments on record, and well worthy the attention of modern magistrates, but because it was a miraculous event in the history of the renowned Wouter-being the only time he was ever known to come to a decision, in the whole course of his life.

The Grand Council of New-Amsterdam-with Reasons

why an Alderman should be Fat.

To assist the doubtful Wouter in the arduous business of legislation, a board of magistrates was appointed, which presided immed over the police. This potent body consisted of a schout or bailiff, with powers between those of the present mayor and sheriff; five burgermeesters, who were equivalent to aldermen; and five schepens, who officiated as scrubs, sub-devils, or bottle-holders, to the bur. germesteers, in the same manner as do assistant aldermen to their principals at the present day—it being their duty to fill the pipes of the lordly burgermeesters, hunt the markets for delicacies for corporation dinners, and to discharge such other little offices of kindness, as were occasionally required. It was, moreover, tacitly understood, though not specifically enjoined, that they should consider themselves as butts for the blunt wits of the bur. germeesters, and should laugh most heartily at all their jokes; but this last was a duty as rarely called in action in those days as it is at present, and was shortly remitted, in consequence of the tragical death of a fat little schepen, who actually died of suffocation in an unsuccessful effort to force a laugh at one of burgermeester Van Zandt's best jokes.


In return for these humble services, they were permitted to say, yes and no at the council board, and to have that enviable privilege, the run of the publie kitchen; being graciously permitted to eat, and drink, and smoke, at all those snug junkettings, and public gormandizings, før which the ancient magistrates were equally famous with their more modern successors. The post of schepen, therefore, like that of assistant alderman, was eagerly coveted by all your burghers of a certain description, who have a huge relish for good feeding, and an humble ambition to be great men in a small way--who thirst after a little brief authority, that shall render them the terror of the alms-house and the bridewell that shall enable them to lord it over obsequious poverty, vagrant vice, outcast prostitution, and hunger-driven dishonesty—that shall place in their hands the lesser, but galling scourge of the law, and give to their beck a houndlike pack of catchpoles and bum-bailiffs-tenfold greater rogues than the culprits they hunt down! Myreaders willexcuse this sudden warmth, which I confess is unbecoming of a grave historian; but I have a mortal'antipathy to catchpoles, bum-bailiffs, and little great men.

The ancient magistrates of this city corresponded with those of the present time no less in form, magnitude, and intellect, than in prerogative and privilege. The burgoMasters, like our aldermen, were generally chosen by weight; and not only the weight of the body, but likewise the weight of the head. It is a maxim practically observed in all honest, plain thinking, regular cities, that an alderman should be fat-- and the wisdom of this can be proved to a certainty. That the body is in some measure an image of the mind, or rather that the mind is moulded to the body, like melted' lead to the clay in which it is cast, has been insisted on by many men of science, who have made human nature their peculiar study. For as a learned gentleman of our own city observes, " there is a constant relation between the moral character of all intelligent oreatures, and their physical constitution--between their habits and the structure of their bodies.” Thus we see, that a lean, spare, diminutive body is generally accompanied by

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »