« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
discovered the marvellous sympathy between the seat of honour and the seat of intellect, and that the shortest way to get knowledge into the head was to hammer it into the bottom.—Then the Van Grolls of Anthony's Nose, who carried their liquor in fair round little potiles, by reason they could not bouse it out of their canteens, having such rare long noses. — Then the Gardeniers, of Hudson and thereabouts, distinguished by many triumphant feats, such as robbing watermelon patches, smoking rabbits out of their holes, and the like, and by being great lovers of roasted pig's tails: these were the ancestors of the renowned congressman of that name.-— Then the Van Hoesen's of Sing-Song, great choristers and players upon the Jew's-harp: these marched two and two, singing the great song of St. Nicholas.—Then the Couenhovens, of Sleepy Hollow : these gave birth to a jolly race of publicans, who first discovered the magic art of conjuring à quart of wine into a pint bottle. Then the Van Kortlandts, who lived on the wild banks of the Croton, and were great killers of wild ducks, being much spoken of for their skill in shooting with the long bow.-Then the Van Bunschotens, of Nyock and Kakiat, who were the first that did ever kick with the left foot; they were gallant bush-whackers, and hunters of racoons, by moonlight.
- Then the Van Winkles of Haerlem, potent suckers of eggs, and noted for running of horses, and running up of scores at taverns: they were the first that ever winked with both eyes at once.-Lastly, came the KNICKERBOCKERS, of the great town of Schahtikoke, where the folk lay stones upon the houses in windy weather, lest they should be blown away.
These derive their name, as some say, from Kniker, to shake, and Becker, a goblet, indicating thereby that they were sturdy tosspots of yore; but, in truth, it was derived from Knicker, to nod, and Boeken, books, plainly meaning that they were great nodders or dozers over books : froin them did descend the writer of this history.
Such was the legion of sturdy bush-beaters, that poured in at the grand gate of New-Amsterdam. The Stuyvesant manuscript, indeed, speaks of many more, whose names I omit to mention, seeing that it behoves me to hasten ta matters of greater moment. Nothing could surpass the joy and martial pride of the lion-hearted Peter, as he reviewed this mighty host of warriors; and he deter
mined no longer to defer the gratification of his much wished-for revenge, upon the scoundrel Swedes at Fort Casimir.
But before I hasten to record those unmatchable events which will be found in the sequel of this faithful history, let me pause to notice the fate of Jacobus Von Poffenburgh, the discomfitted commander-in-chief of the armies of the New-Netherlands. Such is the inherent uncharitableness of human nature, that scarcely did the news become public, of his deplorable discomfiture at Fort Casimir than a thousand scurvy rumours were set afloat in New-Amsterdam ; wherein it was insinuated, that he had in reality a treacherous understanding with the Swedish commander ; that he had long been in the practice of privately communicating with the Swedes; together with divers hints about "secret service money,"—to all which deadly charges I do not give a jot more credit than I think they deserve.
Čertain it is, that the general vindicated his character by the most vehement oaths and protestations, and put every man out of the ranks of honour who dared to doubt his integrity. Moreover, on returning to New-Amsterdam, he paraded up and down the streets with a crew of hard swearers at his heels, --sturdy bottle companions, whom he gorged and fattened, and who were ready to bolster him through all the courts of justice,-heroes of his own kidney, fierce whiskered, broad shouldered, colbrand looking swaggerers, not one of whom but looked as though he could eat up an ox, and pick his teeth with the horns. These life-guard men quarrelled all his quarrels, were ready to fight all his battles, and scowled at every man that turned up his nose to the general, as though they would devour him alive. Their conversation was interspersed with oaths like minute
every bombastic rhọdomontado was rounded off by a thundering execration like a patriotic toast honoured with a discharge of artillery.
All these valorous vapourings had a considerable effect in convincing certain profound sages, many of whom began to think the general a hero of unutterable loftiness and magnanimity of soul, particularly as he was continually protesting on the honour of a soldier,-a marvellously high sounding asseveration. Nay, one of the members of the council went so far as to propose they should immortalize him by an imperishable statue of plaster of Paris.
But the vigilant Peter the Headstrong was not thus to be deceived. Sending privately for the commander-inchief of all the armies, and having heard all his story, garnished with the customary pious oaths, protestations, and ejaculations—"Harkee, comrade," cried he, “though by your own account you are the most brave, upright, and honourable man in the whole province, yet do you lie under the misfortune of being damnably traduced and immeasurably despised. Now though it is certainly hard to punish a man for his misfortunes, and though it is very possible you are totally innocent of the crimes laid to your charge; yet as heaven, at present, doubtless for some wise purpose, sees fit to withhold all proofs of your innocence, far be it from me to counteract its sovereign will. Beside, I cannot consent to venture my armies with a commander whom they despise, or to trust the welfare of my people to a champion whom they distrust. Retire, therefore, my friend, from the irksome toils and cares of public life, with this comforting reflection--that if you be guilty, you are but enjoying your just reward and if innocent, that you are not the first great and good man, who has most wrongfully been slandered and maltreated in this wicked world doubtless to be better treated in a better world, where there shall neither be error, calumny, nor persecution. In the mean time let me never see your face again, for I have a horrid antipathy to the countenances of unfortunate great men like yourself.”
Of Peter Stuyvesant's expedition into the East Country; showing that, though anold Bird, he did not understand
Trap. GREAT nations resemble great men in this particular, that their greatness is seldom known until they get in trouble; adversity, therefore, has been wisely denominated the ordeal of true greatness, which, like gold, can never receive its real estimation until it has passed through the furnace. In proportion, therefore, as a nation, a community, or an individual (possessing the inherent quality of greatness) is involved in perils and misfortunes, in proportion does it rise in grandeur—and even when sinking under calamity, makes, like a house on fire, a more glo
sious display than ever it did, in the fairest period of its prosperity.
The vast empire of China, though teeming with population, and imbibing and concentrating the wealth of nations, has vegetated through a succession of drowsy ages; and were it not for its internal revolution, and the subversion of its ancient government by the Tartars, might have presented nothing but an uninteresting detail of dull, monotonous prosperity. Pompeii and Herculaneum might have passed into oblivion, with a herd of their contemporaries, had they not been fortunately overwhelmed by a volcano. The renowned city of Troy has acquired celebrity only from its ten years' distress and final conflagration; Paris rises in importance by the plots and massacres which have ended in the exaltation of the illustrious Napoleon ; and even the mighty London itself has skulked through the records of time, celebrated for nothing of moment, excepting the plague, the great fire, and Guy Faux's gunpowder plot! Thus cities and empires seem to creep along, enlarging in silent obscurity under the pen of the historian, until at length they burst forth in some tremendous calamity, and snatch, as it were, immortality from the explosion !
The above principle being admitted, my reader will plainly perceive that the city of New-Amsterdam and its dependent province are on the high road to greatness. Dangers and hostilities threaten from every side, and it is really a matter of astonishment to me, how so small a state has been able, in so short a time, to entangle itself in so many difficulties. Ever since the province was first taken by the nose, at the Fort of Good Hope, in the tranquil days of Wouter Van Twiller, has it been gradually increasing in historic importance; and never could it have had a more appropriate chieftain to conduct it to the pinnacle of grandeur than Peter Stuyvesant.
In the fiery heart of this iron-headed old warrior sat enthroned all those five kinds of courage described by Aristotle; and had the philosopher mentioned five hundred more to the back of them, I verily believe, he would have been found master of them all. The only misfortune was, that he was deficient in the better part of valour called discretion, a cold blooded virtue which could not exist in the tropical climate of his mighty soul. Hence it was, he was continually hurrying into those unheard-of enterprises that gave an air of chivalric romance to all his history; and and hence it was, that he now conceived a project worthy of the hero of La Mancha himself.
This was no other than to repair in person to the great council of the Amphyctions, bearing the sword in one hand, and the olive branch in the other; to require immediate reparation for the innumerable violations of that treaty, which, in an evil hour, he had formed; to put a stop to those repeated maraudings on the eastern borders ; or else to throw the gauntlet, and appeal to arms for satisfaction.
On declaring this resolution in his privy council, the venerable members were seized with vast astonishment : for once in their lives they ventured to remonstrate, setting forth the rashness of exposing his sacred person in the midst of a strange and barbarous people, with sundry other weighty remonstrances—all which had about as much influence upon the determination of the headstrong Peter, as though you were to endeavour to turn a rusty weathercock with a broken-winded bellows.
Summoning therefore, to his presence his trusty follower, Anthony Van Córlear, he commanded him to hold himself in readiness to accompany him the following morning on this his hazardous enterprise. Now Anthony, the trumpeter, was a little stricken in years, yet by dint of keeping up a good heart, and having never known care or sorrow (having never been married), he was still a hearty, jocund, rubicund, gamesome wag, and of great capacity in the doublet. This last was ascribed to his living a jolly life on those domains at the Hook, which Peter Stuyvesant had granted to him for his gallantry at Fort Casimir.
Be this as it may, there was nothing that more delighted Anthony than this command of the great Peter; for he could have followed the stout-hearted old governor to the world's end, with love and loyalty: and he moreover still remembered the frolicking, and dancing, and bundling, and other disports of the east country; and entertained dainty recollection of numerous kind and buxom lasses, whom he longed exceedingly again to encounter.
Thus, then, did this mirror of hardihood set forth, with no other attendant but his trumpeter, upon one of the most perilous enterprises ever recorded in the annals of knighterrantry. For a single warrior to venture openly among a whole nation of foes; but, above all, for a plain, downright Dutchman to think of negotiating with the whole