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Chapter 2

  • The very first movements of the great Peter, on taking the reins o_overnment, displayed his magnanimity, though they occasioned not a littl_arvel and uneasiness among the people of the Manhattoes. Finding himsel_onstantly interrupted by the opposition, and annoyed by the advice of hi_rivy council, the members of which had acquired the unreasonable habit o_hinking and speaking to themselves during the preceding reign, he determine_t once to put a stop to such grievous abominations. Scarcely, therefore, ha_e entered upon his authority, than he turned out of office all the meddlesom_pirits of the factious cabinet of William the Testy; in place of whom h_hose unto himself councillors from those fat, somniferous, respectabl_urghers who had flourished and slumbered under the easy reign of Walter th_oubter. All these he caused to be furnished with abundance of fair lon_ipes, and to be regaled with frequent corporation dinners, admonishing the_o smoke, and eat, and sleep for the good of the nation, while he took th_urden of government upon his own shoulders—an arrangement to which they al_ave hearty acquiescence.
  • Nor did he stop here, but made a hideous rout among the inventions an_xpedients of his learned predecessor—rooting up his patent gallows, wher_aitiff vagabonds were suspended by the waistband; demolishing his flag-staff_nd windmills, which, like mighty giants, guarded the ramparts of Ne_msterdam; pitching to the Duyvel whole batteries of Quaker guns; and, in _ord, turning topsy-turvy the whole philosophic, economic, and windmill syste_f the immortal sage of Saardam.
  • The honest folk of New Amsterdam began to quake now for the fate of thei_atchless champion, Antony the Trumpeter, who had acquired prodigious favor i_he eyes of the women by means of his whiskers and his trumpet. Him did Pete_he Headstrong cause to be brought into his presence, and eyeing him for _oment from head to foot, with a countenance that would have appalled anythin_lse than a sounder of brass—"Pr'ythee, who and what art thou?" said he.
  • "Sire," replied the other, in no wise dismayed, "for my name, it is Antony Va_orlear—for my parentage, I am the son of my mother—for my profession, I a_hampion and garrison of this great city of New Amsterdam." "I doubt me much,"
  • said Peter Stuyvesant, "that thou art some scurvy costard-monger knave: ho_idst thou acquire this paramount honor and dignity?" "Marry, sir," replie_he other, "like many a great man before me, simply by sounding my ow_rumpet." "Ay, is it so?" quoth the governor; "why, then, let us have a relis_f thy art." Whereupon the good Antony put his instrument to his lips, an_ounded a charge with such tremendous outset, such a delectable quaver, an_uch a triumphant cadence, that it was enough to make one's heart leap out o_ne's mouth only to be within a mile of it. Like as a war-worn charger,
  • grazing in peaceful plains, starts at a strain of martial music, pricks up hi_ars, and snorts, and paws, and kindles at the noise, so did the heroic Pete_oy to hear the clangor of the trumpet; for of him might truly be said, wha_as recorded of the renowned St. George of England, "there was nothing in al_he world that more rejoiced his heart than to hear the pleasant sound of war,
  • and see the soldiers brandish forth their steeled weapons." Casting his ey_ore kindly, therefore, upon the sturdy Van Corlear, and finding him to be _ovial varlet, shrewd in his discourse, yet of great discretion an_mmeasurable wind, he straightway conceived a vast kindness for him, an_ischarging him from the troublesome duty of garrisoning, defending, an_larming the city, ever after retained him about his person, as his chie_avorite, confidential envoy, and trusty squire. Instead of disturbing th_ity with disastrous notes, he was instructed to play so as to delight th_overnor while at his repasts, as did the minstrels of yore in the days o_lorious chivalry; and on all public occasions to rejoice the ears of th_eople with warlike melody, thereby keeping alive a noble and martial spirit.
  • But the measure of the valiant Peter which produced the greatest agitation i_he community was his laying his hand upon the currency. He had old-fashione_otions in favor of gold and silver, which he considered the true standards o_ealth and mediums of commerce, and one of his first edicts was that al_uties to government should be paid in those precious metals, and tha_eawant, or wampum, should no longer be a legal tender.
  • Here was a blow at public prosperity! All those who speculated on the rise an_all of this fluctuating currency found their calling at an end; those, too,
  • who had hoarded Indian money by barrels full, found their capital shrunk i_mount; but, above all, the Yankee traders, who were accustomed to flood th_arket with newly-coined oyster-shells, and to abstract Dutch merchandise i_xchange, were loud-mouthed in decrying this "tampering with the currency." I_as clipping the wings of commerce; it was checking the development of publi_rosperity; trade would be at an end; goods would moulder on the shelves;
  • grain would rot in the granaries; grass would grow in the marketplace. In _ord, no one who has not heard the outcries and howlings of a modern Tarshish,
  • at any check upon "paper money," can have any idea of the clamor against Pete_he Headstrong for checking the circulation of oyster-shells.
  • In fact, trade did shrink into narrower channels; but then the stream was dee_s it was broad. The honest Dutchman sold less goods; but then they got th_orth of them, either in silver and gold, or in codfish, tinware, apple-
  • brandy, Weathersfield onions, wooden bowls, and other articles of Yanke_arter. The ingenious people of the east, however, indemnified themselves i_nother way for having to abandon the coinage of oyster-shells, for about thi_ime we are told that wooden nutmegs made their first appearance in Ne_msterdam, to the great annoyance of the Dutch housewives.
  • > NOTE.
  • > From a manuscript record of the province (Lib, N.Y. Hist, Soc.).—"We hav_een unable to render your inhabitants wiser, and prevent their being, furthe_mposed upon, than to declare, absolutely and peremptorily, that henceforwar_eawant shall be bullion—not longer admissable in trade, without any value, a_t is indeed. So that every one may be upon his guard to barter no longer awa_is wares and merchandise for these baubles; at least not to accept them at _igher rate, or in a larger quantity, than as they may want them in thei_rade with the savages.
  • >
  • > "In this way your English [Yankee] neighbors shall no longer be enabled t_raw the best wares and merchandise from our country for nothing; the beaver_nd furs not excepted. This has, indeed, long since been insufferable;
  • although it ought chiefly to be imputed to the imprudent penuriousness of ou_wn merchants and inhabitants, who, it is to be hoped, shall, through th_bolition of this seawant, become wiser and more prudent.
  • >
  • > "27th January, 1662,
  • >
  • > "Seawant falls into disrepute; duties to be paid in silver coin."