Great nations resemble great men in this particular, that their greatness i_eldom known until they get in trouble; adversity, therefore, has been wisel_enominated the ordeal of true greatness, which, like gold, can never receiv_ts real estimation until it has passed through the furnace. In proportion,
therefore, as a nation, a community, or an individual (possessing the inheren_uality of greatness) is involved in perils and misfortunes, in proportio_oes it rise in grandeur; and even when sinking under calamity, makes, like _ouse on fire, a more glorious display than ever it did in the fairest perio_f its prosperity.
The vast Empire of China, though teeming with population and imbibing an_oncentrating the wealth of nations, has vegetated through a succession o_rowsy ages; and were it not for its internal revolution, and the subversio_f its ancient government by the Tartars, might have presented nothing but _ull detail of monotonous prosperity. Pompeii and Herculaneum might hav_assed into oblivion, with a herd of their contemporaries, had they not bee_ortunately overwhelmed by a volcano. The renowned city of Troy acquire_elebrity only from its ten years' distress and final conflagration. Pari_ose in importance by the plots and massacres which ended in the exaltation o_apoleon; and even the mighty London has skulked through the records of time,
celebrated for nothing of moment excepting the Plague, the Great Fire, and Gu_aux's Gunpowder Plot! Thus cities and empires creep along, enlarging i_ilent obscurity, until they burst forth in some tremendous calamity, an_natch, as it were, immortality from the explosion.
The above principle being admitted, my reader will plainly perceive that th_ity of New Amsterdam and its dependent province are on the high road t_reatness. Dangers and hostilities threaten from every side, and it is reall_ matter of astonishment how so small a State has been able in so short a tim_o entangle itself in so many difficulties. Ever since the province was firs_aken by the nose, at the Fort of Good Hope, in the tranquil days of Woute_an Twiller, has it been gradually increasing in historic importance: an_ever could it have had a more appropriate chieftain to conduct it to th_innacle of grandeur than Peter Stuyvesant.
This truly headstrong hero having successfully effected his daring progres_hrough the east country, girded up his loins as he approached Boston, an_repared for the grand onslaught with the Amphictyons, which was to be th_rowning achievement of the campaign. Throwing Antony Van Corlear, who, wit_is calico mare, formed his escort and army, a little in the advance, an_idding him be of stout heart and great mind, he placed himself firmly in hi_addle, cocked his hat more fiercely over his left eye, summoned all th_eroism of his soul into his countenance, and, with one arm akimbo, the han_esting on the pommel of his sword, rode into the great metropolis of th_eague, Antony sounding his trumpet before him in a manner to electrify th_hole community.
Never was there such a stir in Boston as on this occasion; never such _urrying hither and thither about the streets; such popping of heads out o_indows; such gathering of knots in market-places Peter Stuyvesant was _traightforward man, and prone to do everything above board. He would hav_idden at once to the great council-house of the league and sounded a parley;
but the grand council knew the mettlesome hero they had to deal with, and wer_ot for doing things in a hurry. On the contrary, they sent forth deputation_o meet him on the way, to receive him in a style befitting the grea_otentate of the Manhattoes, and to multiply all kinds of honors, an_eremonies, and formalities, and other courteous impediments in his path.
Solemn banquets were accordingly given him, equal to thanksgiving feasts.
Complimentary speeches were made him, wherein he was entertained with th_urpassing virtues, long sufferings, and achievements of the Pilgrim Fathers;
and it is even said he was treated to a sight of Plymouth Rock, that grea_orner-stone of Yankee empire.
I will not detain my readers by recounting the endless devices by which tim_as wasted, and obstacles and delays multiplied to the infinite annoyance o_he impatient Peter. Neither will I fatigue them by dwelling on hi_egotiations with the grand council, when he at length brought them t_usiness. Suffice it to say, it was like most other diplomatic negotiations; _reat deal was said and very little done; one conversation led to another; on_onference begot misunderstandings which it took a dozen conferences t_xplain, at the end of which both parties found themselves just where they ha_egun, but ten times less likely to come to an agreement.
In the midst of these perplexities, which bewildered the brain and incense_he ire of honest Peter, he received private intelligence of the dar_onspiracy matured in the British Cabinet, with the astounding fact that _ritish squadron was already on the way to invade New Amsterdam by sea, an_hat the grand council of Amphictyons, while thus beguiling him wit_ubtleties, were actually prepared to co-operate by land!
Oh! how did the sturdy old warrior rage and roar when he found himself thu_ntrapped, like a lion in the hunter's toil! Now did he draw his trusty sword,
and determine to break in upon the council of the Amphictyons, and put ever_other's son of them to death. Now did he resolve to fight his way throughou_ll the regions of the east, and to lay waste Connecticut river.
Gallant, but unfortunate Peter! Did I not enter with sad forebodings on thi_ll-starred expedition? Did I not tremble when I saw thee, with no othe_ouncillor than thine own head; no other armour but an honest tongue, _potless conscience, and a rusty sword; no other protector but St. Nicholas,
and no other attendant but a trumpeter—did I not tremble when I beheld the_hus sally forth to contend with all the knowing powers of New England?
It was a long time before the kind-hearted expostulations of Antony Va_orlear, aided by the soothing melody of his trumpet, could lower the spirit_f Peter Stuyvesant from their warlike and vindictive tone, and prevent hi_aking widows and orphans of half the population of Boston. With grea_ifficulty he was prevailed upon to bottle up his wrath for the present; t_onceal from the council his knowledge of their machinations; and by effectin_is escape, to be able to arrive in time for the salvation of the Manhattoes.
The latter suggestion awakened a new ray of hope in his bosom; he forthwit_ispatched a secret message to his councillors at New Amsterdam, apprisin_hem of their danger, and commanding them to put the city in a posture o_efense, promising to come as soon as possible to their assistance. This done,
he felt marvelously relieved, rose slowly, shook himself like a rhinoceros,
and issued forth from his den, in much the same manner as Giant Despair i_escribed to have issued from Doubting Castle, in the chivalric history of th_ilgrim's Progress.
And now much does it grieve me that I must leave the gallant Peter in thi_mminent jeopardy; but it behooves us to hurry back and see what is going o_t New Amsterdam, for greatly do I fear that city is already in a turmoil.
Such was ever the fate of Peter Stuyvesant; while doing one thing with hear_nd soul he was too apt to leave everything else at sixes and sevens. While,
like a potentate of yore, he was absent attending to those things in perso_hich in modern days are trusted to generals and ambassadors, his littl_erritory at home was sure to get in an uproar—all which was owing to tha_ncommon strength of intellect which induced him to trust to nobody bu_imself, and which had acquired him the renowned appellation of Peter th_eadstrong.