Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

hearted vagabonds) melted not into tears; nor did the trees hang their heads in silent sorrow; and as to the sun, he laid abed the next night, just as long, and shewed as jolly a face when he arose, as he ever did on the same day of the month in any year, either before or since. The good people of New Amsterdam, one and all, declared that he had been a very busy, active, bustling little governor; that he was "the father of his country"-that he was

the noblest work of God"--that "he was a man, take him for all in all, they never should look upon his like again"--together with sundry other civil and affectionate speeches that are regularly said on the death of all great men; after which they smoked their pipes, thought no more about him, and Peter Stuyvesant succeeded to his station.

Peter Stuyvesant was the last, and like the renowned Wouter Van Twiller, he was also the best, of our ancient dutch governors. Wouter having surpassed all who preceded him; and Pieter, or Piet, as he was sociably called by the old dutch burghers, who were ever prone to familiarize names, having never been equalled by any successor. He was in fact the very man fitted by nature to retrieve the desperate fortunes of her beloved province, had not the fates or parcæ, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos, those most potent, immaculate and unrelenting of all ancient and immortal spinsters, destined them to inextricable confusion

To say merely that he was a hero would be doing him unparalleled injustice—he was in truth a combination of heroes-for he was of a sturdy, raw boned make like Ajax Telamon, so famous for his prowess in belabouring the little Trojans-with a pair of round shoulders, that Hercules would have given his hide for, (meaning his lion's hide) when he undertook to ease old Atlas of his load. He was moreover as Plutarch describes Coriolanus, not only terrible for the force of his arm, but likewise of his voice, which sounded as though it came out of a barrel; and like the self same warrior, he possessed a sovereign contempt for the sovereign people, and an iron aspect, which was enough of itself to make the very bowels of his adversaries quake with terror and dismay. All this martial excellency of appearance was inexpressibly heightened by an accidental advantage, with which I am surprised that neither Homer nor Virgil have graced any of their heroes, for it is worth all the paltry scars and wounds in the Iliad and Eneid, or Lucan's Pharsalia into the bargain. This was nothing less than a redoubtable wooden leg, which was the only prize he had gained, in bravely fighting the battles of his country; but of which he was so proud, that he was often heard to declare he valued it more than all his other limbs put together; indeed so highly did he esteem it, that he caused it to be gallantly enchased

and relieved with silver devices, which caused it to. be related in divers histories and legends that he wore a silver leg.*

Like that choleric warrior Achilles, he was somewhat subject to extempore bursts of passion, which were oft-times rather unpleasant to his favourites and attendants, whose perceptions he was apt to quicken, after the manner of his illustrious imitator, Peter the Great, by anointing their shoulders with his walking staff.

But the resemblance for which I most value him was that which he bore in many particulars to the renowned Charlemagne. Though I cannot find that he had read Plato, or Aristotle, or Hobbes, or Bacon, or Algernon Sydney, or Tom Paine, yet did he sometimes manifest a shrewdness and sagacity in his measures, that one would hardly expect from a man, who did not know Greek, and had never studied the ancients. True it is, and I confess it with sorrow, that he had an unreasonable aversion to experiments, and was fond of governing his province after the simplest mannerbut then he contrived to keep it in better order than did the erudite Kieft, though he had all the philosophers ancient and modern, to assist and perplex him. I must likewise own that he made. but very few-laws, but then again he took care that

* See the histories of Masters Josselyn and Blome.

[ocr errors]

those few were rigidly and impartially enforced-.. and I do not know but justice on the whole, was as well administered, as if there had been volumes of sage acts and statutes yearly made, and daily neglected and forgotten.

He was in fact the very reverse of his predecessors, being neither tranquil and inert like Walter the Doubter, nor restless and fidgetting, like William the Testy, but a man, or rather a governor, of such uncommon activity and decision of mind that he never sought or accepted the advice of others; depending confidently upon his single head, as did the heroes of yore upon their single arms, to work his way through all difficulties and dangers. To tell the simple truth he wanted no other requisite for a perfect statesman, than to think always right, for no one can deny that he always acted as he thought, and if he wanted in correctness he made up for it in perseverance--An excellent quality! since it is surely more dignified for a ruler to be persevering and consistent in error, than wavering and contradictory, in endeavouring to do what is right; this much is certain, and I generously make the maxim public, for the benefit of all legislators, both great and small, who stand shaking in the wind, without knowing which way to steer--a ruler who acts according to his own will is sure of pleasing himself, while he who seeks to consult the wishes and whims of others, runs a great risk of

pleasing nobody. The clock that stands still, and points resolutely in one direction, is certain of being right twice in the four and twenty hours-while others may keep going continually, and continually be going wrong.

Nor did this magnanimous virtue escape the discernment of the good people of Nieuw Nederlants; on the contrary so high an opinion had they of the independent mind and vigorous intellects of their new governor, that they universally called him Hard-koppig Piet, or PETER THE HEADSTRONG a great compliment to his understanding!

If from all that I have said thou dost not gather, worthy reader, that Peter Stuyvesant was a tough, sturdy, valiant, weatherbeaten, mettlesome, leathernsided, lion hearted, generous spirited, obstinate, old" seventy six" of a governor, thou art a very numscull at drawing conclusions.

This most excellent governor, whose character I have thus attempted feebly to delineate, commenced his administration on the 29th of May 1647: a remarkably stormy day, distinguished in all the almanacks of the time, which have come down to us, by the name of Windy Friday. As he was very jealous of his personal and official dignity, he was inaugurated into office with great ceremony; the goodly oaken chair of the renowned Wouter Van Twiller, being carefully preserved for such Occasions; in like manner as the chair and stone,

« IndietroContinua »