The burghers gazed at it for a time in silent awe, as a wary housewife does at a gun, fearful it may go off half-cocked. The document in question had a sinister look, it is true; it was crabbed in text, and from a broad red ribbon dangled the great seal of the province, about the size of a buckwheat pancake. Herein, however, existed the wonder of the invention. The document in question was a proclamation, ordering the Yankees to depart instantly from the territories of their High Mightinesses, under pain of suffering all the forfeitures and punishments in such case made and provided. It was on the moral effect of this formidable instrument that Wilhelmus Kieft calculated; pledging his valor as a governor that, once fulminated against the Yankees, it would in less than two months drive every mother’s son of them across the borders.
The council broke up in perfect wonder, and nothing was talked of for some time among the old men and women of New Amsterdam but the vast genius of the governor and his new and cheap mode of fighting by proclamation.
As to Wilhelmus Kieft, having dispatched his proclamation to the frontiers, he put on his cocked hat and corduroy small clothes, and, mounting a tall, raw-boned charger, trotted out to his rural retreat of Dog’s Misery. Here, like the good Numa, he reposed from the toils of state, taking lessons in government, not from the nymph Egeria, but from the honored wife of his bosom, who was one of that class of females, sent upon the earth a little after the flood, as a punishment for the sins of mankind, and commonly known by the appellation of knowing women. In fact, my duty as an historian obliges me to make known a circumstance which was a great secret at the time, and consequently was not a subject of scandal at more than half the tea tables in New Amsterdam, but which, like many other great secrets, has leaked out in the lapse of years; and this was, that Wilhelmus the Testy, though one of the most potent little men that ever breathed, yet submitted at home to a species of government, neither laid down in Aristotle or Plato; in short, it partook of the nature of a pure, unmixed tyranny, and is familiarly denominated petticoat government. An absolute sway, which, although exceedingly common in these modern days, was very rare among the ancients, if we may judge from the rout made about the domestic economy of honest Socrates, which is the only ancient case on record.
The great Kieft, however, warded off all the sneers and sarcasms of his particular friends, who are ever ready to joke with a man on sore points of the kind, by alleging that it was a government of his own election, to which he submitted through choice; adding, at the same time, a profound maxim which he had found in an ancient author, that “he who would aspire to govern should first learn to obey.”