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Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 356 pages of information about Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete.

We are naturally prone to discontent, and avaricious after imaginary causes of lamentation.  Like lubberly monks, we belabor our own shoulders, and take a vast satisfaction in the music of our own groans.  Nor is this said by way of paradox; daily experience shows the truth of these observations.  It is almost impossible to elevate the spirits of a man groaning under ideal calamities; but nothing is easier than to render him wretched, though on the pinnacle of felicity:  as it would be an herculean task to hoist a man to the top of a steeple, though the merest child could topple him off thence.

I must not omit to mention that these popular meetings were generally held at some noted tavern; these public edifices possessing what in modern times are thought the true fountains of political inspiration.  The ancient Germans deliberated upon a matter when drunk, and reconsidered it when sober.  Mob politicians in modern times dislike to have two minds upon a subject, so they both deliberate and act when drunk; by this means a world of delay is spared; and as it is universally allowed that a man when drunk sees double, it follows conclusively that he sees twice as well as his sober neighbors.

CHAPTER VIII.

Wilhelmus Kieft, as has already been observed, was a great legislator on a small scale, and had a microscopic eye in public affairs.  He had been greatly annoyed by the facetious meetings of the good people of New Amsterdam, but observing that on these occasions the pipe was ever in their mouth, he began to think that the pipe was at the bottom of the affair, and that there was some mysterious affinity between politics and tobacco smoke.  Determined to strike at the root of the evil, he began forthwith to rail at tobacco as a noxious, nauseous weed, filthy in all its uses; and as to smoking, he denounced it as a heavy tax upon the public pocket, a vast consumer of time, a great encourager of idleness, and a deadly bane to the prosperity and morals of the people.  Finally, he issued an edict, prohibiting the smoking of tobacco throughout the New Netherlands.  Ill-fated Kieft!  Had he lived in the present age, and attempted to check the unbounded license of the press, he could not have struck more sorely upon the sensibilities of the million.  The pipe, in fact, was the great organ of reflection and deliberation of the New Netherlander.  It was his constant companion and solace—­was he gay, he smoked:  was he sad, he smoked; his pipe was never out of his mouth; it was a part of his physiognomy; without it, his best friends would not know him.  Take away his pipe?  You might as well take away his nose!

The immediate effect of the edict of William the Testy was a popular commotion.  A vast multitude, armed with pipes and tobacco-boxes, and an immense supply of ammunition, sat themselves down before the governor’s house, and fell to smoking with tremendous violence.  The testy William issued forth like a wrathful spider, demanding the reason of this lawless fumigation.  The sturdy rioters replied by lolling back in their seats, and puffing away with redoubled fury, raising such a murky cloud that the governor was fain to take refuge in the interior of his castle.

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