Here was a blow at public prosperity! All those who speculated on the rise and fall of this fluctuating currency found their calling at an end; those, too, who had hoarded Indian money by barrels full, found their capital shrunk in amount; but, above all, the Yankee traders, who were accustomed to flood the market with newly-coined oyster-shells, and to abstract Dutch merchandise in exchange, were loud-mouthed in decrying this “tampering with the currency.” It was clipping the wings of commerce; it was checking the development of public prosperity; 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 a word, 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 Peter the Headstrong for checking the circulation of oyster-shells.
In fact, trade did shrink into narrower channels; but then the stream was deep as it was broad. The honest Dutchman sold less goods; but then they got the worth of them, either in silver and gold, or in codfish, tinware, apple-brandy, Weathersfield onions, wooden bowls, and other articles of Yankee barter. The ingenious people of the east, however, indemnified themselves in another way for having to abandon the coinage of oyster-shells, for about this time we are told that wooden nutmegs made their first appearance in New Amsterdam, to the great annoyance of the Dutch housewives.
From a manuscript record of the province (Lib, N.Y. Hist, Soc.).—“We have been unable to render your inhabitants wiser, and prevent their being, further imposed upon, than to declare, absolutely and peremptorily, that henceforward seawant shall be bullion—not longer admissable in trade, without any value, as it is indeed. So that every one may be upon his guard to barter no longer away his wares and merchandise for these baubles; at least not to accept them at a higher rate, or in a larger quantity, than as they may want them in their trade with the savages.
“In this way your English [Yankee] neighbors shall no longer be enabled to draw the best wares and merchandise from our country for nothing; the beavers and furs not excepted. This has, indeed, long since been insufferable; although it ought chiefly to be imputed to the imprudent penuriousness of our own merchants and inhabitants, who, it is to be hoped, shall, through the abolition of this seawant, become wiser and more prudent.
“27th January, 1662,
“Seawant falls into disrepute; duties to be paid in silver coin.”