CONTAINING THE THIRD PART OF THE REIGN OF PETER THE HEADSTRONG—HIS TROUBLES WITH THE BRITISH NATION, AND THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE DUTCH DYNASTY.
The history of the reign of Peter Stuyvesant furnishes an edifying picture of the cares and vexations inseparable from sovereignty, and a solemn warning to all who are ambitious of attaining the seat of honor. Though returning in triumph and crowned with victory, his exultation was checked on observing the abuses which had sprung up in New Amsterdam during his short absence. His walking-staff which he had sent home to act as his vicegerent, had, it is true, kept his council chamber in order; the counsellors eyeing it with awe as it lay in grim repose upon the table, and smoking their pipes in silence; but its control extended not out of doors.
The populace unfortunately had had too much their own way under the slack though fitful reign of William the Testy; and though upon the accession of Peter Stuyvesant they had felt, with the instinctive perception which mobs as well as cattle possess, that the reins of government had passed into stronger hands, yet could they not help fretting and chafing and champing upon, the bit in restive silence.
Scarcely, therefore, had he departed on his expedition against the Swedes, than the whole factions of William Kieft’s reign had again thrust their heads above water. Pot-house meetings were again held to “discuss the state of the nation,” where cobblers, tinkers, and tailors, the self-dubbed “friends of the people,” once more felt themselves inspired with the gift of legislation, and undertook to lecture on every movement of government.
Now, as Peter Stuyvesant had a singular inclination to govern the province by his individual will, his first move on his return, was to put a stop to this gratuitous legislation. Accordingly, one evening, when an inspired cobbler was holding forth to an assemblage of the kind, the intrepid Peter suddenly made his appearance with his ominous walking staff in his hand, and a countenance sufficient to petrify a millstone. The whole meeting was thrown into confusion—the orators stood aghast, with open mouth and trembling knees, while “Horror!” “Tyranny!” “Liberty!” “Rights!” “Taxes!” “Death!” “Destruction!” and a host of other patriotic phrases, were bolted forth before he had time to close his lips. Peter took no notice of the skulking throng, but strode up to the brawling, bully-ruffian, and pulling out a huge silver watch, which might have served in times of yore as a town-clock, and which is still retained by his descendants as a family curiosity, requested the orator to mend it and set it going. The orator humbly confessed it was utterly out of his power, as he was unacquainted with the nature of its construction. “Nay, but,” said Peter, “try your ingenuity, man; you see all the springs and wheels and how easily the clumsiest hand may stop it, and