As Governor Stuyvesant stood at that point, burning with indignation, with the word to fire almost upon his lips, the two clergymen of the place, Messrs. Megapolensis and son, came up and entreated him not to be the first to shed blood in a hopeless conflict. Their persuasions induced the governor to leave the rampart, and intrusting the defence of the fort to fifty men, to take the remainder of the garrison, one hundred in number, to repel if possible, the English, should they attempt a landing. The governor still cherished a faint hope that some accommodation could yet be agreed upon.
The Directors in Holland subsequently, with great severity and, as we think, with great injustice, censured Governor Stuyvesant for his conduct on this occasion. The whole population of the little city was but fifteen hundred. Of them not more than two hundred and fifty were able to bear arms, in addition to the one hundred and fifty regular troops in garrison. And yet the Directors in Holland wrote, in the following cruel terms, to the heroic governor:
“It is an act which can never be justified, that a Director General should stand between the gabions, while the hostile frigates pass the fort, and the mouths of twenty pieces of cannon, and yet give no orders to prevent it. It is unpardonable that he should lend his ear to preachers, and other chicken-hearted persons, demeaning himself as if he were willing to fire, and yet to allow himself to be led in from the bulwark between the preachers. When the frigates had sailed past, he became so troubled that he must then first go out to prevent their landing. The excuse, that it was resolved not to begin hostilities, is very poor, for the English had committed every hostile act.”
The governor immediately sent to Colonel Nicholls a flag of truce conveyed by four of the most distinguished officers of State. Through them he said:
“I feel obliged to defend the city, in obedience to orders. It is inevitable that much blood will be shed on the occurrence of the assault. Cannot some accommodation yet be agreed upon? Friends will be welcome if they come in a friendly manner.”
The laconic, decisive and insulting response of Colonel Nicholls was:
“I have nothing to do but to execute my mission. To accomplish that I hope to have further conversation with you on the morrow, at the Manhattans. You say that friends will be welcome, if they come in a friendly manner. I shall come with ships and soldiers. And he will be bold indeed who will dare to come on board my ships, to demand an answer or to solicit terms. What then is to be done? Hoist the white flag of surrender, and then something may be considered.”
When this imperious message became known it created the greatest consternation throughout the city. Men, women and children flocked to the governor, and, with tears in their eyes, implored him to submit. A brief bombardment would cause the death of hundreds, and would lay the city in ashes. “I had rather,” the governor replied, “be carried a corpse to my grave, than to surrender the city.”