Peter Stuyvesant, the Last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 214 pages of information about Peter Stuyvesant, the Last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam.

CHAPTER V.

WAR AND ITS DEVASTATIONS.

Approaching Hostilities.—­Noble Remonstrance.—­Massacre of the Natives.—­The War Storm.—­Noble conduct of DeVrees.—­The Humiliation of Kieft.—­Wide-Spread Desolation.—­The Reign of Terror.—­State of Affairs at Fort Nassau.—­The Massacre at Stamford.—­Memorial of the Select Men.—­Kieft Superseded by Peter Stuyvesant.

The year 1643 was a year of terror and of blood in nearly all of the American colonies.  New England was filled with alarm in the apprehension of a general rising of the Indians.  It was said that a benighted traveller could not halloo in the woods without causing fear that the savages were torturing their European captives.  This universal panic pervaded the Dutch settlements.  The wildest stories were circulated at the firesides of the lonely settlers.  Anxiety and terror pervaded all the defenceless hamlets.

DeVrees, rambling one day with his gun upon his shoulder, met an Indian “who was very drunk.”  Coming up to the patroon, the Indian patted him upon the shoulder, in token of friendship, saying,

“You are a good chief.  When we come to see you, you give us milk to drink.  I have just come from Hackensack where they sold me brandy, and then stole my beaver skin coat.  I will take a bloody revenge.  I will go home for my bow and arrows, and shoot one of those rascally Dutchmen who have stolen my coat.”

DeVrees endeavored in vain to soothe him.  He had hardly reached his home ere he heard that the savage had kept his vow.  He had shot and killed an innocent man, one Garret Van Voorst, who was thatching the roof of a house.  The chiefs of the tribe were terror-stricken, through fear of the white man’s vengeance.  They did not dare to go to the fort lest they should be arrested and held as hostages.  But they hastened to an interview with DeVrees, in whom they had confidence, and expressed a readiness to make atonement for the crime, in accordance with the custom of their tribe, by paying a large sum to the widow of the murdered man.

It is worthy of notice that this custom, so universal among the Indians, of a blood atonement of money, was also the usage of the tribes of Greece We read in Homer’s Iliad, as translated by Pope,

               “If a brother bleed,
  On just atonement we remit the deed;
  A sire the slaughter of his sons forgives,
  The price of blood discharged, the murderer lives.”

At length, encouraged by DeVrees and accompanied by him, the chiefs ventured to fort Amsterdam.  They explained to Kieft the occurrence, and proposed the expiatory offering to appease the widow’s grief.  Kieft was inexorable.  Nothing but the blood of the criminal would satisfy him.  In vain they represented that he was the son of a beloved chief, and that already he had fled far away to some distant tribe.  Our sympathy for these men is strongly excited as we read their sorrowful yet noble remonstrance:  “Why,” said they,

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Peter Stuyvesant, the Last Dutch Governor of New Amsterdam from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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