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CHAPTER [X.

HOW THE CITY OF NEW-AMSTERDAM WAXED GREAT UNDER

THE PROTECTION OF ST. NICHOLAS AND THE ABSENCE OP

LAWS AND STATUTES.

HOW OLOFFE THE DREAMER BEGAN

TO DREAM OF AN EXTENSION OF EMPIRE, AND OF THE

EFFECT OF HIS DREAMS.

There is something exceedingly delusive in thus looking back, through the long vista of departed years, and catching a glimpse of the fairy realms of antiquity. Like a landscape melting into distance, they receive a thousand charms from their very obscurity, and the fancy delights to fill up their outlines with graces and excellences of its own creation. Thus loom on my imagination those happier days of our city, when as yet NewAmsterdam was a mere pastoral town, shrouded in groves of sycamores and willows, and surrounded by trackless forests and wide-spreading waters, that seemed to shut out all the cares and vanities of a wicked world.

In those days did this embryo city present the rare and noble spectacle of a community governed without laws; and thus being left to its own course, and the fostering care of Providence, increased as rapidly as though it had been burthened with a dozen panniers full of those sage laws usually heaped on the backs of young cities—in order to make them grow. And in this

a

reverse.

particular I greatly admire the wisdom and sound knowledge of human nature, displayed by the sage Oloffe the Dreamer and his fellow legislators. For my part, I have not so bad an opinion of mankind as many of my brother philosophers. I do not think poor human nature so sorry a piece of workmanship as they would make it out to be; and as far as I have observed, I am fully satisfied that man, if left to himself, would about as readily go right as wrong. It is only this eternally sounding in his ears that it is his duty to go right, which makes him go

the

very The noble independence of his nature revolts at this intolerable tyranny of law, and the perpetual interference of officious morality, which are ever besetting his path with finger-posts and directions to “keep to the right, as the law directs ;” and like a spirited urchin, he turns directly contrary, and gallops through mud and mire, over hedges and ditches, merely to show that he is a lad of spirit, and out of his leading-strings. And these opinions are amply substantiated by what I have above said of our worthy ancestors; who never being be-preached and be-lectured, and guided and governed by statutes and laws and by-laws, as are their more enlightened descendants, did one and all demean themselves honestly and peaceably, out of pure ignorance, or in other words—because they knew no better.

Nor must I omit to record one of the earliest measures of this infant settlement, inasmuch as it shows the piety of our forefathers, and that, like good Christians, they were always ready to serve God, after they had first served themselves. Thus, having quietly settled themselves down, and provided for their own comfort, they bethought themselves of testifying their gratitude to the great and good St. Nicholas, for his protecting care, in guiding them to this delectable abode. To this end they built a fair and goodly chapel within the fort, which they consecrated to his name'; whereupon he immediately took the town of New-Am.. sterdam under his peculiar patronage, and he has ever since been, and I devoutly hope will ever be, the tutelar saint of this excellent city.

At this early period was instituted that pious ceremony, still religiously observed in all our ancient families of the right breed, of hanging up a stocking in the chimney on St. Nicholas eve; which stocking is always found in the morning miraculously filled; for the good St. Nicholas has ever been a great giver of gifts, particularly to children.

I am moreover told that there is a little legendary book, somewhere extant, written in Low Dutch, which says, that the image of this renowned saint, which whilom graced the bowsprit of the Goede Vrouw, was elevated in front of this chapel, in the centre of what, in modern days, is called the Bowling Green—on the very spot, in fact, where he appeared in vision to Oloffe the Dreamer. And the legend further treats of divers miracles wrought by the mighty pipe, which the saint held in his mouth; a whiff of which was a sovereign cure for an indigestionan invaluable relic in this colony of brave trenchermen. As, however, in spite of the most diligent search, I cannot lay my hands upon this little book, I must confess that I entertain considerable doubt on the subject.

Thus benignly fostered by the good St. Nicholas, the infant city thrived apace. Hordes of painted savages, it is true, still lurked about the unsettled parts of the island. The hunter still pitched his bower of skins and bark beside the rills that rau through the cool and shady glens, while here and there might be Been on some sunny knoll, a group of Indian wigwams, whose

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smoke arose above the neighboring trees, and floated in the transparent atmosphere. A mutual good-will, however, existed between these wandering beings and the burghers of New-Amsterdam. Our benevolent forefathers endeavored as much as possible to ameliorate their situation, by giving them gin, rum, and glass beads, in exchange for their peltries; for it seems the kind-hearted Dutchmen had conceived a great friendship for their savage neighbors, on account of their being pleasant men to trade with, and little skilled in the art of making a bargain.

Now and then a crew of these half human sons of the forest would make their appearance in the streets of New-Amsterdam, fantastically painted and decorated with beads and flaunting feathers, sauntering about with an air of listless indifferencesometimes in the market-place, instructing the little Dutch boys in the use of the bow and arrow—at other times, inflamed with liquor, swaggering and whooping and yelling about the town like so many fiends, to the great dismay of all the good wives, who would hurry their children into the house, fasten the doors, and throw water upon the enemy from the garret windows. It is worthy of mention here, that our forefathers were very particular in holding up these wild men as excellent domestic examplesand for reasons that may be gathered from the history of master Ogilby, who tells us, that "for the least offence the bridegroom soundly beats his wife and turns her out of doors, and marries another, insomuch that some of them have every year a new wife.” Whether this awful example had any influence or not, history does not mention ; but it is certain that our grandmothers were miracles of fidelity and obedience.

True it is, that the good understanding between our ancestors and their savage neighbors was liable to occasional interruptions,

and I have heard my grandmother, who was a very wise old woman, and well versed in the history of these parts, tell a long story of a winter's evening, about a battle between the New-Amsterdammers and the Indians, which was known by the name of the Peach War, and which took place near a peach orchard, in a dark glen, which for a long while went by the name of Murderer's Valley.

The legend of this sylvan war was long current among the nurses, old wives, and other ancient chroniclers of the place; but time and improvement have almost obliterated both the tradition and the scene of battle ; for what was once the blood-stained valley is now in the centre of this populous city, and known by the name of Dey-street.

I know not whether it was to this “ Peach war," and the acquisitions of Indian land which may have grown out of it, that we may ascribe the first seeds of the spirit of “annexation” which now began to manifest themselves. Hitherto the ambition of the worthy burghers had been confined to the lovely island of Manna-hata; and Spiten Devil on the Hudson, and Hell-gate on the Sound, were to them the pillars of Hercules, the ne plus ultra of human enterprise. Shortly after the Peach war, however, a restless spirit was observed among the New-Amsterdammers, who began to cast wistful looks upon the wild lands of their Indian neighbors; for somehow or other wild Indian land always looks greener in the eyes of settlers than the land they occupy. It is hinted that Oloffe the Dreamer encouraged these notions : having, as has been shown, the inherent spirit of a land speculator, which had been wonderfully quickened and expanded since he had become a land holder. Many of the common people, who had never before owned a foot of land, now began to be

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