Knickerbocker's History of New York/Book VII/Chapter V

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Chapter V[edit]

Now so it happened, that while the great and good Peter Stuyvesant, followed by his trusty squire, was making his chivalric progress through the east country, a dark and direful scheme of war against his beloved province was forming in that nursery of monstrous projects, the British Cabinet.

This, we are confidently informed, was the result of the secret instigations of the great council of the league; who, finding themselves totally incompetent to vie in arms with the heavy-sterned warriors of the Manhattoes and their iron-headed commander, sent emissaries to the British Government, setting forth in eloquent language the wonders and delights of this delicious little Dutch Canaan, and imploring that a force might be sent out to invade it by sea, while they should co-operate by land.

These emissaries arrived at a critical juncture, just as the British Lion was beginning to bristle up his mane and wag his tail; for we are assured by the anonymous writer of the Stuyvesant manuscript that the astounding victory of Peter Stuyvesant at Fort Christina had resounded throughout Europe, and his annexation of the territory of New Sweden had awakened the jealousy of the British Cabinet for their wild lands at the south. This jealousy was brought to a head by the representations of Lord Baltimore, who declared that the territory thus annexed lay within the lands granted to him by the British Crown, and he claimed to be protected in his rights. Lord Sterling, another British subject, claimed the whole of Nassau, or Lond Island, once the Ophir of William the Testy, but now the kitchen-garden of the Manhattoes, which he declared to be British territory by the right of discovery, but unjustly usurped by the Nederlanders.

The result of all these rumors and representations was a sudden zeal on the part of his Majesty Charles the Second for the safety and well-being of his transatlantic possessions, and especially for the recovery of the New Netherlands, which Yankee logic had, somehow or other, proved to be a continuity of the territory taken possession of for the British Crown by the pilgrims when they landed on Plymouth Rock, fugitives from British oppression. All this goodly land thus wrongfully held by the Dutchmen, he presented, in a fit of affection, to his brother the Duke of York, a donation truly royal, since none but great sovereigns have a right to give away what does not belong to them. That this munificent gift might not be merely nominal, his Majesty ordered that an armament should be straightway despatched to invade the city of New Amsterdam by land and water, and put his brother in complete possession of the premises.

Thus critically situated are the affairs of the New Nederlanders. While the honest burghers are smoking their pipes in somber security, and the privy councillors are snoring in the council chamber, while Peter the Headstrong is undauntedly making his way through the east country, in the confident hope by honest words and manly deeds to bring the grand council to terms, a hostile fleet is sweeping like a thunder-cloud across the Atlantic, soon to rattle a storm of war about the ears of the dozing Nederlanders, and to put the mettle of their governor to the trial.

But come what may, I here pledge my veracity that in all warlike conflicts and doubtful perplexities he will every acquit himself like a gallant, noble-minded, obstinate old cavalier. Forward, then, to the charge! Shine out, propitious stars, on the renowned city of the Manhattoes; and the blessing of St. Nicholas go with thee, honest Peter Stuyvesant.