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In 1640, Director Kieft determined upon another unwise measure, viz. : the exaction of a contribution, a tax of corn, furs, and wampum from the Indians about Fort Amsterdam. This and other improper acts entirely estranged them from the settlers, and laid the foundation of a bloody war, which, the next year (1641), desolated New Netherland. Meanwhile, Kieft, continuing stubborn, sent sloops to Tappan to levy contributions ; but the natives indignantly refused to pay the novel tribute. In their own plain language, they wondered how the Sachem at the fort dared to exact such things from them. He must be, they said, a very shabby fellow; he had come to live in their land, where they had not invited him, and now came to deprive them of their corn, for no equivalent. They, therefore, refused to pay, adding this unanswerable argument: “If we have ceded to you the country you are living in, we yet remain masters of what we have retained for ourselves !".
Notwithstanding, however, the many injudicious acts of Governor Kieft, it cannot be denied that, during his administration, the trade of New Amsterdam began to be better regulated. The streets of the town also, were better laid out in the lower section of the city.* In 1641, Kieft instituted two annual fairs, for the purpose of encouraging agriculture—one of which was held in October, for cattle, and the other the next month, for hogs, upon the Bowling Green. The holding of these fairs opened the way for another important addition to the comfort of the town. No tavern, as yet, had been started in the Dutch settlement;
and the numerous visitors from the interior and the New England col· onies had to avail themselves of the Governor's hospitalities. The fairs
increasing in number, Kieft found them a heavy tax upon his politeness, as well as his larder ; and, in 1642, he erected a large, stone tavern, at the Company's expense. It was situated on a commanding spot, near the present Coenties Slip, and was afterward altered into the “ Stadt Huys,” or City Hall.
The Governor now succeeded better, not only in enforcing law and restraining contraband trade, but in checking the importation of bad wampum, which had become a serious loss to the traders, by reducing its value from four to six beads for a stiver.
This wampum or sewant, from its close connection with the early trade of New Netherland, requires special notice. This kind of money, or circulating medium, embraced two kinds, the wampum or white, and the Sackanhook Suci, or black sewant. The former was made from the periwinkle, and the latter from the purple part of the hard clam. These, rounded into beads and polished, with drilled holes, were strung upon the sinews of animals, and woven into different size belts. Black beads were twice as valuable as the white, and the latter became, therefore, naturally,
*The price of lots, 30x125 feet, averaged at this period about $14.
the standard of value. A string, a fathom long,* was worth four guilders. The best article was manufactured by the Long Island Indians; and, until a comparatively late period, the Montauks on that Island, or rather, their descendants, manufactured this shell money for the interior tribes. A clerk of John Jacob Astor many years ago informed the Hon. G. P. . Disosway that he had visited Communipaw, and purchased, for his employer from the Dutch this article by the bushel, to be used by the great fur dealer in his purchases among the distant savages. It might, perhaps, be a curious question, how many bushels of wampum is invested, for example, in the hotel which bears the name of the great fur millionaire ? The New England Indians, imitating their whiter-faced neighbors, made a cheaper wampum, rough, of inferior quality, and badly strung. Nor was it long before the New Englanders introduced large quantities of their imperfect beads into New Netherland for the Dutchman's goods; next, beads of porcelain were manufactured in Europe, and circulated among the colonists, until the evil finally became so great, that the Council, in 1641, published an ordinance, declaring that a large quantity of bad sewant, imported from other places, was in circulation, while the good and really fine sewant, usually called “ Manhattan Sewant,” was kept out of sight, or exported—a state of things which must eventually ruin the country. To cure this public evil, the ordinance provided that all coarse sewant, well stringed, should pass for one stiver. This. is the first ordinance, on record, to regulate such currency. In the year 1647, they were again reduced from six to eight for a stiver, and thus became the commercial greenbacks of the early Dutch.
About this period, the increasing intercourse and business with the English settlements made it necessary that more attention should be paid to the English language. Governor Kieft had, it is true, some knowledge of the English tongue; but his subordinates were generally ignorant of it—a circumstance which often caused great embarrassment. George Baxter was accordingly appointed his English Secretary, with a salary of two hundred dollars per annum; and thus, for the first time, the English language was officially recognized in New Amsterdam.
As the colony grew stronger, the Dutch scattered themselves more over the interior; established themselves more firmly at Manhattan; and in this way gave to the City of New York its first incorporation two hundred and fifteen years ago. The ferries received early attention from the corporation. No one was permitted to be a ferryman, without a license from the magistrates. The ferryman also was required to provide proper boats and servants, with houses, on both sides of the river, to accommodate passengers. All officials passed free of toll; or, to speak more in
* A “fathom” was estimated, at “as much as a man could reach with his arms outstretched.” The savages, consequently, were shrewd enough (in trading with the whites) to choose their largest and tallest men for measuring sticks or standards.
accordance with the language of the present day, were dead-heads. But the ferryman was not compelled to cross the river in a tempest. Footpassengers were charged three stivers each, except the Indians, who paid six, unless two or more went over together.* The annual salary of the Burgomasters was also, at this period, fixed at three hundred and fifty guilders (think of that, oh, City Fathers!), and the Shepens at two hundred and fifty. A corporate seal was now.granted to the city, in which the principal object was a beaver, as was also the case, as has been seen, with the seal of the New Netherlands.
The first charter of New Netherland restricted, as we have seen, the commercial privileges of the patroons ; but in the year 1640, they were extended to “all free colonists," and the stockholders in the Dutch Company. Nevertheless, the latter body adhered to onerous imports, for its own benefit, and required a duty of ten per cent. on all goods shipped to New Netherland, and five upon return cargoes, excepting peltry, which paid ten at Manhattan, before exported. The prohibition of manufactures within the province was now abolished, and the Company renewed its promise to send over “ as many blacks as possible.”
In 1643, the colonists easily obtained goods from the Company's warehouse, whither they were obliged to bring their fur purchases, before shipment to Holland. The furs were then generally sold at Amsterdam, under the supervision of the patroon, whose share, at first, was one-half, but was afterward reduced to one-sixth. Under this system, the price of a beaver's skin, which before 1642 had been six, now rose to ten “fathoms." It was, therefore, considered proper for the colonial authorities to regulate this traffic; and they, accordingly, fixed the price at nine “fathoms” of white wampum, at the same time forbidding all persons to “go into the bush to trade.” Another proclamation also declared that no inhabitants of the colonies should presume to buy any goods from the residents. It would appear, however, that these ordinances could not be enforced; for a sloop, soon after, arriving with a cargo, the colonists purchased what they wanted. The commissary was then ordered to search the houses for concealed goods. But the old record naively says: “ The Schout gossipped, without making a search.” How closely do the custom-house officers of the present day follow in the steps of their ancestral colleagues !
In 1644, the ever-busy New Englanders—imagining that the beavers came from “a great lake in the northwest part of their patent-began to covet a share in the fur trade on the Delaware. Accordingly, an expedition was dispatched from Boston to “sail up the Delaware, as high as they could go; and some of the company, under the conduct of Mr. William Aspinwall, a good artist, and one who had been in those parts, to pass by small skiffs or canoes up the river, so far as they could." Connected with this exploring party two centuries and a quarter ago, we accordingly notice a name of world-wide fame among us—that of one of our noblest and most honored merchants. The expedition failing, another bark“ was sent out the same year from Boston, to trade at Delaware.” Wintering in the bay, during the spring she went to the Maryland side, and in three weeks obtained five hundred beaver-skins—a “good parcel." But this second Boston trading voyage was ruined by the savages; for, as the bark was leaving, fifteen Indians came aboard, “as if they would trade again,” and suddenly drawing their hatchets from under their coats, killed the captain, with three of the crew, and then rifled the vessel of all her goods.
* On the 19th of March, 1658, the ferry was put up at auction, and leased to Hermanns Van Bossung, for three years, at three hundred guilders per annum. Compare this with the price recently paid by Mr. Stevens for a lease of the Hoboken Ferry.
This continued interference of New England adventurers with the Delaware trade, at length became very annoying to Kieft, as well as to Printz, the Swedish Governor of the Delaware colony. The Dutch at New Amsterdam, as the earliest explorers of South River, had seen their trading monopoly there invaded by the Swedes ; but when the New Englanders made their appearance in pursuit of the same prize, the Swedes made common cause with the Dutch to repel the new intruders. The question of sovereignty was soon raised abroad by the arrival of two Swedish ships, the Key of Calmar and the Flame, sent home by Printz with large cargoes of tobacco and beaver-skins. Bad weather, and the war just begun between Denmark and Sweden, made these vessels run into the Port of Harlington in Friesland. There they were seized by the West India Company, which both claimed sovereignty over all the regions around the South River and exacted the import duties that their charter granted it. The Swedish Minister at the Hague protested against these exactions; and a long correspondence ensued, which resulted in the vessels being discharged the following summer upon the payment of the import duties.
. During the year 1644, Kieft, headstrong and imprudent as usual, became involved in a war with the New England Indians. At this juncture of affairs, a ship arrived from Holland with a cargo of goods for Van Rensselaer's patroonery, and Kieft, the Dutch forces being in want of clothing, called upon the supercargo to furnish fifty pairs of shoes for the soldiers, offering full payment in silver, beavers, or wampum. The supercargo, however, zealously regarding his patroon's mercantile interests, refused to comply, whereupon the Governor ordered a levy, and obtained enough shoes to supply as many soldiers as afterward killed five hundred of the enemy. The Governor, much provoked, next commanded the vessol to be thoroughly searched, when a large lot of guns and ammunition, not in the manifest, were declared contraband, and the ship and cargo confiscated. Winthrop says that he had on board 4,000 weight of powder and seven hundred pieces to trade with the natives. For such acts as these, Kieft seems to have been equally detested by Indians and Dutch, the former desiring his removal, and daily crying “Wouter! Wouter !" meaning Wouter Van Twiller, his immediate predecessor.
Meanwhile, the Indian war continued; the Dutch settlers were in danger of utter destruction ; and the expenses of the soldiery could not be met. Neither could the West India Company send aid to its unfortunate colony, as that body had been made bankrupt by its military operations in Brazil. A bill of exchange, drawn by Kieft upon the Amsterdam Chamber, came back protested. The demands for public money were too pressing to await the slow proceedings of an Admiralty Court. Accordingly, soon after this, on the 29th of May, 1644, a privateer, the La Garce, Captain Blauvelt, having been commissioned by the Governor to cruize in the West Indies, returned to Manhattan with two rich Spanish prizes.
Director Kieft now proposed to replenish the Provisional Treasury by an excise on wine, beer, brandy, and beaver-skins. This was opposed by his official advisers, or the so-called “Eight Men,” because they thought such an act would be oppressive, and the right of taxation belonged to sovereignty, and not to an inferior officer in New Netherland. An old account says that the Director was " very much offended,” and sharply reprimanded the people's representatives, declaring, “I have more power here than the Company itself; therefore I may do and suffer in this country what I please ; I am my own master.” * * * Remaining immovable, however, he three days afterward arbitrarily ordered “ that on each barrel of beer tapped, an excise duty of two guilders should be paid, one-half by the brewer, and one-half by the publican.” But those burghers who did not retail it were to pay only onehalf as much. On every quart of brandy and wine also, four stivers were to be paid, and on every beaver-skin one guilder. Besides the excise on the beer, the brewers were also required to make a return of the quantity they brewed; but upon their sternly refusing to pay the unjust tribute, judgment was obtained against them, and their beer “ given as a prize to the soldiers."
About this time, the ship Blue Cock arrived from Curacoa with one hundred and thirty Dutch soldiers, quite a relief to the New Netherlanders against their savage foe.
Notwithstanding all the efforts to restrain illicit traffic, it still continued at Rensselaerswyck (Albany), where three or four thousand furs had been carried away by unlicensed traders. Van Rensselaer, now determined, “ as the first and oldest” patroon on the river, that no one should " presume to abuse” his acquired rights, erected a small fort on Beelen Island. A claim of“ staple right” was there set up, and Nicholas Koorn was appointed “watch-meester,” to levy a toll of five guilders upon all vessels passing by, except those of the West India Company,