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beloved city, of a holyday afternoon, riding jollily among the tree-tops, or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets, and dropping them down the chimneys of his favorites. Whereas in these degenerate days of iron and brass,' he never shows us the light of his countenance, nor ever visits us, save one night ’ in the year; when he rattles down the chimneys of the descendants of the patriarchs, confining his presents merely to the children, in token of the degeneracy of the parents.
Such are the comfortable and thriving effects of a fat government. The province of the New-Netherlands, destitute of wealth, possessed a sweet tranquillity that wealth could never purchase. There were neither public commotions, nor private quarrels ; neither parties, nor sects, nor schisms; neither persecutions, nor trials, nor punishments; nor were there counsellors, attorneys, catch-poles,' or hangmen. Every man attended to what little business he was lucky enough to have, or neglected it if he pleased, without asking the opinion of his neighbor. In those days, nobody meddled with concerns above his comprehension, nor thrust his nose into other people’s affairs; nor neglected to correct his own conduct, and reform his own character, in his zeal to pull to pieces the characters of others—but in a word, every respectable citizen eat athen he was not hungry, drank when he was not thirsty, and went regularly to bed when the sun set, and the fowls went to roost, whether he were sleepy or not; all which tended remarkably to the population of the settlement. Every thing went on exactly as it should do ; and in the usual words employed by historians to express the welfare of a country, “the profoundest tranquillity and repose reigned throughout the province."
1 The “good old times” are often called the Golden Age (p. 42); in contrast to it the present is sometimes called the Brazen or the Iron Age by such as like to think
that things nowadays are worse than they used to be.
Christmas. 3 the province, under the Dutch. 4 sheriff's assistants.
Manifold are the tastes and dispositions of the enlightened literati, who turn over the pages of history. Some there be, whose hearts are brimful of the yeast of courage, and whose bosoms do work, and swell and foam, with untried valor, like a barrel of new cider, or a train-band captain, fresh from under the hands of his tailor. This doughty class of readers can be satisfied with nothing but bloody battles and horrible encounters; they must be continually storming forts, sacking cities, springing mines, marching up to the muzzles of cannon, charging bayonets through every page, and revelling in gunpowder and carnage. Others, who are of a less martial, but equally ardent imagination, and who, withal, are a little
given to the marvellous, will dwell with wondrous satisfaction con descriptions of prodigies, unheard-of events, hairbreadth 7
escapes, hardy adventures, and all those astonishing narrations that just amble along the boundary line of possibility. A third class, who, not to speak slightly of them, are of a lighter turn, and skim over the records of past times, as they do over the edifying pages of a novel, merely for relaxation and innocent amusement, do singularly delight in treasons, executions, conflagrations, murders, and all the other catalogue of hideous crimes, that, like cayenne in cookery," do give à pungency and flavor to the dull detail of history-while a fourth class, of more philosophic habits, do diligently pore over the musty chronicles of time, to investigate the operations of the human kind, and watch the gradual changes in men and manners, effected by the progress of knowledge, the vicissitudes of events, or the influence of situation.
If the three first classes find but little wherewithal to solace themselves in the tranquil reign of Wouter Van Twiller, I entreat them to exert their patience for a while, and bear with the tedious picture of happiness, prosperity, and peace, which my duty as a faithful historian obliges me to draw; and I
1 The militia of an earlier day were called the “trained bands," or, more shortly, “trainbands."
promise them that as soon as I can possibly light upon any thing horrible, uncommon, or impossible, it shall go hard, but I will make it afford them entertainment. This being promised, I turn with great complacency to the fourth class of my readers, who are men, or, if possible, women, after my own heart; grave, philosophical, and investigating; fond of analyzing characters, of taking a start from first causes, and so hunting a nation down, through all the mazes of innovation and improvement. Such will naturally be anxious to witness the first development of the newly-hatched colony, and the primitive manners and customs prevalent among its inhabitants, during the halcyon' reign of Van Twiller, or the Doubter.
I will not grieve their patience, however, by describing minutely the increase and improvement of New-Amsterdam. Their own imaginations will doubtless present to them the good burghers, like so many pains-taking and persevering beavers, slowly and surely pursuing their labours—they will behold the prosperous transformation from the rude log-but to the stately Dutch mansion, with brick front, glazed windows, and tiled roof—from the tangled thicket to the luxuriant cabbage garden ; and from the skulking Indian to the ponderous burgomaster. In a word, they will picture to themselves the steady, silent, and undeviating march to prosperity, incident to a city destitute of pride or ambition, cherished by a fat government, and whose citizens do nothing in a hurry.
The sage council, as has been mentioned in a preceding chapter, not being able to determine upon any plan for the building of their city—the cows, in a laudable fit of patriotism, took it under their peculiar charge, and as they went to and from pasture, established paths through the bushes, on each side of which the good folks built their houses; which is one cause of the rambling and picturesque turns and labyrinths,
' a name for the kingfisher. The old legend was that, at a certain time of the year, the halcyon's nest floated on the sea, and
that for that time the winds were quiet and the weather mild and delightful. A "hal. cyon reign" is like a "golden age.'
which distinguish certain streets of New York at this very day.
The houses of the higher class were generally constructed of wood, excepting the gable end, which was of small black and yellow Dutch bricks, and always faced on the street, as our ancestors, like their descendants, were very much given to outward show, and were noted for putting the best leg foremost. The house was always furnished with abundance of large doors and small windows on every floor ; the date of its erection was curiously designated by iron figures on the front; and on the top of the roof was perched a fierce little weathercock, to let the family into the important secret which way the wind blew. These, like the weathercocks on the tops of our steeples, pointed so many different ways, that every man could have a wind to his mind;-the most staunch and loyal citizens, however, always went according to the weathercock on the top of the governor's house, which was certainly the most correct, as he had a trusty servant employed every morning to climb up and set it to the right quarter.
In those good days of simplicity and sunshine, a passion for cleanliness was the leading principle in domestic economy, and the universal test of an able housewife—a character which formed the utmost ambition of our unenlightened grandmoth
The front door was never opened except on marriages, funerals, new-year's days, the festival of St. Nicholas, or some such great occasion. It was ornamented with a gorgeous brass knocker, curiously wrought, sometimes in the device of a dog, and sometimes of a lion's head, and was daily burnished with such religious zeal, that it was ofttimes worn out by the very precautions taken for its preservation. The whole house was constantly in a state of inundation, under the discipline of mops and brooms and scrubbing-brushes; and the good housewives of those days were a kind of amphibious animal, delighting exceedingly to be dabbling in water-insomuch
I See p. 22.
that a historian of the day gravely tells us, that many of his townswomen grew to have webbed fingers like unto a duck ; and some of them, he had little doubt, could the matter be examined into, would be found to have the tails of mermaids —but this I look upon to be a mere sport of fancy, or what is worse, a wilful misrepresentation.
The grand parlor was the sanctum sanctorum, where the passion for cleaning was indulged without control. In this sacred apartment no one was permitted to enter, excepting the mistress and her confidential maid, who visited it once a week, for the purpose of giving it a thorough cleaning, and putting things to rights—always taking the precaution of leaving their shoes at the door, and entering devoutly in their stocking-feet. After scrubbing the floor, sprinkling it with fine white sand, which was curiously stroked into angles, and curves, and rhomboids,' with a broom-after washing the windows, rubbing and polishing the furniture, and putting a new bunch of evergreens in the fire-place-the window-shutters were again closed to keep out the flies, and the room carefully locked up until the revolution of time brought round the weekly cleaning day.
As to the family, they always entered in at the gate, and most generally lived in the kitchen. To have seen a numerous household assembled around the fire, one would have imagined that he was transported back to those happy days of primeval simplicity, which float before our imaginations like golden visions. The fire-places were of a truly patriarchal magnitude, where the whole family, old and young, master and servant, black and white, nay, even the very cat and dog, enjoyed a community of privilege, and had each a right to a corner. Here the old burgher would sit in perfect silence, puffing his pipe, looking in the fire with half-shut eyes, and
, thinking of nothing for hours together ; the goede vrouw on
a non-equilateral oblique parallelogram, such as might easily be made by a series of straight lines crossing each other.
? good wife.