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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The New Netherland
By George Bancroft (1800–1891)
 
From ‘History of the United States’

DURING the absence of Stuyvesant from Manhattan, the warriors of the neighboring Algonkin tribes, never reposing confidence in the Dutch, made a desperate assault on the colony. In sixty-four canoes they appeared before the town, and ravaged the adjacent country. The return of the expedition restored confidence. The captives were ransomed, and industry repaired its losses. The Dutch seemed to have firmly established their power, and promised themselves happier years. New Netherland consoled them for the loss of Brazil. They exulted in the possession of an admirable territory, that needed no embankments against the ocean. They were proud of its vast extent,—from New England to Maryland, from the sea to the Great River of Canada, and the remote Northwestern wilderness. They sounded with exultation the channel of the deep stream, which was no longer shared with the Swedes; they counted with delight its many lovely runs of water, on which the beavers built their villages; and the great travelers who had visited every continent, as they ascended the Delaware, declared it one of the noblest rivers in the world, with banks more inviting than the lands on the Amazon.  1
  Meantime, the country near the Hudson gained by increasing emigration. Manhattan was already the chosen abode of merchants; and the policy of the government invited them by its good-will. If Stuyvesant sometimes displayed the rash despotism of a soldier, he was sure to be reproved by his employers. Did he change the rate of duties arbitrarily, the directors, sensitive to commercial honor, charged him “to keep every contract inviolate.” Did he tamper with the currency by raising the nominal value of foreign coin, the measure was rebuked as dishonest. Did he attempt to fix the price of labor by arbitrary rules, this also was condemned as unwise and impracticable. Did he interfere with the merchants by inspecting their accounts, the deed was censured as without precedent “in Christendom”; and he was ordered to “treat the merchants with kindness, lest they return, and the country be depopulated.” Did his zeal for Calvinism lead him to persecute Lutherans, he was chid for his bigotry. Did his hatred of “the abominable sect of Quakers” imprison and afterward exile the blameless Bowne, “let every peaceful citizen,” wrote the directors, “enjoy freedom of conscience; this maxim has made our city the asylum for fugitives from every land; tread in its steps, and you shall be blessed.”  2
  Private worship was therefore allowed to every religion. Opinion, if not yet enfranchised, was already tolerated. The people of Palestine, from the destruction of their temple an outcast and a wandering race, were allured by the traffic and the condition of the New World; and not the Saxon and Celtic races only, the children of the bondmen that broke from slavery in Egypt, the posterity of those who had wandered in Arabia, and worshiped near Calvary, found a home, liberty, and a burial place on the island of Manhattan.  3
  The emigrants from Holland were themselves of the most various lineage; for Holland had long been the gathering-place of the unfortunate. Could we trace the descent of the emigrants from the Low Countries to New Netherland, we should be carried not only to the banks of the Rhine and the borders of the German Sea, but to the Protestants who escaped from France after the massacre of Bartholomew’s Eve, and to those earlier inquirers who were swayed by the voice of Huss in the heart of Bohemia. New York was always a city of the world. Its settlers were relics of the first fruits of the Reformation, chosen from the Belgic provinces and England, from France and Bohemia, from Germany and Switzerland, from Piedmont and the Italian Alps.  4
  The religious sects, which, in the middle ages, had been fostered by the municipal liberties of the south of France, were the harbingers of modern freedom, and had therefore been sacrificed to the inexorable feudalism of the north. After a bloody conflict, the plebeian reformers, crushed by the merciless leaders of the military aristocracy, escaped to the highlands that divide France and Italy. Preserving the discipline of a benevolent, ascetic morality, with the simplicity of a spiritual worship,
  “When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones,”
it was found, on the progress of the Reformation, that they had by three centuries anticipated Luther and Calvin. The hurricane of persecution, which was to have swept Protestantism from the earth, did not spare their seclusion; mothers with infants were rolled down the rocks, and the bones of martyrs scattered on the Alpine mountains. The city of Amsterdam offered the fugitive Waldenses a free passage to America, and a welcome was prepared in New Netherland for the few who were willing to emigrate.
  5
  The persecuted of every creed and every clime were invited to the colony. When the Protestant churches in Rochelle were razed, the Calvinists of that city were gladly admitted; and the French Protestants came in such numbers that the public documents were sometimes issued in French as well as in Dutch and English. Troops of orphans were shipped for the milder destinies of the New World; a free passage was offered to mechanics; for “population was known to be the bulwark of every State.” The government of New Netherland had formed just ideas of the fit materials for building a commonwealth; they desired “farmers and laborers, foreigners and exiles, men inured to toil and penury.” The colony increased; children swarmed in every village; the advent of the year and the month of May were welcomed with noisy frolics; new modes of activity were devised; lumber was shipped to France; the whale pursued off the coast; the vine, the mulberry, planted; flocks of sheep as well as cattle were multiplied; and tile, so long imported from Holland, began to be manufactured near Fort Orange. New Amsterdam could, in a few years, boast of stately buildings, and almost vied with Boston. “This happily situated province,” said its inhabitants, “may become the granary of our fatherland; should our Netherlands be wasted by grievous wars, it will offer our countrymen a safe retreat; by God’s blessing, we shall in a few years become a mighty people.”  6
  Thus did various nations of the Caucasian race assist in colonizing our central states.  7
 
 
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