Gateway to the Classics: Peter of Amsterdam by James Otis
Peter of Amsterdam by  James Otis

Where I Was Born

If I ever attempted to set down a story in words, it would be concerning the time when I was much the same as a slave among the Dutch of New Amsterdam, meaning a certain part of the world in that America where so many of my father's countrymen came after they left England, because of the King's not allowing them to worship God in the way they believed to be right.

It sounds odd to say that an English boy was ever held as slave by the Dutch, and perhaps I have no right to make such statement, because it is not strictly true, although there were many years in my life when I did the same work, and received the same fare, as did the negroes in the early days of New Amsterdam.

Before I was born, my father was clerk to the postmaster of Scrooby, one William Brewster, and perhaps thus it was that when, because of troubles concerning religion, Master Brewster journeyed to Leyden with a company of people who were called Separatists, my parents went with him.


And so it was that I was born in Leyden, in the year of our Lord, 1612, but I never knew what it was to have a mother, for mine died while I was yet in the cradle; thanks to the care of a loving, God-fearing father, however, I could do very much toward looking out for myself by the time I had come to the age of eight, when I was left entirely alone in the world. I love now to think that during the years of my life while the good man remained on this earth, I did not cause him any great anxiety, and required little care.

Within two months after my father died, which was in the year 1620, many of the congregation in Leyden set off with Master Brewster for the New World, there to build up a city where men might worship God in whatsoever fashion they pleased.

Those of the Separatists who were left behind, cared for me as best they might until a year had passed; but none of them were overly burdened with this world's goods, and, young though I was, I realized, in some slight degree, what a tax the care of a lad nine years old was upon them.

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