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

A Brutal Murder

Finally, a certain Indian, having with him a small boy, came down to trade twenty-two beaver skins for red cloth. Because of none of the gentlemen traders being near at hand when he arrived, I was forced to ask him to wait until nearly nightfall, and by the time he had finished his bargaining, darkness was come.

Now it was usual for these brown men, who lived at a distance, to shelter themselves for the night nearabout New Amsterdam in the dwellings of the Manhattan Indians; therefore no one gave heed to the fact that these two visitors went out from the fort at quite a late hour in the evening.

Exactly what happened, no one, excepting those concerned directly in it, could say; but certain it is that between the fort and the settlement of the Manhattan Indians, within an hour from the time I saw them last, this Indian and the boy were set upon by four negroes, who beat the man so brutally while robbing him of the goods he had just purchased, that he died before midnight.

The boy escaped, as we learned later, so terrified that he dared not even trust himself among the Manhattan Indians, but hid in a swamp during a certain time, after which he rejoined his people.

The negroes were brought before the council; but only one was proven guilty, owing to lack of evidence, and this fellow was hanged off-hand, while the others, although declared innocent of the murder, were soundly flogged as a warning to others of their kind.

Not until several years had passed, did the Dutchmen hear further concerning this most brutal murder, and then it was that the boy, whose father, or uncle, had been killed, aroused the people of his tribe to wreak vengeance upon the white men, thus aiding and bringing about a most terrible Indian war, although we of New Amsterdam did not suffer through it as did others who, coming to this New World years afterward, were wholly innocent of doing any wrong to the brown men.

However, save that the trouble which resulted in much bloodshed, began there, the war has but little to do with New Amsterdam, and I shall say no more regarding it at present.

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