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

Looking after the Ferry

During a portion of my idle time, I worked at fair wages for Nicholas Steinburg, who ran the ferry from near the water-gate to the Long Island shore, and of a verity I earned all he paid me.

The boat on which wagons were taken across, was the most clumsy scow it was ever my ill fortune to handle, and his slaves the most stupid to be found in all New Amsterdam. One was forced to send the unwieldy craft along by heavy sweeps, which were fashioned so rudely that I dare venture to say there was twice as much of timber in them as was necessary, and that foolish negro who failed to lift one of them at the proper time, found that the current swung it around with a force that sent him sprawling in the bottom of the boat.


More than once have I picked one of the thick- headed black men up from beneath the feet of the horses, and spent no little time trying to recover the oar.

However, there was not much passing to and fro, for there were but few farms on the big island, and a goodly portion of the time I spent in the thatched shed which was put up for the pleasure of those who were forced to await Nicholas Steinburg's slow motions.

It is wearying work, looking after a ferry, even though one gets as wage one-half the money paid over to him, and I would not thus have spent my time, had I not been taught by Master Minuit that he who squanders his days in idleness is the same as reproaching God for permitting him to live.

Then came the day when I rejoiced secretly, and many another man with me, because of what Director Stuyvesant had done to wrong us.

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