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

Interference with Religious Freedom

It must be remembered, that when the West India Company asked people to go out and live in the New World, every one was promised that he should worship God as seemed to him best.

This was a portion of the bargain made when the people left Holland, and yet before another spring had come, Master Stuyvesant declared, by written notices and by the mouth of Stoffel Mighielsen, that no person would be allowed to praise God save he did it according to the belief and the rules of the Dutch Reformed Church.

It was on a certain Easter Monday, when all over the city the young men and maidens were playing at egg cracking, that Master Stuyvesant's plan for punishing those who did not choose to go to the same church as did he, was begun.


The Dutch had brought with them from Holland all the old games such as are played to-day; but the favorite among them was the cracking of eggs on Easter Monday, and I dare venture to say every young person in this land of America knows the game well by this time.

The shops were gay with boiled eggs of various colors, hung in the windows by many-colored ribbons, and it is not much straining at the truth to say that every person in New Amsterdam, save those who, like the soldiers, could not leave their posts of duty, was in the street, walking to and fro watching the young people as they strove to see how many eggs they could capture by cracking them, when a Quaker, and an Englishman at that, was taken into custody for preaching nearby New Amsterdam without permission of Master Stuyvesant.

Although this was directly opposite to what the West India Company had said might be done in such portion of the new land as they claimed, it would have passed almost unheeded had the arrest been made quietly; but, so I have heard it said, and so I believe, Master Stuyvesant himself gave positive commands as to how the prisoner should be treated, and what should be done with him before he was lodged in jail.

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