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

Director Kieft

First, the seamen of the Blessing whispered here and there stories concerning him which were not to his credit; that he had failed in business in Holland, and as a punishment his portrait had been nailed to the gallows; again, that when he was sent by the king to Turkey, having been given charge of money to be paid for the release of some Dutch people who were held in slavery there, he put it in his own pocket, allowing the poor men to wear out their lives as slaves to the Turks.

He was a small man, with a sharp nose, sharp chin, and a face generally that gave one the idea of a weasel, or of a person who is ever ready to shed blood even though he does not benefit thereby.


Perhaps I am overly severe in describing this new Director of ours, because of the trouble which we in the storehouse had with him.

Under Master Van Twiller we had conducted the business as we thought best; but all that was changed before Director Kieft had been with us eight and forty hours, for he soon gave the people in the employ of the West India Company to understand that matters in New Amsterdam would, from then out, go according to his liking, and with no reference whatsoever to the Council, or to any other officers in the town.

And all this he did with a high air, which chafed us the more because of Master Van Twiller and Master Minuit having ruled us with kindly hands.

He set himself up almost as a king, by discharging the members of the town Council, and by appointing all the public officers, even so important an one as the schout-fiscal.

He decided, without heed to judge or jury, all cases which were brought up in court, and, in fact, took upon himself the entire government, regardless alike of Council or of the West India Company.

But, in justice to Vaster Kieft, I must say that he took heed to that which was wrong among us, for straightway he caused all our vessels to be repaired, and indeed they were in sore need of attention.

He enlarged and beautified the storehouse, of which I was in charge, and, what was more to my liking, put an end to the trading with the Indians by the people of the town, which had become, as I believed, a serious evil, for almost every man in New Amsterdam was buying furs of the savages on his own account, which was much to the loss of the West India Company, and served greatly to cheapen our goods.

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