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

Other Things about Town

A thing which displeased me, though perhaps I was easily put out by anything Director Stuyvesant did, was that he should have set up the gallows in front of the stone tavern built by Master Kieft, after it had been turned into the town hall.


To me that instrument of justice was a blot on the fair building, even though it be something necessary in all towns; the whipping-post and the stocks seem to be there by right, and do not cast such a horror upon him who passes them, but to have ever in sight that which had been built for the taking away of men's lives is, in a way, brutal.

The hooft, or city dock, was ever a pleasant lounging place to me, particularly when there were many ships in the roadstead. It was pleasing to sit there idle, thinking Master Tienhoven was poring over my accounts when the day was so fair that one enjoyed being in the sunshine, and to watch the ships or the small boats that flitted to and fro. It was enough to make one believe that in the days to come this New Amsterdam of ours might grow to be even as large as Amsterdam in Holland.


Then could I, and all others who had a part in the building of the town, look back with pride upon our life-work, save that in it should be something of shame and crime, as in the case of Master Kieft, who, I may say here, was drowned in a shipwreck on his way back to Holland to answer to the Company for his misdeeds.

But there was at times one matter which gave me pain at the city dock, and that was whenever there arrived a vessel laden with black men, who had been stolen from Africa. With such a scene in view I had no desire to linger.

It so chanced that I went there on a certain day when the White Horse, a slave ship that came more than once to our town, was sending ashore a throng of forlorn looking negroes to be exposed for sale, and there was so much of suffering and heart-sickness in the scene that I went back to the storehouse, glad to stay with Master Tienhoven rather than see the misery which I could not cure.

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