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

A Prosperous Town

Before I had been many days in charge of the Company's goods we began to drive a flourishing trade, for all those gentlemen who had set off with trinkets to buy furs, urged the brown men to go down to New Amsterdam and see what the white people were doing on the island they had bought at so generous a price.

And you can well fancy that these Indians were not slow in accepting the invitation. It must have been to them much like visiting a museum, or a menagerie, to come into our town and see another race of people working in a manner entirely different from their methods, and using tools which afforded a great saving of labor, the like of which they had never heard about.

Before two weeks were passed, there was never a day that from three to twenty canoes were not hauled up on the shore of the point, and these brown people were gathered around the fort, many naked, excepting for queer breeches and belt; others wearing a kind of cloak made of furs, and now and then one who had a mantle of some sort of feather work, but all burdened with bales of furs, deer meat, wild turkeys, ducks or anything which it seemed to them likely would be bought by these Dutch traders, who had of toys such a store.


I was kept busy from morning until night, trotting in and out of the house with this article or that, as whosoever was conducting the business commanded, and I dare venture to say that Hans was having a sorry time indeed, for the weather had grown warm, and his quarters in the log hut, with those ill-smelling pelts, must have been anything rather than pleasant.

The first event of great importance to us of New Amsterdam, was the loading of a ship to be sent home, and I am minded to tell you exactly how the cargo was made up, so that you may see whether the West India Company's servants had idled away any of their time.

There were 7,246 beaver skins, 1,781 & 1/2 otter skins, 675 poorer otter skins, 48 mink skins, 33 poorer mink skins, 36 wild cat skins, and 34 rat skins. The rest of the lading was made up of oak and hickory timber, while the whole of it was valued by Master Minuit at 45,000 guilders, and it is for you to find out how much that would be in the money of your own country.


Before this ship sailed we had gathered our first harvest, which was made up of wheat, rye, barley, oats, buckwheat, beans and flax, and in such quantity that, unless there should be large additions to our numbers, we had need to feel no anxiety regarding the winter's store of food.

I am telling you this that you may understand how industrious our Dutchmen were, to raise so much on land that at first sight one would have said was in no way suited for planting.

Now it was that our people began to use stone in the building of houses, and the first looked so comfortable that others were eager to have dwellings like it. The consequence was, that during this first fall after our arrival, there were no less than twelve stone dwellings in progress, while Master Minuit already had such a home as was a credit to any town which had been no longer begun than New Amsterdam.

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