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

The Revenge of the Savages

While he was striving against the Swedes, word was brought Master Kieft that some hogs, which had been turned out in the forest on Staten Island, were no longer to be found there, and our sharp-nosed Director immediately made up his mind, without any proof whatsoever, that the savages who called themselves Raritans, had stolen them.

Making no inquiry into the matter, he sent out a company of soldiers who surrounded the unfortunate Indians in their village, and slaughtered them as if they had been wild beasts, killing men, women, and children, after which everything in the way of property was either destroyed or carried away.

The embers of the Raritan village had hardly more than grown cold, when it was discovered that some of our own people had taken the hogs from Staten Island, thus showing that the terrible murders had been committed without any cause whatsoever, save Master Kieft's own suspicious, evil imaginings.


Then it was that instead of the people of New Amsterdam going out peacefully, earning money for the West India Company, as they were in duty bound to do, all were the same as shut up on Manhattan Island with enemies on every hand; for, as may be supposed, such of the Raritan Indians as remained alive sought every opportunity to gain revenge, beginning by killing four planters on a farm at Staten Island, and burning the buildings.

This caused Master Kieft to shut his eyes to his own crime, and at once every man was called upon to aid in killing the Raritans. Trade was neglected, and our Director went so far as to offer such of the Indians as remained friendly, ten long strings of wampum for the head of every Raritan Indian which should be brought to him, and twenty strings for each head of those who had been concerned in the murders on Staten Island.

As if blood did not flow in sufficient quantity, the people of the boy who had escaped when the negro slaves murdered his father, or, as some say, his uncle, declared war against us by killing poor old Claus Schmidt, the wheelwright, who lived nearest the swamp; and we of New Amsterdam had good reason to fear that all the savages roundabout might take part, either with the Raritans, or with these new enemies, and we should be murdered at the very time when our town was becoming of importance.

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