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James Otis

Master Stuyvesant Makes Enemies

Because of our people's being so excited over this opportunity to have a part in the affairs of the city, you can well fancy what discontent, which swelled almost to open mutiny, was among us when Master Stuyvesant boldly announced that there would be no election. He had decided, so he said in that high and mighty voice of his, that he would appoint the city officers himself, without vote of the people, and this he did, naming those men whom he knew would sneeze when he caught cold.

Of course there were many vain threats made, and much whispering in dark corners, the purport of which might have been construed into open mutiny, had Director Stuyvesant or any of his following overheard the stealthy conversation. The whipping-post, and even the gallows, stood too conveniently at hand, while Big Pieter, the negro executioner who had charge of the public floggings, was ever ready to adjust a noose, or swing with vicious force the thongs of the whip.

Many a time did I hear threats which would have sent him who made them straight to the gallows, had they been repeated in the government house; but the people were cautious, not minded to risk their necks for the common good, and, so far as I can tell, Director Stuyvesant never knew how near he was to a hornet's nest, when he took it upon himself to throw aside one of the greatest privileges of New Amsterdam's charter.

I doubt if it would have disturbed him much even had he known of the discontent, for he ruled, as the saying is, with a rod of iron, and seemed to think that there was never one, or an hundred, of the common people to whose mutterings he need take heed.

But for that act of his, I question if our men of the city would have stood so calmly by when the English fleet came to capture New Amsterdam, turning out of office every Dutchman. Director Stuyvesant would have found more by his side in that bitter hour, when he was the same as driven from the land, if he had kept the promise made when he first arrived, to govern the people of our town as a father governs his children.

But it is not for me to speak of the English yet, for there is much to tell concerning what was done by the Dutchmen, before Colonel Richard Nicolls anchored off the battery with the guns of his fleet trained upon us.