Page images
PDF
EPUB

22 July.

ru3.

Temper of

director.

CH. XIV, with Kieft had produced disaffection in the congregation,

and had become the subject of remark in the Classis of 1647.

Amsterdam, now resigned his charge, with a view of pro

ceeding to Holland to meet his ecclesiastical superiors. Bogardus Johannes Backerus, formerly the clergyman at Curaçoa, by Backe- and who had accompanied Stuyvesant to New Netherland,

was installed as the successor of Bogardus, at a yearly salary of fourteen hundred guilders.*

The inherent sentiment of popular freedom, which had and of their exhibited its power during Kieft's unquiet government,

moved the commonalty throughout Stuyvesant's more arbitrary administration. His military training made him imperious in his ideas of government. He looked upon himself as almost supreme in the far-off province. All attempts of the people to limit and restrain the abuse of his delegated authority he resisted with characteristic vigor and resolution. On the other hand, the colonists were constantly endeavoring to obtain for themselves the franchises and freedoms of their Fatherland. Affectionately loyal to the government of their native country, they felt that a participation in the liberties which their brethren enjoyed in Holland was their own birth-right in New Netherland.

The contest between the prerogative of the provincial government and the popular sentiment of the commonalty was reopened soon after Stuyvesant was installed ; and Kieft's reckless administration was made the subject of a formal complaint to his successor. Kuyter and Melyn, who had openly refused to join in a vote of thanks to their late director, now petitioned that the members of his council should be examined on searching interrogatories, which embraced the whole provincial policy from the imposition of the Indian tribute in 1639. The evidence thus obtained they proposed to use with effect in Holland.

Stuyvesant instantly took the alarm. If the adminism tration of Kieft were now to be judged at the demand of the people, his own acts might have to pass the same or

Kieft's official conduct arraigned.

Stuyvesant sides with Kieft.

* Corr. Cl. Amst. ; Alb. Rec., vii., 55 ; Rev. Dr. De Witt, in Proc. N. Y. H. S., 1844, 60, 61, 74; Breeden Raedt, ut sup. ; Moulton's N. Y. in 1673, 18; Vertoogh van N, N., 309; ante, p. 418.

deal. The precedent would be dangerous ; the preroga- Ch. XIV. tive of the directorship must be sustained. He therefore

1647 “ chose the side of Kieft;" and looked upon Kuyter and Melyn, not as members of the former board of Eight Men, but simply as “private persons.” Convening a special council, Stuyvesant, without waiting for the advice of his associates, announced his authoritative opinion. The pe- 14 June. titioners had not shown that they were “solicited by the citizens at large” to propose the examination of the late director and his council, by whom they had been considered "disturbers of the public peace and tranquillity." “If this point be conceded, will not these cunning fellows, in order to usurp over us a more unlimited power, claim and assume, in consequence, even greater authority against ourselves and our commission, should it happen that our administration may not square in every respect with their whims?" The officers of the provincial government should not be obliged to disclose the secret instructions of the West India Company on the demand of two private individuals. In the opinion of the director, " it was treason to petition against one's magistrates, whether there was cause or not." Stuyvesant's decided tone swayed the complain opinions of his compliant council, and the petition of the two “ malignant subjects” was rejected.

It was only natural that the unsuccessful petitioners should pay the penalty of their temerity. Instead of Kieft and his council, Kuyter and Melyn were now ordered to be examined as to the origin of the Indian war; and they were required to name its authors, and state whether their own demand for an investigation had been authorized by the home or provincial governments, or by the commonalty at large. If so, Kieft's instructions and dispatches might be communicated to them; if not, the accused must be sent to Holland with the recalled director, whom they had inculpated, to make good their complaints before the States General.

This decision was a triumph for Kieft. Finding that his successor was already prepossessed against Kuyter and

dismissed 18 June

Kieft.

22 June, Answers of

Melyn.

CH. XIV. Melyn, he determined to gratify his personal revenge, and

accused them before Stuyvesant of being the authors of 1647.

the memorial of the 28th of October, 1644, which the Eight Kuyter and Men had addressed to the College of the XIX., a copy of cused by which the directors had sent to him, “ that he might see

his impeachment, and purge himself; but without any authority to molest the signers of the letter on that account.” That letter, he now charged, was false and calumnious, and prepared and dispatched clandestinely; and he alleged that the majority of its signers had been cajoled into statements tending to bring their magistrates into contempt. The authors should be compelled to produce copies of all their letters to the West India Company, and should be banished “as pestilent and seditious persons.” Kieft's application was granted, and Kuyter and Melyn were ordered to answer in forty-eight hours.

In their defense, the accused produced evidence to susKuyter and tain their charges against Kieft, toward whom they de

clared they had no vindictive feelings. In the heat of war
they had indeed complained to the West India Company,
“but not to strangers, nor to the enemies of the United
Provinces." Between forty and fifty bouweries had been
destroyed during the hostilities with the Indians, and it
was only right that a searching inquiry should now be
made. They had used no deception toward any of the
Eight Men, or any of the commonalty. They were will-
ing to go to Holland, not as “pestilent and seditious” per-
sons, but as good patriots, who by the war had lost all that
they had possessed in New Netherland. The four surviv-
ors of the Eight Men, who had jointly signed the letters,
should nevertheless accompany them, to verify their com-
plaints before the States General.

In Stuyvesant's judgment, the frank answers of the acdictment of cused only aggravated their offense; and Fiscal Van Dyck

was ordered to prosecute them vigorously. But the indictment which he prepared was thought so imperfect, that the director and council determined to act as both prosecutors and judges. Melyn was accordingly charged with rebell.

4 July. Formal in

the ac cused,

11 July.

Defense of

Melyn.

ious conduct; with having endeavored to entice the com- Ch. XIV. pany's servants away from their employment; and with

1647. having deprived the Indians, before the war, of a part of their lands. Kuyter was accused of counseling treachery toward the savages; of urging the mortgage of Manhattan to the English; and of having threatened Kieft with personal violence, when he should "take off the coat with which he had been bedecked by the Lords his Masters." Both Melyn and Kuyter were charged with having fraudulently procured the signatures of the Eight Men to the "calumnious and scandalous" letter of the twenty-eighth of October, 1644, which it was also alleged the commonalty had not authorized them to write.

These charges were fully answered by the accused; and 16 July. Kuyter for himself maintained that, as a member of the Kuyter and board of Eight Men, he had, in good faith, advised the pledging of Manhattan to the English, as a measure of necessity. In a few days the prejudged case was decided, and sentence pronounced. Stuyvesant wished Melyn to be punished with death, and the confiscation of his property; and Kuyter to be subjected to an “arbitrary correction," and pay a fine of three hundred guilders. But the 25 July. majority of the council modified the director's severe opinion; and Melyn was sentenced to seven years' banish- Their conment, to pay a fine of three hundred guilders, and“ to for- sentences. feit all benefits derived from the company;" while Kuyter was sentenced to three years' banishment, and to pay a fine of one hundred and fifty guilders. One third of both fines was to be given to the poor, one third to the Church, and one third to the fiscal. It was alleged that Melyn was accused more bitterly, and punished more severely than Kuyter, “because Kieft had formerly flattered himself that he should have a part with him in Staten Island, and finding himself deceived, he had been obliged to make other conditions with other persons.

The right of appeal to the Fatherland, which Kieft had

[ocr errors]

* Alb. Rec., vii., 9-17, 34–67; Hol. Doc., iii., 184–205 ; V., 31; Breeden Raedt, 28, 29; O'Call., ii., 24-34; Doc. Hist. N. Y., iv., 109, 110; Vertoogh, 308; ante, p. 397-400, 416.

Right of appeal de pied to Melyn.

denburg.

CH. XIV. denied to Doughty and to Van Hardenburg, was now again

openly denied by Stuyvesant. “If I were persuaded,” said 1647

the director, addressing Melyn, “ that you would divulge our sentence, or bring it before their High Mightinesses, I would have you hanged at once on the highest tree in New Netherland." Not long afterward, upon leaving the Par

sonage house, where he had been attending a meeting of Van llar- the consistory, Stuyvesant interrupting Van Hardenburg,

who was relating Kieft's proceedings in his case, openly declared, “If any one, during my administration, shall ap

peal, I will make him a foot shorter, and send the pieces Doughty. to Holland, and let him appeal in that way." Doughty,

too, was again made to feel the abuse of provincial av. thority. His petition to be allowed to return to Europe was at first denied, and he was “ threatened with this and that." He was finally permitted to depart, provided he gave a promise under his hand that he would not, in any place to which he might come, speak or complain of what had befallen him, here in New Netherland, from Directors Kieft or Stuyvesant."*

Elated with his full measure of personal revenge, Kieft barks for embarked for Holland a few weeks afterward in the ship

Princess, carrying with him specimens of the minerals of New Netherland, and "a fortune," which his enemies estimated at four hundred thousand guilders. Domine Bogardus, and Van der Huygens, the late fiscal, were his fellow-passengers in the richly-laden ship, on board which Kuyter and Melyn were also brought "like criminals.” But the 66 man of blood” never revisited the Fatherland. Within four years, De Vries's parting malediction was terribly fulfilled. The Princess, navigated by mistake into the Bristol Channel, struck upon a rock, and was wrecked on the rugged coast of Wales. Seeing death at hand, Kieft's conscience smote him, and turning toward Kuyter and Melyn, he said, “ Friends, I have been unjust toward you--can you forgive me?" Toward morning, the ship went to pieces. Kieft, and “eighty other persons,” includ.

16 August Kieft em

Holland.

27 Sept. Shipwreck.

* Vertoogh, in ii., N. Y. H. S. Coll., ii., 309, 310 ; Breeden Raedt, 30 ; ante, p. 417.

« PreviousContinue »