Deadwood on the Hudson

Hudson Bay Company's Post at Nisqually in Puget Sound. Oct. 5 1866

Murderer, Thief, Whoremonger, Cheat

This summer marks the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s joyride to Albany—a celebration steeped in blood and greed.

Published anonymously in Antwerp in 1649 but very likely authored by Cornelis Melyn, patroon (manorial lord) of Staten Island, the pamphlet “Broad Advice” horrified the Dutch public with its scathing description of New Netherland’s leadership. Written in the form of a play, “Broad Advice” created a full-blown scandal with its depictions of high-handedness, fiscal irresponsibility, debaucheries, and Indian slaughters perpetrated by the colonial administration. The most vile accusations, including “murderer, thief, cheat, whoremonger, and villain,” are leveled against Cornelis van Tienhoven, secretary of the colony, occasional schout (a position similar to sheriff), and for two decades the second most influential person in New Netherland. Van Tienhoven deserved the recriminations—his monstrous career deserves a volume all on its own—and he was certainly the extreme end of the wicked spectrum. Nonetheless, the charges against the secretary apply to greater or lesser extents to all of the Directors that followed Minuit as well as their henchmen, whose portraits could fill a Dutch rogues’ gallery. Often humorous in their inebriated buffoonery, the WIC-ordained leadership is less so when their irresponsible misdeeds led to hideous Indian wars, wars not much commented upon in the Hudson 400 event calendar. With the inspired person of Peter Minuit gone in 1631, problems began immediately, at a place called Whore Creek.

The conflict occurred in 1631 at a small settlement called Swanendael, where lack of Dutch moderation transformed a minor misunderstanding into bloody massacre. It was standard procedure for the Dutch to raise a flag anywhere they arrived, and in Swanendael they put up a painted piece of tin on a pole next to a stream they called the Hoerekill, or Whore Creek. The Dutch weren’t given to fanciful place names; such a designation meant that the Dutch and the natives were already having relations of a sort, but those relations collapsed after a local Indian chief pulled down the tin sign because he thought it could be used as a pipe. The head of the colony protested loudly against such a “national insult.” Recriminations flew between both sides. Fed up with the Dutch, the native tribes waited until the Dutch were working in the fields outside the wooden fort, then attacked. By the end of the onslaught, 34 Dutch colonists lay dead, plus a massive bulldog shot with 25 arrows. The massacre wasn’t discovered until a month later, in December of 1631, when one of the shareholders of the colony, Dutch adventurer David de Vries, arrived to find the burnt remnants of his investment.

De Vries then sailed from Swanendael to Manhattan, and his later 1655 account “Short Historical and Journal-Notes of various Voyages performed in the Four Quarters of the Globe” provides a fascinating, at times hair-raising examination of New Amsterdam and its directors during the 1630s and ‘40s. De Vries became patroon of Staten Island, and although his narrative has the usual grudges any patroon felt towards the WIC, he was a well-seasoned man whose reasonable critiques of New Netherland bear special weight. Shocked at the difference between WIC management and the Dutch agents working in the East Indies, de Vries wrote he was “surprised that the West India Company would send such fools into this country, who knew nothing, except to drink…and that the Company, by such management, must come to naught.”

Van Twiller was out of his depth to begin with, and the constant drinking under duress didn’t help.De Vries knew of what he spoke, and his journal of the “Four Quarters of the Globe” would need to be excised sharply by anyone attempting to glorify Dutch efforts on the Hudson, especially his depictions of the leadership at Manhattan in the early 1630s. After Minuit’s unseemly departure, New Netherland had been placed under the guidance of Bastiaen Krol. Krol got in the middle of a cattle-trading dispute between the WIC and Kiliaen van Rensselaer, lord of the Renselaerswijck patroonship, and van Rensselaer won the argument handily when Krol was sacked at his instigation and replaced in 1632 by van Rensselaer’s nephew, Wouter van Twiller.

Only 27 years old at the time and a middling clerk at the WIC’s Amsterdam office, van Twiller’s appointment as Director of New Netherland was pure nepotism. In Tom Lewis’s excellent The Hudson, Lewis says that van Twiller has traditionally been seen as the “stock comic character of the Dutch drama on the Hudson, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes bombastic, and always foolish.” Whatever van Twiller’s role had been as a spear-carrier in the WIC’s home office, his five-year reign in New Netherland was slovenly and ridden with mistakes. Van Twiller was out of his depth to begin with, and the constant drinking under duress didn’t help. Early in his tenure he was plied with drink by an English captain and allowed the English trader to depart for Ft. Orange and its fur market, an egregious error as no non-Dutch merchants should have been allowed near the precious upstate pelt trade. Realizing his mistake (but continuing to drink) a few days later, Van Twiller downed a bumper of wine and in de Vries’s merciless depiction, “cried out [to] protect him from the outrage of the Englishman, who was already out of sight sailing up the river. The people all began to laugh at him.”

The Dutch continued to laugh at van Twiller’s expense, especially after the most notorious incident of his directorship. Criticized by the new dominie Everadus Bogardus—described variously as a “stout, hard drinking Calvinist” accused of “behaving like a heathen, much less a Christian letting alone a preacher of the Gospel”—van Twiller responded by chasing the reverend through the streets with a “naked sword” in hand. The only reason van Twiller remained director as long as he did was due to van Rensselaer’s influence. “Believe me freely,” the patroon warned his nephew at one point, “had your honor not had me here, [the WIC board] would have summoned you home with an affront.” Van Twiller replied affront for affront and further aggravated the WIC by building an expensive house, “with lattice work” for himself as a colonist noted with disapproval.

Rotting corpses or not, the Connecticut Valley was considered open for settlement.Unfortunately for van Twiller, the lattice didn’t repair his reputation and to this day his antics overshadow his admittedly few successes. New bastions for the fort were raised as well as barracks for the 100-plus WIC soldiers on the island. Business was relatively brisk at Ft. Orange, and a Dutch trade post, the House of Good Hope, was established on the Connecticut River at present-day Hartford, although Dutch as well as English settlement in that area was aided by dolorous assistance: In the winter of 1634-35, a smallpox epidemic “swept away” the tough Pequod tribes, and Dutch traders heard from pilgrims also trading on the Connecticut, “for it pleased God to visit these Indians with a great sickness, and such a mortalitie that of 1000, 900…of them dyed, and many of them did rot about ground for want of buriall.”

Rotting corpses or not, the Connecticut Valley was considered open for settlement, with the English arriving in droves and eventually overwhelming the Dutch at Good Hope in 1637. Van Twiller pleaded for WIC to supply enough men and arms to maintain the Dutch hold on the Connecticut, but the company had lost confidence in the youth. His uncle’s supportive voice was alone against a torrent of Dutch outrage, led by Bogardus and a schout fired by van Twiller, who returned to the Netherlands and testified violently against the director. Fed up with the ruckus, the WIC replaced van Twiller with Willem Kieft in the fall of 1637. As bad as van Twiller’s directorship had been—and to the youth’s credit, van Twiller was beloved by the Indian traders, who cried out for “Wouter, Wouter…” long after he’d left New Netherland—the choice of Willem Kieft was cankerous even by the WIC’s standards. There would be many cries from Indians and Dutch alike during Kieft’s administration, but these were lamentations, and one terrifying silence.


* * *

The name of Willem Kieft, Director-General of New Netherland from 1637 to 1647, does not appear once on the website of the Hudson 400, the umbrella organization for the quadricentennial celebrations. Using the site’s search mechanism produces only the standard “Your search did not match any documents. No pages were found containing the name Willem Kieft.”

To be fair, the Hudson 400 is celebrating Hudson’s undoubted achievement, and the quadricentennial plans are intended to highlight Hudson’s arrival, native culture on the river, and the river’s long and ongoing place in American history, and celebration is indeed called for in numerous ways. The Dutch period under the sun was short, and the experiences of the Dutch were, and often still are, a neglected piece of America’s past. And no one forgets the Algonquian and Iroquois tribes who greeted Hudson, though many of these tribes, especially the Algonquian-speaking peoples, have been extinct for centuries. Like the names of Dutch towns and places throughout the Hudson Valley, Indian names dot the landscape with reminders of the past, reminders that are difficult to pronounce, even more troublesome to spell, and a world away from the cozy connotations of the English townships across the Massachusetts border. Still, it seems odd that the name Kieft is nowhere on the Hudson 400 site, if only because he was in charge of New Netherland for nearly a quarter of its entire existence. Odd that is, until one follows Kieft’s career—then it feels fitting his name should be absent from any celebration. He and his “red and bloated” lieutenant Cornelis van Tienhoven, with help from an English mercenary named Underhill, are the blackest bastards in colonial Dutch history.

As de Vries noted plainly, “Those who want to plant a colony must not let any sailors among them.”It’s tempting to say Willem Kieft defies description, but Tom Lewis does a fine job of summing up the man and his impact on New Amsterdam: “Proud and inflexible, ill-natured and fractious, and often weak and craven, Kieft brought ignominy and near ruin upon the Dutch colony.” The son of a well-connected Amsterdam family, including a cousin prominently displayed in Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch,” Kieft revealed his true colors early in his career in the French city of La Rochelle. It was there, according to “Broad Advice,” he ruined a business and its backers so completely that “his portrait…was fastened upon the gallows.” Forced to leave France in a hurry, Kieft somehow or another ended up in Turkey, where he was “employed to redeem some captive Christians…The money was entrusted to this bankrupt.” Kieft then ransomed the captives fetching the lowest prices from the Ottomans while making off with greater amount. Referring to the nefarious affair in Turkey, “Broad Advice” makes the delicious comment that such was “truly trusting the cheese to the cat.”

Likely due to familial connections, the WIC trusted Kieft with their New Netherland cheese, perhaps thinking his ruthlessness would rein in the increasingly wild settlement at New Amsterdam, a place with “the arrogance of Babel,” a French visitor sneered. Van Twiller had left a mess behind: the wooden walls of the fort were caving in, there was no church worth speaking of, and the currency was a fluctuating nightmare of guilders, pieces-of-eight, English pennies, wampum, and skins, which were often used as money. The colonists themselves were a mix of unruly sailors (as de Vries noted plainly, “Those who want to plant a colony must not let any sailors among them”), licensed as well as illicit tavern keepers, traders more keen on smuggling than paying WIC duty fees, and Indians coming and going with their painted faces, fur leggings, and bodies coated in animal grease to keep insects away. Heavy drinking was endemic throughout the town, and a New Amsterdammer reported that “daily drunk Indians run along the Manhatans.” Matters were similarly wicked upriver at the Rensselaerwijck colony, where the elderly patroon became so fed up with his unruly colonists that he wrote to his sheriff in 1643, “I am almost thinking of asking some of the negroes [slaves]…or even to employ for your assistance some Indian of good courage and obedience [to] be used almost as brute forces against malevolents.”

(Thankfully, this plan for a patroon-controlled militia of slaves only lasted for a very brief period. Less wonderful, slavery continued in New York into the early 1820s, with towns in the Hudson Valley having laws against any blacks on the street after sundown unless escorted by a white owner or minder.)

Trying to sober his riotous settlements, Kieft ineffectually banned liquor sales to Indians, withdrew the licenses from any tavern that didn’t sell wine “in moderate quantitie,” and gave a warning to everyone to “abstain from fighting; from carnal intercourse with heathens, blacks or other persons; from rebellion, theft, false swearing, calumny, and all other immoralities.” The warning didn’t apply to Kieft himself, though, and his immoderate bouts led to several incidents, some farcical, some tragic.

A more amusing issue was the quandary over New Amsterdam’s church. The town’s first place of worship was a room above a horse mill, and its second, built by van Twiller and called a “mean barn,” was near the East River. It was actually de Vries, who’d become patroon of a fledgling colony on Staten Island, who started the issue when he told Kieft over dinner that “it was a scandal” to the Dutch that their church was so shameful. Lacking funds, Kieft waited until a jubilant wedding to ask the colonists for subscriptions. “After the fourth or fifth round of drinking [Kieft] set about the business,” and with drink-befuddled minds the Dutch wedding guests competed with each other for who could promise the largest amount. The next day, “although some well repented it when they recovered their senses, they were nevertheless forced to pay.”

Kieft indeed kept the Dutch to their promised subscriptions, but then the director infuriated many of the group when he had the stone church built inside the fort and not among the townspeople where the church would be “owned by the congregation at whose cost it was built.” Even worse, the church’s location within the fort partially blocked the wind to the nearby gristmill, “for which reason there [was] frequently in summer a want of bread for its inability to grind.” The bread situation wasn’t helped by the fact that the rotting, leaky windmill had only two functioning arms.

Kieft believed in an all-out battle with every Indian in sight, though the majority of the colonists were against a conflict, correctly believing that war would be a disaster.While the situation of the church was aggravating, it was a trifle compared to the chain of events beginning in 1641, when the director’s intemperance led to a brutal conflict with the Indians, known afterwards as Kieft’s War. The war was sparked when an elderly wheelwright named Claes Swits living by Turtle Bay was murdered by a passing Indian. The Indian, whose uncle had been killed by the Dutch during Minuit’s tenure, had sworn vengeance one day, and in August 1641 he chose Swits at random. Grabbing an axe, the Indian partially decapitated the wheelwright, then ran off with a few household goods. Although the crime was savage and the community mourned the popular old man, the incident could have ended there. But Kieft, who had “for a long time nourished in his own bosom the design of making war upon the Indians of New Netherland,” wouldn’t let the issue rest. He demanded that the Indians hand the culprit over, but the tribe’s sachem refused, “saying he was sorry that twenty Christians had not been murdered and that this Indian had only avenged the death of his uncle.”

Relations between the natives and the expanding Dutch population had been souring even before the murder of Swits. The year before the wheelwright’s death, Raritan tribesmen near Staten Island attacked a WIC yacht named the Vrede, or Peace. Although the Dutch sailors all escaped with their lives, Kieft ordered a punitive expedition against the Raritans. Led by the colony’s secretary van Tienhoven, 70 men crossed the river and killed several Indians. A brother of the Raritan sachem was captured during the fight, and afterwards he was brought to the fort and tortured “in his private parts with a piece of split wood.”

So, when the Raritans heard of the controversy following the murder of Swits, the angry tribe once again raided Staten Island, this time killing four people on de Vries’s small plantation and burning down several buildings. Matters were escalating; Kieft believed in an all-out battle with every Indian in sight, though the majority of the colonists were against a major conflict, correctly believing that war would be a disaster for the outnumbered and surrounded colony.

It took Kieft a year to overcome the arguments and delaying tactics of the anti-war colonists, but he finally got his heart’s desire in February, 1643. Two raiding parties were formed, each with separate nighttime missions. Led by “a man of brutal character” named Maryn Adriaensen who later tried to kill Kieft with a pistol, one party of 40 volunteers attacked the tribes on the lower east side of Manhattan. The other party, made up of 80 soldiers captained by van Tienhoven, went across the river to attack the New Jersey natives. On the evening of the attack de Vries asked Kieft to call it off, saying, “Let this work alone—you will murder our own nation.” Reverend Bogardus also pleaded with the director but Kieft was adamant, replying coldly, “The order is gone forth; it shall not be recalled.”

It was near midnight when the carnage across the river began. In Manhattan, De Vries “heard a great shrieking…Saw nothing but firing, and heard the shrieks of natives murdered in their sleep.” “Broad Advice” gave a fuller description of the nightmare across the Hudson:

Infants were snatched from their mother’s breasts, and cut to pieces in sight of their parents, and the pieces thrown into the fire and into the water; other sucklings were bound to boards, and cut and struck or bored through, and miserably massacred… Some came to our people on the farms with their hands cut off; others had their legs hacked off and some were holding their entrails in their arms.

Adriaensen’s volunteers killed an additional 40 Indians, and the next morning native survivors who’d hidden were “were murdered in cold blood when they came out to beg a piece of bread and to be permitted to warm themselves.” Kieft offered handshakes and congratulations to the Dutch troops, and De Vries heard soldiers boasting, “they had massacred or murdered eighty Indians and considering they had done a deed of Roman valor…”

If the Dutch thought of themselves as Roman, then the Indian retaliation was positively Hunnish. Striking back immediately, the Indians raided from Staten Island, across Manhattan, and into Long Island. “All the men whom they could surprise on the farmlands they killed…They burned all the houses, farms, barns, grain and destroyed everything they could get hold of.” The colonists, who so recently had been expanding in every direction, were driven as refugees into the overcrowded fort. Blaming Kieft for everything, they described their misery in a petition sent to the States General:

Almost every place is abandoned. We, wretched people, must skulk, with wives and little ones that still survive, in poverty together, in and around the Fort at Manahatas where we are not safe even for one hour; whilst the Indians daily threaten to overwhelm us with it. Very little can be planted…so that it will come to pass that all of us…must of necessity perish next year of hunger and sorrow…

Once again, Kieft could have stopped the war. The Indians were also fed up with the conflict, which had turned their world inside out. The sachems of several tribes went to Kieft seeking a truce in the usual forms of gifts. Despite the sachems wanting a solid excuse to end the fighting, Kieft was stingy with his offerings and the sachems went away, forced to continue the conflict.

It was said that in the aftermath Kieft was “drinking every day…then shuts his room tight.”The colony was almost untenable by the fall of 1643. The natives had taken control of the Jersey side of the Hudson as well as most of Manhattan and Long Island. At that point Kieft hired an experienced English mercenary, Captain John Underhill, who’d successfully defeated the Pequod tribes in New England. Directing a Dutch assault on Long Island, where 120 natives were killed, Underhill returned to the fort with severed heads on triumphant display. He also brought back captives, who were then tortured with death with knives. Kieft and Underhill weren’t done, though, and hearing that Indians were gathering near Greenwich, Connecticut, “to celebrate some peculiar festival,” Underhill led an army of 130 men to find and destroy the village on Long Island Sound. Underhill waited until well past nightfall, then surrounded the village and attacked. The Dutch made a slaughter of the braves who fought back, killing about 180 before the Indians retreated to their wooden huts. The wounded Underhill decided enough was enough and ordered the huts torched. A WIC chronicle paints the rest of the horrid picture:

The moon was then at a full and threw a strong light against the mountains, so that many winters’ days were not clearer than it then was…whereupon the Indians tried every way to escape, not succeeding in which they returned back to the flames, preferring to perish by fire than to die by our hands. What was most wonderful is, that among this vast collection of Men, Women and Children, not one was heard to cry or scream.

With only 15 men wounded and none dead, the Dutch made it back to Manhattan in two days. The chronicle ends, “A thanksgiving was proclaimed upon their arrival.”

When news of the slaughters reached Holland, the WIC and the Dutch public were aghast. Inquiries and recriminations flew back and forth across the Atlantic. With Kieft and van Tienhoven singled out especially for the disastrous state of affairs, Kieft tried to clear his name via “cunning and numerous certificates and petitions,” but few were buying his story. It was said that in the aftermath Kieft was “drinking every day…then shuts his room tight.” Trying to sort out the situation, the WIC recalled Kieft in 1647, as well as Dominie Bogardus and another of Kieft’s chief critics, Cornelis Melyn. Packed up along with a number of WIC soldiers returning to the homeland, as well as numerous maps and accounts of New Netherland, the three set sail aboard the Princess. Unfortunately for the Princess, she hit a storm and floundered off the coast of Wales at a place called Mumbles Point. Of the 107 persons on board, only 21 survived the sinking, including Melyn who likely wrote “Broad Advice.” Willem Kieft was not among the survivors, who claimed Kieft came to them as the ship was going under and said, “Friends, I have done wrong, can you forgive me?” Whether Kieft actually said those words is uncertain, but had he actually done so there isn’t much doubt how the Dutch and Indians would have answered him.


* * *

Sadly for the colonists of New Netherland, who greeted Pieter Stuyvesant earlier that year as their new Director-General with more understandable proclamations of thanksgiving, the WIC had chosen yet another man unsuited to the responsibilities of the New World. Arriving in Manhattan in 1647 aboard the Groote Gerret (Great Crow), the new Director, with his harsh convictions and a wooden leg earned during a naval confrontation in the West Indies, fit the rookish name of his ship. The son of a pastor in Friesland in the northern area of the Dutch Republic, Stuyvesant brought a chilled version of Protestantism to New Amsterdam. He was also a Company man to the fullest, believing absolutely in the authority of the WIC as defined by his own personage. Described by Tom Lewis as a, “slave to ritual, decorum, and the God of John Calvin,” Stuyvesant even referred to himself as “Mijn Heer General,” or “My Lord General.” This title had never been used before in New Netherland, and it immediately galled the Dutch colonists with its aristocratic pretensions.

Although he wasn’t a flagrant beast like Kieft, Stuyvesant and his haughty attitudes created plenty of trouble over the next, and final, 20 years of Dutch rule on the Hudson. In 1654, a small group of Jewish refugees arrived in New Amsterdam, destitute from having to flee Brazil after the formerly Dutch colony was seized by the Portuguese, with the inevitable Inquisition to follow. Stuyvesant complained bitterly against the presence of the Jews who were “weeping and bemoaning their misery.” Stuyvesant wanted to exile the group, complaining to the WIC of their “usual usury and deceitful business.” The reverend in New Amsterdam, Johannes Megapolensis, also made a stink, writing to his religious superiors, “These people have no other God than the Mammon of unrighteousness and no other aim than to get possession of Christian property.” Thankfully for the Jews, the WIC ordered Stuyvesant to let them remain, reminding Mijn Heer General that the Jews had been Dutch colonists who’d lost much from the loss of Brazil and that it’d be “unreasonable and unfair” to set them adrift yet again. Strangely or not, this incident—plus another in 1657 when a Quaker was imprisoned by Stuyvesant and “whipped in private on his bare back, with threats that the whipping would be repeated” before being sent on a slow boat to Rhode Island—showed the famed Dutch tolerance was centered more in the urbane Republic than the ragtag settlements in America.

Whether the Dutch, with their reputation for tolerance, republicanism, and capitalistic interests, laid the cornerstone for the American “melting pot” is debatable; the Dutch also epitomized the worst aspects of colonialism.Indian-related issues would also arise during Stuyvesant’s tenure. In 1655, the calamitous “Peach War” broke out between the Dutch and various tribes surrounding Manhattan. Although Stuyvesant himself was down in Delaware on other business at the time, his primary henchman, the rapacious secretary of the colony Cornelis van Tienhoven, was largely responsible for the conflict. Stuyvesant had defended van Tienhoven many times against accusations of drunkenness, violence, and all-around malevolence, but it finally caught up with the Director with the outbreak of the war, which horrified the WIC and caused the downfall of the secretary.

And in 1663, Indian wars caused death and distress upriver at the Wiltwyck settlement, at modern Kingston, New York. Dutch-Indian aggravation had been building for years in the area, with grievances fueled by Stuyvesant sending captive Indians to Curacao in 1660 to work as slaves. When the tribes attacked Wiltwyck in 1663, their revenge knew no bounds and afterwards a reverend described the scene:

There the burnt, the killed bodies, the hurt were lying…The agony of the many and the wailing and the moaning was unbearable to hear…The dead bodies of men lay here and there like dung heaps on the field and the burnt and roasted corpses like shaves behind the mower…A woman lay burnt with her child at her side, as if she were just delivered.

If 1663 was ill-starred, 1664 was the end of the Dutch colonies along the Hudson. The English and Dutch had been battling for control of the seas for decades, and in 1664 the English won the fight once and for all when warships sailed into Manhattan harbor and demanded the surrender of the town. Despite almost total lack of gunpowder, Stuyvesant took to the battlements and wanted to fight, but was finally talked down by the burghers of New Amsterdam, who knew the English broadsides would level everything they’d struggled to create on the island. Reporting the surrender to their old masters at the West India Company, the good burghers of New Amsterdam made it clear where they placed the blame, “We, your Honours loyal, sorrowful and desolate subjects cannot neglect nor keep from relating the [surrender], which …happened to us in consequence of your Honours neglect and forgetfulness…”

The colonial Dutch empire in North America was ended. Though brief, and often viewed as a blip on the founding of America as we understand it, the Dutch period is now being celebrated as a seminal event. Whether the Dutch, with their reputation for tolerance, republicanism, and capitalistic interests, truly laid the cornerstone for the American “melting pot” is debatable; in many ways, the Dutch also epitomized the worst aspects of colonialism. New Amsterdam was a company town, misguided by absentee boardrooms stuffed with greedy businessmen with little foresight but much abuse and self-interest, while the colonists themselves were a mixed lot all too often accused of laziness, alcoholism, smuggling, and generally reprehensible behavior.

And if the Dutch compare well to their Protestant brethren in New England so far as respecting Indian rights and prerogatives—the English didn’t recognize Indian fiefdoms while the Dutch preferred to buy or bribe the native sachems for their lands—that doesn’t wipe the slate clean either. New Netherland was afflicted with Indian conflicts from Delaware River to the forests outside Fort Orange, and these repeated wars continually threatened to shatter the colonial Dutch experiment. For the Dutch, America was a “sweet and alien land,” with all the hopes of a worldly Paradise. For the Indians, it was home and just as sweet, if not more so. One sorrow is that the two cultures had such difficulty dividing this heaven between them. The adventurer David de Vries formed and then lost three different plantations in New Netherland due to Indian wars, and his description of Indian religious beliefs not only sums up the cultural differences between the Dutch and the Indians, but also the ongoing separation of the American Dream and the harsher realities of this Land of Promise:

The chief doctrine held among [the natives] is the belief in the immortality of the soul by some. Others are in doubt of this, but not far from it, saying, when they die they go to a place where they sing like the ravens; but this singing is entirely different from the singing of the angels.

Tobias Seamon recently published the novella The Fair Grounds. More can be found here. More by Tobias Seamon