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Wilhehn Kieft

KIEFT, Wilhehn, governor of New Netherlands, born in Holland about 1600; died off the coast of Wales in 1647. He was the fifth Dutch governor of New Netherlands, and was coldly received on his arrival there in "The Herring," 28 March, 1638. It was said that he had failed in the mercantile business in Holland, and had been hanged in effigy, which was, in the Dutch estimation, a lasting disgrace. Subsequently he had been sent by the government as minister to Turkey, and intrusted with money to procure the ransom of Christians that were held in bondage; but these captives were left in their chains, and the money never refunded. Kieft was energetic, but spiteful and rapacious, and utterly ignorant of the true principles of government. He began his administration by concentrating all executive power in his own hands, with one councillor, Dr. Johannes La Montagne. He found New Amsterdam in a wretched condition, and said in his first letter to Holland, " The fort is open at every side. except the stone point,; the guns are dismounted; the houses and public buildings are all out of repair" the magazine for merchandise has disappeared every vessel in the harbor is falling to pieces; only one wind-mill is in operation; the farms of the company are without tenants and thrown into commons." Kieft began his reformatory work by pasting proclamations upon the trees and fences. He ordered that no attestations or other publie writings should be valid before a court in New Netherlands unless they were written by the colonial secretary. He improved the appearance of the town, and selected Pearl street, then a simple road on the bank of the river, for the best class of dwellings. A wind-mill stood on State street, and not far from it were the bakery, the brewery, and the company's warehouse. He repaired Fort Amsterdam, and erected a private distillery on Staten island in 1640, which produced the first beer that was ever made in this country; but he forbade "the tapping of beer during divine service, and after one o'clock at night." He prohibited illegal traffic and the selling of guns or powder to the Indians, and enforced police ordinances, ordering the town-bell to be rung every evening at nine o'clock to announce the hour for retiring, every morning and evening to call persons to and from labor, and on Thursdays to summon prisoners to court. To promote agriculture he established two annual cattle-fairs, and caused orchards to be planted and gardens cultivated. Owing to the growth of the town and the increasing number of travellers, he concluded to erect a public-house. A clumsy stone tavern was completed in 1642 on the corner of Pearl street and Coenties slip, fronting East river. He was also active in the erection of the stone church in the fort, and caused a marble slab to be placed in the front wall with the inscription " Anno Domini, 1642. Wilhelm Kieft, Directeur General, Heeft de Generaleente Desen Tem-pel Doen Bouwen." This slab was discovered buried in the earth when the fort was demolished in 1687 to make room for the government house, and removed to the belfry of the old Dutch church in Garden street, where it remained until that church was burned in 1835. In after years, Kieft absented himself from service, and ordered soldiers to practise noisy amusements under the church windows, owing to an allusion that Dominie Bogardus had made to his despotism. A snore liberal policy in respect to the ownership of land caused emigration to increase, the only obligation required from foreigners being an oath of allegiance to the states-general of Holland. Although his measures of reform were of lasting benefit to the colony, Kieft's government was marked by such bold tyranny, and his petty, irritable nature found vent in such cruelty, that he was detested by the people. The encroachments of the Puritans on the east and the Swedes on the Delaware gave Kieft much concern, and he wrote of them to the company, who deemed Sweden too powerful to attack. Kieft's maltreatment of the Indians caused retaliation on their part, and in 1641 the governor called an assembly of the "masters and heads of families" in the town to co-operate with the council. Twelve men were chosen, and this was the first representative assembly in New Netherlands. The assembly, on their third session, in February, 1642, devised a plan for a municipal government in New Amsterdam, whereupon Kieft was alarmed, dissolved the assembly, and forbade its reorganization. In the winter of 1643 Kieft made an attack at Hoboken on the Mohawk Indians, who had made a descent to collect tribute from the river tribes. The Long Island tribes now took up arms, and for a time the Dutch colony was threatened. The colonists finally petitioned for Kieft's recall, and celebrated his departure with salutes. He sailed for Holland on 16 August, 1647, in the ship " Princess," with snore than $100,000. The vessel was wrecked on the coast of Wales, and Dominie Bogardus, Kieft, and 81 others were drowned.

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