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Chapter 4

A Missive From New Amsterdam

August 10, 1634

My Dear Sir Thomas,

I had promised to keep you informed about the situation here, but I am seldom in the city of New Amsterdam. My home and my forge are a considerable distance up the river, without any neighbors even close enough to see the smoke from their chimney.

I hope that this message finds you in good health and good spirits. My wife insists that I send also our best wishes to your niece. Has she found the young man that she had lost? I would not ask this had my wife not insisted. If you were to cross paths with my friend Captain Piet van Hoorne or his wife Mirabelle, give them our best.

My own family is in good health, including our daughter. We should have a new addition to that family sometime in the winter. My homestead is prospering, and my forge is ready, but I have no building over it yet. As far as news from the city of New Amsterdam is concerned, almost everything I have to report is a rumor of some kind. I fear that it will be up to you to sift the facts from the fantasies.

My family has become friends with an excellent gentleman, Simon van Tanken and his wife. They have invited us to eat at their table, and they have two wonderful sons. The wife said that they had lost two other children to smallpox. On my next visit to the city, I will bring my special jar with which I planned to protect my own people from that dread disease.

I have never been able to visit my own people, the Pequot. It seems as if there is always trouble in that area, near the Connecticut River and Long island. All I hear are conflicting stories, about squabbles between English settlers and the tribes, or Dutch settlers and the tribes, or the English and the Dutch, or between the tribes themselves. That really isn't information.

The Dutch agree that the war across the Atlantic is currently quiet. To be truthful, I don't really understand the politics among the French, the Dutch, the English, the Danes, the Swedes, and the Americans. Here, I'll be able to hear only what Dutch colonists think, whether right or wrong.

Most of them here still detest the French, but they aren't really afraid of them. They consider themselves too unimportant for the French to bother with them. That seems to be the official line, still being promoted by the governor-general Van Twiller. Surprisingly, he is still the governor, despite the fact that his uncle and patroon, Kiliaen van Renssalaer, has gone back to Holland. Few consider him anything except a blunderer. The obnoxious Frenchman, de Razilly, seems to have caught a ship back to France. I have yet to find anyone who misses him.

There are rumors of a French fleet somewhere to the south, that might be bound here, or might not be bound here, or might not even exist. That will tell you how valuable that information is.

There are rumors that the Swedish king wants to start a colony along the coast somewhere. Where, exactly, no one seems to know. When, exactly, no one seems to know. I would guess that that is another guilder cast from lead.

The rumors that seem to stir New Amsterdam the most have to do with a king that I'm not sure I've even heard of. Is there some kind of new king in the Netherlands? I don't know that there is a new king, but if there is, I suppose he might have some kind of claim to New Amsterdam. Who knows? That would mean that he might try to claim my own property. The one part of that rumor that concerns me, even if it has no substance, is that that faraway king is a Catholic. As an Anabaptist, I couldn't trust such a king. Quite a few of the Dutch here are staunch Calvinists who are also of that opinion.

I know that you are also concerned with the Indians. I should know more, but I really don't. I hear sometimes from some white traders from upriver that the Mohawks have been pounding the Mohicans, but I don't believe that either of those tribes is important to you. I heard a rumor for a while that the Susquehannocks were on the move, but that seemed to blow away in the wind. They were not important to you anyway, and they also live far from me.

I will leave this letter with my friend Van Tanken, until he can find a ship bound for Newfoundland on which it can be transported.

Please see to shipping me raw iron equal to one half the value of the letter of credit I have with the Hudson's Bay Company. You are well aware of the amount.

I wish you all the best

Your Obedient Servant,

Eliezer St. Clair

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