New Netherlands, 1641Approximately 1000 years before the Europeans claimed it as their own, the land that would become New York was controlled by the Iroquois Confederation. The Iroquois Confederation was composed of the Six Nations of the Iroquois League: The Mohawk, Seneca, Tuscarora, Cayuga, Oneida, and Onondaga tribes. These tribes greeted the coming of the white man in 1524 with one of their most prized crops- tobacco.
Then known by the French as New Angoulome, arriving Dutch settlers rechristened the province as New Netherlands. (The New Netherlands province was later renamed New York Province, and still later becoming New York State in 1776). The early New Yorkers were ruled by the Dutch West India Company, who elected “Director Generals” to govern the populace. This official position later evolved into the more democratically-run office of State Governor.
Director Generals were often elected based on their ability to “handle” the native peoples. Willem Kieft attracted the attention of the Dutch West Indian Company executives with his vicious attacks on the Iroquois, which he had almost completely driven away from the Hudson River Valley. After being appointed Director General, Kieft made it his business to eradicate the Native American altogether from the province of New Netherlands, either through exorbitant taxation or outright massacre.
Kieft was famous for preaching democracy while practicing totalitarianism. To appear less authoritarian to the public at large, he formed The Council of Twelve Men, a democratic body formed to give him advice on how to proceed with his Indian agenda. Technically, it was the first form of representative democracy in the history of New York, although in reality it was little more than a sham committee. As soon as Kieft announced the formation of the Council, he called to order an inaugural meeting to take place behind closed doors. Kieft famously sat down, and proclaimed, “This meeting is now adjourned.” Kieft got up and walked away, leaving the Council members bewildered and confused.
No tobacco for you! Willem Kieft, the Smoke NaziOne of Kieft's personal pet peeves was that of tobacco. He hated it in all its forms; snuff, quid chewing, “seegars”, and most of all: pipe smoking. After physically beating a Negro house servant for smoking a pipe while performing gardening work, Kieft decided to outlaw the sale, possession and use of all tobacco throughout the New Netherland province.
Using his considerable influence, Kieft issued an edict announcing that anyone found badmouthing his ordinance in print would be arrested and punished. While furious talk of the new law spread through the colony, the press was aglow with supportive prose that hailed Kieft as a “hero” and a “defender of children and invalids”. While he may have bought off the media, he was unable to shake off the criticism of his subjects.
An armed group of over two thousand Dutchmen marched towards Wllhelmus Kieft's mansion on Governor's Hill and tore down the gate. The men all carried tobacco, pipes, snuff boxes, and rifles. Boxes of ammunition were stacked outside the Director General's door. Taunting Kieft, several of the men shouted “Come out Kieft! Have some snuff!” Others called out “Come arrest us, Kieft, we're all smoking our pipes in public!”
Kieft was outraged. Cowering in his mansion, he attempted to raise an army to fire upon the group of tobacco users. Instead, he was told that all of his soldiers were among the group camped out on his front lawn! Ever the stubborn tyrant, Kieft vowed not to make any concessions to the angry mob. After two days of non-stop tobacco use in his yard, he finally caved in and repealed the law, under the condition that smoking pipes not exceed the length of two inches. The Dutchmen later nicknamed Kieft “Billy the Short” in recognition of his bizarre mandate, which was never seriously obeyed.
Kieft later faded into obscurity. The tobacco ban and his war on Indians are about the only two things he is remembered for today. Near the end of his short term, Kieft waged another massacre on the Lenape Indians which resulted in the bloody Wappinger War, also called Kieft's War. The War, an unmitigated disaster, left over 1600 people dead.
Kieft was ordered to stand trial in the Netherlands for his role in the massacre, where it was presumed that he would be convicted and executed. Kieft never had to answer for his actions, at least not in this realm, as he died in a shipwreck near the coast of Wales, during transport to his court hearings. He was succeeded in 1647 as Director General by the more well-known Peter Stuyvesant, who was the last to serve in that capacity. After Stuyvesant, New York elected its first governor, Anthony Colve, in the year 1733.
New York State 2010: All Hail King BloombergSince 2001, billionaire Michael Bloomberg (eighth richest man in the world and heir to the fourth largest family fortune in history) has governed the great state of New York. You would think that one would be hard-pressed to find similarities between “King” Bloomberg (as the media has affectionately dubbed him) and an early 17th century autocrat, but the correlation is shocking. Here's just a few of the many reciprocal traits shared by Kieft and Bloomberg:
- Both men were born to privileged families, and were successful in parlaying their families wealth to their own advantage, both financially and politically.
- Both men were elected to office based mainly on the strength of their business acumen.
- Both men claimed to donate their salaries to charity.
- Both men went to keen lengths to appear spend-thrifty, and to portray an “open” and “down to earth” public persona. Bloomberg keeps a listed phone number and refuses to reside in the mayor's mansion, instead living in his own stately home on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Bloomberg claimed for years to ride the New York City Subway on a daily basis, a claim which was later proven false. (Bloomberg travels under chauffeured police transport paid for by the taxpayers.)
- Both men skirted allegations of bisexual liaisons with subordinate workers. Kieft was long rumored to be homosexual, and was known to have made passes to men working under him. Bloomberg has likewise faced sexual harassment accusations by both male and female employees.
- Both men used their weighty financial influence to change laws regarding political credence. Kieft openly bought members of “committees” and “congresses” that would side with him on whatever matter he required them to. Bloomberg likewise has used his combined role of billionaire mayor to openly place his business pals in elected capacities. Bloomberg also famously struck down the centuries old law that limited New York Mayoral terms, becoming the first mayor since 1834 to serve a twelve year term.
- Both men also used their influence to stifle freedom of press and public demonstration. Kieft would send armed militia to disperse crowds gathered in criticism of his actions, often resulting in public shootouts. He would use his political standing to threaten or buy off the printing presses, to a point that makes it nigh-impossible to find a contemporary criticism of his political policies. Bloomberg likewise refused to permit marches staged by opposing Democrats against the Republican party. Bloomberg famously commented that “Freedom of speech is a privilege, not a right, and it can be lost if it is abused.” This was an even more chilling statement in light of his mogulship of the sprawling, world empire that is Bloomberg Financial, an enterprise that commands a staggering percentage of global news media.
- And finally, both men have an unerring knack for banning, or limiting, legal activities and pastimes that they personally disapprove of. Since taking office, Bloomberg has placed restrictions on (or outright banned) several things that irk him. Guns, knives, smoking, salt, trans-fat, Internet sales, food, home ownership, dancing, nightclubs, idling trucks, alcohol, and most recently, flavored tobacco.
(It should be noted that both men display the classic signs of sociopathic liberalism: the ability to transcend the concept of hypocrisy, at least in their own mind. Bloomberg, a former smoker, hates public consumption of tobacco. Bloomberg, a drinker, hates the public being able to consume alcohol. Bloomberg, with his armed guards, hates the public owning firearms. Bloomberg, who is chauffeured by two NYPD SUV's, hates that the public owns “gas guzzlers”. Bloomberg, who eats like a pig and pours salt on everything, even saltine crackers, made it so that restaurants are barred from using trans-fats and “excessive” salt in their recipes. He has enacted the toughest drug laws in New York's history, yet spoke fondly of the period in his life in which he “enjoyed” smoking marijuana. Bloomberg boasts of his “rebelliousness” towards the United States government, yet wants all US citizens to submit to mandatory DNA and fingerprint database registration. This Orwellian submission to absolute government authoritarianism has prompted even atheists to question whether or not Bloomberg is the Antichrist prophesied in the book of Revelation.)
History Repeats Itself, Again (and Again...)
Yes, Bloomberg's ban on tobacco is eerily reminiscent of Kieft's early unsuccessful law prohibiting its use. But while vendors are careful not to get caught selling flavored brands, the public openly defies King Bloomberg's Royal Edict. People are still smoking Strawberry Phillies, and people are still ordering grape snuff and other “threats to the populace” through Internet and mail-order venues. Barring that, they simply drive to the nearest Indian reservation once a month and purchase bargain-basement priced tobacco goods. The law is hilariously stupid, but Bloomberg has the money to keep it going until he tires of the appellate process. The shadow of the PACT Act looms ominously in the background though, and only time will tell how we as a nation of tobacco users circumvent yet another affront on our constitutional protection against excessive taxation.
I sincerely hope that all tobacco-using New Yorkers gather on Bloomberg's front lawn, armed to the teeth with ammunition and flavored tobacco. Do as your ancestors did, and sit down and smoke your pipes, spit your snuff, and puff your cigars until Bloomberg realizes the idiocy of his logic. Make sure that your tobacco is flavored, and like the rebellious New Yorkers of centuries past, taunt your elected dictator with cries of “Hey Mike! Come outside and arrest us all, we're smoking Cherry flavored pipe tobacco!” Or show up with a can of Gotlandssnus Flader and scream “Come get us Bloomberg! We're using FLAVORED snus that we PURCHASED ONLINE!”
In closing, I propose that we collectively regain the backbone that has disappeared from this nation over the course of the last two centuries. Remember, the government will never be your friend. Make it fear you again, instead of depending on it to clothe and feed you like the good little subject that it wants you to be.
Till next time:
(SnusCENTRAL's Resident Pot Stirrer)