The Myth of de Waal Straat

There is a commonly held historical view of Wall Street’s infancy. Before the stock brokers and the finance guys and the Chloë Sevigny in American Psycho secretaries, there was livestock (from one stock to another, as it were)–specifically pigs–running rampant through the then Dutch settlement. What began as an unassuming picket fence in 1653 quickly transformed into a twelve-foot tall blockade designed to keep “the animals” in control, away from the construction in progress in nearby parts of the city.

It wasn’t really the animals that were causing the issues though. Sure, there was a wealth of livestock living off the richness of the land, but it was the humans wreaking damage upon the psyches of the British and Native Americans threatened by their presence that proved to be the true cause behind the erection of the wall. Meandering about in a frenzied and confused state the way the sightless do in José Saramago’s Blindness, these settlers needed a wall to lend them protection from the cruel world outside of it. Considering the callousness Wall Street would later come to represent, it seems endlessly ironic that it was once a haven for the innocent and persecuted (barring, of course, the occasional flare-up of said innocents’ violence toward Native Americans in Hoboken).

A herdsman was hired by then Director-General a.k.a. mayor/governor-type Peter Stuyvesant to try to wrangle the pigs, but his true purpose was to attempt creating order among the people. Arthur Blake was chosen for this role by Stuyvesant for his discretion and possession of a frightening level of sternness. He was instructed to make it seem as though he was paying all of his attention to the pestilential pigs so as to deceive the settlers into believing they had free will behind that wall they built; that they could go about running into each other like dullards as they pleased.

After a time, however, it became clear that there was some sinister intent behind the way Blake would “just happen” to point his prod in the direction of the residents or “accidentally” quell them with a gush of water from a giant spigot. When the settlers finally caught on to the notion that it was they who were being corralled, and not the pigs, they knew they had to come together to take some sort of action against Stuyvesant and Blake. But to meet in secret was near impossible with Blake constantly watching them with the vigilance of a caffeinated prison guard, glancing at them over his shoulder as he pretended to monitor the pigs. Balthasar, something of the ringleader of the group due to his tall stature and thick pile of chestnut-hued hair, was the one to take the reins on forming a coup by arranging a late night meeting in the main barn around eleven o’ clock, when Blake was wont to go to the alehouse for an antidote to his woes. He asked only the most influential members of the community to join him, which included Judith, a renowned cheesemaker, Pieter, a blacksmith with a gambling problem, and Willem, a butcher with an eyepatch and the associated build of one who chops giant animal limbs for a living.

That night, they staggered into the barn separately, convinced the entire time that Blake would catch them and punish them with a branding iron to the face. New Amsterdam wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be a place of freedom and casual existence. They didn’t leave the cold, austere land of Denmark only to come to another one. This is what Balthasar remarked to the others as he smoked his pipe. But what were they to do, asked Judith, feeding into the stereotype of being the useless woman of the group. Pieter stood there mutely brandishing his chisel as though it were a part of his body. Willem was the only one with any sort of worthwhile suggestion, insisting, “We have to kill him.”

At first, Balthasar was hesitant to go along with such a drastic measure. After all, Blake was still one of them–wasn’t he? However, the more Balthasar, Judith and Pieter thought about it, the more logical it seemed. If they didn’t, they would be forever tormented by a man whose ideals for what would eventually become New York City might end up turning the town into a place that makes people miserable, hateful and, worst of all, spiteful.

And so, they devised the time, place and method for ensuring Blake’s demise. Willem agreed to perform the grunt work with his trusty butcher knife by hacking off Blake’s head and feeding it to the very pigs that gave him the role of dictator in their quaint town. Balthasar would keep a lookout as Judith baited Blake with a sedative-laced piece of cheese, and Pieter would be the one to insist that he should eat the offering by joining him in the consumption. The entire task was extremely dicey considering how unsociable Blake was as a rule. But with a bit of rouge and a hint of eyeliner, Judith was wielded as temptation as Pieter escorted her to the edge of the wall to engage Blake in conversation while he “tended to his pigs.” Looking at them with a side eye, Blake flared his nostrils upon catching a whiff of the cheese beckoning to him from the plate Judith was carrying.

He was persuaded by Pieter to dispense with his duties for long enough to descend from the wall and sample Judith’s latest batch. Licking his lips, he let Judith feed him the sedative-soaked dairy product while Pieter joined in eating a different piece so as to encourage his zeal. In the midst of Blake’s fourth bite, his eyelids grew visibly heavy and his speech noticeably slurred. Soon after, he collapsed to the ground. All the townspeople, including Balthasar, who saw this rushed to help Pieter and Judith carry Blake’s body to the barn, where Willem was waiting with his knife.

When the careful hacking was completed, New Amsterdam rejoiced, feasting on the edible body parts and innards of the man who had kept them sequestered from the rest of the city. The pigs, too, enjoyed a taste of Blake’s brains, which had done them a similar amount of injustice. The next day, while Stuyvesant was still distracted from the physical pain of his nightly escapades in the local whorehouse, Balthasar, Pieter, Judith and Willem led their fellow townspeople in dismantling the wall. Thinking themselves quite clever and powerful for killing their master and taking such generally bold measures to secure their liberty, they turned their backs long enough to let the combined forces of the British and Native Americans (uniting for this one sole purpose) overtake them. Between the British piercing them with their daggers and the Native Americans striking them with their hatchets, the Dutch were summarily expunged from New Amsterdam–the very wall that they thought was their damnation turning out to be their sole salvation. De Waal Straat was renamed to Wall Street once their remains were cleaned by the British, who soon after killed the Native Americans so as to claim the .7 mile plot of land for themselves and transform it into a more metaphorical bastion of bloodshed and soul oppression.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s