Brookes’ Universal Gazetteer, page 36
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AMS    3d    AMS

named burgomasters or echevins, a rank some-
what similar to that of alderman : the number of
these is twelve; they have the direction of all
public works, and hold the keys of the city bank.
The military protection of the town is in the
charge of the militia, consisting of sixty compa-
nies xc2xb0of from 200 to 300 men each. Jews and
anabaptists are excluded from this body, as
they are not allowed to bear arms: they are,
however, obliged to contribute to the support of
the city guard, consisting of 1,400 soldiers, and to
the night watch, which patroles the streets and
calls the hours. In addition to this night patrole,
trumpeters are stationed in every church steeple,
who sound every half hour, and, in case of fire,
ring the alarm bells, and direct enquirers to the

The city extends in the form of a semicircle on
the southern bank of the Y, which is its diameter;
on the land side it was surrounded by a wall and
bastions, with a broad and deep fosse : the wall is
dismantled; but the bastions still remain, and are
used as sites for corn-mills. The Amstel, on en-
tering the city, divides into two branches, from
each of which issue numerous canals, forming a
collection of islands, connected with each other
by 290 bridges; of which, that over the Amstel,
coirftnanding a panoramic view of the city and its
environs, is the only one worthy of notice. That
part of the river Y which forms the port of Am-
sterdam, is guarded by a double row of piles, with
openings at intervals for the admission of vessels :
these openings Are always closed at night. The
deeply laden ships lie outside the piles, in a place
called the Laag. During the period of Dutch
prosperity, an hundred vessels have entered the
port in one tide, and six or seven hundred were
to be seen there at anchor together. On the op-
posite side of the Y are the locks by which ships
enter the great canal', which is carried thence, in
a straight line, northwards to the Texel; thus
preventing the risk and delay of a voyage through
the Zuyder Zee. This canal, which has been
recently finished, is 120 feet wide at the surface,
and twenty-five deep. It was constructed at an
expense of 1,000,0001. sterling. It terminates at
the Helder, which was nothing more than a fish-
ing village, until it was fortified by Bonaparte for
the defence of a naval arsenal he formed there,
and which is now called Willems-oord. The isl-
and of the Texel is principally devoted to the
breeding of sheep. The cheese made from their
milk is much prized by the inhabitants. The
canals with which the city is intersected, though
extremely convenient and ornamental, are attend-
ed with one very disagreeable consequence : from
the stagnation of the water, and the collection of
offal of every kind discharged into them, they
send forth effluvia equally offensive and unwhole-
some, which all the characteristic cleanliness of
the inhabitants has not been able wholly to re-
move. Mills have been erected on their banks,
to promote a circulation of air by ventilation;
others, called mud-mills, from the purpose to
Which thev are applied, are also used to raise and
remove the slime which the river deposits largely.

In consequence of the badness of the founda-
tion, the whole city is built on piles driven end-
ways into the mud; a cirsmnstance which occa-
sioned the witty remark of Erasmus, on visiting
it, “ that he was in
a town where the inhabitants
lived, like rooks, on the the tops of trees.” This
circumstance also occasioned the restriction of
coaches to men of consequence and physicians,
who paid a tax for the privilege of using them;
the magistrates conceiving that the rolling of the
wheels produced a dangerous concussion of the
piles. Goods are conveyed through the town on
sledges; and the common conveyance for those
who do not wish to walk is a kind of sleigh Or
traineau, consisting of the body of a carriage fus-
ed on a hurdle, drawn by a single horse, and
guided by the driver, who walks by its side. The
streets in general are narrow, with the exception
of a few which present a fine appearance, and are
adorned with spacious mansions. The principal
square is the Dam, in front of the palace ; besides
which there are three others, where markets and
an annual fair are held. The palace, formerly
the stadthouse, or town hall, is considered to be
the most magnificent building in Holland. It
forms an oblong square, 282 feet in length, 235 in
breadth, and 116 in height, besides the tower,
whieh is 67 feet high. Within is a spacious hall,
150 feet long, 60 broad, and 100 high. This hall,
and the other apartments of the paiace, are adorn-
ed with some fine paintings. Strangers are ad-
mitted daily to view it, under the sole restriction
of writing down their names on entering. The
front entrance has seven doors, which were in-
tended for the representatives of the Seven Unit-
ed Provinces, but are now reserved exclusively
for the royal family. All other persons obtain
admission through the back entrance. The base-
ment story was formerly used to hold the im-
mense treasures of the bank.

The royal museum contains, besides other cu-
riosities, a fine collection of paintings, chiefly of
the Flemish school. It is said that the emperor
Alexander offered the sum of 30,000Z. for one
alone. Visitors are admissible to the museum on
terms of equal liberality as to the palace.

The exchange is a large but plain building, 230
feet in length and 130 in breadth : it is capable of
containing 4,500 persons; and is divided into thir-
ty-six compartments, for the transaction of the
various kinds of commercial business carried on

The deficiency of architectural elegance in the
places of public worship is very striking, particu-
larly to travellers coming from the Netherlands,
where much attention is paid to their embelish-
ment. The old church of St. Nicholas has some
fine painted windows, and contains the tombs of
several of the celebrated Dutch admirals. The
burial ground of one of the sixteen chapels attach
ed to it was appropriated, by the catholic magis-
tracy of Amsterdam, during the period of religious
persecution, for the interment of the protestant
merchants of Hamburgh who died here. The
new church of St. Catherine contains a splendid
monument of white marble, erected to the memory
of admiral de Ruyter. The Portuguese synagogue
is said to have been built in imitation of the tem-
ple of Solomon. The churches of the established
religion, which is the reformed or Calvinistic, are
distinguished by being the only places of worship
which are allowed the use of bells. The total
number of churches is, ten Dutch reformed,
twenty-two catholic, one French reformed, one
English preshyterian, three Lutheran, one ana-
baptist, one Walloon, one Greek, and seven syna-
gogues. The number of resident Jews is estima-
ted at 17,000.

The management of the penitentiaries is pecu-
liarly worthy of notice. The number of convicts
is great, not because crime is more common, but
because the punishment of death is seldom inflict-

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Brookes' Universal Gazetteer of the World (1850)


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