The History of New York State
Book II, Chapter III
Part II

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

Andros Improves the City--Governor Andros took a great interest in improving the appearance of the city, its sanitary arrangements, and its commercial interests. He personally went through the town, taking note of required improvements and weaknesses for the purpose of defense. He permitted the recalcitrant Dutch burgomasters to remain in office until their term expired in February, 1675. Then William Dervall was appointed mayor, to be succeeded in 1676 by Nicholas De Meyer, rated as being worth 50,000 florins on the tax list drawn up for Colve in 1674. Andros had the town records taken from the private residence of Secretary Bayard in Beaver Street to the city hall to keep them safe and order. The citizen militia, or train bands, were organized into regular companies and such as had guns were directed to keep them loaded in the house. A good deal of attention was given to keeping the city clean. The householder was made responsible for the state of the street in front of his house and yard, and the garbage was carried away in carts. The canal in Broad Street, coming in course of time to be regarded as a nuisance into which the tanners emptied their vats, was filled up and the tanners obliged to more their establishments to the swamp that has long been associated with their name. Wells were dug in Broad Street to furnish water in case of fire, and similar wells were provided on Broadway. Broadway was, furthermore, improved and laid out as a road as far as the later Commons, or City Hall Park. Broad Street was provided with a sort of market-house and there was a market also before the fort in Bowling Green and in Hanover Square. Saturday was market day, on which people came from Breuckelen and Communipaw to sell provisions to people in the city. Mutton, in 1679, was sold for one and one-fifth cents a pound, and the prices of other products were in proportion. Nearly a quarter of the houses according to a map made by governor Andros of the city, sold brandy, tobacco, and beer, and an attempt was made to regulate the traffic of licenses. He caused an act to be passed which provided that if a red man or a white man was to be seen intoxicated in the street, and there were taverns on it, the entire street was to be fined, unless the precise tavern where he got his liquor could be pointed out. A great many noted people were engaged in the liquor trade. Ex-Burgomaster Van Cortlandt and apparently his son, Stephanus, the first native in New York to become mayor, were brewers. Nicholas Bayard was a brewer, as also Jane Vigne, described as the first male child to be born in new Netherland.

Among the other improvements of the city dating from the time of Andros, a wharf was built, reaching from the corner of Whitehall and State to a point opposite the city hall at the head of the Coenties Slip. Andros permitted trading vessel to pass freely up the river to get peltries from the Indians in the interior, although liberty of this sort was not in accord with the protective ideas of the time. The Duke of York showed himself averse to this policy and vessels even from New England and the neighboring colonies were compelled to halt at New York and do the trade in peltries there. The fishing industry was encouraged by Andros. It was under the same governor that the monopoly of bolting flour was granted to the city 1679, and some years later, under Governor Dongan, the monopoly was extended to as to embrace not only bolting, but also packing and the export of bread. During the period that this monopoly was in force the shipping visiting the port increased from three to sixty vessels, and over 600 houses were built, while real estate increased to ten times its former value. Andros also tried his hand at reforming the currency, but this involved the other colonies and proved a thorny and complicated affair. His effort to fix stationary values for certain amounts of wampum only made the confusion worse confounded, and aroused enmity in England, so that his recall seems to have grown out of this very action. In the tine of Andros the richest merchant in the city was Frederick Philipse, rated in 1674 at 80,000 florins. After him came Steenwyck and De Meyer, rated each of them at 50,000. Then there was Oloff van Cortlandt with 45,000, John Lawrence with 40,000,. and Jerome Ebbingh with 30,000. More than that, everybody seemed to have enough, and Andros was able to inform the authorities at home, in 1678, that there was no beggars in the city and that all the poor were cared for.

Governor Dongan and First Charter--the first charter was granted to the city when Thomas Dongan was Governor of the province. He arrived with instructions to permit the people in their various towns to elect representatives to a General Assembly, which was to be a kind of Lower House, with Governor's Council as the Upper House of Legislature, the Govern acting as the sovereign authority with power to approve or veto whatever bills that were passed. The Assembly was to meet once in three years at least, and to number not more than eighteen members. Its first meeting was held October 17, 1683, in New York City, with Matthias Nicoll as speaker. The important "Charter of Liberties and Privileges" was passed by it. The province was divided into counties by this first Assembly, and twelve counties were defined--New York, Westchester, Richmond, Kings, Queens, Suffolk, Dutchess, orange, Ulster and Albany. The other two counties lie of the later limits of the State, one being Duke's County, embracing Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Elizabeth's island, and No Man's Land; the other, Cornwall County, lying away in Maine. Courts of justice were also established--Town Courts, County Courts, a Court of Oyer and Terminer, and a Court of Chancery, the supreme court of the province, and consisting of the governor and his council.

Governor Dongan, on entering into office, read to the assembled citizens in front of the city hall the instructions given to him by the Duke of York, and note was taken of the fact that among the instructions was one requiring the governor to consider and report on the propriety of granting to New York City immunities and privileges "beyond what other parts of my territory enjoy." Within three months a petition came from Governor Dongan, signed by Cornelius Steenwyck, Johannes Van Brugh, John Lawrence, John P, Morris, James Graham, and Nicholas Bayard, declaring that the city had been incorporated under the prevailing English form in 1665 and begging that to the ancient customs, privileges, and immunities, certain others might be added. The petitioners asked for a division of the city into wards, from which aldermen and assistant-aldermen might be elected by the people residing therein. While the mayor and the sheriff and the clerk should be appointed as before by the Governor and Council, they desired to add to them a recorder and a coroner, also thus appointed, but that the corporation itself might select their own treasurer. Finally, they petitioned that these privileges and immunities be elaborated in a charter regularly signed and sealed by the sovereign, thus to be confirmed in perpetuity, as was the custom in England. Governor Dongan did what he could t meet the wishes of the petitioners. He had already appointed the mayor and aldermen in 1683, but in the autumn of 1684 he appointed only the mayor, Gabriel Minvielle, while aldermen and assistants were for the first time elected by the people. James Graham was appointed recorder in December, 1683. In order to facilitate the election the city had been divided into six wards. The first ward, known as the South Ward, began at the river, and its boundaries ran along the west side of Broad Street to Beaver Street, and east along the river to the starting point again. The second was the Dock Ward; the third, the East Ward; the fourth, the North Ward; the fifth, the West Ward; and the sixth, the Out Ward, this last covering a good part of the country, comprising the rest of the island above Wall Street, the other wards filling in the space between the first and sixth.

The special immunities and privileges petitioned for by leading citizens were thus put into practical operation, and ca charter was needed to confirm them. In 1686 Nicholas Bayard, mayor, and James Graham, recorder, prepared a draft for such a charter. This was approved by a Board of Aldermen and assistants and engrossed for presentation to the Governor and Council. On April 27, 1686, it was duly read, approved by the Council, and signed by the Governor. The document is preserved intact in a tin box in the city hall. It made the city a corporation under the style of "The Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of New York." The officers were a mayor, recorder, town clerk, six aldermen, six assistant aldermen, a chamberlain, a sheriff, and a coroner. The aldermen and assistants were, of course, to be elected by the people of each ward. The mayor, recorder, town clerk, and sheriff were appointed by the Governor. The mayor, recorder and aldermen constituted a Court of Common Pleas for debts and other minor cases. The corporation was to "have perpetual succession, with power to get, receive, and hold lands, rents, liberties, franchises, and chattels, and to transfer the same." The fort, the Governor's garden, near the fort gate on the west, and the King's farm just outside the land-gate on Broadway, were excepted from the city's holdings and the city's control. In 1686 New York was the first incorporated and chartered city in the American colonies, although it might boast of an earlier existence as such under the Dutch form in 1653, and under the English form in 1665. "The City of New York is an ancient city within the said province," in the words of the charter, "and the citizens of the said city have anciently been a body politic and corporate." Probably this was the earliest occasion on which New York was described as an ancient city.

Charles II died in 1685, and was succeed by his brother, the Duke of York, as James II the property of the Duke of York in America thus becoming a crown possession. The authority of the crown thus blanketed all the colonies and Dongan made use of the increased authority which the accession of his particular master brought him to put into force certain measures that he thought would be good for everybody. By reason of the different proprietorships of the various colonies no uniform rule of import or export duties had been hitherto possible. An article heavily taxed in New York might be free in New Jersey or Connecticut. The customs of New York, as a result, suffered greatly and trade was thrown into much confusion by reason of the running over of vessels to the New Jersey shore of the Hudson and there unloading goods, which were later smuggled into the city. Dongan, therefore, urged the expediency of consolidated all the King's colonies from the Delaware northwards, including Connecticut and Massachusetts. The consolidation brought about the recall of Dongan. A union of the colonies assumed an aspect of power that looked formidable to kingly apprehension in the old land. Dongan had already shown a disposition in the direction of doing too much for the colonies in the way of promoting their strength and liberties. As his successor, Sit Edmund Andros was sent back to take over the government of the combined provinces of new jersey, New York and New England.

New York was then, as later, a cosmopolis of mixed nationalities and religions. Governor Dongan himself belonged to an aristocratic Irish family, the O Duingenans, a branch of the O Dwyers, lords of Muscry, and a number of his compatriots and co-religionists were already in New York. He himself writes home: "New York has a chaplain belonging to the fort, of the Church of England; secondly, a Dutch Calvinist; third, French Calvinist; and fourth, a Dutch Lutheran. There be not many of England' a few Roman Catholics; abundance of Quaker preachers, men and women; singing Quakers; ranting Quakers; Sabbatarians, anti-Sabbatarians, some Anabaptists, some independents, some Jews; in short, of all sorts of opinions there are some, and the most part none at all." During the English occupation the Lutherans were permitted to have their own minister, and they built a church near the fort. But Colve demolished the church because it was in the way of the guns, and under Governor Lovelace, the Lutheran pastor, the Rev. Jacobus Fabritius, had to be discharged for bad conduct. Under Dongan there was strong sentiment of toleration, for England was at the time governed by a Catholic King. The Quakers were fined for refusing to do military duty. The Jews labored under certain restrictions. They were not permitted to sell good at retail and when they asked leave to practice their religion, permission was refused. The group of Catholics in the city were in the habit of gathering with Governor Dongan in a room in the Governor's house at the fort for religious service, which was conducted by the Rev. Thomas Harvey, a Jesuit, and private chaplain of the Governor.

Effects of English Revolution--The revolution in England and the accession of William, Prince of Orange, as King, had its repercussions in New York, where something of a revolution was also attempted. Sir Edmund Andros had been invested with the office of Governor-General, a sort of vice-roy, over the combined provinces of New England , New York and New Jersey. The appointment involved the resignation of Governor Dongan on August 11, 1688. Andros made Boston the seat of government and Colonel Nicholson was made Lieutenant-Governor over the province of New York. Nicholson arrived in the city on October 1, 1688, and his Council was composed of Anthony Brockholls, an English Catholic, who had been a member of the Council under former governors, and once or twice had acted as their lieutenant in his absence; and three prominent residents of New York: Frederick Philipse, Stephen van Cortlandt, then mayor, and Nicholas Bayard. On November 5, 1688, William of Orange landed in England, and after a bloodless revolution was proclaimed King, in February, 1689. The news of the landing of William caused the people of New England, in April 1689, to depose and imprison Andros, and to set up a government of their own.

When Nichols heard the news of what had taken place in England and New England he became greatly excited and threatened to run the messenger through with his sword. But the people of New York did not act with any particular hurry. The trainbands had been organized during the first administration of Andros. There were five companies of them, with Nicholas Bayard as their colonel, and the captains, beginning with the senior, Jacob Leisler, Abram De Peyster, Nicholas Stuyvesant, Francis De Bruyn, Charles Lodowick, and Gabriel Minvielle. When the fear of an alliance between the deposed Stuart and Louis XIV seized England, and her colonies, the trainbands in New York were required every day to go to the fort. All went well until May 31, 1689. Nicholson on that day complained of the posting of a certain sentinel. Captain de Peyster's company had the watch that night, and his lieutenant, Henry Cuyler, replied that the sentinel was there by the Captain's or his own order. Nicholson, made nervous by events and the anomaly of his position as a nominee of the Stuarts, replied that he would rather see the whole town on fire than stand dictation from any of them. Now the firing of the city by the adherents of James was the very thing chiefly dreaded by friends of the new regime. The word was passed round that Nicholson threatened to fire the town. Decisive action was called for. The militia marched into the fort. The senior captain, Jacob Leisler, drew up an agreement which all the captains signed, that they should in turn, as before, keep guard there, and hold the town for William of orange till he could be heard from. Four hundred citizens affixed their names. Meanwhile the Lieutenant-Governor summoned the councillors to meet at city hall. They had not been long in session when Captain Lodowick, captain of the fort for that day, entered the room and demanded the keys of the fort and the city. the menacing attitude of the force of train-bands with the mass of the population at their back compelled Nicholson to yield. He gave up the keys, embarked on a vessel and went off to England. This left the members of the council free to act as they saw fit. On June 6, 1689, the news reached Mew York of the crowning of William and Mary, but there were not appointments made to any office. Then on June 10, Leisler and the other captains issued a call for a convention of delegates from all the counties. The convention met on June 26. It appointed a Committee of Safety, which made Leisler the permanent captain of the fort. Later, on August 16, 1689, the committee requested him to assume the military command of the province. Then at the end of September the people gathered in their various wards and voted not merely for the aldermen and assistants, but also for the mayor and the other officers who had hitherto been appointed. Peter de la Noy was elected Mayor, John Johnson sheriff, and Abraham Gouverneur clerk. On October 14, they were inducted into office by proclamation of the "Captain of the Fort." But Mayor Van Cortlandt refused to recognize the validity of his success's selection and refused to yield the book and seals.

Jacob Leisler in Authority--Leisler was as yet only what the Committee of Safety made him, captain of the fort and military commander of the province, but a letter from King William conferred on him the supreme command of the province. It was dated July 30, 1689, and reached New York in December. The superscription read: "To Francis Nicholson, Esq., Lieutenant-governor and Commander-in-chief in our Province of New York, and, in his absence, to such as for the time being take care for preserving the peace and administering of the laws." The Committee of Safety was resolved into a council composed of eight members and Leisler took office. It was due to Leisler that there convened the first colonial congress. In February, 1690, occurred the burning of Schenectady by the Indians, instigated by the French. At once Leisler raised and sent to Albany a force of armed men under Jacob Milborne, his son-in-law. He summoned a provincial assembly to provide means and supplies for war against the Indians, and sent members of his council to the various colonies to arrange concerted action against Canada. As a result a congress of Deputies met in May, 1690.

Meanwhile, the members of Nicholson's Council rallied their forces and worked on the jealousy of the other captains. Bayard's part upbraided the following of Leisler as composed solely of the rabble of the city. Accusations were made that Leisler appointed to office men of criminal character. Leisler retaliated by using his authority to imprison his political opponents. In January, 1690, Bayard was arrested and, after trial, condemned to death for treason on the ground of his opposition to the King's representative. Bayard sued for pardon in a spirit of humility, recognizing Leisler as Lieutenant-governor, and was pardoned, but remained in prison for the rest of the term of Leisler's administration. Then a year passed and in January, 1691, the Governor appointed to succeed Nicholson arrived. Ingoldsby, the Lieutenant-Governor, was the first to arrive and demand the surrender of the fort, but as he had no papers, Leisler held his ground and refused to be displaced. Weeks passed, the element in the population on the side of Leisler rushing to his assistance and crowding the fort. Some of them mounted the walls and fired the guns at King's troops, killing one man and injuring others. Leisler disavowed the act, but the odium rested on him. At last, on march 19, 1691, arrived Colonel Henry Sloughter, the new Governor, and events began to happen. The new Council was set up, and Leisler and his old council were imprisoned on charges of high treason.

Execution of Leisler--A special court of eight judges was appointed by the governor, of whom Ingoldsby, the Lieutenant-Governor, was one. Leisler denied the right of the court to try him and appealed to the royal letter of December, 1689. The judges evaded a decision as to the legitimacy of the status thus given to Leisler as the acting Governor in the absence of Nicholson. They referred the decision on this point to the Governor and his Council. Then, on April 13, 1691, Leisler and Milborne and six more of the Council were convicted of high treason and condemned to death. The six had their sentence commuted to imprisonment, but Leisler and Milborne had provoked powerful enemies and they had to die. The death warrants were signed on May 15, a month and two days after the verdict, Sloughter, an habitual drunkard, being described as intoxicated when he signed them. On Saturday, May 17, Leisler and Milborne were executed before the great crowd of people, in what was later the Commons, or City Hall Park.

The executions produced a state of strong feeling and deepened the cleavages between parties. Sloughter died suddenly on July 23, 1691, and was succeeded by Governor Fletcher, who arrived in August, 1692. One of his first acts was to pardon the six imprisoned members of the Leisler's council, though he demanded their word of honor not to leave the province without his permission, the object apparently being to prevent them from carrying their side of the trial to the parliament in England. Abraham Gouverneur and the younger Leisler, however, went to England and laid their case before the government, with the result that the attainder for high treason was reversed and the estates of all the condemned were restored.

Industry and Trade--meanwhile trade and smuggling went on briskly, New York developed as a seaport and the traffic of the sea found reflection in the pursuits of its citizens. There was no encouragement given to manufacture--quite the contrary. Enterprise in this direction was systematically repressed by the government in England. Nevertheless, in 1708, three-quarters of the linen stuffs of the coarser sort in use in the colony of New York were made by the people themselves. But when one of the Provincial Council asked leave to engage in ship building he met with a flat refusal. The policy of taxes and restriction on the colonists tot he advantage of England prevailed in matters of commerce. The colonies were allowed to engage in trade with England only, in ships built by England. The people in New York had to pay a tax of five per cent, on all goods exported or imported; and there was also a tax on the trade between the colonies themselves, while exports to countries other than England were forbidden altogether. It was thus that privateering and smuggling received its fillip and the merchants of New York engaged in the business with energy. The privateers brought in valuable cargoes and no searching inquiries were made as to how they had got the goods. It was, however, necessary to evade the custom-house officers, and so a brisk game of smuggling was added to the other sports of the men who went to sea in ships. Many of the sons of merchants were attracted by the stirring life and gained experience on their father's ships. The approved course was to load a ship with goods for exchange or sale on the island of Madagascar. Rum costing two shillings per gallon in New York would fetch fifty or sixty shillings in Madagascar. A pipe of Madeira wine costing nineteen pounds in New York could be sold for 300 pounds in the African isle. It was there that the rendezvous of the pirates and buccaneers of the Indian Ocean found place and he goods they offered in barter were often very costly. Frederick Philipse, the richest man in the city of New York at that time, had built his fortune on that of trade, and the fact was well known, so that efforts were made by many others to share in the glittering largesse, not excepting the actual officials of the government. Indeed, the open countenance which Governor Fletcher had given to transactions such as these proved an important factor in his recall, and the Earl of Bellomont was named his successor with instructions to suppress them.

It is in connection with vents that occurred during the administration of Bellomont that Captain Kidd, the daring and picturesque figure round whom so many romantic episodes have been woven, appears upon the scene. Kidd, it appears, had already had a good deal of experience in the privateering line, before he engaged the attention of Bellomont and, indeed, his reputed experience in that very line was what influenced his selection for the particular work in hand. The British government had determined to rid the seas of pirates, for their work on the ocean had made voyaging perilous for every British ship, and as a result ships and sailors were becoming very few. For this work Captain Kidd was provided with a good ship built at great cost, so that she would be sure to be the superior of any pirate with whom she would have to engage.. Bellomont, the new Governor, Robert Livingston, of the New York Colony, and even William III, wee among the individuals who had made large contributions for the construction of the vessel. The enterprise in hand was, of course, not merely police work. There was a strong commercial motive and it was felt that the treasure Kidd would be almost sure to wrest from the ships of the vanquished pirates would serve as a rich return on an investment that would also be promoting the case of good government. Kidd sailed in October, 1696, and for a while succeeded in capturing pirate after pirate, sending in the reports of his victories when he was able. Kidd did good work while he remained on the Atlantic, but once on the Indian Ocean the lure of his former profession seems to have been too strong for him, for while there he gave up his police work and became a pirate himself. For a time he had a glorious career, and enriched himself with the spoils of numerous vessels. Then having got enough together and desiring the sweets of retirement on land he sought asylum on the coast of America. He hid for a time among the bays of Long Island Sound and at last took a house in Boston. Bellomont, however, received rumors of the presence of Kidd in Massachusetts and had him arrested. Kidd's guilt was too apparent to be glossed over and he was executed in May, 1701. He had buried much treasure on Gardiner's Island, which was recovered, but for along time rumors of buried jewels and pieces of eight excited all the coast of new England and numerous have been the anxious searchers for mythical pots of gold along all the islands of the Sound.

Peers as Governor--three of the men who became Governors during the decade that followed the closing of Fletcher's term belonged to the peerage of Great Britain. They were the Earl of Bellomont, before referred to; Viscount Cornbury, son of the Earl of Clarendon, whose title he inherited, and Lord Lovelace, baron of Hurley. Bellomont seems to have been democratic in sympathy and he sided with the Leislerian party. His arrival was the great event of the spring of 1698. He was met at the wharf by leaders from both political parties and a large crowd. The corporation burned four barrels of gun powder in their salute of welcome. He went through the usual form of publishing his commission and that of his Lieutenant-Governor, John Nanfan, a cousin of his wife; and then the new governor administered the oaths to the members of the Executive Council, who were continued without change. Bellomont's popularity was short lived. He had been in New York barely three weeks before he issued a writ of restitution to put Leisler's and Milborne' s families in possession of their estates. The move created considerable concern, though it doubtless pleased the numerous element that looked on Leisler as a martyr. The property of the executed man had already passed through several hands and certain people were obliged to vacate houses and stores to which they held title-deeds obtained in good faith. But stronger feeling was caused by the seizure of ships and good on Bellomont's order. Chidley Brooke was the collector of customs and receiver-general and Bellomont ordered him to seize cargoes of East India goods, a line of action that stirred the enmity of the seafaring element. Bellomont was convinced that merchants in the city had become rich through their commerce with the privateers and the pirates who had become his particular bugbear. His attitude to them was eloquent of the suspicion with which he was filled. He made strenuous effort to break up the channels of intercourse and to enforce the laws which prohibited the merchants from trading with any country but England. In this last work he found his hands full. The traders saw no reason why they should not trade with anybody they saw fit and they did all they could to circumvent the traps which Bellomont set for them. In spite of ill feeling that prevailed between the trading population and Bellomont, his administration was marked by several improvements for which a good deal of the credit is due to him. A first effort was then made to light the streets, which before that time had only the illumination of the inconstant moon at night. This was done by a lantern with a candle in it hung on a pole from the window of every seventh house. A night watch was also established , consisting of four men. After Bellomont had been Governor for a few years what remained of the city wall was removed and Wall Street had its beginning on the line of the old wall. The same year the old Stadt Huys was found to be in a state of decay, and so a new city hall was erected on the new Wall Street, close by where Nassau Street now touches it. There were dungeons in the new buildings for criminals, cells in the attic for debtors, and a court room on the main floor. The first library, under the name of the Corporation Library, was opened in the city hall. This is the library that afterwards became the Society Library. It is still in existence and has its home at the present date in University Place.

Bellomont died in 1701 and was buried in the chapel in the fort. His coat-of-arms was fixed on the wall of the new city hall in Wall Street, though a few years later when a new Governor came the populace tore down the arms and burned them in the street. John Nanfan, the Lieutenant-Governor, took command of the province until news reached the city that Lord Cornbury had been appointed Governor. There was a great feud between Nanfan and Nicholas Bayard, the implacable enemy of Jacob Leisler, for Nanfan had shown himself a strong adherent of the Leislerian party.

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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