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

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


Monckton and Colden--On March 20, 1761, Robert Monckton was appointed Governor and Captain-General, with Cadwallader Colden as Lieutenant-Governor. Monckton had begun his career in Flanders and was transferred in 1753 to the American Station, where he successively commanded the posts of Halifax, Annapolis Royal, and Nova Scotia, of which he had been Lieutenant-Governor following 1756. He arrived in New York on October 20, 1761, and like all the governors received a cordial welcome. With his patent he received permission to leave the province and take command of the expedition being fitted out again Martinique, and as a consequence he abstained from any act of authority, passing over the seals to Colden. On November 14 the fleet of 100 sail left Sandy Hook for Martinique, the government thus devolving again on Colden till Monckton returned from the conquest of Martinique on June 12, 1762, only to leave a little later for England. Colden called the Assembly together on September 5, 1764. In his speech opening the session he confined himself to generalities, congratulations on the peace with the Indians, a recommendation to discharge the public debt, and another to renew the expired act granting a bounty on hemp, a produce for which the lands of the province were well adapted and in which the British manufactures were greatly interested. The Assembly replied in an address which struck a note of determination that was something of a presage of the coming storm. The address ran:

Nothing can add to the pleasure we receive from the information your honor gives us that his Majesty our most gracious sovereign distinguishes and approved our conduit. When his service requires it we have ever been ready to exert ourselves with loyalty, fidelity, and zeal, and, as we have always compiled in the most dutiful manner with every requisition made by his directions, we with all humility hope that his Majesty, who is, and whose ancestors have long been the guardians of British liberty, will so protect us in our rights as to prevent our falling into the abject state of being forever after incapable of doing what can merit his distinction or approbation. Such must be the state of that wretched people who (being taxed by a power subordinate to none and I no great measure unacquainted with the circumstances) can call nothing their own. This we speak with the greatest deference tot he wisdom and justice of the British parliament in which we confide. Depressed with this project of inevitable ruin by the alarming informations we have from home, neither we not our constituents an attend to improvements conducive either to the interests of our mother country or of this colony. We shall, however, renew the act of granting a bounty on help, still hoping that a stop may be put to those measures which, if carried into execution, will oblige us to think that nothing but extreme poverty can preserve us from the most insupportable bondage. WE hope your Honor will join us in an endeavor to secure that great badge of English liberty of being taxed only with our own consent, to which we conceive all his Majesty's subjects at home and abroad are equally entitled; and also in pointing out to he ministry that many mischiefs arise from the act commonly called the sugar Act, both to us and to Great Britain. Your Honor may depend on our giving all due attention to the support of the government and that by the punctual discharge of our public debts the irreproachable credit of the colony will be maintained.

This noteworthy address was reported by Philip Livingston, member for the city, whose name appears on the journals of the Assembly as alderman, from his having held the office of alderman of the East Ward from 1754 to 1762. In replying to it Colden stated that as the material parts could not with any propriety be made by himself, he would transmit it to amore proper judges of the sentiments they adopted. But while declaring that their method was improper he would do nothing to prevent their making a representation of the state of the colony as they should think best. To the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations he declared himself in a more emphatic manner, declaring that the address appeared to him so undutiful and indecent that he thought it incumbent on him to give an account of his conduct therein. He had obtained a reconsideration; and in the absence of most of the Council from town he had not the advantage of their advice. When, however, they came together in sufficient numbers he was unanimously advised not to dissolve the Assembly.

Uneasiness in Colonies--In the meantime the member of the Assembly in the privacy of their committee rooms were preparing petitions to the King and to the houses of the Lords and Commons. The members were no longer content to deal with Great Britain through its representative authorities in New York, they directed their expostulations to the government and the King. The close of the hostilities between England and Spain by the ratification of peace on February 10, 1763, brought only apprehension to the colonists of America. The feeling had grown that a concerted onslaught was to be made on the liberties of the colonists. In England itself power had passed out of the hands of the Whigs, who held to the principles that had been established by the Revolution of 1688, into the hands of men who showed a slavish subserviency to the royal authority. In the colonies Colden was looked on by the authorities in England as a man whose subserviency could be trusted. Hutchinson, in Massachusetts, was another of the governors who were obedient King's men. "A good peace with foreign enemies would enable us to make a better defense against our domestic foes" was one of the declarations of Hutchinson's, which informed the colonists of what was coming. Apart from the general dissatisfaction in the colonies with the subordination of the judiciary to the pleasure of the crown through the tenure of the warrants of the justices; a principal subject of discontent was the enforcement of the acts of trade by the Court of Admiralty, a court of vast powers, wholly independent of the province, acting, not on fact as determined by jury, but on information supplied by crown officers--a system in which judge and informers drew their emoluments from the forfeitures they instigated and declared.

During the reign of the second James an attempt had been made to introduce government in America by prerogative, an attempt resisted by the Declaration of Rights and Privileges by the Assembly of 1683. The attempt had been reiterated under subsequent colonial administration, but without success. It had, in short, become an unwritten law that no taxes could be imposed on the inhabitants of a British plantation, but by their own Assembly, or by acts of parliament. The scheme that had been elaborated by the ministers of George III was that while they should act in the name of the King they were to be sustained by the authority of parliament; and it was to this end that the avenues of corruption were opened to that the complexion of the House of Commons should be altered in favor of the King. The initial step in the new policy was the announcement that the ministry would no longer tolerate disobedience to the royal instructions; that the claim of the assemblies to discuss or limit the supplies demanded (a claim enforced by parliament itself) would no longer be endured; and that in the future there would be no more requisitions by the King, but that the colonies would be taxed by parliament itself in its discretion. The first charge on the revenue thus raised in the colonies was to be the civil list, which would render all royal officers, governors, judges, independent of the assemblies, as to their pay and emoluments, and would limit their tenure of office to the King's pleasure. To carry this scheme into effect the colonial charters were to be annulled and a uniform system of government established. This doers not appear in the journals of parliament, but was a declaration by Townsend, the unscrupulous and ambitious statesman who had been made head of the Board of Trade and who was the practical Secretary of State of the colonies. The revenue of the colonies to be raised in America were to be secured by a rigid enforcement of the navigation laws, which, strict though they were in the text, had been invariably evaded or compromised in practice. The entire scheme was to be put into effect in America by the presence of a large standing army.

Taxing America by Act of Parliament--In March, 1763, Townshend introduced part of the plan for taxing America by act of parliament. It was shown that mot of the revenue collected from America went into the pockets of corrupt officials and that the expenditure on collecting the revenue was three or four times larger than the revenue itself. Townshend's plan was to reduce the duty but to enforce its collection. The stamp duties were to come later. A bill was also brought forward for the enforcement of the navigation laws, authorizing the employment of the navy and turning its officers and seamen into customs authorities and informers. A little information reached the colonies that 10,000 men were to be employed on the American continent and the West India Islands to be paid the first year by Great Britain, but after that to be maintained at the cost of the colonies. The opening edge of the wedge was introduced when Grenville ordered the commander-in-chief in America to with draw the allowance for victualing the regiments stationed in the cultivated settlements in America, the charges in the future being laid on the colonists. On September 22, 1763, three Lords of the Treasury, with Grenville at their head, held a meeting at their council board in Downing Street, and adopted a minute directing Jenkinson, the first Secretary of the Treasury, to write to the commissioners of the stamp duties to prove the draft of a bill to be presented to parliament for extending the stamp duties to the colonies. This order was at once executed. It would seem that the first proposition to tax the colonies by means of stamped paper was made by Lieutenant-Governor Clarke, of New York, in 1744, to the Lords of Trade. However, governor Clinton showed better judgment, for in that year he wrote to the Duke of Newcastle to the effect that he doubted the expediency of the measure, as being contrary to the spirit of the people, who, he declared, were quite strangers to any duty but such as they raised themselves. Grenville, however, seems to have been the chief offender in the endeavor to enforce the act. He appears never to have swerved in his determination to impose a tax through parliament and to compel its payment through the instrumentality of the forces at the disposal of the administration. His proposals brought feeling both in America and in England to a head. His challenge to the opposition party in the House of Commons to deny the right of parliament was not taken up and on the following day it was resolved that such right existed and hat its exercise was proper. If the sentiment in England in favor of the right of parliament to tax the colonies was a timid sentiment, it soon became clear that the denial of that right in America was at least equally united and vigorous.

The Assembly of New York was the first to petition the King and parliament in a respectful representation on October 18, 1764. After a declaration of fidelity the petitioners declared that in the three branches of the political frame of government established in the year 1683, viz., the governor, a council of the royal appointment, and the representatives of the people, was lodged the executive authority of the colony, and particularly the power of taxing its inhabitants for the support of the government'; that the people of the colony considered themselves in a state of perfect equality with their fellow-subjects in Great Britain, and as a political body enjoying like the inhabitants of that country of the exclusive right of taxing themselves; a right which, whether inherent in the people or sprung from any other source, had received the royal sanction, was at the basis of the State and had become venerable by long usage; that the representatives for the colony of New York could not, therefore, without the strongest demonstration of grief, express their sentiments on the late intimation of a design to impose taxes on the colonies bylaws to be passed In Great Britain, and they invited the King to interpose his prerogative on the unconstitutional law. On the same day and by the same resolution in which the transmission of these memorials were ordered, the Assembly created a committee to correspond with the several assemblies on the American continent upon the several objectionable acts of parliament lately passed with relation to the trade of the northern colonies, and also on the subject of the impending dangers which threatened the colonies of being taxed by laws to be passed in Great Britain. William Bayard, a member of this committee of correspondence, visited Boston to confer with the Massachusetts Assembly, which during the same month had adopted a similar address.

The Stamp Act--Grenville introduced his bill in the House of Commons at the beginning of 1765, and it was passed on February 7. It contained fifty-five articles relating to stamp duties in America. The bill was approved by the House of Lords in March, without debate, and on march 22 received the King's signature. Information telling of the passage of the bill reached New York in April and excited widespread indignation. When the news reached Virginia the House of burgesses was sitting, and they replied with a series of resolutions, vigorous in expression, declaratory of their rights and privileges. In New York the great guns of the fort and those of the barracks were spiked, an indication that the populace was already beginning to regard the British forces as enemies. The newspapers of the colonies gave voice to the general feeling. Thus "Sentinel," in the "New York Gazette", took liberty as his text/ "In proportions as Liberty is precious to us should we hold them dear who lift up their hands in defense of it and abhor those who impiously dare attempt to rend it form us." Sentiments such as these began to multiply in the press and the language grew more vehement as the contest became embittered. "The Americans are the Sons of Liberty," "Give me liberty or give me death." Phrases such as these gave a tongue to the popular feeling and became bandied from mouth to mouth through all the colonies. It became the feeling that a struggle was unavoidable, though there were few who had any idea of the long duration of the war that was coming and the gigantic bouleversement it was to entail, with repercussions that were to be heard through the whole world in the generations that were to follow. Colden, the Lieutenant-Governor, played a bad part in these events, and showed himself a thorough Tory to the end. Although he had opposed some of Governor Clinton's more despotic acts, he himself, in the contest between the popular principle and the prerogative of the British crown, became an uncompromising upholder of the British government. He went so far as to advise that appeals be allowed from the verdicts of juries, to be decided in England. He seems to have been removed from any proper knowledge of the popular feeling. "I am fully persuaded the people of this province will quietly \submit to the King's determination, whatever it may be." He wrote a month after the news of the passage of the Stamp Act had come to New York. What he learned of the disaffection he ascribed to mere faction. Revolutions are nearly always carried on by young men and the best excuse that can be made in the case of Colden is that his age and long habit had made him a verse to change, born as he was in the days when the divine right of kings had an authority of which time was gradually to divest it. On October 7 the Stamp Act Congress met in the city hall, New York. The delegates had in most cases been appointed by the colonial assemblies and twenty-eight members took their seats. Virginia and North Carolina has no representatives present, because their assemblies had been prorogued. New Hampshire was not able to send any. The New York Assembly was not called together by Colden and could not appoint representatives, but the committee that had been in correspondence with the other colonies were admitted as members of the congress. These were: John Cruger, Robert R. Livingston, Philip Livingston, William Bayard, and Leonard Lispenard. Thus nine of the thirteen colonies were represented, just at a later date nine of the colonies were to make valid the Federal Union. A committee appointed to draft a "Declaration of Rights and Grievances" reported on October 19 and their report was adopted. Thereupon, three committees were appointed; one to prepare a petition to the King; the second to prepare one for the House of Lords; the third to prepare one for the House of Commons. The congress adjourned at the end of three weeks, without having received any recognition from Colden, the Lieutenant-Governor.

Non-Importation Agreement--A more effective step was the "Non-Importation Agreement," which appears to have originated in New York. The "New York Gazette" contained a call in its issue of October 31, inviting the merchants of the city to meet that evening in the Long Room of Burns's Coffee House, at No. 9 Broadway, opposite the Bowling Green. There on Halloween, the evening before All Saints Day, November 1, 1765, the fateful day when the Stamp Act was to go into effect, 200 or more gentlemen engaged in commercial pursuits met and subscribed to these drastic agreements:

1.  To import no goods from England until the Stamp Act be repealed.
2.  To countermand all orders already sent, on the same condition.
3.  To sell no goods on commission sent from England after January 1, before which date notice of the agreement might be expected to reach the shipping merchants there.
4. To abide by the agreement until abrogated at a general meeting called for the purpose, as a corollary to these resolutions, retail merchants of other cities; in Philadelphia on November 7; in Boston on Decemter 3.  In the short period covered by the month of November it was estimated that the value of the goods countermanded would reach the large total of £700,000.  The pact was faithfully kept in New York, although the merchants were heavy sufferers, and the Sons of Liberty made it their special task to look out for any infringements.  At the foot of Broad Street a sort of fair or market was held for home-made goods exclusively. 

Meanwhile the "Edward" arrived carrying the stamped paper for use in New York.  Two days later Colden summoned his Council to attend, but only three members paid regard to the summons.  No sloop could be hired to carry the paper ashore, and so the captains of His Majesty's ships had to attend to the unloading and the lodging of the paper within the walls of the fort.  On the morning of October 31 the "New York Gazette" displayed mourning lines and types, and contained a funeral outpouring headed with the following notice:

A funeral lamentation on the
Who finally expires on this
31st of October, in the year of our Lord MDCCLXV
And of our slavery.

Several days before, on the night of the twenty-fourth, when the "Edward' had been in port one day, and was not yet discharged of her paper cargo, manuscript placards in large letters were pinned to the doors of public buildings and on street corners, bearing the words: "Pro Patria. The first man that either distributes or makes use of Stamped Paper, let him take Care of his House, Person & Effects. Vox Populi; WE dare." Meanwhile Colden was blind to the ferment that was brewing and felt quite sure that the law would go quietly into operation on November 1. His son, David Colden, applied for the office of stamp distributor, which McEvers had prudently resigned. In applying for the appointment young Colden informed the commissioners in London that the act would b quietly submitted to with a few days. James, the English major who commanded the garrisons, boasted that "he would cram the stamps down their throats with the end of his sword, and if they attempted to rise he would drive them all out of town for a pack of rascals, with four and twenty men." The people wee evidently not easily intimidated. On the day the Stamp Act was to go into effect a great crowd gathered in what is now City hall Park, then called the Fields, and hoisted two figures on a portable gallows, one an effigy of the unpopular Colden, the other an effigy of the devil, intended for Lord Bute. From the Fields the crowd with 600 lights marched to the fort at Bowling Green, where they were confronted by marines and sailors with loaded guns, the muzzles of which were pointed in their direction. The people were prevailed upon not to storm the fort, but there were numerous acts of violence. The crowd burned Colden's coach wit his effigy placed in it, and James' villa at the end of Warren Street on the Hudson. On November 5, Colden handed over the paper to be deposited in the city hall. A second installment of the paper was burned in tar-barrels on the East river shore. the stamped paper was everywhere boycotted, till finally the clamor in England at the loss of American trade brought about the introduction of a motion for the repeal of the Stamp Act in the English parliament. On March 4, 1766, the motion was carried; on March 17, the House of Lords pout it through, and on the following day the King gave his unwilling assent. When the news reached New York the Sons of Liberty held a celebration and this was renewed on the anniversary of the birthday of King George, which occurred on June 4. The Assembly later voted an appropriation for statues of the King and Pitt and four years later they arrived, the King's statue of lead, placed in the center of Bowling Green, serving in a very few year to make bullets in the cause of patriotism.

The relief was only temporary. In 1767 the British ministry was at work again imposing port duties on wine, oil and fruit when carried from Spain or Portugal to America, and on other articles of everyday use, such as glass, paper, lead, painter's colors, and tea. The agitation that had succeeded in the case of the Stamp Act was at once renewed in the case of these taxes. At what is nor Fraunces' Tavern, a committee was appointed to arrange for concerted action by al the colonists. Goods of all kinds were forbidden to be bought or sold if imported from England, after October, 1769, until the Acts of parliament imposing duties on glass, paper, tea and the other articles were repealed. Importers in New York signed the compact almost to a man. Finally, in 1770, the English government took note of the ferment in America and repealed the duties on all the articles except tea. As a consequence of this the non-importation agreements were annulled, but without concerted action the article still bearing the city was very effectually boycotted, for the English East India Company was brought to the brink of ruin by its inability to export tea to America, though tea furnished by the Dutch East India Company and carried to America in English bottoms were freely sold there. It was resolved, therefore, to reduce the tax from twelve pence to three pence per pound, thus underselling the Dutch company, but the colonists were on the alert. With them it was not a question of a penny more or a penny less, but a question of the principle whether an exterior authority was going to be permitted to tax them against their will. When the East India Company sent out its 600 chests of tea to be distributed among the cities of the Atlantic seaboard from Boston to Charleston, the Sons of Liberty were prepared to prevent their discharge. Five resolutions were adopted for the subscription of member and all of them called for patriotic action in respect to the expected tea. This was early in November, 1773. By that date also there was in New York another organization, called "The Friends of Liberty and Trade," made up of the more conservative element, merchants, landholders, and the like, whose methods of giving expression to their views were more restrained than those of the crowd. Yet they united with the "Sons of Liberty" inaction for the nullification of the duty on tea. The agents for the English's company's tea were waited on by American merchants and induced to refuse to handle the tea. Governor Tryon, desirous of showing his respect for the feelings of the population, promised to receive the tea in the fort and leave it there undisturbed, but the "Sons of Liberty" objected to its being landed at all and they came to this resolution in meeting on the very day of the Boston Tea party, December 16, 1773.

It was not until April 18, 1774, that the first tea ship arrived in New York harbor. The ship was "Nancy," commanded by Captain Lockyer. The trouble began as soon as she arrived. The pilot refused to bring her through the Narrows until the sons of Liberty were heard from, and they allowed the master to bring his ship to the city, but not to enter the customs house. The master was permitted to come ashore, was conducted before the consignees, and was told by them that they would not receive the cargo. He made preparations as a result to return to England, but on the very day appointed for his departure another ship, the "London," Captain Chambers, arrived with a cargo of tea. He had told the pilot he had no tea on boards, and hence had been permitted to enter. But it was difficult to circumvent the vigilance of the sons of Liberty, who made themselves quite certain that the "London" had eighteen cases of tea on board as a private speculation. The upshot was an episode similar to the dramatic affairs of the Boston Tea party. In the evening a number of Liberty boys boarded the offending ship, found the tea cases, broke them open, and threw the tea in the river. On the following day, April 30, Captain Lockyer, of the :Nancy" was conducted from the Merchants' Coffee House at the junction of Wall and Queen, or Pearl, street to Murray's Wharf, and there escorted to his boat, guns being fired in recognition of the way in which he had met the wishes of Americans. In the evening it was reported that the "Nancy" had cleared Sandy Hook and was well out at sea. Thus it made clear that there was as little disposition to tolerate the offending duty in New York as in Boston.

Eve of the Revolution--What had happened in New York was but a replica of the chain of events that were happening in the seaports of all the colonies. The forces that were to being on the War of Independence were thus moving towards the great crisis. The feeling of hostility between this country and Great Britain was gradually deepening . Americans had shown the clear determination not to allow any outside authority to puts its hand into their pockets and take away their money without their consent. The British King and his ministers were equally determined to claim the right to do that very thing, and to force the absolute obedience of subjects on the colonists. The amount of the duty was of almost negligible significance. The question was the duty itself and the right of imposing it, and once the question had been clarified the opposing forces begin to range themselves on one side and the other. The apprehensions of a looming conflict gradually spread through all the colonies. In May, 1774, New York received news of the passage of a bill closing the port of Boston. On May 14 the sons of Liberty and the Friends of Liberty and Trade assembled in the Exchange on Broad Street. the "Sons" had twenty-five names; the "Friends" had these and twenty-five more. There was a good deal of discussion following the double presentation, but the larger committee was elected and one name added later, making a "Committee of Fifty-one" of the New York Corresponding Committee. Three days later Paul Revere, the continental post-rider, whose figure was later to be surrounded with glamor, came with dispatches from the Boston Sons of Liberty to those of New York and Philadelphia. They told of measures to be taken the concert through the colonies in response to the tyrannous closing of the port of Boston as a penalty imposed for the performance of the tea party. The feeling throughout the country was gradually heightening. The success of the Stamp Act congress led to the calling of another to serve as an engine of concerted action in the passage through the crisis that was clearly menacing the country. Massachusetts sent out an invitation for a congress of deputies to meet at Philadelphia in September, 1774. The Bay colony appointed five delegates. Already, in the beginning of July, the champions of liberty in New York were in special session, discussing policies with a certain acrimony, for there was a decided cleavage in the judgment of the more radical Sons and the more conservative Friends. Finally, New York's deputies were chosen: John Alsop, Isaac Low, Philip Livingston, James Duane, and John Jay.

Continental Congress Meets in Philadelphia--In this way the Continental congress came into being. The congress, which by the mere fact of its evolution, was to have effect so momentous on further history, met in Philadelphia at Carpenter's Hall on September 5, 1774. When the deputies left New York they were attended to the ferry by a great crowd carrying flags and marching to the music of bands. John Adams and the other New England deputies passing through New York City were also enthusiastically greeted and wished God-speed. In Congress a declaration of rights was prepared and issued; and a non-importation agreement was again recommended. The Congress dissolved on October 26, but before breaking up it was voted that each colony should provide for the election of delegates for another Congress, to meet on May 14, 1775. The members of Congress in this move acted by a blind instinct that proved to be in keeping with the trend of events. They did not foresee that the Rubicon would by the second date have been crossed, and that the struggle would already have been initiated that was to bring into being a new power and a new nation.

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

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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