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

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

Almost every day that followed brought its thrill. On April 19 the Seventh regiment, nearly 1,000 men strong, followed the Sixth Massachusetts. Some months earlier their board of officers, through the commandant, had expressed to the Governor of their state their readiness to be called out for nay duty prescribed. The next day the Sixth, Seventh, and Seventy-first Regiments went to their way. On April 23 the Eighth and Thirteenth, the Twenty-eighth and the Sixty-ninth Regiments followed. Meanwhile the Chamber of Commerce of New York passed resolutions to protect the commerce of the United States against privateers. A committee was appointed to arrange for the placing of the $9,000,000 of the government loan still calling for takers. On April 20 a meeting was held in Union Square, attended by something like 100,000 people, which appointed a Committee of Safety, called the Union Defense committee.

The tasks laid upon it included the collection of funds to aid the measures undertaken by the government. The committee did its work well and as a result of its labors almost $150,000,000 was raised in three months in New York alone. No other city compared with New York in the liberality of its financial aid.

The earlier half of the year 18612 was a period of preparation, the two armies approaching each other, but not yet linked in real conflict. Then July 21, came Full run. The news of the Northern defeat filled Northerners with dismay, and opened their eyes for the first time to the gravity of the war. The disaster, however, did not discourage the people of New York. It sent them scurrying in greater number to the colors. Lincoln had called for 75,000 men in April, of which New York's quota would have been 13,000. The Legislature authorized the enlistment of 30,000 men for two years instead of the three moths the President had asked for. When July came the State had 46,700 men in the field, of whom only 8,300 wee three months' men. Before January, 1862, the number of New York troops had reached a total of 120,361, or one-sixth of the number of able-bodied men in the State. Meanwhile, the women of New York were not idle and got together to do what they could in the way of ministering to the disabled. On April 25, 1861, a number of women met at a private house in the city and formed the plan of a Central Relief Association. "A committee was appointed to call a meeting of the women of New York at cooper Institute on the morning of the 29th to concern measures for the relief of the sick and wounded. The largest gathering of women ever seen in the city responded to the appeal." As a result of this meting the Association for the Relief of Sick and Wounded in the Army was formed. The result of a further conference in Washington was the organization of the United States Sanitary Commission. To procure the required funds the women held fairs later in all the large cities. A metropolitan fair was opened in New York on April 5, 1864, two buildings being used and the fair lasted three weeks. It yielded $1,100,000.

The shots fired at Fort Sumter had other vital consequences apart from their character as tokens of southern secession. They unified the North; they banished the talk of secession there also; and they sounded the knell of slavery. Men in the North had talked for a generation of the moral necessity laid on the non-slave States of breaking away from the slave States.

The logical effect of secession, as an act of legislation, might have been only separation. But the act of war begun by the south unified the North in the purpose to resist, and the logical effect of war was abolition. It became a war measure, a strategic move on the enemy's works. The question of secession, and its rights and righteousness being out of the way--beyond all dispute accepted at the North as being wrong on the basis of war--there arose only one other question on the horizon, on which all men at the north were united except when that of secession came to obscure or complicate it. Upon the removal of slavery from the Union, should that union every be restored--upon this the men who fought and bled and showered treasure, the women who suffered the anguish of bereavement day by day, so that the Union might be restored and preserved--all insisted with a hold earnestness. This Lincoln saw, but would not act a moment before he had seen it, for he would move only just so are as he had the people with him. On January 1, 1863, he issued the proclamation of emancipation. It had to be a war measure. It was an act not unconstitutional, but extra-constitutional, for which that document had made no provision, giving no right, withholding no right. It was indeed "justified by the constitution," but only "upon military necessity." That military necessity the guns at Fort Sumter had kindly provided. And this proclamation--the most important American state paper since the Declaration of Independence, giving at last unreserved effect to the words of the Declaration, and taking the ring of mockery out o it which both cynics and earnest friends of liberty had always been hearing--this proclamation had results of the greatest importance both at home and abroad, as a strategic movement in the conduct of war. It justified all parties at home, and simplified the issue that was joined. And in it lay the only hope of preventing interference on the part of the governments of Europe. Motley, now United States minister to Austria, a close and penetrating observer, wrote: "Our great danger comes from foreign interference. What will prevent that? Our utterly defeating the confederates in some great and conclusive battle, or our possession of the cotton ports and opening them to European trade, or a most unequivocal policy of salve emancipation. . . . . The last measure is to my mind the most important." When, therefore, Lincoln had issued his proclamation the enemies of the North abroad were non-plussed. Agents of the confederacy had industriously spread the impression at European capitals that the North was as much in favor of slavery as the South. The question of the Union, or no Union, Confederation or Federation, could hardly be expected to interest foreigners, or to appeal to their sympathies one way or the other. But in slavery or no slavery pay a principle of universal interest, which was certain to enlist the people of the various countries of Europe on the side of anti-slavery. Thus Motley was soon enable to write with a sense of great relief: "The President's proclamation was just in time. Had it been delayed it is possible England would have accepted the invitation of France, and that invitation was in reality to recognize the slaverholders' Confederacy and to make with it an alliance offensive and defensive . . . . Nothing has saved us from this disaster thus far except the anti-slavery feeling in England, which throughout the country, although not so much in high places is the predominant popular instinct in England which no statesman dares confront." The proclamation also came in time to strengthen the hands of loyal men in New York City. The progress of the war, with frequent advantages on the part of the South, had served to dissipate that skin-deep loyalty of April, 1861, which had covered up the ridiculous outburst of disloyalty in January on the part of the city officials. Since success did not uniformly attend the Union armies, the righteousness of the Union cause did not seem so clear to Mayor Wood and his party. In June, 18862, a mass meeting had been held in New York attended by delegates from all over the State, at which resolutions were adopted strongly criticizing the President and his administration, and demanding the proposition of compromises to secure the return of peace. In the election for Governor the party cherishing such notions was victorious a the polls, and Horatio Seymour, who was well-known to be opposed to the war, was now at the head of the State. All this boded trouble, and a few months brought it around. yet in the face of this state of things, perhaps nothing could have been so useful and helpful to the right cause as the direct challenge of men of all parties upon the matter of slavery. It defined the rock upon which the country had been driven to its destruction, and none but the actual enemies of the Republic could refuse to lend a hand in ridding the country of that fatal obstruction. It braced the friends of the government to new efforts for rousing the citizens to patriotic sentiment and actions. War meetings were held, organizations in support of the administration were formed; the President, by an almost divine instinct, had done the thing which the popular heart and conscience wanted done, and the great popular heart of New York was not out of unison with that of the rest of the country. Politicians and partisans might confuse with their coarse clamor, but they could not silence the conscience of a whole community, and the response of the popular conscience to the righteousness of emancipation put to flight the sophistries and seductions to the aliens. Hence there was a reestablishment of confidence, and confirming of the people's purpose to maintain the conflict till the simple issue now raised before them was forever settled. And one of the results was the organization of the Union League Club, founded on "the broad basis of unqualified loyalty to the government of the country, and in unswerving support of its efforts for the suppression of the rebellion! It counted among its members every loyal citizen of any note in the town. As one enthusiastic chronicler observes: "The history of the Union League is the history of New York patriotism." #10

The troubles and difficulties that attended the progress of the struggle found their most violent expression in the "Draft Riots" which took place in New York in 1863. On March 3, in that year, Congress passed the "Enrollment and Conscription Act." By this measure the President was invested with authority to recruit the army, when necessary, by ordering a drawing of lots of citizens between the ages of twenty and forty-five. There was a clause to the effect that the men drafted might be permitted to pay #300 for a substitute, if they were reluctant to go to the front themselves. The act was an unpopular one, and there were those who charged that the design of the Conscription Act in New York was to lessen the number of Democratic votes. Trouble began when on July 13 Superintendent of Police Kennedy was beaten into insensibility by a crowd of men on Lexington Avenue. Meanwhile on Third Avenue another mob had marched up from the Cooper Institute making raids on the enrolling offices, and destroying the drafting machinery. A body of 5,00 rioters later marched down Broadway with the intent of destroying police headquarters. They were met by the police at Bleecker Street and routed. An Invalid Corps of fifty men were disarmed by the crowd at Forty-third Street and many of them were killed. On the following day, July 14, the fury of the crowds became directed against the colored people and there were rumors they were about o seize the gas works and reservoirs and bring utter ruin to the city. but the troops began to supplement the police and ball cartridges given out were blank cartridges had failed began to being the mob to its senses. New York regiments were ordered to report to their home city and one after another they arrived, first the Tenth and Fifty-sixth, then the Seventh, Eighth, Seventy-fourth, One Hundred and Sixty-second, and the Twenty-sixth Michigan. Altogether it was calculated that over 1,000 persons had been killed and about $2,000,000 worth of property destroyed.

The tide turned in the spring of 1865, when one victory after another was celebrated in the streets. First came the news of Sherman's march to the sea; then the news of the capture of Columbia and Savannah; then the story of Sheridan's brilliant raid into Virginia. On April 3 arrived the news of the fall of Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy; and finally the great news came of the surrender of Lee at the Appomattox Court House on April 9. A week later came the news of the assassination of President Lincoln. Never in all the history of America had there been a month so fraught with alternate joy and grief as the month of April, 1865. Following the jubilation that attended the news of one victory after another, New York put on the habiliments of mourning for the martyred President. Places of amusement were all closed, and on April 24, when the body of the President arrived in New York on its journey to the last resting place at Springfield, Illinois, streams of people for twenty-fours house passed the coffin. A million people attended the procession that took the body to the railroad station for the next lap of its journey. The civil War marked the end of one epoch and the beginning of another. As has been said of the plague that visited Constantinople in the fist quarter of the sixth century, when it had ceased we find ourselves moving in what was to all intents and purposes a different world. Americans after the Civil War never reverted tot he old simplicity of outlook. They had supped full of most of the horrors of which human nature is capable. They were like men after a fever and a crisis, sobered, wise, disillusioned. They had learned of reserves of strength before unsuspected and upon those reserves they began to call in building the modern America that has become the wonder and glory of the planet.

From Provincial Town to New York--When industry got into harness after the war, New York advanced with giant strides. From a sprawling provincial city it began to assume the aspect of a metropolis. There had been little building during the years of the war and the population appeared to be stationary, if it did not actually diminish. Every year in the decade previous to the outbreak of hostilities several hundred houses were built for well-to-do families. All this suddenly stopped, and so it was natural that when peace returned the demand for them returned with double force. By this time also electric lighting and improved illumination generally had become of practical use. The idea of the elevator was being developed and strong efforts were being made in the direction of speeding up transportation. Thus the new age was ushered in. when the war ended New York might be said to cease at Forty-second Street. But the trend upward began very soon. The roads round Central Park were laid out, Seventh Avenue was broadened, and Broadway was widened from Thirty-fourth Street to the park. The tendency to build upwards grew out of the congested condition of the lower city. the first of them, known generally as French flats, were opened on the west side, and they were received with very much favor. Thus, in 1873, the building bureau is aid to have issued on an average fifteen permits a month for the building of apartment houses. The rocky crags, crowned by squatter shanties, which impeded development on upper Manhattan island, had the effect of sending the population in lateral directions to Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey, and thus New York's excess population went t o benefit the neighboring localities. It was thus that the idea of a bridge across the East River originated. In the session of 1866-67 the Legislature passed three bills for a bridge connecting Manhattan with Long Island, and thus in 1870 the first caisson to be used in the Brooklyn Bridge was laid down. It is clear, therefore, that even at this early period the people of New York were showing themselves capable and assured enough to visualize and plan undertakings of the greatest magnitude. War with all its horrors has at least this compensation that it energizes the average man and calls into action powers of which ad previously hardly dreamed of the possession. It took five years to complete the first tower of the giant bridge, and in 1875 an act of the Legislature authorized the cities of New York and Brooklyn to raise $8,000,000 for its completion. In 1875 the Legislature passed the Husted Act, for the appointment of a commission to inquire into the rapid transit needs of New York and to fix upon the proper routes. The commission decided that elevated steam railways were the best for the purpose in view. In 1876 the road was extended to Fifty-ninth Street, and forty through trains were running each day. Lines were run through Ninth, Sixth, Third and Second Avenues, and in a few years New York was in possession of the elevated railways that were to serve it for a generation. On October, 1871, moreover, the Grand Central station at Forty-second Street, was opened, and in the four years that followed the tunnel and stone viaducts that separated the tracks from the street were constructed. Meanwhile the city was making its trend northwards and in 1873 part of Westchester County, including several villages, was incorporated with the city, its boundary reaching to Yonkers, making the length of the metropolitan area something like sixteen miles.

The Tweed Ring--It was t this period also that the disagreeable chapter in the history of New York was written in the machinations of what was called the Tweed Ring. William Marcy Tweed, in 1850, when but twenty-seven years old, was already an alderman. At this time street railways franchises were understood to be sold by the council, the members of which were familiarly known as the "forty thieves." After a term in Congress, Tweed was made a school commissioners and his dishonesty was in this office given opportunity for scope. But the chance of enriching himself was greatly increased by his promotion when he became member and later president of the Board of Supervisors of the county, for by this body the State tax was to be apportioned and raised. The office of street commissioner gave him still increased opportunities of thrusting his arms into the public treasury. Contractors were instructed to make out their bills with fifteen per cent overcharge. The proceeding was a risky one, and some plan had to be devised to shield the thieves. It was for this reason that the idea of the ring suggested itself, the cabal to consist of a number of officials playing into each others; hands and in this way making their activities a closed circle to the observing public. The Board of Supervisors appointed inspectors of election and the right men were selected, while a number of other people were induced to repeat their votes under different aliases on election day. As a result of al this scheming Tweed had in cooperation with him the comptroller, Richard D. Connolly, who paid the bills; and the city chamberlain, Peter B. Sweeney, while three judges were placed upon the bench to guard the dishonest officials.

In 1863 the expenses of the street department totaled $650,000. Under Tweed, four year later, they had become $2,000,000. Large sums were expended in loading mushroom newspapers with city advertising. The building of the county court house furnishes a good illustration of the transactions in which Tweed and his accomplices dealt. It was stipulated in the bill authorizing its construction that it was not to cost more than a quarter of a million dollars. Even before the first stone had been laid down in 1868 $1,000,000 had been appropriated; while in 1872, when it was not yet finished, $8,000,000 had been expended, the prelude to 5,000,000 other dollars that were expended before its completion. The debt of the city grew enormously. Tweed bean to boast the possession of a fortune that rivaled that of the richest merchants of the city. Things were merrily with the thieves till the sheriff, James O'Brian, got hold of some papers that minutely recorded the operations of the ring, and lodged them with the editor of the New York "Times." On July 20 the "Times" began the publication of the transactions, adding new items day by day for over a week, and the people of the city thus began to learn to what extend they were being victimized by their own paid officials.

Responsible citizens at once began to move. Meetings were called, and steps were taken for the indictment of the guilty men and the clearing of the Augean stables. The exposure broke the ring into fragments. Some of the money was refunded; some of the guilty parties took refuge in flight; disgrace fell on all of them; but all but one escaped imprisonment. Tweed himself was arrested on October 28, 1871, and put under $1,000,000 bail. In January 1873, he was brought to trial on 200 counts before Judge Noah Davis, when there was a disagreement of the jury that preserved him from conviction. Finally, in November, 1873, he was convicted and sentenced by Judge Davis to twelve years' imprisonment. He was released from the penitentiary in June, 1875, on the decision of the Court of appeals that his sentence, being cumulative, was illegal. He was, however, arrested again on suits of a civil character to recover $6,000,00, and his bail was put at $3,000,000. As he could not raise his bail he was imprisoned in Ludlow Jail, whence he escaped to Cuba, and later to Spain, being extradited by the Spanish government, and again lodge in Ludlow, where he died in 1878. Many efforts had been made to get him released and in 1877 he even turned State's evidence, but all the efforts were unavailing and the disappointment is said to have led to his death at a comparatively early age. The ring judges were impeached and were either removed or compelled to resign. The Tweed affair is interest as providing a conspicuous case where some of the guilty received condign punishment. There have been numerous affairs in the State and in the Nation, particularly during the recent great war, where a little of the energy shown in bringing tweed to justice was vainly desiderated. #11

One result of the Tweed revelation was the demand for an amendment of the Tweed charter, which had come to be regarded as the fons et origo of ring rule. The purpose of the Committee of Seventy, who assumed the responsibility of framing it, was, according to the "Times," so to reduce the profits of office-holding that the professional politicians and place-hunters would be forced to abandon their corrupt and corrupting avocation. It was suggested that as far as possible all fees should be abolished, and wherever they are collected they should be promptly turned over to the city treasury. It was suggested that the subordinate offices should be made permanent and independent of political changes. The committee, accordingly, drew up a charter, a feature of which was a Board of Aldermen of forty-five members, to be elected by a system of cumulative voting, which would insure minority representation. In 1873 a charter was adopted which abolished the board of assistant aldermen which had been substituted for the old councilmen by the Tweed Charter, and vesting legislative powers in a new common council of twenty-one aldermen. The first election under the amended charter took place in November, 1874, when William H., Wickhan was elected Mayor.

In 1873, a financial crises similar to the panic of 1857 brought tribulation on the city. there had been a good deal of unrest in the years immediately preceding and the great strike of 1872 was not without serious influences, but the connection was more directly traced to the rather reckless development of railways throughout the country. For almost a decade preceding the panic the country had been spending sums aggregating something like $4,000,000 each year in railway construction, and much the greater part of these sums were borrowed. The failure that attended an attempt to place an issue of bonds on the European market in 1873 was accepted as a strong intimation that something was wrong. The fear immediately shaped itself that the great transportation systems, still unfinished and yet a long way from being in a position to yield any return, would be likely to go under, carrying with them numerous firms who functioned as feeders to the systems. In September the Canada Southern, the Northern Pacific, and the Chesapeake and Ohio went down, carrying with them a number of great banking houses. Before the month was out, thirty-five important firms, carrying with them well-known members of the Stock Exchange, had suspended. As the crisis grew more acute the governing committee closed the Stock Exchange. The reserve in the National banks showed dwindling figures. At the end of a week the Exchange was opened and those who had come to buy in a cheap market found many bargains. When the rules of the Exchange were once more enforced, only one house was able to fulfill its contracts. In the meantime millions of securities had passed out of Wall Street, and when the banks began to call in their loans, the demand for money had so decreased that rates declined greatly. Speculation was checked and the stagnation was such that the tide did not effectually turn till several years afterwards.

Public Improvements--Meanwhile the work of easing transportation in and around the city was going forward. The work that resulted in the East River or Brooklyn Bridge finally came to an end, and it was opened to the public on May 24, 1883, after having cost $15,000,000. Completed, it was the greatest bridge in existence and was hailed as the great engineering work of the continent and of the age. The labor that went into it was stupendous. The great arch was over 1,595 feet in length, and the giant cables cast from on short to another weighed a pound for every eleven feet, with a total burden-bearing strength of 12,200 tons for each cable. The mere sounding of the river took the whole summer of 1869. The foundation found at forty-five feet to seventy-eight feet had to sustain the towers weighing 70,000 tons, and a permanent pressure of five tons to the square foot. The building began in January 3, 1870. When it was completed it seemed too good to be true and for months after its opening the people of New York knew no greater delight than to walk over it, viewing from a height the wasters which they had hitherto regarded only from the shore or the deck of a boat.

The work done on the Hellgat or Hell Gate vied with the work done on Brooklyn Bridge in its importance as an engineering feat. Here the river was full of rocks and ledges that filled the stream with treacherous currents at high tide, and where 1,000 vessels were wrecked or damaged each year. It was proposed to blast and dock and in this way to get rid of the most serious perils. A French engineer had proposed to the Chamber of Commerce the plan of blowing up Pot rock which lay in mid-channel broadside to the current for 130 feet, and some of the other reefs by gunpowder discharged upon their tops, and the experiment was tried with partial success. In 1869, however, more thorough work began to be done by General Newton, after an appropriation had been made by congress. He began with the great protrusion of Hallet's Point, undermining it through a series of years. the dynamiting took place September 24, 1876, 50,000 pounds of explosives being used. It was a complete success and the greatest peril of Hell Gate was thus removed. The Harlem River was also deepened and improved, a cut being made through Dyckman's meadows, placing the Hudson in a direct line with Long Island Sound.

So attention was being given to every line of work which might tend to make New York a greater and more habitable city. meanwhile the population was growing and spreading itself north, east and west. As greater skill was attained in blasting away the hard rock that impeded progress in Manhattan the dwelling houses of the city marched northward. The apartment houses grew in height and ornament, and the introduction of the steel frame opened up possibilities that never occurred to those in Europe from whom American architects had borrowed the original apartment house idea. The elevator came to be improved in speed and security, so that there appeared to be almost no limit to the piling up of story on story. The trend up town carried with it churches, universities, theatres, and railway termini. The elevated lines were lengthened until they reached out into the country. Progress became a habit that was everlastingly performing miracles, so that the average New Yorker came to take it as a matter of course that he was living in a city that gave to its ordinary citizens conveniences and luxuries of which in earlier generations not even emperors could have dreamed. The city was, in short, being transformed and fringes were being continually added to it in such away that it was coming to take on the aspect rather of a kingdom than of s city.

City Crosses the Harlem--the village of Harlem, in course of time, went the way of Greenwich and Chelsea and Yorkville. It became only a name, the lingering relic of a town that had been swallowed up by the relentless march of metropolitan stone and mortar. It seemed very distant from New York in the days when de la Montagne occupied the tract of land between third and Fifth Avenues and the East and the Harlem Rivers. Walloons ha a little after de la Montagne settled in the village, and Dominie Michaelius had undertaken the perilous journey of visiting them and preaching to them in the mill-loft. In 1658 Stuyvesant and his council had passed a decree that a village should be founded on the spot as a bulwark against the Indians and Haarlem was the name that was given to it. A court of justices was established and magistrates appointed in 1660, and a church was founded in that year. The English tried to change the name to Lancaster, but the new name never found favor. During the eighteenth century the village was strictly in the country, and was a favorite resort for pleasure parties in summer. The first intimation that there was a possibility of their being engulfed in the greater city came in 1807, when supervisors from lower Manhattan came among then to lay out the new system of streets as far as a Hundred and Fifth-fifth Street. in the central years of the last century before the advent of the horse car there were hardly any houses on Third Avenue in the several decades of streets that led up to Harlem. The advent of the horse car in the sixties carried the houses in a short time nearer Harlem. The building of the elevated roads made a much more pronounced change, and the people flocked to Harlem rather than to Brooklyn and new jersey, though even in the seventies there still remained a wide gap of open country extending from Ninetieth Street to one Hundredth Street.

The city by its passage across the Harlem River enclosed, it has been observed, within its new limits some interesting examples of rural scenery, as well as some places of historic and other interest.

There was Kingsbridge with its Spuyten Duyvil creek, and its lofty Spuyten Duyvil Bluff, looking far down the river, and making a half-successful attempt to rival the height of the Palisades. What stories of romantic adventure cluster about the settlement here. The trumpet of Anthony van Corlear is heard with despairing blast sounding above the road of the rushing tide, as the devil he was bound to spite got hold of him amid the seething waters. Here Governor Clinton held post with his brigade, to keep English and cowboys from crossing to Manhattan. Here a bold dash was made against the British defenders about the same time that Light Horse Harry Lee surprised Paulus Hook. Through Kingsbridge clattered the little cavalcade of six, when Washington rode forth from New York to Boston. Here Adams was met when he came to the city as Vice-President, and to Kingsbridge was Lafayette escorted and her cordial adieus spoken by him to the dignitaries of the city who had so handsomely entertained him in 1824. Next to Kingsbridge lay the village or manor Fordham, where the Huguenots settled and founded a church even before 1700. And up and down its steep and winding roads poor Poe was wont to wander, perhaps not always with steady feet, at his wits' end how to provide the necessaries of life for his sick wife, lying up there in that miserable little cottage by the side of the Kingsbridge Road, where it stood until lately. There it stand yet, a little distance removed from its original position, preserved for the sake of the weird genius that wrote the "Raven."

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

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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