Bits of History About Manhattan Before Consolidation 1898



Less than three hundred years ago Manhattan island was a wilderness trodden only by wild animals and the roving Indian; today it is the center of the second largest aggregation of population the world over. Singularly enough the present City of new York forms the largest English speaking community in either hemisphere not founded by Englishmen but theirs by virtue of conquest.'

Manhattan island, from Battery to the far reaches of Spuyten Duyvil, is rich in historic interest and romance. To the Dutch belongs the distinction of having laid the foundations of the new world's greatest city and to the worthy descendants of these pioneers no little of her present greatness is due.

On April 4, 1609, Hendrik Hudson, a bold English adventurer in Dutch pay, set sail from Amsterdam and braving the vast Atlantic, made his course for America. On September 2, following, his ship, the half Moon, sailed past the Highlands of Navesink and entered the bay and the Hudson's mouth, to which he gave his name. Hudson explored the river as far as Albany and his followers were the first Europeans to set foot on Manhattan's shores. In 1610 a Dutch expedition was sent out to open a fur traffic with the Indians and four years later a few rude log cabins were erected on Manhattan by the traders. These early attempts at settlement resulted, in 1621, in the granting by the states general of a charter to the West India Company, which was by that instrument given a monopoly in the American trade. Three years later the first permanent settlement on Manhattan was effected. A company of Walloons coming out to found, the colony christened it new Netherlands. The West India Company, in 1626, sent out Peter Minuit, a native of Westphalla, as first director of the colony's affairs. he arrived in the Sea Mew and one of his first official acts was to negotiate the sale of the island, covering an area of 13,487 acres, by the Indians for the sum of 60 guilders, about equivalent to $24 of our money. The colony was henceforth called New Amsterdam.

Early in the history of the colony the patroon system was introduced. By an act passed in 1628 it was provided that any man bringing out fifty souls should receive a grant of land and the hereditary title of patroon.

Peter Minuit was succeeded after six years by Wouter van Twiller, who in turn gave way in 1637 to the third director, Wilheim Kieft, in whose administration the colony was almost perpetually harassed by Indians. A noted Indian massacre took place in 1643 and for two years following bitter warfare was waged under the leadership of Captain John Underhill, a famous Indian fighter. So great was the popular alarm that Director Kieft called a popular meeting, the first ever held in the colony, at which a council of twelve men was chosen to advise him in the conduct of the war.

Director Kieft was succeeded in office by the greatest Dutchman New Amsterdam has record of, Peter Stuyvesant, who with his one leg and overbearing ways has become the most popular historical figure of the city's early days. Governor Stuyvesant assumed his rule in 1647, in a period of political discontent, and ruled the burghers with an iron hand. He was a martinet and a man of courage and determination, rare even in those bold days. It was in Stuyvesant's time that New Amsterdam was incorporated as a city, and through incessant demand obtained wider measures of political freedom. In the year of his accession he, while disbelieving strongly in Democratic government, was forced to grant them the right to eject eighteen counselors, from whom he chose "nine men" to assist him. A few years before, in 1643, a French Jesuit priest, who visited the settlement, recorded the Village of new Amsterdam as a place of between 400 and 500 inhabitants, "of different sects and nations," thus early foreshadowing the cosmopolitanism which in the present makes of the city one of the world's greatest metropolises.

The Dutch were not neglectful of the benefits of education even in the early days, as in 1633 they took pains to establish a school which still exists the School of the Collegiate Reformed Church, the oldest institution of learning in the United States.

During Governor Stuyvesant's administration, which came to an abrupt end in 1664 by the seizure of the colony by the British, there was open discontent among the people over the heavy taxes and the enormous export duties established by the West India Company and revolution was often half ripe in the bolder spirits. In 1657 new troubles arose over the appearance of the Quakers, who emigrated from Massachusetts colony to escape Puritan persecution only to find it renewed under Stuyvesant, who succeeded in driving them from his colony.

Stuyvesant fell in the height of his power, it being his humiliation to see New Amsterdam become a British Colony, without a blow being struck in defense of Dutch rights. In 1664 the Duke of York, afterward James II of England, conceived the idea of annexing the flourishing Dutch colony. England's claim was based upon Cabot's discoveries, but more powerful reasons were responsible for the coup. England lost much revenue annually through the smuggling of Virginia tobacco to Holland free of duty by the Dutch colonists, beside she wanted a strong continuous line of colonies about the Atlantic coast. These two reasons were responsible for the British assault which took place under direction of Colonel Richard Nicolls, who, after attaining a bloodless victory, became the colony's first governor, under British rule. New Amsterdam was patented to the Duke of York, and its name was changed to New York in his honor. Francis Lovelace succeeded Nichols as governor. In July, 1673, a Dutch squadron, under command of Admirals Evertsen and Binckes, appeared off New York and forced the surrender of the old fort. They inaugurated a new Dutch government under Captain Anthony Colve, which continued but a year and a quarter, when under a new treaty the colony was surrendered by the Dutch to Sir Edmund Andrus, the British representative, who was succeeded shortly in command by Thomas Dongan, the author of the Dongan Charter, much of which has come down to our day. Governor Dongan's rule was signalized by the granting of the "Duke's Charter," in 1683, which was repealed two years later. This granted four great reforms equal taxation, trial by jury, the obligation of military duty and freedom of religion to all Christians.

About this time Frontenac, the governor of Quebec, acting under orders of Louis XIV, threatened the invasion of New York and an anti-Catholic agitation ensuing, Jacob Leister, a Protestant, seized the fort and caused himself to be proclaimed governor. In that capacity Leister called the first American congress to meet in New York, to which representatives came from Connecticut. Leister was deposed soon after and executed for treason.

Another signal date in the city's colonial history was that of the final establishment of the liberty of the press in 1733. During the early years of the eighteenth century new York's sea port growth was phenomenal, although its increase in population was impeded by the restrictions imposed by government. The demand in all this time was for increased self government and it was a period of constant social and political unrest. By 1764 the close of the colonial period, parties had already strongly divided and the Tory element was of great strength and influence. The stamp act was the culminating point in the uprising of the people against the local oligarchy and also marked the commencement of active resistance to England. In 1765 in New York was called together the Stamp Act Congress, to which nine colonies sent representatives, who adopted a declaration of rights and an address to the king. The Sons of Liberty also began organizing and soon after was erected the liberty pole, whose attempted demolition by British soldiers in 1770 gave rise to the riot and battle of Golden Hill, in which the first blood of the revolution was shed. This battle took place six weeks before the famous Boston massacre.

Manhattan island was early a storm center in the revolution. its population was 20,000 and its wealth already great. Washington made his headquarters in New York, taking command of the Continental Army. General Howe centered his attention upon it as a strategic point of exceptional value and succeeded the same fall in forcing its evacuation by Washington, who retired to Haarlem Heights deeply discouraged. For the next seven years New York suffered all the humiliation of a conquered city. The British were insolent and overbearing victors and it was with long pent up joy that they in turn were compelled to evacuate the city, November 25, 1783. The rejoicing of the citizens knew no bounds and henceforth, even to the present day, the anniversary was maintained with appropriate ceremony.

On Manhattan's soil Washington resigned his generalship and here also he took the oath as first President of the new republic. By the year 1800 the city had a population of over 60,000, which in the next twenty years passed the 100,000 mark. The growth of the city for the next forty years was marvelous, the population in 1860 reaching 800,000, while in commerce it had in the same period far out stripped every American city.

The political tendencies of the people up to the year 1800 were Federalist, but then the spread of Democratic ideas began and has never since been seriously checked. In the present New York is the great Democratic stronghold of the North.

Manhattan has taken her part in every civil and military event of the past century and has steadfastly held her foremost place in the new world as a center of population and commercial activity. Today she dominates the nation in finance and intellectual development and the future holds out still brighter hopes for her influence upon the American republic.

In Manhattan the mayor's office, of course, will be in the City Hall, as now. The President of the Borough's Headquarters are referred to in another part of this issue. The County Clerk will be located in the Court House, City Hall Park; the Register also in the Court House, the Sheriff in the brown stone building, City hall Park, and the District Attorney in the Criminal Courts Building, Center and Franklin streets.


Website: The History
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Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle January 2, 1898
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