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Life In New York Under The English
It will be worth while to stop for a moment and contemplate the manner of life and amusements of the people of New York in these years that formed the eve of the Revolution. Their habits were regular, or rather, their hours were regular.
"They rose early, if not with the sun, and had an hour or more at their office or stores, which, before the Revolution, were usually under the same roof as their dwellings, and after a visit to the market, which no head of a New York house ever omitted, breakfasted in a hearty manner. The dinner-hour was from one to three, and the tea at nightfall, what today would be called "high-tea." A supper invariably followed at the tavern, or coffee-house, where ale or punch was drunk, crabs were picked out, or escalloped oysters (a favorite dish) eaten, and pipes smoked in the winter; or in the summer lighter beverages, with fruits and ices, consumed at the tea and mead-houses, the Ranelagh or the Vauxhall, on the outskirts of the town. For the high gentry, the English officials, and those of the colony in particular, who had country estates in the neighborhood of New York, racing was the chief delight. New Yorkers of today will open their eyes when they are told that in 1742 a race was run on the Church Farm, not a stone's throw to the northwest from where the present Astor House stands; and that here, in 1750-five horses running for the October subscription plate Mr. Lewis Morris, Jr., carried away the first prize. His horse is not named.
It was not the custom then to name horses which had not taken a purse, and this race was open only to horses which had never taken a purse in Manhattan Island. The great course was the Newmarket, on Hempstead Plains, an ideal piece of ground for a track, to which, in May of that year, twenty chairs and chaises crossed the ferry the day before the "event," and a far greater number of horses, "and it was thought that the number of horses on the plains at the race far exceeded a thousand." The chief racing stables in the New York province were those of Morris and De Lancey in Westchester. In 1753 the subscription plate was run for at Greenwich, on the estate of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, who died the year previous, and which was now in charge of his kinsman and executor, Oliver De Lancey, a famous sportsman. General Monckton later occupied "Richmond" during his brief stay in this government. The governor had a fine horse named Smoaker, with which John Leary, the jockey of the day, won a bowl, which he would not surrender to Watts, the general's friend, not even under threat of the terrors of the law. Five years later Leary was still tenacious. Besides the Church Farm and Greenwich tracks, there was a third course at Harlem. There were other New Yorkers keen for the sport; Anthony Rutgers, of New York, and Michael Kearney, Irish-born, who married a daughter of Lewis Morris, and was ancestor of the dashing Phil Kearney, of military fame, were thorough sportsmen. The middle and southern colonies were not behind in their love of sports. Dr. Hamilton led the patrons of the turf in New Jersey, and Mr. Daniel Dulaney, who was also of Irish birth, those of Maryland."
In the years that followed there grew up quite a spirit of rivalry in horse racing between the northern and southern colonies.
The years 1767, 1768 and 1769 are memorable in the history of the turf. Lewis Morris won reputation for his Westchester stables with his American Childers and Strumpet. In October, 1769, James De Lancey, with his imported horse, Lath, brought home from the Centre course at Philadelphia the £100 prize. The De Lancey stables were the most expensive of any in the north, and from this period to the Revolution their colors were on every course. A curious instance shows the difficulties sportsmen as well as tradesmen had to contend with because of the debased state of the coinage and irregular values of the currency of the colonies. On the Maryland course, Dulaney made a match with De Lancey for a race for a "struck hall-bushel" of Spanish dollars that is, by weight. Later the Marylanders declined to stake their money against Virginia currency at the Leestown course on the Potomac, the Virginia paper having been "counterfeited in a masterly manner."
The most celebrated of the races of the stamp act period was that between True-Briton and Selim, in 1765, at the very height of the hostile feeling against Great Britain. True-Briton was English-born: Selim, a grandson of the Godolphin Arabian, was American-born and had the fleetest foot in the colonies. The race was over the Philadelphia course and for £1,000 stakes. One Waters, who owned True-Briton, had challenged the continent, in true British boastfulness of language to a trial of speed. Samuel Galloway, of Maryland, answered his defiance with Selim. The race was hardly a trial of speed, but the matchless Selim bore off the honors and the purse. Another True-Briton belonging to James De Lancey won Revolutionary fame. It is said of this animal that Col. Oliver De Lancey would jump him back and forth from a standstill over a five-barred gate. In 1768, the "terrific Selim" came to grief with Dr. Hamilton's Figure, a scion of the Duke of Devonshire's Arabian, on the course of Upper Marlborough, near Newburgh-on-the-Hudson. These are but instances of the trials for speed in which the New York stables were represented. They serve to show not only the spirit, but the wealth of the period.
A fox is killed by twenty men,