Learning About New York Part II

New York, the commercial metropolis of the United States, is on the island of Manhattan, at the head of New York Bay, and at the confluence of the Hudson River and the strait called the East River, which connects the bay with Long Island Sound. The latitude at the City Hall is 40 42' 40' N., and the longitude is 74 01' 08' W. from Greenwich. Distance in miles from Albany, 145; Boston, 236; Philadelphia, 87; Baltimore, 185; Washington, 223; Cleveland, 503; Cincinnati, 758; Chicago, 856; Saint Louis, 1,137; New Orleans, 1,663.

Manhattan Island, the whole of which is embraced within the chartered limits of the city, is 131/3 miles in length, with a breadth, at its widest part, on Eighty-eighth street, of 21/3 miles, and an area of 22 square miles. The bay of New York spreads to the southward, and is about eight miles long, and from 1 to 5 broad, with a circumference of about 25 miles. It is one of the finest and most beautiful harbors on the globe, with a depth sufficient for the largest ships, and a capacity to contain all the shipping of the world.

It is well defended by fortifications at the Narrows, where it is entered from the ocean; on Staten, Governor's, Bedlow's and Ellis's Island, and also on the entrance from the Sound on East River. The population of New York in 1790 was 33,131; in 1810, 96,373; in 1830, 202,589; in 1840, 312,710; in 1850, 515,394, and in 1860, 821,113. The suburbs of New York, consisting of Brooklyn, Jersey City, Hoboken, etc., with the city itself, sum up now a total population of about 1,200,000.

New York derives its origin from the colonizing and commercial spirit of the Hollanders and the general zest of adventure which prevailed among the maritime nations of Europe after the discovery of America. The following sketch of its history is from Hayward's Gazeteer:

The first settlement made on Manhattan Island, with a view to permanent occupancy, was by the Dutch in 1615. In 1629, being resolved to establish a colony at New Amsterdam, as New York was then called, they appointed Walter Van Twiller governor, who held the office nine years. In 1635, the governor erected a substantial fort, and in 1643 a house of worship was built in the south-east corner of the fort. In 1644, a city hall or Stadt house was erected, which was on the corner of Pearl-street and Coenties Slip. In 1653, a wall of earth and stones was built from Hudson River to East River, designed as a defense against the Indians, immediately north of Wall-street, which from that circumstance received its name. The first public wharf was built in 1658, where Whitehall-street now is.

Stadt Huys or City Hall, New York.

This building was of stone, and was built by the Dutch in 1644. It stood on the corner of Pearl-street and Coenties Slip. It was razed in 1700.

The administration of Governor Stuyvesant, the last of the Dutch governors, terminated, after a continuance of 17 years, with the capture of the colony by the English, in 1664, when the city was named New York, in honor of James, Duke of York. The property of the Dutch West India Trading Company was all confiscated. The number of inhabitants was then about 3,000.

In 1673, the Dutch re-took the city from the English, it having been surrendered by Captain Manning without firing a gun. It was restored to the English the next year, and Captain Manning was tried for cowardice and treachery, and sentenced to have his sword broken over his head. The inhabitants were all then required to take the oath of allegiance to the English government. As descriptive of the commercial condition of the city at that period, Gov. Andros, in his report to the government in England, in 1678, says:

"Our principal places of trade are New York and Kingston, except Albany for the Indians. Our buildings most wood, some lately stone and brick; good country houses, and strong of their severall kinds. A merchant worth 1000, or 500, is accompted a good substantial merchant, and a planter worth half that in moveables accompted rich; all estates may be valued at about 150,000 there may lately have traded to ye colony, in a year, from 10 to 15 ships or vessels, of about together 100 tons each, English, New England, and our own built, of which five small ships and a ketch now belonging to New York, four of them built there."

In 1686, James II abolished the representative system, and prohibited the use of printing presses. A meeting of commissioners, denominated a congress of the several colonies, was this year assembled at New York. A regulation for lighting the city was established in 1697, requiring that lights be put in the windows of the houses fronting on the streets, on a penalty of nine-pence for every night's omission; and that a lighted lantern be hung out upon a pole at every seventh house, the expense to be borne equally by the seven intervening houses. In 1703, Wall-street was paved from William-street to the English (Trinity) Church. The Presbyterian ministers were prohibited from preaching by Governor Cornbury in 1707, and two of their number were arrested and tried for violating this prohibition, but they were discharged on their paying $220 costs. In 1719, a Presbyterian church was built in Wall-street.

In 1725, the New York Gazette, a weekly newspaper, was established. The first stage began to run between New York and Boston in 1732. It made its trips once a month, and was fourteen days on the journey. In 1745, Lady Murray owned the only coach in New York. The city, the next year, contained 1,834 houses and 11,717 inhabitants, all lying below the Park, having increased about 1,000 in nine years. A theater was opened in 1750. From this time to the period of the revolution streets were laid out and built upon, more or less, as far north as Murray-street.

In consequence of the disastrous issue of the battle of Long Island, soon after the commencement of the war in 1776, the city was taken possession of by the British army, under Lord Howe, and occupied by them until November 25, 1783, when they evacuated it upon the independence of the United States being established. On that day General Washington, at the head of the American army, entered the city. The British had erected works across the Island, near Duane-street. After the devastation committed by the British upon the houses of worship, the college, and other public institutions, and in consequence of the loss of the books and accounts of the corporation, which had been carried off by the treasurer, who joined the British and left the country, much difficulty was found in tracing out and securing various descriptions of the public property.

The whole increase of the population of New York, during a century of the English rule, did not exceed 20,000, which at the present day must seem greatly disproportionate to its commercial advantages in relation to the American colonies, and under the auspices of such a nation as Great Britain. But when we consider the strange and unnatural restrictions thrown around the colonies by the mother country, our surprise is diminished. Gov. Cornbury, writing from New York to his superiors at home, in 1705, says:

"I hope I may be pardoned if I declare my opinion to be that all these colonies, which are but twigs belonging to the main tree, ought to be kept entirely dependent upon and subservient to England; and that can never be if they are suffered to go on in the notions they have, that as they are Englishmen so they may set up the same manufactures here as people may do in England."

In conformity with this policy, the people of New York were not allowed to manufacture cloths of any kind, except for their own use. After the close of the revolution the city contained 23,614 inhabitants, being an increase of about 2,000 in fifteen years.

In 1785, the first congress after the war was organized in New York, in the City Hall, where the Custom House now stands; and here, four years later, when the constitution had been adopted, Washington was inaugurated president of the United States.

From this time, in our country, commences the period of modern history, so to speak, and the most important events in the annals of the city must be comparatively familiar to the reader. For a place of such magnitude, New York can not be considered unhealthy. It has enjoyed as great an exemption as cities of this class in most countries from the ravages of epidemic diseases. It has been four times visited by yellow fever, viz.: in 1742, in 1798, in 1805, and 1822. The disease was the most fatal in 1798, when it prevailed from July to November, and the deaths amounted to 2,086.

The city, with other cities large and small, suffered severely from Asiatic cholera in the years 1832, 1834 and 1849. The deaths in July and August, 1832, numbered 4,673, and during the year, 9,975. The deaths during the year 1850, a year of ordinary health, were 15,377, which is a ratio of one to thirty-three of the population. This ratio does not vary materially from that of other northern cities of the largest class.

The most extensive and destructive fire which has ever occurred in New York was that of the 16th of December, 1835, which swept over between thirty and forty acres of the most valuable part of the city, densely occupied with stores and filled with the richest merchandise. About 650 buildings were consumed, and the amount of property destroyed was estimated, by a committee appointed to ascertain the loss, at nearly $18,000,000. Under this heavy calamity, the wealth and recuperative energies of the city were in a wonderful manner demonstrated, as in an incredibly short time the whole burned district was covered again with stores and with public edifices more costly, convenient and elegant than before.

The first formal charter of the city was granted June 12, 1665. This has been superseded by a second, and also by a third, granted in 1730, which, though much changed by acts of the legislature, forms the basis of the present rights and privileges of the city. The present charter, by the New York legislature, was granted in 1831.

The city is divided at present into wards, each of which annually elects an alderman and an assistant alderman, to each of the two boards respectively, which constitute the common council. The mayor is chosen annually by the electors of the city.

It is now 245 years since the passengers of a Dutch emigrant vessel established their rude habitations on the southern extremity of Manhattan Island. The annals of the city, during the period which has intervened, and more especially since the country became an independent nation, illustrate its unexampled progress in population, wealth and commercial greatness. "In these respects, it may be safely said, that history affords no equal example of prosperity; and, if we may anticipate the lapse of another century, its extent and population will stand with scarcely a rival among the cities of the world."

The harbor is everywhere well protected against the influence of streams, but especially within the East River, which is the part most closely landlocked.

Here the largest number of vessels always lie, presenting, in the multitude of their masts and spars, the appearance of a leafless forest. The whole of the lower part of the city, excepting the Battery, on both North and East Rivers, is burdened with numerous docks and ships, in all extending several miles. Usually these docks are crowded with the vessels of all nations; and, on an average, over 2,000 coasting vessels are in harbor at time, some loading, some unloading, and others waiting their turn for berths. With all these vast accommodations for shipping, there is scanty room for so large a commerce as centers at this port.

(Continue on Part III)


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Learning About New York State Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Our whole country; or, The past and present of the United States, historical and descriptive. In two volumes By John Warner Barber ... and Henry Howe ...Cincinnati, H. Howe, 1861.
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