Category Archives: New York

Item of the Day: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York in 1765 (1767)

Full Title: Authentic Account of the Proceedings of the Congress held at New-York, in MDCCLXV, on the SUBJECT of the AMERICAN STAMP ACT.  MDCCLXVII. [1767]







Boston, June 1765.


 The House of Representatives of this province, in the present session of the general court, have unanaimously agreed to propose a meeting, as soon as may be, of COMMITTEES, from the houses of representatives or burgesses of the several British colonies on this continent, to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies, and the difficulties to which they are, and must be reduced, by the operation of the acts of parliament for levying duties and taxes on the colonies; and to consider of a general, and united, dutiful, loyal and humble representation of their condition, to his Majesty and the Parliament, and to implore relief. The house of reprsentatives of this province have also voted to propose, That such meeting be at the city of New-York, in the province of New-York, on the first Tuesday in October next; and have appointed a committee of three of their members to attend that service, with such as the other houses of representatives, or burgesses, in the several colonies, may think fit to appoint to meet them. And the committee of the house of representatives of this province, are directed to repair to said New-York, on said first Tuesday in October next, accordingly.

If, therefore, your honourable house should agree to this proposal, it would be acceptable, that as early notice of it as possible, might be transmitted to the speaker of the house of representatives of this province.


In consequence of the foregoing circular letter, the following gentlemen met at New-York, in the province of New-York, on Monday the seventh day of October, 1765, viz.

From the province of Massachusetts-bay, JAMES OTIS, OLIVER PATRIDGE, TIMOTHY RUGGLES, Esquires.

From the colony of Rhode-Island, and Providence plantation, METCALF BOWLER, HENRY WARD, Esquires.

From the colony of Connecticut, ELIPHALET DYER, DAVID ROWLAND, WILLIAM SAMUEL JOHNSON, Esquires.


From the colony of New-Jersey, ROBERT OGDEN, HENDRICK FISHER, JOSEPH BORDEN, Esquires.

From the government of the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, on Delaware, CAESAR RODNEY, THOMAS M’KEAN, Esquires.

From the province of Maryland, WILLIAM MURDOCK, EDWARD TILGHMAN, THOMAS RINGGOLD, Esquires.

From the province of South-Carolina, THOMAS LYNCH, CHRISTOPHER GADSDEN, JOHN RUTLEDGE, Esquires.

Then the said committees proceeded to chuse a chariman by ballot, and Timothy Ruggles, esq; on sorting and counting the votes, appeared to have a majority, and thereupon was placed in the chair.



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Filed under 1760's, Colonial America, Congress, Great Britain, New York, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Stamp Act

Item of the Day: Letters to a Nobleman (1779)

Full Title: Letters to a Nobleman, on the Conduct of the War in the Middle Colonies. The Second Edition. London: Printed for J. Wilkie, No. 71, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, MDCCLXXIX. [1779]



THE pleasure I take in complying with your wishes, will not suffer me to postpone the performance of a promise I made, when I last had the honour of conversing with your Lordship.  If I remember right, it was to communicate my sentiments of the strength and practicability of the Middle Colonies where the late military operations have been carried on, — of the disposition of the people, in general, in the revolted Colonies, — and of the conduct of the late war in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These are matters which intimately concern the public welfare, and with which your Lordship, as a senator, and the whole nation, who have expended many millions in that war, ought to be perfectly acquainted. Of these I shall therefore treat, in the order pointed out by your Lordship, without any other restraint than that which is imposed by condor and truth.

That part of the Middle Colonies which has been the scene of the late military operations, cannot, with the least propriety, in the military sense of the words, be called uncommonly strong, and much less impracticable. These operations have been chiefly confined between the mountains and the sea-coast southward of New York. In that part of America, the hills, when compared with those in this country, are by no means high or difficult of access. And there are few of them which do not afford an easy ascent either on one side or the other. Very unlike this country, where numerous hedges and high dykes form many bulwarks, for a time, proof even against cannon; there, neither hedges nor dykes are to be found. The fences are made of posts fixed in the ground, at ten feet distance, and in general with four or five cross rails, from nine to fifteen inches asunder. The country, which is thick settled and populous, every farmer living on his own plantation, not in villages, is interspersed with intermediate woods, and large plantations, or open fields. The wood consists of large tall trees, growing at different and considerable distances, without any underwood, and are easily scoured with cannon or musquetry [sic]. This is a true and exact state of that part of the country of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the war has been carried on; and from this description, it may be easily determined how far it can be deemed strong or impracticable in respect to military operations.

But, my Lord, experience is the best instructor; and if we attend to it, we shall certainly obtain every necessary information. In this country, we have lately seen two armies, one meditating its conquest, the other its defence. We have seen the British army penetrating into its heart, in a circuit of near two hundred miles, from Long Island, by the White Plains, to Trenton, and from the Elk Ferry to Philadelphia, in defiance of the utmost efforts of an enemy perfectly acquainted with every advantageous spot of ground; and we have seen that army taking, with ease and little loss, every strong post possessed by the enemy, who have always fled at its approach. Surely a country where such operations have been performed with so little difficulty, cannot be deemed very strong or impracticable.

But the strength or impracticability of this country is lost in idea, when we compare it with the  sense of action in the last American war. That was in a country of thick woods, — full of vast mountains, high precipices, and strong defiles; yet an Amherst and a Wolfe led the British troops through it to conquest and to glory, against the utmost efforts of the French veterans. Though in strength it was equal to any of the countries in Europe, yet was it not so impracticable as to baffle the zeal of British Generals, who, unconnected with party, prized their own honour, and devoted their lives to the interest of their country and the glory of their Sovereign.

For my own part, I have no idea of any country being impracticable in respect to military operations. Nor, I believe, has any other person, who is acquainted with the history of war, or the conduct of great commanders. Did not an Hannibal and a Caesar cross the high mountains and strong defiles of the Alps? Have not Britons more than once victoriously traversed the strongest fortified countries of Germany, France, and Flanders? Is there a country in Europe which has not been pervaded by military skill and valour? No, my Lord, there is not. And I am confident I may adopt this proposition as true,  that every country, however strong, will afford mutual and alternate advantages to contending armies, while superior skill, force, and exertion alone, can ensure victory and success. Should an inferior enemy in his retreat take possession of a strong post, which it would be too great a risque to attack, military policy and experience will tell us, that his provsions my be cut off, — his army besieged or starved into a surrender, — or the other parts of the country be reduced, while he remains inactive in his post; and after that, he can no longer subsist. How then can a country in any military sense be deemed impracticable? To the Ancients, or to Britons till lately, such a sentiment was unknown. It is not to be found in the annals of military history. A British soldier should blush at finding a room for the thought in his heart, and much more at pronouncing it with his tongue. As the sentiment is as dangerous to military gallantry as it is novel, I trust that it has not made a deep impression on the minds of Britons. If it has, their honour will surely teach them to eradicate it. And were I to be arbitrary on the occasion, I would, for the sake of my country, erase the words strong and impracticable from every dictionary, lest it should be renewed to apologize for the military indolence and misconduct of men, who have sacrificed to party and faction their own honour, the glory of their Sovereign, and the dignity of the nation.

I have the honour to be,

My Lord,

Your Lordship’s most faithful

and obedient servant.


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Filed under 1770's, American Revolution, Great Britain, History, Letters, Military, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: New-York Magazine (1794)

Full Title: The New-York Magazine; or, Literary Repository: For October, 1794. Number X — Vol. V. Containing: Receipt for the Whooping Cough, Letters from a Father to his Son, It will do for the Present, Any other Time will do as well, An extraordinary Character, Story of Choang and Hansi, Memoirs of the Count de Benyowisky, Imitations of Sterne, Rewards of Avarice, Sentimental Fragment, Observations on Burying the Dead, Refections on Time, Arrest of the Commissioners of the Convention by Dumourier, The Nun, The Amrican Muse. ORIGINAL. The Cestus of Venus, To War, To George Washington, To Anna Matilda, Sonnet, SELECTED. Hymns on Content, Official Account of General Wayne’s Defeat of the Indians, Monthly Register. Foreign Department, Domestic Occurrences, Marriages, Deaths, With a map, exhibiting a Sketch of the Ground at the Rapids of the Miami of the Lake, shewing the Position of General Wayne’s Army previous to and after the Action of the 20th of August, 1794. New-York: Printed and published by T. and J. Swords, No. 167, William-street, 1794.



MUCH has been said and written on the pernicious tendencies of burying the dead in cities, particularly in vaults; notwithstanding, the least reformation has not taken place. So difficult is it to persuade men of any innovation in customs, which have become habitual, however improper they may be. Governments and laws have been materially altered with less impunity than altering a road, abolishing the practice of wearing long beards, or reforming the mode of dress; —Attention is intended to be arrested by these observations to a reconsideration of this interesting subject.

The practice of interring the dead in vaults may be traced to the ancient Egyptians. A superstitious opinion prevailed among that people, that the soul or spirit remained by the body, and would continue to do so for three thousand years, providing that it continued free from putrefaction, and that at the expiration of this period, reanimation , would take place; but if the body became noxious, the soul would take a disgust and depart. This gave origin to the custom of embalming or imbuing the flesh with fine essential oils. The body being thus preserved from the action of septic powers, it was necessary that it should be placed in a situation to secure it from the injuries of time and chance, till the period of resuscitation arrived. This gave rise to the erection of sepulchres [sic], which were magnificent and durable according to the abilities of the persons for whom they were constructed. The pyramids and labyrinth of Egypt were no doubt built for this purpose by the kings of that country. Travellers give an account of their having found in them chambers very difficult of access, made in the most curious and lasting manner, in which were contained marble coffins and broken vases. One use of the celebrated Spinx [sic] was that of a sepulchre. Whole plains of mummies have been found inclosed in tombs of stones. It is probable that the Jews obtained their mode of interment from the Egyptians. The Greeks and Romans had their mausoleums, monuments, tombs, and cenotaphs, which were erected for princes, and those who have been called the grandees of the earth. This practice was imitated by the inferior classes of society upon the small scale; they had their columellae, labella, arcae, &c. When the custom of burning the bodies of the dead was introduced, it gave rise to the construction of urnae, ampulae, cupae, phialae, thecae, ollae, dolia, lamina, and other vessels for containing the bones or ashes of the dead. —A revolution in the opinion respecting the soul has caused the practice of embalming to be neglected; but pride and superstition have perpetuated the mode of interring. The practice of the primitive nations was no so pernicious as the one followed in this civilized country; they either embalmed, burned, or used some other means with the body to prevent it from becoming noxious. Is it not time that the vanity of individuals should be sacrificed to the public good? Do we boast of advanced civilization, and of having acquired the experience of ages? In this, as in many other respects, principle and practice maintain perpetual war. Men progress in iopinions, but in practice remain the same.

Why will poor mortals, the insects of a day, desire to rot in state? does distinction exist in the grave? Does property make the body more valuable after death? Will it alter the composition of a bone, or cause the blood to yield different principles on analysis? No; the worm shall glut itself on the pampered flesh of luxury as well as on that of poverty; it shall return to its original elements, and go to perpetuate the existence of other beings. Matter is doomed to go its round. Man feeds on other organized beings; at death he returns to airs, water and earth, which are absorbed by the roots and leaves of vegetables; the inferior animals are supported by these, and man again maintains his existence by preying on those. Pride and caprice may retard these change, and frustrate nature for a while, but happily for the succeeding inhabitants of this earth, they cannot eventually prevent them.

Death, in our world, is rendered necessary on account of the rapid increase of beings, and is, according to the establishment of the present system a blessing. If every creature was to continue on this stage of existence, the world would soon be overstocked; the means of subsistence would be wanting; even the elements themselves would be exhausted. Generations rise out of the ruins of those which preceded, and give way to make room for succeeding ones. All animated nature is supported by the successive decompositions and renovations of its parts. Stupendous system! where beings originate, progress and finally die to prepare the world for others, where ignorance and vice are made useful after death. . . .


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Filed under 1790's, Burial rites, Culture, Magazine, New York, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The New Vade Mecum; or, Young Clerk’s Magazine (1794)

Full Title: The New Vade Mecum; or, Young Clerk’s Magazine; Digested and improved to correspond with the Laws of the State of New-York in particular, and the United States in general: Containing A variety of the most useful Precedents, adapted to almost every Transaction in Life; such as Articles of Agreement, Awards, Bonds, Conditions, Recognitzances, Letters and Warrants of Attorney, Covenants, Releases, Indentures, Charter-Parties, Copartnerships, Bargains, and Sales, Gifts, Grants, Exchanges, Leases, Mortgages, Assingments [sic], Deseassances, Surrenders, Uses, Trusts, Converyances by Lease and Release, Feoffments, Jointures, Marriage Settlements, Wills and Codicils, Levying of Fines, &c. &c. &c.  To which is added A Collection of Forms of Writs, &c. most common in Use in the Supreme Court of the State of New-York. The First Edition. Entered According to Law. Lansingburgh: Printed by Silvester Tiffany, for, and sold by. Tho’s Spencer, at this Book-Store, in Albany. MDCCXCIV [1794].

Of Wills or Testaments.

A WILL, according to its common acceptation, is the declaration of a person’s mind or intent, in relation to what he would have done after his death. The common law calls that a will, whereby lands or tenements are divised; but when it concerns only chattels, viz. moveables, or what is not inheritable, it is called a testament; where lands are given by will, it is termed a devise; and where goods and chattels, commonly termed a personal estate, are bequeathed, it is called a legacy.  . . .

Devises of lands, &c. must be in writing, signed by the devisor or person giving, generally called the Testator, or some other person by his express direction, in the presence of three credible witnesses. If a personal estate of above the value of thirty pounds be bequeathed by word of mouth, which the law calls a nuncupative will, it must likewise be done in the presence of three witnesses.  . . .


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Filed under 1790's, Legal, New York, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: The History of the Province of New-York (1776)

Full Title:  The History of the Province of New-York, From the First Discovery, To Which is Annexed a Description of the Country, An Account of the Inhabitants, Their Trade, Religious and Political State, and the Constitution of the Courts of Justice in that Colony by William Smith A.M.  London: Printed for J. Almon, opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, MDCLXXVI.


Whoever considers the number and extent of the British colonies, on this continent; their climates, soil, ports, riches, and numberless advantages, must be convinced of their vast importance to Great Britain; and be at a loss to account for the ignorance concerning them, which prevails in those kingdoms, whence their inhabitants originally sprang.  The merchants, indeed, by  profitable experience, have not been altogether unacquainted with our trade and our growth; and some gentlemen of an inquisitive turn, by the help of their correspondents, have obtained the knowledge of many other particulars equally important.  But the main body of the people conceive of these plantations, under the idea of wild, boundless inhospitable, uncultivated deserts; and hence the punishment of a transportation hither, in the judgment of most, is thought not much less severe, than an infamous death.  Nay, appealing to facts, we may safely assert, that even the public boards, to whose care these extensive dominions have been more especially committed, attained, but lately, any tolerable acquaintance with their condition.  This is the more to be wondered at, as it is natural to imagine, that the King’s governors have statedly transmitted full accounts of their respective provinces.  The case has been quite otherwise.  Governments were heretofore too often bestowed upon men of mean parts, and indigent circumstances.  The former were incapable of the task, and the latter too deeply engrossed by the sordid views of private interests, either to pursue or study or common weal.  The worst consequences have resulted from these measures.  Perpetual animosities being engendered between the governors, and the people subjected to their authority; all attempts for conciliating the friendship of the Indians, promoting the fur trade, securing the command of the lakes, protecting the frontiers, and extending our possessions far into the inland country, have too often given place to party projects and contracted schemes, equally useless and shameful.  The conduct of the French has been just the reverse:  in spite of all the disadvantages of a cold climate, a long and dangerous navigation up the river of St. Lawrence, a rough, barren, unsettled country, locked up from all communication with the ocean, the greatest part of the year; I say, notwithstanding these difficulties, they have seized all the advantages which we have neglected.  The continent, for many hundred leagues, has been thoroughly explored, the main passes fortified, innumerable tribes of Indians, either won over to their interest, subdued, or bridled, the fur trade engrossed, a communication maintained between the extremes of New-France, the British colonies restricted to scant limits along the sea shore, and nothing left remaining for the establishment of a vast empire, but to open a free water passage to the ocean, by the conquest of the province of New-York.

If the governors of these plantations had formerly been animated by the same generous and extensive views, which inspired Mr. Burnet, the long projected designs of our common enemy might, with the aid of Great Britain, have been many years ago supplanted, or at least defeated, at a trifling expence.  But, alas! little, too little, attention has been had to these important affairs, till the late encroachments on the river Ohio, in the province of Pennsylavania, gave the alarm, and the ministry were apprized of the French machinations, by the seasonable representations fo General Shirley; and if the colonies have now attracted the notice of his Majesty and his parliament, their grateful acknowledgements are due principally to the noble Lord, to whom these sheets are dedicated, for his laudable enquires into their state, and his indefagatible zeal and industry for their defence and prosperity.

At present our affairs begin to wear a more similar aspect.  We are under the guardianship of a Sovereign, who delights in the welfare of his people; are respected by a Parliament, affected with a generous sympathy for the distresses of their fellow subjects, in all their dispersions; and by a wise improvement of the British aids, it is hoped, we shall be able to retrieve the ill consequences of our long, reproachful, and insensible security.

Formerly the colonies were at home disregarded and despised, nor can any other reason be assigned for it, than that they were unknown.  This is, in a great degree, to be imputed to ourselves.  If our governors with-held those informations, which their duty required them to have given, persons of private characters ought to have undertaken the useful and necessary talk.  But, except some accounts of the settlements in the Massachusetts-bay and Virginia, all the other histories of our plantations upon the continent, are little else than collections of falsehoods, and worse than none.  That this charge against those published concerning this province, in particular, can be fully supported, I persuade myself, will incontestably appear from the following summary, concerning which I shall say a few words.

Having been formerly concerned, according to an appointment by act of assembly, in a review and digest of our provincial laws, it was the duty of myself, and my partner in that service, to peruse the minutes of the council, and the journals of the general assembly, from the glorious revolution, at the accession of King William, to the year 1751: and as an acquaintance with our public transactions, was a branch of instruction, of which a student for the profession of the law ought not to be ignorant, I have since re-examined those entries, beginning with the first minutes of the council, and read over many of the records in the secretary’s office.  From these authentic materials, the following pages were in a great measure, compiled.  For many of those parts, which concern our affairs with the French and the Indians, antecedent to he peace of Ryswick in 1697, I am bound to make liberal acknowledgements to Dr. Colden, the author of the History of the Five Nations. . . .

When I began to frame this digest, it was only intended for private use; and the motives which now induce me to publish it, are the gratification of the present thirst in Great Britain after American intelligences; contributing, as far as this province is concerned, to an accurate history of the Biriths Empire in this quarter of the world; and the prospect of doing some small service to my country, by laying before the public a summary account of the first rise and present state. . . .

June 15, 1756.

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Filed under 1750's, Colonial America, Great Britain, New York, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

Item of the Day: Rodgers’s Divine Goodness Displayed (1784)

Full Title:

The Divine Goodness displayed, in the American Revolution: A Sermon, Preached in New-York, December 11th, 1783. Appointed by Congress, as a Day of Public Thanksgiving, Throughout the United States; by John Rodgers, D.D. Printed in New-York by Samuel Loudon, 1784.


Ps. CXXVI, 3.
The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.

The subject of this divine poem, from whence I have taken my text, not obscurely points us to the occasion on which it was penned. It was the return of the Jews, from their captivity in Babylon. This is what is meant by “the captivity of Zion,” in the first verse.

It is generally supposed, and with great probability, that the prophet Ezra was its inspired penman. The first verse expresses the effect this signal deliverance, of his people, had upon them. “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like men that dream.” It was so great and unexpected an event, that they could not, at first, believe it was real. But they soon found it was real, however great: And in consequence thereof, were filled with the most sincere joy and gratitude to God. “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.”

Such was the nature of this deliverance, that the Heathen nations around them took notice of it. “Then said they among the Heathen; the Lord hath done great things for them.” It is no uncommon thing for our God, so to effect the salvation of his people, as to attract the attention, and force the acknowledgments of their enemies themselves. But however they may treat it, those who are the subjects of God’s delivering goodness, at any time, or in any way, ought to notice it with care, and acknowledge his hand in it, with gratitude of heart. Thus did the people of God of old; and thus are we taught to do in the words of our text. “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

You will readily perceive, my brethren, with what ease and propriety, the words of our text apply to the design, and the duties of this day. They contain the very language the God of providence has put into our mouths; and teach up that notice, we are to take of the dealings of his gracious hand towards us.

If you will please to attend, I will,

I. Point you to some of the great things our God has done for us; and for which we have cause to be glad this day.

II. Shew you how we ought to manifest this gladness.

I. Let us consider some of those great things our God has done for us; and which it becomes us to notice, and acknowledge this day.

These are different, according to the different points of view, in which we consider ourselves; either as the creatures of his hand——as sinners, under a dispensation of grace——or, as the members of society. But to enter into a particular consideration of each of these, would be as vain, as to attempt to count the stars in the firmament, or number the sands on the sea shore. You will expect, therefore, but a very few of the numerous instances, of the great things, our God has done for us.

1. He has given us his son Jesus Christ, to redeem us from the curse of his broken law; and open the way for our return into that favour of heaven, which we had lost by sin——And who that attends to the inestimable value, of this gift of God; the character of the persons for whom he was given; the nature of the work for which he gave him, and the rich and numerous benefits, that flow to our race, from God, through Him; but feels the force of the apostolic remark? “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us; and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Surely God has done great things for us, in this unspeakable gift of a Saviour.

2. He has opened a treaty of peace with us, through the mediation of this his incarnate son——He is “a God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” This treaty he is negociating, in and by the ministry of the gospel; which is therefore stiled, “The ministry of reconciliation.”

I am well aware, that the ministry of the gospel, however judiciously and faithfully discharged, is esteemed by many, as the Israelites esteemed their manna of old; but as a light thing. They do not consider, there is not a faithful Minister of Christ, whatever may be his particular denomination, or wherever he may be employed, but his gifts and graces cost the son of God his blood upon the cross; or a single gospel sermon they hear, or might hear and neglect, but what our Lord purchased with his expiring groans on mount Calvary. And this is the reason, why the ministry of the gospel, is ranked, by the apostle of the gentiles, among the richest of our Lord’s ascension gifts.

Thus it appears, God does great things for a country or a people, when he blesses them with a judicious and faithful administration of his word, and ordinances; however the more ignorant, or profane part of mankind, may esteem it.

3. He gives us his Holy Spirit, for the rendering this word and these ordinances effectual, for the great purposes, for which they are instituted——Thus they become “the power of God, and the salvation of God, to them that believe.” Such is the ignorance and depravity of human nature, that they will be all unavailing, unless rendered successful, by this divine agent.

Hence we hear the evangelical prophet complaining, “Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? And it is worthy of our notice, that our Lord himself, was far from being so successful in his ministry, as might have been expected, seeing, “he taught as man never taught.” Multitudes who heard him, not only continued unbelieving; but blasphemed him and his doctrine. This was, no doubt, wisely ordered, for the support of his faithful ministers, in every age; who for reasons, worthy of God, tho’ not known to us, labour so much in vain.

But this serves to illustrate, the necessity of the operations of the spirit of grace, for rendering the ordinances of the gospel successful; and at the same time highly illustrates, what great things God has done for us, by appointing him to this important office.

4. God does great things for his people when his Spirit applies the redemption of Christ to their precious souls——Then it is their sins are pardoned, and they receive a title to the inheritance of the saints in light. Then it is, they become “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Then it is, they are renewed in the spirit of their minds; and that good work begun in them, that shall be perfected to the day of the Lord Jesus. “Happy is that people, that is in such a case; yea happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

But it is time I should proceed to observe,

God has done great things for us, if we consider ourselves, as members of society. This is one of the most interesting points of view, in which man can be considered. And a point of view, in which much is required of us, and much is done for us. This is the point of view, in which the Psalmist principally considers himself, and the church of Israel, when he exclaims exulting in the text, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” And this is the point of view, in which we are especially to consider ourselves this day. And were we to take a particular survey of what God has done for us, as members of society, we should be led to consider the many blessing spiritual, and temporal, we enjoy, either as the church of God; or as citizens of the State. But this would be a subject too copious for our time.

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Filed under 1780's, American Revolution, New York, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt, Religion

Item of the Day: Irving’s History of New York

Full Title: A History of New-York, from the beginning of the world to the end of the Dutch dynasty. Containing among many surprising and curious matters, the unutterable ponderings of Walter the Doubter, the disastrous achievements of Peter the Headstrong, and three Dutch governors of New Amsterdam; being the only authentic history of the times that ever hath been published. By Diedrich Knickerbocker. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Published by M. Thomas, 1819.


In which the Author puts a mighty question to the rout, by the assistance of the Man in the Moon—which not only delivers thousands of people from great embarrassment, but likewise concludes this introductory book.

The writer of a history may, in some respects, be likened unto an adventurous knight, who, having undertaken a perilous enterprise, by way of establishing his fame, feels bound in honour and chivalry, to turn back for no difficulty nor hardship, never to shrink or quail whatever enemy he may encounter. Under this impression, I resolutely draw my pen and fall to with might and main, those doughty questions and subtle paradoxes, which, like fiery dragons and bloody giants, beset the entrance to my history, and would fain repulse me from the very threshold. And at this moment a gigantic question has started up, which I must needs take by the beard and utterly subdue, before I can advance another step in my historic undertaking—but I trust this will be the last adversary I shall have to contend with, and that in the next book I shall be enabled to conduct my readers in triumph into the body of my work.The question which has thus suddenly arisen, is, what right had the first discoverers of America to land and take possession of a country, without first gaining the consent of its inhabitants, or yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?—a question which has withstood many fierce assaults, and has given much distress of mind to multitudes of kind hearted folk. And indeed, until it be totally vanquished, and put to rest, the worthy people of America can by no means enjoy the soil they inhabit, with clear right and title, and quiet, unsullied conscious.The first source of right, by which property is acquired in a country, is DISCOVERY. For as all mankind have an equal right to any thing, which has never before been appropriated, so any nation, that discovers an uninhabited country, and takes possession thereof, is considered as enjoying full property, and absolute, unquestionable empire therein.

This proposition being admitted, it follows clearly, that the Europeans who first visited America, were the real discoverers of the same; nothing being necessary to the establishment of this fact, but simply to prove that it was totally uninhabited by man. This would at first appear to be a point of some difficulty, for it is well known, that this quarter of the world abounded with certain animals, that walked erect on two feet, had something of the human countenance, uttered unintelligible sounds, very much like language, in short, had a marvelous resemblance to human beings. But the zealous and enlightened fathers, who accompanied the discoverers, for the purpose of promoting the kingdom of heaven, by establishing fat monasteries and bishoprics on earth, soon cleared up this point, greatly to the satisfaction of his holiness the pope, and of all Christian voyagers and discoverers.

They plainly proved, and as there were no Indian writers arose on the other side, the fact was considered as fully admitted and established, that the two legged race of animals before mentioned, were mere cannibals, detestable monsters, and many of them giants—which last description of vagrants have, since the time of Gog, Magog, and Goliath, been considered as outlaws, and have received no quarter in either history , chivalry or song. Indeed, even the philosophic Bacon, declared the Americans to be people proscribed by the laws of nature, inasmuch as they had a barbarous custom of sacrificing men, and feeding upon man’s flesh. . . .

From the foregoing arguments, therefore, and a variety of others equally conclusive, which I forbear to enumerate, it was clearly evident that this fair quarter of the globe when first visited by Europeans, was a howling wilderness, inhabited by nothing but wild beasts; and that the trans-atlantic visitors acquired an incontrovertible property therein, by the right of discovery.

This right being fully established, we now come to the next, which is the right acquired by cultivation. . . .

It is true the savages might plead that they drew all the benefits from the land which their simple wants required—they found plenty of game to hunt, which together with the roots and uncultivated fruits of the earth, furnished a sufficient variety for their frugal repasts;–and that as heaven merely designed the earth to form the abode, and satisfy the wants of man; so long as those purposes were answered, the will of heaven was accomplished. –But this only proves how undeserving they were of the blessings around them—they were so much the more savages, for not having more wants; for knowledge is in some degree an increase of desires, and it is this superiority both in the number and magnitude of his desires, that distinguishes the man from the beast. Therefore the Indians, in not having more wants, were very unreasonable animals; and it was but just that they should make way for the Europeans, who had a thousand wants to their one, and therefore would turn the earth to more account, and by cultivating it, more truly fulfil the will of heaven. Besides—Grotius and Lauterbach, and Puffendorff, and Titius, and many wise men beside, who have considered the matter properly, have determined, that the property of a country cannot be acquired by hunting, cutting wood, or drawing water in it—nothing but precise demarcation of limits, and the intention of cultivation, can establish the possession. Now as the savages (probably from never having read the authors above quoted) had never complied with any of these necessary forms, it is plainly followed that they had no right to the soil, but that it was completely at the disposal of the first comers, who had more knowledge, more wants, and more elegant, that is to say, artificial desires than themselves. . . .

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Filed under 1810's, History, New York, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Discourse, Delivered at the Consecration of the Synagogue in the City of New York (1818)

Full Title: Delivered at the Consecration of the Synagogue in the City of New York, on Friday, the 10th of Nisan, 5578, corresponding with the 17th of April, 1818. By Mordecai M. Noah. New-York: Printed by C.S. Van Winkle, 1818.

[One of the early American republic’s most influential Jews, Mordecai M. Noah was a journalist, editor of New York newspapers the National Advocate, publisher of the New York Enquirer, and a community activist. He held the position of United States Consul to Tunis in 1816, was the sheriff of New York in 1821, the Surveyor of the Port from 1829-1833, and a judge of the Court of General Sessions in 1841. He is perhaps most remembered as the originator of the failed Ararat Project on Grand Island near Niagara Falls in 1825—a proposed utopian city of refuge for persecuted European Jews. The following is an excerpt of an address delivered by Noah in New York at the consecration of the new synagogue. The address, printed as a pamphlet and later appearing in his Travels in England, France, Spain, and the Barbary States, received written responses from Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison.]

DISCOURSE, &c.Children of Israel,

After eighteen centuries of oppression, of sufferings, and of unwearied persecution—after having been driven from the land of our fathers, and scattered to the most remote parts of the globe, it has pleased Almighty God, whose unity and omnipotence we have never ceased to acknowledge and defend, to direct a portion of his chosen people to this land of toleration and liberal principles, where, in peace and tranquility, contending with no obstacles, and enjoying the blessings of light and liberty, we have been permitted to erect this place of worship to his honour and holy name, which we now dedicate to his service—and invoke his protection and blessings on the children of his choice. On this occasion, I would ask you to accompany me to the early periods of our nation, and to follow in the rapid glance I shall take of their origin, character, religion, and sufferings. Born, as many of us here have been, in the most enlightened times, and enjoying, from our infancy, rights and privileges which many of our unfortunate ancestors never knew, we are but partially acquainted with their struggles and sufferings, and are not fully prepared to estimate the virtue of their sacrifices.

Eighteen hundred years have passed without shedding a ray of happiness upon the Jews. Assailed in the early periods of our history by the Assyrians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, by each successively harassed, oppressed, and proscribed, our armies were destroyed, the scepter of Israel was broken, and the people chosen by the Almighty to establish his unity and omnipotence, were dispersed throughout the world, Overwhelmed wit contumely; driven from their inheritance; with sufferings most acute, and privations the most painful, they intrepidly maintained the Majesty of their God, when every effort was made to sap their resolution and destroy their firmness. Since the time of Vespasian our history has been traced in blood. Eleven hundred thousand were massacred at the siege of Jerusalem; millions perished during the reign of Adrian, and in combating on the plains of Palestine for their rights as a nation. It would seem that the sword of desolation was never to return to the scabbard. They persisted in the supremacy of their religion over the idolatry and infidelity to the times—they remained firm—and they perished. The world regarded their efforts with wonder and astonishment. Their resistance was termed obstinacy—their struggles rebellion. It was neither: It was the resistance which every nation is bound to make against foreign invaders; it was a natural and proper defence [sic] of their just and unalienable rights. The lapse of ages prove it so. Reason and truth have triumphed. The persecutors of the Jews have ceased to exist. Rome and Greece are no more; we yet live—are more numerous than at the period of our dispersion; and while nations have arisen and departed—while religions have multiplied and confounded each other by schisms and dissentions, we yet preserve our faith, the simple religion of nature, unimpaired by the corroding hand of time. . . .

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Filed under 1810's, New York, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

Item of the Day: Isaac Weld’s Account of New York City in 1796

[In 1796 New York City’s harbors were among the busiest in the world. Between 1795 and 1800, due in part to the turmoil of the Napoleonic Wars, exports to Great Britain trebled and imports, especially Caribbean sugar, doubled. During the trade boom of the late 18th century, the municipal government expanded Manhattan’s southern tip through land fill and a plethora of wharves creating the cluttered landscape Weld describes. Along with the soaring increase in trade, banking, and commerce, came a commeasurate increase in population and disease. Damp, marshy areas were believed to be unhealthy, but the Aedes aegyti mosquito was not identified as the contaminating culprit until the mid-19th century. When the first signs of yellow fever appeared in New York in 1796, city officials publicly minimized the threat fearing a catastrophic decline in trade if they should quarantine the city. Wealthy New Yorkers simply moved their families to outlying Greenwich Village or Harlem, but poorer emigrants had no such advantage. The 1796 yellow fever epidemic claimed over 700 lives, most of them destitute workers living near the wharves.]

New York is built on an island of its own name, formed by the North and the East rivers, and a creek or inlet connecting both of these together. The island is fourteen miles long, and , on an average, about one mile in breadth; at its southern extremity stands the city, which extends from one river to the other. The North or Hudson river, is nearly two miles wide; the East or the North-east one, as it should rather be called, is not quite so broad. The depth of water in each, close to the city, is sufficient for the largest merchant vessels. The principal seat of trade, however, is on the East River, and most of the vessels lie there, as during winter the navigation of that river is not so soon impeded by the ice. At this side of the town the houses and stores are built as closely as possible. The streets are narrow and inconvenient, and, as but too commonly is the case in seaport towns, very dirty, and consequently, during the summer season, dreadfully unhealthy. It was in this part of the town that the yellow fever raged with such violence in 1795; and during 1796, many persons that remained very constantly there, also fell victims to a fever, which if not the yellow fever, was very like it. The streets near the North River are much more airy; but the most agreeable part of the town is in the neighbourhood of the battery, on the southern point of the island, at the confluence of the two rivers. When New York was in possession of the English, this battery consisted of two or more tiers of guns, one above the other; but it is now cut down, and affords a most charming walk, and, on a summer’s evening, is crowded with people, as it is open to the breezes from the sea, which render it particularly agreeable at that season. There is a fine view from it of the roads, Long and Staten Islands, and Jersey shore. At the time of high water, the scene is always interesting on account of the number of vessels sailing in and out of port; such as go into the East River pass within a few yards of the walls of the battery.

From the battery a handsome street, about seventy feet wide, called Broadway, runs due north through the town; between it and the North river run several streets at right angles, as you pass which you catch a view of the water, and boats plying up and down; the distant shore of the river also is seen to great advantage. Had the streets on the opposite side of Broadway been also carried down to the East River, the effect would have been beautiful, for Broadway runs along a ridge of high ground between the two rivers; it would have contributed also very much to the health of the place; if , added to this, a spacious quay had been formed the entire length of the city, on either side, instead of having the borders of the rivers crowded with confused heaps of wooded store houses, built upon wharfs projecting one beyond another in every direction, New York would have been one of the most beautiful seaports in the world. All the sea-ports in America appear to great disadvantage from the water, when you approach near to them, from the shores being crowded in this manner with irregular masses of wooden houses, standing as it were in the water. The federal city, where they have already begun to erect the same kind of wooden wharfs and store-houses without any regularity, will be just the same. It is astonishing, that in laying out that city, a grand quay was not thought of in the plan; it would certainly have afforded equal, if not greater accommodation for the shipping, and it would have added wonderfully to the embellishment of the city.

Many of the private houses in New York are very good, particularly those in Broadway. Of the public buildings, there are none which are very striking. The churches and houses for public worship, amount to no less than twenty-two; four of them are for Presbyterians, three for Episcopalians of the church of England, three for Dutch Reformists, two for German Lutherans and Calvinists, two for Quakers, two for Baptists, two for Methodists, one for French Protestants, one for Moravians, one for Roman Catholics, and one for Jews.

According to the census of 1790, the number of inhabitants of New York was found to be thirty thousand one hundred and forty-eight free persons, and two thousand one hundred and eight slaves; but at present the number is supposed to amount at least to forty thousand. The inhabitants have long been distinguished above those of all the other towns in the United States, except it be the people of Charleston, for their politeness, gaiety, and hospitality; and indeed, in these points they are more strikingly superior to the inhabitants of the other large towns. Their public amusements consist in dancing and card assemblies, and theatrical exhibitions; for the former, a spacious suite of rooms has lately been erected. The theatre is of wood, and a most miserable edifice it is; but a new one is now building on a grand scale, which, it is thought, will be much too large for the town as the other is too small.

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Filed under 1790's, New York, Posted by Rebecca Dresser, Travel

Item of the Day: Blunt’s Stranger’s Guide to the City of New-York, 1817

Full Title:

Blunt’s Stranger’s Guide to the City of New-York. Comprising a description of public buildings, dwelling houses, including population, streets, markets, public amusements, the bay, harbour, docks, slips, forts and fortifications: –with an account of the literary, philosophical, medical, law, religious, and benevolent institutions, commercial establishments, manufactures, &c To which is prefixed, an historical sketch, general description, plan and extent of the City. With an appendix, containing the time of sailing, and departure of steam-boats, stages, &c. with the fares: rates and regulations of hackney coaches, carters, porters, chimney-sweepers, weigh-masters and measurers; market regulations, assize of bread, money tables, corporation laws and ordinances, inspectors of native produce, masters and wardens of the port, pilots, slave regulations, &c. &c. Embellished with a plan of the city, and engravings of public buildings.

Written by Edmund M. Blunt (1770-1862). Includes folding map, “Plan of the city of New York and the Island as laid out by the commissioners altered and arranged to the present time,” and 3 plates drawn by C.A. Busby, engraved by W. Hooker. Published by A.T. Goodrich in 1817. Engraved by J.F. Morin.

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Filed under 1810's, New York, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt