previous next

New York City

The largest city in the United States, and the second largest in the world in point of population. The present city, popularly known as the Greater New York, came into official existence on Jan. 1, 1898, when the act of the legislature, consolidating the counties of Kings and Richmond, part of the county of Queens, and several cities and towns with the former city of New York, went into effect. Under this act the city is divided into the five boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Richmond; has an aggregate area of 308 square miles; and is governed by a municipal assembly consisting of two Houses, the council and the board of aldermen, and a mayor.

In 1900 the consolidated city had an aggregate net bonded debt of $280,895,762. The property valuations were: Real estate, $3,168,547,700; personal, $485,574,493; total, $3,654,122,193. There were 2,508 miles of streets, of which 1,738 miles were classed as paved. The total cost of the water-works system was $113,000,000; its daily capacity was 526,690,000 gallons; and the daily consumption was 391,000,000 gallons. The sewer system had a total length of 1,738 miles. There were 443,072 pupils attending the public schools, under 11,070 principals and teachers, and the cost of maintenance for the year, including new sites and buildings, was $18,927,819. The cost of the police department was $11,938,343; of the fire department, $4,864,485; of the street-cleaning department, $5,001,922; of street and public building lighting (electricity), $3,790,606; and of maintenance of city government in all its departments, $98,100,413.

During the calendar year 1900 the imports of merchandise aggregated in value $528,896,269 and the exports $539,802,266. The movement of gold and silver coin and bullion in the same period was: Imports, $29,039,516; exports, $102,993,991, making the total foreign trade of the year $1,200,732,042. During the year ending Sept. 30, 1900, the exchanges at the clearing-house aggregated $51,964,588,572, a decrease in the year of $5,403,642,199. There were in operation on that date [414] forty-four national banks, with capital aggregating $62,800,000; holding loans and discounts of $569,573,050; individual deposits amounting to $420,675,667; and having total liabilities and assets balanced at $1,067,355,883. The population by the census of 1900 was: Borough of Manhattan, 1,850,093; Borough of the Bronx, 200,507; Borough of Brooklyn, 1,166,582; Borough of Richmond, 67,021; Borough of Queens, 152,999; total, 3,437,202. For early history, see New Netherland; New York, colony of; New York, State of.

After the capture of New Netherland by the English, and the name of the province as well as the capital (New Amsterdam) was changed to New York, and all the arrangements had been made for a municipal government under English laws, Thomas Willett was appointed the first mayor, in June, 1665, while the sheriff (Schout) and a majority of the new board of aldermen (burgomasters) were Dutch. Willett was much esteemed by all the people of both nationalities.

In 1667 Gov. Francis Lovelace, as a means of raising a revenue, imposed a duty of 10 per cent. upon all imports and exports. This was done upon the sole

New York in 1665.

authority of the Duke of York, and was a revival of the duty formerly levied by the Dutch. Eight towns on Long Island protested against taxes being levied by the governor and council of the province without the royal authority. This protest was publicly burned by the common hangman, and the inhabitants who had consented to the overthrow of the Dutch rule, to “enjoy English liberties,” were told that they should have liberty to think of nothing else excepting “how to pay taxes.” In 1680 the people boldly opposed the levying of taxes by the sole authority of the Duke of York; and the grand jury of New York indicted the collector of taxes, and he was sent to England for trial on the charge of constructive hightreason for levying taxes without authority. The right to do so was questioned by the courts in England. No accuser appearing, the collector was released.

Alleged negro plots.

In 1712 the citizens of New York were disturbed by apprehensions of a conspiracy of their negro slaves to burn the city and destroy the inhabitants. The population then was about 6,000, composed largely of slaves. Nineteen of those suspected of the crime suffered. A more disastrous alarm about a plot of the negroes for destroying the city occurred in the spring and summer of 1741, when the population was about 10,000, one-fifth of whom were negro slaves. The most prominent merchants of the city were engaged in the slavetrade. Conscious of the natural aspirations of the human soul for personal freedom, very stringent rules had been adopted for the subordination of the slaves, and every transgression was severely punished. Every act of insubordination made the community tremble with fear of possible consequences, and this feeling of insecurity needed only a slight provocation to ripen into a general panic. A trifling robbery occurred in March, 1741, in the house of a merchant, which was traced to some negroes. Nine fires occurred in different parts of the city soon afterwards, and though most of them were merely the burning of chimneys, they produced terror. A general alarm was instantly [415] created in the public mind. Numerous arrests were made and a searching investigation was instituted by the magistrates, but no trace of incendiarism could

A view of New York in 1673

be found. Three heavy rewards were offered by the city authorities for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators, and a full pardon to such of them as should reveal a knowledge of their crime and of their associates. An indentured servant-woman (Mary Burton) purchased her liberty and secured a reward of $500 by pretending to give information of a plot, formed by a low tavern-keeper and her master and three negroes, to burn the city and murder the white people. This story was confirmed by an Irish prostitute, convicted of a robbery, who, to recommend herself to mercy, turned informer. Many other arrests were now made among the slaves and free negroes. The Supreme Court of the province was specially convened for the investigation of the matter, and a grand jury, composed of some of the principal inhabitants of the city, held a solemn inquest. Other informers besides Mary Burton speedily appeared, and fresh victims were seized. The panic and fury among the population was fearful, and the authorities were stimulated thereby to hurried inquiries, unjust convictions, and the infliction of awful punishments on the innocent. The eight lawyers who then composed the bar of New York all assisted, by turns, in the prosecution. The negroes had no counsel, and were convicted and executed on insufficient evidence. The lawyers vied with each other in abusing the poor, terrified victims, and Chief-Justice De Lancey, in passing sentence, vied with the lawyers in this abuse. Many confessed to save their lives, and then accused others. John Ury, a schoolmaster, and reputed Roman Catholic priest, was denounced by Mary Burton, and, notwithstanding his solemn protestations of innocence and the absence of competent testimony to convict him, he was hanged. His arrest was the signal for the arrest of other white people, and the reign of terror was fearfully intensified; but, when (as in the case of the Salem witchcraft excitement) Mary Burton accused prominent persons known to be innocent, the delusion instantly abated, the prisons were [416] cleared of victims, and the public mind was calmed. From May 11 until Aug. 29, 154 negroes were committed to prison, fourteen of whom were burned at the stake, eighteen hanged, and seventy-one transported. During the same period twenty-four white people were imprisoned, four of whom were hanged. There was no more foundation for this insane panic about a negro plot and its fearful consequences than there was for the witchcraft delusion and its terrible results. See witchcraft, Salem.

Riots of 1765.

Opposition to the Stamp Act assumed the form of riot in the city late in October, 1765. A general meeting of citizens was held on the evening of Oct. 31, when 200 merchants signed their names to resolutions condemnatory of the act. A committee of correspondence was appointed, and measures were taken to compel James McEvers, who had been made stamp distributor for New York, to resign. Alarmed by the aspect of the public temper, he had placed the stamps he had received in the hands of acting Governor Colden, who resided within Fort George, protected by a strong garrison under General Gage. Colden had strengthened the fort and replenished the magazine. The people construed this act as a menace, and were highly exasperated. Armed ships were in the harbor, and troops were prepared to enslave them. But the people did not hesitate to assemble in great numbers before the fort (Nov. 1) and demand the delivery of the stamps to their appointed leader. A refusal was answered by defiant shouts, and the populace assumed the character of a mob. They hung Governor Colden in effigy in “the Fields” (see page 417), marched back to the fort, dragged his fine coach to the open space in front of it, tore down the wooden fence around Bowling Green, and, after making a pile of the wood, cast the coach and effigy upon it, and set fire to the whole. The mob then proceeded to the beautiful residence of Major James, of the royal artillery, a little way out of town, where they destroyed his fine library, works of art, and furniture, and desolated his choice garden. Isaac Sears and other leaders of the assembled citizens tried to restrain them, but could not. After parading the streets with the Stamp Act printed upon large sheets and raised upon poles, headed “England's folly and America's ruin,” they quietly dispersed. The governor gave up the stamps (Nov. 5) to the mayor and the corporation of the city of New York,

Old Houses, New York City, 1679.


City Hall Park in 1822, site of “the fields.”

and they were deposited in the City Hall. The losers by the riots were indemnified by the Colonial Assembly.

The fields.

The space now occupied by the Post-office, City Hall, and City Hall Park, was in the outskirts of the town at the middle of the eighteenth century, and was called “the Fields.” There, after the organization of the Sons of Liberty (1765), public meetings of citizens were held under their direction. The first of these of note was in the middle of December, 1769, when 1,400 people gathered, summoned by a handbill distributed over the city, addressed “to the betrayed inhabitants of the city and colony of New York,” and signed “A son of liberty.” It was inspired by an act of the Provincial Assembly, which provided an indirect method of cheating the people into a compliance with the mutiny act and the quartering act. It was the issuing of bills of credit, on the security of the province, to the amount of $700,000, to be loaned to the people, and the interest to be applied to defraying the expenses of, ostensibly, the colonial government, but really for maintaining troops in the province—a monster bank without checks. This money scheme was denounced in the handbill as a covering to wickedness, as a virtual approval of the revenue acts, and that it was intended to distract and divide, and so to weaken, the colonies. It hinted at a corrupt coalition between acting Governor Colden and the powerful James De Lancey, and called upon the Assembly to repudiate the act concocted by this combination. It closed with a summons of the inhabitants to the Fields the next day, Monday, Dec. 17. The people were harangued by young John Lamb, an active Son of Liberty, a prosperous merchant, and vigorous writer. Swayed by his eloquence and logic, the meeting, by unanimous vote, condemned the obnoxious action of the Assembly. They embodied their sentiments in a communication to the Assembly borne by several leading Sons of Liberty. In that House, where the leaven of Toryism was then working, the handbill was pronounced an “infamous and scandalous libel,” and a reward was offered for the author. The frightened printer of the handbill gave the name of Alexander McDougall (afterwards General McDougall). He was indicted for libel, and imprisoned fourteen weeks, when he gave bail. He was arraigned, and for the nature of his answer to the indictment [418] (months afterwards ) was again imprisoned, and treated by the patriots as a martyr. In February, 1771, he was released, and this was the end of the drama in the Fields begun in December, 1769.

The conservative republicans of New York, alarmed by the bold movements of

Plan of the Northern part of the City of New York in 1775.

the more radical Sons of Liberty, appointed a grand committee of fifty-one, as true “representatives of public sentiment.” sign They repudiated a message sent to Boston (May 14, 1774) by the Sons of Liberty, recommending the revival of nonimportation measures, but they heartily approved of a general congress. The radical “Liberty boys” were offended, and their vigilance committee called a meeting of citizens (July 6) in the Fields. It was the largest gathering ever before seen in New York. The meeting was addressed by Alexander Hamilton, then a student in King`s College (now Columbia University). It was his first speech, and a most remarkable one; and it stirred the people with so much indignation that the alarmed committee referred the nomination of deputies to the Continental Congress to their radical brothers called the “Tribunes.” At the same time they offended some of their own more zealous members by denouncing the resolutions adopted by the meeting in the Fields as seditious, and eleven members. withdrew from the committee. Not long afterwards this timid committee disappeared.

The eve of the Revolution.

Two days after the affairs at. Lexington and Concord (qq. v.), the people of New York City held a convention, under the guidance of the Sons of Liberty, at which they formed a patriotic association, and adopted a pledge, copies of which were sent to every county in the province for signatures. The object was to winnow out the Tories—to ascertain who, in every community, was an adherent to the American cause, and who was not. Committees were appointed in each county, town, and precinct, to visit the inhabitants, and obtain the signatures of persons willing to and the names of persons who should refuse to sign. A thorough canvass of the [419] province was thus made. The following is a copy of the pledge:

Persuaded that the salvation of the rights and liberties of America depend, under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants in a vigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety, and convinced of the necessity of preventing the anarchy and confusion which attend a dissolution of the powers of government, we, the freemen, freeholders, and inhabitants of —— being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scenes now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do, in the most solemn manner, resolve never to become slaves, and do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor, and love to our country, to adopt, and endeavor to carry into execution, whatsoever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress or resolved upon by our provincial convention for the purpose of preserving our constitution and of opposing the several arbitrary acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation between Great Britain and America, on constitutional principles (which we most solemnly desire), can be obtained; and that we will in all things follow the advice of our general committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order, and the safety of individuals and property.

On May 15, 1775, the city and county of New York asked the Continental Congress how to conduct themselves with regard to royal regiments which were known to have been ordered to that place. The Congress instructed them not to oppose the landing of troops, but not to suffer them to erect fortifications; to act on the defensive, but to repel force by force, if it should be necessary, for the protection of the inhabitants. Indeed, they had no means for preventing their landing. But this advice of the Continental Congress produced embarrassments, for it virtually recognized the royal authority of every kind in the province of New York; and when its Provincial Congress met it could only conform to the advice. All parties seemed to tacitly agree to a truce in the use of force. There was respect shown towards the crown officers of every kind, and everything that could possibly be done, with honor, was done to avoid collision and make reconciliation possible. The British ship-of-war Asia was allowed supplies of provisions. The Provincial Congress disapproved the act of the people in seizing the King's arms; offered protection to Guy Johnson, the Indian agent, if he would promise neutrality on the part of the Indians; and, while they sent to the patriots of Massachusetts the expression of their warmest wishes for the cause of liberty in America, they labored hard for the restoration of harmony between the colonies and Great Britain. This timid or temporizing policy was the fruit of a large infusion of the Tory element that marked the aristocratic portion of the inhabitants of New York. In playing the role of peace-maker they committed an almost fatal mistake. Edmund Burke (q. v.), who had been the agent for New York in England, expressed his surprise at “the scrupulous timidity which could suffer the King's forces to possess themselves of the most important port in America.”

During the winter of 1775-76 disaffection, especially among the older and wealthier families, became conspicuous and alarming to the patriots, and there were fears of the loss of the city of New York to the republican cause. In Queens county, Long Island, the people began to arm in favor of the crown. Hearing of this, General Howe, in Boston, sent Gen. Sir Henry Clinton on a secret expedition. Washington suspected New York was his destination, where Governor Tryon was sowing the seeds of disaffection from his “seat of government” on board the Duchess of Gordon in the harbor. The committee of safety and the provincial convention of New York were strongly tinctured with Toryism. General Lee, then in Connecticut, had heard of disaffection there and asked permission of Washington to raise volunteers to go there and suppress it. The privilege was granted, and, with the aid of Governor Trumbull, he embodied about 1,200 volunteers and pressed on towards New York, with the bold “King Sears” as his adjutant-general. His approach (February, 1776) produced great alarm. Many Tories fled with their families to Long Island and [420] New Jersey; and the timid committee of safety protested against his entering the city, for the captain of the Asia had declared that if “rebel troops” were permitted to enter the town, he would cannonade and burn it. Lee pressed forward and encamped in the Fields, and in a

Kip's House.

proclamation said he had come to prevent the occupation of Long Island and New York by the enemies of liberty. “If the ships-of-war are quiet,” he said, “I shall be quiet; if they make my presence a pretext for firing on the town, the first house set in flames by their guns shall be a funeral pile of some of their best friends.” Before this manifesto the Tories shrank into inactivity. A glow of patriotism warmed the Provincial Congress, and that body speedily adopted measures for fortifying the city and its approaches and garrisoning it with 2,000 men. On the day when Lee entered New York Sir Henry Clinton arrived at Sandy Hook, but did not deem it prudent to enter the harbor.

Captured by the British.

General Howe selected Sept. 13, 1776, for the landing of his army on New York Island from Long Island. It was the anniversary of the capture of Quebec, in 1759, in which he had participated. The watchword was “Quebec!” the countersign was “Wolfe!” In the afternoon four armed ships, keeping up an incessant fire on the American batteries, passed them into the East River, and anchored, but no landing was attempted that day. On the next day, about sunset, six British vessels ran up the East River, and on the 15th three others entered the Hudson, and anchored off Bloomingdale.

Washington's army had escaped capture on Long Island, but had to contend, in the city of New York, with deadlier foes, in the form of city temptations, sectional jealousies, insubordination, disrespect for superiors, drunkenness, and licentiousness, the fatal elements of dissolution. The British were evidently preparing to crush his weak army. Their ships occupied the bay and both rivers, and there were swarms of loyalists in New York and in Westchester county. At a council of war, Sept. 12, 1776, it was resolved to send the military stores to Dobbs Ferry, on the Hudson, and to retreat to and fortify Harlem Heights, on the northern part of Manhattan Island. The sick were taken over to New Jersey. The main body of the army, accompanied by a host of Whigs, left the city (Sept. 14) and moved towards Fort Washington, leaving a rear-guard of 4,000 men, under General Putnam. On the 16th they were on Harlem Heights, and Washington made his headquarters at the house of Col. Roger Morris, his companion-inarms in the battle on the Monongahela. On the 15th the British and Germans crossed the East River at Kip's Bay (foot of Thirty-fourth Street), under cover of a cannonade from their ships. The American guard fled at the first fire, and two brigades that were to support them ran away in a panic. But the British were kept back long enough to allow Putnam, with his rear-guard, to escape along a

Beekman's mansion.

road near the Hudson River, and gain Harlem Heights. This was done chiefly by the adroit management of Mrs. Murray, a Quakeress, living on the Incleberg (now Murray Hill), who entertained the British officers with wines and other refreshments, and vivacious conversation. [421] Putnam, on hearing of the landing at Kip's Bay, had struck his flag at Fort George, foot of Broadway, and made his way to Harlem Heights, sheltered from observation by intervening woods. Lord Dunmore, who was with the British fleet, went ashore and unfurled the British standard over the fort. On the same day British troops, under General Robertson, took possession of the city of New York, and held it seven years, two months, and ten days. Howe made his headquarters at the Beekman mansion at about Fiftieth Street and East River.

Great fire of 1776.

The British anticipated snug winter quarters in the city of New York, when, at a little past

The conflagration of 1776.

midnight, Sept. 21, 1776, a fire broke out in a low drinking-place and brothel—a wooden building on the wharf, near Whitehall Slip. The wind was brisk from the southwest, and the flames spread rapidly, unchecked, for there were few inhabitants in the city. Every building between Whitehall and Broad streets up to Beaver Street was consumed, when the wind veered to the southeast and drove the flames towards Broadway. The buildings on each side of Beaver Street to the Bowling Green were burned. The fire crossed Broadway and swept all the buildings on each side as far as Exchange Street, and on the west side to Partition (Fulton) Street, destroying Trinity Church. Every building westward towards the Hudson River perished. The Tories and British writers of the day charged the destruction of the city to Whig incendiaries. Some of, these citizens who came out of the gloom to save their property were murdered by British bayonets or cast into the flames. Even General Howe in his report made the charge, without a shadow of truth, that the accident was the [422] work of Whig conspirators. About 500 buildings (almost a third part of the city) were laid in ashes.

Evacuation of the City.

In 1783 Washington, Governor Clinton, and Sir Guy Carleton held a conference at Dobbs Ferry, and made arrangements for the British troops to evacuate the city on Nov. 25. On that morning the American troops under General Knox, who had come down from West Point and encamped at Harlem, marched to the “Bowery Lane,” and halted at the present junction of Third Avenue and the Bowery. There they remained until about 1 P. M., the British claiming the right of possession until meridian. At that hour the British had embarked at

The British fleet ready to leave New York.

Whitehall, and before 3 P. M. General Knox took formal possession of the city and of Fort George, amid the acclamations of thousands of citizens and of the roar of artillery at the Battery. Washington repaired to his quarters at Fraunce's Tavern, and there, during the afternoon, Governor Clinton gave a public dinner to the officers of the army. In the evening the town was brilliantly illuminated, rockets shot up from many private dwellings, and bonfires blazed at every corner. The British, on leaving, had nailed their flag to the staff in Fort George, and slushed the pole; but John Van Arsdale, a young sailor, soon took it down, and put the stars and stripes in its place. At sunset on that clear, frosty day the last vessel of the retiring British transports disappeared beyond the Narrows.

War excitement in 1814.

When Hardy's squadron appeared on the New England coast, in the summer of 1814, and a powerful British force appeared in Chesapeake Bay, the inhabitants of New York expected to be attacked, and were as much excited as were those of Boston. The mayor of the city (De Witt Clinton) issued a stirring address to the people, setting forth reasons why New York would probably be attacked, and recommended the militia to be in readiness for duty. He also called upon the citizens to offer their personal services and means to aid in the completion of the fortifications around the city. A large meeting of citizens was held in City Hall Park on Aug. 9, when a committee of defence was chosen from the common council, with ample power to direct the efforts of the inhabitants in the business of securing protection. Men in every class of society worked daily in constructing fortifications at Harlem and Brooklyn. Members of various churches and of social and benevolent organizations went out in groups, as such, to the patriotic task; so, also, did different craftsmen under their respective banners, such as were described, as follows, by Samuel Woodworth:

Plumbers, founders, dyers, tinners, tanners, shavers,

Sweeps, clerks and criers, jewellers, engravers,

Clothiers, drapers, players, cartmen, hatters, tailors,

Gaugers, sealers, weighers, carpenters, and sailors.


The last boat-load of the British leaving New York.

The zeal of the people was intense; and the city of New York was soon well defended by fortifications and numerous militia. Woodworth wrote a stirring poem, which was everywhere sung. The following is the concluding stanza:

Better not invade; recollect the spirit
Which our dads displayed and their sons inherit.
If you still advance, friendly caution slighting,
You may get, by chance, a bellyful of fighting.


Pickaxe, shovel, spade, crow-bar, hoe, and barrow;
Better not invade; Yankees have the marrow.

Second Great fire.

On Dec. 16, 1835, a fire broke out which swept the first ward, east of Broadway and below Wall Street, destroying 529 buildings, most of them valuable stores; also the Merchants' Exchange and the South Dutch Church. [424] The property destroyed was valued at more than $20,000,000.

In Civil War days.

Fernando Wood was mayor of the city of New York at the beginning of 1861, and sympathized with the Confederate cause. On Jan. 7 he sent a message to the common council, in which he proposed the secession of the city, and the establishment of a free and independent government of its own. This proposition was in the form of suggestive questions. “Why should not New York City,” he asked, “instead of supporting by her contributions in revenues two-

Washington and Clinton al the festivities celebrating the evacuation of New York.

[425] the draft riots—the rioters and the 7TH Regiment. thirds of the expenses of the United States, become, also, equally independent? As a free city, with but a nominal duty on imports, her local government could be supported without taxation upon her people. Thus we could live free from taxes, and have cheap goods nearly duty free. In this we should have the whole and united support of the Southern States, as well as of all other States, to whose interests and rights under the Constitution she has always been true. . . .New York, as a free city, may shed the only light and hope for a future reconstruction of our beloved confederacy.” A favorite writer for De bow's review, the most stately and pretentious organ of the slave-holders, pronounced this proposition of Mayor Wood “the most brilliant that these times have given birth to.” Wood seems to have been startled by his own proposition, for he immediately added, “Yet I am not prepared to recommend the violence implied in these views.” The board of aldermen, a majority of whom were Wood's political friends, ordered the

Sky-line of New York as it is to-day.

[426] printing of 3,000 copies of this message in document form.

The patriotic action of the New York legislature, and the official suggestion of Mayor Wood, alarmed the commercial classes of that emporium, and these and large capitalists hastened to propose conciliation by making any concession to the demands of the South. A war would sweep thousands of the debtors of New York merchants into absolute ruin, and millions of dollars' worth of bills receivable in the hands of their creditors would be made worthless. On Jan. 12, 1861, a memorial, numerously signed by merchants and capitalists, was sent to Congress, praying that body to legislate in the interests of peace, and to give assurances, “with any required guarantees,” to the slave-holders, that their right to regulate slavery within their respective States should be secured; that the fugitive slave law should be faithfully exeuted; that personal liberty acts in “possible conflict” with that law should be “readjusted,” and that they should have half the Territories whereof to organize slave-labor States. They were assured, the memorialists said, that such measures “would restore peace to their agitated country.” This was followed by another memorial, adopted Jan. 18, at the rooms of the chamber of commerce, similar in tone to the other, and substantially recommending the Crittenden compromise (see Crittenden, John J.) as a basis of pacification. It was taken to Washington early in February, with 40,000 names attached to it. At an immense meeting of citizens at Cooper Institute, Jan. 24, it was resolved to send three commissioners to six of the “seceded States,” instructed to confer with “delegates of the people,” in convention assembled, in regard to the “best measures calculated to restore the peace and integrity of the Union.”

The draft riots.

A draft of men for the National army was authorized in April, 1862. The President refrained from resorting to this extreme measure as long as possible, but, owing to the great discouragement to volunteering produced by the peace faction and the Knights of the Golden circle (q. v.), he issued a proclamation, May 8, 1863, for a draft, to begin in July, and caused the appointment in every congressional district of an enrolling board. This was made the occasion for inaugurating a counter-revolution in the free-labor States. Organized resistance to the measure instantly appeared. The leaders of the peace faction denounced the law and all acts under it as despotic and unconstitutional, and Judge McCunn, of New York, so decided. He was sustained by three judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania—Lowrie, Woodward, and Thompson—and, supported by these legal decisions, the politicians antagonistic to the administration opposed the draft with a high hand. The public mind was greatly excited by the harangues of public speakers and the utterance of the opposition newspapers when the draft was ordered. The national anniversary was made the special occasion for these utterances, and distinguished members of the peace faction exhorted the people to stand firmly in opposition to what they called the “usurpations of the government.” Sneers were uttered on that day because Vicksburg had not been taken, and the President had made “a midnight cry for help” because of Lee's invasion in Maryland; when at that very moment Vicksburg, with 37,000 prisoners, was in the possession of General Grant, and Lee and his army, discomfited at Gettysburg, were preparing to retreat to Virginia. A leading opposition journal counselled its readers to provide themselves with a “good rifled musket, a few pounds of powder, and a hundred or so of shot,” to resist the draft.

On the evening of July 3 an incendiary handbill, calculated to incite to insurrection, was scattered broadcast over the city; and it is believed that an organized outbreak had been planned, and would have been executed, but for the defeat of Lee at Gettysburg, and Grant's success at Vicksburg. When, on Monday, July 13, the draft began in a building on Third Avenue, at Forty-sixth Street, a large crowd (who had cut the telegraph wires leading out of the city) suddenly appeared, attacked the building, drove out the clerks, tore up the papers, poured a can of kerosene over the floor, and very soon that and an adjoining building were in flames. The firemen were not allowed to [427] extinguish them, and the police who came were overpowered, and the superintendent (Kennedy) was severely beaten by the mob. So began a tumult in which thousands of disorderly persons were engaged for full three days and nights, necessitating calling out the militia. The disorders broke out simultaneously at different points, evidently having a central head somewhere. The cry against the draft soon ceased, and those of “Down with the abolitionists!” “Down with the niggers!” “Hurrah for Jeff. Davis!” succeeded. The mob compelled hundreds of citizens—driven out of manufacturing establishments which they had closed, or in the streets—to join them; and, under the influence of strong drink, arson and plunder became the business of the rioters. The special objects of their wrath were the innocent colored people. They laid in ashes the Colored Orphan Asylum, and the terrified inmates, who fled in every direction, were pursued and cruelly beaten. Men and women were beaten to death in the streets, and the colored people in the city were hunted as if they were noxious wild beasts. Finally, the police, aided by the military, suppressed the insurrection in the city, but not until 1,000 persons had been killed or wounded, and property to the amount of $2,000,000 destroyed. Over fifty buildings had been destroyed by the mob, and a large number of stores and dwellings, not burned, were sacked and plundered.

New York, colony of

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
New York (New York, United States) (9)
Long Island City (New York, United States) (6)
England (United Kingdom) (6)
America City (Kansas, United States) (6)
Harlem Heights (West Virginia, United States) (4)
Fort George (United Kingdom) (4)
East River (New York, United States) (4)
Broadway (Virginia, United States) (4)
Brooklyn (New York, United States) (3)
York, Pa. (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
United States (United States) (2)
Queens County (New York, United States) (2)
Quebec (Canada) (2)
New Jersey (New Jersey, United States) (2)
Manhattan, Riley County, Kansas (Kansas, United States) (2)
Hudson River (Maryland, United States) (2)
Harlem River (New York, United States) (2)
Gettysburg (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
Dobbs Ferry (New York, United States) (2)
Bowling Green (Indiana, United States) (2)
Whitehall (New York, United States) (1)
Westchester (New York, United States) (1)
West Point (New York, United States) (1)
Sandy Hook (New Jersey, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
New York Island (Washington, United States) (1)
New England (United States) (1)
Massachusetts Bay (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (1)
Manhattan (New York, United States) (1)
Connecticut (Connecticut, United States) (1)
Concord (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Chesapeake Bay (United States) (1)
Bloomingdale (New York, United States) (1)
Beekman (New York, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: