« ZurückWeiter »
eral public meetings at which I assisted, exceeded 20,000 in number; so that I was as generally and extensively known to the inhabitants as any man could well become in that
space of time.
It was from such sources and such opportunities as these that I drew the information and made the observations which I have committed to paper respecting the city and the objects of interest it contains. Having no preconceived notions to establish or defend, no theory of society to maintain, nor any interest whatever to serve, I believe that I brought to the execution of this task as much of impartiality as human nature will admit of one's exercising on topics like these ; and if to some my estimate should appear too high, or to others too low, my justification is, that I have aimed at no standard but that of truth; and whether it made in favour of or against the objects spoken of, I have been so intent on its discovery that I could not forego the pleasure of freely expressing it, whether acceptable or otherwise.
The following, then, is the result of my inquiries and observations on New-York during my residence in that city.
History of New-York from 1609 to 1838.-Topography and Plan of the City and its
Environs.--Astonishing Rapidity of the Increase of Population.-Comparison of its Shipping at different Periods. Augmentation of its Revenue and Foreign Commerce. - Admirable Situation chosen for the City.--Great Advantage of extensive Watermargin.-Outline of the Plan, and general Form of the City.-Public Squares and open Spaces in New York.-Public Buildings : City Hall, Custom-house, Exchange. - Churches, and Style of Architecture in general Use.—Hotels, and general Accommodation in them.- Private Dwellings: Interior, Style, Furniture.-Streets, and their Peculiarities compared with ours.-- Appearance of the principal Shops or Stores.Number of elegantly.dressed Ladies in Broadway.- Absence of the splendid Equipages of England.
THE spot on which the city of New-York now stands was, little more than two centuries ago, a forest inhabited by tribes of untutored Indians. It was in 1609 that the Island of Manhattan was first discovered by an English navigator, Henry Hudson, then in the service of the Dutch West India Company; and he found the tribes inhabiting it so inhospitable, that they refused to hold any intercourse with him even for barter and trade. The Indians of the Continent, on the opposite shore of New-Jersey, were more accessible; and, encouraged by his friendly relations with them, he
HISTORY OF NEW-YORK.
'sailed up the great North River for 150 miles, and gave it the name which it now bears, the Hudson. The Dutch availed themselves of this discovery to make a settlement for trading purposes high up the river, on an island near the present town of Albany, where furs were to be obtained abundantly; but the hostility of the tribes inhabiting the island near the sea, on which New-York now stands, was not overcome till three years afterward, the first fort built there by the Dutch being in 1612. It was not until 1623 that the Indians could be prevailed upon to part with the land on which New-York is built ; and even the settlement formed here was confined to an enlarged fort, where the confluence of the two rivers—the North and the East-swept round the southern point of the island, and made it a suitable place for a fortification to command the harbour, as the Battery of the present city, which occupies the same locality, does at the present time. From this point, as the population increased, the town began to extend from the fort northward, and it was then called New Amsterdam.
In 1664 the city was taken by the British, from whom, however, it was rescued by the Dutch in 1673. After remaining in their possession for a year only, it was restored again to the English ; and being then granted by Charles the Second to his brother James, the duke of York, its name was changed to New York. From this time onward, its population and buildings seem to have made a slow but steadily-increasing progress; and the state of the municipal government, and the improved police of the town, kept pace with its increase in size. It was in 1684 that the first citywatch was appointed, the number of these heroes of the night being twelve, and their pay a shilling each per night. In 1697 the lighting of the city was provided for by an or-der, which compelled all persons to put lights in their win. dows, under a penalty of ninepence for each omission; and every seventh house in each street was, in addition to this, required to hang out a pole with a lantern and candle suspended on it, to light the street.
In 1725 the first newspaper was established in New York, called the Weekly Gazette; and in 1729 a large library, belonging to Dr. Millington, of England, was presented, after his decease, to the city, by the London Society for propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts. These two events gave an impetus to the operations of the public mind, and improvements of every kind became more marked than before. It was in 1765 that the famous Stamp Act, attempted
to be imposed on the American colonies by the British, produced such excitement as to lead to the meeting of a Con. gress at New York, composed of delegates from other parts of the colonies. Early in 1776 the American army entered New-York, and on the 8th of July in that year Independ. ence was proclaimed, when the celebrated Declaration, signed at Philadelphia only four days before by the founders of the American republic, was read to the inhabitants, and at the head of each brigade of the army. In the same year, however, the British obtained a victory over the American troops in the battle of Long Island, and repossessed themselves of New York. This was in August, 1776; and in the same eventful year a dreadful conflagration occurred, which destroyed nearly 500 houses, the whole number being then only 4000, and the inhabitants reckoned at 30,000 in round numbers.
It was not until seven years after this, or in 1783, that New-York was finally evacuated by the British, when the American army, led by General Washington, entered and took possession of it; and the anniversary of this event is celebrated every year with military pomp and festivity, under the name of Evacuation Day, which happens on the 25th of November.
It was in this city that the first American Congress was held, when the members met after the Revolutionary War, in the year 1785, in the old City Hall; and in April, 1789, General Washington was inaugurated, in the gallery of the same building, as the first President of the United States.
From this period the most rapid progress of New York may be fairly dated, as it was most unquestionaly owing more to her freedom from foreign dominion, and the right to develop and direct her energies in the way that seemed best to her, without waiting for directions from a distant quarter, than to all other causes put together, that the amazing increase in size, population, and opulence which NewYork now exhibits must be attributed. How great that difference is can only be exhibited by the use of figures.
In 1786 the population was 23,614; in 1836 it was 203,007; and at present it is nearly 300,000.
In 1791 the whole amount of the exports from New York was 2,505,465 dollars; in 1816, only twenty-five years afterward, the mere duties on merchandise imported, as paid by the port of New York alone into the treasury of the United States, was 16,000,000 dollars; and in the year 1836 the amount of the exports was 128,663,040, and of the imports 189,980,035 dollars.
ADVANTAGEOUS SITE OF NEW-YORK,
At the period of General Washington's inauguration, the whole city of New-York was not more than half a mile long, its northern extremity terminating south of the present City Hall; while at present the length of the city exceeds three miles, and streets are paved and lighted, and avenues for buildings laid out and prepared, a mile at least beyond that.
The value of the property in New York in 1786 is estimated to have been about 12 millions of dollars ; in 1825 it was assessed by valuation at 98 millions of dollars; and in 1834 it was assessed at 218 millions of dollars.
In 1786 the whole shipping of the port did not exceed 120 in number, measuring about 18,000 tons. In 1836 they con. sisted of 2293 vessels, of which there were 599 ships, 197 barks, 1073 brigs and galleys, 412 schooners, and 4 sloops, exceeding 350,000 tons. Such is the brief and encouraging history of New
York. Of its topography it will not be difficult to present an intelligible description. The Island of Manhattan, on which the City of New York stands, is a long and narrow slip, projecting southward, like a tongue, from the point where it is separated from the mainland ; its length from north to south being about fourteen miles, and its average breadth not ex. ceeding a mile, the area containing about 14,000 acres. The East River (as it is called, but in reality a narrow strait or arm of the sea) flows down to the Atlantic along the eastern edge of this long and narrow island, and the Hud. son River Aows down to the harbour of New-York along the western margin of the same piece of land, so that throughout the whole of the island the breadth is nowhere greater than two miles across, and in many places it is not more than half a mile, the average being about a mile throughout.
It is impossible to conceive, therefore, a more advantageous site for the foundation of a maritime city than this, as it furnishes two lines of river frontage, one on the east and one on the west, each of fourteen miles in length; and from the central parts of the city, where the streets are open towards the water, the two rivers may be seen, one on each side, from the same point of view, with ships and smaller vessels sailing or at anchor in each. Along these river fronts, east and west, as far as the town at present extends, which is about four miles from north to south, the shores are lined with wharves for the accommodation of vessels of ev. ery size and description, from the sloop of 50 tons to the
London or Liverpool packet of 1000 tons; and from the smallest steam ferry-boat to the largest steam-vessels that sail from New York to other ports north and south of it.
Two other great advantages arise from this arrangement of the streets in the plan of the city. The first is the free and healthy ventilation of the whole, let the wind come from whatever quarter it may, as the full current of air is unimpe. ded in its course; and the second is the easy drainage of all the central parts, from the general declivity which proceeds from the central ridge gradually downward to the water on both sides of the city. These advantages are not yet suffi. ciently appreciated, nor are they secured by the best practicable means; but, as wealth and population increase, they will, no doubt, be more and more valued, and carefully cher. ished and preserved.
The southern extremity of this long and narrow island, where the Eastern and Western rivers have their confluence, and mingle their waters with those of the sea, is occupied by an open grassy plot (about eleven acres), planted with trees, and laid out in gravel-walks, under the name of the Battery; projecting beyond which is a castellated edi. fice, built on a ledge of rocks, and now called the Castle Garden, from its containing within its limits a public gar. den and promenade, and being a place where fireworks are often exhibited for the gratification of the visiters.
From this Battery, or from the Castle Garden beyond it, as you look south, the view is varied and interesting. Immediately in front of the spectator is a small island, called Governor's Island, containing several dwellings, planted around with trees, and having at its western extremity a large circular fort, pierced for a great number of cannon, commanding the channel by which alone ships can approach the inner harbour. Beyond this, to the southwest, is an. other small island, called Bedloe's Island; and still farther on, in the same direction, the larger island, called Staten Island, on which is the town of Richmond, the more recent watering-place of New-Brighton, and a number of pretty terraces and villas. Through the opening between Staten Island on the west and Long Island on the east, constituting the channel of the Narrows, the Atlantic Ocean becomes visible near the low projection of Sandy Hook. While these varied objects present themselves in the direction of the south, the view to the west includes Jersey City, on the other side of the Hudson, here about a mile across; and on the east, the City of Brooklyn, seated on the heights of Long