William Smith.

The history of the late province of New-York, from its discovery, to the appointment of Governor Colden, in 1762 (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryWilliam SmithThe history of the late province of New-York, from its discovery, to the appointment of Governor Colden, in 1762 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 27)
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Formerly of New- York, and late Chief Justice of Lower Canada.


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Grattan, Print.




Be it remembered, That on the 7th day of November, A. D. 1829, in the 54th year of the
Independence of the United States of America, JOHN DELAFIELD, of the said District,
hath deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof he claims as proprietor
in the words following, to wit :

" Tkc History of the Province of JVew-York^ from its discovery to the appointment of Go-
venior Colden, in 1762. By the honourable William Sm.ith, formerly of J^ew- York, and late
Chief Justice of Lower Canada, Published under the direction of the JVew- York Historical

In conformity to the Act of Congress of the United States, entitled " An act for the en-
couragement of Learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors
and proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned.' ' And also to an Act
entitled " An Act, supplementary to an Act, entitled an Act for the encouragement of Learn-
ing, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors and proprietors of
such copies, during the times therein mentioned, and extending the benefits thereof to the arte
of designing, engraving, ond etching historical and other prints."


Clerk of the Southern District of JVew- York.


At the close of the first volume of my father's History
of New-York, he has stated the reasons which induced him
not to publish it beyond a certain period : however forcible
they might have been at that day, they no longer exist, and
I therefore have taken the resolution to offer to the public
the Continuation of this History, written with his own
hand. I read it with the utmost attention before I resolved
upon the publication. I put the work into the hands of
some of my friends, conceiving that it would have been pre-
sumption in me to have trusted to my own partial decision,
and they encouraged me to offer it to the public, as a curious
and interesting book. When I resolved to follow this advice,
it was a circumstance of great weight with me, that as it
would probably be published at some future day, and might
fall into the hands of an editor, who, not being actuated by
the same sacred regard for the reputation of the author
which I feel, might make alterations and additions, and
obtrude the whole on the public as a genuine and authentic
book. The continuation of the history is therefore published
as it was left by the author, with only a few verbal alterations
end corrections.


Member of his Majesty's CoimciL



From Colonel Cosby's appointment to his death ; and the appointment
of Mr. Clarke as President of the Province, in 1736, 1


From Governor Clarke's return to England, to the appointment of Go-
vernor Clinton, 82


From the resignation of Governor Clinton, to the appointment of Sir

Danvers Osbom as Governor, 182


From the death of Sir Danvers Osbom, to the accession of Lieutenant
Governor Delancey, 196


From the time of Lieutenant-Governor Delancey's ceasing to administer
the government, to the arrival of Sir Charles Hardy as Governor, 263


From the absence of Sir Charles Hardy on an expedition against Mar-
tinico, to the second assumption of the administration by Lieutenant
Governor Delancey, 297


From Lieutenant-Governor Delancey's death, to the appointment of
Lieutenant-Governor C olden, during the absence of Sir Charles
Hardy, ,...., 347







Upon the death of Mr. Montgomorie, the province
was committed to the care of colonel William Cosby:
he had formerly governed Minorca, and exposed
himself to reproaches in that island, which followed
him across the Atlantic. It was by his order that
the effects of one Coppodoville, a Catalan merchant,
then residing at Lisbon, were seized at Port Mahon,
in 1718, several months before the war of that year
was declared against Spam ; and he was charged
with scandalous practices to secure the booty, by
denying the right of appeal, and secreting the papers
tending to detect the iniquity of the sentence, and
enabling the proprietor to procure its reversal. He
arrived here the 1st of August, 1732, and on the 10th
spoke to the assembly, who had met several days
before, agreeably to an adjournment. After inform-

voL. n —1


ing the house, that the delay of his voyage was
owing to his desire of assisting the agents for
defeating a bill brought into parliament, partial to
the sugar islands, he declared his confidence in
their willingness to provide for the support of
government, by settling a revenue as ample and
permanent as in any former instance ; urged their
attention to the Indian commerce, and promised his
power and interest to render them a happy and
flourishing people.

The assembly were more liberal in the address
with their thanks than their promises ; for they
merely engaged in general to contribute to the ease
of his administration, and therefore he repeats his
request when they come before him to present it.

From their dread of the success of the sugar act,
they did not hesitate about a revenue to support the
government for six years ; nor to secure out of it the
payment of a salary of fifteen hundred and sixty
pounds to the governor, with the emoluments of
four hundred pounds per annum in fuel and candles
for the fort, and one hundred and fifty pounds for
his voyage to Albany, besides a sum for presents to
the Indians. But it was late in the session before
they voted any compensation for his assistance to
the agents, and not till after the support bill had
been passed. They then agreed only to present him
with the sum of seven hundred and fifty pounds.
The governor, who had intelligence of it, intimated
his disgust, but in terms which, though it procured
him an augmentation of two hundred and fifty pounds
more, lost him their esteem. He accosted Mr. Morris,
one of the members, on this occasion, in terms



-expressing a contempt of the vote. ^*Damn them,"
said he, " why did they not add, shillings and pence?
Do they think that I came from England for money?
I'll make them know better."

This year was the first of our public attention to
the education of youth : provision was then made
for the first time to support a free school, for teach-
ing the Latin and Greek tongues, and the practical
branches of the mathematics, under the care of Mr.
Alexander Malcolm of Aberdeen, the author of a
Treatise upon Book-keeping. The measure was
patronised by the Morris family, Mr. Alexander, and
Mr. Smith, who presented a petition to the assembly
for that object; such was the negligence of the day,
that an instructor could not find bread, from the
voluntary contributions of the inhabitants, though
our eastern neighbours had set us an example of
erecting and endowing colleges early in the last

The bill for this school, drafted by Mr. Philipse
the speaker, and brought in by Mr Delancey,
administered to some merriment. It had this sin-
gular preamble : ** whereas the youth of this colony
are found, by manifold experience, to be not inferior
in their natural geniuses to the youth of any other
country in the world, therefore, be it enacted," &c.

The opposition to the sugar act, which now
engrossed so much the public attention, was unsuc-
cessful. Mr. President Van Dam, the council, and
the assembly, had all concurred in a petition against
it to the king, while Mr Cosby was in England,
They represented the islands as aiming at a mono-
poly injurious both to the colony and the mother


country: asserted that this colony took oft' more
British woollens than all the islands together, except
what was imported by Jamaica for the Spaniards ;
that the act would reduce them to raise their own
clothing; that the provisions, horses, and lumber
exported from this, and the colonies of New-Jersey
and Pennsylvania, brought returns from the foreign
as well as British islands, in money, rum, sugar,
molasses, cocoa, indigo, cotton, all which, except the
rum and molasses, were either consumed here, or
furnished remittances to Great Britain for her
balance against us ; and the specie sent from this
colony alone, they conceived to be more than from
all the British islands together, Jamaica only ex-
cepted: they denied that the British sugar islands
could take off* half the provisions raised by the
three northern colonies aforementioned, or supply
us with rum without lessening the exports of sugar.
Nothing could be more importunate than their sup-
plications for the king's protection against the West
India project : and now the assembly devoted one
hundred and fifty pounds per annum, with fifty
pounds more for disbursements, to any person whom
certain merchants of London should nominate as
their agent, to assist this colony in what they con-
ceived to be threatening them with ruin ; for they
apprehended that all purchasers from the foreign
islands for our products, were to be totally pro-
hibited; a design, however, not countenanced by
the act.

While Mr. Van Dam was in the chair, it became
a question in council, on drawing the warrants for
the governor's salary, whether the whole or only the


moiety should be received by the president. The
assembly were consulted upon it, but declined an
opinion. The council then advised warrants to
Mr. Van Dam for the whole salary, and he received
the money. Mr. Cosby came out with the king's
order of the 31st of May, 1732, for the equal par-
tition between himself and the president, of the
salary and all perquisites and emoluments of
government during his own absence. Van Dam
was contented, if the governor would also divide
with him the sums which came to his hands in
England, for he confessed his own receipts to
amount to no more than one thousand nine hundred
and seventy-five pounds, seven shillings and ten
pence, and insisted that the governor's were six
thousand four hundred and seven pounds, eighteen
shillings and ten pence Colonel Cosby would not
consent to this demand, and the president, who
thought him his debtor, refused to tender him a
farthing, and demanded a balance. The governor,
to compel the payment and prevent any discount,
was advised to proceed against Van Dam in the
exchequer, for in a suit at common law he dreaded
a set ofi* and the verdict of a jury, the president
being a popular and reputable merchant. In chancery
no measures could be taken, for there the governor
presided, and could not be an unexceptionable judge
in his own cause.

The supreme court exercised the ample authorities
both of the king's bench and common pleas, and
its sittings, or terms, had been fixed by ordinances
of the governor, with the advice of the council.
In certain instances the judges had proceeded


according to course of the exchequer, their commis-
sions directing them "to make such rules and orders
as may be found convenient and useful, as near as
may be agreeable to the rules and orders of our
courts of king's bench, common pleas, and ex-

Hence the hint for proceeding in equity before
the judges of the supreme court, as barons of the
exchequer, the majority of whom, Messrs Delancey
and Philipse, were the governor's inti;nate friends.
In Mr. Morris, the chief justice, he had not equal

As soon as Bradley, the attorney-general, brought
a bill in this court against Mr. Van Dam, the latter
resolved to file a declaration at common law against
Mr. Cosby, before the same judges, for his moiety
as money received by the governor to his use, and
required his excellency, by a letter of the 27th
August, 1733, to give orders for entering his appear-
ance at his suit. The governor slighted his request,
and Van Dam, by his counsel, moved the judges in
the subsequent term of October, for their letter to
his excellency, similar to the practice of the chancery
where a peer of the realm is defendant. The judges
permitted him to file his declaration, but refused the
letter, as unprecedented at law, and left him to
choose the ordinary process. A summons was then
offered to the clerk of the court for the seal, but he

would not affix it to the writ. The attorney-general
had in the mean time proceeded before the same
judges in equity, to a commission of rebellion, and
Van Dam found himself compelled to a defence.
It is natural to imaofine that Van Dam's hard and


singular situation would excite pity, and that the
populace might be induced to redeem him from
oppression. He had early engaged Messrs. Alex-
ander and Smith, two lawyers in high reputation,
for his counsel. They took exception to the juris-
diction of the court, and boldly engaged in support
of the plea. But when judgment was given by the
puisne judges for overruling it, the chief justicci
opposed his brethren, in a very long argument in'
writing, in support of his opinion ; at which the
governor was much offended, demanded a copy, and
then the judge, to prevent misrepresentation, com-
mitted it to the press.

The exceptions were three : — that the supreme
court, which claimed this jurisdiction in equity, was
established by an ordinance of the late king George
the first, and expired at his demise, and had" not
been re-established in the present reign : — that
his present majesty, by his commission to governor
Montgomorie, under the great seal of Great Britain,
having commanded him to execute all things in due
manner, according to the powers granted by that
commission, and the instructions therewith given,
by the S9th article of which he was required to
grant commissions, with the advice of the council,
to persons fit to be judges, and that he had com-
missioned Mr. Delancey and Mr. Philipse without
such advice : — that they had no jurisdiction or
authority to compel the defendant to appear upon
oath, concerning the matters in the bill ; and there
is no prescription, act of parliament, nor act of
assembly, to establish any supreme court, nor to



empower any court or persons to hold cognizance
of pleas in a court of equity, in or for this province.

Mr. Cosby went to his government in Jersey very
soon after the order for overruling the plea, which
was the 9th April, 1733, in the presence of a
crowded and exasperated audience ; and upon his
return in August presented Mr Delancey, at the
council board, with a commission to be chief justice,
and had issued another advancing Mr. Philipse to
the second seat. The members present, besides
Delancey, were Clark, Harison, Colden, and Ken-
nedy, so that he could not form a board for this step,
there wanting the necessary quorum of five compe-
tent members. He did not ask their opinion or
advice on this unguarded measure, which added
fresh oil to the flame already spread through the
colony, and excited the fears of the multitude.

The assembly meeting soon after in autumn, Mr.
Morris was chosen to represent the county of West-
chester, in the place of a deceased member; but he
did not present the indenture of his return till the
last day of a short session, in which nothing of much
moment was transacted.

The court (for all the province was already
divided into two parties) made an ineffectual oppo-
sition to Mr. Morris's introducing his son Lewis into
the assembly, as the burgess of the town of West-
chester. One Forster, a schoolmaster, and appointed
clerk of the court by Mr. Cosby, was set up against
Mr. Morris, and supported by Mr. Delancey and Mr.
Philipse, who canvassed against the old judge, who
offered himself to the county. The quakers were


all set aside by the sheriff, Cowper, who insisted
upon an oath instead of the affirmation, to prove
their freeholds ; a violence, however, which laid the
foundation for a law in their favour, while it added,
for the present, to the general discontent, already
risen so high in the capital, that their joy on Mr.
Morris's next arrival there was announced by the
explosion of the cannon of the merchants' ships in
the harbour, and by the citizens meeting and con-
ducting him, with loud acclamations, to a public
and splendid entertainment.

The arts, common in such ferments, were played
off by the leaders of the opposition. Zenger's
Weekly Journal was engaged in their service, and
a great part filled with extracts from the spirited
papers of Trenchard, Gordon, and other writers on
the popular side ; while Bradford's Gazette was
employed to defend the governor and his party.

In the course of the winter of 1734, two vessels
arrived for provisions from Louisburgh, where such
strong fortifications were erecting as excited the
jealousy of all the northern colonies ; and the cir-
cumstance of their sounding the passage up from
the Hook being discovered, an advantage was taken
of it, and an affidavit, taken to prove it, published in
the papers. The odium fell on the governor, as
countenancing the design of exposing the port and
colony to the French ; and Mr. Van Dam made this
one of the articles of the charge of maladminis-
tration which he transmitted against him, though
there did not appear the least ground for the

VOL. II, — -2


At the parting of some company from Mr. Alex-
ander's, late in the evening of the 1st February, an
incendiary letter was picked up in the hall. It had
been shoved under the outer door, and was instantly
pronounced, by Mr* Alexander, to be the hand-
writing of Mr. Harison, then a member of the
council. It was in these words : —

" To Mr. Alexander :

** I am one who formerly was accounted a
gentleman, but am now reduced to poverty, and have
no victuals to eat ; and, knowing you to be of a
generous temper, desire you would comply with
my request, which is, to let me have ten pistoles to
supply my necessaries and carry me to my native
country. This is a bold request, but I desire you
will comply with it, or you and your family shall
feel the effects of my displeasure. Unless you let
me have them, I'll destroy you and your family by
a stratagem which I have contrived. If that don't
take the desired effect, I swear, by God, to poison
all your tribe so surely, that you shan't know the
perpetrator of the tragedy. I beg, for God's sake,
that you would let me have the money, and hinder
me from committing such a black deed. I know
you can spare it, so desire you would let me have it.
Saturday night, about seven o'clock, leave it by the
cellar door, wrapped up in a rag, and about an hour
after, I will come and take it : put it on the ground
just where I put the stick. If you don't leave it, I
advise you not to drink your beer, nor eat your
bread, if you value your life and healths, for, by my
soul, I will do what I have mentioned. If I find any
watch to guard me in taking of it, I'll desist and


not take it, but follow my intended scheme, and
hinder you from acting any more on the stage of
life. If you comply, I'll never molest you more ; but
if not, ril hazard my life in destroying yours, and
continue what I am."

From the neglect to disguise the hand, which
Mr. ^mith, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Lurting the mayor,
all pronounced to be Mr. Harison's, it was con-
jectured that his design was to provoke a criminal
prosecution, establish the precedent of convicting
on the proof of a similitude of hands, and then, by
counterfeiting the writing of one of the demagogues
of the day, to bring him to the gallows, while the
governor's friends were to escape by pardon.

It was therefore, with great earnestness, that Mr.
Alexander, under the influence of that suspicion,
when called before the grand jury, contended
against their finding an indictment only upon such
evidence, and with caution and reserve that he
mentioned Mr. Harison's name, as the grand
jurors themselves afterwards certified. They con-
tented themselves with an address to the governor,
acquainting him that they could not discover the
author, being able to have the evidence no higher
than a resemblance between the letter and his
writing : that, least a presentment or indictment by
them upon such evidence, should prove a trap to
ensnare some innocent person upon the oath they
had taken, they durst not accuse any individual.
They besought him, nevertheless, to issue a procla-
mation, with a promise of reward, for detecting the
author of the villany.

This matter was laid before the council, and


referred to Messrs. Ilarison, Van Horn, Kennedy,
Delancey, Courtlandt, Lane, and Horsmanden, who,
as a committee, proceeded to make the necessary
inquiries preparatory to a report. As Mr. Alexander
and Mr. Smith, who were summoned to attend there,
refused to appear, wliih) Harison, the suspected
author, was of the committee, and Mr Alexander,
a member of the board, left out, they proceeded
only upon the testimony of Mr. Hamilton and Mr.
Lurting ; and, though they advised a proclamation,
offering fifty pounds for a discovery, yet they
reported it as their opinion that Mr. Harison was
entirely innocent of the infamous piece of villany
laid to his charge ; that he was incapable of being
guilty of so foul a deed, and that the letter was a
most wicked scandalous, and infamous counterfeit
and forgery, calculated by some artful, malicious,
and evil-minded persons to traduce and vilify the
character of an honorable member of his majesty's
council of this province, and thereby render him
odious and infamous to mankind.

Whether the governor was let into the design of
the author of the letter, was never discovered,
though some stress was laid upon words dropped
by a man intimate in the family, who, coming home
in his cups late in the evening, shortly before the
letter was found, said a scheme was executed to
hang Alexander and Smith ; and Mrs. Cosby, fre-
quently, and without reserve, had declared that "it
was her highest w4sh to see them on a gallows at
the fort gate."

Harison was generally suspected, in spite of the
testimonial of the council, of which he made all the


use in his power in an exculpatory address to the
city corporation, whose recorder he then was, sug-
gesting that Mr. Alexander and Mr. Smith had
forged the letter to ruin him They published a
refutation of the scandal, which, by assigning proofs
of his enmity, strengthened the general suspicions
then prevalent against him.

Harison had been concerned with them and others
in the design of procuring a patent for part of the
great obhmg, surrendered to this colony on the
settlement with (Connecticut.

The petitioners were in this way to be recom-
pensed for two thousand pounds expended in
effecting the establishment of the eastern line of
the colony. While the business of the surrender
was negotiating, Harison had perfidiously revealed
the design to sir Joseph Eyies, the duke of Chandois,
and others, and prompted them to sue out a patent
in England It issued there on the 1.5th May, 1731,
upon erroneous suggestions, and with a description
which did not include the lands meant to be taken
up, and which were fortunately granted by Mr.
Montgomerie before the English patent arrived, or
Mr. Harrison had time to correct the information
by which they had been deceived, and on which
account he had justly exposed himself to censure on
both sides of the water.

Add to this, that at the very time of finding the
incendiary letter, Mr. Harison was under a prose-
cution tending to overwhelm him with disgrace : he
had promoted an action for two hundred pounds in
the name of Wheldon, against one Trusdel, who
had been his servant. The defendant was reduced


to great straits by the action, and complained to his

Online LibraryWilliam SmithThe history of the late province of New-York, from its discovery, to the appointment of Governor Colden, in 1762 (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 27)