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When Lord Cornbury arrived in New York, the Mayor, with much ceremony,
presented him with a box of gold, containing the freedom of the city,
which gave to him every privilege. It was a great deal of trouble and
expense to go to, for the Governor would have taken all the privileges,
even if the Mayor had not gone through the form of giving them.

Governor Cornbury very soon let his new subjects see that he was eager
to acquire wealth, and that he intended to get it without the slightest
regard for their interests or desires.

The Queen had told him that he should do all in his power to make the
Church of England the established church of the land; that he should
build new churches, punish drunkenness, swearing, and all such vices,
and that he should keep the colony supplied with negro slaves.

There was much sickness in the town - so much that it became epidemic.
So the Governor and his council went to the little village of Jamaica,
on Long Island, and carried on the business of the city in a
Presbyterian church building. When the epidemic had passed, he gave the
church to the Episcopalians, because he remembered that Queen Anne had
told him to make the Church of England the established church. There
were riotous times in Jamaica after that, but the Episcopal clergyman
occupied the house, and the Episcopalians worshipped in the church
regardless of all protests.

Not many improvements were made during Lord Cornbury's administration.
He cared little for the good of the city or for anything else except
his own pleasures. The constant fear of war gave the people little time
to think of improvements. They did, however, pave Broadway from Trinity
Church to the Bowling Green. But do not imagine that this pavement was
anything like those of to-day. It was of cobble-stones, and the gutters
ran through the middle of the street.

The Governor came to be detested more and more by the people, for as the
years went by he spent their money recklessly. He had a habit of walking
about the fort in the dress of a woman, and another habit of giving
dinners to his friends that lasted well on toward morning, when the
guests sang and shouted so boisterously that the quiet citizens of the
little town could not sleep.

So when the people grew very, very tired of it, they sent word to Queen
Anne that her kinsman was a very bad Governor. And she, after much
hesitation, when he had been Governor six years, removed him from
office. She no sooner did this, than those to whom he owed money, and
there were a great many of them, had him put in the debtors' prison, in
the upper story of the City Hall in Wall Street. And in jail he remained
for several months, until his father, the Earl of Clarendon, died, and
money was sent for the release of the debtor prisoner, who was now a
peer of Great Britain.

[Illustration: View in Broad Street about 1740.]



The new Governor arrived in the last months of the year 1708. He was
John, Lord Lovelace. As there had been so much trouble caused by the
governors appropriating money belonging to the citizens, he decided to
take a very different course. He had the public accounts looked into,
and said, "I wish it known to all the world that the public debt has not
been contracted in my time." And having said this (which made a fine
impression) the Governor asked the Assembly to set aside enough money
for him to run the affairs of the province for a number of years. This
was to be called a permanent revenue. But the Assembly would do no such
thing. In the midst of the discussion, Governor Lovelace died, five
months after his arrival.

It was quite a year after the death of Lovelace before his successor
came. This was Robert Hunter, a most exceptional man. His parents were
poor, and when a boy he had run away from home and had joined the
British army. By working very hard at his books when the army was not
fighting, by studying in the soldiers' quarters and on the battle-field,
by making friends with officers of high rank, Hunter had grown to
manhood brave, well educated, and of graceful manner. On coming to New
York he at once made friends with many influential persons. His most
important friendship was with Lewis Morris, whom he afterward appointed
chief-justice. This Morris was a son of Richard Morris, an officer in
Cromwell's army, who had come to the province, purchased a manor ten
miles square near Harlem, and called it Morrisania - by which name it is
still known.

The year after Hunter arrived, New York joined with New England in a
plan to conquer Canada (which belonged to the French) and join it to the
English colonies. Money was raised, troops were gotten together, and
ships and soldiers were sent from England. But when the attack was to
be made, the English ships struck on the rocks in a fog off the coast of
Canada, and eight of them sank with more than 800 men. This great loss
put an end to the intended invasion. The soldiers returned home, where
there was great sorrow at the dismal failure of a project that had cost
so much money and so many lives.

Governor Hunter had only been in the province a short time when he began
to urge the Assembly to grant him that permanent revenue that Lovelace
had asked for. Queen Anne had said that he was to have it. But the
Assembly would only grant him money from year to year.

About this time the first public market for the sale of negro slaves
was established at the foot of Wall Street. More and more slaves were
brought into the city, and the laws were made more and more strict to
keep them in the most abject bondage. It had come to be the law that
no more than four slaves could meet together at one time. They were
not permitted to pass the city gates, nor to carry weapons of any sort.
Should one appear on the street after nightfall without a lighted
lantern, he was put in jail and his master was fined. Sometimes a slave
murdered his owner. Then he was burned at the stake, after scarcely the
pretence of a trial; or was suspended from the branches of a tall tree
and left there to die.

[Illustration: The Slave-Market. From an Old Print.]

But although the slaves were restrained and beaten and killed, their
numbers increased so fast that the citizens were always in fear that
they might one day rise up and kill all their masters. A riot did occur
the year after the slave-market was set up. Several white men were
killed and a house was burned. Many negroes were then arrested and
nineteen of them were executed under a charge of having engaged in a
plot against the whites.

Affairs moved along quietly for a time after the riot. The next most
interesting happening was the putting up of the first public clock, on
the City Hall in Wall Street. It was the gift of Stephen De Lancey.

De Lancey was a Huguenot nobleman, who had fled from France when the
Huguenots were persecuted for their faith, and had found a home in the
new world. He lived in a mansion at the corner of what are now Pearl and
Broad Streets. The house is there yet, still called Fraunces's Tavern
from the owner who turned it into a tavern after De Lancey removed from

Governor Hunter was becoming very popular with the people, when
unfortunately his health failed. So he surrendered the government into
the hands of Peter Schuyler, who was the oldest member in the City
Council, and went to Europe, having served for nine years. For thirteen
months Schuyler took charge, until William Burnet, the new Governor,
replaced him.

[Illustration: Fraunces's Tavern.]



Governor William Burnet was the son of a celebrated bishop of England.

His early days were passed at the Court of William III., where he met
people of refinement and culture. Of an observing nature, and studying
a great deal, he came to be a man of deep learning, a good talker, with
manners that attracted attention wherever he went - so fine were they.

The city was gayly decorated in honor of his coming. Women looked from
their windows and waved their handkerchiefs. Men crowded the streets and
loudly shouted their welcome.

Soon after, he married the daughter of a leading merchant, and so
identified himself at once with the city's interests. He became the fast
friend of Chief-Justice Lewis Morris. Another friendship was that he
formed with Dr. Cadwallader Colden. We shall hear more of this man
later. Besides being a physician of note, he had a world-wide reputation
as a writer on many scientific subjects.

Along about this time the French were trying hard to get all the trade
with the Indians, not only in the province of New York, but in all the
lands as far west as the Mississippi country that was then wild and
unexplored. By this they could make a great deal of money, but, better
still, would make friends of the powerful Indian tribes. Then the French
hoped that the Indians would join with them against the English and that
they could conquer all the English lands in America.

The New York merchants were quite content to let the French do the
trading with the Indians, for the French traders bought all their goods
in New York, and the merchants in selling to them did not run the great
risk of being murdered, as they would in trading with the Indians in the
forests. But although the merchants were satisfied, Governor Burnet was
not. He realized the danger to the English provinces should the Indians
become enemies. So he decided to establish a line of English trading
stations that would enable the colonists to trade directly with the
Indians in safety. He also made it unlawful to sell goods in New York
to the French traders.

The merchants bitterly disapproved of these acts of Governor Burnet.
They believed that he had dealt a death-blow to their French trade, and
they became his bitter enemies. He tried hard to establish the line of
trading stations, but the English Government refused to help him with
money, and the project had to be abandoned, and the law against the
French trade, which had caused the trouble, was repealed. The trade was
once more carried on.

By this time George II. had become King of England, which was in the
year 1728. Influence was brought to bear, and Governor Burnet was
removed, and left the province a poorer man than he had entered it.

Toward the end of this same year Colonel John Montgomery was made

He had been groom of the bedchamber of George II. when the latter was
Prince of Wales. He was a weak and lazy man, although he had been bred a
soldier. You may believe that he never did much in the soldiering line,
for a soldier's life is a hard one, and not likely to encourage a man
to be lazy. Montgomery was given a cordial welcome, however.

The year after he came, the first Jewish cemetery was established, the
remains of which may still be seen in the neighborhood of Chatham Square
in New Bowery Street. It has not been used as a graveyard in many a
year, and much of the ground is now occupied by buildings. But there
is still a portion, behind a stone wall, and crumbling tombstones have
stood there ever so many years longer than the dingy tenements which
hem them in on three sides.

In the days of Montgomery, New York was still a small village, for most
of the houses were below the present Fulton Street, and they were not at
all thickly built, so there was room enough for pleasant gardens around

At this time the vacant space in front of the fort, which had been used
as a parade-ground and a market-place, was leased to three citizens
whose houses were nearby to be used as a Bowling Green. Its name came
from this and it still keeps it.

A fire department was organized and two engines were imported and room
made for them in the City Hall. Before this the department had consisted
of a few leather buckets and a few fire-hooks.

In 1731 Governor Montgomery died, and for thirteen months after, Rip Van
Dam, oldest member of the council, and a wealthy merchant, looked after
the province until the coming of William Cosby.



Cosby arrived; a testy, disagreeable man who loved money above
everything else. The colonists received him with favor, because they did
not know these things about him. The Assembly granted him a revenue for
six years, and gave him a present of £750 besides. The Governor thought
this a very small sum and said so. He presented an order from the King
which said that he was to have half the salary that Rip Van Dam had
received for acting as Governor.

[Illustration: Dinner at Rip Van Dam's.]

But Van Dam would not part with his money, and the people sided with
him, for they had long been weary of governors who looked upon the
colony simply as a means to repair their fortunes. Cosby was determined
to get the money, so he sued Van Dam. This suit was conducted in a court
where there were three judges, and two of them were friends of Cosby.
One of them was James De Lancey, a son of that Stephen De Lancey who had
given the clock to the city. The Chief-Justice was still Lewis Morris,
who had been appointed by Governor Hunter. So with two judges, friends
of the Governor, he won his suit, and Van Dam was ordered to pay him
half his salary.

More than this, Chief-Justice Morris, who had disagreed with the other
two judges, was removed from office, and James De Lancey became

The mass of the people disapproved of these doings, and there were
murmurs of discontent. But the Governor had his money, and had made his
friend Chief-Justice, and was running matters pretty much his own way,
so he was satisfied.

There was still only one paper, the _New York Gazette_, published by
William Bradford. As Bradford was the Government printer, it was quite
natural that he should side with Cosby. But just at this time another
paper came into existence, a rival to the _Gazette_, which took up the
people's cause. This was the _New York Weekly Journal_, published by
Peter Zenger, who had been one of Bradford's workmen. Each week it was
filled with articles assailing Cosby, and all who were in sympathy with
him. Very soon Zenger was arrested, charged with publishing libels
against the city officials and the King. He was locked up in one of the
cells in the City Hall.

The friends of Zenger secretly secured the services of Andrew Hamilton,
a distinguished lawyer of Philadelphia, who pleaded his cause to good
effect, and showed that Zenger had only spoken as any man had a right
to speak, and had pointed out wrongs where wrongs existed. Justice
De Lancey, remembering that his friend the Governor had made him
Chief-Justice, told the jury that they must find Zenger guilty. But
the jury pronounced him not guilty. Thus the freedom of the press was
established, and the jury, by their verdict, had opposed the Governor,
his council, the Assembly, and the judge before whom the accused had
been tried.

About this time Lord Augustus Fitzroy, youngest son of the Duke of
Grafton, came from England to visit Governor Cosby. The Governor thanked
him for having honored New York with his presence, and told him that the
city was open and invited him to go where he pleased. Lord Augustus did
not go far. He fell in love with the Governor's daughter. He did more
than fall in love, for one day he induced a minister to climb over the
fort wall and marry him to her, without leave or license. The friends
of the young nobleman were shocked, for the Governor's daughter was
considered beneath him in rank. Governor Cosby was accused of having
brought about this unequal match, although Lord Augustus said that it
was the lady's winning ways and pretty face.

Cosby, after the Zenger trial, did what he could to check the liberty
of the citizens, but was soon stricken with a fatal illness. On his
death-bed he called together the members of his council, and suspended
his old enemy, Rip Van Dam, who would have been his successor until
another Governor was appointed. And having done this he died, on March
10, 1736, leaving a quarrelsome state of affairs behind him.



The citizens were so far from being pleased when they learned that Rip
Van Dam was not to act in the Governor's place, that, for a time, it
looked very much as though there would be a riot. There was a member of
the Assembly named George Clarke, and when his fellow-members chose him
for the place that Rip Van Dam should have had, there was more
grumbling. But as no Governor came from England for seven years, Clarke
looked after the province all that time. He was an easy-going man, who
tried by every possible means to make friends. There was one happening
in particular by which he is remembered. It was called the Negro Plot.

Slaves had been brought to the city, until now there were 2,000 of them.
The 8,000 citizens were in constant dread lest the negroes should some
day rise up in revolt. Early in the spring of the year 1741 several
fires occurred in different parts of the city, and the citizens felt
quite sure that the slaves had started them. As the hours passed, the
idea of a plot grew until it seemed a fact. Then a reward was offered to
anyone who would tell of a conspiracy or of anyone concerned in one.

Just at this time a woman was arrested for a small theft, and when she
heard of the reward, she all at once remembered that there had been
meetings of negroes at a small tavern where she had worked. She told of
a plan to kill every white person; to set all the negroes free, and to
make one of them King of the city. The woman who told this story was
Mary Burton. The tavern-keeper, his wife, and several other negroes were
hanged in short order. Still the fires kept on. There were dozens within
ten days, and among others the Governor's house in the fort was burned
to the ground.

[Illustration: The Negroes Sentenced.]

Mary Burton now began a remarkable series of confessions which grew
wilder with each passing day. Negro slaves accused by her were arrested
in numbers. Liberty was promised all who would speak the truth, and
speaking the truth was understood to mean giving information of a
conspiracy. Very soon several negroes were burned at the stake in a
little valley beyond the Collect Pond. This awful death frightened many,
who hastened to cry out that they knew all about the plot. There were
some who saved their lives by confessing things that were not true; many
more did not.

During the whole long, hot summer the hanging and burning of negro
slaves went on. Late in the year, when Mary Burton had seen every person
she had accused arrested, she grew more bold. She sought some new story
to tell, and found one in remembering for the first time that white
people had been connected with the plot. Twenty-four white citizens had
been arrested, when Mary Burton began to attack prominent townsmen; even
those who had been foremost in the prosecution of the negroes. It was
only then realized that the woman's words could not be relied upon. She
was paid the hundred pounds that had been promised her, and she
disappeared, leaving no trace.

Gradually the fury of feeling against the slaves died away. Whether
there had ever been any real plot will always remain unanswered.

Certain it is, however, that the witnesses on whose words arrests were
made were all of uncertain and unreliable character; that the evidence
was contradictory, and that most of it was extorted under pain of death.

The excitement passed away after a time, and George Clarke went on
talking finely and managing his own affairs so well that he was growing
very rich indeed when his official life came to a sudden end.



In this year, 1743, Admiral George Clinton was sent by King George II.
of England to take the place of George Clarke as Governor. Then Clarke
packed up his riches and went to England and enjoyed the rest of his
life far from the little colony that he had governed so much to his own

Admiral Clinton was the son of an English earl.

When he had been Governor not yet a year, there came a man whose
influence was soon felt. He was Commodore Peter Warren, of the British
Navy, who in later years became an admiral. Before he had been in New
York long, he married Susannah De Lancey, a sister of the Chief-Justice.
They went to live in a new house in the country, in the district which
was then and is now known as Greenwich.

England was again at war with France at this time. There were tribes of
Indians who sided with the French, and there were other tribes who sided
with the English, and the result was a series of bloody border wars. Two
years after the coming of Governor Clinton, New York, with the other
English colonies, gathered troops to attack the French, and a great
force was sent against a city called Louisburg. This city was on Cape
Breton Island, which is close by the coast of Nova Scotia and was a
fortress of such great strength, that it was called the Gibraltar of
America. Commodore Warren led the English fleet, and the combined forces
by sea and land captured the fortress.

You will remember James De Lancey, who was still Chief-Justice.
He was very rich, and as he showed at all times that he considered the
interests of the citizens above all things, they naturally thought a
great deal of him. For a time he acted as adviser to Governor Clinton,
but the two had a falling out.

For the ten years that Clinton remained Governor he had great trouble
with the people, who sided with De Lancey. At the end of that time
Governor Clinton, finding that his power grew less and less, and that De
Lancey became more and more popular, resigned his office. A few months
went by, and then came Sir Danvers Osborne to be Governor. On the third
day after reaching the city he walked out of the fort at the head of the
other officials, with Clinton by his side, to go to the City Hall, where
he was to take the oath of office. The people, all gathered in the
streets, shouted when they saw the new Governor. But at the sight of
Clinton, whom they hated, they hissed and shook their fists and yelled,
until Clinton became alarmed and hurried back to the fort, leaving the
new Governor to go on without him. And Sir Danvers Osborne was much
surprised and a little frightened.

"I expect," said he to Clinton that same day, "I expect the same
treatment before I leave the province,"

For all the shaking fists and for all the angry shouts, the new Governor
was well entertained that day. The church-bells rang, cannon boomed, and
at night the town was illuminated. But the citizens did not do this so
much for the new Governor as they did for De Lancey, who had now been
made Lieutenant-Governor.

Two days after Sir Danvers took the oath of office he called his council
before him and told them that the King had said he was to have the
permanent revenue about which there had been so much trouble with the
other governors. And the council members told him, as they had told
others, that this command would never be obeyed. On hearing this Sir
Danvers became sad and gloomy. He covered his face with his hands.

"Then what am I come here for?" he cried.

The very next morning there was an uproar in the city. The Governor
had been found dead, hanging from the garden-wall of his house. Then
the people learned that his mind had been unsettled for a long time,
and that he had accepted the governorship hoping to be cured by a change
of scene. But the knowledge that his rule would be one of constant
struggling to gain his ends had doubtless proven too much for his
wrecked brain. So he killed himself, and the government of New York was
left in the hands of James De Lancey, and you will see how he still
further won the hearts of those around him.



Two years James De Lancey acted as Governor, and the citizens were
really sorry when Admiral Sir Charles Hardy was sent to take his place.

Sir Charles was not slow to see and to admit that while he was a good
sailor, he did not make a good Governor, so after a year he resigned,
and the province was once more left to the care of De Lancey.

At this time there was much being said about the need for schools, and
for many years plans had been under way for building a college in the

Money had been raised by means of lotteries - which were popular and
lawful then - and finally the college was established. It was called
King's College. It is still in existence, but is now Columbia

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Online LibraryCharles HemstreetThe Story of Manhattan → online text (page 4 of 9)