James W[atson] Gerard.

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Xhe City of New York


New York J-Jistorical Society


(May, 1883.)









New Yo^^ Historical Society


(May, i883.Tl!^;" ] ]






0. JLlt\

I 1

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Historical Society :

There is no more interesting branch of sociological re-
search than the formation of national character.

It is proposed to review such formation as applicable to
our ancient city.

New York was termed ancient, in the Dongan charter of
1686 ; and the Batavian, the Anglo-Saxon, the Celt, the
Teuton, the Gaul, and even the sons of Ham and Shem,
have been factors, in various degrees, in forming its civic

It began its life when man was bloodthirsty, when natu-
ral rights were little respected, when religion was intolerant,
when science was in its cradle, when tyranny made the
laws : and, when Civilization herself, still inhumane, en-
forced her progress by the sword.



To the nervous energy of races, under various conditions,
is due the exodus that — spreading from Central Asia, the
cradle of man — has, in progressive migrations, populated
the globe.

The theory of a number of primordial ' ' autoclitliones ' '
(or %)olygenism>i is not substantiated by either tradition or

Migrations and crossings, and the effects of new latitudes
and conditions have produced, in time, the varied races of
a single species.

Mixed races cease in time to be mere hybrids^ and when,
in a few generations, the new conditions have completed
their influence the new race is formed, with distinctive
pliysical, mental, and even moral features.

The force of the strongest parental stock still dominates,
liowever, and gives tone to the other elements that finally
harmonize under it.

The causes or conditions that induce the migration of
grouj^s are numerous.

The hunter seeks new areas for game, the agriculturist
fi'esh and fertile fields, the strong and the warlike march
for conquest, the weak for safety, the enterprising and
curious for discovery ; the flight from justice, the thirst for
gold, the craving for change are also potent motors. And,
in later times, the struggle for political rights and religious
freedom have driven millions to brave the terrors of the seas
and the wilderness.

The air breathed, the food eaten, the water drank, the
physical requisitions, the local surroundings, the stub-
borness of Nature or her bounteous smiles, the new priva-
tions or the new relaxations — all these operate on the
migrated man.

Energy may be aroused and nerve force stimulated ; or
peace and plenty may so prevail that life becomes easier,
and the character becomes softened and sublimated.

The migrated race has its period of critical infancy before
it acquires the strength of adult existence.

. The Physiological changes at first are gradual ; but soon
the subject, under the throes of acclimatization, enters
upon a new life that, unless there be sufficient endurance,
may not reach the stage of re-naturalization.

A new struggle begins under conditions foreign to the
na tural status, which leaves to survive only those who can
best stand the contest.

History is full of cases where colonization has seemed

"The character of a peojjle," saysTaine. "is an abridge-
ment of all its jDreceding actions and sensations.

"Man, forced to accommodate himself to circumstances,
contracts a temperament and a character corresponding to


them ; and his character, like his temperament, is so much
more stable as the external impression is made upon him
by more numerous repetitions, and is transmitted to his
progeny by a more ancient descent."


The development of the English national character,
under successive race infusions, affords suggestions for
similar investigation here.

The English field is wider, although less complex ; and
Time, while extending the area, has condensed the view.

The English national character may be deemed formed,
and its race characteristics defined ; ours is still crystallis-
ing under new ingredients.

The Roman occuj^ation of Great Britain left no natural

A few mural remains — a road — a tomb — the names of a
few towns, are all that survive to tell us that the great
Latin race had grasped at conquest there.

It came and passed like a sweeping wind.

So, too, the Norsemen, although sovereigns in the realm,
contributed nothing to the national life or character.

The blood that flowed in torrents during their occupation
gave no permanent footing ; and the remnants of them be-
came amalgamated with the dominant race.

The Angles, Jutes and Saxons — tribes of the great Teu-
tonic race — in the i5th century, fastened themselves upon
the land.

The native races melted away before them. Not only
the former social and political life was obliterated, but the
language itself was banished, and no trace of it became
mingled in the speech of the conquerors.

Although silent the harj), and deposed the club and the
spear, the ancient Briton — a hermit in his kingdom of stone
— ^still combats the composite language that emblems the
successive invaders

Cymric gutturals still cling to the rocks and haunt the


rugged vales, and cluster Avithin tlie weird i-ecesses of
Snowden — a stubborn lingual protest — fit pendant to the
Druid monolitli — both grim monuments of a race

The composition of the present English language, and
the very name of the country illustrate the tenacious Saxon
hold, and its underlying strength in forming the habits,
thought and much of the civil polity and social life of the

The Saxon language illustrates the home and natural life
and the inf Uvsion of Latin and Norman additions owe their
origin, mainly, to the political institutions and ceremonies
of the new rulers, to the workings of the Courts of Law and
to the machinery of ecclesiastical rule,

Saxon thought and its lingual expression came forth,
after a time, as did those who used it, from their Norman
subserviency, and rose into active representative life.

Like one of the native English oaks — the vine is there
and parasites are there, and the axe of the conqueror has
been wielded for centuries ; but the undying strength from
the roots and the soil still produces the Saxon bloom.

The amalgamation of the Saxon and Norman elements
has formed a language, noble, varied, and strong : and it has
established the present English race — hardy, courageous,
progressive, and endowed with a nerve force that has
caused it to spread over the globe, planting colonies and
wielding empires.


The history of the settlement and colonization of tliis
city is doubtless familiar to you.

It may l^e well, howevei-, to recall that it is more than
two centuries and a half since a few Dutch adventurers
established a trading post here, for the purpose of obtaining
peltry from the Indians.

Soon colonization began under the Dutch West India
Company, which governed the colony, as New Nederland,

until its surrender, in 1664, to the English fleet of James,
then Duke of York, and proprietor of the extensive domain
granted to him by his brother, Charles.

After regaining possession for a year, the Dutch finally
ceded the province to England, in 1674, under the treaty of

The English thereupon ruled, under successive colonial
governors, down to our Revolution.

In 1628, fourteen years after the permanent landing, the
infant city, called New Amsterdam, contained only 270
inhabitants ; in 1664, at the time of the first surrender,
1,500 ; and, at the time of final cession to the English, in
1674, about, three thousand inhabitants.

About eighteen languages were spoken, we are told, at
New Amsterdam, showing the extent and diversity of its
early trade.

In 1703, there were about 4,400 inhabitants ; and, in
1750, the population had increased to 1 3, 000. The numbers
then slowly increased, down to the time of the Revolution,
when it was 22,000 ; and, in 1800, amounted to over 60,000;
showing a great increase after the Revolution.

Thenceforward the increase has been rapid. In 1810 the
poj)ulation had arrived, in round numbers, at 96,000 ; in
1820, to over 123,000 ; in 1830, to 202,500 ; in 1840, to nearly
313,000 ; and, in 1850, to 515,000.

By the last census of 1880, there is a population in the
city of over 1,206,000 ; of which 198,600 are Irish born,
163,480 are German born, and 1,860 are Holland born.

Of course, this vast population is due more to immigra-
tion than to natural increase.

The tide of immigration, at first, scant, has now assumed
the proportions of a flood of peoples.

The first Dutch settlers were humble adventurers.


Subsequently came those of more wealth ; as the Turkey
carpets, pictures, Spanish leather chairs, tapestry, flowered
tabby chimney cloths, silver punch ladles and tankards,
silk petticoats and breeches, damask furred jackets, and
embroidered cloaks noted in old records of administration
abundantly attest.

Those that settled New Nederland during the Dutch
period Avere attracted by land grants offered by the gov-
ernment, which were continued under the English.

Many of the immigrants were so poor that they could
not pay their passage money. They were sold in servitude
for it, after arrival, at public auction.

This system was continued during the English period,
and even after the Revolution, as late as 1819.

It was not until 15 or 20 years after the permanent Eng-
lish occupation that Englishmen of means, culture and
position came over, with an idea of settling in the country,
and bettering their conditions.

Among other processes, they took pains to ally themselves
with the daughters of the rich Dutch Burghers.

There are on record many such marriages between the
years 1680 and 1700.

Early in the 17th century the little city began to lose its
provincial aspect and to x)artake of the character of a me-
tropolis, the seat of Vice Regal rule.

Tradesmen imported foreign novelties, the residences be-
came separate £rom the .slioi)s ; and emulation and display
entered into social life. The household of the Provincial
Governors, and the taste and gaiety of the French refugees,
gave a lively tone to social life.

The anniversary of the Restoration, of the Powder Plot,
and the Royal birthday, vied in display with the old Dutch
festivals of Faas and Pinxtei\ and the day of the Nieuw
Jar and of Santa Glaus or St. Nicolas, which still retained
their old-fashioned prominence.


The latest Engiisli fashions were adopted by the ladies,
and the bucks of the place became peruke wearers and

The English governors and their wives were mostly peo-
ple of rank ; and officers in the English army and navy
swelled the social glories of the new regime.

Among the prominent men of rank who were governors
of the English Colony were Sir Edmund Andros, Colonel
Dongan, afterwards Earl of Limerick ; the Earl of Bella-
mont ; Lord Cornbury, subsequently Earl of Clarendon, a
cousin of Queen Anne, who, like Nero of old, used to amuse
himself by dressing in female attire and so perambulating
about the Fort. Another governor, General Robert Hun-
ter, had been an aid-de-camp to Marlborough. Lord Love-
lace, another, was Baron of Hurley. Governor John
Montgomerie lived here in great style ; his cellars abounded
in wines, his table with silver ; he had a score of horses in
his stable, and drove his coach with gilded harness, and
postillions in gold-laced liveries.

Governor Fletcher, who squeezed money out of the
Province like a Roman Prjetor, flourished in a coach with
six horses. Another, Governor Clinton, was a son of the
Earl of Lincoln ; Governor Burnett was a son of Bishop
Burnett, and took here to wife a lady of the old Dutch
stock of Van Horn,

To show the then social impress of the English aristo-
cratic rule, I give an extract from a newspaper slip written
by the "Jenkins" of the day, chronicling the visit of a
sprig of nobility in 1732 :

"The Mayor and Aldermen of the City of N. Y. being informed
that the Riglat Hon. the Lord Augustus Fitzroy, Son to liis Grace,
Charles, Duke of Grafton, was arrived at Fort George, they waited
on his Lordship in a full body, attended by the principal officers of
the City Regiment, and, being introduced to his Lordship, the Recorder
addressed himself to him in the name of the corporation, congratulat-
ing his Lordship's safe arrival, and returning the thanks of the City


for the Honour they received by his Lordship's Presence, as also for
his Lordship's Condescension in being pleased to become a Member
thereof. Then the Worshipful, the Mayor, presented his Lordship
with the copy of his Freedom, enclosed in a curious gold box with the
arms of the City thereon neatly engraved ; which his Lordship was
pleased to receive in the greatest goodness and Complaisance."

As to the general characteristics of the people in 1750,
Mr. Biirnaby, who then visited New York, says, "More
than half the inhabitants are Dutch, and almost all

"They are, therefore, particularly industrious, frugal
and parsimonious. Being, however, of different nations,
different languages, and different religions, it is almost im-
possible to give them any determinate character."

Mr. Smith, the historian, says, "the inhabitants are a
mixed people, mostly descendants from the original Dutch
planters. English is the most i^revailing language, but not
a little corrupted by the Dutch dialect, which is- still so
used in some counties that the sheriffs find it difficult to ob-
tain English speaking jurors to serve in the courts of law."

In speaking of the social life of the city, he remarks ui)on
the honesty and fair dealing of the inhabitants, who are
mostly, he says, merchants and traders.

He speaks, however, of the general neglect of mental
culture, and all arts for the improvement of the mind,
especially among the fair sex, who, he says, "although
comely, modest, and well dressed, and characterized by
neatness and economy, and with no taste for gambling or
other vices, neglect nothing so much as reading, and all
arts for the improvement of the mind."

He further says :

" In the City of New York, through an intercourse with the Eng-
lish, we follow the London fashions, though, by the time we adopt
them, they become disused in England. Our affluence during the


late war introduced a degree of luxury in tables, chairs and furniture,
with which we were before unacquainted. But still we are not so gay
a people as our neighbors of Boston, and several of the southern

The descendants of the Dutch settlers during the Eng-
lish period kept equal in the race with their English
brethren in all matters of political or military action and
enterj)rise, and their names figure prominently in the State
and municii)al annals.


No impression has been left by the Indian Aborigines
upon our national character.

They were driven back and away by the axe, the gun.
and the diseases of the invaders.

A j)laintive lament of this appears in a petition of the
Mohawk Indians to Grovernor Clinton in 1746, against the
sale of more of their lands, without their consent.

They say : "This and such like dealings, with the bring-
ing rum to our castles, has made us dwindle away, as the
snow does in a warm, sunshiny day."

One of the protesting warriors signs himself "J/b^es,"
showing the incoming civilization and its effects. The name
of another, " Teg-a-roii-de-ge,''^ sjDeaks of the old barbaric
race in its pride and power.

The names of some places and a few Indian words alone
remain to tell us that the Red man once chased tlie wolf,
and waged fierce battles over the site of our metropolis.


The French element of our population was early among

Under the persecutions of the Protestants in the time of
Richelieu, after Rochelle was taken, and the unsuccessful
revolts in Normandy, Picardy and Champagne, the exodus


Many settled in Holland, and thence emigrated here ;
between 1650 and 1670.

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685, also
added largely to our population.

The Huguenots were eminent for industry, charity and
courtesy, and, in social matters, at least, have left an im.
press upon our habits and character.

Many Huguenot names are familiar among us. Promi-
nent among them are those of Cosseau, Ray, De la Mon-
taigne, De Lancey, Tourneur, Lozier, ])ef orest, Giraud.
Goelet, C-fuion, Lisj^enard, Delaplaine, Dubois, Delamater,
Jay, Le Roy, Bedell, Bethune, Gallaudet, Lorillard, Des-
brosses and Angevine.

Dongan, in his message to King James, in 1687, speaks
of numerous French families coming over from England
and St. Christopher.

In 1696, there were 200 French families in the city ; and,
in 1704, a French Huguenot Church was erected ; and soon
afterwards, a French club was established.

Commencing about the year 1793, there arose an extra-
ordinary affection for France, and hostility to every thing-
British. Fugitives arrived from the French West Indies,
under the ferocious negro rebellions there. Also, came the
French emigrds fleeing from the Reign of Terror. Then
French cookery, confectionery, cotillions, ragouts and fri-
cassees, w^ere introduced, and the city was relieved by them
from the frying-pan of the pioneer and much of the heavy
horrors of the English cuisine.

Their national gaiety and courtesy, also, tended much to
modify the habits and manners of our people, from the
hardness, stiffness and arrogance which somewhat charac-
terize our Anglo Saxon prototypes.

Under the early Dutch Colonial rule also came over many


Walloons, from Flanders, who settled mostly on Long
Island — lience tlie Wal-about, Waal-hoght, or Walloon

Under the English rule, in 1708 to 1710, also came Swab-
ians and Palatines in large numbers, driven away by poverty
and the horrors of war.

Most of the Palatines were sent over by Queen Anne, and
naturalized by Royal proclamation.

Among the Palatines, then aged thirteen, was little John
Peter Zangerin, subsequently known as Zanger ; the hero
of the great battle for the liberty of the press.

All these Walloons and Palatines have long since been
amalgamated into the general formation ; and their indi-
viduality has long since ceased.


There is another element here, which, although Anglo.
Saxon, and formed into our local life, has, still, distinctive
features. I refer to that of New England.

The New Englander is more conservative in character,
more grave in temperament, and at the same time, more
enterprising, and more persistent in action than the de-
scendants of the Dutch and English settlers.

There has always been a sort of antagonism between
New York and New England.

The latter colonies were always jealous of New Neder-
land, and continually threatening war.

Connecticut sent a request to Cromwell asking him to
exterminate the Dutch settlement. And New Englanders
came to assist the English fleet, under Nichols, when New
York was taken by him, and even proffered Indian auxil-

Director Kieft, in a letter responsive to certain com-
plaints of the United Colonies of New England, in 1646,



observed that their complaints of ill usage were the com-
plaints of the wolf against the lamb !

GovernorNichols, in 1666, in a despatch to the Earl of Clar-
endon, advocating a direct trade between Holland and New
York, uses as an argument that "The strength and flour-
ishing condition of this place will bridle the ambitious
saints of Boston ! "

In 1688, New York and the otlier New England Colonies
were consolidated under one provincial dominion, which
lasted until the accession of William and Mary.

Chroniclers tell us that New York protested against this
annexation "As an unmerited state of degradation ; which
they contemplated with just dissatisfaction, as an abhorred

It seems, therefore, there was no love lost in the olden
time. There is good feeling and fellowship enough now, and
a peaceable quiet invasion of New York in business and
professional circles is continually in progress, without mur-
mur. The laudation of New England and its sons, however,
is rather too much dinned into our ears by those sons deni-
zened here, and the changes are played on Plymouth Rock
until we have become heartily tired of the contimial reveille.
With all due respect for New England, and admiration for
its enterprising and cultured sons and daughters, the queer
question arises continually in our minds, why, if it be such
a delectable and superior place as is so abundantly lauded,
should her sons and daughters desert it in such flocks and
locate themselves in such an inferior place as New York.


As regards the political principles planted among us by
the various settlers here, although the Dutch possession
was comparatively brief, that people left a strong political
impress materially modifying that of the succeeding na-

The Dutch founders of this State brought with them the
same principles and spirit of independence that had char-


acterized their forefathers and made them, in Europe, the
pioneers of civil rights.

These principles had become national instincts, and, with
them they laid the foundations of a State to be as free and
tolerant as the fatherland which had been rescued from the
tyranny of Spain and the thraldom of the Inquisition.

In Holland oppression had united them and made them
self reliant.

Indignant at the outrages inflicted by hereditary rulers,
they revolted against such dominion, and transferred to
these shores not only their industry and their hardihood,
but also the seeds of liberty, which, germinating in a free
field, bore the sturdy plant that in time worked its way
into strong life and fruition.

Our municipal system was founded on the burgher sys-
tem of the Dutch communities.

The Declaration of Independence of the United Provinces
against the Spaniard, appears to be the precedent of our
own declaration of 1776 ; and the model of Government
established by the United Netherlands was the model of
our own national system.

Although the Dutch here cheerfully submitted to the
English rule, which was, in the main, parental and kindly,
a Dutch democratic counter current against the aristocratic
tendency of government and society was obvious. This mani-
fested itself , prominently, when Rip Van Dam, the President
of the Council, in 1735 occupied the gubernatorial chair dur-
ing an interregnum prior to the arrival of the English Gov-
ernor Cosby, and who was removed by that Governor for

The Dutch and Presbyterian elements of the population
were generally in political, and even social opposition to
those of the Episcopal Church. Of the former were the
members of the Whig Club formed in 1762, who used to
drink toasts to the memory of Oliver Cromwell, John
Hampden and Parson Hugh Peters.

The actions brought against Trinity Church to oust


her from her farm lands bore a semi-political character, and
were instigated by the Presbyterian or Whig party, as
against the Ej)iscopal or administration party.

The lirst New York Bill of Rights was passed by the
iirst Colonial Assembly, in 1683. This Assembly was com-
posed mostly of men of Dutch name and descent ; and
although it was repealed in 1686, by direction of James, its
principles of religious tolerance, and of taxation only by
representation, had taken root, and the violation of its spirit
by King James and his governors sowed the seeds that
brought fruit in the vindication of such political rights in
1776 as the Dutch had fought for in 1572.

Prominent among incidents during the English political
period was the assumption of the government by Leisler,
who claimed to hold the province for the Prince of Orange
on the abdication of James. His action was supported
mainly by those of Dutch descent and sympathy. Leisler
was supposed to be the leader of this party as opposed to
the aristocratic element. Governor Sloughter on his arrival,
siding with the latter, had Leisler executed for treason.

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Online LibraryJames W[atson] GerardThe impress of nationalities upon the city of New York → online text (page 1 of 3)