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Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784-1831 (Volume 4) online

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sion on the minds of the citizens " It brings the battle home to our


doors, [109] within the cries of our wives and children." Will any
reflecting mind, not under the excitement of passion, believe this to be
the fact? Do invading enemies seek to attack powerful batteries,
instead of making depredations where there are none? Will a shore
lined with cannon be more inviting to a warlike plunderer, than a shore
lined with rich freighted merchantmen, and defenceless, well filled
stores ? I leave the answer to the dictates of a plain but sound under-
standing, and as we live in the days of rapacity, rather than in the
days of chivalry, I cannot doubt what that answer will be.

I beg pardon for this encroachment on your patience previously to
answering your main object in the application to me ; but the deference
and respect I owe to the high characters with whom I have lately been
in conference impose this explanation as an indispensable duty: espe-
cially as going at once into a plan, which they might be supposed to
have omitted, would on my part be a very indecorous presumption.

I now come to the question implied in the resolution of your
Board; "Are the Narrows defensible? If so, what are the means,
" and what the probable expence ? " To this I answer, they are in my
opinion [110] defensible, but the means are extensive, and should
unite submarine obstructions, forts on each side, and gun boats on
the flats in advance.

With respect to the sinking an island in the centre, which has been
much spoken of, it does not appear to me that local circumstances have
been fully considered. In the middle of the Narrows there are between
sixteen and seventeen fathoms of water, say one hundred feet at half
tide ; to make an island of stone in this depth, with an area of four
acres at its surface, as I have heard mentioned, even if the sides were
vertical, which could not be, would be more than seventeen millions
of cubic feet of stone, this at fifteen cubic [feet] to the ton, would be
about one million, One hundred and sixty thousand tons, and would
require near twenty four thousand sloops of fifty tons each to convey
it; and if the calculation were to be made at four and an half cents
each cubic foot, the cost would be nearly Eight hundred thousand Dol-
lars, with as much in addition as the natural slope of loose stones in a
rapid current, would increase the mass.

[Ill] The best plan for permanent obstructions, in my estimation,
is that which in the course of a conversation at the Mayor's was inti-
mated by yourself, and as I take no merit in the invention, I may be
allowed to state it in detail.

Suppose numerous blocks were to be sunk in the Narrows at cer-
tain distances from each other, which though sufficient for a ship to

.516 CITY OF NEW YORK 4 Aug. 180?

pass between them, yet should she go but a little on either side of the
middle, would insure her destruction ; as the depth of water varies in
the space before mentioned from ten to sixteen fathoms. Let us sup-
pose a mean, thirteen fathoms or seventy eight feet ; the mean would
be less, as the depth is less within two hundred feet of the shore on
each side, allowing the blocks to rise within ten feet of the surface, and
taking a fair but sufficient mean. Let us suppose the averaged depth to
be sixty five feet, and the superficial contents of each block, whatever
may be its shape, to be fifty feet square, or twenty five hundred square
feet, this multiplied by the depth, would give forty five thousand and
five hundred cubic feet, which at the price of four and a half cents as
above stated, would cost two hundred and twenty six thousand, One
[112] hundred and ten dollars. If these blocks were placed at sixty
feet distance from each other, and were armed with cheveaux de f rize,
as they might be, so as to reduce the spaces to the width of a ship,
it is self evident that no ship could pass, for if she were but one foot
on either side of the middle, one of the projecting points would check
her progress, when she would immediately round to, and lay her broad-
side against all the others. To put this effect in a striking point of
view, let us suppose a Ship going at the rate of ten Knots with wind
and tide, and that by some accident her own anchor were to drop
under foot, every sailor knows, that unless she parted her cable in an
instant, she would round to, and carry all by the board.

Nautical men are generally very bold and hazardous when the
danger is visible, because they rely upon their own skill and activity ;
but the boldest sailor is the most cautious of all beings, where the
danger is invisible, and they always take care to give rocks a very
good birth.

This calculation goes to filling up of the whole space, but it is evi-
dent that a channel should be left for our own vessels ; this at the
[113] worst would oblige an enemy to advance singly, and directly
under the guns of the batteries to be erected on either side, while every
block so sunk would compleatly cover a gun boat that might be
anchored upon, or behind it, without danger, owing to their small draft
of water. Besides these considerations, it is self evident that the blocks
must aid every other mode of obstruction, and, after the experiment
we have witnessed, there can be no doubt, but M r Fulton's Torpedoes
could be applied here with almost certain effect. If a pair of these
destructive machines were placed in each space between the blocks,
should all other means fail, their action would be, as far as human
foresight can presume to be accurate, infallible.


If however such obstructions were to be unprotected by batteries
on each side, an enemy might progress with a fair wind against the
tide, giving to his ship just what way he chose; and by sending boats
a head might in a slow and cautious manner feel for a safe passage and
remove temporary obstructions ; it is therefore of all things the most
necessary to prevent the possibility of remaining at rest, any where in
the passage.

The most essential as well as the most costly battery should be
erected at the edge [114] of Hendrick's reef. Until I can have time
to cause the plan and elevation of such a battery to be made, I submit
to your consideration the plan and elevation of one designed for a
point, not dissimilar as to position in the harbour of Charleston, which
I must request you to return after it has been laid before the Cor-

On the Staten Island side, only the lower battery need to be case-
mated, as those ascending the hill in the rear, would be above the
reach of either small arms or swivels from the tops of the enemies
ships. These batteries could be so constructed as to be impregnable
to the fire of shipping, and could form an intersecting fire of from
fifty to eighty shot on each side.

It is not an easy matter to calculate the expence of batteries, where,
nothing of the kind having been done before. I am deficient in the
requisite data, upon which alone accurate estimations can be made,
but as I have often heard it said that, could the defence at the Nar-
rows, like the one described be procured, the inhabitants of New York
would not think a million of dollars too great an expence. I feel a
self assu [115] ranee that, with certain dependence on such a fund,
the object might be so far obtained, as in conjunction with protecting
redoubts on the high grounds, and the interior fortifications and gun
boats before described, the harbour of New York would become in-
vulnerable to any maratime attack. In case of an invading army our
only method would be, and the only one the spirit of our countrymen
would require that of meeting the enemy in the field.

Deeply impressed with the importance of the present crisis, and
knowing how anxious the public mind is at present, I have thought
it best to give a prompt answer to your request, though from the
nature of the case, it must be a very imperfect one; and were I very
thirsty for professional fame, it might be considered imprudent, thus
to lay myself open to criticism on a subject where there are so many
opinions, with much confidence in the validity of each one.

518 CITY OF NEW YORK 4 Aug. 1807

I make no pretensions to infallibility upon any subject, and shall
listen with complacency to any opinion, on this one, from any quarter ;
but while I respect the sentiments of others, I hope I may rely on
some indulgence for my own.

[116] Should it be in my power to give the Corporation any fur-
ther information, I shall at all times most readily do it upon the slight-
est requisition on their part ; without any other view than the satisfac-
tion of resulting from the reflection of having rendered an acceptable
service to the citizens of New York.

I have the honor to be
Very respectfully

Your most obedient

and most humble servant

Jonathan Williams.

Resolved that the Committee appointed to confer with Col. Wil-
liams, in behalf of this Board, on the subject of fortifying at the
Narrows, be and hereby are directed to request his opinion, whether
the Narrows, under all circumstances, be the most eligible place for
obstruction and the erection of batteries, in addition to those already
determined on by the United States for the protection of the City and
harbour of New York, and if, in his judgment, other positions are
preferable, to request that he will report the [117] same to this Board
with as little delay as possible.

Ordered that the same Committee be authorized to devise a plan
for raising money to defray the expences, that may be incurred, for
erecting fortifications and making such obstructions as may be judged
necessary for the protection of this city and harbour.

The following persons were appointed Firemen, the Chief Engi-
neer certifying correspondent vacancies: viz 1

NO 13.
Charles Ferguson, blacksmith, vice Richard Doty resigned.

Hook & Ladder Company N 2.

George Harris, Carpenter, vice Michael Parker, resig d
Peter Cullen, Grocer, v. Samuel Day. d

Charles Hyslop. Baker, v. Thomas Willits, d

Ordered that the Mayor issue his Warrants to pay :

N 217. Daniel Davis, repairs to Pumps $12.25

218. Daniel J. Brooks, Pump & Well in Division S* 26.

219. Casparus Romaine, carting for Sup 1 of repairs 50.



N 220. William Ferguson, timber for repairing Kingsbridge $31.12

221. Anthony Girard & O Powder for 4*h July 109. 50


222. Nicholas Carmer repairs of Docks 65.25

223. d d Wells 105.52

224. do d Engine Houses 39.68

225 do do Markets 15.28

226 do do City Hall 15.63

227. do Salary & C a 60.50


228. Edward Moran, Ass* S* Comm r Salary 54.

229. J. M c Gown & J. Simmons, carting earth to Corporation dock 171.44

230. John M c Kenzie, keeper of Potters field, Salary 92.

231. William Gowder, carting earth to Flymarket Slip 35.62

232. James Hardy Salary 67.75

233. Andrew Leary. Carpenters Work Alms H & Bride-

well 50.25

234. do do Docks & Slips 54.37

235. do do Gaol 21.75

236. d d Engine Houses... 75.75

237. do do Pumps 30.


238. Hugh Brice, filling in Collect 257.90

239. Thomas Anderson, Labour at d 38. 18

240. Hugh Montgomerry for repaying intersection of Gold &

Ferry Streets 12.37

241. Manhattan C repairs to Water pipes 7.50

242. Abel W. Hardenbrook, on ace 4 of Fire Engines 500.

243. Stagg & Anson, on ace 4 of regulating Broadway above

Jones Street 250.

[119] In Common Council. Aug' 10. 1807.
Present Marinus Willet, Esquire, Mayor.

John P. Ritter
Jacob Mott
Thurston Wood
Jacob Leroy
Selah Strong
Roger Strong
Nicholas Fish

Mess" John W. Mulligan
Gerard Depeyster
Andrew Morris

Esquires Samuel Torbert

Aldermen. Thomas Demarest

Stephen Ludlam
Benjamin Haight
Robert Bogardus.


The Minutes of the last meeting were read and approved.

This being the quarterly visitation of the Alms House and Bride-
well the Mayor and Corporation inspected those buildings and found
the several wards and apartments in excellent order.

[120] A Report from the Police Office that Abraham Reeves of

520 CITY OF NEW YORK 10 Aug. 1807

the 2 d Watch district had been suspended for sleeping on his post was
referred to the Watch Committee.

*A Petition of John Stephens Jun r , stating that he is confined in
Gaol at the suit of the Corporation for $104, due for the purchase
of Manure, and his inability to discharge the same, was read and
referred to the Attorney of the Board.

A Petition of Isaac Wood, son of Isaac Wood Butcher deceased,
to be allowed to occupy the Stall lately his father's N 20 Catherine
Market, was granted.

A Petition of William Kline butcher to be allowed the Stand N
20. Catherine Market, was rejected in consequence of the preceding

A Petition of Abraham Cannon and Ebenezer Clark, respecting
the regulation of Lewis Street was referred to the Street Commis-

fA Petition of James Nesbitt for the renewal of a lease of a lot
in Chatham Street was referred to the Alderman and [121] Assistant
of the 4 th Ward and the Comptroller.

A Petition of the inhabitants in Hammond Street, for a well and
pump on the usual terms, was read and referred to the Alderman and
Assistant of the 8 th Ward with power to grant, if within the Lamp

The following Report was read and confirmed.

$The Committee to whom the petition of Jedediah Waterman was

Report that notwithstanding the facts set forth in the Petition,
Your Committee are of opinion that sufficient allowance has been
made by the late Comptroller in the rent and that the same ought not
to be reduced : Which is respectfully submitted.

John P. Ritter.
Jacob. Mott.

The following Report was also read and confirmed.

1 1 The Committee to whom was referred the petition of Lewis

Report that on the 24 th day of [122] June last the Common Coun-
cil passed an Ordinance requiring such persons as owned property
on the east side of Beekman Slip fronting the river to unite with the
Corporation to run out a pier to consist of four bridges and four

* Marginal note reads See Report P. 135, ED. f Marginal note reads See
Report P. 346. ED. J Marginal note reads See. Vol. 16. P. 380 ED. || Marginal
note reads See. P. 91. ED.


blocks and to extend 250 feet into the river opposite to the stores of
John Rogers deceased, but from the unpleasant appearance of public
affairs, most of the proprietors are desirous to postpone the building
of the said Pier until the next Spring: But the Petitioner, Lewis
Moore, being one of the proprietors, by his petition to this Board,
stating that he is desirous to sink one block and make one Bridge this
Summer, provided he may be permitted to receive the whole wharf-
age on the east side of the pier and one half of the wharfage on the
end of the pier, until the other proprietors think proper to pay him
their proportions of the expence of building said bridge and pier,
which proportion, being paid they shall be entitled to such an interest
in the pier as the law directs. It is therefore recommended by the
Committee, that Lewis Moore be permitted to make a Bridge and sink
a pier at Beekman Slip in the manner above mentioned and [123] that
this board will pay one third of the expence of said pier and receive
the wharfage on the west side of the wharf.

All which is submitted.

Selah Strong

Augt 10. 1807. John W. Mulligan

John S. Hunn.

*A Petition of John Cunningham respecting certain lots leased
from Thomas Gardner dec d at Corlaer's Hook, was read and referred
to the Street Commissioner and Comptroller.

fThe Report of the Street Commissioner on the application of
Potts [and] Moore for a Ballance due on their contract for regulating
Mulberry Street ; that the assessment on the following lots were not
paid, viz*

Warrt 259 NO 1033 $62.62

$75.43. 1057 12.81



and recommending that a warrant be issued on the Treasurer in
favour of Richard Clarkson Collector for that amount, to operate
as a lien on said Lots, which would enable the said Collector to dis-
charge the aforesaid ballance, was read and confirmed.

[124] The Report of the Street Commissioner on the Petition of
William Badeau and others, respecting the money due them on their
contract for regulating Montgomerry Street, that there appeared no
necessity for the interposition of this Board, was confirmed.

* Marginal note reads See Report P. 137. ED.
f Marginal note reads See P. 90. ED.
Marginal note reads See P. 91. ED.

522 CITY OF XEW YORK 10 Aug. 1807

The Report of the Street Commissioner in favour of
paying Mess" Halsted and Willet S123.7. ballance due
Warr l 259. them for making drains in Oak Street, James Street and
$123.7 Batavia lane, three years ago. was confirmed, and a war-
rant ordered to be issued on the Treasurer in their favour
for that amount.

The City Inspector reported drafts of Ordinances, for the purpose
of correcting various nuisances, from N 3706. to N 3710. inclusive.

Ordered that the same do pass.

The following Report from M r James Hardie to the City Inspector,
was read.


On Tuesday last I was informed by Doctor Douglas, Commis-
sioner of the Health Office, that the cemetery of the African Zion
Methodist Episcopal Church, emitted, frequently, a smell which was
very offensive [125] to the neighbours. Since that time I have re-
peatedly endeavoured to see the Sexton ; but did not fall in with him
till yesterday, towards the close of Divine Worship, when I had a
conversation with him and two of the trustees of the Congregation.

This Society has no burying ground, but inter all their dead in a
vault under the church. Since the first commencement of this prac-
tice full five years have elapsed and I believe it will be nearly correct
to state that, at an average. One hundred and fifty persons have been
interred there annually since that period : hence there are now in that
vault not less than seven hundred and fifty dead bodies.

Upon opening the door of this vault the smell is, at this season of
the year peculiarly offensive ; and I fear that unless an immediate stop
be put to the practice of interment therein, it may be productive of
terrible consequences to the neighbourhood.

The two trustees with whom I conversed informed me that since
the first complaint was made, respecting the nuisance, it had been
their anxious desire to put a stop to interments in the vault altogether ;
but that they found themselves in the minority. They observed, how-
ever, that if an order [126] should be sent by the Common Council
or Board of Health, they were persuaded an unanimous resolution
would be forthwith passed by their body, directing the discontinu-
ance of interments in the aforesaid vault.
August. 10 th 1807. James Hardie.


*Whereupon an Ordinance was passed " to restrain interments in
the Vault under the African Zion Methodist Episcopal Church."

f A Petition of John Moore representing that he is called upon by
John M c Lean for the ground rent of the premises occupied by him,
adjoining the Arsenal, who threatens a prosecution in case of refusal
to pay the same, was read and referred to the Comptroller, and the
former Committee on this subject was discharged.

A Communication of William Palmer setting forth that he has
made certain improvements in Hydraulic Machinery for the purpose
of raising water, for which he has obtained a patent, was read and
referred to the Fire department.

[127] Petitions of William Peters to be appointed Captain of the
City Watch, of George Goodheart and Isaac Anderson, to be ap-
pointed Captain in the place of Charles Van Orden deceased, were
severally read.

Resolved that this Board proceed to the appointment of two Cap-
tains of the City W'atch in the place of Magnus Beekman and Charles
Van Orden deceased.

On counting the ballots it appeared, that JJohn White was duly
elected Captain for the second district, and George Goodheart, Captain
for the third district of the City Watch.

Resolved that the Superintendant of Streets be authorized to em-
ploy as many persons as may be needful to sweep and cleanse the
streets and gutters of such persons who have left the city and
neglect to sweep and clean the same and that the said Superintendant
be empowered to collect the expence thereof from the owners and
occupants of the said houses and that the Attorney of the Board draft
an Ordinance [128] accordingly.

Resolved that a Committee be appointed to enquire into the situa-
tion of sick criminals confined in Bridewell and to devise means for
the amelioration of their condition.

Alderman R. Strong ^

Mess rs Depeyster & ^were appointed on this Committee.
Bogardus J

The Comptroller reported that there was in the Treasury the
sum of ................................................ $7000.

Ordered, that a warrant be issued in favour of Richard

YY 3.1*1*

Furman, Superintendant of the Alms House for $3000.

* Marginal note reads Vide Laws. P. 21. ED.

f Marginal note reads See. P. 26. Vol. 18. P. 253. ED.

i Marginal note reads See P. 90. ED.

524 CITY or NEW YORK 17 Aug. 1807

Fire Company N 26.

Joseph Parker, Carman of 7 th Ward was appointed Fireman in
the place of Peter Van Colt, transferred to N 33.

The Chief Engineer certifying a correspondent vacancy.

[129] Ordered that the Mayor issue his Warrants to pay

N 244. Cap* Nicholas Lawrence City Watch 237. 16

245. " William Van Wart d 237. 16

246 " John Farrington d 217.56

247 " John White d 217.56

248 " Jacob Hays do 188.16

249 " George Goodheart do 188. 16

250 Saltus Son & O cordage for Flag Staff at Battery 22.26

251 do do at Signal Poles 21.57

252 Andrew Leary, cartage for repairs of streets 13.59

253 do do docks 62.50

254 Margaret Van Orden, rent of Watch House 3 d dist 25.

255 Daniel M c Farlane. repairs to Pumps 82.80

257 Thornton, allow 6 for d in Mulberry S* 32.

258 Richd Clarkson, for Assessm* for regulating Mulberry S*

to operate as a Lien on Lots. NO 1033. & NO 1057 75.43

259 Halsted & Willet. Ball 6 due them for laying drains in Oak

& James Streets & Batavia lane 123. 7

260 Richard Furman. Supt of Alms House 3000.

256. Reuben Ayres, allows for Well & pump in Mott & Broome

Streets 32.

[130] In Common Council, August 17 th 1807.
Present Marinus Willett, Esquire Mayor.

Selah Strong

~, Mess rs Ihomas Demarest^

Roger Strong

r~, T,T , Stephen Ludlam

Thurston Wood

T , T I Esquires Robert Bogardus

Jacob Leroy * & ^Assistants

T , ,, , Aldermen. bamuel lorbert

Jacob Mott

T u T-. n/r-ii Andrew Morris

John D. Miller . . .

T i- r> o-^ Benjamin Haight

John P. Ritter. J

The Minutes of the last meeting were read and approved.

Reports from the Police Office, that George Durand, for sleeping
on his post, and Abraham Van Ambergh, for absenting himself from
duty, were suspended by Cap 1 Goodheart, that Obadiah Hunt, had
been suspended by Cap 1 Hays for absenting himself from duty; and
that Henry Bird and John [131] Sickles were also suspended by Cap 1
Farrington, for sleeping on their post, were read and referred to the
Watch Committee.


Captain Hays recommendation of Nathaniel Hazard and Abraham
D. Lent, to be appointed Watchmen, was referred to the same Com-

Captain Goodheart reported that Isaac Anderson his Assistant had
resigned his place and recommended Charles Thurston to be substitu-
ted, which was confirmed.

Captain White of the second district recommended *William Den-
nis to be appointed his Assistant, which was also confirmed.

A Communication from M r Burral, Cashier of the United States
Branch Bank, representing that an attempt had been made to break
into said Bank on the night of the 11 th and 12 th inst. and charging the
W'atchmen on duty with neglect, was read and referred to Aldermen
Leroy, R. Strong and M r Bogardus to examine into the facts relating
to said attempt and to enquire into the conduct of the Watchmen on

[132] A Letter from William Schultz, Engineer from Europe, at
present in Philadelphia, offering his services, was read and ordered
to lie on the table.

A Petition of Jasper Ward praying that an Ordinance may be
passed for paving the east side of Peck slip from the present pavement
to South Street, of which he is sole proprietor, was read and referred
to the Street Commissioner with directions to prepare an Ordinance

Online LibraryNew York (N.Y.). Common CouncilMinutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784-1831 (Volume 4) → online text (page 46 of 67)