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

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at such distances as to leave ample passage for the water between

Twenty eight of these obstructions, with [154] with intervals of
eighty feet, would, at the ends of the cheveaux de frize, leave intervals
of but fifty feet, and form a line quite across the channel. But in-
stead of filling up the whole space, it was intimated when this idea
of obstruction was first stated, and although I approve, I do not take
to myself the merit of its ingenuity, that they might run in different
lines from either side, so that altho' each line of blocks might be half
the width of the Narrows, the extremities might be an hundred
yards distant from each other, in the line of the current, this would
be always a safe uninterrupted passage for our shipping, when not
closed by a chain, and when closed would float along the current at
both flood and ebb, and thereby meet with no resistance laterally,
and as the floats would ride, each in the rear of the other, the longi-
tudinal resistance would be small. An enemy who might attempt to
force the chain, would be obliged to check his way, and consequently
his propelling force, by turning at right angles with the wind and tide,
and should the tide resist one effort, he would be immediately thrown,
by both wind and tide, with his broad side to the next line of blocks,
and [155] remain at the mercy of the batteries. Now the whole of
this defence, even at five cents the cubic foot, would be but three
hundred and twenty seven thousand six hundred dollars, and the
chain, which would answer for this purpose, is now lying in good
order, at West point. The remarks I have made relative to the
proposed obstructions before mentioned, may be said to apply here,
and that I should be found in contradiction with myself, I will there-
fore beg leave to make a few comparative observations on this subject,
which I trust every man of candor will admit to be tolerably well

536 CITY OF XEW YORK IT Aug. 1807

founded. The channel near Robins' reef has on each side an im-
mense expanse of water, and below it a body of soft mud. The
channel in the Narrows . has on each side, hard rocks and high
grounds, with a bottom that is worn down to its utmost depth, and
there is probably nothing but rock remaining. The proposed obstruc-
tions in the Narrows, admit a current of as much water between
them, as they impede the passage of : and as it is impossible to make
any impression on either side, the only effect would be to raise the
water in the Narrows as much as the opposing bulk amount to. For the
sake of round numbers. I will suppose the whole cubical contents to
be seven millions [156] of cubic feet. If this mass of water were to
be spread over the whole breadth of the Narrows, through its length,
it will be found by calculation that it would raise the surface con-
tinually with soft mud, and vast expanse on each side, is another
question, the solution of which I make no pretensions to. I do not
mean in this new statement, to abandon the position I took in my
former communication, relative to M r Fulton's torpedoes. This gen-
tleman, in the several communications I have had with him, appears
to be fully possessed of the subject of his invention, upon principles
which are all of them reducible to mathematical and experimental
demonstration ; and seeing, as I have seen, the effect of his Torpedoes.
I cannot hesitate in recommending these engines as a very powerful
auxiliary. A question of humanity has been raised relative to the use
of these machines, which in its effect has rather an inhumane tendency.
Let us, if we can. blow up a few marauding invaders, and the im-
morality and inhumanity of attacking defenceless towns, for the sake
of plunder, would be checked, while human miseries would be less-
ened by rendering such attacks less frequent. Wars [157] have in
effect been less sanguinary since the invention of gunpowder ; yet
when it was first used, it must have had a treacherous appearance.

In my last communication, I probably did not express myself so
clearly as I might have done, if it had been written more at leisure
than circumstances permitted, for I find that my meaning has not been
fully understood. In saying that ships would always pass batteries, I
meant to speak of unobstructed passages, and in the direction of a
tangent to the angle of the embrasure. This may be considered as
settled, until batteries shall be erected of a greater power than any
that have hitherto been seen : but the great force of batteries at the
entrance of a narrow passage, should be applied at the moment a
ship comes within cannon shot, and by a powerful, quick and inter-
secting fire, do her all possible injury, before she comes at right angles


j -

with the batten- : every sportsman knows the difference between a
bird flying towards him. and one flying across his view. There is no
inconsistency in my not opposing what the world seems to have
deemed incontrovertible : where there are neither submarine obstruc-
tions nor a floating force to aid the batteries, and [158] saying at the
same time, that these three, acting together, might be so placed as to
render the Narrows invulnerable. If we were to have batteries with-
out gunboats and obstructions an enemy might pass. If we were to
have obstructions without force to protect them, the enemy would
leisurely remove the dangerous pans and go between the others.
Thus, you see. sir, that in my opinion, although a reliance upon any
one mode might be illusory, the whole combined would certainly pro-
tect the Narrows, and insure security and tranquillity to this opulent

Those who object to permanent defence, because it will require
time and expence. and will agree to no expence that does not imply
immediate effect, may spend their lives in talking upon this subje::.
but they will never do any thing. Engineers do not deal in magic :
there must be a sufficiency of time, money, with a very good stock of
patience, or their works will never do any good to the public, nor
credit to themselves. If this harbour and bay were in possession of
any of the belligerent powers of Europe, their Engineers would pro-
nounce it to be perfectly defensible, but they would require a good
fund of the three requisites before mentioned, money, time and pa-
tience. What then [159] are we to do in case of a sudden unex-
pected attack? I answer that we must make use of the means we
can. on short notice, command, send our gunboats in front with an
ample collection of torpedoes to be placed in proper positions, put a
gun or two on board each one of the North river Sloops, and go down
upon the enemy like a swarm of bees. I would recommend however,
that these auxiliary sloops should keep so far in the rear of the ad-
vanced guard, as not to impede their operations. Desperate cases must
have desperate remedies : and this bold advance, with our wharve;
lined with cannon, might save the city. But this kind of defence
should never be relied on. as a sure protection By frequent repeti-
tion, it would be in effect more expensive than permanent batteries :
and at even- requisition the money so suddenly expended would be all
lost : to say nothing of the loss occasioned by diverting our citizens
from the daily pursuit of their business, and employment of their
vessels. The enemy too. might perpetually harrass us by false alarms,

538 CITY OF NEW YORK 17 Aug. 1807

till tired of preparations, without using them, we should be caught,
when we thought ourselves the most secure.

As the Corporation have not directed my [160] attention to any
particular point, I was desirous of extending my examination down to
Sandy Hook, but a violent storm drove me back, under the shelter of
Coney island. I had here an opportunity of observing a fine land
locked bay, called Gravesend bay, where the water was smooth, al-
though there was a high sea without, and where the largest fleet that
ever crossed the ocean could ride with perfect safety in four or five
fathoms of water, while only a superior naval force could annoy it.

Between the Narrows and the Hook there does not appear one
single point above water except Coney island, from which a ship could
be touched, and this is so much exposed to be attacked with success, or
to be starved out that it cannot be thought a proper place for a garri-
son. It is merely a sand bank without vegetation and without fresh
water, and even if it were formidable, ships could keep at too great
a distance to suffer from its shot, whatever might be their number or
power. Although I could not visit Sandy Hook, I have a tolerable
knowledge of that point, having passed it, and examined very ac-
curate charts. From my experience in the rivers, inlets, [161] &c : on
the coast of North and South Carolina, I am confident that no ob-
structions could be permanently placed on these moving sandbars at
the margin of the ocean. Such ideas should in my opinion be aban-
doned as soon as conceived, and although I have seen a very elegant
plan for fortifying this Hook at the expence of four millions of dol-
lars, and a perpetual garrison of eight thousand men, I cannot hesitate
to say, that if the plan were executed it \vould not in my opinion
prevent an enemy's fleet from passing by, and occupying Gravesend
Bay with very little injury.

I cannot close this account without acknowledging my obligations
to my assistants, especially as their concurrence will show that I have
hazarded no unsupported assertion, from any suggestions of the
imagination. Cap 1 Wilson navigated my boat in the precise direction
required. M r Thomas Brown placed the warp boat and kept it steady
in the proper position. M r Clark, an experienced seaman, heaved the
lead with the utmost regularity, and Lieu 1 Bomford, of the corps of
engineers, made all the requisite notes and observations with the most
minute exactness: and [162] with respect to the channel east of mud
flat, Cap 1 Wilson and M r Clark have both declared that they could
see no difficulty of carrying a ship of the line through upon a rising


Thus, Sir, I have given all the explanations on this important sub-
ject that I am capable of, and if it should give any satisfaction to the
good citizens of New York, I shall be abundantly gratified.

I have the honour to be


Your most obedient
and most humble servant

Jonathan Williams.

Ordered that the Report of Col. Williams be printed for the use
of the Board.

The following persons were appointed Firemen, the Chief Engi-
neers certifying correspondent vacancies.

N 19.

Thomas Cooper, vice, Henry Lownsberry 1 transfer d
Charles Nash. v. William Misarvy to

Heyder Somerindyke. v. Tho s Bashford J N 32.

[163] Ordered that the Mayor issue his warrants to pay

NO 261. Daniel Mcparlane, for Pump & Well corner of Warren S*

& Broadway $165.72

262. William Kay, for d corner of Rynder & Grand Streets.... 100.

263 Jacob Sprout, filling Lot 95. Chapel Street to operate as lien 34.94

264 Amos Rooke, salary, attending Signal Poles 82.50

265 James Cheetham, Printing 37.50

266 Jacob Cholwell, lighting lamps 1159.56

267 Watson & Campbell, timber for Markets &c 300.18

268 Stagg & Anson, Ball 6 of contract for regulating Broadway.

above Jones Street 250.

269 Justus Dearman, on ace* of Pier at Burling Slip 500.

270 John H. Sickles, on acct of Building Comme 1000.

Adjourned to meet at the Alms House on Thursday next 4. P. M.
for the purpose of taking into consideration the subject of protecting
and fortifying this city and harbour.

N. B. This meeting was postponed to afford the Committee further
time to sound the harbour.



24 Aug. 1807

[164] In Common Council. August 24 th 1807

Present Marinus Willett, Esquire Mayor

Maturine Livingston, Esq r Recorder.

Jacob Mott

Roger Strong

Selah Strong

John D. Miller

Nicholas Fish

John P. Ritter.

Jacob Leroy.

Wynant Van Zandt Jun r

Mess" Gerard Depeyster
Thomas Demarest
Samuel Torbert

Esquires Benjamin Haight

f Aldermen. John Hopper, Jun r

Andrew Morris
John W. Mulligan
Stephen Ludlam


The Minutes of the last meeting were read and approved.

A Report from the Police Office, that John Webb and Joseph
Alden Watchmen of Captain Farrington's Company were suspended
for sleeping on their posts, was [165] read and referred to the Watch

*A Petition of William Cutting for the regulating Norfolk Street
from Grand to Stanton Streets was read and referred to the Street

f A Memorial of Isaac Samo and others, inhabitants of Chamber
Street, against the assessment for removing a Building in said Street,
was read and ordered to lie on the table.

A Memorial of Silas Lawrence and others against the Assess-
ment for building a bulkhead at Beekman Slip was read and ordered
to lie on the table.

A Petition of John S. Henry setting forth that he is materially in-
jured by the late order of the Board prohibiting auctioneers from
selling goods in Vesey Street, was read and ordered to lie on the

A Petition of Charles Dobbs and others for the regulation of
First Street from Grand to Delancey Street, was read and referred to
the Street Commissioner.

||A Petition of Waters Furman and John P. Anthony, sureties for
John Bussing Collector of an Assessment on Division Street, praying
[166] an adjustment of his accounts for said Street, was read and
ordered to lie on the table.

A Petition of John Fash, butcher for a stand in Duane Market,
was referred to the Market Committee

* Marginal note reads See P. 280. ED. t Marginal note reads See P. 137
170. ED. t Marginal note reads See P. 137. ED. || Marginal note reads See.
P. 195. ED.


A Communication from Cap 1 Goodheart of the 3 d Watch district
stating that several of his men are also Firemen who, in case of Fire
while on Watch, leave their posts, was read : Whereupon* Resolved,
that no Fireman shall be a Watchman of this city.

M r Torbert gave notice that he should move for a reconsideration
of this resolution.

A Petition of the Devisees of Edward Laight deceased for pay-
ment of the ballance due them for damages assessed for opening
Cherry Street was read and referred to the Street Commissioner and

Ordered that a Warrant be issued in favour of John H.
V V 3.rr

Sickles for $1000 to be paid to the Contractors for deliver-
ing marble for the New City Hall.

A Report of the Committee of repairs on the dilapidated state of
Oswego Market was read, recommending that the eastern end [167]
of said Market be taken down, which was confirmed.
The following Report was read and confirmed.
fThe Market Committee to w r hom the petitions of John Ferris,
Peter Chapel, Cornelius J. Westervelt & others ; William Gibson and
John Gilmore were referred

Report that Fifty cents be added to the present weekly allowance
per week to John Ferris for sweeping the Hudson and Oswego
Markets, making two dollars per week.

JThat it is inexpedient to grant a permit to Peter Chapel to sell
meat in the upper part of the Bowery lane.

That the practice of selling small meats within the Hudson mar-
kets house, without licence, ought to be discontinued.

John P. Ritter
Thomas Demarest.

The following Report of the Attorney was read and confirmed.

||The Attorney of this Board to whom was referred the petition of
the inhabitants of Vesey Street praying that the Sales at Auction in
the said Street may be restrained, begs [168] leave to report, that the
present Ordinance regulating the Sales at Auction is sufficiently penal
provided the same was enforced that the best and only way of check-
ing the present practice of exposing dry goods, hardware or other
articles, excepting house hold furniture to sale in any of the public
streets, would be to instruct the Street Commissioner to let some of

* Marginal note reads See P. 225. ED. f Marginal note reads See P.
91. ED. $ Marginal note reads See. P. 83. ED. || Marginal note reads See P.
90. ED.

542 CITY OF NEW YORK 24 Aug. 1807

the persons in his employ, mark the offender or offenders and report
them to the proper officer as the only method of correcting the pro-
cedure. As to that part of the petition which prays this Board to
restrain the sales of furniture in the said Street, I am of opinion that
this Board cannot change the place of sale in any possible way, so as
to lessen the evil and to remove them altogether would prove a serious
inconvenience to the persons concerned. They ought to have some
place assigned them for the conducting of those sales, and no Street on
the west side of Broadway is better suited than the one in which they
are at present permitted to sell. I would also have the law strictly
enforced as the best remedy for the evil complained of, I would sub-
mit to [169] the Board the propriety of having that particular law
published with a notice that hereafter every violation thereof would
be promptly noticed.

All which is submitted
August 24 th 1807 I. A. Van Hook.

*The following Report of the Attorney was read and Ordered to
lie for consideration :

The Attorney of the Board begs leave to state that after diligent
search and enquiry for Testimony in the cause of Colver v s Corpora-
tion in relation to the Mud Machines, he has been able to collect the
following. First as it relates to one of them it appears that it was
purchased from Colver, and when it decayed a new boat was built
but all the old works put in the new boat ; and as they wore out or
got broken new ones were procured. As to the other two built some
few years since, they are not altogether in imitation of Colvers, yet
the variation is not so great as to exempt the Corporation from the
charge of having used his for their model. M r Emmet says he shall
advise his client to compromise with the Corporation and that it shall
not be unreasonable. Which is submitted

Aug 1 24. 1807. I. A. Van Hook

[170] fThe Street Commissioner reported an Assessment for re-
moving a building in Chamber Street, which was confirmed.

|The Street Commissioner presented a new Assessment for mak-
ing a bulkhead at Beekman Slip, which was confirmed and William
Peters was appointed Collector.

The Street Commissioner reported a list of delinquents on the
assessment for paving Church Street from Leonard to Lispenard

11 Marginal note reads See P. 36 193. En.
t Marginal note reads See P. 137. ED.
4: Marginal note reads See P. 137. ED.


Ordered that a warrant be issued to enforce payment.

The Street Commissioner reported that Matthew Bolmer, who was
appointed Assessor for opening Cross Street declined serving : where-
upon Gabriel Furman was appointed in his place.

The Street Commissioner presented returns made by John Buss-
ing of Delinquents on Assessments for regulating
Bullock Street from Bowery to Broadway.
Grand Street from Broadway to Rynder S*
Mulberry Street from Broome to Prince S l
Division Street from Orchard to Essex Street.

[171] Roosevelt Street from Chatham Street to Batavia lane.

And as Richard Clarkson has been appointed Collector in place
of said Bussing the Street Commissioner recommended that warrants
to compel payment be passed in favour of said Clarkson, which was

*The Comptroller and Street Commissioner to whom was referred
the application of Robert Lylburn respecting a grant of Common
Lands reported

That the line between the lands of the Corporation and M r Bu-
chanan having been settled, it only remains, previous to giving the
deed to M r Lylburn, that the price at which he is to pay per acre for
the ground should be determined. By former resolutions of the Board
the whole subject was referred to the, then, Comptroller and the
Street Commissioner and by a late resolution the present Comptroller
was directed to report his opinion as to the mode of settlement. But
as any valuation which might be made by an Officer of the Board
would not be obligatory on M r Lylburn, and as therefore, in addi-
tion to its not being a final determination of the business, it would give
[172] him an election which would not as between him and the Cor-
poration be fair and equal, the subscribers would therefore respect-
fully suggest the propriety of submitting the valuation of the land
to Arbitrators ; one to be appointed by the Board, one by M r Lilburne
and a third to be chosen by the two persons so appointed. To this
arrangement M r Lylburn has signified his assent.

All which is respectfully submitted

August 24. 1807. J. Morton

John S. Hunn.

Ordered that said Report lie over for consideration.

* Marginal note reads See Vol. 16. P. 270. 464. See P. 228. 269 ED.

544 CITY OF NEW YORK 24 Aug. 1807

*The Comptroller's Report recommending an extension of the
Lease of Hoboken Ferry to David Codwin for the further term of
three Years on the same terms of his present lease, was read and
ordered to lie over.

The City Inspector reported drafts of Ordinances for the purpose
of correcting nuisances from X 3722. to X 3726 inclusive

Ordered that the same do pass.

The following letter from Colonel [173] \Villiams was presented
and read.

To Selah Strong Esq r
Chairman of the
Committee of the

Fort Columbus August 21.


In compliance with the request of the Committee expressed in your
letter of the 18 th inst. I have sounded from the Southern part of
Redhook in a direction West by South to the middle of the main
channel bringing the eastern extremity of Bedlows island to bear
North by east half east. I divided the soundings into equal distances
of time and supposing the Boat to have equal way upon her the
division of the length of the lines by the number of soundings gives
about thirty yards for the distance between the heaves of the lead : by
pursuing this calculation it will be found that the width of the interior
channel, eastward of Mud flat, where the water on each side was three
and a half fathoms and in the middle five, is about three hundred
yards, this was about half tide. The width of the Flat will by the
same rule be found to be about four hundred yards with [174] not
less than three and a half fathoms and the rest of the line will be
found to be a gradual slope from four to eleven fathoms in a distance
of about twenty- one hundred yards, the averaged depth of which
will be six and a half fathoms, the whole length will be found about
two hundred yards short of a mile and three quarters as required,
but as I brought the bearings of Bedlows island exactly as marked
by a pencil line on Cap 1 Chaunceys and M r Loss' Chart, and as the
tide had caused me to deviate one half a point from the course, I
conclude that this spot was the termination of the proposed line. I
then sunk a Buoy and proceeded to Cawan Point, where I waited for

* Marginal note reads See . P. 422. Vol. 18. P. 7. ED.


the next tide. On proceeding from this point in a South east direc-
tion as required I found about eighteen hundred or two thousand
yards of soft mud, in some places six, but no where deeper than
eight feet. We then came rather suddenly into five fathoms and
continued deepning till we came into eleven fathoms and brought
Bedlows island to bear nearly as before North North east : running
across [175] we had about a dozen heaves of eleven fathoms, and
then shoaled gradually till we came on the flat again, precisely as we
ran off it before. Night coming on with contrary winds we could not
proceed up in the line of the channel, but by frequent previous sound-
ing. I am convinced it is no where less than eleven and in many places
fifteen fathoms, between the part we crossed to the point of Gover-
nor's island. I beg leave to observe that there can be no doubt of the
accuracy of Cap 1 Chaunceys soundings, which I understand were all
taken in a boat and in fine weather; the differences therefore are only
to be ascribed to the changes a soft muddy bottom is liable to in the
way of currents and in a long course of time. Desirous of giving the
earliest information. I have not been able to accompany this letter
with a section of the depths ; but Lieu 1 Bomford will wait upon you
with one on Monday morning, in the mean time I send you inclosed a
correct account of all the soundings arranged in the order they were

I have the honour to be
very respectfully

Your obedient Serv :

Online LibraryNew York (N.Y.). Common CouncilMinutes of the Common Council of the City of New York, 1784-1831 (Volume 4) → online text (page 48 of 67)