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EARLY NEW YORK











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An Address by

HON. ROBERT B. ROOSEVELT

delivered before

THE NEW YORK SOCIETY

OF THE

ORDER OF THE FOUNDERS AND
PATRIOTS OF AMERICA

January 15, 1904





An Address by

HON. ROBERT B. ROOSEVELT

delivered before

THE NEW YORK SOCIETY

OF THE

ORDER OF THE FOUNDERS AND
PATRIOTS OF AMERICA

January 15, 7904



THE NEW YORK SOCIETY

OF THE

Order of the Founders and Patriots of America



OFFICERS

FOR THE YEAR ENDING APRIL 19, 1904

Governor
Hon. ROBERT B. ROOSEVELT

Deputy- Governor
THEODORE FITCH

Chaplain
Rev. GEORGE B. SPALDING, D. D.

Secretary
SAMUEL VICTOR CONSTANT

Treasurer
HENRY DUHRING MILLER

State Attorney
WALTER SETH LOGAN

Registrar
TEUNIS D. HUNTTING

Geneaolgist
COLGATE HOYT

Historian
JOHN ELDERKIN

Councillors
MILO MERRICK BELDING, Jr.

HENRY LINCOLN MORRIS

Col. HENRY W. SACKETT

EDWARD PAYSON CONE
Hon. WILLIAM WINTON GOODRICH
WILLIAM A. MARBLE

THEODORE GILMAN

HOWARD SUMNER ROBBINS

JAMES LE BARON WILLARD



Note

The following address was delivered by the Hon.
Robert B. Roosevelt, Governor of the New York
Society of the Order, before said Society, at a meet-
ing held in the Hotel Manhattan, New York City,
Friday evening, January 15, 1904. Its publication
was directed by the New York Society of the Order of
the Founders and Patriots of America.



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EARLY NEW YORK

BY
HON. ROBERT B. ROOSEVELT



T AM fond of the city of New York, and yet, if you ask me
* why, I do not know that I could tell. I am fond and proud of
the city ; I have seen it grow from a very little place, scarcely
more than a fair-sized village to a very big place ; one of the
three biggest cities in the world. I don't think, however, that
its mere "bigness " has much to do with my affection for it.

It is my home, and as such I know it at least partially, for it is
expanding even beyond my acquaintanceship. So many of its
inhabitants are my friends, so many of them seem to know me,
and I know so many of them. And then they are the best people in
the world, the most generous, the most intelligent, most public-
spirited, most upright, most philanthropic. It is not that here
alone art, and music, and literature, wealth, sociability, enter-
prise, have their natural abiding place as in no other city of the
continent. There is something more than all this. I think I
must be fond of New York because I and my forbears before
me have been part of it for many generations. A friend, who is
of a poetical disposition, hearing that I was to speak to you,
sends me these lines, which perhaps cover my case.

Why do I love New York? My dear,

Well, were my father here,
And his, and his, they three and I

Together might make fit reply.

My ancestors, however, would run back to a good many more
than three.

If there is one thing for which a Founder and Patriot longs, it is
for facts. When, and Where, and Who, and What are his favorite
conundrums, and the charming inquisitive female Founder sur-
passes the male in that as she does in all things, and is even
more omniverous of dry details. So I shall divide my address



8 Early New York

into two parts: Facts and Fancies. First, the hard dry details
of history, mostly false or mis-stated, and then the dreams
of fancy — the revelling in " What might have been " — or may
yet be.

Hendrick Hudson, the old Dutch navigator, sailing along the
coast in his vessel, the " Half Moon," in a vain search for the
Northwest passage to somewhere, he did not have the least idea
where, discovered the beautiful bay and river to which he gave
his name. This is accepted history just as it is written for
our guileless and unsuspicious youth, only it contains a few
errors. Hendrick Hudson was not a Dutch navigator at all, but
an English one; his name was not Hendrick, but Henry. He
did not discover the bay or river, both of which had been dis-
covered by the Florentine sailor Verrazano in 1529, and by the
hardy Norsemen before him. We rarely call either the river or
bay after Hudson in these times, one being the North River,
the other New York Bay, so perhaps it doesn't much matter after
all whether he discovered them or not.

There is more doubt and dispute still about thetimeand manner
of the settling of our great and good city. Hudson only looked,
and loved and sailed away. There was no Northwest passage,
and like a true sailor, he would not accept West or North, not
even nor-nor-west itself for the Northwest he was sailing for,
and so Manhattan Island was left deserted in all her loveliness
like a second inanimate Dido. Others followed Hudson, for it
had got to be the habit of travelling sailsmen to explore strange
coasts and devious ways. One Christiansen, whose name does
not seem to have stuck to anything; Block, from whom Block
Island is named; May, from whom perhaps we get our pleasant
Spring weather, found their intruding ways here and were
captured by the attractions of our shores, and determined to
settle down and grow up with the country.

Hendrick Hudson, of whom it is even alleged by his detractors
that he had read about the discovery of New Netherlands, and
had come over with a map in his capacious pocket, sailed into
the Hudson River on September 2, 1609, in the Dutch vessel,
the " Half Moon." So far, so good ; but it is generally said that
he was in the employ of the Dutch West India Company. As
that company was not chartered till June 3, 1621, here we strike
the first rock, so to speak. He was employed by the Dutch



Early New York 9

East India Company, which was succeeded by the New Nether-
lands Trading Company, and after that came the West India
Company, the first two being purely trading companies with no
political powers. It has even been alleged that the Island was
not settled till 1624, when Adrian Jorisen brought a dozen
families in the ship " Eendracht," or " Unity." Others, equally
good authorities, say that there never was any such ship as the
"Eendracht" or "Unity," in these waters, and claim that the
first settlement was made by Cornelius Jacobsen May with the
ship " New Netherland." But as Captain Block had been driven
ashore on Manhattan Island by the burning of his ship in 1613,
and as he had built a yacht and gone cruising for pleasure and
wild ducks in her around Long Island, we may fairly assume an
earlier date. The interpretation of the word "settlement" proba-
bly is the cause of the confusion. We know that Christiansen,
when he came over in the " Fortune " somewhere about that
time built houses or huts as a sort of an abiding place, and we
can call that the first settlement.

Then again as to the name, it is doubtful whether we are
rightfully entitled to be the Island of Manhattan. On one side
it is said that the name was derived from a tribe of Indians, on
the other, that it was purely descriptive and meant "great sweet
nice," and that the Indians rejoiced in the more impressive, if
less euphonious name of Reckgawawancs— so possibly we ought
to be on the Island of the Reckgawawancs; but as "great sweet
nice " describes our Dutch city, we will cling to Manhattan.
Nevertheless, it has to be admitted that this great Dutch city was
hardly in a proper sense of the word a Dutch city at all. There
never was any Mayor of New Amsterdam, and the first Mayor
of New York was a Yankee out and out— one Thomas Willet
of Plymouth, Mass. Gov. Stuyvesant, on February 2, 1653,
erected New Amsterdam into a municipality, but as he would
not allow it to elect its own Schout, nor indeed, to have any
Schout proper at all, it could hardly be called a Dutch city, for
how could a Dutch city exist without a Schout. And when it
tried to elect one in 1654, its choice happening to fall on a man
who had already been scalped by the Indians, it seemed to get
discouraged and gave up the attempt. Stuyvesant loaned them
his own, for he kept a private Schout, a Schout seeming to be a
good thing to have in a family. You of course all know that the



ro Early New York

governing body of a Dutch city consists of three parts, the
Schout, the Burgomasters and Schepens. I do not need to
mention that.

But leaving all this ancient history somewhat in the dark, we
get at the substantial fact of the capture of the Island by the
English, the creation of the city by the proclamation of Gov.
Nicolls on June 12, 1665, and the appointment of the Yankee,
Thomas Willett, mayor, one of those inflictions coming from the
governor that have been followed by so many more from his
successors at Albany. It was christened New York, but did not
remain so long.

Then followed its recapture by the Dutch, and its re-christening
from both New Amsterdam and New York into New Orange,
the only thing permanent being the word " new," so that while
it is certainly ancient it was also ever " new." It only remained
New Orange, however, about a year, and few people remember
that it ever held that name at all. The last of the Dutch gover-
nors, Gov. Colve, surrendered the whole of the New Nether-
lands on February 8, 1674, they having been permanently ceded
to England by the Treaty of Westminster. The name of New
York was thereupon resumed, the charter restored, and the first
native-born mayor, a good Dutchman, Stephanus Van Cortlandt,
was elected in 1677.

On the first day of Januar)', 1898, we had the last of the im-
portant changes, the expansion of the city into the Greater New
York, and the restoration of the old name of the " great sweet
nice" Borough of Manhattan.

" Old Things Are Best " ? Are they— who knows ? I am sure
I don't. I may think so, but is not that thought pure prejudice ?
Let us picture the old times and the old life. First look at the
conformation of the island. The backbone just raised sufficiently
above the level of the two noble rivers which washed its pebbly
shores on the one side and the other ; the magnificent bay, a
harbor fit for all the navies of the world, stretching away on the
South to the limitless ocean beyond ; on the north, the funny
little creek of Spuytden Duyvel, whose waters suggest its name
just as Scotch whiskey suggests hot water and sugar ; the
farms running down to these beautiful rivers where fish abounded
so that Fishery Commissions were things beyond conception.
Think of St. John's Park extending to the water's edge where



Early New York ii

the waves of the Hudson lapped its very shores. Think of
my own ancestral farm in the Krippel Bush fronting on the
East river, where the big bass, those of sixty and seventy pounds
made their habitat and where the ancestral farms of many of
you, my hearers, which were equally beautiful, were located.
Manhattan was a Paradise of beauty and attractiveness, of whose
charms I could discourse all night, but which I must leave to
your imaginations.

To reconstruct the exquisite old New Amsterdam home we
must have the splendid, substantial and buxom Dutch Vrouw,
first and always, for therein comes another of those ancient
prejudices fast passing away that a wife is the first necessity for
human happiness — a good wife, a loving wife and a sensible one,
for those Dutch Vrouws were all that. So reconstruct the home
with its big chimney, its bottle of Genever, mis-named schnapps,
which is a German, not a Dutch term. The good man taking
his rest after his day's work, and smoking his long clay pipe,
De Goede Vrouw sewing or knitting and talking, for they were
industrious women, those Goede Vrouws, and great talkers.
They had their say on all important matters, although they put
their husbands at the head of the house. The moral tone, in the
sense of private purity, was absolutely unsurpassed. The best
and unanswerable proof of this, is the fact that for a family to
consist of less than nine children was rather discreditable. Why
nine and not ten or eleven it is hard to say, unless perhaps after
the example of the Muses. This lasted unbroken until the Eng-
lish conquest, when the manners of the corrupt English court
came, but even then fast life was confined to the ruling families,
and the domestic virtues retired to the old stock as they do to-
day. Extravagance and gallantry took their place among the
little imitation court of the English governors, of men like Corn-
bury, whose great delight it was to dress himself up like a woman,
of Lovelace brought up in the fashionable gaiety which sur-
rounded Charles the Second.

Even in later days the same conditions existed down to the
time of the Revolution, when Hamilton brought his French man-
ners, betraying the wife to whom and to whose family he owed
everything that he had or was, and when his political and per-
sonal rival, Aaron Burr, equalled or surpassed him in his evil
reputation and successes of gallantry.



12 Early New York

Historians have talked of our smuggling and piracy. Well,
what of it, as the boys say in the street. Under the absurd laws
of liberal Holland, New Amsterdam was not permitted to trade
with any but her mother country ; it could not send a cargo to
New England, nor to Virginia. To receive goods from either
was smuggling in the eyes of the law. Does any one suppose
that Dutchmen ar any other men would submit to such a regu-
lation, and as for piracy, the greatest act of piracy ever com-
mitted was when England captured New Amsterdam in a time
of profound peace, descending upon it and its peaceful burghers
when they were wholly unprepared. They have always been in
the habit of calling our famous revolutionary hero, Admiral Paul
Jones, a pirate because he gored their ox, so to speak, by defeat-
ing their fighting ships.

On the high seas, it is true, that New Amsterdamers pursued
and captured the Spaniard, and brought occasionally a Spanish
galleon into port, but whoever has read the history of the
Eighty Years' War by the most ruthless nation of the world
upon a little and harmless and peaceful country, and of the acts
of inconceivable cruelty which were committed, will justify any
retaliatory act of piracy.

What if a few grandees were made to "walk the plank."
Compare that to strapping men erect where water would drip
on their heads drop by drop, hour after hour, till they went
raving mad and died in agonies unspeakable. Men broken on
the wheel, torn with red-hot pincers, starved to death over a
refectory so that they might have the fumes of food which they
were never to taste. Piracy was a pleasantry, a duty towards
such a nation. There could as soon be peace and love between
Hollanders and Spaniards as there can be between the South
African Boers and the English who in their fatuous misconfidence
believe that their merciless war upon women and their ruthless
murder of children in the Transvaal will ever be forgotten or
forgiven.

But let us turn from these painful subjects. No city was more
patriotic than ours. A German resident of New Amsterdam
named Leisler was the first to refuse to pay duty on a cargo of
wine before tea parties were popular. He summoned the first
Colonial Congress and was hanged for treason on the ground
facing the City Hall Park to the east. The first blood of the



Early New York 13

Revolution was shed on Golden Hill, part of Pearl street, by the
" Liberty Boys," a patriotic organization, and about the raising
of a liberty pole. During the Revolution the English again
being able to enter our beautiful harbor, could suppress mani-
festations of this patriotism, but could not destroy it.

And how the city has changed ! The last hundred years have
shown the greater part of that change. Up to that time quiet,
respectable Philadelphia was the commanding city, Boston was
a bustling place, always full of its own importance and doing
things which the sober minded intelligence of New York and
Philadelphia did not approve. A place where the " I am better
than thou " feeling abounded, a home for nullification and
secession, for interfering with slavery and other peoples business
generally. It was not till the discovery of the ginning machine
which made cotton king that New York sprang into first im-
portance. Up to that time ships of three and four hundred tons
were first-class vessels. King Cotton demanded better accommo-
dations. Nothing less than a thousand tons would do for him.
And so our deep harbor was utilized, and New York started.
At about the same time the great Erie Canal was built through
the energy of a Dutchman, for Dutchmen naturally loved canals,
and the city grew and grew. Think of it, when State street was
the fashionable residence and promenade. Could there be a
finer spot in the world, facing the Battery that, facing the bay,
was washed by its waves and perfumed by the breezes from the
Jersey shores where petroleum factories were not. With the
beautiful view in front of the Narrows, Nutten Island and the
other little islands, and good fishing off the rocks where the
Battery sea wall was to be. In that same State street lived
Washington Irving, Robert Fulton, Stephen Whitney, and 1
know not how many more.

Is it worth while for me to follow the residential growth ? Up
Broadway, clinging around Bowling Green even down to my
early days, along Greenwich street and East and West Broad-
way. Then leaping to Fourteenth street, and after that to Fifth
avenue and on and on away up and up towards Harlem.

As one of the best examples of the incredible progress of the
city, take the schools. Previous to 1805 there were only two
kinds ; private ones for pay, and charity schools maintained by
the religious denominations.



I4 Early New York

In 1805, De Witt Clinton started the first chartered free school
in the words—" The Society for establishing a free school in the
City of New York, for the education of such poor children as do
not belong to or are not provided for by any religious society."
A pretty long title for a very little school which was first opened
the following year, 1S06, in Bancker, now Madison street. In 1808
the title was changed to the " Free School Society of the City of
New York," and a commodious building for five hundred pupils
was provided by the Common Council, money being then raised
by the State for education, as it has been ever since. In 1815,
the " Free School Society " got $3,708.14 for its share. In 1824
the Society was placed wholly under the care of the Common
Council and the latter excluded all religious schools from par-
ticipation in the school moneys. In 1826, children who could
afford to pay were required to do so. In 1829 a tax was first
laid on the city exclusively for public education. In 1844 the
common school system of the State was applied to New York.
And in 1853 the Public School Society conveyed all its property
to the Board of Education of the City of New York, who then
consisted of 21 Commissioners and no Trustees, a system which
has substantially existed till to-day. In that year the pupils
numbered 43,740, and cost to teach $569,036.08. In the year
1868, there were 96,000 pupils at a cost of $2,900,000, or thirty
dollars a head. For the year 1904 the Department of Education
demanded for its purposes the sum of $23,260,472.30. It is true
that the Department of Education has been characterized by the
Comptroller of the city as the most extravagantly managed of
any, but the figures give an idea of the growth, even if it were
properly and economically administered, of the public school
system of the City of New York.

Nothing shows the growth of a city more than the amount of
taxes the citizens have to pay. In the early days there was dis-
pute about taxation. Would that there was an equally rebel-
lious spirit in these modern days. They were mostly indirect,
however, on licenses, hotel and beer privileges, and the like, and
the monopoly of bolting flour which had been granted to the city,
was of vast value. Governor Stuyvesant was liberal in allowing
his newly created city to settle pretty much for itself the amount
and method of taxation. To-day, in this year of 1904, the
assessable value of property for the purposes of taxation on



Early New York 15

Manhattan alone is three thousand five hundred millions on real
estate, and three thousand eight hundred and ninety millions of
personal property, while on corporations, banks, and so forth,
there are about five hundred and forty millions. Practically
eight thousand millions. It is true that under the blessings of
a " Reform Administration," the amount was increased one thou-
sand six hundred and fifty-eight millions in one year, with a
view to generous expenditures, but still a fair estimate is over
seven thousand millions, on a little island for which our wise
ancestors paid twenty-four dollars, and in glass beads at that.
But there were no white inhabitants here then and few red ones,
and now there are three millions and over of the former, and the
original huts of Christiansen and Jorisen have grown into struc-
tures twenty-four stories high, till "the unearned increment"
has become so large that it must appal Henry George's queer set
of followers, if there are any left.

There were no railroads in those olden days, none of those
villainous iron tracks which always remind one of the way of
good intentions. There were no steamboats, and you sailed
placidly to Albany in three pleasant yachting days, Fulton not
having completed the " Clermont" till 1807. The public parks,
and even the private gardens were places to dream in, and friend
met friends on the streets at every turn. And there was bowling
around the Bowling Green. Now we have elevated railroads,
are going to have underground abominations of travel, have
steam lines and steamboats everywhere, have trolleys in the
streets to the peril of our lives, have carriages, bicycles and auto-
mobiles, and St. John's lovely park has been converted into a
foul, grimy railroad station. In those olden days there were no
women doctors, no women lawyers, no women's clubs, but only
loving domestic wives to whom husband and children were all
of life, and life's happiness, and who made their homes perhaps
more comfortable than their advanced women sisters of to-day.
The girls were gentle, modest, submissive and affectionate, they
wore shoes with soles of paper, and had delicate appetites, and
died of consumption. There was no skating, golfing nor horse-
back riding, and the ubiquitous and aggressive shop girl of the
present day had not been dreamed of. And the tedium of office
life was not relieved by the presence of the pretty little lady
stenographer.



x 6 Early New York

Was New York happier or better then than it is now ? Let
each of my hearers answer to his or her own satisfaction. I am
sure I do not know. When I began my address and looked at
the beautiful women before me, I felt almost sorry that those
beautiful women had not lived three hundred years ago, and all
been blooming Dutch Vrouws. Now that I look at them again
at the close of my discourse, I am so glad that they were not
alive three hundred years ago, for they would have been badly
shrivelled, if not wholly gone now, and what should we do, or
what would the world be without them.



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Online LibraryRobert Barnwell RooseveltEarly New York; an address → online text (page 1 of 1)