Copyright
William Reed Prentice.

History of New York state (Volume 1) online

. (page 9 of 34)
Online LibraryWilliam Reed PrenticeHistory of New York state (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Rip Van Dam, and Colonel Van Rensselaer were mem-
bers of his council, and among his friends he reckoned
Chief Justice Morris and Jacob Van Cortlandt.

* Palatine, Palatine Bridge, and German Flats, Ilion
now stand where these first settlements were made.

(147)



148 GoYERNOR Hunter [Period IV

His friends being chiefly among the wealthy men of
the colony, he soon found himself opposed by a majority
of the assembly, who insisted on higher prerogatives.
The governor was inclined to curtail those they already
possessed. This soon led to a disagreement just when
he had greatest need of their cooperation.

Hunter's effort was to make officeholders independ-
ent of the people. He even erected courts without
the consent of the assembly. That body appealed to
the House of Lords, which sustained the governor and
let the people know that her majesty had an undoubted
right to create as many courts as she pleased.

Here we may see premonitioais of that resistance to ar-
bitrary rule which was in a half century to cause open
rebellion and lead to revolution and ultimate separa-
tion. Governor Hunter soon grew weary of contro-
versy; but he remained until 1719, when broken health
fina*lly compelled his return to Engla'nd.

The first negro plot^ 1712. — What is commonly
known as the "First Xegro Plot" occurred while
Governor Hunter was in office. The slave trade still
existed. Most of the slaves in New York had been
brought from Africa*, and were consequently ignorant
and degraded. The number was not large, but there
was a general sense of insecurity on account of their
presence. Masters were not allowed to set their negroes
free. Severe punishments were inflicted, and often
there was resistance. A fire occurred which was be-
lieved to be the work of an incendiary. A search for

* The first slave market in New York was set up in

1700.



1720] GoYERXOR Burnett 149

the offender and a consequent riot followed. Some
one raised the cry "The negroes!" It was reported
that there was a plot to burn the city and soon the
prisons were filled with " suspects ".

A few were executed and others Avere burned at the
stake before the unreasoning fear subsided "i^.

(Tovernor IVilliaiu Burnett^ 17*20. — On the de-
parture of Governor Hunter,
there being no lieutenant-
governor, Peter Schuyler as
senior member of the council
V became acting governor. An

I; . _ honest, brave, capable man,

^Emmti^^' thoroughly familiar with all

^^^^^^^ the affairs of the colony, he

^^H^B filled the position with dis-

^^^^ ' ' tinguished ability until the

William Burnett arrival of GoVCmor Bumett

in 1720. After a long train of governors, who had
come out to the colony to serve their own interests
rather than those of the people, it was a great change
to receive one man who had a higher notion of hi&
duties t.

The new governor was the son of Bishop Burnett.
He is said to have been "polite, sociable, well-read,

*It is probable that the Treaty of Utrecht did quite
as much to restore confidence as did the execution of
a dozen or more unfortunate slaves.

t Even the Earl of Chatham, who should have known
better, once remarked that a man fit to govern an
American colony could be found in any one of his.
majesty's regiments.



150 Governor Burnett [Period IV

quick, intelligent, and well-disposed", and he did not
show the usual craving to get rich at the expense of
those whom he had come to govern. Very soon after
his arrival he established a fort and trading post on
Lake Ontario where Oswego now stands. This point
was the entrepot through which the French had long
been carrying on a profitable trade with the Xew York
Indians. By this means the traffic was again diverted
to the English. Governor Burnett also secured the
passage of a law prohibiting trade with the French by
way of Lake Charaplain. This trade, very profitable
to certain New York merchants, was thought to en-
danger the peace with the Loqouis, as through it they
were coming more and more into communication with
the French and the Canadian Indians.

A French post at Niagara. — To these attacks on
their trade the French responded by constructing a
fort and trading post at Niagara, through which they
hoped to accomplish the same results. In this manner
these two places came into prominence, and remained
as military posts long after the Indian traffic of New
York had ceased to be a source of profit, and even
when Canada had permanently passed from under the
dominion of France.

Removal of Governor Bnrnett^ 1728. — LTnfor-
tunately, the closing years of Governor Burnett's ad-
ministration were clouded by differences with the
assembly. The complaints against the governor were
inspired by certain merchants whose trade had been
injured by the restrictions placed upon traffic with
Canada. This disagreement grew until, for the sake
of peace, it was thought best to transfer him to the



1732] Governor Montgomery 151

governorship of Massachusetts, and in 1728 he was
succeeded in Xew York by John Montgomery, a
Scotchman.

The Connecticut boundary dispute, 1781. — In

Montgomery's administration a settlement was reached
in the long-standing dispute over the Connecticut
boundary.

In 1664 a line had been agreed upon, but it was
claimed that fraud was practised by the surveyors who
marked it. Again in 1725 an attempt had been made
to settle the dispute, and another partition line had
been agreed upon which also proved unsatisfactory.
In 1731 the case once more came up, and a final adjust-
ment of the line was made ^.

Governor Montgomery died in 1731. Rip Van Dam,
as senior member of the council, became acting gover-
nor until the coming of Governor AVilliam Cosby in
1732.

Cosby and Tan Dam, 1732. — One event of Cosby's
administration well illustrates the character of the
man. Van Dam had served as governor thirteen
months before Cosby arrived, and the assembly voted
him a governor's pay for his services. On his arrival
Cosby asked Van Dam to turn over to him one-half of

* By the agreement then made a tract of land con-
taining 60,000 acres on the Connecticut side of the
former line was ceded to New York. From its peculiar
shape it was called " The oblong ". In return an equal
amount of land lying near Long Island Sound was given
to Connecticut. This last is included in that part of
Fairfield County, Conn., which extends westward to
the Brvan river.



152 Governor Cosby [Period IV

that salary. Xaturally Van Dam refused to do so.
Cosby at once proceeded against him in the colonial
court; but instead of taking it to the court of equity,
where it belonged, he took it to the court of chancery
over which he himself presided. To this Van Dam's
counsel objected, and the chief justice, Lewis Morris,
sustained the objection. Cosby promptly removed
Morris and appointed James DeLancy to his place ^.
These high-handed proceedings set even the governor's
own council against him, and soon resulted in one of
the most celebrated trials of the colonial period.

The Zeiiger trial, 1735.— William Bradford, who
had, at Philadelphia, set up the first newspaper in 1687,
was now government printer, and had started a paper
in ISTew York city. He espoused the cause of Gover-
nor Cosby and his friends. The opposition, also, had
a paper which was managed by John Peter Zenger, a
Palatine German.

In Zenger's paper Governor Cosby and every branch
of his government were vigorously attacked. The
ballads, squibs, and direct charges goaded the gover-
nor to madness. Zenger was arrested upon the charge
of "publishing a certain false, malicious, seditious
and scandalous libel " against the governor, and the
ballads were ordered to be burned by the " public
whipper". The trial came on. Zenger's friends had
;secretly engaged for his defence Andrew Hamilton, a
man already eighty years of age, — a distinguished
citizen and jurist of Philadelphia, one of the most
prominent lawyers in the country.

* The governor also removed Van Dam from the
council.



174:1] A Second Xegro Plot 153

The case was tried before a jury, and when Hamil-
ton rose to address them, he was greeted with a storm
of applause by the crowd of citizens in attendance.
He boldly declared that all which had been published
was the truth, hence no libel. Furthermore he offered
to prove the truth of the statements called libellous.
The trial lasted for several days, and when the jury
brought in their verdict of "not guilty" the people
caught Hamilton up and bore him on their shoulders
to his hotel. The corporation of New York voted
Hamilton the "freedom of the city " *, with an ad-
dress thanking him for his " distinguished services " f.

Cleorge Clark. — Governor Cosby died in 1736. The
removal of Van Dam from the council had placed
George Clark in the line of promotion to the office of
lieutenant-governor. This position he retained for
seven years.

The second negro plot, 1741. — This second panic
was much more terrible than the one which had visited
the city of Xew York twenty-nine years before. It
was equally groandless and more unreasonable, for it
occurred in a time of peace. As in the first panic, a
number of fires occurred within a few days, and the
negroes were at once suspected. The method then



* It was the custom of the times to vote any dis-
tinguished visitor the " freedom of the city " in a gold
box. On one occasion this " box " was shown to have
cost £14 8s. , while alongside stood the quarterly salary
of the schoolmaster at £10.

t Governeur Morris once declared that American
liberty should date, not from the Declaration of Inde-
pendence, but from the Zenger trial.



154 Lieutenant-Governor Clark [Period IV

pursued would cause a panic in almost any city to-day.
A negro arrested " on suspicion " was usually promised
his "liberty" if he would "testify". This he was
willing to do, and as a result the jails were soon filled
with a promiscous crowd of suspects, among whom
were many bad characters.

One Mary Burton, a slave woman, who had been
promised protection, pardon, liberty, and £100, finally
consented to testify. Her testimony involved many
negroes and a few whites. A poor, half-witted boy
among the number was also told he could be pardoned
if he would "testify". He understood that he must
testify to a plot to "kill, burn, and destroy" and he
did what was expected of him.

Finally it came to be believed that there was a con-
certed "plot" among the negroes, and so the panic
spread until men completely lost their heads. As a
result two whites and eight negroes were hanged on
the site of the modern "Five Points", then a pleas-
ant green valley. Eleven were burned alive and fifty
were sold into slavery in the West Indies, — all doubt-
less the innocent victims of a groundless fear. So was
the shame of the Salem witchcraft horror parallelled
in Xew York.

The Scotch Highlanders^ 1738. — In Governor
Clark's time. Captain Laughlin Campbell brought to
Xew York eighty-three families of Scotch Highlanders,
intending to settle them on Lake George as a defence
against the inroads of the French. Campbell was to
receive a grant of 30,000 acres of land for this purpose.
A difficulty concerning the grant delayed the settle-
ment, and many of the Highlanders returned to Scot-



1738]



LlEUTENAXT-GOYEKNOR CLx\RK



155



land, though the majority remained, to be heard from
later in the history of our State *.

Governor Clark and the assembly. — During the
administration of Governor Clark, elections were
carried on with greater freedom. The assembly and
the governor early came to an understanding as to the
powers of each. The governor submitted gracefully
to legislative restrictions, while in return the assembly
supported most of his measures. Governor Clark sent
to the assembly the first "governor's message", and
to this the assembly replied in good spirit.

Clark had done well for the colony; he had done
better for himself, for he was able to retire to England
with the very comfortable competence of £100,000,
supposed to be saved in seven years from an annual
salary of £1,560.

Changes in England. — Queen Anne had died in
1714. She had been succeeded by King George I who,
dying in 1727, was succeeded by his son Prince George,




George J. Itj6u-1727
Reigned, 1714-1727




Geokcje 11. 1H?S3 1760
Reigned, 1727-1760



as King George II. During the reign of the latter,
* See period of Revolution.



156 Governor Sir George Clinton [Period IV

Sir George Clinton* was commissioned as governor of
New York.

(jovernor Sir George Clinton : — King George's
war. — It should have been possible for even the son
of an English earl to understand the people of an
American colony, but Sir George Clinton certainly did
not. During his long term, by his controversies with
the assembly, and his entire lack of sympathy with
the liberty-loving spirit of the colonists, he succeeded
in still further widening the breach already begun be-
tween England and her colonies. In Governor Clin-
ton's time came another struggle between France and
England, known in Europe as the " War of the Aus-
trian Succession ", in this country as " King George's
War". Xew York was little affected by this con-
test, though she sent a small artillery force to aid in
the reduction of Louisburg.

The French on the frontiers. — Within the colony
of Xew York both French and English were watchful
and active, but no serious conflict occurred. The
French still retained Crown Point, from which safe
retreat their scouting parties raided all the surround-
ing country.

In 1749 they built Fort Presentation at the mouth
of the Oswegatchie, the present site of Ogdensburg,
and there established a mission. This made it neces-
sary for Governor Clinton to strengthen the defences
of Albany, Schenectady, and Oswego; and to build a

* Sir George was the son of the Earl of Lincoln.
He was governor of Xew York for ten years, and after-
ward served as governor of Xewfoundland.



1745] Burning of Saratoga 157

series of block-houses between Saratoga and Fort Wil-
liam (Stanwix). These precautions made the war ex-
penses of the colony enormous. In three years they
amounted to fully £100,000. With a population of
little more than 60,000, the colony of Xew York con-
structed these fortifications and kept 1,G00 men in the
field.

The Iroquois. — Under the influence of the French
priests among them, the allegiance of the Iroquois be-
gan again to waver, so Governor Clinton went to Albany
to hold a council with their chiefs. "After much par-
ley and many presents " they once more agreed to aid
the English against the French, and to "roast" every
Jesuit that came into their territory. Governor Clin-
ton on his part, pledged a dying Indian (small-pox was
prevailing) that the first French scalp taken should be
sent to that Indian's mother. Such were the ameni-
ties of war one hundred and fifty years ago, and so
was the old treaty solemnly renewed.

Notwithstanding all this, the French and Canadian
Indians swept down from Crown Point upon Saratoga
in the autumn of 1745, burned the town, killed many
of the inhabitants, and carried away more than one
hundred prisoners, among them Philip Schuyler,
brother of Peter Schuyler*.

At this time Colonel, afterward Sir William, John-
son was Indian commissioner. He was born in Ireland
and came to Xew York to look after his uncle's vast
estates in the Mohawk Valley. He was a brother-in-

* With Saratoga they also destroyed the smaller town
of Hoosic.



158 LiEUTENANT-GoA'ERXOR DeLaxcey [PeHodlV

law to Chief Justice DeLancey. By living much among
the Indians he acquired a great influence over them.
In consideration of his services the king granted him
100,000 acres of land where Johnstown now stands.
Johnson, later, becomes a very prominent figure in
American affairs.

The treaty of peace, 17-J-



Online LibraryWilliam Reed PrenticeHistory of New York state (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 34)