Wall Street In History/Chapter 1
WALL STREET IN HISTORY
ORIGINAL SITE AND GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT
THE EARLY WINDMILL.
The affairs of the colony at this juncture were in a ferment owing to hostilities declared on the other side of the Atlantic between England and Holland. Intelligence of terrible battles fought upon the sea came with every ship from the Old World. The Dutch were victorious, chiefly, while their losses were enormous: sixteen hundred of their vessels fell into the enemy's hand's, their fisheries were suspended and their entire commerce by the English Channel cut off. Governor Stuyvesant watched all these significant movements with acute anxiety, and, convinced that prudence was the better part of valor, took earnest measures to preserve peace with his English neighbors on this side of the ocean. To conciliate his own people he yielded to the pressure for municipal privileges, and thus a new power in the government came into existence.
The city of New York, originally called New Amsterdam, was created by proclamation, February 2, 1653, the governor of the province naming its first officers, and defining their exceptionally limited authority.
The inconspicuous event was duly chronicled; and the new City Fathers at once assumed an air of importance strictly in keeping with the customs of Holland, and the spirit of the age.
THE PRIMITIVE FENCE.
When Sunday morning came they met at the City Hall and marched in solemn and dignified procession to the church in the fort, preceded by the bell-ringer carrying their cushions of state—which he deposited with much ceremony in the pew set apart for their occupancy.At the very moment when New York thus made its debut in the annals of the world, England seemed rapidly drifting into a condition of anarchy. The army had provoked the ire of Parliament; and excuses were industriously sought to overthrow the dangerous power of Cromwell.
The Dutch made some advances toward a peace, and were severely snubbed by that haughty assembly of English statesmen whose determination was to increase national expenses until it could compel the disbanding of the army. Meanwhile rumors reached New York in March, 1653, of war and tumults to be expected from the Puritan colonies of New England, who, it was said, longed to make New Netherland a trophy of the strife. Stuyvesant had more than once been warned by the West India Company to keep a watchful eye on the English inhabitants of North America, lest they incline to take a hand in the European game. He was, therefore, in a measure, prepared for this new alarm, and hastened to call a joint meeting of the provincial council and city magistrates, to consider the perils of the situation, and agree upon some energetic course to pursue in the emergency. The meeting promptly resolved that the citizens should mount guard every night, and that the fort should be repaired. But the citadel was not large enough to contain all the inhabitants of the city in the event of a siege, therefore it was decided "to wall the city in;" and to defray the expenses the city government proposed to borrow some six thousand guilders (or $2,000) from the principal citizens of the little miniature city, to be repaid by a tax on the commonalty. Within two days upward of five thousand guilders had been subscribed; and every able-bodied man was required, under penalty of fine, or banishment, to leave his business and lend a helping hand in building the wall.
THE WALL OF PROTECTION.
The quaint structure was located nearly on the line of the primitive fence, and its length from river to river was estimated at about one hundred and eighty rods. It was built of palisades, twelve feet high and eighteen inches in girth, sharply pointed at the top. Posts seven inches thick were erected at intervals of a rod, to which split rails were nailed two feet below the top. On the inside was a breastwork of earth four feet high, and from three to four feet wide, thrown up from a ditch three feet deep and two wide. At the point where the wall crossed the partially opened road, now Broadway, a huge gate was constructed called the "Land Gate;" and at the junction of Pearl Street, which was then at the edge of the sea, another gate was
Evert Tesselaer's clerks 200
Adriaen and Johannes Keyser 100
Jacob Backer 150
Nicholas Boodt 100
Isaac de Forest 100
Abram Geenes 100
Jacob Steendam 100
Anthony Clasen 50
Jan Jansen, jr 50
Jan Vinje 50
Arent Van Hattein 100
Martin Krygier 100
P. L. Van der Grist 100
Maximilian van Gheel 100
Allard Anthony 100
Abram de la Noy 100
Daniel Litschoe 100
Philip Gerardy 50
Egbert Van Borssum 100
Heindrick Schip 100
During the month of April following, the city was in one perpetual fever of intense excitement and consternation. The scene along the site of Wall Street as the work went briskly forward was like an elongated bee-hive. The danger was imminent; and war not only threatened, but a scarcity of food through the interruption of trade in every direction. The consumption of grain by brewers and distillers was strictly forbidden, and an edict went forth that all tobacco planters must prepare to cultivate as many hillocks of corn as of tobacco in the near future. Stuyvesant was an experienced soldier, and manfully endeavored in the midst of the general terror to negotiate a treaty of commerce with Virginia, in which, however, he was only partially successful. The uncertainties of the situation rendered it depressing in the extreme. The Indians might be incited to desperate deeds; a revolt on Long Island was reasonably apprehended; Connecticut was known to be in the humor to march at any moment upon the little Dutch capital; and Boston was furious over the captured instructions of the West India Company to Stuyvesant, suggesting that he employ the Indians as allies in case of colonial war-trouble. Such was the atmosphere of insecurity and dismay on Manhattan Island that the ninth day of April was observed (throughout the province) in fasting and prayer. A week later some travelers from New England reported the story in full flower in that region that the Dutch had secretly hired the savages to massacre all the English people! Stuyvesant quickly wrote to the governors of New Haven and Massachusetts declaring the rumor a base fabrication, and offering to come to Boston in person and prove his innocence of any such horrible conspiracy. On the very day he penned these letters a scene was enacted in England of grave bearing upon the future of each of the American colonies. It was described by William Henry Montague in the following terse language.
"On the 20th of April, while the Commons were debating about disbanding the army, Cromwell went, attended by a detachment of chosen men, to the house, and having placed some of them at the door, some in lobby, and others on the stairs, he entered, followed by a number of officers, who were entirely at his command. Taking his seat, he for some time listened attentively to the debates. He then called Harrison, and told him that he now judged the Parliament ripe for a dissolution. Harrison replied, 'The work is very great and dangerous; I desire you to seriously consider before you engage in it.' 'You say well,' answered Cromwell, and sat still, about a quarter of an hour. When the question was going to be put, he said again to Harrison, 'This is the time I must put it.' And suddenly starting up, he loaded the Parliament with the vilest reproaches, for their tyranny, ambition, oppression, and robbery of the public. Then stamping with his foot, which was the signal for the soldiers to enter, 'for shame,' said he to the Parliament, 'get you gone; give place to honester men; to those who will more faithfully discharge their trust. You are no longer a Parliament; I tell you, you are no longer a Parliament. The Lord has done with you; he has chosen other instruments for carrying on his work.' After this fanatic speech he reviled several of the members by name, calling one a drunkard, another an adulterer, and a third a glutton. He next commanded a soldier to seize the mace, saying: 'What shall we do with this bauble? Here, take it away.' Then addressing himself to the house, he said, 'It is you who have forced me upon this.' Having commanded the soldiers to clear the hall, he himself went out the last, and ordering the doors to be locked put the keys in his pocket."
The dissolution of the Long Parliament, in this bold and extraordinary manner, prepared the way for a treaty with the Dutch, which brought great credit to Cromwell's administration. But like the wall which gave to Wall Street its name, peace was a monument of slow growth, and of uncertain character for a full twelve-month. The summer of that year (1654) was one of peculiar turmoil on both sides of the Atlantic. Cromwell was not invested with the supreme power to make war or peace until December. In the mean time a civil contest threatened the kingdom, and the people of New York knew no comfort or rest. When the first appropriation for the building of the wall was exhausted, the work necessarily ceased, although it was a conspicuously incomplete fortification. The hostile attitude of Connecticut continued, and volunteers there formed into companies to "instantly" subdue the Dutch were with difficulty restrained by the general government. The authorities of Massachusetts refused to bear part in an offensive war against New York, and their action Connecticut in wrath pronounced an "indelible stain upon their honor as men, and upon their morals as Christians," and wrote to Cromwell urging that the Dutch be removed from the coast of North America.
Stuyvesant tried in vain to induce the Burgomasters and Schepens to raise further funds for the defenses of the city. The fort, they said, was a proper charge upon the provincial revenue, and unless the excise on wines and beers was guaranteed to the city treasurer, they would contribute nothing to its repair. This demand for the excise was unfalteringly firm, and finally was conceded in November by the unwilling and conquered governor, on condition that the city fortifications be supported together with the civil and ecclesiastical officers of the city. About this time the shores of the East River were infested with pirates and robbers, such as always abound in times of war; and some of the English residents of Long Island were suspected of aiding the freebooters in their depredations. The winter was one of serious tribulation, and spring brought only a renewal of complications and terrors. Stuyvesant fitted out several yachts to drive away the pirates, and these movements were quickly misconstrued by the watchful English settlers into "treacherous expeditions of cruel warfare." The agents of Connecticut in England finally obtained Cromwell's ear, and an armament of four ships for the reduction of Dutch New York. Major Robert Sedgwick and Captain John Leverett were placed in command, with instructions to take the Dutch capital "by surprise, open force, or otherwise." Isaac Allerton, returning from Boston on the 29th of May, informed Stuyvesant of spirited preparations in New England for his downfall. A troop of horse and nine hundred foot were actually ready to march by land upon New York, and a fleet of vessels were to co-operate by sea. The governor was quickly in counsel with the city officials, and all were in trepidation. It could not be expected that the people scattered through the country would assist much in case of an attack; and as for the English settlers, they were sure to join the enemy. "To invite them to aid us," exclaimed Stuyvesant, "would be bringing the Trojan horse within our walls." It was resolved to enlist some sixty or seventy men, "in silence, and without beat of drum," to man the wall of the city; and money was again borrowed of the wealthy citizens to defray the cost of preparing for a siege. To repay this loan, an annual tax of twenty stivers per morgen on tillage land was to be levied, with the hundredth penny on each house and lot in New York and in Albany; a guilder on each head of horned cattle over three years old, and the tenth of all merchandise to be exported during the season. The Dutch, old and young, wielded the spade and the pickaxe, and the public defenses soon assumed comparative strength. Meanwhile the English residents talked treason, and began to send away their goods and furniture. This brought a sharp proclamation from the governor declaring all persons, "of whatever rank," found removing their property, subject to banishment and the confiscation of their effects.
At this critical moment a London merchant ship entered the port of Boston with a copy of Cromwell's Proclamation of Peace between England and Holland; also an order restraining all English subjects from committing any further acts of hostility against the Dutch. The joy in New York on the reception of these tidings was almost overwhelming. The peace proclamation was published from the City Hall "with ringing of bell;" and Stuyvesant piously summoned the people "to praise the Lord, who had secured their gates, when the threatened torch of war was lighted, when the waves reached our lips, and subsided only through the power of the Almighty." The 12th of the following August was appointed as a day of general thanksgiving throughout the province.
The wooden wall proved a blessing, although the city escaped its threatened invasion; and it was kept in tolerable repair for many years. Indeed, New York flourished as a walled city for nearly a half century. The gate at the junction of Pearl Street (the water gate) was completed in 1656, and had quite an imposing effect. About the same time a portion of the Damen Farm was sold to Jacob Flodder, who divided it into lots thirty feet front and offered it to purchasers; one of these was Jacob Jansen Moesman, a merchant trader, who proceeded to build a dwelling-house and store on the site of the present custom-house. This was the first building of any note in Wall Street, and the only one for half a dozen years, with the exception of the shanties of a wool-spinner and a chimney-sweep, and two or three beer-shops.
There was, however, a brisk sale of lots during the year just named, as appears from records in the city archives. On the 27th of May, of that year, Jacob Steendam, the earliest resident poet in New York, sold from his possessions in the "sheep pasture," a lot thirty feet front and one hundred and thirty deep, on the east side of Broadway, near Wall Street, to Leendant Aerden; and on the same date he sold another lot ten rods square, in vicinity of Exchange place, east of Broad Street, to the Worshippful Schepen, Jacob Strycker, and Secretary Cornells Van Ruyven. Steendam was a man of varied accomplishments. He indulged in quaint conceits and rhymes, and wrote poems of considerable merit. The Complaint of New Amsterdam to her Mother, published in 1659, and the Praise of New Netherland, issued in small quarto form, in 1661, are among the legacies of his genius. The action of his poems was usually taken from the Scriptures or classical mythology. Two lots, west of the city wall, abutting on the lot of Moesman, and on the south lot of Govert Loockermans, were sold on the 24th of June to Pieter Cornelis Vanderveen, who had then been married some four years to Elsie Tymans, the step-daughter of Govert Loockermans. Vanderveen was one of the richest men of his time, and is named in the records as "old and suitable" for a great burgher. He built a pretentious house in Pearl Street in 1657, and tried to persuade the authorities to establish a public square near the present Battery, without success. After his death his widow became the wife of the remarkable and unfortunate Jacob Leisler. Among those concerned in real estate transactions in the immediate vicinity of Wall Street during this year, we find such well-known names as Verplanck, Beechman, Kip, Duyckinck, De la Montague, Rutgersen, Ten Eyck, Bayard, Brouwer, and Van Cortlandt. On the 25th of August, Allard Anthony and Oloff Stevenson Van Cortlandt, sold to Vanderveen a piece of property which is thus described:
"A lot west of the Great Highway (Broadway), bounded north by the Company's Garden, and south by lot of Oloff Stevensen Van Cortlandt; width on the street or east side three rods and two feet, and in the rear on North River, or west side, three rods three and one-fifth feet. Depth on south side twenty-one and one-half rods, and on the north side twenty-one rods eight feet. Being premises conveyed by Rt. Hon. Director-General Petrus Stuyvesant to said Anthony and Van Cortlandt, Burgomasters of the city, 9th May, 1656."These lots were then valued at prices ranging from fifty to one hundred dollars each. The wall was usually spoken of as "The Cingel," the Dutch term for "Ramparts." The map illustrates the general plan of the city as it unfolded in that eventful decade  There is little evidence that the soil was at any time tilled between the town and the "Ramparts," except for gardening purposes. In the lower part of Pearl Street some forty-three houses had appeared—surrounded, in some instances, by pretentious grounds, and a few small shops. Jan Vinge lived in a farm-house about the present corner of William and Pine Streets, and must have given his attention to agriculture, judging from the court records, for he instituted several suits for damages done his cabbage-patches and pea-vines by school boys running through them. The City Court of Magistrates formed an august tribunal in their supervision of public affairs. It was the duty of the Schout to personally perambulate the city, and enter complaints against all such miscreants as disregarded police regulations. We find him in frequent collisions with disorderly and unruly persons. One Jasper Abrahamson was arrested for forcibly entering a house and demanding with
violence food and liquor, particularly liquor. Upon trial he was sentenced "to be fastened to a stake, and severely scourged, and a gash to be made in his left cheek or jaw, and then to be banished from the city for twenty-five years, and pay costs." Another significant instance was that of Messack Martens, charged with stealing. He confessed to having climbed over the palisades and taken five or six cabbages from a garden, but it was thought he was much more deeply implicated. "On a subsequent day, the prisoner being again brought forward, was examined by torture, as to how many cabbages, fowls, turkeys, and how much butter he hath stolen; who his abettors and co-operators have been. Answering, he persists in his reply that he did not steal any butter, fowls, or turkeys, nor had any abettors; being again set loose, the Schout demands that for his committed theft voluntarily confessed, he shall be brought to the usual place of criminal justice, well fastened to a stake and severely whipt, and banished from the jurisdiction of the city for ten years, with costs. Decision of the court: That he be brought to the usual place of execution, to stand in the pillory with cabbages on his head, and be banished five years from the jurisdiction of the city, with costs and mises of justice." On one occasion the court applied to Stuyvesant and obtained authority to inflict capital punishment. The culprit was charged by the Schout with having spoken treasonable words. The seven high and mighty Burgomasters and Schepens in solemn council voted as follows:
The Heer Burgomaster Martin Cregie (Cruger): That he shall be whipped, and branded, and banished; and banished for all his life out of the Province of New Netherlands.
The Heer Burgomaster Oloff Stevensen Van Cortlandt: Though he be worthy of death, yet from special grace, that he be whipped, and branded, and banished.
The Heer Schepen Pieter Van Couwenhoven: He shall be put to death.
The Heer Schepen Johannes Van Brugh: That he be whipped, and branded, and banished the country.
The Heer Schepen Hendt. J. Vanderveen: That he is worthy of death, and ought to be punished until death follows, with the costs and mises of justice.
The Heer Schepen Jacob Kip: That he should be executed by death.
The Heer Schepen Cornells Steenwyck: That he be whipped and branded under the gallows, the halter being around his neck, and then banished forever and put hence with his wife and children, on pain of the gallows, thanking the magistracy, on his bended knees, for their merciful and well deserved justice. It was therefore decided by plurality of votes that the prisoner be whipped, branded and banished. The sentence was approved by the governor, and permission given to erect a half gallows before the City Hall to carry out the sentence. The prisoner was subsequently shipped to Virginia.
The wall, with its feint of strength, was regarded as a curiosity by the English officers at the surrender of New York in 1664. Governor Nicolls examined it with reference to the possibilities of a military siege. It seemed of trifling account as a defense against a civilized foe; but troubles were brewing among the Indians at the North, and it might be of service in the matter of keeping hostile savages at bay. Ere long a complication of difficulties between the French and the Indians, and the New York colonists, created apprehension of mischief to be expected from the French; and, in the same breath as it were, another fierce conflict between England and Holland cast its blight over the innocent city, the cause of the whole bloody disturbance. Improvements ceased, trade was suspended, famine threatened. Nicolls called a meeting of the citizens to consult about fortifying New York on the river side; and, presiding in person, his opening address was a marvel of oratory. He said, with much emphasis, that he should constrain no one to fight against his own nation, at the same time he asked important and much-needed aid. In reply, the Dutch magnates said the town was strong enough already; and other and various excuses were offered, which rendered it obvious to Nicolls that he should be able to command very little assistance from a community eager to welcome the restoration of Dutch authority. Fortunately, the Peace of Breda (in 1668) brought relief, and men went about their business once more. Prosperity dawned, commerce with Boston and with Virginia recommenced, merchant vessels might again cross the seas in safety, Dutch and English laborers no longer quarreled with each other at their work, and buildings began to multiply. But the wall was as yet a long distance out of town, that is, the town was not approaching the wall with marvelous celerity. Governor Lovelace succeeded Nicolls, and for some four years ruled the province with commendable discretion. But his attention was given to more knotty subjects than the city's growth. Conflicting claims about lands stirred up quarrels in every part of the province. One was no sooner quelled than another broke forth. His perplexities were greatly aggravated by the absence of any uniform nationality. Some of the habits and customs were Dutch, some French, some English, some Christian, and some heathen. Extremes of evil and good were singularly linked together, and the barbarous punishments which both English and Dutch usage warranted seemed the only safeguard against chaos. Again, in 1673, the parent nations over the water plunged into another terrible war, and New York, as in every former instance, suffered severely. The fort and the wall were strengthened and repaired, volunteer forces were drilled, commerce was restricted, and merchants were on the eve of bankruptcy. The summer was flitting away, when suddenly a Dutch fleet appeared in the harbor, and an order came for the immediate surrender of New York. The governor was absent, and the summons was followed so promptly by the landing of the Dutch forces that no defense was attempted. The citadel was vacated by the English garrison, and the three-colored ensign of the Dutch Republic rose to its old place on the flag-staff. New York became once more New Netherland, and the city was called New Orange, in honor of the Dutch prince. It was an absolute conquest, by an open enemy in time of war. Everything henceforward assumed a military air. Guards were stationed near Sandy Hook to watch for vessels; no person was allowed to cross the ferries without a pass; and whoever had not taken the oath of allegiance was expelled from the city. Hostilities being apprehended from New England, citizens were forbidden to harbor any stranger, or to hold any correspondence whatever with the people of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Sentinels were stationed along the wall, and no person was allowed to enter or depart from the city except through one or the other of the two city gates, on pain of death. The wall was now a consequential feature of the city. At sundown every night the gates were closed, and a strong watch kept over them until sunrise the next morning.
Meanwhile a series of remarkable events in Europe were shaping the destiny of New York. A treaty was concluded with the belligerent nations, which involved a mutual restoration of conquests. The Dutch governor, Colve, received instructions from Holland to yield the Province of New York to whomsoever the King of England should depute to receive it. Sir Edmund Andros was the dignitary thus delegated, and on Saturday, the 10th day of November, 1674, he landed near the Battery with much ceremony, and was graciously welcomed by the Dutch Commander.
The wall was not allowed to go at once into decay with the return of permanent peace. Eighteen years later, when a French invasion was threatened, two bastions were erected for the, defense of the wall, each a huge mass of earth and stone faced with sods. It was, during its whole history, esteemed a protection against the bears of the forests, as the locality has since been the haven of civilized bears. A curious and authentic incident of the year 1678 is handed along to us by the Rev. Charles Wolley (a Minister of the Church of England), who in visiting New York recorded in his journal the description of a bear hunt in John Robinson's orchard—between what is now Cedar Street and Maiden Lane. He writes, "we followed a bear from tree to tree; and when he was got to his resting place, perched upon a high branch, we dispatched a youth after him with a club to an opposite bough, who knocking his paws, he comes grumbling down backwards with a thump upon the ground, so we after him again." In what precise decade the native bear retired before the march of civilization on Manhattan Island, history does not state with absolute precision. But houses and streets were taking such strides in a northerly direction, that in 1688 Governor Dongan ordered an examination of the condition of the wall, with a view to the enlargement of the city, "and, if occasion should require to lay fortifications further out. "It appeared from the report that the "water gate" was in ruins, the "curtain palisades from the gate to the Artillery Mount (northwest corner of Wall and William) fallen down, the ground laid out in lots and partly built upon, the Artillery Mount itself in a state of dilapidation, the curtain palisades between it and the 'land gate' at Broadway in ruins, the land also laid out in lots; the Land Gate Mount in decay, and the gate across Broadway ready to fall down." This account was sufficient to have induced the authorities to decide upon the demolition of the wall. But the time was unpropitious. The city was in commotion over the news that Dongan was to be displaced in the government, and New York consolidated with New England under the rulership of Andros. And the revolution, responsive to that in England upon the abdication of James II., following soon, the public mind had little room for the consideration of local affairs.
Before retiring to his farm, Dongan (in 1689) sold the greater part of the property he had acquired in Wall Street to Abraham De Peyster, and Nicholas Bayard. A scrap of curious history is told in connection with this property. The southerly line of the street had been laid through the sheep walk, and drawn with reference to a proper field of military manœuvre, one hundred feet from the wall. A city street of that width was considered unnecessary. Hence a little shrewd speculation. Dongan purchased of the heirs of the Damen estate, eighty feet in depth along the line of the ditch, across the whole southern front of their property. To this he added some forty-five feet from the vacant land to the south of the ditch, and thus made lots of about one hundred and twenty-five feet in depth, along the southern edge of which he fixed the northern line of Wall Street. This was in 1685, at which time the street was surveyed and ordered to be established.
During the years immediately following the English Revolution the city advanced rapidly. Abraham De Peyster was the mayor in 1691, and he projected improvements with a lavish hand. The Garden Street Church, completed in 1693, was chief among the substantial indications of progress. It was built in the midst of a beautiful garden—a few years of age—"a great distance up town," fronting a narrow lane called Garden Alley, which afterward became Garden Street, and is now Exchange Place. The same year Wall Street was first paved to the width of ten feet in front of the houses facing the wall. It was at the suggestion of Mayor De Peyster that the city first assumed the support of public paupers. Each alderman was ordered to make a return of the poor in his ward. About the same time the corporation erected on the river shore (in front of the old City Hall) a pillory, cage, whipping post, and ducking stool. This last-named instrument of torture was for the punishment of excess or freedom of speech. It was not a Dutch but a purely English invention, and had been used for a long time in the British Empire. The year 1695 was eventful in the city's progress, and several handsome dwellings were erected in Wall Street. More money was in circulation than ever known before, and real estate advanced materially in price. Privateers and pirates walked the streets freely, and bought provisions for long voyages in exchange for gold and valuable commodities from the East. Trinity Church was projected, at the head of Wall Street, and several pretentious houses were erected in various parts of the city. De Peyster built an elegant mansion in Queen (Pearl) Street opposite Pine, fifty-nine feet front and three stories high. Some of the rooms were forty feet deep; and the walls and ceilings were elaborately decorated. The ground occupied the whole block, with a coachhouse and stable in the rear. De Peyster, about the same time, presented the city with the site for a new City Hall at the head of Broad Street in Wall. The first opening of the lane (since Nassau Street) known then as Kip Street, was in June, 1696. The mayor and corporation had been petitioned by Teunis De Kay for the privilege of making a cartway through "the street that runs by the pie woman's leading to the City Commons."
The privilege was accordingly granted, and the land alongside given to De Kay as compensation for his labor. The following year the streets were first lighted, by a lantern containing a candle, hung on a pole from every seventh house. The first night-watch was instituted soon afterward; four "good and honest men" being appointed to go round the city from nine in the evening until daylight next morning, with a bell, to proclaim the season of the weather, and the hour of the night."
The final erection of the City Hall, in 1700, was the great event which established Wall Street as the central point of interest for leading business and professional men. It was an enterprise of magnitude for those primitive days, and was achieved through much tribulation. A curious and romantic chapter might be written on the chronicles of the three years while the subject was in agitation. In October, 1697, the jurors chosen for a certain trial raised quite a breeze by refusing to attend court, lest the old city hall "fall upon their heads." It was declared shaky and ready to tumble down. The matter was brought before the city authorities, and the mayor announced to the common council that he feared the building would give way under the pressure of the crowd that would presumably be in attendance at the coming trial—which was of some notorious criminals before the Supreme Court. The judges were seriously alarmed, and they also invited special attention to the weak character of the edifice. The result was that competent masons and carpenters were sent to examine and report, who decided that "with six studs and a plank, the building might be secured from any danger of falling." These supports were ordered, the trial went on, and no accident happened; but the scare had its effect for good. A committee was appointed the next January to take measures for selling the old, and building a new city hall. As soon as plans were matured, the city petitioned the governor and his council for the final demolition of the wall, saying: "Whereas the former line of fortifications that ranged along Wall Street from the East River to the North River, together with the bastions that were erected thereon (in 1692, when there was alarm about a French invasion), are fallen to decay and the encroachments of buildings which have been made adjacent thereto will render the same useless for the future, and the city proposing with all speed to build a new city hall at the end of one of the principal streets, fronting the above said line of fortifications, we pray His Excellency that the said fortifications be demolished, and the stones of the bastions be appropriated to building the said city hall."
The prayer was granted, and the corner-stone of the edifice was laid with much ceremony by the Mayor, David Provost, in the autumn of 1699. The structure was very nearly completed in 1700. The king's arms and the arms of Lord Bellamont, then governor, and of Nanfan, the lieutenant-governor, were carved on separate stones and placed in the front wall. In 1702, those of the two last named were ordered to be pulled down and broken by the marshal of the city, by the opposite political party, which had come into power; and the wall was filled up. In 1703, the cage, pillory, whipping-post, and stocks were removed from the water's edge to the upper end of Broad Street, and placed in full view of the inmates of the City Hall. The punishment at that time for a petty thief was to burn into the left cheek near the nose the letter "T." The jail was remodeled during the winter of 1704, and made more secure for felons; and a debtors' prison was arranged in the upper story of the edifice. This was a rough room with coarse board partitions, without chairs, warmth, or comforts of any sort. It remained substantially in the same cheerless and comfortless condition for three-fourths of a century.
One of the most exciting scenes ever witnessed under the historic roof of this seat of justice was in connection with the city elections of 1701—immediately following the death of Lord Bellamont. Both political parties at the polls seemed to lose all sense of honor and decency. There was as much illegal as legal voting, and several bloody skirmishes among individuals. Then came a violent dispute as to which party had really won.
CITY HALL IN WALL STREET, 1700.
The new mayor, Thomas Noell, of the aristocratic party (as it was designated), was sworn according to custom before the governor and council, whence he repaired with the elected aldermen to Trinity Church to listen to an appropriate discourse from the rector. From there they proceeded down Wall Street in solemn state to the City Hall, where the bell was ringing. Mayor Noell published his commission and took the chair. The retiring mayor, De Reimer, gracefully presented to him the city charter and seal. So far all went well. Abraham Gouveneur, the city recorder, took his seat by the mayor, who told the clerk to proceed with the ceremony of swearing in the members elect. As their names were called, several
WALL STREET IN 1718
the case was such that Noell appointed four men in each ward to inspect returns. His opponents pronounced the proceeding irregular, and refused to serve. The work went on, however, and the aristocratic party were found to be in the majority. Noell then called another meeting in the City Hall to swear in the new aldermen. Such as the movement would displace marched along the streets, and entered the hall with the others. They took their seats side by side, with anger in their faces. When Noell attempted to swear in those who had been legally chosen, shouts of protestation were heard from every part of the hall. The clerk administered the oaths amid a deafening roar of voices, and when the mayor attempted the transaction of business, all took part with audacious effrontery. Such was the confusion that the Board was adjourned for two weeks, and the case went to the Supreme Court. The decision was for an equal division of the aldermen and assistants between the two parties; then, as the mayor and the recorder were politically opposed, the Board stood equally divided.
The property on the north side of Wall Street was divided between the owners into lots for building purposes, and a map made of it in 1718. About that time a lot was sold to the congregation of Presbyterians, on the north side of Wall Street, to the westward of the City Hall, eighty feet front by one hundred and twenty-four feet deep. Upon this site the First Presbyterian Church was erected in 1719. The congregation was allowed to meet for public worship in the City Hall (by special act of the corporation) prior to the completion of the edifice, which stood a little back from the street with a small graveyard in front, shaded by handsome trees. This church had an eventful history; it was enlarged in 1748, taken down and rebuilt in 1810, burned in 1835, rebuilt in 1836, and in 1844 sold and removed stone by stone and re-erected in Washington Street, Jersey City, The city hall was supported upon brick arches over the sidewalk, under which pedestrians could pass from street to street in all directions. One of the rooms on the first floor was at a later day (about 1730) appropriated for the reception of the two first fire engines in New York, imported from London. The court-room was in front, on the second floor, as shown in the diagram. In winter the chief justice and judges were attired in robes of scarlet faced with black velvet; in summer they wore full black-silk gowns.
THE FAMOUS ZENGER TRIAL.
The edifice was for nearly a century the great political and judicial center of the province, as well as of the city, in which were held the sessions of the General Assembly, the Supreme Court, the Admiralty Court, and the Mayor's Court. It was the scene of the famous Zenger trial in 1735, which excited the attention of all America. The court-room was crowded to suffocation, and every kind of business was neglected during a whole summer. The freedom of the press was at stake, as was also liberty of speech. Zenger had started a new weekly paper, and filled it with satire. He had criticised the officers of the government, and everything generally. He was on trial for "false, scandalous, malicious and seditious libels," and the world waited breathlessly for the result. Two of the leading lawyers of New York, William Smith and James Alexander, counsel for the prisoner, were excluded from the bar at the outset, having commenced proceedings by a spirited attack upon the court itself. The services of the eloquent Andrew Hamilton, of Philadelphia, were then engaged, and he was hailed on his arrival as the champion of liberty. His gifted irony, his brilliant humor, and his subtle power in argument won the case. The jury returned their verdict of "not guilty" after only a few moments' deliberation. The shouts of delight shook the building with such terrific force as to startle and anger the judges, one of whom indiscreetly threatened the leader of the uproar with imprisonment, whereupon Captain Norris pertly responded that huzzas were somewhat loud in Westminster Hall at the acquittal of the seven bishops. The shouts were repeated and repeated, and when Hamilton emerged from the court-room Wall Street rang with the wildest enthusiasm, and it was with difficulty that he resisted a ride upon the shoulders of the crowd. The city corporation tendered him a magnificent dinner, the mayor presenting him with the freedom of the city in a costly gold box purchased by private subscription, and a gorgeous ball was given in his honor. The whole city complimented him with escort, and cannon, and huzzas, and banners on his departure for Philadelphia.
The public library of the city occupied one of the apartments of the city hall for several years, and was the popular resort of all scholars, authors, and lovers of literature. A handsome clock with four dials graced the cupola, which was presented in 1715 by Stephen De Lancey. He was one of the Assemblymen, who upon receiving his fee of £50 for services donated it immediately for this purpose.
Thus two churches, Trinity looking down the street, and the City Hall, were conspicuous features of Wall Street to the end of the century. Meanwhile an institution of another and opposite character flourished at the foot of Wall Street at the East River, on the site of the old Dutch block-house. It was a slave mart, where the traffic in negroes went on from day to day. It was established in 1709, and not until about 1762 do we find the fact registered that the Wall Street residents courageously complained of it as a public nuisance, and demanded its removal.
Another characteristic of early Wall Street for many years was Bayard's great unsightly sugar-house, which occupied nearly the whole northern front between the City Hall and William Street. It was built in the beginning of the century by Samuel Bayard, and used for its original purpose until his death in 1745. It stood back from the street and about in the center of the block, with a small building facing the street, and a rough fenced inclosure. It was demolished some time prior to the Revolution, and handsome residences appeared on its site. Samuel Verplanck purchased three lots in 1773 for £260, and built a house upon the one next to the city hall. It was about the middle of the century when Fashion first turned her face toward Wall Street as a choice place of residence. One elegant dwelling after another was reared and occupied, and long before the tocsin of war sounded through its charmed precincts it had become notably the fashionable quarter of the city. The three-story double brick dwelling of the Marstons—afterward occupied by the Holland minister. Van Berckle—the McEvers mansion on the north-eastern corner of Wall and William streets, the residence of Gen. John Lamb, Collector of the Port, adjoining, the handsome home of the Van Homes, and the imposing dwellings of the Buchanans, Whites, Dennings, Smiths, Startins, Cuylers, and other prominent families, invested the thoroughfare with peculiar attractions. Gentlemen promenaded its sidewalks in black satin small-clothes, and white embroidered satin vests, ruffled shirts, and velvet or cloth coats of any color in the rainbow. Shoes were fastened with glittering buckles, and heads crowned with powdered wigs and cocked hats. Ladies appeared in brocaded silks of brilliant colors, the court-hoop was in vogue, and the bonnet of the period was jaunty and picturesque in the extreme.
The most prosaic and practical American will find it difficult to repress some slight throb of enthusiasm, in recalling the historic incidents which had their background in Wall Street, while New York was under kingly rule. Here sat that provocative little miniature Parliament of New York, which for upward of three fourths of a century presumed to criticise the acts of its great English prototype, and to curtail the power of the royal governors, not infrequently withholding money necessary for the support of the government. Its spirit, intelligence, and independence were conspicuously exhibited in every administration. In the case of Lord Cornbury it took measures to so guard the public funds that he esteemed himself openly insulted. The meagre support granted to Governor Hunter was on terms which he could not accept without humiliation. Even at that early day, some of the members denied the right of the queen to appoint salaries for her colonial officers; and the general sentiment was in favor of restraining the governor's prerogative. Lieutenant-Governor Clarke's first address to the captious body produced an expression of sentiment that would have done honor to the best days of Greece and Rome. One passage ran thus: "We therefore beg leave to tell your Honor that you are not to expect that we either will raise sums unfit to be raised, or put that which we shall raise into the power of a governor to misapply." Admiral Sir George Clinton became nearly distracted during his ten years' administration, from 1743 to 1753. His recommendations were slighted, and his demand for an independent support for a term of years' persistently denied. On one occasion his executive integrity was impeached and he addressed the House in great wrath.
[Engraved by permission of Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet, from Original Painting.]
The effect was like throwing a lighted torch into a magazine of gunpowder. The legislators closed their doors, locked them, and laid the key upon the table, in the ancient form, when grave matters were to be discussed. A series of resolutions were adopted, defining the Assembly's rights and privileges, and declaring that certain requirements in the governor's message were "irregular and unprecedented." Clinton was highly incensed, accused the House of putting on airs, of insulting royal authority, and of a want of common decency. And he wrote to beseech of England to punish New York, as an example to all America. Sir Danvers Osborne hanged himself within a week after his arrival in New York. It was supposed his dread of the consequences of attempting to coerce the action of the Assembly unsettled his reason. The government was administered for some years by Lieutenant-Governor James De Lancey, a native New Yorker, whose genius and culture, whose boldness and sagacity, and whose tact and statesmanship, won for the community one of the greatest of triumphs. The ministry yielded the long contested point in the spring of 1756, and agreed to annual support bills for the future. "No other colony," writes Bancroft, "was tinctured with such fearlessness of monarchical power as New York—at this time the central point of political interest in English North America."
On the passage of the Stamp Act in 1765 James McEvers was appointed stamp collector for New York. He was a bachelor, residing with his brother, Charles McEvers, in an elegant new mansion in Wall Street, corner of William. The popular indignation at this parliamentary measure was such that he declined to receive the stamps or distribute them, and sent a formal resignation of his commission to Lieutenant-Governor Golden, then at the head of the government of New York. Meanwhile the famous Stamp Act Congress assembled in the city hall. No other in the succession of spirited events which have rendered Wall Street historic ground was more heroic under the circumstances, or far-reaching in its influence than this first attempt at Union of the colonies. It was a Congress without precedent, an institution unknown to the laws, an experiment at systematizing an opposition to the established government in which all America was to be united, and its seat was coolly fixed in the capital of the central province, in direct antagonism to the will of the king's officers, civil and military, who declared the whole proceeding unconstitutional, treasonable, and illegal. It met in the very face of the headquarters of the standing army, commanded by a general with military powers as ample as those of a viceroy, organized itself with measured precision, and continued its deliberations unmolested for three weeks. Massachusetts and South Carolina contributed largely to the force and eloquence of the occasion; Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, and New York were well represented; New Hampshire had no delegate, but agreed to abide by the action of the Congress; and Georgia sent an express messenger nearly a thousand miles by land to obtain a copy of the proceedings. This Congress took a broad view of the situation, and believed itself responsible for the future liberties of the whole continent; its fixed purpose was to demand the repeal of all parliamentary acts laying duties on trade, as well as the Stamp Act. Three memorials were penned, one to the king, one to the House of Lords, and one to the House of Commons, every line of each breathing an element of decision totally irreconcilable with the existing condition of affairs. The one to the king was drafted by Judge Robert R. Livingston, of New York. William Samuel Johnson, of Connecticut, and William Murdock, of Maryland; the one to the House of Lords was drafted by Philip Livingston, Speaker of the New York Assembly, Edward Tilghman, of Maryland, and John Rutledge, of South Carolina; the one to the House of Commons was drafted by James Otis, of Boston, Thomas McKean, of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Lynch, of South Carolina. It was in the midst of the wild panic created in New York by the rumor that a ship laden with stamps had anchored in the bay, that the members of this Congress in Wall Street affixed their signatures to the papers by which the blessing of Union was conferred upon the future nation, or, as they expressed it, the colonies became "a bundle of sticks which could neither be bent nor broken."
PHILIP LIVINGSTON, SPEAKER OF ASSEMBLY.
The day following the adjournment of Congress, Lieutenant-Governor Colden wrote to the British Secretary that, notwithstanding "McEvers was terrified," he (Colden) was "resolved to have the stamps distributed." But, alas! "the whole city of New York rose up as one man in opposition." The memorable first of November was ushered in by the tolling of muffled bells, and flags at half-mast. Placards threatening the life of the Lieutenant-Governor if the stamps were used, appeared upon every street corner. Colden remained within the fort, "fortified as if he had been at Bergen-op-Zoom, when the French besieged it with a hundred thousand men," wrote one of his counselors. In the evening a vast torchlight procession animated the streets, and Colden hanging in effigy upon a movable gallows was borne aloft by the formidable mob, which shaped its course through Wall Street, and halting in front of the house of McEvers gave three cheers. It then proceeded to within eight or ten feet of the fort, knocked at its gate, and planted the gallows, with the effigy swinging thereon, under the very eyes of the garrison. The reading public is familiar with the riotous events of this night, and the imperative demand of the people in the days following, that resulted in the final surrender of the stamps to the custody of the mayor and corporation of the city. "A prodigious concourse of people of all ranks" attended the ceremony of the transfer. Mayor John Cruger, in whom the citizens had the utmost confidence, giving Colden a certificate of receipt. The packages were then conveyed from the citadel to the city hall, in Wall Street, the crowd cheering at every step vociferously. Tranquility was thereby restored to New York.
It would be instructive as well as interesting to follow the masterly papers that emanated from the Stamp Act Congress across the seas, and note their effects upon the parliamentary mind. They were read, and then re-read. They provoked all manner of scathing criticism. The Congress itself was derided as "a federal union, assembled without any requisition on the part of the supreme power." Earl Pitt replied: "It is the evil genius of this country (England) that has riveted among them the Union, now called dangerous and federal." We all know how the question of the repeal of the Stamp Act agitated the kingdom, as it was argued and re-argued by the statesmen of the realm during the winter following, and of the victory achieved in the end. The news reached New York, May 20, 1766, and the whole city ran riot with gladness. Such was the gratitude and good feeling, that in June the city petitioned the Assembly, in the City Hall, to honor with a statue the great champion of the repeal, William Pitt. Money was appropriated, the skilled services of Hilton, the celebrated London statuary, secured, and in due course of time a white marble figure of great beauty was erected in Wall Street, at the intersection of William (then called Smith Street). The statue was in the attitude of one delivering an oration, the right hand holding a scroll partly open, where might be read "Articuli Magna-Charta Libertatum." On the south side of the pedestal the following inscription was cut in a tablet of white marble: "This statue of the Right Honorable William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, was erected as a publick testimony of the grateful sense the Colony of New York retains of the many eminent services he rendered to America, particularly in promoting the repeal of the Stamp Act." This statue remained standing in its original position until 1789, but having been beheaded and disfigured by the British during their occupation of the city, it was finally removed by a city ordinance. It is now preserved in the refectory of the New York Historical Society.
HOUSE OF GEN. JOHN LAMB, IN WALL STREET.
The decade from 1765 to 1775 was one of variable excitements, and Wall Street was the troubled heart of them all. It was in the city hall that the great Tea Meeting startled the inhabitants in 1773 (December 17), when General Lamb read to the assembled throng the Act of Parliament relating to the payment of the duty on tea, and called for an expression of opinion, as to whether obedience should be rendered. The prolonged shouts of "No! No! No!" three times repeated, jarred the old edifice from floor to rafter, and left no doubt as to the sense of the meeting. This was but a few hours after three hundred and forty chests of the condemned tea had been consigned to the briny depths of Boston harbor. Had the tea-vessel destined for New York not been diverted by contrary winds, history might have had still further revolutionary proceedings to chronicle. It so chanced that spring came in advance of the tea; but not a pound was allowed to come into the city. The ship and its cargo were sent ignominiously back from whence they came, in the most public manner, the bells ringing from every steeple in New York during the sublime ceremony. Another vessel, whose captain denied the presence of tea in his hatches, was conducted to the usual place and overhauled. Eighteen chests being discovered, were without disguise or secrecy thrown into the bay.
Presently the whole country was exasperated over the martyrdom of Boston. It was among the men who daily passed up and down Wall Street that the wise plan of a Continental Congress had its inception. Boston thought only of bringing England to terms through the suspension of trade.
New York said, "The cause is general, and concerns a whole continent equally interested with you and us."
Boston, seeing New York firmly bent on a Congress, and nothing but a Congress, in which the question of resistance might be settled, graciously assented. The New York Committee of Fifty-One nominated five delegates to represent the city, and its nominees were elected at the polls. These delegates were Philip Livingston, John Alsop, Isaac Low, James Duane, and John Jay. The three former were merchants of fortune, and citizens of high position. Philip Livingston was the grandson of the founder of Livingston Manor, and a graduate from Yale College. He was, at this time, some sixty-two years of age, of fine presence and polished manners, known and respected by the whole community. As a member of the Common Council, and of the Assembly, he had long been a familiar figure in Wall Street. His portrait will be regarded with exceptional interest. John Alsop was one of the original founders of the Chamber of Commerce, a gentleman of distinction and great loveliness of character. His only daughter afterward became the wife of Rufus King. Isaac Low entertained the Massachusetts delegation at breakfast on their way to Philadelphia, and John Adams has left a pleasing description of the style of life in this luxurious home. Mrs. Low was a lady of great personal beauty.
James Duane was a lawyer, some forty years of age, who subsequently distinguished himself in public service. He had already risen to eminence in his profession, and been retained in important suits that interested large masses of the people. He became the mayor of the city in 1784, and presided over the famous mayor's court, which through his high judicial reputation became the most important forum. His wife was the daughter of Robert Livingston, the third proprietor of the Manor, and niece of Philip Livingston. John Jay was also a lawyer, and the youngest of the five delegates. He was but twenty-nine, yet bore himself with the dignity and calm serenity of a veteran. He was tall, slight, graceful, shy, and proud; an able writer, a ready speaker, and an accomplished scholar. His wife was another niece of Philip Livingston, the daughter of Governor William Livingston, of New Jersey. He had already identified himself with the old court-room in Wall Street, in his legal practice; and during his subsequent career of a quarter of a century of usefulness to the country at large, and to his own State and city in particular, he was associated with this interesting locality in connection with some of the most significant and memorable events in American history, notably during the four years prior to the inauguration of the first President (Wall Street being the seat of the government of the Union), the four most precarious years of our national existence, in which he performed the initiatory duties of Secretary of State to the infant government; organizing its foreign affairs.
[The portrait which graces the front page of the volume represents Jay at a later date—when about forty years of age—and expresses, perhaps, more of that refinement of intellect and calm serenity of character for which he was distinguished than any other picture extant It is from A. B. Durand's engraving of Stuart and Trumbull's painting.]
- The names of the subscribers to this fund, with the amount contributed by each, will interest the antiquarian, as well as the numerous descendants of those leading men of 1653, who invested in the original wall:
The Hon'ble Cornells Werckhoven 200
Johannes de Peyster 100
Johannes Van Brugh 200
Johannes Van Beech 200
Cornells Steenroych 200
Govert Loockermans 150
Oloff S. Van Cortlandt 150
Jacob Schelling 200
Pieter Prins 100
Antoine Van Hardenberg 200
Johannes Nevius 100
Gulian Ways 200
Pieter Bays 100
Paulus Schrichs 100
Jacob Gerrits Strycker 200
Francois Fyn 100
Matheus de Vos 100
Adriaen Blommaert 100
- An exquisitely beautiful gold chatelaine, worn at this period by Mrs. Peter Vanderveen, was in a somewhat romantic manner discovered in 1875, in possession of one of her descendants, in Newark, New Jersey, by the author, and an engraving of it made, by permission, for The History of the City of New York. Vol. I., p. 251.
- The earliest known map of New York (1664), rescued from the European archives by George H. Moore, LL.D. This map is apparently derived from the same survey as the elaborately colored map familiarly known among historical scholars as "The Duke's Plan," and is believed to be the more correct of the two.—Ed.