Wall Street In History/Chapter 2
REVOLUTION, POLITICAL CONSEQUENCE, AND SOCIAL GLORY
A CLOUD settled over Wall Street with the first dawn of the Revolution. The residents were subjected to an endless variety of panic and disturbance. All the freshly awakened impulses and activities gravitated toward the City Hall, the chief seat of every commotion, the soul of every political movement. The one thought of the hour in its blazing intensity seemed to consume within itself all other ideas common to the public mind. Tyranny and resistance were topics flying from lip to lip, in every quarter, among all classes, in polite circles, in the workshops, at the fireside, and in the street. Some were for peace at any cost, caring little whether America was ruled by a crowned head over the water, or a crown of heads on this side, so that the business and pleasures of life met with no hindrance; others were for principle regardless of pecuniary, personal, or domestic considerations. Friends disputed, quarreled, and separated, and households scattered. Sharp controversies in the hitherto charmed home circle caused members of the same family in numerous instances to range themselves under different banners. Disputations among servants and laborers ended in riotous proceedings. The violent heats in the Assembly drew crowds into Wall Street to listen to the debates, and to criticize results. The legislators were about equally divided on the question concerning the appointment of delegates to the Second Continental Congress. The opponents of the measure pronounced the action of the first Congress "treasonable," and flatly refused "to repeat an experiment which would be nothing less than open treason in the broad light of day." By a small majority they won the victory. But real power cannot be pushed aside and fettered. The determined minority saw a way in which their purpose might be accomplished, and presently were foremost among the citizens in taking one of the most heroic steps of the period. A Convention was resolutely called to elect the delegates, the counties co-operating with the city, and Lieutenant-Governor Colden despairingly told the English ministry that it could not be prevented; the royal government was powerless in the matter, since "it was the action of individuals in their private characters, and beyond the energy of the laws." At this Convention leaders were chosen in whom the people trusted; and while there was many an after tilt between the leaders and the people as to whether the leaders should lead the people or the people the leaders, the selection furnishes unmistakable evidence of wise, thoughtful discrimination on the part of the real leaders of popular opinion. The election was conducted with dignity and in an orderly manner; and the mass of the people were satisfied that the new delegates were in no humor to shirk responsibility or hasten war.
The very day after the Convention adjourned, news came of the affair at Concord, and the battle at Lexington. It was Sunday, but Wall Street was precipitated almost instantly into a state of alarming confusion. One of the chambers of the City Hall contained a quantity of fire-arms and military equipments, purchased by the corporation a few years before; these were hurriedly taken into custody by the "Liberty Boys"—of whom were McDougall, Lamb, Willett, and Sears—who retiring into an alley near by formed into a city guard, and patrolled the streets. Some vessels laden with supplies for the English troops at Boston were boarded by this ad interim force, and their cargoes speedily unloaded. Within a few days, or as soon as messages could be sent to the different counties, a committee of one hundred men of eminence was chosen to direct the general affairs of New York until a provincial congress could be elected. Daniel Phoenix was one of this famous committee, whose name is identified with the history of the Wall Street Presbyterian Church, of which he was a trustee from 1772 to 1812, and the manager almost exclusively of its financial concerns. He was after the war the city treasurer or chamberlain, and was also connected with every mercantile institution of his day. In all these early attempts at self-government we note judicious, uniform, and systematic management. At the same time there were elements that could not be controlled. So fierce was the bitterness between friend and foe that neutrality became intolerable. Men were compelled to show their colors. Loyalists were pursued with merciless rancor. More than one instance is recorded of men being carried through Wall Street on rails. It was unsafe at this juncture to breathe a syllable against the American cause. Rev. Charles Inglis, rector of Trinity Church, was forbidden to pray for the king and royal family. He could not comply with such an order without violating his oath and the dictates of his conscience, and was greatly embarrassed. He was accosted and insulted in the streets, and finally his life was threatened. One Sunday morning the dwellers in Wall Street were appalled by the appearance of a hundred and fifty armed men, who paraded up and down from Broadway to the East River, and back again a few times, and then marched deliberately into Trinity Church with drums beating, fifes playing, and bayonets glistening on their loaded muskets.
It was just at the opening of the morning service, and it was well understood that the object of this hostile demonstration was to compel the rector to cease praying for England's monarch; the terrified congregation expected the preacher would be shot down in the sacred desk should he have the temerity to mention the king in his supplications. But with unfaltering courage Mr. Inglis proceeded to the end of the service, omitting no portion of it, and received no personal injury. The vestry of the church compromised with the angry revolutionists by agreeing to close the Episcopal churches of the city altogether for the present. It proved to be the last public religious service ever held in the old Trinity edifice, which was reduced to a heap of unsightly ruins in the great fire of 1776.
Another exciting scene in Wall Street was at the reading of the Declaration of Independence, by order of the New York Congress, at White Plains, July 18, 1776. This document had been read at the head of each brigade of the Continental army on the 10th, by direction of Washington, and the destruction of the equestrian statue of King George at the Bowling Green was on the evening of same day. But the ceremony at the City Hall was an emphatic expression of New York in particular, and the more notable from the fact that the ships of the enemy had actually arrived and anchored in the harbor; and for twenty-four hours prior to the event, women, children, and infirm persons were, through Washington's advice, being hurried from the city in anticipation of a bloody conflict. The newspapers of the day chronicle the presence of thousands of listeners to the reading, who filled the air with huzzas of joy, and then burned the king's coat-of-arms in a huge bonfire kindled for the purpose, having torn the tablet from the wall of the old structure.With the occupation of New York by the British, Wall Street residences were many of them vacated by their owners and inhabited by the red-coated officers. Judge Jones tells us that the British soldiers "broke open the City Hall, and plundered it of the college library, its mathematical and philosophical apparatus, and a number of valuable pictures, all of which had been removed there by way of safety when the rebels converted the college into a hospital. They also plundered it of all the books belonging to the subscription library, as also of a valuable library belonging to the corporation, the whole consisting of not less than sixty thousand volumes. "This", he says, "was done with impunity, and the books publicly hawked about the town for sale by private soldiers, their trulls and doxeys. I saw an Annual Register neatly bound and lettered, sold for a dram. Freeman's Reports for a shilling, and Coke's First Institutes, or what is usually called Coke upon Littleton, was offered to me for 1s. 6d. I saw in a public house upon Long Island nearly forty books bound and lettered, in which were affixed the arms of Joseph Murray, Esq., under pawn from one dram to three drams each." Judge Jones further says: "To do justice even to rebels, let it be here mentioned that though they were in full possession
THE RIGHT REVEREND CHARLES INGLIS, D.D.
THE FIRST PROTESTANT BISHOP IN THE BRITISH COLONIES.
CONSECRATED FOR THE SEE OF NOVA SCOTIA, 1787.
of New York for nearly seven months, and had in it at times above forty thousand men, neither of these libraries was ever meddled with, the telescope which General Washington took excepted."
The great fire left its blight upon the street, although its track was to the west of Broadway. The ghostly spectacle on the site of Old Trinity was constantly before the Wall Street eye for the next eight years. The Wall Street Presbyterian church, in which Whitfield had once poured forth the torrent of his eloquence, was uninjured by the flames; but it was shortly converted into a hospital for the British soldiers.
The winter of 1779-1780 was one of the most cheerless and severely cold ever known in New York latitude. The snow began to fall about the 10th of November, and continued to fall, attended by piercing winds, nearly every day till the middle of the ensuing March. In the woods the snow lay at least four feet upon a level, and it was with the utmost difficulty that trees were extricated for fire-wood after being felled. The distress occasioned by the scarcity of fuel was terrible. Poor people burned fat to cook their meals, gardens and fields were shorn of their ornamental and fruit trees for firewood—apple trees, peach trees, plum trees, cherry trees, and pear trees were ruthlessly chopped down on every hand. The situation seemed to justify the proceeding, and owners made no complaints. The beautiful shade trees in Wall Street, some of them a century old, were sacrificed, felled indiscriminately, and consumed in the Wall Street kitchens. Provisions became so costly as to exhaust the purses of the rich. Fifty dollars would hardly feed a family two days. The British generals implored the farmers of Long Island and vicinity to bring their produce into the city, but they paid little heed to the prayer. The Hudson was frozen so solid that an army, "with the heaviest artillery might have crossed it on the ice. One of the writers of the day tells us that the whole river from New York Bay to Albany was "mere terra firma." And the ice was equally thick and strong in the East River. The Sound at New Haven was frozen across " the whole thirty miles to the Long Island shore, with the exception of about two miles in the middle." No man living had ever before seen New York Bay frozen over from the city to Staten Island; but now more than two hundred heavily laden two-horse sleighs crossed on the ice in a body at one time, escorted by two hundred horsemen. The British men-of-war in the harbor were hopelessly ice-bound and could not move.Sir Henry Clinton went south in December to reduce Charleston, leaving Knyphausen in command at New York, a rough, taciturn old veteran, the commander-in-chief of the German forces, who had served his prince in
FELLING SHADE TREES IN WALL STREET, FOR FUEL.
the military line from from his earliest youth. He was living at the time in the elegant McEver's dwelling in Wall Street, corner of William, which was so metamorphosed through his untidy habits during his occupancy, as hardly to be recognized when its proprietors returned. He had many peculiarities, not least among which was the use of his thumb in place of a knife at table to spread butter upon his bread. His exploits, planned and executed during the winter, degenerated into midnight forays into New Jersey and elsewhere; his men being able to cross on the ice and return under cover of the darkness. It was impossible for the Americans to guard the entire long stretch of New Jersey shore, and some of those barbarous raids furnished a chapter of horrors never to be forgotten by the people of that generation. Both the Hessians and the refugees were the terror of the whole surrounding country—it was hard to tell which of the two was the more to be dreaded. Knyphausen accompanied his troops on one or two occasions, notably on an expedition into New Jersey in the spring of 1780, where he had a singularly mortifying and ignominious experience, with which all cultivated readers are familiar.
Sir Guy Carleton reached New York in April, 1782, and was enthusiastically greeted by the inhabitants, who were suffering under military oppression, frauds and all sorts of abuses from unprincipled placemen and officials. He commenced the work of reform with commendable celerity and great vigor, and discharged, so we are told by Judge Jones, "such a number of supernumerary barrack masters, land commissaries, water commissaries, forage masters, cattle commissaries, cattle feeders, hay collectors, hay inspectors, hay weighers, wood inspectors, timber commissaries, board inspectors, refugee examiners, refugee provision providers, and refugee ration deliverers, commissaries of American, of French, of Dutch, and of Spanish prisoners, naval commissaries, and military commissaries, with such a numerous train of clerks, deputy clerks, and other dependents upon
the mcever's mansion, wall street, in 1800.
Residence of General Knyphausen during the Revolution.
[From an old print.]
At this juncture Wall Street presented a sad picture. "The semi-circular front of Old Trinity still reared its ghastly head, and seemed to deepen while it hallowed the solitude of its surrounding graves," wrote Mr. Duer in his description of the return. "At the head of Broad Street we descried the City Hall in its primitive nakedness; nearly opposite was the modest dwelling of (afterwards occupied as a residence by) Alexander Hamilton; and at the intersection of Smith (now William) Street, erect upon its pedestal, was the statue of the elder Pitt, mutilated and defaced, in resentment of his speech against the acknowledgment of our Independence."
But Wall Street was one of the first localities in the city to take a bath, so to speak, and array itself in new clothes. The rust and the rubbish disappeared like dew in the presence of a clear sun. The City Hall was renovated, and the courts opened. The first mayor after the Revolution was James Duane (whose portrait appeared in the Magazine for May), and under his administration the Mayor's court suddenly, and by common consent, acquired a business and an authority scarcely contemplated by the statutes creating it. Litigation suddenly became more lavish than any other department of industry. All sorts of knotty legal questions arose—the more perplexing through the destruction or removal of records, and consequent indistinction of titles. Then came the confiscation of estates, and the swift mutation in the relative value of money and property of all kinds. Richard Varick was the first city recorder in the new order of things, and Duane's successor in the mayoralty. The Legislature assembled in the City Hall in January following the evacuation, and the presiding officer of the Senate was Pierre Van Cortlandt, Lieutenant-Governor of the new State for eighteen consecutive years, the great grandfather of the late Dr. Pierre Cortlandt Van Wyck, superintendent of the Assay Office, in Wall Street, whose sudden death in April of the present year threw a large circle of attached friends into the deepest mourning. Robert Benson, clerk of the Senate through six preceding sessions, continued in that office: he was the brother of Judge Egbert Benson.
Wall Street was now entering upon the most significant period of its history. It was already the seat of fashion, with almost an exclusive claim, and it was also the seat of the State Government. Presently the rumor came that it was to be the future seat of Congress; and on the 23d of December, 1784, that august body, representing all there was of a national government, actually arrived, and the corporation of the city tendered the use of the City Hall for its sessions, together with such other public buildings as might be necessary for its convenience. Thus when the opening of the New Year (1785) was celebrated, New York was the capital of the nation.
DR. PIERRE CORTLANDT VAN WYCK.
John Jay had just been appointed to the dignified and important office of Secretary of Foreign Affairs. No man, except Washington, at this moment stood higher in the affections of his countrymen. Upon his return from his successful European mission in July, the whole city was brilliant with festivities in his honor. Wall Street was alive with an enthusiastic multitude as he was conducted to the City Hall and greeted with an address of welcome from the Mayor, and presented with the freedom of the city in a gold box. As he entered upon his duties he found every step clogged through the want of executive authority in the administration. The whole machinery of government was not only to be devised and constructed, but the tests were to be applied through which it could be kept in successful motion. He organized foreign affairs on a modest scale, but with discriminating judgment, such as served to command for our infant nation the respect of kingdoms and crowns throughout the civilized world. In the midst of his harassing perplexities in May, 1785, he had the proud satisfaction of communicating to Congress an official account of the successful voyage of the first vessel sent from the United States to China—a vessel which had returned in triumph, having established a direct trade with that far distant empire, whereby was given a fresh impulse and energy to every branch of industry. It was an exhilarating commercial event, and naturally produced intense enthusiasm. Wall Street was in a tumult of excitement, and the joyful throng about the City Hall could hardly find voice sufficient to proclaim with shouts its volume of gladness so as to be heard above the ringing of bells and booming of cannon. A triumphal procession, and banners and bonfires added the crowning touches to a spontaneous celebration inspired by a sentiment in which we, even of this day and generation, can generously sympathize.
Before the end of that memorable summer. Wall Street was repeatedly the scene of incidents of peculiar historical significance. Spain bowed her haughty head to the new power; and Spain's first ambassador, Don Diego Gardoqui, reached the capital of the new Republic. Secretary Jay, remembering his own checkered experiences in Spain, must have been exceptionally gratified in conducting the Spanish nobleman to the Congress chamber in Wall Street, where with much ceremony and consequence his commission and letters of credence were presented and read; Gardoqui then addressed the Republican Congress in a happily worded speech, declaring (what every one present believed to be untrue) the devoted affection of Spain's king to the North American people.
From this historic old City Hall emanated instructions for the first United States minister to England, John Adams, who was in Holland at the moment studying the customs and forms of the African governments, and endeavoring to negotiate treaties with Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. It was a decade of beginnings. Secretary Jay had made good use of his opportunities while in Europe, and was at this particular crisis probably, without exception, the best informed man on this side of the Atlantic concerning affairs of state in the other governments of the world. Yet nothing could be copied literally, and the knowledge he possessed must all be put into the crucible, and melted over, so to speak, before its adaptability to the new want could be determined. Thus it was also a decade of experiments. A hundred years have since elapsed (or nearly), and the stream of correspondence arising from friendly relations then inaugurated with the various countries has been ebbing and flowing, and constantly broadening, until the vast accumulation of material in the State Department at Washington is enough to appal the common mind. It is arranged, however, in perfect order, the system of indexing having been brought to such a high science that any document from any country or person, upon any subject, and of any date, may be found within half an hour. Our first premier, having no precedents to follow, labored under a weight of moral accountability unknown to his successors. Late in the autumn of the same year, Sir John Temple, the first consul-general from Great Britain to the United States after their independence was recognized, was given a reception by Congress, and Wall Street was again in an ecstasy of commotion. Sir John was a native of Boston, and married the daughter of Governor Bowdoin, one of the most distinguished looking women of her day; he inherited his title from his grandfather, who lived and died in England. He resided for many years in New York, and died in New York. A tablet to his memory may be seen in St. Paul's Church, to the left of the chancel.
We cannot pause to mention but a few of the interesting events of this formative period which have made Wall Street notable in American history. But we must not pass by the election of Thomas Jefferson as minister to France in place of Franklin, and of John Rutledge to the Netherlands in place of John Adams. And it was here that the constantly tangling questions about the treaties were discussed from day to day, and measures adopted for the dignified maintenance of what had been secured at such a serious cost. The Spanish ambassador brought proposals from his government concerning the navigation of the Mississippi, which Secretary Jay met with an offer to forbear navigating its waters below the southern boundary of the Republic for a term of twenty or thirty years, but refused promptly and firmly to relinquish the right, which the Spanish minister would not concede. And here was penned the spirited remonstrance to the ministry of Great Britain—of which the world knows very little—against what was interpreted as an infraction of the recent treaty with the parent power; and the demand for the immediate removal of British garrisons from several specified military posts on the frontiers. A secret act was also passed by Congress giving discretionary power to the Secretary of State for one year, to inspect letters in the post office—the supposed motive being to discover treachery, if any existed, in the nature of instructions from England to the commanders of the garrisons. There is no record, however, to prove that the extraordinary authority was ever exercised.
SIR JOHN TEMPLE.
First Consul-General from Great Britain to the United States after its Independence was Recognized.
The presence of Congress brightened social as well as business aspects. Wall Street was the great center of interest, and was brilliant with showily dressed ladies and gentlemen, in all the colors of the rainbow, every sunshiny afternoon. Brissot de Warville found here every English fashion—the richest "silks, satins, velvets, gauzes, hats, and borrowed hair." Equipages, he tells us, were rare, but very elegant. The diplomatic and distinguished foreign personages, together with "the concourse of strangers," he says, "contribute much to extend the ravages of luxury." But he thought the inhabitants preferred the splendor of wealth, and the show of enjoyment, to a simplicity of manners and the pure pleasures resulting therefrom. He informs us that it cost more to live in New York than in France, and quotes the price of board from four to six dollars per week. He further says, "the habit of smoking has not disappeared in this town, with the other customs of their fathers, the Dutch. They use cigars, which come from the Spanish islands, a usage revolting to the French. The philosopher condemns it, as it is a superfluous want. It has, however, one advantage: it accustoms to meditation, and prevents loquacity. The smoker is asked a question; the answer comes two minutes after, and is well founded. The cigar renders to a man the service that the philosopher drew from a glass of water which he drank when he was in anger."
The Holland minister plenipotentiary, Pieter Johan Van Berckel, lived very handsomely in Wall Street, corner of William, in the house formerly occupied by William Edgar. His daughter presided over his household, and they entertained generously. His son, Frank Van Berckel, was something of a swell, dressed gorgeously, drove a large beautiful horse in a high phaeton, and was generally conspicuous. Dr. John Bard, the eminent physician, who was upwards of seventy, drove in a low pony phaeton, usually wore a red coat and a cocked hat, carried a gold-headed cane, and was always attended by a faithful negro as venerable as himself. An amusing caricature print appeared one day representing the white-haired doctor in his little vehicle, passing under the body and between the wheels of the gay young Dutchman's elevated equippage, without touching. It is said that no one relished the humor of the illustration more than Dr. Bard himself.
The French magnates were ornamental in their attire in the superlative degree, and although some of the French writers affected to deplore the extravagance and folly of the New Yorkers, it was certainly impossible to outshine them in the novelties of the toilet. M. de Marbois, M. Louis William Otto, and the Marquis de Moustier, each in succession contributed largely to the style and elegance, as well as the pleasures of society. M. Otto possessed the most agreeable social qualities, and married into the Livingston family. De Moustier was wealthy and was exceedingly fond of display; he entertained frequently and ostentatiously. The daughter of John Adams tells us that he was handsome and polite, but that his clever sister, Madame de Brehan, was the oddest figure eyes ever beheld. As for Sir John Temple, he made it his business to call upon every stranger of note who arrived in the city, as if he were a master of ceremonies, and lost no opportunity of extending the most delightful civilities. The President of Congress, Cyrus Griffin, from Virginia, and his wife. Lady Christiana Griffin, were in the habit of giving ceremonious dinners to twenty or more invited guests, as often as once or twice every week. Mrs. Smith wrote to her mother: "Public dinners, public days, and private parties may take up a person's whole attention if they attend to them all.
PIETER JOHAN VAN BERCKEL
We have dined to-day at President Griffin's with a company of twenty-two persons, including many members of Congress, etc. Had you been present you would have trembled for your country, to have seen, heard and observed the men who are its rulers. There where very few whose behavior bore many marks of wisdom." M. Brissot describes the public characters of that interesting period in few words. He speaks of Secretary Jay as forty-three years of age, and says it would be difficult to find in history a character altogether more respectable. James Madison he calls thirty-seven, appearing hardly thirty-three, "who has an air of fatigue, and his looks announce the censor." He was still a bachelor, and invited distinguished foreigners occasionally to dine with him at his hotel. Hamilton had taken up his abode in Wall Street, and is mentioned in the same breath as six years younger than Madison, but judged to be five years older, who had the finest genius and one of the bravest tempers ever displayed in politics; and a charming wife, who joined to the graces all the candor and simplicity of the American woman. At Hamilton's dinner-table M. Brissot met Rufus King, "nearly thirty-three years old, who passed for the most eloquent man in the United States, but such was his modesty that he appeared ignorant of his own worth." Colonel Duer, Secretary to the Treasury Board, was also at the Hamilton dinner, who, we are told, by our foreign informant, "united to great abilities much goodness of heart;" and General Mifflin, who "added to the vivacity of a Frenchman every obliging characteristic."
It is pleasant to have these worthies thus brought back to the flesh for a brief half hour. Rufus King was elected to Congress in 1784, and was annually re-elected until 1789. In March, 1786, he married Mary, the only and lovely daughter of John Alsop (whose fine portrait graces the May number of the Magazine), then only in her sixteenth year. She was very much admired for her culture and genius as well as for her remarkable beauty. Next adjoining the City Hall to the south stood the large yellow homestead of the Verplancks, where was born in 1786 the gifted Gulian C. Verplanck, eminent through a long life in law, letters, theology, and politics. His fair-haired young mother, the daughter of William Samuel Johnson, President of Columbia College, died when he was three years old, and he was left to the care of his grandmother, by whom he was carefully reared. Mr. Bryant, in a discourse before the New York Historical Society in 1870, spoke of the grandmother as "a lively little lady, often seen walking up Wall Street dressed in pink satin and in dainty high-heeled shoes, with a quaint jeweled watch swinging from her waist." Secretary and Mrs. Jay occupied the first place in New York society, by reason of his dignified position, and, it might be added, the first place in American society, for no man stood above Jay during the half dozen years prior to the inauguration of our first President. They entertained every Thursday, gathering about them all that was most illustrious in statesmanship and letters, gave evening parties at frequent intervals, and usually one ceremonious dinner each week—sometimes two. Mrs. Jay was well fitted for these social duties through natural endowments and her long residence in the Spanish and French capitals. The importance attached to the doing of national honors and national hospitalities in the Old World could not be ignored in the New. The necessities of the situation were understood by no one better than Secretary Jay, who guarded the interests of the country in relation to such formalities with scrupulous exactitude. Mrs. Jay was complimented by her contemporaries on every hand as a perfect disciple of the rules of good taste and high breeding. The entertainments chronicled were not idle, selfish, profitless amusements; but in spirit, intent, and result, important links in the chain which was to bind nations together in harmony. Mrs. Jay's invitation list on one occasion is a memento worth reproducing and preserving, since it introduces us to the circle who met at her table, and also to the charmed throng enlivening Wall Street daily—unquestionably among the most effective groupings of brilliant and remarkable people that history affords. But we must not linger at the dinner table, however much the movements in polite and every-day life illustrate the character of an age. From Wall Street were emanating ideas that were to affect all coming generations. The heart of the infant Republic was maturing—the pulses of the great future were beginning to beat with regularity. The versatile and irresistible Hamilton was studying the science of practical statesmanship in his Wall Street home, and ripening for his work through patient attention to facts and a grand generalization of their subtle principles. He could endure, it is said, more unremitted and intense labor than any other man in the country. When the crisis came he was able to interpret essential needs by illustration, and with a boldness without precedent, an electricity of eloquence unsurpassed, and powers of argument evincing the most remarkable maturity of thought, he took his place in the foremost rank of artists in government-making. His influence in the Convention that framed the Constitution is familiarly known. When he returned home he found New York all askew—and he was accused of having perpetrated the worst mischiefs. Then came the educating process; he commenced writing the famous series of essays, entitled "The Federalist," which, published in the New York newspapers, were copied far and wide into nearly all the journals of America. Associated with him were Jay and Madison. These papers commanded wide attention, influencing opinion everywhere, and they were all written in Wall Street. Gen. Lamb was one of the most powerful leaders of the opposition, and the two parties kept New York agitated from center to circumference with abuse and acrimonious disputation. One morning Hamilton and Lamb, emerging from their homes in Wall Street at the same moment, held an animated discourse in the street, the one slight of figure, youthful, with fair face flushed with intelligent energy, the other a grave, robust, determined looking man, of nearly twice his years. Hamilton urged the absurdity of Lamb's fears concerning " the abuse of power," as Washington would certainly be the first President, but Lamb declared that not even a name so illustrious could shake his opposition to the dangerous Constitution. We all know the incidents of the momentous decision, when New York adopted the Constitution by a majority of three, and thus turned the pivot in the history of the English-speaking race. Also how the victory of Hamilton was celebrated, and the wonder of the public mind at its own obstinacy, as the prospect brightened. Then came one of the most orderly elections ever known in any country, the election for our first President, without the aid of a nominating convention or any electioneering process whatever. Every voice and vote was for Washington. It is an isolated instance in the history of nations for one man to possess to such a degree the confidence and affection of a great people.
Thirty-two thousand dollars were speedily contributed by prominent citizens for the enlargement and adornment of the City Hall, which, when completed, had an imposing and stately appearance. The basement story was in the Tuscan style, with seven openings; four massive pillars in the center supported heavy arches, above which rose four Doric columns; the cornice was ingeniously divided to admit thirteen stars in the metopes, which, with the eagle and other insignia in the pediment, and the sculptures of thirteen arrows surrounded by olive branches over each window, marked it as a building set apart for national purposes. The Representative Chamber was of octangular shape, sixty-one by fifty-eight feet in dimensions, with an arched ceiling forty-six feet high in the center. It had two galleries, a speaker's platform, and a separate chair and desk for each member. Under each window was a quaint fire-place. The Senate Chamber was smaller, with an arched ceiling of light blue, a sun and thirteen stars in the center. It was elaborately decorated, and its numerous fire-places were of highly polished variegated American marble. The chair for the President was elevated three feet above the floor under a rich canopy of crimson damask. The senators' chairs were placed in semicircles, with the same bright covering. Three windows opened on Wall Street, and a balcony twelve feet deep, guarded by an iron railing, was where the President was to take the oath of office. Meanwhile Wall Street was elsewhere alive with painters and builders; dwellings were repaired and burnished anew, and many new edifices sprung into sudden notice.
Then came the great event, the most sublime in human history, the event which thrilled the whole civilized world. The circumstances through which the Revolution had been successful, and the institutions of liberty established in a new world, were fresh in the public memory. It is not surprising, therefore, that the concourse of spectators who came from every part of the land to witness the ceremony of inaugurating the first chief magistrate of the Union should have exhibited irrepressible delight.
Wall Street, each way from the City Hall, and Broad Street as far as the eye could reach, were filled with a sea of upturned faces—silent as if statues of marble instead of living beings—as the oath was administered to their future ruler, and when Chancellor Livingston cried, "'It is done,' long live George Washington, President of the United States!" the air was immediately rent with rapturous shouts, and the roar of cannon. In the evening the city was illuminated with unparalleled splendor. Every public building was in a blaze of light. Private residences were brilliantly lighted, none more so than those of the Holland, French, and Spanish ministers. The Count de Moustier's doors and windows were bordered with lamps, shining upon numerous paintings suggestive of the past, the present and the future of American history, from the brush of Madame de Brehan, the Count's sister. One of the vessels at anchor off the Battery resembled a pyramid of stars.
Life in Wall Street at once assumed a phase of elegance a notch or two higher than ever before. Property and rents advanced in value. Residence in the street and vicinity was earnestly sought by the congressional dignitaries. Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury, and Washington was frequently entertained at his house. Jay was appointed the first Chief Justice of the United States; and Oliver Ellsworth was made chairman of the committee who prepared the bill establishing the Supreme Court. Thomas Jefferson returned from France, and was chosen Secretary of State. Knox was continued in the War Office. Oliver Wolcott was presently appointed Auditor of the Treasury. The organization of this important department naturally occupied much time. Hamilton applied all the skill and method of which he was master to the construction of a plan of indefinite expansion, suited to every object and exigency of the great future. The peculiar formalities observed by Washington in his intercourse with the legislative branch of the government are interesting. He inaugurated the custom of delivering in person his message on the opening of Congress to the two houses sitting in a joint session, after the manner of the King and Parliament of Great Britain. He drove to the Federal Hall on such occasions in a coach drawn by six horses, preceded and followed by officers on horseback, as shown in the authentic illustration: and, furthermore (as recorded in his note-book), "in the rear came the Chief Justice of the United States, and the Secretaries of the Treasury and War departments in their respective carriages, and in the order they are named."
A volume might easily be filled with the list of questions arising for adjustment while Wall Street was the seat of the new government. More complex, intricate or profound subjects, or those of greater importance to mankind never came before a body of legislators. The principles upon which alone the nation could survive were here determined, and the initiatory matters of interpretation settled. The blended thought and argumentation of philosophers, orators, jurists, and statesmen, immortalized the locality. And singularly enough, upon the very site of the edifice where the foundations were laid of our whole governmental scheme the marble structure has since been placed which guards the golden treasures of the Union, and Wall Street has been converted into the vital business center of the country, with its financial and commercial roots stretched to the remotest quarters of the globe.
The controversy over the site of the permanent seat of government created no little heart burning. The measure for funding the public debt was pending at the same time. In the end an agreement was reached through which Hamilton's system brought the great national debt into tangible shape, and the city of Washington was founded. Wall Street languished, sadly, after the President's six prancing horses with their painted hoofs were no more seen whirling the elaborately ornamented cream-colored state coach of the chief magistrate of the Union to the door of the City Hall.
But as its political and social glory waned its financial history began. In 1791 the Bank of New York, the pioneer of banking institutions in the city, received a charter from the State legislature for a period of twenty years, with a capital of $900,000. It was virtually established in 1784 under articles of association drawn by Hamilton. The first president was Gen. Alexander McDougall, and the second president Isaac Roosevelt; the first president under the charter was Gulian Verplanck, the uncle of Gulian C. Verplanck. Its presidents during nearly a century of existence have been in addition to those already named, Nicholas Gouverneur (1799), Herman Leroy (1802), Matthew Clarkson (1804), Charles Wilkes (1825), Cornelius Heyer (1832), John Oothout (1843), Anthony P. Halsey (1858), Charles P. Leverich (1863), Charles M. Fry (1876); its cashiers, William Seton (1791), Charles Wilkes (1794), Cornelius Heyer (1825), Anthony Halsey (1832), William B. Meeker (1856), Richard B. Ferris (1873).
The bank was located in the McEvers mansion in Wall Street corner of William, upon the site of which arose the building illustrated below. Only once in its history has it passed a dividend, in 1837, when the legislature prohibited all banks from paying dividends. Six per cent, was the rate for several years, but the extra dividends declared at various times makes the average upward of eight per cent. It went under the National system in 1865, since which time the current dividends have been ten per cent.
About the same time the Bank of New York went into successful operation the merchants of the city formed an association for the purpose of providing a business center for the commercial community, and named it in honor of Tonti, a Neapolitan, who introduced a similar scheme into France in 1653. The Tontine Building was erected in Wall Street, corner of Water Street, between the years 1792 and 1794, at a cost of some $43,000.
BANK OF NEW YORK, CORNER WALL AND WILLIAM STREETS.
The establishment of financial institutions in the street gradually affected its architecture, as well as its business and general character. The following quotation from a "description of New York in 1800," written about 1840, is fresh with peculiar interest in certain particulars: "At the corner of Nassau Street stood the venerable Federal Hall, since torn down; a splendid row of dwellings was afterwards put up, and subsequently torn down to give place to the new Custom House, now building. Next below stood the elegant mansion of Mr. Verplanck, the brick of which was brought from Holland; and now in its stead is the Bank of the State of New York. Next was the residence of John Keese, now the Union Bank; less changed than any other building. This, however, on the 1st of May, is to be leveled with the ground, and a new banking-house to be put up. Between it and William Street were the residences of Francis B. Winthrop and Charles Wilkes, in the place of which are the Dry Dock Bank and Bank of America. On the lot where the United States Bank now stands was the elegant mansion of General John Lamb, first Collector of the Port, and father of Alderman Lamb. This was considered not only the finest house, but was believed to be the grandest house that could be built. On the opposite side, where is now going up the new Merchants' Exchange, stood the residence of Thomas Buchanan, Mrs. White, and William C. Leffingwell. Mr. Jauncey, an English gentleman who lived in great style, occupied the building now rented by Messrs. Dykers & Alstyne; his stable is the same building now used by the Board of Brokers. The very room in which millions of stock are sold every week, was then a hay loft.
"The watch-house was kept at the corner of Broad Street, now used by Robinson for the sale of his caricatures. Baker's tavern, one of the most noted public houses, was at the corner of New Street; a club met there nightly for more than half a century. Pine Street has undergone still greater changes; from Water Street to Broadway, every house has been demolished. Then not a store was to be seen. The old French church, the sanctuary of the Huguenots, stood at the corner of Nassau; its surrounding burying yard contained the ashes of many of the most valued citizens. The Wolcotts, Jays, Waddingtons, Radcliffs, Brinkerhoffs, Wells, Reads, and a host of others resided in the street, without a thought that in less than forty, and even thirty years, not one brick then standing would remain on another. In Pearl Street were the fashionable residences of Samuel Denton, John Ellis, John J. Glover, John Mowett, Robert Lenox, Thomas Cadle, John Glendenning, John B. Murray, Governor Broome, Andrew Ogden, Governor George Clinton, Richard Varick, and a great number of others. Nearly all of these gentlemen are deceased. We noticed a few days since one of the number, Mr. Denton, for a long time past a resident of Tennessee. He remarked that he was absolutely a stranger; knew no one, and could hardly identify a single spot. In Hanover Square stood a block of buildings fronting Old Slip and Pearl Street. They have all been removed. The city consisted of seven wards, now increased to seventeen."
Francis Bayard Winthrop was the fifth in descent from Governor John Winthrop of Massachusetts, and the son of John Still Winthrop and Jane, only daughter of Francis Borland of Boston. He married the daughter of Thomas Marston, of New York, and changed his residence after the Revolution from Boston to New York, purchasing a beautiful country seat at Turtle Bay. He also, at a later date, purchased the mansion in Wall street, north-west corner of William, which Van Berkel had made so attractive to society while New York was the capital. This was the city home of the Winthrops for many years, and the resort of all that was elegant and scholarly in American life. The younger brother of Francis Bayard Winthrop was Lieutenant-Governor Thomas Lindall Winthrop, the father of Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, of Boston; another brother was Benjamin Winthrop, who married Judith Stuyvesant of New York; also Joseph, who married and settled in Charleston, South Carolina, and Admiral Robert Winthrop, of the British Navy. Charles Wilkes, who lived alongside the Winthrops in Wall street, was nephew of the celebrated John Wilkes, who figured so conspicuously in English politics and Parliament. And the nephew and namesake of Charles Wilkes, born in 1801 in this old mansion.
PORTRAIT OF FRANCIS BAYARD WINTHORP.
[Engraved from antique miniature by permission of his grandson. Charles Francis Winthrop.]
Many pages might be written touching upon events in the early part of the present century which should properly have a place in these chronicles if space permitted. On one occasion (in 1804) Wall Street was heavily draped in the deepest and blackest of mourning, as never before or since. Business was entirely suspended, and men walked to and fro aimlessly and tearfully. Hamilton was dead. The great financier, who had practically established the public credit of the country, had perished in a duel. The bankers met, pallid and grief-stricken, passed resolutions, and closed their doors. The merchants, the bar, the Cincinnati, the Tammany Society, the St. Andrews Society, the General Society of Mechanics, the students of Columbia College, the Corporation of the City, with the mayor, De Witt Clinton, at its head, and, indeed, nearly every body of men that had a corporate existence, solemnly agreed to wear mourning for six weeks. The funeral ceremonies in Trinity Church brought the largest concourse of people into Wall Street that had been seen there since the inauguration of Washington. The final resting-place of the statesman was chosen under the sycamore shades of the sacred inclosure at the head of Wall Street, but a step from where his achievements had been concentrated, and an amount of difficult and laborious service compressed into a short, busy life, affecting all the future of this great monetary center—such service as few men ever rendered to any nation in the longest term of human existence.
Some of the most important institutions of New York, other than those of finance, began in Wall Street. The University of the State, for instance, was here created by an act of the Legislature, in 1784; an educational institution similar to that of Oxford, in England, with broader scope and greater powers (and less comprehended by the general public) than any other on this continent. It was the corner-stone of New York's grand scheme of public instruction, yet it is constantly being confounded, even by men and women of intelligence, with the University of the City, which had no existence in our annals until the University of the State was nearly fifty years old. A concise and scholarly sketch of the rise and progress of this influential institution will be found in the June Magazine of American History, from the pen of Dr. David Murray.It was in the picture-room of the City Hall in Wall Street that the New York Historical Society was organized, in 1804. The founders of this time-honored institution represented the highest eminence and culture of New York, and were veritable educators of the public taste. And they were instrumental in directing public attention throughout the land to the
WALL STREET IN 1822.
importance of preserving contemporary records as the data from which all future history must receive its true impress. When this Society was formed, but one institution of its kind existed in America—that of the Massachusetts Historical Society. It occupied a room in the City Hall from 1804 to 1809. Its first president was Judge Egbert Benson; its first vice-presidents were Bishop Moore and Judge Brockholst Livingston, and nearly all its presidents and many of its vice-presidents have since been men of national reputation.
The Merchants' Exchange, in Wall Street, was completed in 1827, and the city Post Office was quartered under its roof. The full-page illustration is from a steel engraving published in the New York Mirror in 1832, a little more than half a century ago—the artist looking towards the East River, with the Phoenix Bank on his right and the Winthrop and Wilkes homesteads on his left. A writer of same date mournfully moralizes over the "wonderful mutations and alterations within the course of a century," saying: "This is the street which contains most of the floating capital of the city; and indeed there is little specie to be found anywhere else. This is the mart for bankers, brokers, underwriters, and stock-jobbers. Here are planned and consummated speculations of every shape, character, color, and dimension—from the sale of an orange to the disposal of an East Indian cargo. This is the street, before any other in the city, for speculations, not merely in commercial affairs, but on the characters, manners, and pursuits of those who are thus occupied. This is the street which Halleck has not only hallowed by his lyre, but also by his own commercial labors. For, however it may astonish the reader, poets are not always in the clouds. The day has gone by when genius banqueted on air. That we are correct, take his own words:
" 'No longer in love's myrtle shade
My thoughts recline—
I'm busy in the cotton trade,
And sugar line! '
" '"Money is power," 'tis said—I never tried,
For I'm a poet, and bank notes to me
Are curiosities, as closely eyed
Whene'er I get them as a stone would be
Tossed from the moon,' etc., etc."
- General Armstrong, Mr. and Miss Van Berckel, Mr. John Alsop, Mr. and Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Bruce, Mr. Egbert Benson, Mr. Barclay, Miss Browne, Mr. William Bingham, Colonel William Duer, Lady Kitty Duer, Major James Duane, Mrs. and Miss Duane, Major Beckwith, Mr. Pierce Butler, Mrs. and the Misses Butler, Major Butler, Colonel Aaron Burr, Dr. and Mrs. Charlton, Mr. Bronson, Miss Bayard, Mr. Blount, Mr. Constable, Mr. and Mrs. A. Van Cortlandt, Miss Van Cortlandt, Mr. F. Van Cortlandt, Mr. and Mrs. Golden, Miss Cuyler, Governor Clinton, Mrs. Clinton, the Misses Clinton, General Clinton, Mr. Freeman Clarkson, Mr. Streatfield Clarkson, Mr. Levinus Clarkson, Mr. Henry Cruger, Mr. Cadwallader, General Clarkson, Mr. Corbit, Colonel Carringlon, M. Chamount, Mr. Dowse, Mr. Dane, Mr. F. de Peyster, Miss de Peyster. Monsieur de la Forest, Colonel Few, Mr. Franklin, Don Diego Gardoqui, Mr. and Mrs. William Grayson, Mr. Gouverneur, Mr. and Miss Gorham, Mr. Elbridge Gerry, Mr. Gansevoort, Mr. Gilman, Mr. Richard Harrison, Col. and Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, Mr. Hindman, Mr. Ralph Izard, Dr. William Samuel Johnson, Mr. Haring, Mr. Huger, Mr. Benjamin Hawkins, Mr. and Mrs. Houston, Mr. Hobart, General Irwin, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Jay, Mrs. James, Mr. S. Jones, Chevalier Paul Jones, Mr. Kemble, General and Mrs. Knox, Mr. and Mrs. Rufus King, Mr. John Watts, Mr. Robert and Lady Mary Watts, Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, Mr. John Kean, Dr. and Mrs. Kissam, Mr, and Mrs. Daniel Ludlow, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Judge Livingston, Mr. and Mrs. V. Livingston. Miss S. Livingston, Miss Maria Livingston, Mr. Philip Livingston, Miss Eliza Livingston, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, Mr. John Lawrence, Count de Moustier and Madame de Brehan, Mr. Lee, Mr. and Mrs. Ladron, Mr. C. Laidlaw, Mrs. Laidlaw, Major John Rowland Livingston, M. Lattiniere, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Henry Lee, Mr. and Mrs. A. Lee, Miss Marshall, Mr. Samuel Merideth, Mrs. Montgomery, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. and Mrs. Mason, Mr. Mason. Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Moore, Mr. J. Marston, Mr. George Matthews, General Morris, Mr. Gouverneur Morris, Mr. James Madison, Mr. William North, Mr. Samuel Osgood, Monsieur and Madame Otto, Mr. and Mrs. Pintard. Miss Pintard. Mr. and Mrs. Pierce, Bishop and Mrs Provost, the President of Congress, Lady Christiana Griffin, Col. Parker, Mr. Parker, Mr. Charles Pinckney, Mr. John Rutherfurd, Mrs. Rutherfurd, Mr. and Mrs. Pratt, Mr. George Read, Mr. Rondon, Miss Van Rensselaer, Mr. Rickets, Colonel Ross, Governor Rutledge, Mr. Remsen, Mr. Sears and family, Mr. and Mrs. Melancthon Smith, M. de Saint Glain, Gen. Philip Schuyler, Baron Steuben, Mrs. Swan, Mr. Schuyler, Mrs. Judge Symmes, Sir John and Lady Temple, Mr. Charles Thompson, Mr. and Mrs. Turnbull, Mr. and Mrs. Van Horne, Mr. C. Van Horne, Miss Betsy A. Van Horne, Miss Cornelia Van Horne, Colonel Richard Varick and Mrs. Varick, Cornelius Verplanck. Dr. Hugh Williamson, Rev. Dr. Witherspoon, Mr. and the Misses White, Colonel Wadsworth, Mr. Paine Wingate, Judge Yates.
- The senators and representatives who lived in Wall Street were Elias Boudinot and Lambert Cadwallader, of New Jersey; George Read, Richard Bassett, and John Vining, of Delaware; Joshua Seney, Benjamin Contee. and Michael Genifer Stone, of Maryland; Richard Bland Lee, and Andrew Moore, of Virginia; Edanus Burke, Daniel Huger, Thomas Sumpter, and Thomas Tuder Tucker, of South Carolina; and John Lawrence, of New York. In Broad Street near Wall lived John Langdon and Paine Wingate of New Hampshire; Tristam Dalton of Massachusetts; and Jonathan Sturges, of Connecticut.
- The second wife of Mr. Francis B. Winthrop was the daughter of Mr. John Taylor of New York.