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THE EARLY ENGLISH GOVERNORS
THE English Government was fortunate in its first representative after the surrender of Stuyvesant. Colonel Richard Nicolls, who had enforced the surrender with all the energy of a soldier, afterward displayed all the tact and wisdom of a statesman. It is true that the towns and forts were rechristened, and New Amsterdam, Fort Amsterdam, and Fort Orange became respectively New York, Fort James, and Albany in honor of the King’s brother, James, Duke of York and Albany, to whom as Lord Proprietor the new English province was now granted; but the Dutch were not interfered with in their homes, their holdings, or their religion, and for nearly a year the city government at New Amsterdam went on as of old under the control of burgomasters, schepens, and schouts.
In the following year Nicolls, according to instructions from the Duke of York, abolished “the form of government late in practice,” appointed a mayor, aldermen, and a sheriff to rule New York, and directed the new officials to swear allegiance to the Duke He continued the commercial rights of the freeman who represented the burghers of the Dutch period, and he also introduced trial by jury, which placated the dwellers at New York and along the Hudson.
On Long Island and in Westchester where New Englanders had settled, Nicolls proceeded with greater vigor. This section together with Staten Island was erected into the district of Yorkshire, where “the Duke’s Laws” were proclaimed and the machinery of English county government was put in operation. With its three ridings, its courts of sessions, and its court of assizes, Yorkshire soon had an unmistakable English character even though Dutch inhabitants were numerous in western Long Island and in Staten Island. The Duke’s Laws were compiled mainly from the laws of the New England colonies, though they departed in many particulars from New England traditions. In the Dutch towns schouts and schepens gave place to overseers and constables. The characteristic form of town government in the province was that in which freeholders elected a board of eight overseers and a constable for one year. Little by little English law and English institutions were to crowd out Dutch law and Dutch political institutions in the conquered province.
By his wise policy, his magnetic personality, his scholarly tastes, and his social geniality, Nicolls seems to have won all hearts. Maverick, his colleague, wrote Lord Arlington that it was wonderful how this man could harmonize things in a world so full of strife. Entrusted by the Duke of York with practically unlimited power, he used it with the utmost discretion and for the good of the province. When he resigned his post after four years of service, New York was deeply regretful over his departure and Cornelis Steenwyck, the Dutch mayor of the city, gave a farewell banquet in his honor.
His successor, Colonel Francis Lovelace, was a favorite at court and a gallant cavalier who had been loyal to the King throughout his adversity. With far less ability than Nicolls, Lovelace was at one with him in desire to benefit and unify the colony. He established a club where English, French, and Dutch were spoken, and he offered prizes to be run for on the Long Island race-course. Under his rule shipping increased and trade flourished. Merchants began to hold weekly meetings, thus laying the foundations of The Merchants’ Exchange. But his most notable achievement was the establishment of the first mail service on the American continent.
In spite of all the sea commerce and trading up and down the river by sloops, pinks, flyboats, ketches, and canoes, the colonies of New York and New England demanded swifter and more frequent means of communication, and Governor Lovelace began to consider how the bonds could be drawn closer. In 1671 one John Archer bought part of Van der Donck’s old estate and built a village “near unto the passage commonly called Spiting Devil” on “the road for passengers to go to and fro from the main as well as for mutual intercourse with the neighboring colony.” Lovelace consented to make the village an enfranchised town by the name of Fordham Manor, provided its inhabitants should forward to the next town all public packets and letters coming to. or going from New York. The scheme evidently proved a success, for Lovelace shortly decided on a wider extension of communication, and the year 1673 was celebrated by the setting out of the first post between New York and New England. It was to have started on New Year’s Day, but was delayed by waiting for news from Albany. On the arrival of communications from Albany the carrier was sworn into office, instructed “to behave civily,” to inquire of the New England authorities as to the best post-road, and to mark it for the benefit of other travelers. The message which Lovelace sent to Governor Winthrop of Massachusetts on this occasion ran as follows:
I here present you with two rarities, a pacquett of the latest intelligence I could meet withal, and a Post. By the first, you will see what has been acted on the stage of Europe; by the latter you will meet with a monthly fresh supply; so that if it receive but the same ardent inclinations from you as at first it hath from myself, by our monthly advises all publique occurrences may be transmitted between us, together with severall other great conveniencys of publique importance, consonant to the commands laid upon us by His sacred Majestie, who strictly injoins all his American subjects to enter into a close correspondency with each other. This I look upon as the most compendious means to beget a mutual understanding; and that it may receive all the countenance from you for its future duration, I shall acquaint you with the model I have proposed; and if you please but to make an addition to it, or subtraction, or any other alteration, I shall be ready to comply with you. This person that has undertaken the imployment I conceaved most proper, being both active, stout, and indefatigable. He is sworne as to his fidelity. I have affixt an annuall sallery on him, which, together with the advantage of his letters and other small portable packes, may afford him a handsome livelyhood. Hartford is the first stage I have designed him to change his horse, where constantly I expect he should have a fresh one lye. All the letters outward shall be delivered gratis with a signification of Post Payd on the superscription; and reciprocally, we expect all to us free. Each first Monday of the month he sets out from New York, and is to return within the month from Boston to us againe. The maile has divers baggs, according to the townes the letters are designed to, which are all sealed up till their arrivement, with the seale of the Secretarie’s Office, whose care it is on Saturday night to seale them up. Only by-letters are in an open bag, to dispense by the wayes. Thus you see the scheme I have drawne to promote a happy correspondence. I shall only beg of you your furtherance to so universall a good work.
By trail, road, and waterway the colonists were thus drawing nearer to each other and steadily increasing their facilities for trade, when all was interrupted by the reassertion of Dutch sovereignty and the reconquest of the English colony by the Dutch under much the same circumstances as had marked the surrender of Stuyvesant in 1664. ‘The old habit of unpreparedness survived under the English as under the Dutch; and the third war between England and Holland, begun in 1672 and ended in 1674, found the strategic points on the Hudson again unprotected. One August day in 1673 a powerful Dutch fleet appeared off Staten Island. On the next day it sailed up through the Narrows, and Manhattan saw a repetition, with a difference, of the scene of 1664. After a brief exchange of volleys between the strong fleet and. the weak fortress, the garrison recognized that resistance was hopeless, New York surrendered to Admiral Evertsen, and the flag of the Dutch Republic floated once more over the fortress, which changed its name to Fort Willem Hendrick while New York became New Orange. Governor Lovelace was absent from the city at the moment, and the blame of the surrender fell upon Manning, a subordinate, who was tried for neglect of duty, cowardice, and treachery. His sword was broken over his head and he was pronounced ineligible for any office of trust. But no governor could have saved the situation, as nothing was ready for defense. When the Dutch took possession, Captain Anthony Colve was appointed Governor. He proceeded with energy to put the fort into condition for defense, and for a time it seemed as if the Dutch might at last hold their rich heritage along the Hudson. At the close of hostilities, however, a treaty which was signed at Westminster in February, 1674, and proclaimed at the City Hall of New Orange in July of the same year, stipulated that New Netherland should again become an English province. Thus for the third time, a national flag was lowered at the fort on Manhattan Island without serious effort at opposition.
The treaty did not restore New York to the Duke whose name it bore but handed it over directly to Charles II, who, however, again granted it to his brother James. Edmund Andros, a major in Prince Rupert’s regiment of dragoons, was sent out to take control of the province, which had now changed hands for the last time. His character was probably neither so white nor so black as it has been painted; but it is certain that he lacked the tact of Nicolls, and he brought to his task the habits of a soldier rather than an administrator. He never succeeded in winning the complete confidence of the people.
From the beginning Andros showed himself hostile to popular liberty and loyal to the interests of his patron as he saw them. But the difficulties of his position, it must be admitted, were very great. James, Duke of York, brother of Charles II, and, in the absence of legitimate children of the King, the heir to the throne, had, as we have seen, been granted all rights in the conquered territory of New Netherland in 1664. Part of this territory he promptly gave to two court favorites, Lord Berkeley and Sir George Carteret. The sagacious Nicolls protested that this partition which surrendered to a divided ownership the rich lands of New Jersey so called in honor of Carteret’s gallant defense of the Island of Jersey during the Civil Wars — was a menace to the well-being of New York. His warning, which might not have been heeded in any case, did not reach England until the transfer was completed.
With the Dutch occupation all titles were canceled, but under the new treaty, James, although by this time thoroughly informed of the complications involved, with the usual fatuity of the Stuarts now made a grant of the eastern part of New Jersey to Carteret in severalty, taking no notice of the western part, which Berkeley had already sold for the sum of a thousand pounds. By this grant to Carteret many questions were at once raised. Was Sir George Carteret a lord proprietor like the Duke himself, responsible only to the King, or was he only a lord of the manor responsible to his master the Duke? Was East Jersey a part of New York, or was it an independent province? As usual the importance of the questions was based on commercial considerations. If New Jersey were a separate entity then it might trade directly with England; if it were dependent on New York it could trade only by permission of the Duke’s representative.
Philip Carteret, a kinsman of Sir George, whom the latter had appointed Governor of his share of New Jersey, and who went to America in the same ship as Andros in 1674, determined to test the matter by declaring Elizabethtown a free port, while Andros demanded that all ships bound to or from any port in the original New Netherland must enter and clear at New York. With equal pertinacity Andros asserted the Duke’s authority in West Jersey, haling Fenwick, one of the claimants under the original grant of 1674, to court in New York. Fenwick’s land titles, however, were sustained, and Andros then released him upon his explicit promise that he would not meddle with the government of West Jersey. Taking advantage d the death of Sir George Carteret in 1680, Andros next arrested and imprisoned Governor Philip Carteret on the ground that he now had no authority, and then himself assumed the governorship of East Jersey. But Carteret was acquitted, the Assembly of East Jersey sustained their Governor, and the towns refused to submit. Meanwhile, charges of corruption had been brought against Andros in New York, where his imperious manner and arbitrary conduct had made enemies. He was recalled to England in 1681 to answer these charges, and in consequence of the disaffection which he had stirred up he was removed from office.
Dongan, the Governor chosen to succeed Andros, was a younger son of an Irish
Baronet and a Roman Catholic. The laws of England forbade a Catholic to hold
office in that country; but there was not the same barrier in the province
subject to a Lord Proprietor. James, being of the Catholic faith, was therefore
glad to appoint people of that religion in the New World. Realizing however,
that the feeling against Catholicism was strong in the colony, the Duke gilded
the pill by granting more liberal laws and a more popular form of government
than had previously been permitted. At the time of his appointment Dongan
received instructions from the Duke of York to call a representative Assembly
of not more than eighteen members to be chosen by the freeholders of the
province. This Assembly met in October, 1683, and passed some fifteen laws, the
first and most memorable of which was the so-called Charter of Liberties and Privileges. The most notable
provisions of the charter were those establishing the principles of popular
representation and religious liberty, and those reciting the guarantees of
civil rights familiar to all Englishmen.
Before this charter could be finally ratified by the Duke of York, Charles II died from a stroke of apoplexy, and James became King. After fifteen minutes in his closet, where he had retired to give “full scope to his tears,” he emerged to work for three years his bigoted will on the affairs of the realm. James the King took a different view of many things from James the Duke. The status of New York was similarly changed from a ducal proprietorship to a royal province. The new charter recognized a Lord Proprietor. But that Lord Proprietor had now become King of England, and this King found some of the enactments of the charter so objectionable to His Majesty that he disallowed the charter. Moreover, James did away with the Assembly which he had previously allowed to be summoned. But the seed of popular government had been planted in the Western Hemisphere and within the next century it was ripe for the harvesting.
In 1688 New York and New Jersey were united with the Eastern colonies under title of “The Dominion of New England,” and Sir Edmund Andros was appointed Governor-General of a territory of imperial dimensions. But the year of his arrival in New York marked the departure of his royal master from England. Bigotry and tyranny had overshot the mark and the English people had determined to dethrone James.
On the invitation of the Protestant nobility, James’s son-in-law, William of Orange, landed at Torbay in November, 1688, and rapidly won popular support. After beginning negotiations with him, James became alarmed and took flight to France at the close of the year. William of Orange and his wife, James’s daughter Mary, then became King and Queen of England (February 13, 1689) and New York once more passed under the control of a Dutch sovereign.