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Celebrating the Declaration of Independence

July 4th Walking Tour!

Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.


Georgia

Button Gwinnett

Lyman Hall

George Walton

North Carolina

William Hooper

Joseph Hewes

John Penn

South Carolina

Edward Rutledge

Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Thomas Lynch, Jr.

Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts

John Hancock

Maryland

Samuel Chase

William Paca

Thomas Stone

Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia

George Wythe

Richard Henry Lee

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Harrison

Thomas Nelson, Jr.

Francis Lightfoot Lee

Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania

Robert Morris

Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Franklin

John Morton

George Clymer

James Smith

George Taylor

James Wilson

George Ross

The Stamp Act in New York, 1765, Part II

Catherine Brass Yates (Mrs. Richard Yates)

Here’s Part II of the “Stamp Act in New York, 1765”, which is covered on the walking tour “Washington and Hamilton in New York City,” along with other stories of women in the American Revolution:

Just a few months later, on December 6, 1765, in resistance to the Stamp Act which included a tax on wedding certificates, the New-York Gazette published an announcement: “We hear that the young Ladies of this Place are determined to Join Hands with none but such as will to the utmost endeavor to abolish the Custom of marrying with License.”[i] Other ladies protested by rejecting the beloved cloth and fashionable “rich brocade” manufactured in England, dusting off their old spinning wheels, and committing to a tedium of spinning their own cloth. The attachment to fine English cloth was so dyed in the wool, so to speak, that some women lamented wearing unfashionable homespun; but newly patriotic women implored all women to show pride in “clothes of your own make and spinning”.[ii]  It was a tough sell to some New Yorkers.  In the New-York Gazette, in “A Letter from a young Lady in Town to her Friend in the Country,” the writer expressed the great indignity of wearing homespun: “Must we in nothing be distinguished from meer country dowdies?  Must the refinements of a thousand years give way to the ignorance that prevailed” at a time when “ladies were so grossly ignorant of the charms of dress, and so entirely void of taste?”[iii]  Over time, as patriotism surged, homespun became “a badge of honor and a visible political statement” for women who supported the great cause of liberty.[iv]  Parliament, confronted by the nonimportation pact that was bolstered by women, repealed the Stamp Act in 1766.  When news of this victory reached New York City, women and men celebrated here at the Commons as the Sons of Liberty raised the first Liberty Pole—a Roman symbol of public defiance to oppression.[v]  Nevertheless, it was a short-lived victory.  More taxes were imposed on the colonists from the Townshend Acts in 1767 to the Tea Act in 1773.  As Britain asserted its authority and demands for revenue, resistance increased, and women continued to exercise their agency as housewives, consumers, and shopkeepers by making purchasing decisions based on what was good for the colonies.


[i] Linda De Pauw, Four Traditions: Women of New York During the American Revolution, (Albany: New York State Bicentennial Commission, 1974), 14.

[ii] Berkin, Revolutionary Mothers, 16.

[iii] Belinda. “A Letter from a young Lady in Town to her Friend in the Country.” New York Gazette or the Weekly Post-Boy, October 30, 1765.

[iv] Berkin, Revolutionary Mothers, 17.

[v] Burrows and Wallace, Gotham, 203.

The Stamp Act in New York, 1765, Part I

Stamp Act in New York City, 1765

The Stamp Act, instated by Parliament in 1765, was the first internal tax added to the cost of products, paper goods, including newspapers, almanacs, legal documents, diplomas, playing cards, dice, and marriage certificates.  The act was poorly timed, imposed during an economic depression of rampant unemployment, inflation, and poverty.  British mercantile houses withheld credit for businesses in New York and called in debts from tradesmen and shopkeepers, creating a ripple effect on artisans and farmers.  With an influx of cheap clothing and furniture from England’s overstocked warehouses, local artisans and businesses found it more and more difficult to compete.  As domestic purchasing declined, colonial currency lost its value.  Shops closed, merchants went bankrupt, and laborers lost their work and wages.  The recently built New Gaol [Jail] in today’s City Hall Park became a debtors’ prison occupied by many of those affected by the depression.  A New Yorker at the time remarked that “trade in this part of the world is come to so wretched a pass that you would imagine the plague had been here.”[i] The Stamp Act not only set a precedent for adding a tax on top of the cost of goods but most flagrantly violated the British constitutional precept of “no taxation without representation.”[ii]  In defiance, the newly formed Sons of Liberty advocated for a nonimportation pact among the colonists until the tax was repealed. Nine of the thirteen colonies met at the old City Hall on Wall Street in October 1765, in what was called the Stamp Act Congress, and agreed to halt the import of British goods until the act was repealed:

At a general Meeting of the Merchants of the City of New-York, trading to Great-Britain…they came to the following Resolutions…That in all Orders they send out to Great-Britain, for Goods or Merchandize, of any Nature, Kind of Quality whatsoever, usually imported from Great-Britain, they will direct their Correspondents not to ship them, unless the Stamp Act be repealed.[iii]


[i] Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 192.

[ii] Burrows and Wallace, Gotham, 198.

[iii] “No stamped paper to be had,” Philadelphia: Printed by Hall & Franklin. Philadelphia, 1765, Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/98160405 (accessed March 5, 2020).

The Commons and King’s College

King's College Best NYC Tour

The old Commons in Lower Manhattan is today’s City Hall Park. It was near King’s College where Alexander Hamilton took classes before his participation in the American Revolution.

John Adams’ 1774 description of this area of the city to takes us back in time: We…walked up the broad Way, a fine Street, very wide, and in a right Line from one End to the other of the City.  In this route we saw the old [Trinity] Church, and the new Church [St. Paul’s Chapel].  The new is a very magnificent Building—cost 20,000 Pounds New York Currency.  The prison [in today’s City Hall Park] is a large and handsome stone Building.  There are two setts of Barracks.  We saw the New York [King’s] College, which is also a Stone building. 

The Commons is where people assembled in celebration or in protest of government laws and actions.  It was the eighteenth-century equivalent of today’s Times Square.  Many important events took place here, including the first New York City public reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776.  It was also here–in a celebration of Parliament’s repeal of the Stamp Act–that the first of five Liberty Poles was erected. There is a replica Liberty Pole in City Hall Park today. We see this area on the Hamilton & Washington walking tour.


Brooklyn Bridge Designer John Roebling’s Other Bridges

Best Brooklyn Bridge Tour

John Roebling the engineer and architect of the Brooklyn Bridge had already been a prominent designer of suspension bridges before his great bridge connecting the cities of New York and Brooklyn. He was also a manufacturer of twisted wire rope used for suspension bridges. His factory was based in Trenton, New Jersey. He designed the Niagra River Gorge Bridge in 1885, the Sixth Street Bridge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1859, and the Covington-Cincinnati Bridge now known as the John A. Roebling Bridge Suspension Bridge in 1867, just two years before the Brooklyn Bridge started construction. That last bridge had been the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1057 feet for the main span before the Brooklyn Bridge was completed in 1883 with its main span at 1595.5 feet.

Hamilton and Burr Together One Week Before the Duel

Hamilton Walking Tour NYC

On July 4, 1804, one week before the infamous duel, the rivals Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, were together at Fraunces Tavern at an event sponsored by the Society of the Cincinnati, whose members were American and French veterans of the Revolutionary War. Fraunces Tavern is one of the stops on the “Hamilton & Washington In New York” Walking Tour.

While the challenge had been established, the date for their encounter at dueling ground in Weehawken was still days away. The artist John Trumball was at Fraunces Tavern and noticed their unusual moods. He reflected on his observations years later in his published autobiography:

“On the 4th of July, I dined with the society of the Cincinnati, my old military comrades, and then met, among others, Gen. Hamilton and Col. Burr. The singularity of their manner was observed by all, but few had any suspicion of the cause. Burr, contrary to his wont, was silent, gloomy, sour; while Hamilton entered with glee into all the gaiety of a convivial party, and even sung an old military song. A few days only passed, when the wonder was solved by that unhappy event which deprived the United States of two of their most distinguished citizens. Hamilton was killed–and Burr was first expatriated, and then sunk into obscurity for life, in consequence of their compliance with a senseless custom, which ought not to have outlived the dark ages in which it had its origin.”

Brooklyn Bridge Fallout Shelter

Best Brooklyn Bridge Walking Tour

In 2006, as the city was performing an inspection of the Brooklyn Bridge to uncover structural abnormalities, they made an unusual find. In a dark and dank arched structure on the shoreline of the East River, underneath the bridge and near the Manhattan anchorage they found “medical supplies, paper blankets, drugs,” a stockpile of cold-war-era 17.5-gallon water drums that could be reused “as a commode,” 352,000 Civil Defense All-Purpose Survival Crackers (calorie-packed crackers that were probably still edible), along with doses of Dextran, a drug used to treat or prevent shock. This was reported by the NY Times. The items were stored during the cold war, evident from the supply boxes stamped with dates from 1957 and 1962, dates that correspond to the Soviet launching of the satellite Sputnik and the Cuban Missile Crisis, respectively. The room was still intact and had been for years without the city’s knowledge.

photo CBS News

21 Elephants on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn-Elephant-Jumbo

The Brooklyn Bridge, which we walk over on the “Best of Brooklyn-The Brooklyn Revolution” tour , was a massive achievement in the annals of engineering. It cost over 15 million dollars and took from 1869 to 1883 to build it, but much of the populace did not trust suspension bridges. It was publicly known that a large percentage of them collapsed. Just six days after the bridge opened on May 24, 1883, with thousands of people on the bridge, a woman tripped a staircase on the bridge, another woman let out a scream, and the crowd pushed forward and down the stairs, creating a panic and stampede. As it was reported in the newspaper: “Those following were in turn pushed over and in a moment the narrow stairway was choked with human beings, piled one on top of the other, who were being crushed to death. In a few minutes, 12 persons were killed, 7 injured so seriously that their lives are despaired of, and 28 others more or less severely wounded.”

When the police cleared the Brooklyn Bridge, the bridge was covered with articles of clothing and other belongings including 42 umbrellas and parasols, 6 canes, 34 bonnets, a skirt and 6 pairs of shoes.

Never one to turn down a public relations opportunity, the impresario P.T. Barnum, used this tragedy to show the bridge’s herculean strength on May 17, 1884 by having 21 elephants, plus 10 camels and 7 dromedaries march across the bridge, with his most famous elephant Jumbo, bringing up the rear.

Olmsted: Service & Art

Best Central Park Walking Tour

Frederick Law Olmsted, the co-designer of Central Park believed that every element added to the landscape design must satisfy human needs and not be created strictly for decoration. ” On the Central Park tour, we see the most beautiful bridges and arches that serve and protect the guests of the park. Here’s what Olmsted wrote:

“Service must precede art, since all turf, trees, flowers, fences, walks, water, paint, plaster, posts, and pillars in or under which there is not a purpose of direct utility or service are inartistic if not barbarous. … So long as considerations of utility are neglected or overridden by considerations of ornament, there will be not true art.”

Roasting in Brooklyn

Best Brooklyn Tour DUMBO coffee

Not long after the Civil War, the brothers John and Charles Arbuckle, revolutionized and started a new industry in today’s DUMBO, Brooklyn, by offering roasted coffee to consumers in single pound packages. Before that, coffee beans were purchased green and roasted at home over a fire or in a wood stove; getting a consistent and palatable end product was challenging. The Arbuckle Brothers had such a popular product that they shipped their coffee throughout the country. Marketing their product under the Ariosa and Yuban brands, they were still going through the 20th Century…and the Yuban brand is still around even today. On the Brooklyn Revolution tour, we visit the amazingly renovated Empire Stores, the site and facility used by the Arbuckle Brothers to process their coffee until they sold it in the 1940s.

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