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A Minute of History


Fort Fish in Central Park

Central Park Tour

Central Park Tour

Fort Fish, in what is now Central Park was named after Nicholas Fish who, during the War of 1812, was on the City Committee of Defense to protect New York from British invasion.

Nicholas was also a good friend of Alexander Hamilton.  They were both in the Hearts of Oak militia in New York  (1st Battalion/5th Field Artillery Regiment) before and early in the Revolutionary War.  Both were at Yorktown and both were members of the New York Society of the Cincinnati (for which Fish was also president).  Fish named his son, Hamilton Fish, after Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton Fish would go on to serve as New York governor and United States senator from New York.

In John Trumbull’s painting above called, The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis both Colonel Nicholas Fish and Colonel Alexander Hamilton can be seen on the bottom right. Fish is at the very far right and Hamilton is four men in.

The 12th Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1992)

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

The second Amendment, proposed at Federal Hall in New York City but not ratified until about 203 years later in 1992 as the 27th amendment, had to do with Congress not being able to give itself a raise in pay without its constituents having the ability to disapprove. The increase in pay goes into effect after the following House of Representatives election.

Here’s the wording:

“No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

The 11th Amendment to the Constitution (not ratified)

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

Best Hamilton Tour of New York City

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights, but there were actually two amendments that were proposed at Federal Hall in New York City on September 25, 1789 that were not ratified.  The original first amendment had to do with establishing a ratio and limitation on how many people could be represented by each member of the House of Representatives.

Fortunately, it was not ratified, because if it was, there would be more than 6,000 representatives instead of the current 435.  The amendment proposed a limit of 50,000 people per representative.  Today, each member of the House represents about 700,000 people!

Here is the original wording of that amendment:

“After the first enumeration required by the first article of the Constitution, there shall be one Representative for every thirty thousand, until the number shall amount to one hundred, after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall be not less than one hundred Representatives, nor less than one Representative for every forty thousand persons, until the number of Representatives shall amount to two hundred; after which the proportion shall be so regulated by Congress, that there shall not be less than two hundred Representatives, nor more than one Representative for every fifty thousand persons.”

Home at the Grange

Hamilton Grange - Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton Grange - Alexander Hamilton

George Washington had Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson had Monitcello and Alexander Hamilton had the Grange.

Hamilton commissioned the fine architect John McComb, Jr., (who helped design New York’s City Hall) to design a home in what was then the country in Upper Manhattan on a sprawling 32 acres.  It was completed in 1802, just two years before the duelwith Aaron Burr.

The home’s original placement provided for views of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers from long piazzas and numerous windows.  It has since been moved twice.  Once in 1889 and again in 2011 (at a cost of approximately 14.5 million dollars) to its present location on Convent Avenue and 141st Street where it is operated as a historic site and open to the public.

The Original Federal Hall

Alexander Hamilton, George Washington Walking Tour New York City

Alexander Hamilton, George Washington Walking Tour New York City

One of the stops on the Revolutionary Tour is the current Federal Hall, originally a customs house.  The original building on Wall and Broad Streets was built from 1699-1703 as the English colonial city hall.  It was redesigned by Pierre Charles L’Enfant for the American Federal Hall in 1789 and was the site of George Washington’s inauguration April 30, 1789.  It served as the first capital under the Constitution for about 17 months after which the capital moved to Philadelphia until 1800 when it moved to the permanent capital.  This building, torn down in 1811, was the site of the following:

Under British rule in 1735, the trial and imprisonment of publisher John Peter Zenger, who was arrested for publishing libelous articles against the British royal governor.  He was acquitted on the grounds that what he published could not be proven false, thereby establishing a precedent for freedom of the press.

The Stamp Act Congress in 1765 with nine of the colonies’ delegates protesting the tax on paper products, playing cards and dice  They produced a list of colonial rights and grievances to King George III and Parliament.  The Stamp Act was repealed in 1766.

Congress under the Articles of Confederation met here from 1785 to 1789.

The first Congress under the Constitution met here in March 1789.

George Washington was inaugurated April 30, 1789, where the statue stands today.

The First Congress proposed twelve amendments to the Constitution in September 1789.  Ten were ratified in Philadelphia and become known as the Bill of Rights.

In September 1789, the First Congress established the Judiciary Act of 1789, creating the federal court system including the Supreme Court with six justices, one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices.


Aaron Burr’s Surveillance in Weehawken

Hamilton & Washington Walking Tour New York City

Mention Weehawken and Aaron Burr and most people will think of the duel with Alexander Hamilton, July 11, 1804, but Aaron Burr has earlier history to the New Jersey township. On July 6, 1778, while New York City was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War, General William Alexander (also known as Lord Stirling), at the direct request of none other than George Washington, sent Colonel Burr a letter requesting him to provide surveillance on the “motions of the enemy’s shipping” in Weehawken, Hoboken and Bergen Heights. This is the letter:

“General Washington desires me to state that he wishes you would employ three, four, or more persons, to go to Bergen heights, Weehawk, Hoebuck, or any other heights thereabout, convenient to observe the motions of the enemy’s shipping, and to give him the earliest intelligence thereof; whether up the river particularly.  In short, everything possible that can be obtained.”

Washington’s Farewell, Part 2

George Washington , Alexander Hamilton Walking Tour New York City

In this excerpt from his George Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 (co-written with the assistance of Alexander Hamilton), we can not take for granted that once again, after resigning his military commission after the American Revolution in 1783, after his second term as president, with the greatest of humility and grace, once again retires to civilian life allowing for a transfer of power.

He pays tribute to his fellow Americans for their constancy of support despite the often discouraging situations and prays for their continued “union and brotherly affection” to each other and hopes that the “sacred” Constitution, ultimately a product of the people, is sustained and preserved and looked upon as a shining example for every other nation.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.

Washington’s Farewell, Part 1


Hamilton & Washington Walking Tour New York CityAfter George Washington decided not to pursue a third term, he began writing his farewell address to the American people.  With a text mostly by Alexander Hamilton, using Washington’s own thoughts, the Address was published in 1796.  In this quote, he declares that the peoples’ differences are not as great as their similarities and ultimately these similarities are what binds them as Americans.

Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

First Hand Account of the Duel Part 2

Hamilton & Washington Walking Tour New York City

Continued from “First Hand Account of the Duel Part 1”

He then asked if they were prepared; being answered in the affirmative, he gave the word present, as had been agreed on, and both parties presented and fired in succession. The intervening time is not expressed, as the seconds do not precisely agree on that point. The fire of Colonel Burr took effect, and General Hamilton almost instantly fell. Colonel Burr advanced toward General Hamilton with a manner and gesture that appeared to General Hamilton’s friend to be expressive of regret; but, without speaking, turned about and withdrew, being urged from the field by his friend, as has been subsequently stated, with a view to prevent his being recognized by the surgeon and bargemen who were then approaching. No further communication took place between the principals, and the barge that carried Colonel Burr immediately returned to the city. We conceive it proper to add, that the conduct of the parties in this interview was perfectly proper, as suited the occasion.”

First Hand Account of the Duel Part 1

Hamilton & Washington Walking Tour New York City

On the morning of July 11, 1804, Alexander Hamilton along with his “second,” Nathaniel Pendleton, and a doctor, Dr. David Hosack, rowed to Weehawken, New Jersey.  Vice President Aaron Burr and his second, W. P. Van Ness, had already arrived. Underbrush had been cleared to provide room for the dueling ground.  Although neither had seen the duel (to avoid being accomplices in a potential murder), Pendleton and Van Nass eventually collaborated on the details of the event before and after the discharge of the guns:

“Colonel Burr arrived first on the ground, as had been previously agreed. When General Hamilton arrived, the parties exchanged salutations, and the seconds proceeded to make their arrangements. They measured the distance, ten full paces, and cast lots for the choice of position, as also to determine by whom the word should be given, both of which fell to the second of General Hamilton. They then proceeded to load the pistols in each other’s presence, after which the parties took their stations. The gentleman who was to give the word then explained to the parties the rules which were to govern them in firing, which were as follows:

The parties being placed at their stations, the second who gives the word shall ask them whether they are ready; being answered in the affirmative, he shall say- present! After this the parties shall present and fire when they please. If one fires before the other, the opposite second shall say one, two, three, fire, and he shall then fire or lose his fire”

To be continued in part 2…


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