Robert Fulton is undoubtedly, one of the most important people in the history of New York City. He is credited with commercializing the steamboat. His first boat, the Clermont, took travelers on a 150 mile trip up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany. The steamboat had a tremendous influence on trade and transportation improving both reliability and speed. In 1814, the wealthy Brooklyn landowner Hezikiah Pierrepont (as in Pierrepont Place), teamed up with Fulton, and took at 25-year lease on the ferry route between New York City and Brooklyn. The first steam-powered Nassau boat, made regularly scheduled trips between New York and Brooklyn and vice-versa, and effectively reduced the time in the winter and in storms from up to about 1.5 hours to only 12 minutes. We visit the Fulton Ferry landing on the Brooklyn walking tour and on the Hamilton & Washington tour we see the monument to Robert Fulton (near where he is buried) in the Trinity Church cemetery. Although the Brooklyn Bridge, completed, in 1883, reduced the steamboats viability, the Fulton Ferry operated until 1924. New York City currently offers a similar route from the Fulton Ferry landing to Wall Street in Manhattan. The photo is of Robert Fulton’s life mask done by Jean Antoine-Houdon, who also did George Washington’s life mask.
In 1862, Walt Whitman, resident of Brooklyn Heights wrote the following:
“Why then should not Brooklyn, in the experience of persons now living, become a city of a great million inhabitants? We have no doubt it will. We can not go over the list and description of our public institutions in this paper, although we intend to do so one of these days. We have not, in a modern city like Brooklyn, such marked specimens of magnificent architecture as the ancient or mediaeval cities presented, and many of whose ruins yet remain. For our architectural greatness consists in the hundreds and thousands of superb private dwellings, for the comfort and luxury of the great body of middle class people–a kind of architecture unknown until comparatively late times, and no where known to such an extent as in Brooklyn, and the other first class cities of the New World.”
Whitman was correct about the “great million inhabitants” that Brooklyn would achieve and the “greatness” of the architecture. See the houses he is referring to on the Brooklyn Revolution (aka Best of Brooklyn Tour)
In 1754, after the Battle of the Great Meadows in the French & Indian War, a 22-year-old George Washington wrote to his younger brother John Augustine a letter and added this quote at the end:
“I fortunately escaped without a wound, tho’ the right Wing where I stood was exposed to & received all the Enemy’s fire and was the part where the man was killed & the rest wounded. I can with truth assure you, I heard Bulletts whistle and believe me there was something charming in the sound.”
August 21, 1790
While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.
If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.
The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.
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 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.”
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.
You’ve seen the enormous 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze at least in an art book if not the real thing currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City…but have you been to the site where the crossing actually occurred?
In 1776, Washington was known for crossing rivers. First it was the East River in New York in August 1776 escaping the British undetected with about 9000 people (which you’ll learn about on the walking tour) and then it was December on the Delaware River with about 2400 people, the prelude to a march to New Jersey the night before the Battle of Trenton. Although Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Night 1776, the summer is a great time to visit Washington Crossing Historic Park in Pennsylvania. There’s a visitor’s center, a historic village and a monument, but most importantly you can contemplate the daring maneuver at a very low point for Washington and his army at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
Here’s the website for Washington Crossing Historic Park.
Not PRECISELY where they crossed but a maker that says, Near this spot Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Night 1776 the evening of the Battle of Trenton.
Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze
Just as having access to technology on the go is important in modern times, surprisingly, the same can be said for revolutionary times. Both George Washington and Alexander Hamilton put current “laptop” technology to good use for their military, political and private correspondence. The 18th Century equivalents of laptop computers, these elegant and well-crafted portable desks provided the convenience of a writing surface along with storage compartments for pens, ink, stationary and documents. United States history was imagined and created on these laptops.
George Washington, Commander-in-Chief, used his laptop (above) during the Revolutionary War to stay in touch with army officials and Congress. The laptop is made of mahogany and black leather with storage for documents and stationary and a hinged lid which swings down to reveal a small writing surface and compartments.
With over 20,000 pages of documents to his name including personal and professional correspondence, military writings, political writing, Treasury documents and 51 of the 85 Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton must have put these two desks to good use. The mahogany and brass desks unfold to reveal a slanted writing surface. There is a storage compartment underneath and on the top and convenient drawers on the side(on the top desk).
Photos from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the New-York Historical Society