The Province of New York (1664-1776) (Provincie New York) resulted from the capture of the Dutch Republic colony of Provincie Nieuw-Nederland by the Kingdom of England, and included most of the present U.S. state of New York. The territory originally included the current states of New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont, along with inland portions of Massachusetts and Maine. The province was renamed for James, Duke of York, brother to Charles II of England in 1664, when the colony was won from the Dutch. The New York Provincial Congress declared itself the government of the State of New York in 1776, effectively separating from Great Britain, and ratified the New York State Constitution in the following year. While the British regained New York City as its military and political base of operations in North America during the American Revolutionary War, with a British governor technically in office, much of the remainder of the former colony fell to the Patriots. British claims on any part of New York ended with the Treaty of Paris (1783).
On March 12, 1772:
In March, 1665, the Duke of York was granted a Royal colony which included New Netherland and present day Maine. This charter included parts of present day Massachusetts which conflicted with its charter. The charter allowed the traditional propriety rights and imposed the fewest restrictions upon his powers. In general terms, the charter was equivalent to a conveyance of land conferring on him the right of possession, control, and government, subject only to the limitation that the government must be consistent with the laws of England. The Duke of York never visited his colony and exercised little direct control of it. He elected to administer his government through governors, councils, and other officers appointed by himself. No provision was made for an elected assembly.
In 1665, New Jersey was split off from New York to become a separate province, but the final border was not finalized until 1765 (see New York-New Jersey Line War). In 1667, the western half of Connecticut was split off to join the rest of Connecticut.
In July 1673, a Dutch fleet recaptured New York and held it until it was traded to the English by the Treaty of Westminster for Suriname in February 1674. The second grant was obtained by the Duke of York in July 1674 to perfect his title.
The first governor Richard Nicolls was known for writing the so called "Duke's Laws" which served as the first compilation of English laws in colonial New York. The British continued the Dutch policy of welcoming dissenting Christian sects, including the founders of New Rochelle. The Duke's Laws established a non-denominational state church. Governor Andros in 1674 said "permit all persons of what religion soever, quietly to inhabit within the precincts of your jurisdiction The British replaced the Dutch in their alliance with the Iroquois against New France with an agreement called the Covenant Chain.
A colonial Assembly was created in October, 1683. New York was the last of the English colonies to have an assembly. The assembly passed the Province of New York constitution on October 30, 1683, the first of its kind in the colonies. This constitution gave New Yorkers more rights than any other group of colonists including the protection from taxation without representation. On November 1, 1683, the government was reorganized, and the state was divided into twelve counties, each of which was subdivided into towns. Ten of those counties still exist (see below), but two (Cornwall and Dukes) were in territory purchased by the Duke of York from the Earl of Stirling, and are no longer within the territory of the State of New York, having been transferred by treaty to Massachusetts, Dukes in 1686 and Cornwall in 1692. While the number of counties has been increased to 62, the pattern still remains that a town in New York State is a subdivision of a county, similar to New England.
An act of the assembly in 1683 naturalized all those of foreign nations then in the colony professing Christianity. To encourage immigration, it also provided that foreigners professing Christianity may, after their arrival, be naturalized if they took the oath of allegiance as required.
New York became a royal province in February, 1685 when the Duke of York was crowned King James II of England. James II did not approve the New York constitution and declared it void in October, 1685. The charter assembly did not meet after 1685.
In May, 1688 the province was made of part of the Dominion of New England. In April, 1689, when news that King James II of England had been overthrown in the Glorious Revolution arrived, Bostonians overthrew their government and imprisoned their governor. The province of New York rebelled in May in what is know as Leisler's Rebellion. King William's War with France began during which the French attacked Schenectady. In July, New York participated in a abortive attack on Montreal and Quebec. A new governor Henry Sloughter arrived in March, 1691. He had Jacob Leisler arrested, tried, and executed.
New York's charter and constitution was re-enacted in 1691 and was the constitution of the province until the creation of the State of New York.
In the 1690s, New York City was the largest importer of the colonies of slaves and a supply port for pirates.
During Queen Anne's War with France from 1702 to 1713, the province had little involvement with the military operations, but benefited from being a supplier to the British fleet. New York militia participated in two abortive attacks on Quebec in 1709 and 1711.
The first wave of Palatine German emigrants arrived in 1710. Initially they were employed in the production of naval stores.
The first newspaper was started in 1725.
Upstate New York was the scene of fighting during the French and Indian War, with British and French forces contesting control of Lake Champlain in association with Native American allies. Sir William Johnson, 1st Baronet and other agents brought about the participation of the Iroquois.
One of the largest impressment operations occurred in New York City in the spring of 1757 when three thousand British troops cordoned off the city and impressed nearly eight hundred persons they found in taverns and other gathering places of sailors. New York City was the centre for privateering. Forty New York ships were commissioned as privateers in 1756 and in the spring of 1757 it was estimated the value of French prizes brought into New York City was two hundred thousand pounds. By 1759, the seas had been cleaned of French vessels and the privateers were diverted into traded with the enemy. The ending of the war caused a severe recession in New York.
During the middle years of the 1700s, politics in New York revolved around the rivalry of two great families, the Livingstons and the DeLanceys. Both of these families had amassed considerable fortunes. New York City had an inordinate influence on New York politics because several of the assembly members lived in New York City rather than in their district. In the 1752 election DeLancey's relatives and close friends controlled 12 out of the 27 seats in the assembly. The DeLanceys lost control of the assembly in the election of 1761. Governor Cadwallader Colden tried to organize a popular party to oppose the great families, thus earning the hatred of the city elite of both parties. The Livingstons looked to the imperial ties as a means of controlling the influence of James DeLancey and his faction. The DeLancey's regarded imperial ties to be a tool for personal advantage.
Parliament passed the Stamp Act 1765 to raise money from the colonies. New York had previously passed its own stamp act from 1756 to 1760 to raise money for the French and Indian war. The extraordinary response to the Stamp Act can only be explained by the build-up of antagonisms on local issues. New York was experiencing a severe recession from the effects of the end of the French and Indian war. The colonies were experiencing the effects of a very tight monetary policy caused by the trade deficient with Britain, a fiscal crisis in Britain restricting credit, and the Currency Act which prevented the issuing of paper currency to provide liquidity.
From the outset, New York led the protests in the colonies. Both New York political factions opposed the Stamp Act of 1765. In October, on the site of what is now Federal Hall in New York City, representatives of several colonies met in the Stamp Act Congress to discuss their response. The New York assembly petitioned the British House of Commons on December 11, 1765 for the Americans right of self taxation. In August, the intimidation and beating of stamp agents was widely reported, and caused the New York stamp commissioner to resign his job.
The act went into effect on November 1. The day before James DeLancey organized a meeting at Burns Tavern of the New York City merchants where it was agreed to boycott all British imports until the Stamp Act was repealed. A leading moderate group opposing the Stamp Act were the local Sons of Liberty headed by Isaac Sears, John Lamb, and Alexander McDougall. Historian Gary B. Nash wrote of what was called the “General Terror of November 1-4”:
Historian Fred Anderson contrasted the mob actions in New York with those in Boston. In Boston, after the initial unrest, local leaders such as the Loyal Nine (a precursor to the Sons of Liberty) were able to take control of the mob. In New York, however, the "mob was largely made up of seamen, most of whom lacked deep community ties and felt little need to submit to the authority of the city's shorebound radical leaders." The New York Sons of Liberty did not take control of the opposition until after November 1.
On November 1, the crowd destroyed a warehouse and the house of Thomas James, commander at Fort George. A few days later the stamps stored at Fort George were surrendered to the mob. Nash notes that, “whether the Sons of Liberty could control the mariners, lower artisans, and laborers remained in doubt,” and “they came to fear the awful power of the assembled lower-class artisans and their maritime compatriots.”
On January 7, 1766, the ship "Polly" carrying stamps for Connecticut was boarded in New York City harbour and the stamps destroyed. Up to the end of 1765 the Stamp Act disturbances had largely been confined to New York City, but in January the Sons of Liberty also stopped the distribution of stamps in Albany.
In May, 1766, when news arrived of the repeal of the Stamp Act the Sons of Liberty celebrated by the erection of a Liberty Pole. It became a rallying point for mass meetings and an emblem of the American cause. In June, two regiments of British regulars arrived in New York City and were quartered in the upper barracks. These troops cut down the liberty pole on August 10. A second and third pole were erected and also cut down. A fourth pole was erected and encased in iron to prevent similar action.
In 1766, widespread tenant uprisings occurred in the countryside north of New York City centered on the Livingston estates. They marched on New York City expecting the Sons of Liberty to support them. Instead the Sons of Liberty blocked the roads and the leader of the tenants was convicted of treason.
The Assembly was also temporarily suspended for failure to comply with the Quartering Act in 1769.
In the spring of 1769, New York was in a depression, from the recall of paper boycott and the British boycott. By the Currency Act New York was required to recall all paper money. London allowed the issuance of additional paper money, but the attached conditions were unsatisfactory. While New York was boycotting British imports other colonies including Boston and Philadelphia were not. The DeLancy's tried to reach a compromise by passing a bill which allowed for the issuing of paper currency of which half was for provisioning of the troops. Alexander McDougall, signed a 'Son of Liberty', issued a broadside entitled To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York which was a excellent piece of political propaganda denouncing the DeLancey's for betraying the liberties of the people by acknowledging the British power of taxation. The Sons of Liberty switched their allegiance from the DeLancey's to the Livingstons. Alexander McDougall was arrested for libel.
Conflict between the Sons of Liberty and the troops in New York City erupted with the Battle of Golden Hill on January 19 1770 where troops cut down the fourth Liberty Pole which had been erected in 1767.
In July, 1770, the merchants of New York City decided to resume trade with Britain when news arrived of Parliament's plan to repeal the Townshend Duties and to give permission for New York to issue some paper currency. The Sons of Liberty were strongly opposed to the resumption of trade. The merchants twice polled their members and went door to door polling residents of New York City and all polls were overwhelming in support of resumption of trade. This was perhaps the first public opinion poll in American history.
In December, news arrived of the Boston Tea Party strengthened opposition. In April, 1774, The ship Nancy arrived in New York harbour for repairs. The Captain admitted that he had 18 chest of tea on board and he agreed that he would not attempt to have the tea landed, but the Sons of Liberty boarded the ship regardless and destroyed the tea.
In May, 1774, news arrived of the Boston Port Act which closed the port of Boston. The Sons of Liberty were in favour of resumption of a trade boycott with Britain, but there was strong resistance from the large importers. In May, a meeting in New York City was called in which members were selected for a Committee of Correspondence. The Committee of Fifty was formed which was dominated with moderates, the Sons of Liberty only obtained 15 members. Isaac Low was the chairman. Francis Lewis was added to create the Committee of Fifty-One. The group adopted a resolution which said Boston was "suffering in the defence of the rights of America" and proposed the formation of a Continental Congress. In July, the committee select five of their members as delegates to this congress. Some of the other counties also sent delegates to the First Continental Congress which was held in September. The New York delegates were unable to stop the adoption at the congress of the Articles of Association. These articles were generally ignored in New York.
In January and February, 1775, the New York Assembly voted down successive resolutions approving the proceedings of the First Continental Congress and refused to send delegates to the Second Continental Congress. New York was the only colonial assembly which did not approve the proceeds of the First Continental Congress. Opposition to the Congress revolved around the opinion that the provincial houses of assembly were the proper agencies to solicit redress for grievances. In March, the Assembly broke with the rest of the colonies and wrote a petition to London, but London rejected the petition because it contained claims about a lack of authority of the "parent state" to tax colonists, "which made it impossible" to accept. The Assembly last met on April 3 1775.
In April, 1775, the rebels formed the New York Provincial Congress as a replacement for the New York Assembly. News of battle of Lexington and Concord reached New York on April 23, which stunned the city since rumour was that Parliament was to grant the colonies self-taxation. The Sons of Liberty lead by Marinus Willett broke into the Arsenal at City Hall and removed 1,000 stand of arms. The armed citizens formed a voluntary corps to govern the city with Isaac Sears's house the de facto seat of government and militia headquarters. The New York executive council meet on April 24 and their opinion was that "we were unanimously of opinion that we had no power to do anything The British troops in New York City never left their barracks.
On October 19 1775 Governor William Tryon was forced to leave New York City for a British warship offshore effectively ending British rule of the colony when the Continental Congress ordered the arrest of anyone endangering the safety of the colony. In April, 1776 Tryon dissolved the New York assembly.
The Fourth Provincial Congress convened in White Plains on July 9, 1776 and became known as the First Constitutional Convention. New York endorsed the Declaration of Independence on July 9, 1776. and declared the independent state of New York. New York City celebrated by tearing down the statue of George III in Bowling Green. On July 10, 1776, the Fourth Provincial Congress changed its name to the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York, and "acts as legislature without an executive." While adjourned it left a Committee of Safety in charge. The New York state constitution was framed by a convention which assembled at White Plains, New York on July 10 1776, and after repeated adjournments and changes of location, terminated its labors at Kingston, New York on Sunday evening, April 20 1777, when the new constitution was adopted with but one dissenting vote. It was drafted by John Jay, though not submitted to the people for ratification. The governor would be elected not appointed, voting qualifications were reduced, secret ballots were introduced, and civil rights were guaranteed. On 30 July 1777, George Clinton was inaugurated as the first Governor of New York at Kingston. On July 9, 1778 the State of New York signed the Articles of Confederation and become part of the United States of America.
New York was located in the Northern theatre of the American Revolutionary War. General George Washington took the Continental Army from Boston, Massachusetts after the British withdrew following the Battle of Bunker Hill, and brought it to New York City, correctly antcipating the British would return there. The province was the scene of the largest battle of the entire American Revolutionary War, and the first after the Delcaration of Independence was signed. The British recaptured the city in September 1776 in the New York and New Jersey campaign, and placed the province under martial law under the command of James Robertson, though his effective authority did not extend far beyond the southern tip of Manhattan (then the extent of New York City). Tryon retained his title of governor, but with little power. After its reoccupation, New York City became the headquarters for the British army in America, and the British political center of operations in North America. The British cut down the Liberty Pole in the common. Loyalist refugees flooded into the city raising its population to 33,000. Prison ships in Wallabout Bay held a large proportion of American soldiers and sailors being held prisoner by the British, and was where more Americans died than in all of the battles of the war, combined. The British retained control of New York City until Evacuation Day in November, 1783, which was long celebrated afterward.
The governor of New York was royally appointed. The governor selected his Executive Council which served as the upper house. The governor and king had veto power over the assembly's bills. However, all bills were effective until royal disapproval had occurred which could take up to a year. During King George's War, the governor approved two assembly initiatives; that the colony's revenue be approved annually rather than every five years and that the assembly must approve the purpose of each allocation. Elections to the house of assembly were initially held whenever the governor pleased, but eventually a law was passed requiring an election at least once every seven years. New York City was the seat of government and where the New York assembly met.
Between 1692 and 1694 the governor of New York was also the governor of Pennsylvania. From 1698 to 1701 the governor was also the governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. From 1702 to 1738 he was also the governor of New Jersey.
Representation in the assembly in 1683 was six for Long Island, four for New York City, two for Kingston, two for Albany, one for each of Staten Island, Schenectady, Martha's vineyard and Nantucket and one for Pemequid on the Maine coast. In 1737, the assembly was expanded to 27 and in 1773 to 31.
Voters were required to have a £40 freehold, in addition to requirements related to age, sex, and religion. The £40 freehold requirement was often ignored. Jews were not allowed to vote between 1737 and 1747. In rural counties slightly more than half the males could vote. No secret ballot safeguarded the independence of the voters. The elections were held at the county town, under the supervision of the sheriff and sometimes at such short notice that many of the voting population could not get to the polls. The candidates were usually at the polls and the vote was taken by a show of hands unless this vote did not result in a clear winner.