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Meeting of the Legislature at Kingston and Poughkeepsie. State Convention. Federal Constitution. Ann Lee.
laws could be matured, the session was broken up, on the rapid approach of the enemy up the Hudson, after the fall of the forts in the Highlands. Kingston was laid in ashes, and all was confusion. About the same time Burgoyne was conquered and captured, and Sir Henry Clinton retired to New York. As soon as the alarm had subsided, Governor Clinton called a meeting of the Legislature at Poughkeepsie. It assembled in the old stone building known as the Wan Kleek House (then a tavern), early in January, 1778. Various acts, to complete the organization of the state government, were passed; provisions were made for strengthening the civil and military powers of the state; and it was during that session that the state gave its assent to the February 6, Articles of Confederation, the or- 1778. ganic law of the Federal Union until our present Constitution was formed and adopted. This building was the meeting-place of the inhabitants to consult upon the public welfare, when the Boston Port Bill and kindred measures awakened a spirit of resistance throughout the country.” There the Committee of Correspondence of Dutchess held their meetings, and there the pledge to sustain the Continental Congress and the Provincial Assembly was signed by the inhabitants of Poughkeepsie, in June and July, 1775.”
The WANKLEEk House.1
* This is from a sketch which I made in 1835, a few weeks before the venerable building was demolished by the hand of improvement. It stood upon Mill Street, on the land of Matthew Vassar, Esq., a short distance from the Congregational Church. It was built by Myndert Wankleek, one of the first settlers in Dutchess county, in 1702, and was the first substantial house erected upon the site of Poughkeepsie. Its walls were verythick, and near the eaves they were pierced with lancet loop-holes for musketry. It was here that Ann Lee, the founder of the sect called Shaking Quakers, in this country, was lodged the night previous to her commitment to the Poughkeepsie jail, in 1776. She was a native of Manchester, England. During her youth she was employed in a cotton factory, and afterward as a cook in the Manchester Infirmary. She married a blacksmith named Stanley; became acquainted with James and Jane Wardley, the originators of the sect in England, and in 1758 joined the small society they had formed. In 1770 she pretended to have received a revelation, while confined in prison on account of her religious fanaticism; and so great were the spiritual gifts she was believed to possess, that she was soon acknowledged a spiritual mother in Christ. Hence her name of Mother Ann. She and her husband came to New York in 1774. He soon afterward abandoned her and her faith, and married another woman. She collected a few followers, and in 1776 took up her abode in the woods of Watervliet, near Niskayuna, in the neighborhood of Troy. By some she was charged with witchcraft; and, because she was opposed to war, she was accused of secret correspondence with the British. A charge of high treason was preferred against her, and she was imprisoned in Albany during the summer. In the fall it was concluded to send her to New York, and banish her to the British army, but circumstances prevented the accomplishment of the design, and she was imprisoned in the Poughkeepsie jail until Governor Clinton, in 1777, hearing of her situation, released her. She returned to Watervliet, and her followers greatly increased. She died there in 1784, aged eighty-four years. Her followers sincerely believe that she now occupies that form or figure which John saw in his vision, standing beside the Savior. In a poem entitled “A Memorial to Mother Ann,” contained in a book called “Christ's Second Appearing,” the following stanza occurs: “How much they are mistaken who think that mother's dead, When through her ministrations so many souls are saved. In union with the Father, she is the second Eve, Dispensing full salvation to all who do believe."
* The city of New York elected James Duane, John Jay, Philip Livingston, Isaac Low, and John Alsop delegates to the first Continental Congress, in 1774. The Dutchess county committee, whose meetings upon the subject were held in the Van Kleek House, adopted those delegates as representatives for their district. —See Journals of Congress, i., 7.
• On the 29th of April, 1775, ten days after the skirmish at Lexington, a meeting of the inhabitants of
Huddlestone. State Convention at Poughkeepsie. Patriot Pledge. Federal Constitution. The Federalist.
Huddlestone, the famous spy, who was captured upon Wild Boar Hill, near Yonkers, in West Chester county, was tried, condemned, and hung at Poughkeepsie in April, 1780. The place of his execution was upon a verge of the plain on which the town stands, known as Forbus's Hill. I have heard the late venerable Abel Gunn, of Poughkeepsie, who was a drum major in the Continental army, speak of Huddlestone and of his execution. He described him as a small man, with a large head and thick neck. He was accompanied to the scaffold by the county officers and a small guard of militia enrolled for the purpose.
The state Convention to consider the Federal Constitution assembled at the Wankleek House, in Poughkeepsie, on the 17th of June, 1788. There were fifty-seven delegates pres: ent, and Governor George Clinton was chosen the president of the Convention. In that As. sembly were some of the most distinguished men of the Revolution, and the debates were of the most interesting character. In no state in the Union was hostility to the Federal Constitution more extensive and violent than in the state of New York. Forty-six of the fiftyseven delegates, including the governor, were anti-Federalists, or opposed to the Constitution. The principal advocates of the instrument were John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and Robert Livingston. Mr. Hamilton had been a leading member of the National Convention that framed the Constitution, and also one of the principal writers of the Federalist." He felt the responsibility of his situation, and the Convention readily acknowledged the value of his judgment. He was perfectly familiar with every topic included in the wide range which the debates embraced, and he was nobly sustained by his colleagues, Jay and Livingston. The hostile feelings of many of the anti-Federalists gradually yielded, and on the 26th of July the final question of ratification was carried in the affirmative by a majority of three votes.
A little more than a mile below Poughkeepsie, on the bank of the Hudson, is the residence of the late Colonel Henry A. Livingston, a grandson of Philip Livingston, one of the
the city of New York, called to consider the alarming state of public affairs, formed a general Association, or fraternized, to use a popular term, and adopted a pledge. The Association and pledge were approved by the Provincial Assembly, and copies of the latter were sent to every county in the state for signatures. The following was the form of the pledge: “Persuaded that the salvation of the rights and liberties of America depend, under God, on the firm union of its inhabitants in a rigorous prosecution of the measures necessary for its safety; and convinced of the necessity of preventing anarchy and confusion, which attend the dissolution of the powers of government, we, the freemen, freeholders, inhabitants of , being greatly alarmed at the avowed design of the ministry to raise a revenue in America, and shocked by the bloody scene now acting in Massachusetts Bay, do, in the most solemn manner, resolve never to become slaves; and do associate, under all the ties of religion, honor, and love to our country, to adopt, and endeavor to carry into execution, whatever measures may be recommended by the Continental Congress, or resolved upon by our Provincial Convention for the purpose of preserving our Constitution, and opposing the execution of the several arbitrary Acts of the British Parliament, until a reconciliation between Great Britain and America, on constitutional principles (which we most ardently desire), can be obtained; and that we will in all things follow the advice of our General Committee respecting the purposes aforesaid, the preservation of peace and good order, and the safety of individuals and property.” The list of signers, and the names of those who refused to sign in Poughkeepsie, have been preserved. The number of signers was two hundred and thirteen; the number who refused to sign was eighty-two. A list of the names of the signers, and those who refused to sign, in the various precincts in the county, may be found in Blake's History of Putnam County, p. 102–143 inclusive. * When the Constitution, adopted by the National Convention, was submitted to the consideration of the people, extensive and violent opposition was observed, founded principally upon the undue jealousy with which the doctrine of state rights was regarded. The friends of the Constitution saw that general public enlightenment upon the subject was necessary to secure the ratification of the instrument by the requisite number of states to make it the organic law of the republic. To this end Jay, Hamilton, and Madison commenced a series of essays in explanation and vindication of the principles of government. They appeared successively every week in the New York papers, between October, 1787, and the spring of 1788. The whole work, which is called The Federalist, consists of eighty-five numbers. Mr. Jay wrote six numbers,” Mr. Madison twenty-five, and Mr. Hamilton the residue. They had a powerful effect upon the public mind, and contributed largely to the success which finally crowned the efforts of the friends of the Constitution.
* Mr. Jay and other gentlemen armed and placed themselves under the command of Colonel Hamilton, to suppress a riot in New York known as The Doctors' Mob. He was nearly killed by a stone thrown by one of the rioters, and was confined to his bed for some time. He had written the fifth number of the Federalist essays when that event occurred. He recovered in time to write the sixty-fourth.
The Livingston Mansion. Henry A. Livingston, Esq. Kingston, or Esopus. its Dutch name.
signers of the Declaration of Independence, and son of the late John H. Livingston, D.D., president of the College of New Brunswick. It was built by his paternal grandfather, Henry Livingston, in 1714, and is a fine specimen of a country mansion of that period. The situation is delightful, completely imbosomed in venerable trees, and far removed from the bustle of the highway." The late occupant, in the exercise of his good taste and patriotism, preserved the old mansion from the invasion of modern improvements, and kept up that generous hospitality which marked the character of the “gentleman of the old school.” Even the orifice in the side of the house, under the piazza, which was made by a cannon-ball fired from one of the British ships that conveyed the troops up the river, who burned Kingston, seventy-two years ago, is preserved with care, and shown to - visitors as a token of the spite of The Loisanor ones. -- the enemy against active Whigs. The last time I visited the mansion the late proprietor was living, possessing apparently all the vigor and cheerfulness of a man of fifty, though then past three score and ten years.” In the room which contained his valuable library I passed several hours, copying the portraits of John and Mary Livingston, the parents of Robert Livingston, the first emigrant of that name to America; and also an interesting genealogical tree, illustrative of the family growth and connections, which Colonel Livingston kindly placed at my disposal. I have referred to these before, and they will be found in another part of this work. I left Poughkeepsie at ten in the evening, and reached Kingston village, ninety-three miles north of New York, a little past midnight. The landing is upon a rocky island separated from the main land by a morass, crossed by a causeway. It is nearly three miles from the village, which lies upon an elevated plain several miles in extent, and is surrounded by high hills on all sides except toward the Hudson. On the northwest the Catskill range rises grand and beautiful, and far enough distant to present an azure hue. I think I never saw a more imposing display of distant mountain scenery than is presented at Kingston, toward sunset, when the higher peaks and bold projections cast their long shadows over the agricultural districts below, reflecting, at the same time, from their southwestern declivities, the mellow light of departing day. Kingston was settled by the Dutch as early as 1663, as appears from an account of troubles between the white settlers and the Indians there, and was called Wiltwyck—literally Wild Witch, or Indian Witch. The Dutch built a redoubt upon the bank of the creek, near the ancient landing-place. The creek was called Redoubt Kill, or Creek, and is now known by the corrupted name of Rondout Creek.” The Esopus Indians then occupied the beautiful
* Since my visit the quiet and beauty of the place have been invaded by the Hudson River Rail-road, which passes within a few feet of the mansion, and in whose construction the beautiful cove has been destroyed, and some of the venerable willows, planted by the first owner, have been uprooted. In our country the beautiful has but a feather's weight in the scale against the useful.
* Colonel Livingston died June 9th, 1849. Although living in the retirement of a gentleman of wealth and leisure, he often consented to serve the public in offices requiring judgment, industry, and integrity. He was a member of the state Senate one term; and it is a remarkable fact that he was never absent a day from his post in the Senate Chamber or in the hall of the Court of Errors. He will long be remembered in Poughkeepsie as one of its best citizens.
* Benson's Memoirs, in the Collections of the New York Historical Society, vol. i., part ii., p. 119.
early Settlement at Kingston. Indian Troubles. The Huguenots. Formation of the State Constitution.
flats extending from the creek northward nearly to the present town of Saugerties, and, becoming dissatisfied with their white neighbors, resolved to destroy them. For this purpose they fell upon the settlement while the men were abroad in the fields, and killed or carried off sixty-five persons. The survivors retreated to the redoubt, and the Indians began to erect a stockade near it. A message was sent to Nieu Amsterdam (New York), and Governor Stuyvesant immediately forwarded a body of troops, under Martin Crygier, who drove the Indians back to the mountains. During the summer, parties of the Dutch made inroads among the hill fastnesses, destroyed the Indian villages and forts, laid waste and burned their fields and stores of maize, killed many of their warriors, released twenty-two of the Dutch captives, and captured eleven of the enemy. This chastisement caused a truce in December, and a treaty of peace in May following. The Dutch settlement at Kingston received a valuable accession, toward the close of the century, by the arrival of a company of Huguenots,' who, after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, fled from persecution to America. They were a fragment of the resolute Christian band of eight hundred thousand who escaped from France into Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and England. They settled in the fertile valleys of Ulster and Orange, but that repose which they coveted was a long time denied them, for the Indians, jealous of the encroachments of the pale faces, harassed them continually. The school of suffering in which they had been tutored before leaving Europe had given them patience and perseverance, and they succeeded in planting the Gospel of Peace in the midst of the heathen, and gave many hardy sons to do battle in the council and the field for American independence. Kingston and the neighboring region suffered much from the Indians and Tories during the Revolution, for this was emphatically a Whig district; and when Kingston became so presumptuous as to harbor rebel legislators, it was marked for severe chastisement by the enemy. In 1776, after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, the General Assembly of New York changed its title from the “Provincial Congress of the colony” to the “Convention of the Representatives of the state of New York.” The Assembly was to meet in the city of New York on the 8th of July, the special object of the session being the forming of a state Constitution. But before that day arrived, the fleet of Admiral Howe, with a British army, appeared near Sandy Hook, and the new Congress assembled at White Plains, in West Chester county, twenty-five miles from the city. At the moment of meeting it received intelligence of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and its first act was to approve that measure by a unanimous vote. On the 1st of August a committee was appointed to draw up and report a Constitution.” John Jay was the chairman of the committee, and the duty of drafting the instrument was assigned to him. During the autumn the labors of the Convention were greatly disturbed by military events. . The enemy had taken possession of New York city and island; had spread over the lower
* These people occupy a conspicuous place in the history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and, as will be observed hereafter, formed an essential element in the machinery of our Revolution, particularly in the Carolinas. On the 26th of August, 1572, the festival of St. Bartholomew, seventy thousand Protestants were butchered in France by royal and papal authority. Terrible persecutions continued until 1598, when Henry IV. issued an edict, called the Edict of Nantes, granting toleration to his Protestant subjects. For nearly a century this edict was in force, but in 1685 Louis XIV. revoked it, and persecutions began anew. This cruel and injudicious policy lost France eight hundred thousand of her best subjects, who were Protestants, fifty thousand of whom made their way to England, where they introduced silk weaving, the manufacture of jewelry, and other elegant employments then monopolized by France. Of those who settled in Ulster county the names of twelve are preserved, whose descendants are numerous, and among the most respectable citizens of that and Orange county. The following are the names: Lewis Dubois, Andre Lefevre, Louis Bevier, Hugues Frere [Frear], Christian Deyo, Jean Hasbrouck, Anthony Crispell, Isaac Dubois, Abrahai Hasbrouck, Pierre Deyo, Abraham Dubois, Lyman Lefevre.
* The following are the names of the gentlemen who composed that committee: John Jay, John Sloss Hobart, William Smith, William Duer, Gouverneur Morris, Robert R. Livingston, John Broome, John Morris Scott, Abraham Yates, Jr., Henry Wisner, Sen., Samuel Townsend, Charles De Witt, and Robert Yates. James Duane was subsequently placed on the committee, and, Mr. Jay being absent when the draft of the Constitution was reported, it was submitted to the Assembly by him.—Journal of the Convention, p. 552 and 833.
Completion and Adoption of the Constitution. Its Character. Subsequent Constitutions. Effects of a Mixture of Races.
part of West Chester county, and expelled the American troops, and Washington and his army had fled before them to the Delaware. The Convention migrated from place to place, and held brief sessions at Harlaem, White Plains, and Fishkill in Dutchess county. At the latter place the members armed themselves for defense against the British or Tories who should assail them." Finally they retreated to Kingston, where they continued in session from February, 1777, until May of that year. There, undisturbed, the committee pursued its labors, and on the 12th of March reported the draft of a Constitution. It was under consideration more than a month, and was finally adopted on the 20th of April. It is a document of great merit, and exhibits a clear apprehension of the just functions of government, which distinguished the mind of its author. Its preamble sets forth explicitly the cause which demanded the erection of a new government; and its first article declared that no authority should be exercised in the state but such as should be derived from, and granted by, the people. Great wisdom was manifested in all its provisions for regulating the civil, military, and judicial powers of the state. It was highly approved throughout the country, and English jurists spoke of it in terms of praise. Under it the government of the state was organized by an ordinance of the Convention, passed in May, and, as we have noticed, the first wers session of the Legislature was appointed to be held at Kingston in July.” This Con- 1777. stitution remained in force, with a few amendments, until 1823, when a new one was formed by a state Convention. This, in time, was submitted to the action of a Convention to revise it, and a third was formed and became law in 1846. In the history of these movements toward perfecting the organic law of the state of New York is developed much of the philosophy of that progress which marks so distinctly the career of our republic. From the old Dutch laws, sometimes narrow and despotic, but marked by a sound and expansive policy, to the enlightened features of the Constitution of 1846, we may trace the growth of the benevolent principles of equality, and a correct appreciation in the public mind of human rights. “We may see,” says Butler, “in the provisions of our several Constitutions, the effects of the intermixture of the different races: the Dutch ; the English, Scotch, and Irish; the French, Swedes, and Germans; the Anglo-American from the eastern colonies, from whom our people have been derived. To this cause, and to the great number and diversity of religious sects and opinions which have flowed from it, may especially be ascribed the absolute freedom and perfect equality in matters of religion, and the utter separation of the Church from the State, secured by these instruments.”
“THE Constitution House," KINGston.”
* Lives of Gouverneur Morris and John Jay. * This house, the property and residence of James W. Baldwin, Esq., was used for the session of the state Convention in 1777. It is built of blue limestone, and stands on the southwest corner of Maiden Lane and Fair Street. It is one of the few houses that survived the conflagration of the village. * Popular elections for members of the Legislature were held in all the counties except New York, Kings, Queens, and Suffolk, which were then in possession of the enemy. George Clinton, then a brigadier general in the Continental army, was elected to the offices of governor and lieutenant governor. The former office he held by successive elections for eighteen years, and afterward for three years. Pierre Van Courtlandt, who was president of the Senate, became lieutenant governor; Robert R. Livingston was appointed chancellor; John Jay, chief justice; Robert Yates and John Sloss Hobart, judges of the Supreme Court; and Egbert Benson, attorney general.—Journals of the Convention, p. 916–918. * Outline of the Constitutional History of New York, a discourse delivered at the annual meeting of the New York Historical Society, in 1847, by Benjamin F. Butler, late attorney general of the United States.