Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

Of the events which have transpired in this state since the war, there are so many living witnesses, that we shall give but a brief notice.

The canal project, which, during the war, had been forgotten, or neglected, was soon revived. In 1816, some steps were taken for bringing it before the legislature ; and in 1817, the petition of more than 100,000 citizens of the state, asking that laws should be passed for its construction, was presented to that body, and action taken thereon. The same year, the Erie and Champlain canals were both commenced and vigorously prosecuted to their final completion, which occurred, the latter in 1823, and the former in 1825.

In 1817, Governor Tompkins was chosen Vice President of the United States, and De Witt Clinton, the ardent and zealous friend of the system of internal improvements, was elected his successor. Governor Clinton was re-elected to the same office, in 1920. In 1821, a convention was called by an act of the legislature, to revise the constitution. This convention met at Albany on the third Tuesday of June, 1821. The result of their deliberations, was the constitution, under which the state has been governed up to the year 1846. This constitution was ratified by the people, in December, 1821, by a majority of more than 33,000.

In 1822, Mr. Clinton having declined the nomination, Joseph C. Yates, at that time Judge of the Supreme Court, was chosen Governor. Mr. Clinton was re-elected, however, to that office, in 1924; and again in 1826. In 1825, the completion of the Erie Canal, and the union of the waters of Lake Erie and the Hudson, was celebrated with great rejoicings.

In 1826, the anti-masonic excitement commenced.

The circumstances which led to it were these.* William Morgan, a Royal Arch Mason, and a printer by trade, said to be a native of Virginia, had taken up his residence in the village of Batavia, Genesee county. Not having been successful in business, he, probably from pecuniary considerations, determined to publish a pamphlet, containing a disclosure of the secrets of Masonry. His intentions were discovered by some of his fellow Masons, who communicated them to others of their own and adjacent lodges.

On the 11th of September, 1826, Mr. Cheesebrough, master of a lodge of Masons at Canandaigua, Ontario county, procured a warrant from Jeffrey Chipman, a justice of the peace in Canandaigua, to arrest Morgan on charge of stealing a shirt and cravat. He with others then proceeded to Batavia, arrested Morgan, and brought him to Canandaigua, before Justice Chipman, who forthwith discharged him, as not guilty.

He was then arrested, on a small debt due to one Aaron Ashley, which Cheesebrough alleged had been assigned to him. The justice rendered judgment against Morgan for two dollars, on which, upon the oath of Cheesebrough, he in

. The accouni of Morgan's abduction is abridged from Judge Hainmond's Po. litical History of New York.

stantly issued execution, and Morgan was committed to close confinement in Canandaigua jail.

During the night of the 12th of September, he was clandestinely taken from jail by a number of Masons, thrown into a covered carriage, gagged and conveyed, on the evening of the 14th, to the Canada side of the Niagara river, thence taken back to the American side, and left in confinement in the magazine of Fort Niagara. He remained there till the 29th of September, in charge of Colonel King of Niagara county, and one Elisha Adams, at which time he disappeared, and has never since been heard of. The almost universal impression has prevailed that he was murdered at that time, by the direction of members of the Masonic fraternity.

Measures were instantly taken to investigate this outrage ; but the committees appointed for this purpose, found themselves constantly thwarted, by members of the Masonic order, at this time in its most flourishing condition in this state. This opposition to an act of justice, excited the most intense feeling, among those members of community not connected with the Masons ; and the excitement which in communities less influenced by moral principle, would have prompted to deeds of violence, here found vent at the ballot box; and for a number of renrs the anti-masons of Western New York, constituted a formidable political party.

Ere this excitement had reached its highest intensity, Governor Clinton died, very suddenly, while conversing with some friends, on the 11th of February, 1828. This painful event caused a deep sensation throughout the community.

Governor Clinton, though possessing some faults, had been an able and zealous friend of his native state. No man'ever did more to promote her best interests. Amid discouragements which would have appalled ordinary men, he steadily advocated and accomplished measures which time has proved eminently conducive to her welfare. It is sufficient proof of his patriotic foresight, that amid the ridicule of his associates, he dared to stake his reputation, on the success of the system of internal improvements. He has left an enduring record of his fame in the hearts of the people, whom his enlightened measures have endowed with plenty and prosperity.

On the decease of Governor Clinton, General Nathaniel Pitcher, the Lieutenant Governor, officiated the remainder of the term. In November, 1828, Martin Van Buren was elected Governor, and Enos T. Throop, Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Van Buren being appointed Secretary of State, in March, 1829, resigned his office, and Mr. Throop became acting Governor.

During the session of the legislature, in the winter of 1828-9, on the recommendation of Governor Van Buren, the Safety Fund Banking Law was passed. The main features of this law were conceived and drawn up by Joshua Forman, Esq. and by him communicated to Governor Van Buren, who by the aid of Thomas Olcott, Esq. of Albany, matured and presented it to the legislature.

In the autumn of 1830, Mr. Throop was elected Governor of the state. During his administration, there were a great number of applications to the legislature, for aid to construct canals in different sections of the state, involving very large expendi

tures, and of doubtful pecuniary profit. Some of these, Governor Throop opposed as premature and unwise ; and his opposition to them, though probably judicious, materially affected his popularity and rendered his re-election improbable.

In 1832; William L. Marcy was chosen Governor, and John Tracy, Lieutenant Governor. During the session of 1833, the bill authorizing the construction of the Chenango canal, a work uttended with great expenditures, and which was strongly opposed, passed the legislature. Mr. Marcy and Mr. Tracy were re-elected to office in 1834, by a large majority.

A law was passed, in 1835, directing the enlargement and improvement of the Erie canal, and the construction of double locke. This law has involved the state in a debt of some magnitude, but when the proposed improvements are completed, they will unquestionably greatly increase its revenues.

At this session of the legislature, also, the bill to provide the schools of the state with libraries, was passed; a bill which it is hoped, will be of incalculable service to its youth. Governor Marcy and Lieutenant Governor Tracy, were, for a third time, elected to their respective offices.

In 1838, the pecuniary depression of the country produced a change in the politics of the state, and William H. Seward of Orange county, was chosen Governor, and Luther Bradish of Franklin county, Lieutenant Governor.

In 1840, the same gentlemen were re-elected.

İn 1842, William C. Bouck, of Schoharie county, was elected Governor.

In 1844, Silas Wright of St. Lawrence county, who for a number of years had represented the State in the United States Senate, was elected Governor, and Addison Gardiner of Suffolk county, Lieutenant Governor.

In June, 1846, a convention, elected by the people, to revise and amend the constitution of the state, commenced its session at Albany, and in October following, reported the constitution which is found in this work, for the action of the people in the ensuing month of November. It was adopted by the people by a majority of more than 20,000 votes.

In November, 1846, John Young of Livingston county, was elected Governor and Addison Gardiner of Suffolk county, Lieutenant Governor.

6*

INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS. The system of Internal Improvement, in which New York has taken the lead, forms an important portion of her history. It is interesting to trace the progress of the first of these mighty enterprises, which, in its completion, excited the astonishment and admiration of the whole confederacy, and even of the states of Europe.

In 1784, Christopher Colles proposed to the legislature to improve the navigation of the Mohawk. In 1785, he received $125, to niake investigations relative to this enterprise. He again came before the legislature in 1786, but became discouraged from want of success.

The subject was referred to by Governor Clinton, in his speech to the legislature, at the opening of the session of 1791; and an act passed concerning roads and inland navigation, directing the commissioners of the land office, to cause the lands between the Mohawk and Wood creek, in Herkimer county, and between the Hudson river and Wood creek, in Washington county, to be explored, and the probable expense of canals, between these points, estimated.

The commissioners reported in 1792, and Governor Clinton communicated their report, by a message, in which he considered the practicability of effecting the object of the legislature, at a moderate expense, as ascertained.

Mr. Adgate, Mr. Williams, Mr. Livingston and Mr. Barker, were the most efficient advocates of this measure in the legislature. Mr. Elkanah Watson also wrote a number of essays on the subject, and, this year, the Western and the Northern Inland Lock Navigation Companies were chartered. General Schuyler, Thomas Eddy, Jeremiah Van Rensselaer, Barent Bleecker, Elkanah Watson, and Robert Bowne, were among their most efficient advocates.

In 1796, the Western Company completed a canal, two and three fourth miles long, at Little Falls, and another, one and one quarter miles long, at German Flats; and, in 1797, a canal from the Mohawk to Wood creek, one and three-fourth miles long, in all, less than seven miles, with nine locks.

In 1796, finding a reconstruction of their work necessary, they employed Mr. Weston, an English engineer; and when their canal would admit a passage from Schenectady to the Oneida lake, they had expended nearly $450,000. The tolls, however, were so high, that few used their canal. The Niagara

company was incorporated in 1798, to make a navigable communication between Lakes Erie and Ontario. It, however, never went into operation.

The distinguished Governeur Morris seems first to have conceived the idea of a continuous canal between the Hudson and Lake Erie. He alluded to it, in a letter to a friend, in 1800, and communicated it to the late Simeon De Witts, the surveyor general, in 1803. His plan, however, was, to have the canal constructed with a uniform declivity of six inches to a mile, and without locks, except on the slope of the Hudson. This plan afterwards proved impracticable.

In 1807-8, Jesse Hawley, Esq., wrote a series of essays, which were published in the Genesee Messenger, urging the importance of such a canal, and its immediate construction.

In 1808, Joshua Forman presented to the legislature, his memorable resolution, in which, after reciting in the preamble the various reasons for such a step, he proposes the appointment of a joint committee, to take into consideration the propriety of exploring and causing to be surveyed, the most eligible and direct route for a canal, to connect the waters of the Hudson and Lake Erie, to the end that Congress may be enabled to appropriate the necessary sum for the construction of such a work.

This resolution passed, but so little idea had the legislature of the sum requisite for such a survey, that they appropriated only $600 for the purpose. The committee appointed were, Thomas R. Gold, William W. Gilbert, Obadiah German, and James L. Hogeboom, on the part of the house, and John Taylor, John Nicholas, and Jonathan Ward, on the part of the senate. James Geddes, Esq., at that timne a land surveyor, made the exploration and survey, under the direction of the surveyor general, and, in 1809, reported in favor of such a route.

In 1810, on motion of Jonas Platt, Esq., Governeur Morris, DeWitt Clinton, Stephen Van Rensselaer, Simeon De Witt, William North, Thomas Eddy, and Peter B. Porter, were appointed commissioners, to explore the whole route for inland navigation, from the Hudson river to Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

De Witt Clinton, at that time a member of the senate, was induced to lend a favorable ear to this great project, by the representations of Mr. Platt and Mr. Eddy, the latter of whom appears first to have advised this plan of action.

The commissioners reported, in 1811, in favor of a canal, and estimated its cost at $5,000,000. They recommended that the construction of it should be offered to the national government.

The same year a bill was passed, giving power to the com

« ForrigeFortsett »