Description of the City of New York in 1748 Part IV

By Professor Peter Kahn
New York sends many ships to the West Indies, with flour, corn, biscuit, timber, tuns, boards, flesh, fish, butter, and other provisions; together with some of the few fruits that grow here. Many ships go to Boston in New England, with corn and flour ; and take in exchange, flesh, butter, limber, different sorts of fish, and other articles, which they carry further to the Went Indies. They now and then take rum from thence, which is distilled there in great quantities, and sell it here with a considerable advantage.
Sometimes they send yachts with goods from New York to Philadelphia, and at other times yachts are sent from Philadelphia to New York; which is only done, as appears from the gazettes, because certain articles are cheaper at one place than at the other. They send ships to Ireland every year laden with all kinds of West India goods ; but especially with linseed, which is reaped in this province. I have been assured, that in some years no less than ten ships have been sent to Ireland, laden with nothing but
linseed; because it is said the flax in Ireland does not afford good seed. But probably the true reason is this ; the people of Ireland, in order to have the better flax, make use of the plant before the seed is ripe, and therefore are obliged to send for foreign seed ; and hence it becomes one of the chief articles in trade.

At this time a bushel of linseed is sold for eight shillings of New York currency, or exactly a piece of eight.

The goods which are shipped to the Went Indies, are sometimes paid for with ready money, and sometimes with West India goods, which are either first brought to New York, or immediately sent to England or Holland. If a ship does not choose to take in West India goods in its return to New York or if no body will freight it, it often goes to Newcastle in England to take in coals for ballast, which when brought home sell for a pretty good price. In many parts of the town coals are made use of, both for kitchen fires, and in rooms, because they are reckoned cheaper than wood, which at present costs thirty shillings of New York currency per fathom ; of which measure I have before made mention. New York has likewise some intercourse with South Carolina; to which it sends corn, flour, sugar, ruin, and other goods, and takes rice in return, which is almost the only commodity exported from South Carolina.

The goods with which the province of New York trades, are not very numerous. They chiefly export the skins of animals, which are bought of the Indians about Oswego; great quantities of boards, coming for the most part from Albany ; timber and ready-made lumber, from that part of the country which lies about the river Hudson; and lastly, wheat, flour, barley, oats, and other kinds of corn, which are brought from New Jersey and the cultivated parts of this province. I have seen yachts from New Brunswick,
laden with wheat which lay loose on board, and with flour packed up in tuns; and also with great quantities of linseed. New York likewise exports some flesh and other provisions out of its own province, but they are very few; nor is the quantity of pease, which the people about Albany bring, much greater. Iron however may be had more plentifully, as it is found in several parts of this province, and is of a considerable goodness; but all the other products of this country are of little account.

Most of the wine, which is drank here and in the other colonies, is brought from the Isle of Madeira, and is very strong and fiery.

No manufactures of note have as yet been established here; at present they get all manufactured goods, such as woolen and linen cloth, &c. from England, and especially from London.

The river Hudson is very convenient for the commerce of this city ; as it is navigable for near an hundred and fifty English, miles up the country, and falls into the bay not far from the town, on its western side. During eight months of the year this river is full of yachts, and other greater and lesser vessels, either going to New York or returning from thence, laden either with inland or foreign goods.

I cannot make a just estimate of the ships that annually come to this town or sail from it. But I have found, by the Pennsylvania gazettes, that from the first of December in 1729, to the fifth of December in the next year, 211 ships entered the port of New York, and 222 cleared it ; and since that time there has been a great increase of trade here.

The country people come to market in New York twice a week, much in the same manner as they do at Philadelphia, ; with this difference, that the markets are here kept in several places.

The governor of the province of New York resides here, and has a palace in the fort. Among those who have been entrusted with it William Burnet deserves to be had in perpetual remembrance. He was one of the sons of Dr. Thomas Burnet (so celebrated on account of his learning) and seemed to have inherited the knowledge of his father. But his great assiduity in promoting the welfare of this province, is what makes the principal merit of his character. The people of New York therefore still reckon him the best governor they ever had, and think that they cannot praise his services too much. The many astronomical observations which he made in these parts, are inserted in several English works. In the year 1727, at the accession of King George II. to the throne of Great Britain, he was appointed governor of New England. In consequence of this he left New York, and went to Boston, where he died universally lamented, on the 7th of September 1729.

An assembly of deputies, from all the particular districts of the province of New York, is held at New York once or twice every year. It may be looked upon as a parliament or dyet in miniature. Every thing relating to the good of the province is here debated. The governor calls the assembly, and dissolves it at pleasure: this is a power which he ought only to make use of, either when no farther are necessary, or when the members are not so unanimous in the service of their king and country as is their duty ; it frequently however happens, that, led aside by caprice or by interested views, he exerts it to the prejudice of the province. The colony has sometimes had a governor, whose quarrels with the inhabitants, have induced their representatives, or the members of the assembly, through a spirit of revenge, to oppose indifferently every thing he proposed, whether it was beneficial to the country or not. In such cases the governor has made use of his-power; dissolving the assembly, and calling another soon after, which however he again dissolved upon the least mark of their ill humor. By this means he so much tired them, by the many expenses which they were forced to bear in so short a time, that they were at last glad to unite with him, in his endeavors for the good of the province. But there have likewise been governors who have called assemblies and dissolved them soon after, merely because the representatives did not act according to their whims, or would not give their assent to proposals which were perhaps
dangerous or hurtful to the common welfare.


Website: The History
Article Name: Description of the City of New York in 1748 Part IV
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York; Joseph Shannon 1869
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