Description of the City of New York in 1748 Part V

By Professor Peter Kahn
The king appoints the governor according to his royal pleasure; but the inhabitants of the province make up his Excellency's salary. Therefore a man entrusted with this place has greater or lesser revenues, according as he knows how to gain the confidence of the inhabitants. There are examples of governors, in this and other provinces of North America, who, by their dissensions with the inhabitants of their respective governments, have lost their whole salary, his Majesty having no power to make them pay it. Its governor had no other resource in these circumstances, he would be obliged either to resign his office, or be content with an income too small for his dignity ; or else to conform himself in every thing to the inclinations of the inhabitants: but there are several stated profits, which in some measure make up for this. 1. No one is allowed to keep a public house without the governor's leave; which is only to be obtained by a certain fee, according to the circumstances of the person. Some governors therefore, when the inhabitants refused to pay them a salary, have hit upon the expedient of doubling the number of inns in their province. 2. Few people who intend to be married, unless they be very poor, will have their banns published from the pulpit; but instead of this they get licenses from the governor, which empower any minister to marry them. Now for such a license the governor receives about half a guinea, and thin collected throughout the whole province, amounts to a considerable sum. 3. The governor signs all passports, and especially of such as go to sea; and this gives him another means of supplying his expenses. There are several other advantages allowed to him, but as they are very trifling, I shall omit them.

At the above assembly the old laws are reviewed and amended, and new ones are made : and the regulation and circulation of coin, together with all other affairs of that kind, are there determined. For it is to be observed, that each English colony in North America is independent of the other, and that each has its proper laws and coin, and may be looked upon in several lights as a state by itself.

The declination, of the magnetic needle in this town, was observed by Philip Wells, the chief engineer of the province of New York, in the year 1686, to be eight deg. and forty five min. to the westward. But, in 1723, it was only seven deg. and twenty min. according to the observations of governor Burnet.

From hence we may conclude, that in thirty eight years, the magnet approaches about one deg. and twenty five min. nearer to the true north ; or, which is the same thing, about two min. annually. Mr. Alexander, a man of great knowledge in astronomy and in mathematics, assured me, from several observations, that, in the year 1750, on the eighteenth of September, the deviation was to be reckoned six deg. and twenty two min.

There are two printers in the town, and every week some English gazettes are published, which contain news from all parts of the world.

The winter is much more severe here than in Pennsylvania, it being nearly as cold as in some of the provinces of Sweden : its continuance, however, is much shorter than with us; their spring is very early, and their autumn very late, and the heat in summer is excessive. For this reason, the melons sown in the fields are ripe at the beginning of August ; whereas we can hardly bring them so soon to maturity under glasses and on hot beds. The cold of the winter I cannot justly determine, as the meteorological observations which were communicated to me, were all calculated after thermometers, which were so placed in the houses, that the air could not freely come at them. The snow lies for some months together upon the ground ; and sledges are made use of here as in Sweden, but they are rather too bulky. The river Hudson is about an English mile and a half broad at its mouth : the difference between the highest flood and the lowest ebb, is between six and seven feet, and the water is very brackish: yet the ice
stands in it not only one, but even several months: it has sometimes a thickness of more than two feet.

The inhabitants are sometimes greatly troubled with mosquitoes. They either follow the hay, which is made near the town, in the low meadows which are quite penetrated with salt water, or they accompany the cattle at night when it is brought home. I have myself experienced, and have observed in others, how much these little animalcules can disfigure a person's face during a single night; for the skin is sometimes so covered over with little blisters from their stings, that people are ashamed to appear in public. The water melons, which are cultivated near the town, grow very large: they are extremely delicious, and are better than in other parts of North America; though they are planted in the open fields, and never in a hot-bed. I saw a water melon at Governor Clinton's in September, 1750, which weighed forty-seven English pounds, and at a merchant's in town another of forty-two pounds weight: however, they were reckoned the biggest ever seen in this country.

The first colonists in New York were Dutchmen: when the town and its territories were taken by the English, and left them by the next peace in exchange for Surinam, the old inhabitants were allowed either to remain at New York, and to enjoy all the privileges and immunities which they were possessed of before, or to leave the place with all their goods; most of them chose the former; and therefore the inhabitants, both of the town and province belonging to it, are yet for the greatest part Dutchmen; who still, especially the old people, speak their mother tongue.
Website: The History
Article Name: Description of the City of New York in 1748 Part V
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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