Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
NEW YORK, a state of the American Union. Its territory at first belonged to the Dutch, by right of its discovery in 1609 by Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the Dutch service; but it was part of the vast stretch of territory claimed by the English by right of its discovery by the Cabots in 1497-8, and in 1664 an English expedition took possession of it. With the exception of a reoccupation by the Dutch in 1673-4, it remained an English colony until the revolution.
—BOUNDARIES. 1. Under the Dutch the territory, then called "New Netherlands," had no well defined boundaries. The Dutch claims included the present states of New Jersey and Delaware, in which they were enforced, Pennsylvania, in which they were only asserted, and eastward to the Connecticut river; the latter claim was maintained for a time, but was gradually abandoned. 2. Under the English the name of New Netherlands was changed to New York, it having been granted to the duke of York by Charles II. in 1664. The grant included a large part of the present state of Maine (see
—CIVIL GOVERNMENT. Under the Dutch, New York was governed successively by Peter Minuit, Walter van Twiller, William Kieft, and Peter Stuyvesant, all sent from Holland by the Dutch West India company. When the duke of York became king as James II., New York became a royal province, and so remained until the revolution, with governors appointed by the crown and a popular assembly. The last of these assemblies adjourned April 3, 1775, and a provincial congress (see
—GOVERNORS (since 1776). George Clinton, 1777-94, John Jay, 1795-1801, George Clinton, 1801-4; Morgan Lewis, 1804-7; Daniel D. Tompkins, 1807-17; De Witt Clinton, 1817-23; Joseph C. Yates, 1823-5; De Witt Clinton, 1825-9; Martin Van Buren, 1829-31; Enos T. Throop, 1831-3; Wm. L. Marcy, 1833-9; Wm. H. Seward, 1839-43, Wm. C. Bouck, 1843-5, Silas Wright,1845-7; John Young, 1847-9; Hamilton Fish, 1849-51; Washington Hunt, 1851-3; Horatio Seymour, 1853-5; Myron H. Clark, 1855-7; John A. King, 1857-9; Edwin D. Morgan, 1859-63; Horatio Seymour, 1863-5; Reuben E. Fenton, 1865-9; John T. Hoffmau, 1869-73; John A. Dix. 1873-5; Samuel J. Tilden, 1875-7; Lucius Robinson, 1877-80; Alonzo B. Cornell, 1880-83; Grover Cleveland, 1883-6.
—POLITICAL HISTORY. It is very difficult to abridge the political history of New York, owing mainly to the extent of the state and the diversity of the interests and feelings of its various parts. New York has always been a political world in itself. Within it every American political party of any importance has first come to notice, with the possible exceptions of the federal and democratic parties, and even of these the former owed its conception to Alexander Hamilton, of New York, and the latter first attained national position by its success in New York in 1800. The anti-masons, the whig, liberty, free-soil, American (knownothing) and republican parties, all first found their local habitation or name in New York, (See
—In a state of less comparative magnitude this uncertainty would have led to the political elevation of very many of its citizens, through the desire of the parties to conciliate the state; but every New York leader, of any party, has had to contend against factions in his own state, as well as against the compact influence of other states or combinations of states. New York has therefore furnished but one president by election to the United States, though two of its citizens have succeeded to the presidency by the death of the elected president; but each new president, on entering office, has had to deal with a New York leader of his own party, too weak to secure the presidency and yet powerful enough to maintain a quasi-independence. Three presidents, Jackson, Pierce and Lincoln, were able to solve the difficulty by placing the New York leader (Van Buren, Marcy and Seward respectively) at the head of the cabinet; in other cases, as those of Adams and Hamilton, Jefferson and Burr, Madison and George Clinton, Monroe and De Witt Clinton, Polk and Silas Wright, Fillmore and Seward, Grant and Fenton, Hayes and Conkling, and Garfield and Conkling, the efforts of the administration to create or support a faction of its own in New York have endangered or completely destroyed its party's supremacy in the state. The giving of due weight to this one difficulty, common to nearly all administrations, will go far to explain the successive political revolutions in the state.
—I. :1777-1807. The limitation of the right of suffrage to freeholders, during New York's early years of existence as a state, and the hereditary transmission of vast estates, on which many of the freeholders were tenants, gave early rise to three great clans, or families, the Livingstons, the Schuylers and the Clintons, whose struggles for supremacy make up most of the political history of the state until about 1801. The Livingstons were the ablest representatives of the mass of New York landed families, the Van Rensselaers, Van Cortlands, Morrises, Coldens, and others; the Schuylers, of the same class, though not generally so able as the Livingstons, had risen to prominence to virtue of the revolutionary services of their head, Gen. Philip Schuyler, and, above all, of the commanding genius of his son-in-law, Alexander Hamilton; and the Clintons, few in number and far poorer than their rivals, were strong in the confidence of the independent freeholders, who were not attached by interest or marriage to any of the great families. The Clintons seem to have been the most unselfish; but, with all three, political contests were intensely personal, and all interests were more or less subsidiary to those of the family. The most prominent to those who were Livingstons by birth or marriage were Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, the head of the family, Brockholst Livingston, Edward Livingston, Maturin Livingston, Smith Thompson, Morgan Lewis, and Gen. John Armstrong; the Schuylers had only Philip Schuyler and Hamilton; and the Clintons were really but three in number, George, the governor, James, his brother, and De Witt, his nephew, though Chief Justice Robert Yates and John Lansing were their firm supporters.
—From the first the Clintons were anti-federalist, and opposed the adoption of the constitution (see
—Burr's leadership was only apparent. The year 1801 had been marked also by the re-election of George Clinton as governor, and the entrance of his nephew, De Witt Clinton, upon a share of the management of the party. The latter, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, Ambrouse Spencer, at once reinvigorated the Clinton interest. Charges of treachery were freely brought against the "Burrites"; the administration, in its inevitable conflict with Burr, bestowed its patronage exclusively upon the Clintons and Livingstons; and the Burrites after a final and desperate effort to elect their leader governor in 1804 by aid of the federalists, went down. This result came mainly through the unscrupulous and even savage introduction in 1801, by the Clintons and Livingstons, of the idea that "the spoils belong to the victors," which thereafter corrupted New York politics, and since 1829 has corrupted national politics also. (See
—The savage character which this new departure at once gave to political contests was marked by an epidemic of dueling, in which, it was alleged, the Burrites concertedly endeavored to kill their most formidable opponents or drive them out of politics by force of bodily fear. The most vindictive of these duels was that between De Witt Clinton and John Swartwout, a close friend of Burr, in which Swartwout insisted vainly upon having a sixth shot after being twice severely wounded; the most calamitous was that between Hamilton and Burr, in which the former was killed.
—Dissension soon arose between the Clintons and the Livingstons. The latter, in spite of their extensive influence, were no match for the united abilities of De Witt Clinton and Spencer; George Clinton became vice-president in 1805 in Burr's place; and though Morgan Lewis a connection of the Livingstons, was chosen governor in 1804, the Livingston interest began to decline. In 1805-6 the Clintons, having gained control of the council of appointment, began an attack upon the Livingstons, or "Lewisites". which was finally successful in 1807 by the election of Governor Tompkins, a Clintonian. De Witt Clinton thus became the arbiter of New York politics for the time; the last of the great landed families had gone down in the race for power; and the first stage of New York's political history may be considered at an end. Though the dominant faction was headed by two members of the Clinton family, there was no longer any general connection by blood or marriage in its composition; it was united by common interests, and may properly be considered the republican party of the state. The federalists had been completely null since 1800 and most of their voters and leaders had seized the various opportunities of joining one or other of the contending republican factions.
—II.:1807-23. The defeated Lewisites and Burrites at once declared in favor of Madison, and against George Clinton, for the presidency in 1808, and they seem to have been recognized as the "administration wing" in the distribution of federal patronage. The coalition was usually known as "Martling men", from the name of their meeting place in New York city("Martling's Long Room"). The Clintonians were generally unfriendly to the administration's "restrictive system." (See
—The election for governor in 1813 revealed a long suspected breach in the dominant party. De Witt Clinton found his influence in his party overbalanced by that of Gov. Tompkins, Ambrose Spencer, Martin Van Buren and John W. Taylor; he therefore became an opponent of Tompkins' re-election, and entirely lost control of his party. His own faction, with the aid of the federalists, held control of the offices until 1815, when an anti-Clinton council made a clean sweep of all the federalist and Clintonian officeholders. This defeat put an end to the federal party in New York, and seemed to be equally fatal to Clinton. Tompkins, Van Buren and Spencer were now the leaders of the party, but the two former were so much more influential than Spencer that he, about the year 1816, sought a reconciliation with his former ally, but late political enemy, De Witt Clinton, and brought him back into politics to restore the balance. The new coalition was immediately successful; to succeed Tompkins as governor, Clinton was nominated and elected in 1817, against Peter B. Porter, the candidate of the Tammany men, or "bucktails"; and with his entrance to office he initiated the "canal policy" of the state.
—The connection between the seaboard and the interior had been one of the earliest problems in American politics. (See
—The anti-Clinton republicans throughout the state now generally accepted the name of bucktails. Though in a popular minority for some years, they were always superior to their opponents in point of ability, for Clinton would not willingly endure a rival near the throne, and dangerously able men among his own supporters rapidly gravitated toward the bucktails. Their leaders were Van Buren, Erastus Root, Samuel Young, Roger Skinner, Peter R. Livingston, Joseph C. Yates, and Ogden Edwards, all noted names in New York politics; Tompkins was already hopelessly lost under a load of debt which he had accumulated in defense of the state during his governorship, and which was really the cause of his death in 1825. The leadership of the Clintonians was strictly confined to Clinton himself and Spencer, who had no aspirations for office. The remnant of the federalists was led by Wm. A. Duer, Peter A. Jay, W. W. Van Ness, and Abraham Van Vechten. Most of them supported Clinton; but a small division, often derisively called "high-minded federalists," from their frequent use of the phrase "high-minded men" in their addresses, supported the bucktails and opposed the Clintonians as a personal party. In 1820 the bucktails at last gained complete control of the legislature, but it is noteworthy that at the same election Clinton was re-elected governor over Tompkins. For this success he was indebted mainly to his canal policy; but his term of office was embittered by the rigorous manner in which the bucktail council exercised the power of removal. This body was abolished by the constitution of the next year, and its last year was acknowledged on all hands to have been the most extraordinarily evil year of its existence. The extent of its power for evil may be estimated from the statement that, in 1820, 8,287 military and 6,663 civil officers throughout the state were absolutely at its mercy. Clinton also complained most bitterly, in his messages to the legislature, of the manner in which the administration at Washington had placed the federal patronage at Van Buren's disposal, and of interferences in state elections by federal officeholders "as an organized and disciplined corps."
—In the election of 1822 the former bucktails at last became the republican party of the state, and the Clintonians were completely overthrown. Clinton himself had discreetly declined to be a candidate for the governorship, and his opponents elected their candidate for governor without opposition, the entire senate, and almost all the assembly. The result was partly due to the Clintonian opposition to the revision of the constitution in 1820-21, but far more to the advance of the democratic idea in the state. The day of personal politics was very nearly over. The growth of the state's population, and the enlargement of the right of suffrage, had made the body of voters so large that it was no longer possible for any one man to exercise direct personal control over a controlling mass of voters. The increase may be shown by comparing the vote at intervals of nearly ten years: (1792) George Clinton 8,440, John Jay 8,332; (1801) George Clinton 24,808, Stephen Van Rensselaer 20,843; (1813) D. D. Tompkins 43,324, Stephen Van Rensselaer 89,718; (1824) De Witt Clinton 103,452, Samuel Young 87,093. The party was now headed by a number of leaders, who were at one in their feelings, interests and methods, and who aimed rather to ascertain than to control the feelings of the people. (See
—III.: 1828-50. The regency began its long and successful career with a mistake. Its members were strongly in favor of Crawford for president in 1824 (see
—One of the most singular political manœuvres ever contrived was successfully carried out in the election for United States senator in February, 1825. By law the senate and assembly were to ballot separately for a senator, and, if they chose different persons, the decision was to be made by joint ballot. The Clintonians had a majority in the assembly and on joint ballot; the regency had a majority in the senate. The assembly nominated Ambrose Spencer; the ten Clintonians in the senate voted for him also; but the twenty-two regency senators, by voting each for a different candidate, prevented a choice by the senate and a joint ballot, so that the senatorial election went over to the next year, when a regency senator was chosen.
—The failing health of Crawford during Adams' presidency compelled the regency to look elsewhere for a candidate. As between Adams and Jackson, the former seems to have been the natural preference of the regency, as the latter was of Clinton personally. Until Sept. 26, 1827, the regency preserved a profound and almost ostentatious neutrality between the two most prominent candidates remaining; on that day the first Jackson address was issued from Tammany Hall, and thereafter all the political prospects of the regency were hazarded upon the chances of Jackson's election. Before Clinton had any opportunity to define his position, his sudden death, Feb 11, 1828, left the opposition to the regency almost without a head. Nevertheless the Adams opposition was strong enough to secure sixteen of the state's electors, who were then chosen in congressional districts, though the eighteen Jackson electors, being a majority of the college, chose the two electors at large and made the state's electoral vote twenty to sixteen in favor of Jackson. Van Buren was at the same time chosen governor. Immediately afterward he passed into Jackson's cabinet, and carried with him the methods which had long been familiar in New York politics. Thereafter national democratic politics were to be marked by the use of popular conventions as nominating bodies, by absolute submission to the majority, no matter how small a portion of the party might make the decision, unsparing punishment of individual action in opposition to the majority, and the use of the civil service as an instrument of reward or punishment. The whole programme may be summed up as the unitizing of political action. Majorities were to be absolute in every democratic organization, national, state, county or city; minorities were simply to be ignored, and individuals were morally and politically bound to follow the majority of their organizations, even in opposition to their own party organization of higher rank. (See
—The Adams, or national republican, party in New York was seriously embarrassed not only by its lack of leaders, but by the sudden rise of an anti-masonic party, pledged to proscribe every freemason of any party. (See
—Under the reign of the regency every governor and legislature were democratic until 1846, with the exception of this period, 1837-41, when the state became whig through democratic divisions. The charter of a national bank was the question which divided political parties from 1833 until 1843 (see
—In 1844 the regency labored with more than usual energy to carry the state, its ablest member, Silas Wright, leaving the United States senate to run for the governorship. Polk, soon after his inauguration, began to cultivate a New York faction of his own, in opposition to the regency, and the result was a wider disruption of the democratic party, and the return of the whigs to power. The regency were able to secure the nomination of Wright in their party convention, but were unable to elect him. In 1848 the struggle between the regency and the administration widened into national proportions. (See
—The accession of Fillmore to the presidency in 1850 brought to light a division in the New York whig party also. The Seward whigs leaned toward abolitionism; the Fillmore, or "silver gray," whigs wished to ignore slavery in politics. This division aided the democrats in carrying the state in 1852. But the schism in the victorious party immediately broke out afresh, the former hunker party now taking the name of "hards" or "hard shells," and their younger rivals that of "softs"; the names, however, had principal reference to the slavery question, and many individuals in both factions had changed sides in the confusion. The general election of 1854 was therefore extremely complicated, four tickets being run, a fusion ticket of whigs, a hard, a soft, and a know-nothing ticket. The fusion ticket was successful, and in the following year its supporters had developed into the new republican party. The former Fillmore whigs went either into the republican party, under Seward's leadership, or into the American party, or know-nothings. The democratic party of the state, without leadership, and distracted by divisions which had their origin only in the disappointed ambitions of local leaders, remained in the minority until 1862. In 1855 the know-nothings elected the state officers inferior in rank to the governor, and there was no party majority in the legislature; in other years the state was steadily republican.
—In 1862, during the depression caused by federal disasters, the democrats elected the governor and state officers, but the senate was republican and the assembly a tie. Since that time the vote of the state has been very uncertain and irregular. The legislature has usually been republican, but the state has nevertheless often been carried by the democrats on the total vote. In 1868 the democrats elected the governor and state officers, and secured the electoral vote of the state, but the legislature remained republican in both branches. That there was fraud in the vote seems to be undeniable, for in all previous elections, even in such exciting contests as 1840, 1844, 1860, and 1864, the proportion of voters never exceeded 90 to 92 per cent. of the legal voting population, while in 1868 it reached the incredible proportion of 97.07 per cent. The enormous democratic majority in New York city (112,522 dem., 43,372 rep.), and the control of the count by the Tweed ring, seem to localize the fraud beyond question. In 1870 the democrats again carried the state, electing the governor, state officers, and a majority in both branches of the legislature. In 1872 the state was carried by the republicans, Governor Dix's majority over his opponent being over 50,000.
—By this time the political condition of the state had been very considerably changed. From 1854 until about 1873-4 the democratic party was practically a minority in the state outside of New York city, and the only question was, whether the republican majority in the rest of the state would be large enough to overcome the democratic majority which it was to encounter at the Harlem river. The organization of the republican party throughout the state had long been very complete, under the leadership at first of R. E. Fenton, and, after 1868, of Roscoe Conkling, whose sympathy with the then administration was more pronounced than his predecessor's. The democratic organization, outside of New York city, had long been imperfect; its local managers were discouraged; and there was no recognized state leadership, except in the counsels of Gov. Seymour. About 1873 the leadership was suddenly assumed by Samuel J. Tilden, only known hitherto as a lawyer, the chairman of the democratic state committee, and one of the agents in the overthrow of the Tweed ring. (See
—When the new administration of President Garfield was inaugurated in 1881, it was almost immediately called upon to solve the problem which had embarrassed almost every administration since that of Washington—the settlement of a modus vivendi with the chief of the party in New York. The solution could only be found in choosing between an open conflict and a grant of the federal patronage within the state to the state leader. (See
—The political situation in New York in 1883 is very singular. There are two great parties in the state. Both are distracted by quarrels in which the mass of voters take little or no interest; neither has now any recognized leader, nor would either submit generally to the guidance of a leader, if one could be found; neither has a trace of principle or policy in state interests, such as divided parties in the state until 1850; and both organizations maintain a precarious existence as offshoots of the national parties, the adherents of the dominant party struggling for federal offices in prœsenti, as their opponents do in prospectu. The only strictly state organization is the much-berated Tammany society of New York city, whose efforts are directed solely to local offices, with such few federal offices as it can secure by barter. The whole political history of the state is the clearest possible record of the inevitable results of the spoils system in politics: its first employment by a few strong-willed men, with some idea of great principles in its application; its extension to a clique of smaller and less passionate leaders, who use it more as a business means; its immediate and brilliant success in winning elections, and in compelling all parties to adopt it; its further debasement as a mere tool in the hands of men who use it without knowledge of, or care for, any other weapon in politics; its certainty to drive men of a higher understanding of politics out of the competition, as bad money drives out good; and its ultimate disintegration of all parties who employ it, as soon as local leaders, through it, learn to regard political contests as without principle, and to employ the spoils system against their own party as well as against their opponents. To the Italian astronomer Jupiter's moons seemed to be hung in the sky as a convincing proof of the truth of the Copernican system; to the political student the last eighty years of New York's history are fully as instructive.
—The names of men who have become prominent in New York politics are of course very numerous. Among them are those of C. A. Arthur, Aaron Burr, De Witt Clinton, George Clinton, Roscoe Conkling, Millard Fillmore, Francis Granger, Horace Greeley, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, Rufus King, Wm. L. Marcy, Wm. H. Seward, Horatio Seymour, S. J. Tilden, D. D. Tompkins, Martin Van Buren, Wm. A. Wheeler, Silas Wright (see those names), and the following: John Armstrong, democratic United States senator 1801-4, minister to France 1804-10, and secretary of war 1813-14; Daniel D. Barnard, whig representative in congress 1827-9 and 1839-45, minister to Prussia 1850-53, and the ablest contributor to the "Whig Review" (see
—The popular name for the state is The Empire State, from its size and wealth, or The Excelsior State, from the motto on its coat of arms.
—See 2 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; O'Callaghan's Documentary History of New York (1600-1800) and History of the New Netherland; Brodhead's History of New York (1609-91); Moulton's History of New York; G. M. Asher's Bibliographical Essay on Dutch books relating to New Netherlands; 2 Dunlap's History of New York, 239 (for boundaries); Hotchkin's History of the Purchase and Settlement of Western New York; Hough's Contention Manual (1846); 18 Democratic Review, 403; E. B. Street's History of the Council of Revision; Pell's Administration of New York (1807-19); Civil List and Forms of Government of New York (to 1800); Eastman's History of New York (to 1825); Hammond's Political History of New York (to 1840); B. F. Butler's Outline Constitutional History of New York (1847); Jenkins' Political History of New York (to 1849-50), Carpenter's History of New York (to 1833); Barber's History of New York (1856); H. Seymour's Topography and History of New York (1856); Randall's History of New York (to 1870); Lamb's History of the City of New York; Report of the House Committee on the New York Election (1869); Chadbourne's History of New York State.
Return to top