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- NEW YORK - 1/6 -


The State of New York had been steadily advancing in population, resources, and power, ever since the peace of 1785. At that time it bore but a secondary rank among what were then considered the great States of the Confederacy. Massachusetts, proper and singly, then outnumbered us, while New England, collectively, must have had some six or seven times our people. A very few years of peace, however, brought material changes. In 1790, the year in which the first census under the law of Congress was taken, the State already contained 340,120 souls, while New England had a few more than a million. It is worthy of remark that, sixty years since, the entire State had but little more than half of the population of the Manhattanese towns at the present moment! Each succeeding census diminished these proportions, until that of l830, when the return for the State of New York gave 1,372,812, and for New England 1,954,709. At this time, and for a considerable period preceding and succeeding it, it was found that the proportion between the people of the State of New York and the people of the city, was about as ten to one. Between 1830 and 1840, the former had so far increased in numbers as to possess as many people as ALL New England. In the next decade, this proportion was exceeded; and the late returns show that New York, singly, has passed ahead of all her enterprising neighbors in that section of the Union. At the same time, the old proportion between the State and the town--or, to be more accurate, the TOWNS on the Bay of New York and its waters--has been entirely lost, five to one being near the truth at the present moment. It is easy to foresee that the time is not very distant when two to one will be maintained with difficulty, as between the State and its commercial capital.

Bold as the foregoing prediction may seem, the facts of the last half century will, we think, justify it. If the Manhattan towns, or Manhattan, as we shall not scruple to term the several places that compose the prosperous sisterhood at the mouth of the Hudson--a name that is more ancient and better adapted to the history, associations, and convenience of the place than any other--continue to prosper as they have done, ere the close of the present century they will take their station among the capitals of the first rank. It may require a longer period to collect the accessories of a first-class place, for these are the products of time and cultivation; though the facilities of intercourse, the spirit of the age, and the equalizing sentiment that marks the civilization of the epoch, will greatly hasten everything in the shape of improvement.

New York will probably never possess any churches of an architecture to attract attention for their magnitude and magnificence. The policy of the country, which separates religion from the state, precludes this, by confining all the expenditures of this nature to the several parishes, few of which are rich enough to do more than erect edifices of moderate dimensions and cost. The Romish Church, so much addicted to addressing the senses, manifests some desire to construct its cathedrals, but they are necessarily confined to the limits and ornaments suited to the resources of a branch of the church that, in this country, is by no means affluent. The manner in which the Americans are subdivided into sects also conflicts with any commendable desire that may exist to build glorious temples in honor of the Deity: and convenience is more consulted than taste, perhaps, in all that relates to ecclesiastical architecture. Nevertheless, a sensible improvement in this respect has occurred within the last few years, to which we shall elsewhere advert.

It will be in their trade, their resources, their activity, and their influence on the rest of the world, as well as in their population, that the towns of Manhattan will be first entitled to rank with the larger capitals of Europe. So obvious, rapid, and natural has been the advance of all the places, that it is not easy for the mind to regard anything belonging to them as extraordinary, or out of rule. There is not a port in the whole country that is less indebted to art and the fostering hand of Government than this. It is true, certain forts, most of them of very doubtful necessity, have been constructed for defence; but no attack having ever been contemplated, or, if contemplated, attempted, they have been dead letters in the history of its progress. We are not aware that Government has ever expended one cent in the waters of Manhattan, except for the surveys, construction of the aforesaid military works, and the erection of the lighthouses, that form a part of the general provision for the safe navigation of the entire coast. Some money has been expended for the improvement of the shallow waters of the Hudson; but it has been as much, or more, for the advantage of the upper towns, and the trade coastwise, generally, than for the special benefit of New York.

The immense natural advantages of the bays and islands at the mouth of the Hudson have, in a great degree, superseded the necessity of such assistance. Nature has made every material provision for a mart of the first importance: and perhaps it has been fortunate that the towns have been left, like healthful and vigorous children, managed by prudent parents, to take the inclination and growth pointed out to them by this safest and best of guides.

London is indebted to artificial causes, in a great degree, for its growth and power. That great law of trade, which renders settling places indispensable, has contributed to her prosperity and continued ascendency, long after the day when rival ports are carrying away her fleets and commerce. She is a proof of the difficulty of shaking a commercial superiority long established. Scarce a cargo that enters the ports of the kingdom that does not pay tribute to her bankers or merchants. But London is a political capital, and that in a country where the representation of the Government is more imposing, possessing greater influence, than in any other Christian nation. The English aristocracy, which wields the real authority of the state, here makes its annual exhibition of luxury and wealth, such as the world has never beheld anywhere else, ancient Rome possibly excepted, and has had a large share in rendering London what it is.

New York has none of this adventitious aid. Both of the Governments, that of the United States and that of the State, have long been taken from her, leaving her nothing of this sort but her own local authorities. But representation forms no part of the machinery of American policy. It is supposed that man is too intellectual and philosophical to need it, in this intellectual and philosophical country, PAR EXCELLENCE. Although such is the theory, the whole struggle in private life is limited to the impression made by representation in the hands of individuals. That which the Government has improvidently cast aside, society has seized upon: and hundreds who have no claim to distinction beyond the possession of money, profit by the mistake to place themselves in positions perhaps that they are not always exactly qualified to fill. Of all social usurpations, that of mere money is the least tolerable--as one may have a very full purse with empty brains and vulgar tastes and habits. The wisdom of thus throwing the control of a feature of society, that is of much more moment than is commonly supposed, into the chapter of commercial accidents may well he questioned

Some crude attempts have been made to bring the circles of New York within the control of a code prepared and promulgated through the public press. They who have made these abortive attempts have been little aware of the power with which they have to contend. Napoleon himself, who could cause the conscription to enter every man's dwelling, could not bring the coteries of the Faubourg under his influence. In this respect, society will make its own laws, appeal to its own opinions, and submit only to its own edicts. Association is beyond the control of any regular and peaceful government, resting on influences that seem, in a great measure, to be founded in nature--the most inflexible of all rulers. Tastes, conditions, connections, habits, and even prejudices, unite to form a dynasty that never has yet been dethroned. New York is nearer to a state of nature, probably, as regards all its customs and associations, than any other well-established place that could be named. With six hundred thousand souls, collected from all parts of Christendom--with no upper class recognized by, or in any manner connected with, the institutions, it would seem that the circles might enact their own laws, and the popular principle be brought to bear socially on the usages of the town--referring fashion and opinion altogether to a sort of popular will. The result is not exactly what might be expected under the circumstances, the past being intermingled with the present time, in spite of theories and various opposing interests; and, in many instances, caprice is found to be stronger than reason.

{conscription = the military draft; the Faubourg = the fashionable neighborhoods of Paris; the popular principle = democracy}

We have no desire to exaggerate, or to color beyond their claims, the importance of the towns of Manhattan. No one can better understand the vast chasm which still exists between London and New York, and how much the latter has to achieve before she can lay claim to be the counterpart of that metropolis of Christendom. It is not so much our intention to dilate on existing facts, as to offer a general picture, including the past, the present, and the future, that may aid the mind in forming something like a just estimate of the real importance and probable destinies of this emporium of the New World.

It is now just three-and-twenty years since, that, in another work, we ventured to predict the great fortunes that were in reserve for this American mart, giving some of the reasons that then occurred to us that had a tendency to produce such a result. These predictions drew down upon us sneers, not to say derision, in certain quarters, where nothing that shadows forth the growing power of this republic is ever received with favor. The intervening period has more than fulfilled our expectations. In this short interval, the population of the Manhattan towns has more than trebled, while their wealth and importance have probably increased in a greatly magnified proportion. Should the next quarter of a century see this ratio in growth continued, London would be very closely approached in its leading element of superiority--numbers. We have little doubt that the present century will bring about changes that will place the emporium of the Old World and that of the New nearly on a level. This opinion is given with a perfect knowledge of the vast increase of the English capital itself, and with a due allowance for its continuance. We propose, in the body of this work, to furnish the reasons justifying these anticipations.

{another work = James Fenimore Cooper, "Notions of the Americans: Picked up by a Travelling Bachelor" (Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Carey, 1828)--a detailed description, in the guise of letters written by a fictitious Belgian traveler, of the geography, history, economy, government, and culture of the United States}

Seventeen years since, the writer returned home from a long


NEW YORK - 1/6

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