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New York   By: (1789-1851)

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New York

by James Fenimore Cooper

{Introduction from "The Spirit of the Fair" (April 5, 1864):

{Unpublished MS. of James Fenimore Cooper.

{Our national novelist died in the autumn of 1850 [sic]; previous to his fatal illness he was engaged upon a historical work, to be entitled "The Men [sic] of Manhattan," only the Introduction to which had been sent to the press: the printing office was destroyed by fire, and with it the opening chapters of this work; fortunately a few pages had been set up, and the impression sent to a literary gentleman, then editor of a popular critical journal, and were thus saved from destruction: to him we are indebted for the posthumous articles of Cooper, wherewith, by a coincidence as remarkable as it is auspicious, we now enrich our columns with a contribution from the American pioneer in letters. In discussing the growth of New York and speculating on her future destiny, the patriotic and sagacious author seems to have anticipated the terrible crisis through which the nation is now passing; there is a prescience in the views he expresses, which is all the more impressive inasmuch as they are uttered by a voice now silenced for ever. They have a solemn interest, and were inspired by a genuine sympathy in the progress and prosperity of the nation. It should be remembered that, when these observations were written, the public mind had been and was still highly excited by the "Compromise Measures" the last vain expedient to propitiate the traitors who have since filled the land with the horrors of civil war.}


THE increase of the towns of Manhattan, as, for the sake of convenience, we shall term New York and her adjuncts, in all that contributes to the importance of a great commercial mart, renders them one of the most remarkable places of the present age. Within the distinct recollections of living men, they have grown from a city of the fifth or sixth class to be near the head of all the purely trading places of the known world. That there are sufficient causes for this unparalleled prosperity, will appear in the analysis of the natural advantages of the port, in its position, security, accessories, and scale.

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... Continue reading book >>

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