By Robb K. Haberman
A specter haunted the city and port of New York during the Quasi-War (1798-1800) and the years preceding it. With the young republics of France and the United States engaged in undeclared naval warfare, New Yorkers feared a seaborne strike would lay waste to their community and cripple its thriving maritime commerce. Although unrealized, these fears were certainly justified; despite attempts to construct an adequate system of defense, the city remained incapable of withstanding assault. Indeed, in March 1798, one official highlighted New York’s vulnerability, noting that its immense wealth and property “invite invasion” and that it would be helpless if set upon by a “single Twenty Gun privateer.” Many residents recalled with bitterness the great fire of 1776, a conflagration that had destroyed a quarter of the city, and feared that New York would soon be revisited by a similar trauma.
No one viewed the threat of a forthcoming French attack with more trepidation than Governor John Jay. Throughout his tenure in office from 1795 to 1801, he called for a comprehensive defense to protect New York City and its adjoining waterscape.
Clifton Hood's In Pursuit of Privilege: A History of New York City’s Upper Class and the Making of a Metropolis
By Jason M. Barr and Gerard Koeppel
The Manhattan street grid plan of 1811 — both figuratively and literally — defines the city. It has created its identity while prompting continuing debate about whether it’s the “greatest grid” or “one of the worst city plans.” Despite the endless fascination after 200 years and counting, the grid’s history and its effect on Gotham are still not fully understood. We aim to correct the record. Here, we introduce some key misconceptions and their corrections; in eight monthly installments, we will discuss each one in more detail.
Sensibility and the Road: The Journal of Madame Knight and the Cultural Refinement of Eighteenth-Century New York
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