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NOTES ON NEW YORK.*
NEW YORK is situated between 40° 30′ and 45° of north latitude, and between 5° 5' of east and 2° 55′ of west longitude from the city of Washington. The state includes an area of 46,200 square miles, divided into fifty-nine counties, and subdivided into nine cities, eight hundred and thirty-five towns, and one hundred and forty-five incorporated villages; and contains 2,428,921 inhabitants; of whom 2,378,890 are free white persons, and 50,031 are free colored persons. The government is a representative republic, with a written constitution, which was framed by a convention in 1821, and approved by the people in a popular election in 1822. The few remaining descendants of the aborigines are neither enumerated, nor admitted to citizenship. Persons of African descent, possessing freeholds worth two hundred and fifty dollars, enjoy the right of suffrage. Aliens are excluded until they become naturalized according to the laws of Congress, after five years' residence in the United States. All male citizens who have attained the age of twenty-one years, and resided in the state one year, vote for all officers elected by the people, and may be chosen or appointed to places of trust or profit; but the governor must be a native citizen of the United States, and a freeholder, aged not less than thirty years, and must have been an inhabitant of this state five years previously to his election, unless absent on public business; and only freeholders can be elected senators. Elections are conducted by ballot. The constitution guaranties the franchises of citizenship to every member of the state, unless he be deprived of them by
*This work constitutes the Introduction to the Natural History of New York published by the legislature in 1842.-Ed. U. S. census, 1840.
In 1850, the total population was 3,097,394.- Ed. See NOTE on page 665.
the law of the land, or the judgment of his peers. Among those franchises are trial by jury, the writ of habeas corpus, liberty of speech and of the press, and free enjoyment of religious profession and worship. The government can make no discrimination or preference of religion, nor any provision for an ecclesiastical establishment, and the clergy are excluded from civil functions.* A militia, composed only of citizens who are enrolled, and required to appear under arms twice in each year, constitutes the only force within the state, relied on for public defence or maintenance of the civil authorities; but the constitution of the United States guaranties to the state security against invasion and domestic insurrection. There are four departments of the government: the legislative, executive, administrative, and judicial. The legislative power is absolute, except as restricted by the federal and state constitutions. A senate and an assembly constitute the legislature. The senate is composed of thirty-two members, who are elected by the people in eight equal senatorial districts, and remain in office four years. One senator is annually elected in each district. The assembly consists of one hundred and twenty-eight members, who are elected by the people in counties, each of which is represented in proportion to its population. The lieutenant-governor, elected by the people, presides, and has only a casting vote in the senate. A speaker, freely elected by the assembly, presides in that body. Bills originate in either house, and become laws when passed by both houses and approved by the governor, or when they receive the votes of two thirds of the members present, notwithstanding the executive veto. Laws to create or alter corporations require the assent of two thirds of all the members elected in each house.
The governor constitutes the executive department, is biennially elected by the people, is commander-in-chief of the militia and admiral of the navy, and is charged with the execution of the laws. He annually communicates to the legislature the condition of the state, and recommends such measures as he deems expedient. He is invested with power to pardon in all cases whatsoever, except treason, and may suspend the execution of persons convicted of that crime until the pleasure of the legislature shall be made known. In case of his death, absence, or
* By the constitution of 1846, this exclusion is abolished.-Ed.
incapacity, the executive functions devolve upon the lieutenantgovernor. The administrative department is intrusted with the fiscal interests of the state, and is divided among a secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, surveyor-general, attorney-general, commissary-general, commissioners of the canal fund, commissioners of the land-office, and canal commissioners; each of whom, by virtue of the constitution or laws, is appointed by the legislature without the interposition of the executive authority. There is a court for the trial of impeachments and the correction of errors, which is composed of the lieutenant-governor, senators, chancellor, and the justices of the supreme court. Articles of impeachment may be preferred by the assembly against the governor and all administrative and judicial officers, and the votes of two thirds of the members of the court for the trial of impeachments are necessary to a conviction. The court may remove the party convicted from office. The same court reviews the judgments and decrees of the supreme court and the court of chancery. The supreme court is a court of law, having jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases; and consists of three justices, each of whom holds his office until he attains the age of sixty years. Issues of fact are tried by jury before circuit judges who hold circuit courts, and by the county courts; and such issues in criminal cases are tried by jury in courts of oyer and terminer and general sessions in the several counties. The supreme court reviews the judgments of all inferior legal tribunals. County courts of common pleas and general sessions are held by local judges, who hold their offices five years, and review the proceedings in justices' courts. There are four justices of the peace in each town; they are elected by the people, and hold their offices four years, and have jurisdiction in civil cases, and in litigated cases may render judgments not exceeding one hundred dollars. Three justices constitute a court of special sessions for the trial of small offences. Equity is administered by a chancellor and by nine subordinate vice-chancellors, of whom six are also circuit judges. The chancellor and circuit judges respectively hold their offices until the age of sixty years. All judicial officers, except justices of the peace in towns, are nominated by the governor, and appointed by him with the advice and consent of the senate. He also appoints in like manner major-generals, inspectors of brigades, and officers of the general staff of the militia, except the
commissary-general. The constitution may be amended; and for that purpose a resolution must be passed by a majority of the legislature at one session, and at a succeeding session by the votes of two thirds of all the members elected, and be approved at the next general election by a majority of the people. The present constitution was established in the place of one which had been adopted in 1777.*
The bay of New York is supposed to have been visited by Verazzani, under the patronage of Francis I. of France, in 1584.† In 1609, Champlain, a mariner in the French service, explored the northern waters,+ and Hendrick Hudson, under a commission from the States-General of the Netherlands, ascended the river whose name so justly commemorates the enterprise of that navigator. The settlement of the southern portion of the state, under the name of New Netherlands, was commenced in the subsequent year. The colony submitted to the English in 1664,8 and was regained by the Netherlands in 1673,¶ but was relinquished to England by the treaty of Westminster in the succeeding year, and remained a province of the British empire until the thirteen united British colonies became an independent confed
eracy of states, in 1776. During the Dutch supremacy, the
province was a mercantile possession of the Dutch East India Company. Under the English, it was by royal charter a manor belonging to the duke of York. In 1683, the discontent of the colonists induced the consent of the proprietor to the institution of a representative assembly.** After that period, restricted legislative powers were vested in the governor and council "and the people met in general assembly."
Although the States-General of the Netherlands were at the zenith of commercial power, and learning and the arts were cherished in that country, when the colony was planted, its inhabitants seem not to have been distinguished by intellectual developments;++ and although the conquest occurred at a time when the English people had attained even a higher supremacy in literature than in arms, yet that event seems not to have resulted in an improvement of the condition of society.‡‡
*The constitution was again revised in 1846, by a convention.-Ed.