A discussion about the history of Weigand's Tavern in Newburgh hosted by the Archaeological Institute of America Westchester Society and the Rye Public Library.
New York City, the American Revolution, and the Significance of the Number 45
After the end of the French and Indian War, there was tension over King George and Parliament’s plan to tax the Colonies to pay off the war debt. John Wilkes, editor of “The North Briton” newspaper and a member of Parliament, opposed the King in his publications. Wilkes’ most critical editorial was printed in 1763 in Issue # 45, a number highlighted to evoke memories of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, commonly referred to as “The 45 Rebellion” or simply “45” in political culture. The King was personally offended and issued a warrant for Wilkes’ arrest. As a result, “Wilkes, Liberty, Number 45” lived on as a rallying call against unlawful imprisonment.
In New York City, the Sons of Liberty had a tradition of erecting “Liberty Poles” to voice opposition to British oppression. In 1766 they erected a pole in City Hall Park to celebrate the repeal of the Stamp Act. British soldiers chopped it down, the Sons of Liberty put a second one up, and it was chopped down again. The third pole went up and remained unchallenged until a year later in May 1767 when British soldiers noticed the townspeople gathering at the Liberty Pole to celebrate the anniversary of the repeal of the Stamp Act. They destroyed it once again. Undaunted, the Sons of Liberty erected the fourth pole, defiantly larger and wrapped in iron bands.
Soon after, the Quartering Act passed, requiring colonists to provide housing to British soldiers. The New York Provincial Assembly refused to support it, so they were prorogued, and the new Assembly approved public funds to be allocated for quartering troops.
In response to the Assembly’s reversal, an anonymous broadside began circulating in December of 1769 titled, “To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York.” The British soldiers reacted by setting off explosives at the Liberty Pole and leaving the splintered wood on the steps of Abraham Montayne’s Tavern and Coffee House which was located on Broadway, just across from the City Hall Park.
On January 19, 1770, the tension erupted into violence when a leader of the Sons of Liberty, Isaac Sears, interfered while British soldiers were posting broadsides of their own at an outdoor market by the East River wharves. Sears captured the offending soldiers and began to march them to City Hall. Other soldiers in a nearby barracks sounded alarm and then pursued the men, but crowds gathered to protect Sears. The crowd overwhelmed the soldiers and the soldiers fired shots into the crowd. Several people were injured. The incident took place in a small patch of grass known as “Golden Hill,” which is today visible only as a slight incline towards the intersection of William and John Street in the Financial district.
The Governor of New York offered 100 pounds in cash to anyone willing to reveal the name of the person who wrote the anonymous broadside. After three weeks passed without a response, the Governor ordered all printers in the city to be arrested and jailed. This led to printer James Parker being identified as a person of interest in the case. Parker then revealed that the author of the broadside was a man named Alexander McDougall.
A Fifth Liberty Pole was raised on February 6, 1770 on a plot of land owned by Isaac Sears. The next day, McDougall was accused of seditious libel against the Crown and coincidentally, his arrest warrant was number 45. In playing on this numerical association, McDougall became known as “the Wilkes of the Colonies” and demonstrators kept up a constant watch.
Every day, supporters appeared at his jail cell to cheer 45 times. Food and drink was shared, including 45 shots of rum, 45 pounds of beef, etc. On the 45th day, the Sons of Liberty brought 45 virgins dressed in white to sing Psalm 45. Newspapers humorously debated if there were really 45 virgins in the whole city to make up such a gathering, and one commenter joked that it was not possible since they were all 45 years old.
Because no one wanted the unpopular task of prosecuting McDougall, his confinement and the theatrics of his supporters lasted for three months. McDougall was ultimately released because the sudden death of James Parker, the printer, left the prosecution without any witnesses in the case.
The clash between the Sons of Liberty and the British soldiers that led to McDougall’s imprisonment is referred to as The Battle of Golden Hill. It is often considered by scholars to mark the “first bloodshed” of the Revolution. The second violent clash, known as the Boston Massacre, occurred six weeks later March 5, 1770 and resulted in five deaths.
For a brief time, during the years leading up to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, the number 45 was understood as a symbol the American spirit in favor free speech and in condemnation of unlawful use of arrest to silence an opposing voice.
For this and many other contributions that Alexander McDougall made to the Revolutionary War, MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village/Soho was named in his honor.
All over the former colonies the symbol of the liberty pole persisted for a generation or more. In Newburgh, the population remained in close association and loyalty to George Washington and John Adams during their Presidential administrations. There was even an strong effort to rename the whole Precinct as the “Village of Washington” but it never fully stuck. The revolutionary spirit lived on in other ways too. In the 1793, editor Lucius Carey took over the old printing press that had been set up at the Fishkill Supply Depot to print General Orders for distribution, he established Newburgh’s earliest newspaper called the Newburgh Packet, then in 1798 a second local publication was introduced. The Mirror was edited by Philip Van Horne. Van Horne, a transplant from New Jersey, wrote avidly against the Federalist party and when the Sedition Act of 1798 was passed by Congress, Van Horne was among those arrested for his politics. In response, recalling the traditions of revolutionaries in the pre-war period, his local supporters erected a liberty pole in Newburgh. Not too much is known about the circumstances, but locals viewed it as a sedition pole and called it such, appearing as a mob to tear it down.
Goshen, N.Y. – Orange County Historian Johanna Porr Yaun has been named chair of the Orange County Semiquincentennial Commission and is accepting applications to fill a dozen positions within the group.
Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus signed an Executive Order earlier this month tasking the Commission with commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War era, which lasted from 1775 to 1783. The Commission will be active from now until November 25, 2033 to best highlight Orange County’s role throughout the war years.
Anyone interested in joining the Semiquincentennial Commission should send their résumé to Yaun at the 1841 Courthouse, 101 Main Street, Goshen, NY 10924 or via email email@example.com. There will be 13 Commissioners in total and they will serve three-year terms.
Congress created the United States Semiquincentennial Commission to plan an observance of the July 4, 1776 Declaration of Independence. The Orange County Semiquincentennial Commission is an expansion of this resolution, and will commemorate the rich local history surrounding many facets of the war as it pertained to Orange County.
Orange County and its neighboring communities played a critical role in the Revolutionary War. Throughout all eight years of conflict, residents of Orange County were at the center of military campaigns designed to control the Hudson River corridor and protect the borderlands along the Delaware River. In 1775, the residents of Orange County recruited volunteers for the Orange and Ulster County militias and in 1777 they defended the Hudson Valley in the attacks on Forts Montgomery and Clinton.
In 1780, the garrison at West Point was promised to the British in an act of treason by General Benedict Arnold, who tried to exchange the post for money and a high position in the British Army. While headquartered in Newburgh in 1783, General George Washington issued the General Order for the cessation of hostilities, ending the war. These are just a few examples of the region’s significance throughout this era.
Yaun is already hard at work as Orange County Semiquincentennial Commission chair. She hosted the first Hudson Valley 250th Roundtable on August 21st at which historians and museum professionals from around the region discussed collaborating on the upcoming commemoration. This included representatives from West Point Museum, Washington’s Headquarters, the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society, Hudson River Valley Institute, Revolutionary Westchester 250, and many others, noted Yaun.
“The Hudson River Valley was at the center of patriot operations for much of the Revolutionary War and the 250th gives us a platform to talk about events that shaped the diplomacy, supply, recruitment and military campaigns during the war years.” said Yaun, “But we also want to explore beyond familiar themes to ensure that we bring important peripheral stories to light for a fuller picture of Orange County’s past.”
For more information, contact Yaun at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know that 2019 marks the 240th anniversary of the storming of Stony Point?
Michael Sheehan, historian at the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, joined Clare Sheridan to discuss the history (and some misconceptions) surrounding this important victory for the Continental Army and recap the weekend’s 240th Anniversary commemorative events.
Listen to the "240th Anniversary of the storming of Stony Point" broadcast originally on Monday, July 15, 9:30am, on WRCR AM1700 podcast here.
Crossroads of Rockland History, a program of the Historical Society of Rockland County, airs on the third Monday of each month at 9:30 am, right after the Steve and Jeff Morning Show, on WRCR Radio 1700 AM, with live streaming at www.WRCR.com. Join host Clare Sheridan as we explore, celebrate, and learn about our local history, with different topics and guest speakers every month.
The Historical Society of Rockland County is a nonprofit educational institution and principal repository for original documents and artifacts relating to Rockland County. Its headquarters are a four-acre site featuring a history museum and the 1832 Jacob Blauvelt House in New City, New York.
With no actionable intelligence, General Washington had to guess where British Maj. Gen. William Howe was taking his army. So in July 1777, he led the Continental Army north from New Jersey into what was then a rough, dangerous, and little-known pass through New York’s Ramapo Mountains. He had guessed incorrectly, however, and they were soon racing south again. Two hundred and forty-two years later, one of the last vestiges of this frantic Revolutionary detour may fall to a bulldozer.
Read More from author Gabriel Neville in Journal of the American Revolution