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Rivington’s “Condition of New York”

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol II.  Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

James Rivington
James Rivington, engraved by A. H. Ritchie

July 4.—The imagination can scarcely conceive of a more condition than that of the inhabitants of New York, between the Highlands and Albany. The persons favoring independency, which consist only of such as despair of escaping the vengeance of their countrymen, abandon themselves to all the cruelty of cowardice. Alive to suspicion, the general consideration is about spies and harborers of spies, and in the extremity of their terrors, the slightest preparations pass with the tyrants in office for demonstrative proof. Hence women are committed to their jails, capital executions grow more frequent, and to the reproach of humanity, there was an instance within a month past of a man under public condemnation, being hanged in his prison to gratify the pride of the sheriff, who (obliged to be executioner himself) was ashamed to perform the office of hangman in the fields. Albany was reserved for this first and rare instance of infamy.

And though the credit of paper money is totally extinct in all parts of the continent, (and for that reason the late mint of specie or hard money paper not wholly issued, but withheld if possible to increase its value, or rather the demand for it,) their late mob assembly have published a tax law, to oblige every man to give a bushel of wheat for every sixty dollars of his former assessment, in old continental, and if he has no wheat, then twelve shillings in lieu of a bushel of wheat, and on failure in ten days, two bushels or twenty-four shillings. This wheat, it is said, is for the supply of Washington’s army, but really intended to be sold to the French for hard money; and what will be done with that, no person is at a loss to conjecture. Miserable people, the prey of plunderers of their own creating! “How long, O Lord!” is the cry of the oppressed!

By the abandoning of Fort Stanwix, all the western country is deserted down to Schenectady, and the persecutors who dare to continue in Kingston have fortified and drawn ditches around their houses, in expectation of the Indians as soon as the harvests are in stack.

The advocates for peace and the re-union, and who have been so ever since the fatal declaration of independence, and who are a vast majority, grow every day more numerous, and it is remarkable that not a single instance can be assigned of the apostasy of a loyalist to the wicked and interested views of the usurpers.

There is a new set of mob legislators met at Poughkeepsie; a little time will show whether they mean to expose themselves to all the vengeance of which the majority of the late assembly and senate live in constant dread, many of them changing their lodgings, to elude the search of the avengers of the innocent blood they have shed. Mr. Clinton, the titular governor, has fortified his huts against a sudden surprise, and the rebel slaves of Poughkeepsie guard it every night.1


1 Rivington’s Gazette, July 4.