Revolution in the Air
The British determined that New York, especially Staten Island, was the geographical and strategic fulcrum of the original 13 colonies
The idea of individual liberty, germinating since apostolic times among the Waldenses had been
firmly planted in the New Amsterdam colony by Gov. Stuyvesant and the Dutch Reformed Church.
In the Thirteen Colonies of the 1700s there was a revolution in individual identity itself.
An individual had obligations to society & to the government, yes, but first and foremost an individual had rights.
The individual came first, and the state served him or her. Listening to the inner voice was part of American life. The popular culture was alive with stories of people following their inner voices, listening to their feelings, believing they knew which way personal happiness and fulfilment lay, and believing this was their right.
By the summer of 1774, with individual liberty already having been discussed for more than a century in England, and reacting to news of the Boston Tea Party the previous December, some in Parliament were defending the American Colonists; one even called them "The Sons of Liberty," a name the Colonists readily adopted.
On July 9, 1776 George Washington read
the Declaration of Independence, just delivered from Philadelphia,
to his troops at Wall Street.
The British first read it when Gen. Howe addressed his officers
headquartered at the Rose and Crown Tavern on Staten Island
The Rose and Crown Tavern, New Dorp, was built by Huguenots ca. 1665 (demolished in 1854). During the Revolution it was owned by the uncle of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (a member of our Congregation). The Battle of Long Island was planned here. After the war it was owned by William B. Gifford, who was a Congregant of our Church and is buried beneath the sidewalk in front of the present church. By 1803 it was a favorite hangout for veterans.
The state of affairs after the first major battle following the Declaration,
is told very effectively in a private letter, written in New York, August 22nd, 1776.
"This night we have reason to expect the grand attack from our barbarous enemies, the reasons why, follow. The night before last, a lad went over to Staten Island, supped there with a friend and got safe back again undiscovered; soon after he went to General Washington, and upon good authority reported,— that the English army amounting to fifteen or twenty thousand, had embarked, and were in readiness for an engagement, —That seven ships of them were to surround this city and cover their landing, — That the Hessians being fifteen thousand were to remain on the Island and attack Perth Amboy, Elizabeth-town point, and Bergen, while the main body were doing their best here; . .
"Last evening, in a violent thunder storm, Mr. [?], (a very intelligent person), Adventured over. He brings much the same account as the above lad, with this addition, — That all the horses on the Island were by Howe's orders killed, barreled up and put on board; the wretches thinking that they could get no landing here, of any consequence and would be soon out of provisions.
"The story of the awful battle of Long Island need not be repeated here. Suffice it to say the British succeeded in gaining possession of New York, which was their main object. But to keep possession after having obtained it. required a strong force, and, in consequence, the greater part of the British forces on Staten Island were withdrawn; enough, however, were left to defend it against any force the Americans might be able to bring against it. Upon the whole, the result of the battle was beneficial to the people of Staten Island, as it left fewer soldiers here to depredate upon them, and to rob them of their property."