Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy


Royal Navy ships blockade New York

This perspective of New York and Fort St George, dated 1 November 1765, was painted by William Cockburn. The city was at that time governed by Britain. Royal Navy ships are shown in the harbour. They are positioned to protect the wharf, arsenal and fort from rioters.

This illustration was sent back to Britain enclosed in a letter from Commander Archibald Kennedy. He was in charge of HMS Coventry, one of the ships shown in the harbour. On 1 November, Kennedy sent some of his marines to defend Fort George from 5,000 rioters who were protesting against the Stamp Act. This was an unpopular tax on paper that Britain had imposed on the American colonies in 1765. On 5 November, the governor of the fort was forced to give in to the demands of the mob to prevent bloodshed. All British paper stored in the fort was handed over to the Corporation of New York, where it was destroyed. Protests against the tax were so fierce that the British repealed the Stamp Act in March 1766.

New York was originally settled by the Dutch, who called it New Amsterdam and used it as a fur trading post. The British took control in 1664 and renamed it New York in honour of James, Duke of York, the king’s brother. The city became rich through trade. However, by the 1760s and 1770s there was strong anti-British feeling in the area. Despite this, the British managed to keep control of New York throughout the American War of Independence. They only gave up the city in 1783 with the end of the war.

Source-National Archives Kew

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