Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, April 09, 2007

1733 Account of the Election Victory of Lewis Morris in the So-Called "Great Election"

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Pelham is said to have played a minor role in the so-called "Great Election" of 1733 which raised issues of Freedom of Religion and Press in colonial America. One of the many accounts of the election of Lewis Morris as a Representative of Westchester County points out Pelham's supposed role as follows:

"The High Sheriff was suspected of undue partiality for the opposite candidate, and his announcement of the election did not state the hour of opening the polls; so about 50 of the voters passed the night on the green, to be ready for emergencies, and to notify their party if the polls were suddenly opened. In those times people traveled but little, and generally went on horseback, and lodged with their friends. Many of the electors from beyond New-Rochelle rode a part of the night, and then, not finding room in the crowded village, slept about a fire in the street. They resumed their way before day, to be at the polls as early as possible. They were joined on the hill near East Chester - Prospect Hill [Pelham] - by about 70 horsemen from the lower part of the county; here they formed in the following order, and marched down the hill toward the church: First rode two trumpeters and three violinists; next, four of the chief freeholders, one of whom carried a banner with 'King George' on one sid, and 'Liberty and Law' on the other, in gold capitals; then followed the candidate, Lewis Morris, Esq., ex Chief-Justice of the Province; next two colors, and finally about 300 horsement, the chief freeholders of the county. At sunrise they entered the village green, and found themselves the first on the ground, and after riding about the place three times they took their position in front of the houses of Fowler and Child. At about 11 o'clock the opposite candidate appeared with a similar cavalcade. They rode twice around the green and exchanged formal bows with their rivals. But the elements thus parading were soon stirred up by closer contact, and the shouts of 'No land tax!' and 'No excise!' led on the turmoil to still more excitement. About noon the High Sheriff came to town, finely mounted and decked in the trappings of the old official splendor, with housings and holster-caps of scarlet richly laced with silver. Then the canvass began, and soon grew to an uproarious scene lik the hustings contests in England. The result of the voting was at last demanded; the Sheriff would not announce it; more demands and more evasions finally brought a clamor for polling. Seats were erected under the trees, and the electors proceeded to cast their votes. The Sheriff illegally refused the ballots of a large number of wealthy Quakers unless they would swear on the Bible to their possession of property well-known to the whole company. The Quakers would solemnly affirm, but they would not swear. Sore complaints and even threats failed to correct the Sheriff's dishonesty; but, for all that, Morris was elected. Then the Sheriff expressed the hope that his mistake would be overlooked by mr. Morris, who assured him his conduct had made him liable to prosecution for £10,000 damages. When all was done the whole body of electors escorted their new representative to his lodgings, with the sounding of trumpets, the playing of violins, and the general rejoicing of everybody."

Source: On the Shore of the Sound A Walk from Pelham Neck to New-Rochelle, N.Y. Times, Apr. 28, 1878, p. 4, col. 6.

According to the above account and local tradition, those who planned to vote for Lewis Morris gathered on Prospect Hill before riding and marching to the nearby Eastchester green in a grand and boisterous procession. That tradition, it seems, is likely erroneous.

It seems clear from an account published in 1733 that the majority of the voters who favored Lewis Morris gathered the night before in New Rochelle and, later, proceeded to the Eastchester green (a portion of which remains next to today's Saintg Paul's Church National Historic Site located at 897 South Columbus Avenue, Mount Vernon, NY). At the time, the roadway from New Rochelle to Eastchester was the Old Boston Post Road that follows the path of today's Colonial Avenue through Pelham. It seems virtually certain that the grand procession marched and rode through Pelham on this roadway on its way to the Eastchester green.

This roadway, however, does not pass near Prospect Hill. Moreover, no roadway crossed Prospect Hill at that time. Yet, it is clear from one important account of the procession published in 1733, that the Morris supporters gathered on "the Hill at the East end of the Town" before marching to the green.

The principal hill "at the East end of the Town" of Eastchester in 1733 would have been the hill not far from where the Old Boston Post Road crossed the Hutchinson River near the "Best Buy" store on today's Sanford Boulevard in Mount Vernon. It seems likely that it was from that hill -- not Prospect Hill in Pelham -- that the procession marked.

Today's Historic Pelham Blog posting transcribes below what is said to be a first-hand account of the events leading up to -- and during -- the Great Election. The account appeared in the October 5, 1733 issue of The New-York Weekly Journal. The account appears immediately below, followed by a citation to its source.

"Westchester, October 29th, 1733.

ON this Day, Lewis Morris Esq., late Chief Justice of this Province, was by a great Majority of Voices, elected a Representative for the County of Westchester.

This being an Election of great Expectation, and where in the Court and Country's Interest [Page 2 / Page 3] Interest was exerted (as is said) to the Utmost: I shall give my Readers, a particular account of it, as I had it from a Person that was present at it.

Nicholas Cooper, Esq., High Sheriff of the said County, having by Papers affixed to the Church of East-Chester [today's Saint Paul's Church National Historic Site], and other Publick Places, given Notice of the Day and Place of Election, without mentioning any Time of the Day, when it was to be done; which made the Electors on the Side of the late Judge [ex-Chief Justice Lewis Morris], verry suspitious that some Fraud was intended. To prevent which about 50 of them kept Watch upon and about, the Green at Eastchester, ( the Place of Election,) from 12 o'Clock the Night before, 'til the Morning of that Day. The other Electors begining to move on Sunday Afternoon and Evening, so as to be at New-Rochell, by Midnight, their Way lay through Harrison's Purchase, the Inhabitants of which provided for their Entertainment, as they pass'd each House in their Way, having a Table plentifully covered for that Purpose, about Midnight they all met at the House of William Lecount, at New-Rochell, whose House not being large enough to entertain so great a Number, a large Fire was made in the Street, by which they sat 'til Day-Light, at which Time they began to move; they were joynd on the Hill at the East end of the Town by about 70 Horse of the Electors of the lower Part of the County, and then proceeded towards the Place of Election in the following Order, viz. First rode two Trumpeters and 3 Violines; next 4 of the principal Freeholders, one of which carried a Banner, on one Side of which was affixed in gold Capitals, KING GEORGE, and on the Other, in like golden Capitals LIBERTY & LAW; next followed the Candidate Lewis Morris Esq., late Chief Justice of this Province; then two Colours; and at Sun rising they entred upon the Green of Eastchester the Place of Election, followed by above 300 Horse of the principal Freeholders of the County, (a greater Number than had ever appear'd for one Man since the Settlement of that County:) After having rode three Times round the Green, they went to the Houses of Joseph Fowler and -- Child, who were well prepared for their Reception, and the late Chief Justice, on his allighting by several Gentleman, who came there to give their Votes for him.

About Eleven of the Clock appeared the Candidate of the other Side, William Forster Esq., School Master, appointed by the Society for Propagation of the Gospel and lately made by Commission from his Excellency (the present Governour,) Clerk of the Peace and common Pleas, in that County; which Commission it is said, he purchased fro the valuable Consideration of One Hundred Pistoles given the Governor; next him, came two Ensignes, born by two of the Freeholders; then followed the Honourable James Delancy, Esq., Chief Justice of the Province of New-York, and the Honourable Frederick Philipse, Esq., second Judge of the said Province, and Baron of the EXCHEQUER, attended by about 170 Horse of the Freeholders and Friends of the said Forster; and the two Judges they entred the Green on the East side, and riding twice round it, their Word was No Land-Tax, as they passed, the second Judge very civilly saluted the late Chief Justice by taking off his Hat, which the late Judge returned in the same Manner: Some of the late Judges Party crying out no Excise, and one of them was heard to say(tho not by the Judge) no Pretender, upon which, Forster, the Candidate, reply'd, I will take Notice of you, they after that, retired to the House of -- Baker, which was prepared to receive and entertain them. About an Hour after, the High Sheriff came to Town finely mounted, the Housings and Holster Caps being Scarlet, richly laced with Silver belonging to --------: Upon his approach the Electors on both Sides went into the Green, where they were to Elect, and after having read his Majesty's Writ, bid the Electors proceed to the Choice which they did; and a great Majority appeard for Mr. Morris, the late Judge: Upon which a Poll was demanded, but by whom is not known to the Relator, tho' it was said by many, to be done by the Sheriff himself. Morris, the Candidate several Times asked the Sheriff upon the whole Side the Majority appeard, but could get no other reply, but that a Poll must be had, and accordingly after about two Hours delay, in geting Benches, Chairs, and Tables they began to Poll: Soon after one of those called Quakers, a Man of known Worth and Estate, came to give his Vote for the late-Judge, upon this Forster and the two Fowlers, Moses and William, chosen by him to be Inspectors, questioned his having an Estate, and required of the Sheriff to tender him the Book to Swear, in due Form of Law, which he refused to do, but offered [Page 3 / Page 4] offered to take his solemn Affirmation; which both by the Laws of England and the Laws of this Province was indulged to the People called Quakers, and had always been practiced from the first Election of Representatives, in this Province to this Time, and never refused, but the Sheriff was deaf to all that could be alledged on that Side; and notwithstanding, that he was told both by the late Chief Justice, and James Alexander, Esq., One of His Majesty's Council, and Councellor at Law, and a violent Attempt of the Liberties of the People: He still presisted in refusing the said Quaker to Vote; and in like Manner did refuse Seven and Thirty Quakers more, Men of known and visible Estates.

This Cooper, now High-Sheriff of the said County, is said, not only to be a Stranger in that County, not having a Foot of Land, or other visible Estate in it, unless very lately granted; and it is believ'd, he has not where with all to purchase any.

The Polling had not been long continued, before Mr. Edward Stephens, a Man of a very considerable Estate in the said County, did openly in the Hearing of all the Freeholders there assembled, charge William Forster, Esq., the Candidate on the other Side, with being a Jacobite, and in the Interest of the Pretender, and that he should say to Mr. William Willet, (a Person of good Estate and known Integrity, who was at that Time present, and ready to make Oath to the Truth of what was said) that true it was, he had taken the Oaths to his Majesty King GEORGE and enjoy'd a Place in the Government under Him, which gave him Bread. Yet notwithstanding That, should ---- James come into England, he should think himself oblig'd to go there and Fight for him. This was loudly and strongly urged to Forster's Face, who denied it to be true, and no more was said of it at that Time.

About Eleven o'Clock that Night the Poll was clos'd. And it stood thus:

For the late Chief Justice, 231
Quakers 38
In all 269

For William Forster, Esq. 151
The Difference. 118

So that the late Chief Justice carried it by a great Majority, without the Quakers. Upon closing the Poll, the other Candidate, Forster, and the Sheriff, wish'd the late Chief Justice much Joy, Forster, said, he hop'd the late Judge would not think the worse of him for setting up against him, to which the Judge reply'd, he believed that he was put upon it against his Inclination, but that he was highly blamable, and who did or should have known better for putting the Sheriff, who was a Stranger and ignorant in such Matters, upon making so violent an Attempt upon the Liberty of the People, which, would expose him to Ruin, if he were worth 10,000 l. if the People agriev'd should commence Suit against him. The People made a loud Huzza, which the late Chief Judge blam'd very much, as what he tho't not right: Forster reply'd, He took no Notice of what the coimmon People did, since Mr. Morris did not put them upon the doing of it.

The Indentures being seal'd, the whole Body of Electors, waited on their new Representative to his Lodings with Trumpets sounding, and Violins playing; and in a little Time took their Leave of him. And thus ended the Westchester Election, to the general Satisfaction.

Source: Westchester, October 29th, 1733, The New-York Weekly Journal, Oct. 5, 1733, pp. 2-4.

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At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was just reading my genealogy when I came across two ancestors that led me to this website. Nehemiah and Silvanus Palmer are my great uncles and were Quakers who partcipated in the "Green Election". This was a very interesting read and I learned a little history today. Thank-you!


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