Friday, February 19, 2010

George Washington in New York

Though New York had bounced back from a bad war—the city had burned in 1776—it was not a particularly comfortable place, even by the standards of the day. Philadelphia, thanks to Benjamin Franklin, had swept streets. New Yorkers dumped their offal in the gutters, to be eaten by pigs and wild dogs, and the Supreme Court met above the bleating animals of a Broad Street farmers’ market. Abigail Adams complained that it was “impossible to get a servant from the highest to the lowest grade that does not drink.” An influenza epidemic in May of 1790 laid Madison low, and nearly killed Washington.

When he was not ill, the president relaxed by riding a 14-mile circuit to Morningside Heights and back. He attended plays at the John Street Theater and at his residence, where he saw an amateur performance of Julius Caesar. He also went to the circus. In the summer of 1790, he took Jefferson and Hamilton on a three-day fishing trip off Sandy Hook.

Read the rest of Richard Brookhiser here.

[And who would not have wanted to be on a fishing trip with Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton?]

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