New York, STATE OF, one of the thirteen colonies of Great Britain, which on July 4, 1776, adopted the Declaration of Independence and became the United States of America.
BOUNDARIES AND AREA.—The State of New York lies between 40° 29′ 40″ and 45° 0′ 2″ N. lat. and between 71° 51′ and 79° 45′ 54″ W. long. It is bounded by Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the Dominion of Canada on the north; by Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut on the east; by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Atlantic Ocean on the south, and by Pennsylvania, Lake Erie, and the Niagara River on the west. It has an area of 49,170 square miles, of which 1550 square miles is water surface. From east to west it is 326.46 miles in width; it is 300 miles long on the line of the Hudson River.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS.—The physical geography of New York is very varied. It includes the high range of the Adirondack Mountains in the northern part. In the southern and eastern part lie important portions of the Appalachian system, of which the principal branches are: the Catskill Mountains on the west bank of the Hudson River below Albany; the ranges of the Blue Ridge, which cross the Hudson at West Point and form the Litchfield and Berkshire Hills and the Green Mountains on the eastern boundary of the State and in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and the foothills of the Alleghanies in the southwestern portion. The highest peak in the State is Mount Marcy in the Adirondacks, which has an altitude of 5344 feet. The valley of the Mohawk divides the mountainous district in the eastern part of the State, and forms a natural channel in which the Erie Canal now lies, and which affords easy communication by water and rail between the Great Lakes and the Hudson River valley. On the Niagara River is one of the great cataracts of the world, Niagara Falls, which is a mile wide and 164 feet high. The preservation of its natural beauty has been ensured by the erection of a State Park, which adjoins a similar park established by the Canadian Government.
Geologically, the State of New York is most interesting. The Hudson River valley and the Adirondacks form part of the Archaean continent, which is regarded as the oldest portion of the earth’s surface. The Hudson River rises in the Adirondack country. It is navigable for 151 miles, from Troy to the sea. The Palisades of the Hudson are among the most interesting and important examples of basaltic rocks in the world. The principal rivers of the State, besides the great Hudson River and its tributary, the Mohawk, are the Susquehanna River, which rises in Lake Otsego in the central part of the State; the Delaware, which rises on the western slope of the Catskill mountain country, and the Allegheny, which rises in the southwestern corner of the State. None of these is of commercial importance within the State of New York, all passing on to form the principal rivers of Pennsylvania. The series of large inland lakes in central New York form a marked feature of its physical geography. They are of great natural beauty, besides being of importance for transportation and commerce, and many of the large cities and towns of the State have grown up on their banks. The land surrounding them and the valleys of the brooks and small rivers which form their feeders and outlets are of remarkable fertility. The forests of the State are extensive. They lie principally in the Adirondack, Catskill, and Blue Ridge country. They are the remnants of the primeval forests that once covered most of the State. The State has established by constitutional provision and statutory enactments an extensive system of forest preserves. They are the Adirondack Preserve, containing approximately 1,500,000 acres, and the Catskill Preserve, containing 110,000 acres. Provision is made by law for increasing their area from year to year. The beautiful valleys of the Hudson and its tributaries extend from the sea into the foothills of the Adirondacks at Lake George. The valley of Lake Champlain on the eastern slope of the Adirondacks adjoins the valley of Lake George, and continues it, except for a divide of about two miles at its beginning, into the Dominion of Canada and the St. Lawrence valley. The great central plain of the State, lying between the mountainous districts of the south and west and the Great Lakes and the Adirondacks and the eastern mountain ranges on the north and east, is renowned for the fertility of its soil and the extent of its manufactures.
The only sea-coast of the State is formed by Long Island, and extends for 130 miles from New York Harbor to Montauk Point, which is nearly opposite the boundary line between the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island. The waters lying between Long Island and the mainland form Long Island Sound, one of the most important waterways of the United States. From the head of navigation on the Hudson River at Troy, a distance of 151 miles from the sea, there extends across the State to Lake Erie one of its great possessions, the Erie Canal, completed in 1825. It is 387 miles long. From Troy to Whitehall at the head of Lake Champlain extends another of the State’s great works, the Champlain Canal, establishing water connection with the St. Lawrence valley on the north. Ample communication by water from the Lake States on the west and from Canada on the north to the Atlantic Ocean at New York Bay is provided by this canal system. There are also three other important interior canals owned by the State, the Oswego, the Cayuga and Seneca, and the Black River canals. In 1909 the goods carried free on these state canals valued nearly sixty million dollars. There is now under construction by the State the Great Barge Canal, which it is estimated will cost more than $60,000,000. It is intended to provide navigation for modern canal barges of 1000 tons from Lake Erie to New York City.
The physical geography of the State has been an important factor in its growth. The easy communication afforded by its great rivers and its convenient waterways has made it the favored highway for domestic trade and commerce and emigration for more than a century, while its possession of the greatest seaport of the North Atlantic Ocean has made the State the principal gateway for the world’s trade with North America. The ice-free and deep-channelled port of New York, lying at the mouth of the Hudson River, with its wide roadsteads and anchorages and vast transportation facilities is indeed the greatest property of the State of New York. The port has a total water front of 444 miles.
MEANS OF COMMUNICATION.—The means of communication within the State are admirable.
Railroads.—In 1907 there were 8505 miles of railway and 3950 miles of electric railway tracks. The great railroad of the State is the New York Central system between New York and Buffalo which provides communication between New York City and the principal places in all parts of the United States by its own lines and their direct connections. The great New England system, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, besides having its terminal in New York City, crosses the southern part of the State into the coal and iron country of Pennsylvania. It controls also the extensive New York, Ontario, and Western Railroad, extending diagonally across the State from Oswego on Lake Ontario to the Hudson River at Weehawken, opposite New York. The Erie system, in addition to being one of the trunk lines to Chicago, is probably the greatest freight carrier in the Union. Its passenger traffic around New York City is also of great extent. Its terminal is in Jersey City opposite New York. The Delaware and Hudson Railroad extends from its connection with the Grand Trunk of Canada, at Rouse’s Point on Lake Champlain, to Albany, where it forms a connection with a network of roads extending into many of the important centers of central and western New York. The Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad runs parallel to the southern boundary of the State in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and has its eastern terminal at Hoboken on the Hudson River also opposite New York City. It extends also to the north a most important line from Binghamton to Buffalo, Utica, and Oswego. It is the greatest of the anthracite coal carriers. The Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburg Railroad connects the three large cities named in its title, and serves one of the important agricultural, manufacturing, and mining districts of the States of New York and Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Railroad, one of the great national trunk lines, with its Hudson tunnels and its new vast terminal in New York City, is one of the great institutions of New York. Its main lines center about Philadelphia. It owns and operates in addition to its other properties the entire railroad system of populous Long Island, whose wonderful growth in population and industry seems but a presage of still more extensive development. The Hudson Tunnels under the Hudson River connect the City of New York with the terminals of most of the railroads on the New Jersey side of the Hudson; recently opened (1910) tunnels under the East River bring the Long Island Railroad into direct connection with the Pennsylvania system, and thus with the rest of the continent. These tunnels are a marvelous achievement in subaqueous construction. The development of the terminals of these trunk lines and of their accessories especially about the port of New York is a great object lesson in the astounding development of the Western Hemisphere in less than eighty years. The first railroad in the State, the Hudson and Mohawk, was built in 1831. It was 17 miles long and ran from Albany to Schenectady on the Mohawk. It was one of the earliest steam railroads in the world.
Water Routes.— The communication by water within New York State is not less wonderful. To the ocean navigation that fills the port of New York must be added the traffic on the rivers, lakes, and canals of the State and upon Long Island Sound. The prosperous cities and towns which are ranged along the banks of the Hudson River, across the State on the lines of the canals and lakes and rivers, and upon the shores of Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River are sustained largely by it.
Wagon Roads.—The improved system of State highways, begun in late years, has given modern highways to many of the rural districts and laid out avenues between the cities. It is based upon subventions of highway improvements by means of loans and aids from the State treasury to the various local authorities. The growth of vehicular traffic by electric tramways and by automobiles has greatly promoted this work.
CLIMATE.—The climate of the State is salubrious, and corresponds generally with that of the north temperate zone. In 1909—which was somewhat abnormal, it is true—the extremes of temperature were 102° above zero maximum and 35° below zero minimum. For 1909 the mean annual temperature of the entire State was 45.8°. The average rainfall throughout the State for the same year was 36-03 inches. New York State is divided by the Department of Agriculture of the United States into three climatological districts:
(I) the Hudson, Delaware, and Susquehanna basins, (2) the Allegheny River, and (3) the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. The great extent of the State causes very variable climatic conditions within its boundaries. In 1909 the mean annual temperature for one part of the Adirondack region was 39° and for the vicinity of New York City 52°. The rainfall during the year 1909 averaged from 18.10 inches in Livingston County to 62-7 inches in Jefferson County. The winters in the Adirondack country, the St. Lawrence, and the Champlain valleys are generally severe, while the Hudson Valley, Long Island, and the vicinity of New York City have moderate winters and hot summers.
POPULATION.—New York has been since 1820 the most populous state in the Union, The Federal Census returns of 1910 place the population at 9,113,-279; the State Census of 1905 placed it at 8,067,308. The City of New York in 1910 comprised 4,766,883 souls. It is one of the centers of the population of the world. In a circle of 680 square miles area with its center at the Battery (the same area as that of Greater London) there are dwelling six millions of people, or scarcely a million less than in the London district, which it is to be remembered is not a municipality. This metropolitan district is the most cosmopolitan community in the world. Its urban character is most varied and interesting. One division of it, the City of New York proper, is so large that if divided it would make three cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, and Pittsburg. Yet nearly a million and a half of people live outside the limits of the city and within the indicated area.
The cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and Troy are the five next in size; according to the census of 1910 they include respectively 423,715, 218,149, 137,249, 100,253, and 76,813 people. In 1905 there were 4821 Indians still on the State Reservations. There were 47 municipalities in New York in 1900 having a population of more than 8000 people, and in them 68.5 per cent of the people dwelt. In 1900 there were 3,614,780 males and 3,654,114 females in the State. There were 99,232 colored people. 1,900,425 of the population or a little less than one quarter were foreign born. Of these there were 480,-026 Germans, 425,553 Irish, 182,248 Italians, 165,610 Russian (mostly Hebrews), and 135,685 English—to mention only the largest groups. The population of the whole State in 1790 was 340,120 by the first Federal Census. In 120 years it has increased more than twenty-six times.
In 1906, according to the Federal Census Bureau, there were 2,285,768 Roman Catholics in New York, forming 63.6 per cent of the total of 3,591,974 religious communicants or church members in the State of New York. It is the largest religious denomination in the State. However, only 43.7 per cent of the people of the State claimed membership in any church or denomination. In 1906 there were 278 Roman Catholics for each 1000 of the population, a gain of 8.6 per cent over the figures of the census reports of 1890. The number of Protestant Episcopalian communicants at the same date in the State was 24 for each 1000 of the population. In 1906 the Federal Census reports show that in the State of New York the number of churches and halls for worship was 9193, having a seating capacity of 3,191,267. There were also presbyteries valued at $22,283,225. The Sunday schools were 8795 in number and attended by 1,247,051 scholars. The entire value of all church property was $255,166,284, on which the debt was $28,382,866. The Catholic Annual for 1910 shows the following carefully gathered for the dioceses of New York State. All these dioceses, it should be noted, are wholly included within the State boundaries and together comprise the whole State: Dioceses
Totals These Catholic estimates are interesting for the purposes of comparison with those of the official documents, and particularly as being in advance of the results of the Federal Census of 1910, which are now being prepared but cannot be published in detail for some years to come. The present population of the State of New York, according to the census of 1910, is 9,113,279, about one-tenth of the entire population of the United States.
WEALTH AND RESOURCES.—New York is the wealthiest State in the Union. The aggregate value of all the property within the State in 1904, as estimated by the Federal Census Bureau, was $14,769,042,207, of which $9,151,979,081 represented real property and improvements. The revenue of the State Government in 1908-9 was $52,285,239. The City of New York received the enormous revenue of $368,696,334 in 1908, and had in the same year a funded debt of $598,012,644. The resources of the State of New York lie first in its commerce, and then in its manufactures, agriculture, and mining.
Commerce.—In 1908 New York City was the third shipping port of the world, being surpassed only by London and Liverpool. Its imports were of the value of approximately 780 millions and its exports 600 millions. The tonnage movement of foreign trade for the year ending June 30, 1909, was: entered, 12,-528,723 tons; cleared, 11,866,431 tons. The shipping of the inland waters and of the Great Lakes controlled by the State of New York is of equally vast extent. Buffalo, with a population of over 400,000, receives in its port on Lake Erie a large portion of the shipping trade of Canada and of the Lake States of the Union. The other ports of Lakes Erie and Ontario are similarly prosperous.
Manufactures.—New York is the leading State of the Union in manufactures. In 1905 it had invested in manufactures more than $2,000,000,000, and the value of its manufactures products was approximately $2,500,000,000. In the same year it produced 47 per cent of the men’s and 70 per cent of the women’s clothes made in the United States. The value of its textile output in the same year was $114,371,226.
Agriculture.—In 1900 there were in New York 226,720 farms of a total area of 22,648,100 acres, of which 15,599,986 acres were improved land. The principal crops are maize, wheat, oats, potatoes, and hay. The wool clip in 1908 was estimated at 5,100,000 pounds. The largest dairy interests in the United States are within the State of New York.
Mining.—The mines of the state in 1908 yielded products valued at $45,609,861; the quarries produced building stone valued at $6,137,279. The Onondaga salt springs produced in the same year products of the value of $2,136,738, while the petroleum wells yielded $2,071,533 worth of crude petroleum.
PUBLIC DEBT.—The State of New York has no funded debt except for canals and highways. Its out-standing bonds for these purposes on September 30, 1909, aggregated $41,230,660. It has no direct taxation. It has a surplus in its treasury. The assessed valuation of the taxable property within the State for 1909 was just short of $10,000,000,000. The title of “Empire State”, given to New York by common consent, is well deserved.
EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.—The public educational system of New York is extensive and arranged upon broad plans. It is governed by a general revised statute of more than 2000 sections called “Education Law“, adopted in 1910. This law provides for a central organization called the “Education Department” composed of the regents of the University of the State of New York, who are the legislative branch, and the Commissioner of Education, who is made the chief executive officer of the system and of the regents. The work of the Educational Department is divided into three parts, the common schools, the academic or secondary schools, and the colleges and universities. The head of the regents of the university is the chancellor. Executive control, however, is entrusted to the commissioner of education, who, with his assistants and subordinates, has charge of the enormous details of the entire educational system of the State under the legislative control of the regents and the direction of the statutes of the State passed by the legislature. The colleges and universities of the State are separate corporations, formed either by the regents or by special statutes. They are under either private or municipal control. There is no State university as such, although Cornell University has been given many of the privileges and State aids usually granted to such an institution. These corporations are subject, however, to the provisions of the Education Law and the jurisdiction of the Education Department. The academies or secondary schools are also either private or public. The public secondary schools are directly in charge of the school boards and boards of education of the various divisions of the State. The private academies may enroll themselves under the Department of Education, and receive the privileges of the public academies in respect to examinations and certificates from the Education Department. There is, however, no legal compulsion put upon them in this respect. The common schools of the State are divided generally into those which are controlled by the local boards of education in the cities and more populous centers, and those which are controlled by the local school officers elected by the people in the school districts in other parts of the State. Woman suffrage is granted in school officers’ elections. In the great cities of the State the common and secondary schools are usually placed in charge of school boards and officers provided for in the city charters, which are in the form of statutes enacted by the legislature.
In New York City is situated the large college known as the College of the City of New York, maintained at public expense. It has the most extensive buildings for educational purposes in the city and an enrolment of more than 3736 pupils. On the Hudson, at West Point, is situated the famous United States Military Academy for the training of officers for the army. It is entirely under Federal control through the War Department; and has 525 cadets in attendance. The professional schools of the State of all classes are controlled by the Education Department under stringent provisions. Admission to the secular professions generally is granted by State certificates awarded after rigid examinations by State examining boards. The schools for the training of teachers are also either under departmental control or, in the more populous centers, under the control of the several boards of education of the localities. Primary education is compulsory between the ages of seven and sixteen years. The state does not interfere, however, with the liberty of choice of schools by parents. No discrimination is made against parochial and private schools, which have enrolled themselves with the Education Department: they receive, however, no public financial aid, if the small grant made by the Department to defray the cost of examinations in the enrolled secondary schools be excepted.
In 1908 there were 1,841,638 children between five and eighteen years of age in New York State; there were 1,273,754 pupils and 36,132 teachers in the public schools. The academies or secondary schools of the State had 95,170 pupils and 1523 teachers; the colleges and universities 22,097 students and 2699 teachers. There were 12,068 public school buildings, 144 public secondary schools or academies, and 30 colleges and universities. The appropriation of public moneys for educational purposes in New York State for the year 1907 was $71,838,172. The City of New York alone paid in 1909 for public school education $36,319,624. Its schools contained 730,234 pupils and had 17,073 teachers and directors. The public statistics of the Department of Education of New York available show that 451 parochial schools, besides numerous academies and colleges, were conducted under the auspices of the Catholic Church in New York in 1908. The number of pupils in the Catholic educational institutions of the State cannot be ascertained with certainty. A large number of Catholic schools and academies make no public reports, but it is conservatively estimated that 210,000 pupils were in the Catholic schools in 1908. The State Education Department reported that in 1907, 179,677 pupils were registered as in the Roman Catholic Elementary Schools alone. The Catholic Annual of 1910 estimates the number of young people under Catholic care including the orphans and other inmates of charitable institutions as 269,420.
There are many excellent high schools and academies in the State conducted by the Catholic teaching orders of men and women and by secular priests and laymen. The colleges under Catholic auspices are: Fordham University, St. Francis Xavier College, Manhattan College, Brooklyn College, St. Francis College, St. John’s College, Brooklyn—all in New York City; Canisius College at Buffalo, Niagara University at Niagara Falls, and the College of New Rochelle, a flourishing college for women in charge of the Ursuline Nuns. All of these institutions are under the jurisdiction of the Education Department of the State of New York. In 1894 there was inserted in the Constitution of the State a provision that neither the State nor any subdivision thereof should use its property or credit or any public money or authorize or permit either to be used directly or indirectly in aid or maintenance other than for examination or inspection of any school or institution of learning wholly or in part under the control or direction of any religious denomination or in which any denominational tenet or doctrine is taught. The Catholic seminaries for the education of priests are flourishing. The great novitiates of the Jesuits, Redemptorists, and Christian Brothers, and several others maintained by various religious orders, are in the Hudson Valley, south of Albany. The seminary of the Archdiocese of New York at Dunwoodie, Westchester County, which is the monument of the late Archbishop Corrigan, is one of the leading seminaries of the United States. The diocesan seminaries of St. John’s at Brooklyn, St. Bernard’s at Rochester, and the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels, conducted by the priests of the Mission at Niagara Falls, in the Diocese of Buffalo, are of the highest standing for scholarship and training.
MILITIA.—The militia of the State, which is composed exclusively of volunteers, numbers 17,038 trained officers and men in all the arms of the military service. It is intended to form the nucleus of a military force in time of need by training volunteer citizen-soldiers in the military art. It is most liberally supported by the State and most carefully trained in cooperation with the Federal Government.
LIBRARIES.—The libraries of the State are numerous and important. The Education Department maintains a generous system for the establishment of libraries and provides generous State aid for their support. The great library of the State is the New York Public Library in the City of New York, which in 1909 owned 1,549,260 books and 295,078 pamphlets, in all 1,844,338 volumes. It will soon (in 1911) occupy the magnificent building erected by the City of New York in Bryant Square at Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, which has just been completed. It is largely endowed by the testamentary gifts of John Jacob Astor, James Lenox, and Samuel J. Tilden, and receives aid from the City Treasury.
HISTORY.—The territory which now forms the State of New York may, as regards its history, be divided into two parts. The first part includes the Hudson River valley, the valley of the Mohawk, the land around Newark Bay and New York Harbor, and the western end of Long Island—which, speaking generally, were, together with the sparse Delaware River settlements, the only portions of New Netherland actually occupied by the Dutch when the province was granted by the English Crown to the Duke of York in 1664. The second part comprises the rest of the State excluding eastern Long Island: this was the Indian country, the home of the Iroquois and the other tribes forming the Five Nations, now mostly remembered from the old romances, but a savage and fierce reality to the Dutch and English colonists. As late as 1756 there were only two counties to be found in the entire province west of the Hudson River. Interposed between the French and the Dutch (and afterwards the English), and brought from time to time into their quarrels for supremacy, the Indians kept the land between the Great Lakes, the Hudson, and the St. Lawrence truly “a dark and bloody ground” until the end of the eighteenth century, when, as part of the military operations of the Revolution, the expedition of the American forces, sent by Washington under command of General John Sullivan, finally broke their power at the Battle of Newton near Elmira in 1779.
Although their military power was thus destroyed, the Indians still remained a menace to the settlers in remoter districts for many years. Gradually, however, their opposition was overcome, and they finally became the wards of the State, living on reservations set apart for their exclusive occupancy. A remnant of them (4821 in the year 1905) still survives. Early in the nineteenth century large grants of land began to be made by the State at small prices to land companies and promoters for the purpose of fostering occupation by settlers. Systematic colonization was immediately undertaken, and a large emigration from Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Dutch settlements in the Hudson Valley began to flow into the Iroquois country. This continued prosperously, but not rapidly until De Witt Clinton, one of the great figures in the history of New York, upon his taking the office of Governor in 1818, pressed forward vigorously the long-standing plans for the construction and completion of the great artificial waterways of the State, the Erie and the Champlain canals. European immigration then became essential to supply the labor needed for the success of these plans. Stalwart men and women flocked from the British Islands and Germany in astounding numbers, and in forty years the population of New York City increased more than six times (from 33,131 in 1790 to 202,589 in 1830). The laboring men, who worked outside the cities on the public works, with their families became settlers in the villages and towns that grew up along the canals. The general prosperity which succeeded the successful completion of these works and their operation, and the consequent enormous development of the State’s resources, drew others into the territory. The population of the State of New York itself increased from 340,120 in 1790 to 1,918,608 in 1830.
The European immigration thus begun included of course a large proportion of Catholics. Bishop Dubois estimated that in 1830 there were 35,000 Catholics in New York City and 150,000 throughout the rest of the State and in northern New Jersey, made up chiefly of poor emigrants. The Irish element was very large, and the first Catholic congregations in New York were in some cases almost wholly Irish. To them soon came their devoted missionary priests to minister to them in the Faith which had survived among their race and grown even brighter in the night of the iniquitous penal days, which had then but just begun to pass away. The State of New York, because of the uncertain boundaries of the old Dutch province of New Netherland, at first laid claim to the country which now comprises the State of Vermont, and also to part of the land now lying in western
Massachusetts and Connecticut. These claims were settled by mutual agreement in due course and the boundaries were fixed. The State of Vermont there upon became the fourteenth State of the Union in 1791, being the first admitted after the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1789. The first complete State Constitution framed after the Revolution was that of New York. It was adopted on April 20, 1777, at Kingston on the Hudson. John Jay, George Clinton, and Alexander Hamilton were its principal framers. The City of New York became the capital of the State after the Revolution, as it had been the capital of the Province of New York before. Upon the adoption of the United States Constitution in 1789 it became the capital of the United States. President Washington was inaugurated there at Federal Hall at the head of Broad Street, the first capital of the United States. His house stood at the foot of Broadway. Its site is now occupied by the Washington Building. In 1790 the capital of the United States was removed to Philadelphia, and in 1797 the capital of the State was removed to Albany where it has since remained. Since 1820 the City of New York has been the commercial and financial center of the continent of North America.
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY.—On April 8, 1808, the Holy See created the Diocese of New York coincidently with the establishment of the American Hierarchy by the erection of Baltimore to be an Archiepiscopal See with New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Bardstown (now Louisville) as suffragan sees. Doctor Richard Luke Concanen, an Irish Dominican resident in Rome, was appointed first Bishop of New York, but died at Naples in 1809, while awaiting an opportunity to elude Napoleon Bonaparte’s embargo and set out for his see. After a delay of six years his successor Bishop John Connolly, also a Dominican, arrived at New York in November, 1815, and ministered as the first resident bishop to his scattered congregations of 17,000 souls (whom he describes as “mostly Irish”) in union with the four priests, who were all he had to help him throughout his immense diocese. He died on February 5, 1825, after a devoted and self-sacrificing episcopate, and is buried under the altar of the new St. Patrick’s Cathedral. During the vacancy of the see, preceding the arrival of Bishop Connolly (1808-15), the diocesan affairs were administered by Father Anthony Kohlmann (q.v.). He rebuilt St. Peter’s church in Barclay Street, and in 1809 bought the site of old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Mott Street, the building of which he finished in 1815. He also bought in 1809 the land and old residence in the large block on Fifth. Avenue at Fiftieth Street—part of which is the site of the present St. Patrick’s Cathedral—and there established a flourishing boys’ school called the New York Literary Institution.
In 1822 the diocesan statistics were: two churches in New York City, one in Albany, one in Utica, one in Auburn, one at Carthage on the Black River, all of which were served by one bishop and eight priests. Bishop Connolly was succeeded on October 29, 1826, by John Dubois (q.v.), a Frenchman who had been a fellow student of Robespierre and was one of the emigre priests of the French Revolution. He was one of the founders of Mount St. Mary’s, Emmitsburg, Maryland—”the mother of priests”, as it has been called—and passed through the cholera epidemic of 1832, when 3000 people died in the City of New York between July and October. He increased the churches and brought to his diocese zealous priests. It is noteworthy that he ordained to the priesthood at St. Patrick’s in June, 1836, the Venerable John Nepomucene Neumann (q.v.), afterwards the saintly Bishop of Philadelphia. After a life of arduous labor, trial, and anxiety both as a missionary, an educator, and a pioneer bishop, his health broke down, and he was granted in 1837 as coadjutor John Hughes (q.v.), who justly bears the most distinguished name in the annals of the American hierarchy even to this day.
Bishop Hughes was consecrated on February 9, 1838. A stroke of paralysis attacked the venerable Bishop Dubois almost immediately afterwards, and he was an invalid until his death on December 20, 1842, whereupon he was succeeded by his coadjutor as Bishop of New York. In April, 1847, the Sees of Albany and Buffalo were created. Bishop John McCloskey (q.v.), afterwards the first American cardinal, who was then Coadjutor Bishop of New York, was transferred to Albany, and Reverend John Timon, Superior of the Congregation of the Mission, was made Bishop of Buffalo. In October, 1850, the Diocese of New York was erected into an archiepiscopal see with the Sees of Boston, Hartford, Albany, and Buffalo as its suffragans. Archbishop Hughes sailed for Rome in the following month, and received the pallium from the hands of Pius IX himself.
The career of Archbishop Hughes and the history of his archdiocese and its suffragan sees are fully treated under their appropriate titles, and need not be discussed here. The life of Archbishop Hughes marked the great formative period in the history of the pioneer Church in New York. His great work in the cause of education, in the establishment of the parochial schools, the establishment of the great teaching and other religious orders, and the erection of seminaries and colleges for the training of candidates for the priesthood, as well as in the solution of the tremendous problems connected with the building up of the churches and charities and the preservation of the Faith, had a profound effect upon the attitude of the State of New York towards religious institutions and persons and ecclesiastical affairs. The Knownothing movement of the fifties was profoundly felt in New York, but the number and importance of the Catholic population protected them from the cowardly assaults made upon the Catholics in other places. The presence of Archbishop Hughes was ever a tower of strength in the conflict and in producing the overwhelming defeat which this un-American movement met. The only effect of this sectarian agitation upon the legislation of the State was the passage in 1855 of a plainly unconstitutional statute which sought to prevent Catholic bishops from holding title to property in trust for churches or congregations. It proved of no avail whatever. In 1862, after the Civil War began, it was quietly repealed.
In 1853 the Dioceses of Brooklyn in New York and of Newark in New Jersey were established, the first Bishop of Brooklyn being Reverend John Loughlin and the first Bishop of Newark Reverend James Roosevelt Bayley (q.v.), who later became Archbishop of Baltimore. In 1868 the Diocese of Rochester was separated from Albany, and the venerable and beloved apostle of Catholicism in northwestern New York, Bishop Bernard John McQuaid (q.v.), appointed its first bishop.
In 1872 the Diocese of Ogdensburg was created, and in November, 1886, the youngest diocese of the State, Syracuse. It is unnecessary to sketch further here the history of Catholicism in New York State during the incumbency of the archiepiscopal office by Cardinal McCloskey, Archbishop Hughes’s successor, and that of his successor Archbishop Corrigan, or of his Grace, John M. Farley, its present archbishop. It is sufficient to record the continual progress in the advancement of Catholic interests, in the building up of the Church, and in adjusting its activities to the needs of the people.
DISTINGUISHED CATHOLICS.—The Catholics of New York State have produced their full proportion of persons of distinction in the professions, commercial, political, and social life. Of the ninety-seven justices who now sit in the Supreme Court seventeen are of the Catholic faith. Among the justices of the lower courts are many Catholics. Since 1880 three mayors of New York City (Messrs. Grace, Grant, and Gilroy) have been Catholics. Francis Kernan was United States Senator for New York from 1876-82. Denis O’Brien closed a distinguished career as Judge of the Court of Appeals, the court of last resort, by his retirement for age in 1908 after a continuous service of eighteen years. The first Catholic Justice of the Supreme Court was John R. Brady, elected in 1859, and loyal sons of the Church have been on that bench ever since. Mayors of the great cities of the State, senators, assemblyman, State officers and representatives in Congress, and a multitude of other public officers have been chosen from the Catholic citizenship ever since the beginning of the nineteenth century and have rendered distinguished service to the State. For many years the two brilliant leaders of the New York Bar were Charles O’Conor and James T. Brady, sons of Irish Catholic emigrants. In medicine Gunning S. Bedford and Thomas Addis Emmet kept for many years the Catholic name at the top of the profession, and they have now worthy successors. In the great public works and industries of the State Catholics have had more than their share of the labor and its rewards. In the commercial life of New York some of the largest fortunes have been honorably gathered by Catholic men, who have been most generous to the religious and charitable works of the State.
LEGAL.—The State of New York has a constitutional government. It was the model of that of the United States of America. The union of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government under a written constitution is its principle. Its executive head is the governor. The legislature has two houses, the Senate and Assembly, which meet annually at Albany, the State capital. Its courts are composed principally of a Court of Appeals (the highest court) and the Supreme Court, which is divided into four Appellate Divisions, and numerous courts of first instance, divided into districts throughout the State. There are many minor and local courts supplementing the Supreme Court.
The State of New York has always been foremost in the pursuit of freedom of worship and religious toleration. It is true, however, that her first Constitution in 1777 excluded all priests and ministers of the Gospel from her legislature and offices, and put a prohibitory religious test upon foreign-born Catholics who applied for citizenship. Herein we find an echo of the bitter intolerance of the eighteenth century, which was strongly opposed in the Convention. The naturalization disability disappeared very soon on the adoption of the Federal Constitution in 1789, and, by subsequent constitutional amendments, all these remnants of ancient bigotry were formally abolished. It is remarkable to find John Jay, otherwise most earnest in the fight for civil liberty, the leader in these efforts to impose religious tests and restraints of liberty of conscience upon his Catholic fellow-citizens. This Constitution, nevertheless, proclaimed general religious liberty in unmistakable terms. The provision is as follows: “The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall forever hereafter be allowed within this State to all mankind provided that the liberty of conscience hereby granted shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of this State.” The statutes of the State which permitted the formation of religious corporations without restraint, and gave to them when formed, freedom to hold property and conduct their affairs unhampered by the civil power, are contemporaneous with the restoration of order within its borders after the British evacuation in November, 1783, and were among the first statutes adopted by the legislature in 1784. The laws of New York which relate to matters of religion have been in many instances models for the other States. The Dutchmen who settled in New Netherland, and the other emigrants and their descendants who came within their influence in the Province of New York, early learned the value and reason of religious toleration. The Dutchmen in America did not persecute for religion’s sake.
The present civil relations of the Catholic Church to the State of New York and their history form an interesting study. The Dutch Colony of the seventeenth century was officially intolerantly Protestant, but was, as has been noted, in practice tolerant and fair to people of other faiths who dwelt within New Netherland. When the English took the province from the Dutch in 1664, they granted full religious toleration to the other forms of Protestantism, and preserved the property rights of the Dutch Reformed Church, while recognizing its discipline. The General Assembly of the province held in 1682 under the famous Governor Thomas Dongan, an Irish Catholic nobleman, adopted the Charter of Liberties, which proclaimed religious liberty to all Christians. Although this charter did not receive formal royal sanction, the f act of religious toleration was nevertheless universally recognized. In 1688 the Stuart Revolution in England reversed this policy of liberality, and the Province of New York immediately followed the example of the mother-country in all its bitter intolerance and persecution by law of the Catholic Church and its adherents. In 1697, although the Anglican Church was never formally established in the Province of New York, Trinity Church was founded in the City of New York by royal charter, and received many civil privileges and the munificent grants of land which are the source of its present great wealth. The Dutch Reformed Churches continued, however, to enjoy their property and the protection of their rights undisturbed by the new Anglican foundation, the inhabitants of Dutch blood being then largely in the ascendant. This condition continued many years, for it is a fact that, when the Revolution occurred in 1776, the majority of the inhabitants of the Province of New York were, contrary to general belief, not of English descent.
The political conditions at home, and also the long contest between England and France for the control of North America resulted, as has been stated, in the enactment by the provincial legislature from time to time of proscriptive laws against the Catholic Faith and its adherents—laws which are savage in their malignity. Catholic priests and teachers were ordered to keep away from the province or, if they by any chance came there, to depart at once. Severe penalties were provided for disobedience to these laws, extending to long imprisonment or even death. These laws were directed in many cases principally against the Catholic missionaries among the Iroquois, who were almost exclusively Frenchmen. They were adopted also, it is consoling to think, against the protest of many of the best of the colonial legislators and under the urging of authority, and were rarely enforced. This was not so in the case of the unfortunate schoolmaster John Ury, however. In the disturbances and panic of the so-called Negro Plot of 1741 he was actually tried in New York and executed under these statutes for the crime of being a “Popish priest” and teaching his religion. Although it is held by some that Ury was not a Catholic priest, Archbishop Bayley gives good reason for believing the contrary, citing especially the fact that the record shows that he never denied the accusation at any time, and therefore died as a priest. The entire body of this legislation was formally repealed at the first session of the Legislature of the State of New York.
The condition of the few Catholics who dared proscription and persecution in the province of New York before the Revolution of 1776 was deplorable from a religious point of view. These Catholics must have been recruited in numbers from time to time from seafaring people, emigrants, Spanish negroes from the West Indies, and at least part of the 7000 Acadians, who were distributed along the Atlantic seaboard in 1755 after the awful expatriation which that devoted people suffered, although the annals are almost bare of references even to their existence. Father Farmer from Philadelphia came to see the oppressed Catholics during his long service on the missions between 1752-86, but his visits have no history. They had no church or institutions of any kind. As Archbishop Bayley truly said, a chapel, if they had had means to erect one, would have been torn down. The first mention of their public worship shows them hearing Mass in a carpenter shop, and afterwards in a public hall in Vauxhall Garden (a pleasure ground on the Hudson near Warren Street), New York, between the years 1781-83 when they had begun to, take heart because of the religious liberty which was to be theirs under the new republican government whose arms had already triumphed over England at Yorktown. Their number at this time was reported as being about two hundred, with only twenty odd communicants, as Father Farmer lamented.
The Revolution of 1776 overthrew entirely the system of government churches and all religious proscription by law, and the State Constitution of 1777 provided, as has been seen, for general religious liberty. The Legislature in 1784 carried out the declaration. It provided “that an universal equality between every religious denomination, according to the true spirit of the Constitution, toward each other shall forever prevail”, and followed this by a general act providing for the incorporation of churches and religious societies under clear general rules, few, simple, and easy for all. This law made a most unusual provision in aid of justice for the vesting in these corporate bodies immediately of “all the temporalities granted or devised directly to said church, congregation or society, or to any person or persons in trust to and for their use and although such gift, grant or devise may not have strictly been agreeable to the rigid rules of law, or might on strict construction be defeated by the operation of the statutes of mortmain.” It made provision also with great prescience for the protection of clergy-men from the exercise of arbitrary power by the lay directors of religious corporations by taking from the trustees of the church the power to fix the salary of the clergyman and by requiring the congregation to fix it at special meetings. To prevent abuses, however, and in accordance with legal tradition and precedent, restrictions upon the amount of real estate and personal property which a church could hold were made, and the Court of Chancery was placed in control of all such matters by requiring that annual reports should be made by the churches to it. The final clause of the act crystallized the principle of the Constitution, that, while the State protects and fosters religion in its beneficent work, it must not interfere in religious matters. It is as follows: “Nothing herein contained shall be construed, adjudged, or taken to abridge or affect the rights of conscience or private judgment or in the least to alter or change the religious constitutions or governments of either of the said churches, congregations or societies, so far as respects or in any wise concerns the doctrine, discipline or worship thereof.”
The Constitution of 1777 and the legislation of the Revolutionary period in aid of it are remarkable for deep sagacity and great grasp of principles, as well as for the conservative and sane treatment of the innovations and novelties which the radical changes in the government made necessary. This is the more remarkable when it is remembered that this Constitution was adopted in time of war by delegates who laid down their arms in most cases to join in the deliberations upon it, and that the Legislature first met immediately after the close of this war time. It was besides a venture in an almost virgin field. Its wisdom, knowledge, and broadness are priceless treasures of the citizens of New York. The wisdom of the Constitution is shown particularly in the provision creating the body of the law for the State. It enacted that the law of the State should be constituted of the Common Law of England and of the Acts of the Legislature of the Colony of New York, as together forming the law of the colony on April 19, 1775 (the day of the battle of Concord and Lexington). It was expressly declared, however, “that all such parts of the said Common Law and all such of the said Statutes and Acts aforesaid or parts thereof as may be construed to establish or maintain any particular denomination of Christians or their ministers, are repugnant to this constitution and hereby are abrogated and rejected.”
To New York belongs the honor of having been the first of all English-speaking states from the time of the Protestant Reformation, to protect by its courts and laws, the secrecy and sanctity of auricular confession. In June, 1813, it was judicially determined that auricular confession as a part of church discipline protects the priest from being compelled in a court of law to testify to statements made to him therein. The decision was made by De Witt Clinton, presiding in the Mayor’s Court of New York City on the trial of one Phillips for theft, and the priest, whose protest was there considered, was the revered Father Anthony Kohlmann mentioned above. The decision is more remarkable because it was contrary to the principles of the English cases, and the opposite view had the support of respectable authorities.
Although no form of religion is considered by the State of New York as having rights superior to any other, yet the fact of the existence of the Christian religion as the predominating faith of the people has been uniformly recognized by the courts, constitutional conventions, and legislatures. As early as 1811, Chancellor Kent, writing the opinion of the Court in the case of People vs. Ruggles (8 Johnson 294), made the celebrated dictum: “We are a Christian people and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity.” This famous case arose on the conviction of the defendant for blasphemy in maliciously reviling Jesus Christ in a public place. In the absence of a specific statute the question was presented whether such an act was in New York a crime at common law. The Court held that it was, because to vilify the Author of Christianity under the circumstances presented was a gross violation of decency and good order, and blasphemy was an abuse of the right of religious liberty. The court further held that, though the Constitution discarded religious establishments, it did not forbid judicial cognizance of those offenses against religion and morality which have no reference to any such establishment or to any particular form of government, but are punishable because they strike at the root of moral obligation and weaken social ties; that the Constitution never meant to withdraw religion in general, and with it the best sanctions of moral and social obligation, from all consideration and notice of the law; and that the framers intended only to banish test oaths, disabilities and the burdens, and sometimes the oppressions, of Church establishments, and to secure the people of the State freedom from coercion and an equality of right on the subject of religion.
This decision of the Supreme Court that, although Christianity is not the religion of the State, considered as a political corporation, it is nevertheless closely interwoven into the texture of society and is intimately connected with all the social habits, customs, and modes of life of the people, gave offense in certain quarters. In view of this Ruggles case, an amendment was proposed in the Constitutional Convention of 1821 to the effect that the judiciary should not declare any particular religion to be the law of the land. It was rejected after a full debate in which its opponents, while differing in details, agreed “that the Christian religion was engrafted upon the law and entitled to protection as the basis of morals and the strength of Government.” In 1861 a similar question was presented for decision in the well-known case of Lindenmuller vs. People (33 Barbour Reports 548). The plaintiff sought from the court an injunction to restrain the police of New York City from interfering with theatrical performances on Sunday. The opinion of the Supreme Court was written by Justice William F. Allen, a most distinguished jurist, and was afterwards (1877) adopted by the Court of Appeals as the decision of the highest court. It contains an admirable and exhaustive study of the Sunday laws. It takes the claim of the plain-tiff, stated broadly, to be that “the Bible, and religion with all its ordinances, including the Sabbath, are as effectually abolished by the Constitution as they were in France during the Revolution, and so effectually abolished that duties may not be enforced as duties to the State because they have been heretofore associated with acts of religious worship or connected with religious duties.” It then proceeds: “It would be strange that a people, Christian in doctrine and worship, many of whom or whose forefathers had sought these shores for the privilege of worshipping God in simplicity and purity of faith, and who regarded religion as the basis of their civil liberty and the foundation of their rights, should, in their zeal to secure to all the freedom of conscience which they valued so highly, solemnly repudiate and put beyond the pale of the law the religion which was as dear to them as life and dethrone the God, who, they openly and avowedly profess to believe, had been their protector and guide as a people.” The Court announced the broad decision that every act done, maliciously tending to bring religion into contempt, may be punished at common law, and the Christian Sabbath, as one of the institutions of religion, may be protected from desecration by such laws as the Legislature in their wisdom may deem necessary to secure to the community the privilege of an undisturbed worship, and to the day itself that outward respect and observance which may be deemed essential to the peace and good order of society, and to preserve religion and its ordinances from open reviling and contempt. It further held that this must be considered, not as a duty to God, but as a duty to society and to the State. This decision firmly established the proposition that, as a civil and political institution, the establishment and regulation of a Sabbath are within the just powers of civil government. It remains the law of the State confirmed by many decisions up to this time.
Many interesting questions have arisen from time to time in the courts as to how far the English doctrines as to “superstitious uses”, mortmain, and charities, especially in relation to the ownership of lands by religious corporations and charitable corporations and as to their capacity to take charitable bequests and devises, remained the law of the State under the Constitution. As to superstitious uses, it has been expressly held that that. English post-Reformation doctrine has no place in this State; that those professing the Roman Catholic Faith are entitled in law to the same respect and protection in their religious observances as those of any other denomination, and that these observances cannot be condemned as superstitious by any court as matter by law. The right to make provision for Masses for the dead by contracts made inter vivos was expressly proclaimed by the Court of Appeals. Direct bequests for Masses are in law “charities” and to be considered as such. As to these charities generally, the Court of Appeals in 1888 settled finally after much discussion that the English doctrine of trusts for charitable uses, with all its refinements, was not the law in New York; that the settled policy of the State was clear, and consisted in the creation of a system of public charities to be administered through the medium of corporate bodies, created by legislative power and endowed with the same legal capacity to hold property for their corporate purposes, as a private person or an ordinary private corporation had to receive and hold transfers of property. It was decided, therefore, in the leading case of Holland vs. Alcock (108 New York Reports 329), that direct bequests for Masses cannot be made definitely as such except to incorporated churches or other corporations having legal power to take property for such purposes. There is no difficulty in practice, however, in this regard, as Mass legacies are now either given to an incorporated church directly, or are left as personal bequests accompanied by requests, which in law do not derogate from the absolute quality of the gift.
However, it is to be noted that the rules laid down by the Court of Appeals in the matter of charities have been radically changed by legislation since 1888. The decision of the Court of Appeals in the Tilden will case, by which the elaborate plans for public charity made by Samuel J. Tilden were defeated by the application of these rules, was followed almost immediately by Chapter 701 of the Laws of 1893, which provides that gifts by will for charitable purposes shall not be defeated because of indefiniteness in designating the beneficiaries, and that the power in the regulation of the gifts for charitable purposes formerly exercised by the Court of Chancery under the ancient law of England should be restored and vested in the Supreme Court as a Court of Equity. The Court of Appeals construing this statute has held that the existence of a competent corporation or other definable trustee with power to take is no longer necessary for the validity of a trust for charitable uses, and that any legal trust for such purposes may be executed by proper trustees if such are named, and, if none are named, the trust will be administered by the Supreme Court. It is important to note, however, that this act must be confined to the cases to which it applies, and that it does not enable an unincorporated charity or association to take bequests or devises.
There exist, however, notwithstanding the liberality of the New York system, some important restrictions upon the conduct of religious and charitable corporations. The better opinion and the weight of judicial authority are, that, notwithstanding the repealing act of the Legislature of 1788 above noted, the English statutes of Elizabeth, which restricted religious and charitable corporations, may hold in the alienation and encumbering of their real estate, have been adopted as the law of this State, and that such acts can only be lawfully done under the order of the Supreme Court. Limitations upon the value of the property and the amount of the income of religious and charitable corporations have also been uniformly made by the New York Statutes. The present law, however, is most liberal in this respect, the property of such corporations being limited to $6,000,000 and the annual income to $600,000, and provision is also made that no increase in the value of property arising otherwise than from improvements made thereon by the owners shall be taken into account. By recent act also the strict requirements for accounting to the Supreme Court, the successor of the Court of Chancery, as to their property and income, which in the early statutes controlled such corporations, are confined to cases where the attorney-general intervenes for the purpose by petition to the Supreme Court upon proper cause being shown.
The law of New York on the general subject of the Church and the legal position of the latter before the law has been defined by the statutes and numerous decisions. The results may be briefly stated as follows: Religious societies as such are not legal entities, although as an aggregation of the individuals composing them, for motives of convenience, they are recognized as existing in certain cases. They can neither sue nor be sued in civil courts. They cannot hold property directly, although they may control property held by others for their use or upon trusts created by them. The existence, however, of the Church proper, as an organized legal entity, is not recognized by the municipal law of New York. There is no statute which authorizes the incorporation of the Church at large. The incorporation is generally made of the congregation or assemblage of persons accustomed statedly to meet for Divine worship, although provision has been made for the incorporation of special ecclesiastical bodies with governing authority over churches. For example, the Catholic dioceses of Albany, Buffalo, and Brooklyn have been thus incorporated formally. The general plan provides specially for the incorporation and government of the churches of the separate denominations, as gathered into congregations. Each important denomination, therefore, has its own particular provisions in the Religious Corporation Law, the general statute of the State which has codified these laws and decisions. In the case of the Roman Catholic Church, incorporation is obtained in this way. A certificate of incorporation must be executed by the archbishop or bishop, the vicar-general of the diocese, the rector of the congregation, and two laymen thereof, selected by such officials or a majority of them. It must state the corporate name of the church, and also the municipality where its principal place of worship exists or is intended to be located. On filing such certificate with the clerk of the county in which the principal place of worship is or is intended to be, or with the Secretary of State in certain cases, the corporation is created.
Questions of the civil rights of persons, relating either to themselves or to property, whatever may be their relations to church organizations, are as a matter of course the subject of adjudication in the civil tribunals. But judicial notice will be taken of the existence of the church discipline or government in some cases, and it is always the subject of evidence. When, therefore, personal rights and rights of property are in cases in the courts dependent upon questions of doctrine, discipline, church government, customs, or law, the civil court will consider as controlling and binding the determinations made on such questions by the highest tribunal within the Church to which they have been presented. While a clergyman, or other person, may always insist that his civil or property rights as an individual shall be determined according to the law of the land, his relations, rights, and obligations arising from his position as a member of some religious body must be determined according to the laws and procedure enacted by that body for such purpose. Where it appeared, therefore, in one case that questions growing out of relations between a priest and his bishop had been submitted by the parties to an ecclesiastical tribunal which the church it-self had organized for hearing such causes and was there decided by it, it was held by the Court of Appeals that the civil courts were justified in refusing to proceed further, and that the decision of the Church judicatory in the matter was a bar and a good defense (Baxter vs. McDonnell, 155 New York, 83). The Church at large, however, under the law of New York depends wholly upon moral power to carry on its functions, without the possibility of appeal to the civil authorities for aid either through the Legislature or the Court. Where there is no incorporation, those who deal with the Church must trust for the performance of civil obligations to the honor and good faith of the members. The congregations formed into civil corporations are governed by the principles of the common law and statute law. With their doctrinal peculiarity and denominational character the courts have nothing to do, except to carry out the statutes which protect their rights in this respect. However, these statutory rights are, as will be seen, very extensive. Generally speaking, whatever the corporation chooses to do that is within their corporate power is lawful except where restricted by express statute.
Control of Churches.—From time to time important restrictions upon the general power of the religious corporations in particular denominations have been made. The present Religious Corporation Law, for example, requires the trustees of such a body to administer the temporalities of the church in accordance with the discipline, rules, and usages of the religious denomination or ecclesiastical governing body, if any, with which the corporation is connected, and in accordance with the provisions of law relating thereto, and further for the support and maintenance of the corporation and its denominational or charitable work. It requires also the consent of the bishops and other officers to the mortgage, lease, or conveyance of the real property of certain churches. In the case of Catholic churches it is expressly provided also that no act or proceeding of the trustees of any such church shall be valid without the express sanction of the archbishop or bishop of the diocese or, in case of his absence, of the vicar-general or administrator. To prevent the creation of abuses from the generality of any of its provisions, the statute contains a further section directing that no provision thereof shall authorize the fixing or changing of the time, nature, or order of public or social or other worship of any church in any other manner or by any other authority than in the manner and by the authority provided in the laws, regulations, practice, discipline, rules, and usages of the religious denomination or ecclesiastical governing body, if any, with which the church corporation is connected, except in churches which have a congregational form of government.
Ecclesiastical Persons.—The relations of ecclesiastical persons one to the other have also been considered by the courts. It has been held that the personal contracts of a bishop are the same as those of a layman as far as their form, force, and effect are concerned. It has been determined, however, that the relation of master and servant does not exist between a bishop and his priests, but only that of ecclesiastical superior and inferior. Finally, the courts have ruled that a priest or minister in any church by assuming that relation necessarily subjects his conduct in that capacity to the law and customs of the ecclesiastical body from which he derives his office and in whose name he exercises his functions.
Marriage.—Until very recent times New York followed the common law respecting marriage. All that was required for a valid marriage was the deliberate consent of competent parties entering into a present agreement. No ceremony or intervention of a civil authority was necessary.
However, it is now provided that, although the contract of marriage is still in law a civil contract, marriages not ceremonial must be proven by writings authenticated by the parties under strict formalities and in the presence of at least two witnesses and recorded in the proper county clerk’s office. It is now provided also that ceremonial marriages must not be celebrated without first obtaining a marriage licence. It is to be noted, however, that a failure to procure the marriage licence does not invalidate a ceremonial marriage, but only subjects the offending clergyman or magistrate who officiates thereat to the penalties of the statute. All clergymen and certain magistrates are given power to solemnize marriages. No particular form is required except that the parties must expressly declare that they take each other as husband or wife. In every case one witness besides the clergyman or magistrate must be present at the ceremony. It is provided, however, that modes of solemnizing marriage adopted by any religious denomination are to be regarded as valid notwithstanding the statute. This amending statute was passed at the session of 1907, and there are as yet no important adjudications upon it.
Annulment of Marriage.—An action to annul her marriage may be brought by a woman where she was under sixteen years of age at the time of the marriage and the consent of her parents or guardian was not had and the marriage was not consummated and not ratified by mutual assent after she attained the age of sixteen years. Either the husband or wife may sue for annulment of marriage for lunacy, nonage, prior valid marriage, or because consent was obtained by force, duress, or fraud, and finally for physical incapacity under certain rigid restrictions. The tendency of the courts of late years is to construe the provision as to fraud liberally, and annulment has been granted on this ground where the husband has been convicted of a felony and concealed the fact before the marriage, and again where false representations had been made before the marriage by the woman as to the birth of a child to the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals in the last case held, as the reasonable construction of the statute, that the essential fact to be shown was that the fraud was material to the degree that, had it not been practiced, the party deceived would not have consented to the marriage (Di Lorenzo vs. Di Lorenzo, 174 New York, 467 and 471). This decision, it should be noted, was put squarely on the ground that in New York marriage is a civil contract to which the consent of parties capable in law of contracting is essential, and, where the consent is obtained by legal fraud, the marriage may be annulled as in the case of any other contract. Condonation of the force, duress, or fraud is required to be assumed from the fact of voluntary cohabitation after knowledge of the facts by the innocent party, and will, if established, defeat the action. Provision is also made for an action for the annulment of a marriage in certain cases at the instance of any relative having an interest in having it annulled or by a parent or guardian or next friend either in the lifetime of a party or after his or her death, where such an action will further the cause of justice.
Divorce.—Actions for absolute divorce and the dissolution of marriage can be maintained only for the cause of adultery. The New York Courts will hear no action for divorce unless both parties were residents of the State when the offense was committed, or were married within the State, or the plaintiff was a resident of the State at the time of the offense and is resident when the action is commenced, or finally when the offense was committed within the State and the injured party is a resident of the State when the action is commenced. Divorces obtained by citizens of New York in the courts of foreign jurisdiction are not recognized as valid in the State of New York unless personal jurisdiction of both of the parties is properly obtained by the foreign courts. Collusion of the parties is strictly guarded against. Condonation of the offense is made a defense. The action must be brought within five years after the discovery of the offense. Adultery by the plaintiff is a complete defense to the action. The provisions for the custody of the children of a dissolved marriage and for the maintenance of the innocent wife and children are very detailed and effective. Remarriage is forbidden to the guilty party during the life of the spouse, unless, after five years have elapsed, proof is made of his or her uniform good conduct, when the defendant may be permitted by the Court to marry again. The practical effect of these prohibitions is very slight because the entire validity of the subsequent marriages of guilty parties in New York divorce actions, when they are made out of the State of New York, is recognized by the New York courts, the only penalty provided for the disobedience to the decree being the punishment of the offender for contempt of court, and the infliction of this penalty is unheard of at the present day. The divorce law of New York, it may be noted, is more conservative than that of any other state in the Union except South Carolina, where no divorce a vinculo is permitted. Limited divorce or decree of separation a mensa et thoro is granted for numerous causes, viz: cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, neglect or refusal to provide for the wife, and conduct making it unsafe and improper for the plaintiff to cohabit with the defendant. The usual purpose of actions for limited divorce is to provide support for the children and alimony for the wife out of the husband’s funds after the husband and wife have separated. These actions are comparatively infrequent. The judgment in them has of course no effect upon the validity of the marriage bond. It is granted only for grave cause, and the necessary bona fide residence of the parties in the State is of strictest proof, under the terms of the statute.
Charities.—The system of charities which has grown up within the State of New York, whether religious or secular, is one of the features of its social life. As was said by the Court of Appeals in 1888 in the famous case of Holland vs. Alcock above noted: “It is not certain that any political state or society in the world offers a better system of law for the encouragement of property limitations in favor of religion and learning, for the relief of the poor, the care of the insane, of the sick and the maimed, and the relief of the destitute, than our system of creating organized bodies by the legislative power and endowing them with the same legal capacity to hold property which a private person has to receive and hold transfers of property.” A charitable or benevolent corporation may be formed under the Membership Corporation Law by five or more persons for any lawful, charitable, or benevolent purpose. It is subject in certain respects to the supervision of the State Board of Charities and of the Supreme Court, but this power of visitation is not oppressive and never exercised except in case of gross abuse and under strict provisions as to procedure. State and municipal aid to private charitable corporations is permitted by law. Some of the great private charities of the Catholic Church receive such aid in large amounts, particularly in the great cities. The public subvention of private charitable corporations is an old custom in the State, beginning when almost all charities were in Protestant hands and the Catholic charities were very few and poor. Although vigorously attacked in the Constitutional Convention of 1904, it was sustained and continued by the action of that convention and ratified by the people of the State. The system has done much for the cause of the education and maintenance of defective, dependent, and delinquent children, and for the building up of the hospitals for the destitute sick and aged in all the religious denominations. The Catholic protectories of New York and Buffalo and the Catholic foundling and infant asylums throughout the State are the models for such institutions in the whole United States. The charities under Catholic auspices which receive no State aid are, however, in the vast majority, and are found in great numbers in every quarter of the State, caring for the children and the aged, the sick and the destitute. They are served by an army of devoted religious, both men and women. The State institutions for the care of the insane and juvenile delinquents are numerous, and the alms-houses, hospitals, and other charitable agencies under the care of the counties and other municipalities abound throughout the State. There are alone sixteen great State hospitals for the insane, conducted most carefully and successfully.
Restrictions on Bequests and Devises.—No person having a parent, husband, wife, or child can legally devise or bequeath more than one-half his estate to benevolent, charitable, or religious institutions, but such disposition is valid to the extent of one-half. In addition, certain kinds of corporations are still further restricted in respect to the portion of the estate of such persons which they may receive: in some cases it is only one-fourth. In respect to the invalidity by statute of legacies or devises made by wills executed within two months of the testator’s death, this limitation was formerly widely applicable. Recent amendments, however, have restricted it to the corporations formed under the old statutes, and it applies now to very few others, and these mostly corporations created by special statutes. Bequests and devises to unincorporated churches or charities, are, as has been stated, invalid. Foreign religious and charitable corporations, however, may take bequests and devises if authorized to do so by their charters. They are also permitted to carry on unhampered their work in the State of New York. The legacies and devises to religious, charitable, and benevolent corporations are exempt from the succession tax assessed upon legacies and devises in ordinary cases.
Exemption from Taxation.—The Tax Law provides that the real and personal property of a “corporation or association organized exclusively for the moral or mental improvement of men or women or for religious, Bible, tract, charitable, benevolent, missionary, hospital, infirmary, educational, scientific, literary, library, patriotic, historical, or cemetery purposes or for the enforcement of law relating to children or animals or for two or more such purposes and used exclusively for carrying out thereupon one or more of such purposes”, shall be exempt from taxation. Great care is taken, however, to protect against the abuse of this right of exemption. In some few cases further exemptions are also made; thus, for example, real property not in exclusive use for the above corporate purposes is exempt from taxation, if the income therefrom is devoted exclusively to the charitable use of the corporation. Property held by any officer of a religious denomination is entitled to the same exemption under the same conditions and exceptions as property held by a religious corporation itself.
Freedom of Worship.—It is expressly provided by statute that all persons committed to or taken charge of by incorporated or unincorporated houses of refuge, reformatories, protectories, or other penal institutions, receiving either public moneys or a per capita sum from any municipality for the support of inmates, shall be entitled to the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference, and that these provisions may be enforced by the Supreme Court upon petition of any one feeling himself aggrieved by a violation of it (Prison Law Section 20). It is further provided that all children committed for destitution or delinquency by any court or public officer shall, as far as practicable, be sent to institutions of the same religious faith as the parents of the child.
Liquor Law.—The excise legislation of the State is treated in an elaborate general statute called the “Liquor Tax Law“, but better known as the “Raines Law” from the name of the late Senator John Raines who drafted it. In substance it provides for a State Department of Excise presided over by a commissioner of excise, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, who is given charge of the issuance of all licenses to traffic within the State in intoxicating liquor, and also of the collection of the licence fees and the supervision of the enforcement of the drastic penalties provided for violations of the law.
Its purpose was to take away the granting of excise licences by the local authorities, who had in some cases greatly abused the power, and also to subject local peace and police officers to the scrutiny, and in some cases the control of the State authorities in excise matters. It has resulted generally in a great improvement in excise conditions throughout the State, as well as incidentally in an enormous increase in the revenue of the State from this source. It has caused the almost complete disappearance of unlicenced liquor-selling, and has improved general order and decency in the business of trafficking in liquor, especially in the congested parts of the cities. The principle of high licence is carefully followed. The fee for a saloon licence, for example in the Borough of Manhattan, is $1200 per annum, the charge decreasing, according to the circumstances, to $150 per annum in the rural districts. The State is divided into excise districts which are in charge of deputy commissioners supervised by the staff of the commissioner of excise at Albany. Although it is an unusual provision which thus centralizes the power over the liquor traffic at Albany, and it seems to violate the principle of home rule adopted by all the public parties, the experiment is on the whole regarded with satisfaction. It should be noted that this law has created a very great abuse because of its provision attaching the right to sell liquor on Sunday to the keeping of hotels. There have thus sprung into existence the “Raines Law Hotels”, which, satisfying the very inadequate provisions of the statute, obtain hotel licenses without any legitimate business reason, and primarily for the purpose of selling liquor on Sunday. They are generally conducted as to their hotel accommodations in such a way as to be a menace to public order and decency in the poorer residential districts of the large cities of the State. They often defy police control, and their legal status makes their regulation or supervision most difficult. Earnest efforts have been made for many years to remedy the evil, but have met with but partial success. Ample provision is also made for local option as to prohibitive liquor licences in all localities of the State excepting the larger cities. It has worked well in practice.
Clergymen.—Priests and ministers of the Gospel are exempted from service on juries and from service in the militia of the State. A clergyman’s real and personal property to the extent of $1500 is exempt from taxation, if he is regularly engaged in performing his duty, is permanently disabled by impaired health, or is over seventy-five years old. The dwelling-houses and lots of religious corporations, actually used by the officiating clergymen thereof, are also exempt to the extent of $2000. Any clergyman is empowered at his pleasure to visit all county jails, workhouses, and State prisons when he is in charge of a congregation in the town where they are located.
Holidays.—The legal holidays of the State are New Year’s Day, Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12), Washington’s Birthday (February 22), Memorial Day (May 30), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (first Monday of September), Columbus Day (October 12), and Christmas Day. If any of these days fall on Sunday, the day following is a public holiday. The statute also provides that the day of the general election, and each day appointed by the President of the United States or by the Governor of the State as a day of “general thanksgiving, general fasting and prayer, or other general religious observances”, shall be holidays. Each Saturday, which is not a holiday, is a half-holiday. There is of course no religious significance in the creation of any of these holidays, as far as the State is concerned. Good Friday, by general custom, is observed as a holiday throughout the State, although it is not designated as a legal holiday. The rules of the local school boards throughout the State also provide liberty to both Christian and Jewish scholars to take time from the school attendance for religious observances on their respective holy-days.
EDWARD J. MCGUIRE