A Revolutionary Conservative, James Duane of New York

A Revolutionary Conservative, James Duane of New York

A Revolutionary Conservative, James Duane of New York

A Revolutionary Conservative, James Duane of New York

Excerpt

James Duane has deserved a biography for long. Though he is not entitled to the renown of Washington, Hamilton, Adams, or Jefferson, he is an important New Yorker who at times exerted pronounced influence on national affairs. Industrious lawyer, leader of the Yorkers against the Yankees in the New Hampshire Grants, land speculator and land developer, one of the most faithful and most powerful members of the Continental Congress, mayor of New York City, state senator, United States district judge, eminent Episcopalian layman, friend of King's and Columbia Colleges--these are the facets of his career. His temperament, wealth, aristocratic connections, and land- holdings made him opposed to hasty social revolution throughout his life. Though the course of events swept him into the American Revolution, he worked diligently to prevent independence from Britain becoming synonymous with equality for the common man. When the Constitution was at length adopted and government under it set in motion, he felt his aims accomplished and retired to Duanesburgh. Each phase of Duane's life is of importance to the historian, not the less so because he seems rather typical of the upper-class New Yorker.

Duane was neither unsociable nor uncommunicative. In the warm atmosphere engendered by an abundance of good food, fragrant tobacco, and mellow wine he was a cheerful companion, willing to discuss any topic. But he is a somewhat difficult subject for a biographer. His journals are little more than matter-of-fact account books. The formalism of even his most intimate letters reveals little of the humanity of the man.A part of this opaqueness probably should be charged to a thoroughly extraverted . . .

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