Today in History: October 27
AFTER an unequivocal experience of the inefficiency of the subsisting federal government, you are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution for the United States of America. The subject speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.
The first in a series of eighty-five essays by "Publius," the pen name of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, appeared in the Independent Journal, a New York newspaper, on October 27, 1787. Publius urged New Yorkers to support ratification of the Constitution approved by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787.
Proponents of the new Constitution believed that centralized government was essential for successful commercial and geographic expansion. Only a strong national government, they argued, could effectively negotiate with foreign countries, ensure free trade between states, and create a stable currency.
Known as the Federalist Papers or The Federalist, these eighty-five essays addressed widespread concern that a national government, distanced from the people, would soon grow despotic. The essays eloquently and comprehensively argue that distributing power across the various branches of government provides checks and balances to the concentrated sovereignty of the federal government.
James Madison's Federalist No.10 exemplifies the brilliance and startling originality of the Federalist Papers. Published on November 23, 1787, Madison challenges the assumption that individual rights can be secured only in small countries with homogeneous populations.
The Constitution's detractors maintained that large nations with disparate populations are inherently unstable. The emergence of factions, they believed, would constantly threaten to overwhelm the government and place personal liberty at risk. Madison topples this argument by insisting that plurality and liberty are complementary. In a famous passage he writes:
Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an aliment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.
Although written for the New York press, newspapers around the country reprinted the essays. The Federalist, a bound edition of the essays first published in 1788, played an important role in the campaign to ratify the Constitution in New York and Virginia. Ratification of the Constitution was possible without these populous states, but their approval was considered crucial to the success of the new government.
Ultimately, the federalist vision of a national government prevailed. However, the Federalist represents one of many perspectives in a nationwide debate over the Constitution. Learn more about the Constitutional Convention and the controversy surrounding ratification:
- Visit To Form a More Perfect Union, a feature of the collection Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. This special presentation contains background information about the weakness of the Articles of Confederation and the call for a new constitution. [move the text from the 2nd bullet up to the 1st bullet] Consider the anti-federalist position by reading an essay attributed to George Bryan available in the online collection of broadsides related to the Constitutional Convention. Bryan was especially concerned about the lack of a Bill of Rights in the Constitution.
- See Elliot's Debates in the collection A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1875 to find the proceedings of the state ratification conventions. Volume III contains the debates and proceedings of Virginia's ratifying convention. Notice Patrick Henry's outspoken opposition to the proposed Constitution.
- Access the Web guide Primary Documents in American History to locate additional digital resources concerning the Federalist Papers and the Constitution.
- Search The James Madison Papers, 1723-1836to find additional documents related to the Federalist Papers.
- American Treasures of the Library of Congress, an online exhibition, presents The Federalist. No. 10 as it appeared in the New York Daily Advertiser on November 22, 1787.
- Search the Today in History Archive on constitution or ratification for more information relating to the crafting of the U.S. Constitution.
It was not part of the programme that Mayor McClellan should act as motorman of the initial train. The mere starting of the machinery was to be his duty, but he liked the job so well that he told General Manager Hedley he wanted to stay at the controller all the way to Harlem…
“McClellan Motorman of First Subway Train,” New York Times, October 28, 1904, 5.Now I, as Mayor, in the name of the people, declare the subway open!
“Exercises in City Hall: Mayor Declares Subway Open -- Ovations for Parsons and McDonald,” New York Times, October 28, 1904, 1.
With these words, New York Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. closed a morning of oratory at City Hall in honor of the opening of the New York City subway system. At just after 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 27, 1904, the inaugural subway train emerged from City Hall station with Mayor McClellan at the controls. Twenty-six minutes later, the train arrived at its destination at 145th Street. The system opened to the general public at 7:00 p.m. Before the evening was out, subway trains had transported over 110,000 passengers around the city.
An underground transportation system for New York City had been proposed as early as the 1860s, inspired, perhaps, by the opening of the first underground railway in London in 1863. New York City’s rapid growth and streets clogged with pedestrians, horses, wagons, and carriages, made travel within the city dangerous and frustrating. Between 1870 and 1900 several private companies attempted to initiate underground transit projects, but each time, legal, political, and financial obstacles proved insurmountable. While completion of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903 eased traffic moving into Manhattan and several companies had built elevated rapid transit structures, congestion within the city remained a problem.
In 1894, New Yorkers approved a referendum supporting the use of public funds to build a subway system. Financier August Belmont (1853-1924) organized the Rapid Transit Subway Construction Company, a private company that was contracted by the city to build the system. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held at City Hall in Manhattan in March 1900. Belmont later created the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) to manage the system’s operations. Full control of the IRT line reverted back to the City of New York in 1940, when the city consolidated all existing subway lines into a single, municipally managed network.
- View a Historical American Engineering Record (HAER) report on the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) Subway (Original Line) and another on the IRT Third Avenue Elevated Line from the American Memory collection Built in America: Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record, 1933-Present.
- Just seven months after the subway system opened, cameraman G. W. "Billy" Bitzer captured a train ride from 14th street to the old Grand Central Station. That film, Interior N.Y. Subway, 14th St. to 42nd St., and forty-four others are available in the collection The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906.
- Search the Library’s Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers collection (1900-1910) for contemporary news accounts of the creation of the New York subway system.
- Watch 2 a.m. In the Subway, a 1905 comedic short from The American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment, 1870-1920 collection. The film suggests anxiety about the potential for moral laxity on the subway.
- View films of New York City from in The Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898-1906
- View photographs of New York City in 1900. Search the collection Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company on New York City.
- View thousands of pictures of New York City in general by searching the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) on the phrase New York City and/or the subject heading United States New York State New York.