19 Particulars of the Fire
yesterday and to‑day to see the ruins. It is an awful sight. The whole
area from Wall street to Coenties Slip, bounded by Broad street
river, with the exception of Broad street, the Wall‑street front between
William and Broad, and the blocks bounded by
street, Pearl street, the south side of Coenties Slip and South Street, are now
a mass of smoking ruins. It is gratifying to witness the spirit and firmness
with which the merchants meet this calamity. There is no despondency; every man
is determined to go to work to redeem his loss, and all are ready to assist
their more unfortunate neighbors. A meeting of citizens was held this day, at
noon, at the Session Court‑room, on the call of the Mayor. A committee of
one hundred and twenty‑five was appointed, which met in the evening at
the Mayor's office and appointed sub‑committees on each branch of duty
to them. I
am of the committee to make application for relief to the State government.
That committee is to meet to‑morrow evening at my house. The utmost
spirit and harmony prevailed at the meeting, which embraced all the best and
most influential men in the city. During the evening intelligence was brought
in of the proceedings of a great meeting held yesterday in Philadelphia, at
which the Mayor presided. Amongst other things a resolution was passed calling
upon the general government to appropriate the sum of $1 2,000,000 to our
relief. This is an important step, for it will tend to remove the only
objection to such a measure‑ that of its being exclusive and partial in
its operation. A body of four hundred Philadelphia firemen came on yesterday to
relieve our firemen. They are to be seen about the streets and in the
neighbourhood of the fire, in their peculiar uniform. This is truly a brotherly
kindness and charity, and will never be forgotten.
Companies of soldiers are on guard all the time, and patrols of citizens
are formed in each ward, who are on duty during the night; the exhausted state
of the firemen and the disabled condition of their apparatus render these
extraordinary measures necessary. A fire would be awful at this moment. The
insurance offices are all bankrupt, and every man is his own underwriter.
The Merchants' Exchange is held at the Mechanics' Exchange in Broad
street; the post‑office removed to the rotunda in Chambers street. The
printing‑offices, of which a large number are burned out, are distributed
into different places, and it is amusing to see the holes and corners into
which the merchants have stowed themselves.
Mr. Biddle, President of the Bank of the United States, came on to‑day to see what that institution could do for us. The first step must be to turn the bonds and mortgages held by the insurance companies into cash, to enable them to pay as much as they can of their losses. But the unfortunate stockholders, what is‑to become of them?
The following are the sub‑committees appointed at the meeting of
the general committee this evening:
1. Committee to ascertain the extent and probable value of property
destroyed, and how far the sufferers are protected by insurance: Nathaniel
Weed, Gabriel P. Dissosway, Brittain L. Woolley, George S. Robbins, Walter K.
Jones, Isaac S. Hone.
2. Committee on application to Congress for an extension of credit on
duty bonds, and remission of duties, and on such other aid as it may be
expedient to ask of the general government: Albert Gallatin, Preserved Fish,
George Griswold, John T. Irving, Louis McLane, James G. King, Reuben Withers,
Cornelius W. Lawrence, Samuel Jones.
3. Committee on application to the State and city government: Enos T.
Throop, John L. Graham, John A. Stevens, Charles H. Russell, Thomas J. Oakley,
Philip Hone, Daniel Jackson, Benjamin L. Swan.
4. Committee on the origin and cause of the fire: James B. Murray,
George Douglass, James Lee, David Bryson, Marcus Wilbur.
. Committee on change in the regulation of the streets: Samuel B.
Ruggles, Jonathan Goodhue, David S. Jones, John Haggerty, John S. Crary.
6. Committee on the erection of buildings and the arrangement of the
fire department: Stephen Allen, Peter G. Stuyvesant, John Leonard, Benjamin
Strong, Charles A. Davis, George D. Strong, Prosper M. Wetmore, Seth Geer,
George Ireland, James J. Roosevelt, Jr., Dudley Selden, and Stephen Whitney.
7. Committee on relief, with power to receive and distribute
contributions: Samuel Cowdry, Jacob Lorillard, Samuel S. Howland, Benjamin McVickar,
M.D., John J. Boyd, William T. McCoun, Ogden Hoffman, William L. Stone, Jacob
Harvey, Thaddeus Phelps, John WI. Leavitt, James Boorman, Edward Prime.
DECEMBER 21–‑The sub‑committee on the subjects of
applications to the State and city governments met last evening at my house and
agreed to a report recommending an application to the Legislature to issue a
State stock, under the guarantee of the corporation, of six millions of
dollars, and the appointment of a committee of five to go to Albany and confer
with the Governor on the facts to be laid before the Legislature. The general
committee met this evening; our report was accepted, but the resolutions
amended so as to call upon the corporation to issue their bonds for $6,000,0000
to create a fund for the purpose of buying up the bonds and mortgages held by
the insolvent fire insurance companies, and thereby enable them to pay their
losses as far as they may be able.
December 22—The weather since the fire has become more mild. This
day is very pleasant. This is a happy circumstance, for it facilitates the
labors of an immense number of workmen who are employed in removing the
rubbish. Goods and property of every description are found under the ruins in
enormous quantities, but generally so much damages as to be hardly worth
saving. Cloths, silks, laces, prints of the most valuable kinds, are dug out
partly burned, and nearly all ruined. A mountain of coffee lies at the corner
of old Slip and South street. The entire cargo of teas, arrived a few days since
in the ship “Paris,” lies in a state not worth picking up, and costly indigo
and rich drugs add to the mass of mud which obstructs the streets.
Crowds of spectators (amongst whom are many ladies) have been
perambulating the streets in the neighbouhood, lost in wonder and absorbed in
horror at the awful scene of destruction. Many curious facts are now coming to
light in relation to the fire. A not of and, of fifty-seven dollars, in favour
of the Ocean Insurance Company, was blown, during the fire, from a store in
South street to a garden at Flatbush, Long Island, five miles distant. A
gallant effort was made to save the statue of Hamilton by young officer from the Navy-Yard, with
a party of four or five sailors. They had actually succeeded in removing it
from the pedestal, when the danger of he approaching fall of the dome compelled
them to abandon it. The fire was seen at New Haven and at Philadelphia; the
firemen turned out, supposing the fire was in the suburbs of the city.
Tuckerman, Bayard, ed., The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851. Vol. 1,
185-187. New York: Dodd , Meade & Co., 1889.