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New York James Fenimore Cooper

New York

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New York will probably never possess any churches of an architecture to attract attention for their magnitude and magnificence. The policy of the country, which separates religion from the state, precludes this, by confining all the expenditures of this nature to the several parishes, few of which are rich enough to do more than erect edifices of moderate dimensions and cost. The Romish Church, so much addicted to addressing the senses, manifests some desire to construct its cathedrals, but they are necessarily confined to the limits and ornaments suited to the resources of a branch of the church that, in this country, is by no means affluent. The manner in which the Americans are subdivided into sects also conflicts with any commendable desire that may exist to build glorious temples in honor of the Deity: and convenience is more consulted than taste, perhaps, in all that relates to ecclesiastical architecture. Nevertheless, a sensible improvement in this respect has occurred within the last few years, to which we shall elsewhere advert.

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It will be in their trade, their resources, their activity, and their influence on the rest of the world, as well as in their population, that the towns of Manhattan will be first entitled to rank with the larger capitals of Europe. So obvious, rapid, and natural has been the advance of all the places, that it is not easy for the mind to regard anything belonging to them as extraordinary, or out of rule. There is not a port in the whole country that is less indebted to art and the fostering hand of Government than this. It is true, certain forts, most of them of very doubtful necessity, have been constructed for defence; but no attack having ever been contemplated, or, if contemplated, attempted, they have been dead letters in the history of its progress. We are not aware that Government has ever expended one cent in the waters of Manhattan, except for the surveys, construction of the aforesaid military works, and the erection of the lighthouses, that form a part of the general provision for the safe navigation of the entire coast. Some money has been expended for the improvement of the shallow waters of the Hudson; but it has been as much, or more, for the advantage of the upper towns, and the trade coastwise, generally, than for the special benefit of New York.

The immense natural advantages of the bays and islands at the mouth of the Hudson have, in a great degree, superseded the necessity of such assistance. Nature has made every material provision for a mart of the first importance: and perhaps it has been fortunate that the towns have been left, like healthful and vigorous children, managed by prudent parents, to take the inclination and growth pointed out to them by this safest and best of guides.

London is indebted to artificial causes, in a great degree, for its growth and power. That great law of trade, which renders settling places indispensable, has contributed to her prosperity and continued ascendency, long after the day when rival ports are carrying away her fleets and commerce. She is a proof of the difficulty of shaking a commercial superiority long established. Scarce a cargo that enters the ports of the kingdom that does not pay tribute to her bankers or merchants. But London is a political capital, and that in a country where the representation of the Government is more imposing, possessing greater influence, than in any other Christian nation. The English aristocracy, which wields the real authority of the state, here makes its annual exhibition of luxury and wealth, such as the world has never beheld anywhere else, ancient Rome possibly excepted, and has had a large share in rendering London what it is.

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New York
James Fenimore Cooper

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