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December 26, 2013

Stamp Tax

HUGH C. MacDOUGALL
Cooperstown Crier

---- — From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, Dec. 25, 1813

Compiled, with comments

by HUGH C. MacDOUGALL

Tax on Bank Documents

STAMP DUTIES. The following stamp duties on the promissory notes to be discounted at the banks, and on bills of exchange, are to be paid after the 31st December, 1813.

On any promissory note or bill of exchange not exceeding $100.00 -- $00.05

[rising list of stamp tax rates, up to:]

Above $8000 -- $5.00

After the 31st of December instant, no promissory note will be discounted at any of the banks unless the note be written on stamped paper.

COMMENT: It will be remembered that one of the causes of the American Revolution was the imposition of stamp taxes by the British colonial authorities. Stamp taxes are taxes requiring that certain objects or papers have tax stamps (purchased from the government) placed on them, or, in the case of documents, that they be printed on paper including such a tax stamp (usually embossed). In my own youth, packs of cigarettes, bottles of liquor, and decks of playing cards all still required Federal tax stamps.

Proclamation to Canadians

JAMES WILKINSON, Major-General and Commander in Chief of an expedition against the Canadas, to the Inhabitants thereof.

The army of the United States which I have the honor to command, invades these provinces to conquer, and not to destroy; to subdue the forces of his Britannic Majesty, not to war against his unoffending subjects. Those, therefore, among you, who remain quiet at home, should victory incline to the American Standard, shall be protected in their persons and property. But those who are found in arms must necessarily be treated as avowed enemies.

To menace is unjust—to seduce dishonorable—Yet it is just and humane to place these alternatives before you.

Done at the Head Quarters of the Army of the United States, this 6th day of November, 1813, near Ogdensburg, on the River St. Lawrence.

(Signed) JAMES WILKINSON

By the General’s command,

(Signed) N. PINCKNEY, Major and Aid-de-Camp.

COMMENT: This proclamation (rather standard in its language) was of course made before Nov. 11, 1813, when General Wilkinson’s army of 8,000 (of whom only about 3,000 actually got into the fight) was badly defeated by 900 British and Canadian regular troops and militia at the Battle of Crysler’s Farm, near what is now Cornwall, Ontario. General Wilkinson (1757-1825) was subsequently fired, though a court of inquiry exonerated him. Following Wilkinson’s death in 1825 he was discovered to have been in the pay of the Spanish Government! Theodore Roosevelt, while Governor of New York State, wrote of Wilkinson that, “In all our history, there is no more despicable character.”

Adventures of an Organ

On Saturday afternoon, Mr. Sawyer’s new pilot boat which was employed as a flag [i.e. under a flag of truce] to go down to the [British warship] Plantagenet to ransom the Organ intended for St. John’s Church, returned without effecting the object of her mission.

This organ, it will be recollected, was on board the sloop Ann-Maria, bound from Philadelphia to this port, and was captured by the above ship. This organ was taken out and the vessel burnt....

It appears that a young man, an apprentice to the organ-builder, was sent on in the sloop for the purpose of putting up the organ in St. John’s Church.... The probability...is that he has been induced to remain aboard the Plantagenet until she goes into Halifax or Bermuda, where he may be employed to erect the organ to the “tune” of a few hundred dollars.

As this organ was intended for sacred purposes, we think it would have been more honorable on the part of the Commander of the Plantagenet to give it up, than to have demanded 2000 dollars for it.... This restoration of the organ would be no more than ought to be expected from a gentleman of such high official standing. – NY Gazette. Dec. 5.1813.

COMMENT: The organ had been built in Philadelphia in 1813, for $6,000, by John Lowe, who came from England in 1795. It was intended for the St. John’s Episcopal Church (aka Chapel of St. John), completed in 1807 with a 215 foot clock tower on Hudson Street in Manhattan. Lowe traveled to New York in an attempt to recover the organ from the British, but took ill and died there on Dec.13, 1813.

The organ was ransomed for $2,000, with the money carried to the Plantagenet, under flag of truce, by Lowe’s apprentice Thomas S. Hall. Hall then installed the organ at St. John’s Church, aided by St. John’s organist Peter Erben [sometimes spelled Eben] and his 13-year old son Henry Erben, and it was first used on Easter Sunday, 1814.

Thomas Hall married Maria, Peter Erben’s daughter. He returned to Philadelphia and took over John Lowe’s organ building business, with young Henry Erben as his apprentice. Henry went on to become a famous organ builder in his own right.

The organ at St. John’s was replaced in 1840, and in 1845 donated to St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, then located on Amity Street (now West 3rd St) in Greenwich Village, but remained in storage there until it was rebuilt and installed by Henry Crabbe in 1851. It was still in use as late as 1903, when it was repaired, but its further history remains a mystery. It had a mechanical key and stop action, with 3 manuals, and 32 stops, but further details are unknown.

St. Clement’s Church was closed on Amity Street in 1920, when it was moved to and merged with St. Cornelius’ Church on West 46th Street. St. John’s Church was closed in 1909 and demolished (despite public objections) in 1917.