Fraunces Tavern

Fraunces Tavern
New York City, New York
National Collegiate Honor’s Council Partners in the Park Independence Hall Class of 2017 in front of Fraunces Tavern, which is a national historic landmark, museum, and restaurant in New York City, situated at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street. The location played a prominent role in pre-Revolution, American Revolution and post-Revolution history, serving as a headquarters for George Washington, a venue for peace negotiations with the British, and housing federal offices in the Early Republic. The picture is flanked with Andrew Cuevas in the Tavern holding a USCA Secretary Charles Thomson letter transmitting the USCA Journals and legislation to Governor Samuel Huntington in Connecticut. - For More information please visit NCHC Partners in the Park 2017  
Fraunces Tavern was not a Seat of Government

54 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10004

IMPORTANT UPDATE: We erred, Fraunces Tavern was not the Seat of Government for the last Congress under the Articles of Confederation.   The United States in Congress Assembled convened at the Walter Livingston House, located on 95 Broadway, New York, NY next to Trinity Church in the former offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs.  

In January 1787 US Foreign Secretary Secretary John  Jay requested that the Department be moved into the City Hall in May when the lease of Fraunces Tavern would expire. He was informed that no rooms could be spared for that purpose.  Accordingly, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the War Department as well, remained in Fraunces Tavern for another year, from May 1, 1787 to April 30, 1788. 

On February 1, 1788,  John Jay wrote a letter to Henry Knox:

 “We have hired for a year the new House of the honorable Walter Livingston Esquire in the Broad way, for the Office of Foreign Affairs and of War, at the rate of 250 pounds and the Taxes. As we shall not have occasion for all the Rooms, it may perhaps be convenient to you to place one or more of the Offices within your Department in the supernumerary ones.”  -- (Selected Papers John Jay, 4: 644

On October 6th, 1788, the USCA took over the second floor offices on 95 Broadway and it was there, not in Fraunces Tavern, that the last Congress under the Articles of Confederation Assembled and subsequently faded away on March 3, 1789.  

For more visit the Walter Livingston House Site

The building known as “Fraunces Tavern” was erected as a residence in 1719 by Stephen de Lancey, a French Huguenot.  He had amassed great wealth as a merchant and built this 55’ x 42’ brick house on the corner of Broad and Pearl Streets in lower Manhattan Island.  The house remained in Lanсey's possession as a residence until the firm, Lancey, Robinson & Company, purchased it in 1759 for office and warehouse uses.  Three years later the house was sold to Samuel Fraunces for £2,000.
Fraunces completely renovated the building and reopened it as a public tavern.  The Queens Head Tavern became an important hostelry that he either managed or leased to others.  Notable events that occurred in the building before the Revolutionary War included the New York Chamber of Commerce was found in 1768 and the Tavern serving as meeting place for the New York Sons of Liberty in the 1770's.  In 1776 New York was occupied by the British and Samuel Fraunces was imprisoned.   Later, According to his own account, Fraunces
"submitted to serve for some Time in the Menial Office of Cook in the Family of General Robertson [General James Robertson, British Governor of New York City, 1780-1783] without any Pay, or Perquisite whatsoever, Except the Privilege of disposing of the Remnants of the Tables which he appropriated towards the Comfort of the American Prisoners within the City."  
Exactly when Fraunces resumed operation of the tavern is not known, but his offer of sale on March 17, 1781, was unsuccessful.[1]  His advertisement in the New York Royal Gazette read:
"AN  elegant Three Story and a Half Brick Dwelling House, situated in Great Dock Street, at the corner of Broad Street, the property of Mr. Samuel Fraunces, and for many Years distinguished as the Queen's Head Tavern; in which are nine spacious Rooms, besides five Bed-chambers, with thirteen Fire places, an excellent Garret in which are three Bed rooms well finished, an exceeding good Kitchen, and a Spring of remarkable fine Water therein; a most excellent Cellar under the whole, divided into three commodious apartments; a convenient Yard with a good Cistern and Pump, and many other conveniences too tedious to mention; the whole in extraordinary good repair,... "[2]
New York City records indicate that Samuel Fraunces began running the tavern again in 1783.  Prior to this, on November 30, 1782, Great Britain and United States signed a preliminary peace treaty in Paris and the British, who had already evacuated Savannah, began to evacuate their key city in the South, Charleston, SC, which required transporting thousands of British freed black men and women to New York City. This created a challenge because the Preliminary treaty stipulated that the British were not to carry away black people or any other American property during their final withdrawal from the United States. American slaveholders, therefore demanded under the terms of the treaty that the salves taken away by the British be returned.
Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in North America, Sir Guy Carleton, who was responsible for the orderly evacuation of New York, had another view Article 7 in treaty, which stated:
“ … all hostilities both by sea and land shall … immediately cease; all prisoners on both sides shall be set at liberty, and his Britannick Majesty shall, with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or carrying away any negroes or other property of the American inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons and fleets … and from every port, place and harbour within the same”
Negroes, however, had served as laborers, scouts, messengers, spies, wagon drivers, and in exceptional situations as soldiers, with the understanding that the British in return offered them protection and their freedom. Carleton also claimed that Article 7 only applied to the Negroes that came within the British lines after November 30. Carelton insisted that Great Britain was bound to honor the proclamations of freedom issued by British commanders during the war. He claimed that to do otherwise would be a "dishonorable Violation of the public Faith." Carelton agreed to keep a register, which would become a complete record of each person’s name, the master he formerly belonged to, and such other details as would help to “denote his value.” Specifically Carlton wrote:
“an accurate register was taken of every circumstance respecting them, so as to serve as a record of the name of the original proprietor of the Negro, … and as a rule by which to judge of his value.”
This register would be used to compensate slave owners in the event that the former slaves evacuation was later found to contravene the treaty by the King and the U.S. Congress.
Carleton assigned Capt. Richard Armstrong, Capt. Thomas Gilfillan, Maj. Nathaniel Phillips, and Capt. Wilbur Cook to register "Negroes" deemed eligible for freedom and evacuation from New York under the British wartime proclamations and law. The United States in Congress Congress appointed a three-man commission, Alexander Hamilton, John Rutledge and Nathanial Gorham, to inspect and supervise the British process insuring that only the former slaves actually granted their freedom for Military Service or by other British war-time orders be permitted to leave with the British fleet .
Oliver Delancey, Carleton’s Adjutant-General, issued orders that the commissioners were to meet at “Fraunce’s Tavern every Wednesday at ten O’clock [to hear] any Person claiming property embarked, or to be embarked … Should any Doubts arise in Examination the circumstances of the case to be minuted down” for a possible settlement in the future. 
The U.S. commissioners discovered that every negro granted the privilege of embarking had been given a signed certificate that read
  New York, April 1783
This is to certify to whomsoever it may concern that the bearer hereof  __________________________, a Negro restored to the British Lines in consequence of the proclamation of Sir William Howe and Sir Henry Clinton, late Commanders-in-Chief in America; and that the said Negro has hereby his Excellency’s Sir Guy Carleton’s permission to go to Nova Scotia or wherever else __________________________ may think proper.
                                                                        By order of ….
The board of commissioners that met at Fraunces’s Tavern heard only fourteen recorded cases; of these two were decided in favor of the slave(s), nine in favor of the owner(s), and three were referred to Brig. Gen. Samuel Birch, commanding officer in the City of New York, for a decision.

There are two sets of rolls; the first begins April 23 and ends on July 31, the second begins on July 31 and ends on November 30. Each set was originally bound into a book. Shortly afterwards, they were combined into one book, The Book of Negroes. There are two versions of the book; the British copy is in the National Archives in Kew, England, the American copy is in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington DC.

The completed register of these hearings still exists and is called the "Book of Negroes," One copy of the register is held within the Guy Carlton Papers in The National Archives of Great Britain in London, England and second copy, titled “Inspection Roll of Negroes New York, New York City Book No. 1 April 23-September 13, 1783,” being held in the United States National Archives in Washington, D.C.

During this period, the British/American Commission register records report that 1119 men, 914 women, 339 boys, 335 girls and 76 children whose gender was unidentified, departed New York in November 1783 with their emancipation intact. The largest group comprised those who had joined the British military claiming freedom by proclamation. The second largest was those who claimed to have abandoned their master during the war but before the 1782 preliminary treaty was signed. The third largest group was those who claimed to have been born free or to have been emancipated by former masters.

Samuel Jones, who later became comptroller for New York State, signed the rolls release on behalf of the United States. Signing for Loyalists were W.L. Smith, a future Chief Justice of the Canadian Supreme Court, along with Lt. Colonel Richard Armstrong of the Queen’s Rangers and Lt. Alexander McMillan of DeLancy’s 1st Battalion. Armstrong and McMillan settled in New Brunswick along with many black Loyalists.

Once the British finally evacuated New York, Fraunces continued as the building’s proprietor until 1785, when he leased the building to the USCA for its departments of Foreign Affairs, Finance and War. Shortly of after securing the lease he sold the property for £1,950 to George Powers, a Brooklyn butcher.    

[1] Office of the Historian, Department of State, Buildings of the Department of State,

[2] New York Royal Gazette, March 17, 1781.

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