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How did New York survive the revolution to become “America’s city” in the first quarter of the 19th century? Discus the critical role of the Erie Canal in the city’s economic development.

New York is currently among the most populated cities in the United States and serves as the center of metropolitan area of New York. To distinguish it from the state, it is popularly referred to as the New York City. The city is very significant and strategically located on the world map to be a place of great value of finance, commerce, education, technology, media, fashion, art and entertainment. The city is also an important center for international diplomacy and a global cultural center.

Under the British rule, New York grew as a key trading port of slavery in the 18th century trading more than 40% of all household slaves. Slaves were the basic item of trade in the New York economy until the system in which some people own others was abolished. After the American Revolutionary War of 1776 where Americans were defeated, the city became the British political, administrative and military base of operation in the North.  It hosted loyalist refugees and escaped slaves who had joined the British lines for freedom promised by the queen. However, the famous Great Fire of New York that destroyed a third of the city occurred, and the British had to order a reconstruction program.

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In accordance with an Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery of 1799, children born of slave mothers were eventually liberated though held up in servitude until their late twenties. A significant free black populace developed in Manhattan, and they with other activists worked for the establishment of African free schools to educate the black children. This went on until 1827 when slavery was completely abolished and the new struggle was to fight social discrimination.

The making of New York City begun in the 1850s after Fernando Wood was selected as the first mayor who dominated the city although his period of reign. These reforms led to a riot in 1857 by the New York City Police which had served the city in the America Civil War. The subsequent decades were a period known as the Gilded Age that saw the city grows massively for the upper class society and an increase in the number of poor immigrants’ working class.

The Erie Canal stretches 363 miles from Albany, along the river Hudson to Buffalo at Lake Erie and completes a navigable route 584 km from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. It was constructed in the first quarter of the 19th century and has served as a major transport route between the East and West. The canal opened the western region for settlement and fostered a population surge in the west. According to Burns (2005), this was a part of the development plan the new nation had set in the eighteenth century to improve transportation to the interior. The canal reduced shipping costs and time significantly.

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How was New York struggling with the forces of modernization at the beginning of the twentieth century? Was it a modern city?

Modernization is an evolutionary transition model from a traditional to modern society. In order to achieve modernity, social dynamists of modernity describe social evolutionist theories as the best strategy to adopt. However, history has it that modernization is a process of achieving industrialization and urbanization at the same time ensuring education achieves its required standard.

At the wake of twentieth century, New York partially was a modernized city because the level of education attained was higher as compared to the other population centers in the United States. New York offered convenient, safe and affordable housing to a large proportion of the city residents and students. However, the problems of poor housing were still a major issue in the suburban areas and the proper urban planning mechanisms had to be put in place.

Despite some few issues of the traffic congestion, New York was proud to have the best transport system of the time. The city had one among the largest subway systems in the world measured by the track mileage. By far, the railway transport was the most dominated and the oldest form of transport in New York since no motorized vehicles were present in the beginning of 20th century. The commuter rail consists of the most extensive transport network in the city even to date. To enhance modernization, the city authorities established intercity rails that connected New York and other cities in the US. Buses were also introduced to offer flexible commuter services for the industrial workers. New York being the busiest port in the United States could not cope with the transport burden of shipping the cargo to the interior parts of the country. The Erie Canal, roads and rail lines served the best purpose to open the interior to the port.

Contrary to the preceding century, the period between 1880 and 1920 saw more than twenty million foreigners arrive in New York. The new immigrants of the late 19th and early 20th century were distinct in size, race, and demographics and brought a new impact to the social, economic and cultural lives of the American indigenous. They were referred to as the new immigrants, who were particularly natives of the Eastern and Southern Europe, ethnically and culturally believed to be unique from Britons and Germans. In spite of a high rate of repatriation, a huge number of the new immigrants were able to settle in America and increase the foreign-born population of the country. Most of them, speaking little or no English, settled in the close-knit communities where they continued to develop and grow their cultures. 

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