The City of New York is the largest and most important in America. Its corporate limits embrace the whole of Manhattan Island, on which it is situated, and which is bounded by the Hudson, the East and Harlem rivers, and by Spuyten Duyvil creek, which last connects the Harlem with the Hudson. Being almost entirely surrounded by deep water, and lying within sight of the ocean, and only sixteen miles from it, the city is naturally the greatest commercial centre of the country. The extreme length of the island is fifteen miles, and its average breadth a mile and a half. The city lies at the head of New York Bay, which stretches away for miles until the Narrows, the main entrance to the harbor, are reached, presenting a panorama unsurpassed for natural and artificial beauty. The people of New York are very proud of their bay, and justly regard it as one of the most magnificent in the world.

The city was originally settled by the Dutch, toward the close of the year 1614, and called by them New Amsterdam. In 1664, it passed into the hands of the English, and was named New York, which name was also given to the whole province. The first settlement was made at the extreme lower part of the island, on the spot now known as the Battery. A fort was erected, and the little hamlet surrounded by a strong stockade as a protection against the savages. The first settlers were eminently just in their dealings with the red men, and purchased the island from them, giving them what was considered by all parties a fair price for it. They felt sure that their new home was destined to become a place of importance in the course of time. Its commercial advantages were evident at a glance; the climate was delightful, being neither so rigorous as that of the Eastern colonies, nor so enervating as that of the Southern. The hopes of the founders of New York are more than realized in the metropolis of to-day.

The city grew very slowly at the beginning. In 1686, it was regularly incorporated by a charter. In 1693, the first printing press was set up in the city by William Bradford. In 1690, New York contained five hundred and ninety-four houses and six thousand inhabitants. In 1790, one hundred years later, the city had a population of thirty-three thousand. It was not until the beginning of the present century that it commenced that wonderful growth which has given it its present importance. At first it spread more rapidly on the east side than on the west. As late as the close of the Revolution, what is now Chambers street was the extreme upper limit, and its line was marked by a strong stockade, built across from river to river, with gates leading to the various country roads which traversed the upper part of the island.

The City of New York now extends from the Battery to the Harlem river and Spuyten Duyvil creek, and is built up with great regularity as far as One-hundred and Thirtieth street. Harlem, Yorkville, Manhattanville, Bloomingdale, Carmansville, and Washington Heights or Fort Washington, were all originally separate villages, but are now parts of the great city. The island comes to a point at the Battery, and from this extremity stretches away northward like a fan. It attains its greatest width at Fourteenth and Eighty-seventh streets. Broadway is the longest street, running from, the Battery to Spuyten Duyvil creek, a distance of fifteen miles. It is lighted with gas along the entire line. Street railways and omnibus lines connect the various parts of the city, affording cheap and rapid transportation within its limits. Ferry boats ply constantly between the island and the neighboring shores, and railroads and steamboats connect it with all parts of the world.

                     THE POPULATION.

The population of New York is over one million of inhabitants. This does not include the immense throng of visitors for business and pleasure. It is estimated that forty thousand of these arrive and depart daily. During times of more than ordinary interest - such as a national convention of some political party, the meeting of some great religious body, the world's fair, or some such special attraction - these arrivals are greatly increased. During the recent session of the Democratic National Convention, in July, 1868, the number of strangers present in the city was estimated at two hundred thousand. The amount of money brought into the city by these strangers is astonishing. Millions are spent by them annually during their visits to the metropolis.

The population is made up from every nation under Heaven. The natives are in the minority. The foreign element predominates. Irishmen, Germans, Jews, Turks, Greeks, Russians, Italians, Spaniards, Mexicans, Portuguese, Scotch, French, Chinese - in short, representatives of every nationality - abound. These frequently herd together, each class by itself, in distinct parts of the city, which they seem to regard as their own.

Land is very scarce and valuable in New York, and this fact compels the poorer classes to live in greater distress than in most cities of the world. The whole number of buildings in the city in 1860 was fifty-five thousand, which includes churches, stores, etc. In the same year the population was eight hundred and five thousand, or one hundred and sixty-one thousand families. Of these fifteen thousand only occupied entire houses; nine thousand one hundred and twenty dwellings contained two families, and six thousand one hundred contained three families. As we shall have to recur to this subject again, we pass on now, merely remarking that these "tenement sections" of the city, as they are called, are more crowded now than ever, the increase in buildings having fallen far behind the increase of the population in the last eight years.

This mixed population makes New York a thorough cosmopolitan city; yet at the same time it is eminently American. Although the native New York element is small in numbers, its influence is very great. Besides this, numbers flock to the city from all parts of the Union, and this constant influx of fresh American vitality does much to keep the city true to the general character of the country.

It has been well said, that "New York is the best place in the world to take the conceit out of a man." This is true. No matter how great or flattering is the local reputation of an individual, he finds upon reaching New York that he is entirely unknown. He must at once set to work to build up a reputation here, where he will be taken for just what he is worth, and no more. The city is a great school for studying human nature, and its people are proficients in the art of discerning character.

In point of morality, the people of New York, in spite of all that has been said of them, compare favorably with those of any other city. If the darkest side of life is to be seen here, one may also witness the best. The greatest scoundrels and the purest Christians are to be found here. It is but natural that this, being the great centre of wealth, should also be the great centre of all that is good and beautiful in life. It is true that the Devil's work is done here on a gigantic scale, but the will of the Lord is done on an equally great, if not a greater, scale. In its charities New York stands at the head of American communities - the great heart of the city throbs warmly for suffering humanity. The municipal authorities expend annually seven hundred thousand dollars in public charities. The various religious denominations spend annually three millions more, and besides this the city is constantly sending out princely sums to relieve want and suffering in all parts of our broad land.

The people of New York are the most liberal of any in America in matters of opinion. Here, as a general rule, no man seeks to influence the belief of another, except so far as all men are privileged to do so. Every religious faith, every shade of political opinion, is tolerated and protected. Men concern themselves with their own affairs only. Indeed, this feeling is carried to such an extreme that it has engendered a decided indifference between man and man. People live for years as next door neighbors, without ever knowing each other by sight. A gentleman once happened to notice the name of his next door neighbor on the door-plate. To his surprise he found it the same as his own. Accosting the owner of the door-plate one day, for the first time, he remarked that it was singular that two people bearing the same name should live side by side for years without knowing each other. This remark led to mutual inquiries and statements, and to their surprise the two men found they were brothers - sons of the same parents. They had not met for many years, and for fully twelve years had lived side by side as neighbors, without knowing each other. This incident may be overdrawn, but it will illustrate a peculiar feature of New York life.

Strangers coming to New York are struck with the fact that there are but two classes in the city - the poor and the rich. The middle class, which is so numerous in other cities, hardly exists at all here. The reason of this is plain to the initiated. Living in New York is so expensive that persons of moderate means reside in the suburbs, some of them as far as forty miles in the country. They come into the city, to their business, in crowds, between the hours of seven and nine in the morning, and literally pour out of it between four and seven in the evening. In fair weather the inconvenience of such a life is trifling, but in the winter it is absolutely fearful. A deep snow will sometimes obstruct the railroad tracks, and persons living outside of the city are either unable to leave New York, or are forced to spend the night on the cars. Again, the rivers will be so full of floating ice as to render it very dangerous, if not impossible, for the ferry boats to cross. At such times the railroad depots and ferry houses are crowded with persons anxiously awaiting transportation to their homes. The detention in New York, however, is not the greatest inconvenience caused by such mishaps. Many persons are frequently unable to reach the city, and thus lose several days from their business, at times when they can ill afford it.

We have already referred to the scarcity of houses. The population of the city increases so rapidly that house-room cannot be provided for all. House rent is very high in New York. A house for a family of six persons, in a moderately respectable neighborhood, will rent for from sixteen hundred to twenty-five hundred dollars, the rate increasing as the neighborhood improves. On the fashionable streets, houses rent for from six thousand to fifteen thousand dollars per annum. These, it must be remembered, are palatial. Many persons owning these houses, live in Europe, or in other parts of the country, and pay all their expenses with the rent thus secured.

In consequence of this scarcity of dwellings, and the enormous rents asked for them, few families have residences of their own. People of moderate means generally rent a house, and sub-let a part of it to another family, take boarders, or rent furnished or unfurnished rooms to lodgers.

Furniture is expensive, and many persons prefer to rent furnished houses. These are always in demand, and in good localities command enormous prices. Heavy security has to be given by the lessee in such cases, as, without this, the tenant might make away with the furniture. Many persons owning houses for rent, furnish them at their own expense, and let them, the heavy rent soon paying a handsome profit on the furniture.

Persons living in a rented house are constantly apprehensive. Except in cases of long leases, no one knows how much his rent may be increased the next year. This causes a constant shifting of quarters, and is expensive and vexatious in the highest degree. It is partly due to the unsettled condition of the currency, but mainly to the scarcity of houses.

Many - indeed; the majority of the better class of inhabitants - prefer to board. Hotels and boarding houses pay well in New York. They are always full, and their prosperity has given rise to the remark that, "New York is a vast boarding house." We shall discuss this portion of our subject more fully in another chapter.

To persons of means, New York offers more advantages as a place of residence than any city in the land. Its delightful climate, its cosmopolitan and metropolitan character, and the endless variety of its attractions, render it the most delightful home in America. That this is true is shown by the fact that few persons who have lived in New York for twelve months ever care to leave it. Even those who could do better else where are powerless to resist its fascinations.