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Political Influence of the Merchant Class

The merchants of New York City were a very wealthy and powerful class. Because of the vast amount of wealth which they had accumulated, merchants wielded tremendous political influence. Not surprisingly, many of their political goals were associated with means by which they could increase their profits from trade. For example, New York City merchants promoted rail and water transportation, because they understood that an ever expanding system of railway and canal transportation would create a boom in business.

Few merchants, however, held office. Those who did were very successful, such as Edwin D. Morgan, who was a poor boy from Connecticut before becoming a merchant. He served two terms as Governor of New York. Oliver Wolcott Jr., also originally from Connecticut, served as secretary of the treasury to General Washington. Upon retiring from the merchant trade, he moved back to Connecticut, where he also twice served as Governor. Other notable merchants are Fernando Wood, who was mayor of New York City, Moses H. Grinnel, who served in the lower house of Congress, and J.G. King, who served in the Legislature for the State of New Jersey.

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