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New York, NY.
New York is a state in the northeastern United States. It is sometimes called New York State when there is need to distinguish it from New York City, the most populated city in both the state and in the nation. Due to the preponderance of the population concentrated in the southern portion around New York City, the state is often regionalized into Upstate and Downstate. New York's postal abbreviation is NY.
The first European settlers in the area now known as the U.S. State of New York were Dutch settlers in the colony known as New Netherland, beginning in 1613. The English took over in 1664, renaming the colony New York, after the Duke of York, the future King James II. On November 1, 1683, the government was reorganized. The state was divided into twelve counties, each of which was subdivided into towns. The territory of New York extended much farther north than present-day New York State. Two of New York's counties, Cornwall and Dukes, later became parts of Massachusetts and Maine.
New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that became the United States. Its constitution, based on its colonial charter, and ratified in 1777, called for a weak bicameral legislature and a strong executive. It retained provisions from the colonial charter such as the substantial property qualification for voting, and the ability of the governor to disband the elected legislature. This imbalance of power between the branches of state government kept the elite firmly in control, and disenfranchised most New Yorkers who would fight the Revolutionary War. Slavery was legal in New York until 1827.
The western part of New York had been settled by the six nations of the Iroquois Confederacy for at least five hundred years before Europeans came. The Iroquois had maintained the area between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes by annual burning as a grassland prairie, abounding in wild game including grazing American Bison herds. In colonial times, the Iroquois were prosperous, growing corn, vegetables and orchards, and keeping cows and hogs; fish and game were abundant.
The colonial charter of New York granted unlimited westward expansion. Massachusetts' charter had the same provision, causing territorial disputes between the colonies and with the Iroquois. During the war, four of the Iroquois nations fought on the side of the British. In 1779, Major General John Sullivan was sent to defeat the Iroquois. The Sullivan Expedition moved northward through the Finger Lakes and Genesee Country, burning all the Iroquois communities, destroying their crops and their orchards. Refugees fled to Fort Niagara, where they spent the following winter in hunger and misery. Hundreds died of exposure, hunger and disease. After the war, many moved to Canada.
Sullivan's men returned from the campaign to Pennsylvania and New England to tell of the enormous wealth of this new territory. Many of them were given land grants in gratitude for their service in the Revolution. From 1786 through 1797 several groups of wealthy land speculators entered into agreements with one another, with neighboring states, and with the Indians to obtain title to vast tracts of land in western New York. Some purchases of Iroquois lands are the subject of numerous modern-day land claims by the individual nations of the Six Nations.
Transportation in western New York was difficult before canals were built in the early part of the nineteenth century. The Hudson and Mohawk Rivers could be navagated only as far as Central New York. The St. Lawrence River could be navagated to Lake Ontario the way westward to the other Great Lakes was blocked by Niagara Falls, and so the only route to western New York was over land. Governor DeWitt Clinton strongly advocated building a canal to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie, and thus all the Great Lakes. Work commenced in 1817, and the Erie Canal was finished in 1825. The canal opened up vast areas of New York to commerce and settlement, and enabled port cities such as Buffalo to grow and prosper. The Welland Canal was completed in 1833, bypassing Niagara Falls to connect Lakes Ontario and Erie.