Hannah Lawrence, whose Quaker family had remained in New York City during the British occupation, favored the patriots over the “unwelcome invaders.” (See previous post.) She especially deplored the conduct of British soldiers who frequented an area near Trinity Church where prostitutes offered their services. She penned this poem, anonymously, had it printed on broadsheets and dropped them on the streets in the neighborhood. This was a treasonous act and had she been identified as the author she might have hanged for it.
On the Purpose to which the Avenue Adjoining Trinity Church has of late been dedicated, 1779
This is the scene of gay resort,
Here Vice and Folly hold their court,
Here all the Martial band parade,
To vanquish—some unguarded Maid.
Here ambles many a dauntless chief
Who can—oh great ! beyond belief,
Who can—as sage Historians say,
Defeat—whole bottles in array!
Heavens! shall a mean, inglorious train,
The mansions of our dead profane?
A herd of undistinguish’d things.
That shrink beneath the power of Kings!
Sons of the brave immortal band
Who led fair Freedom to this land,
Say—shall a lawless race presume
To violate the sacred Tomb?
And calmly, you, the insult bear—
Even wildest rage were virtue here.
Shades of our Sires, indignant rise,
Oh arm! to vengeance, arm the skies.
Oh rise! for no degenerate son
Bids impious blood the guilt atone,
By thunder from the ethereal plains.
Avenge your own dishonored Manes,
And guardian lightnings flash around,
And vindicate the hallow’d ground!
Ironically, a British soldier by the name of Jacob Schieffelin was billeted at the Lawrence house. Hannah fell in love with him; they married and departed for Canada. Even though her father disapproved, relations between Hannah and her family were not severed. The Schieffelins returned to New York City after the Revolution and Jacob went into the drug business with Hannah’s brother. Schieffelin’s real estate interests extended to northern Manhattan where he, with his brothers-in-law, laid out a village, in the vicinity of what is today West 125th Street and Broadway, called Manhattanville. Streets were named for family members and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was constructed there. Near the front door of the present church is the vault wherein lie Jacob and Hannah Schieffelin.
The poem and portraits can be found HERE. The portraits were up for auction in 2013; the buyer is unknown. For information about Jacob Schieffelin’s business activities consult this LINK. Also see Manhattanville.