Life in Poughkeepsie

The New York Convention met in the new courthouse in Poughkeepsie, located on the post road about a mile from the east bank of the Hudson River. Conveniently located about halfway between New York City and Albany, the town occasionally hosted the state legislature. Delegates could easily travel to Poughkeepsie by either Hudson River sloop or stage coaches that traveled on the well-maintained post road.

Poughkeepsie had a population of about 2,500, making it the tenth smallest of Dutchess County’s 12 towns and villages. Poughkeepsie contained about 370 families with a population evenly divided between men and women. Most of the free men were qualified to vote. Three-quarters of these voters normally supported Governor George Clinton’s policies and opposed the ratification of the Constitution. Less than one-quarter of Poughkeepsie’s families owned the town’s 200 slaves. Sixty families—mainly yeoman farmers—owned either one or two slaves. Nine families each owned between five and ten slaves.

Many of Poughkeepsie’s dwellings were constructed of local stone and slate. The town contained a Presbyterian and an Episcopalian church and services were offered in both English and Dutch. An academy provided the basic education for both boys and girls. The weekly Country Journal was published in the print shop, where customers could also purchase a variety of books and stationery. The town also supported several taverns and inns (where many of the delegates lived), a tobacconist shop, a hair dresser, a hardware store, and a dry goods dealer, all of which offered a wide variety of European imports. The obligatory blacksmith and livery also provided their services. As Poughkeepsie was a market town, local farmers were supplied with goods and seeds and in turn sold their livestock and grains to merchants who either sold these commodities locally or sent them to New York City.