The New-York Cries, in Rhyme c. 1825
The City Hall is the most prominent building in New-York. It is said to be the handsomest structure in the United States; perhaps, of its size, in the world. This chaste and beautiful edifice stands near the upper end of the Park, and it is seen to considerable advantage from almost every quarter. The building is of a square form, two stories in height, besides a basement story. It has a wing at each end. From the cupola, we have a fine view of the city, North and East rivers, the Bay, Jersey Shore, Brooklyn, and a part of Long-Island and Sound. Strangers are attracted to examine this magnificent structure, and they find in the keeper a ready guide to its numerous rooms, which are appropriated to various public purposes. The Common Council Room is large, and very richly furnished, and ornamented with full length portraits of Washington, Hamilton, Clinton, and Lewis. Here the Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen, meet to regulate the affairs of the city. The Governor’s Room, containing the portraits of several distinguished men, is in the second story, in the middle of the building, from whence we can walk on a platform in front, and have a fine view of the Park, and adjoining houses in Broadway and Chatham-street. Other rooms are appropriated to divers courts of justice. During the year 1834–6, a large handsome building in the style of Egyptian architecture, was erected in Centre-street, a short distance from the Park, for the accommodation of the Courts of Justice, Grand Jury, and the Police Office, &c. Executions for capital offences take place in the yard enclosed within the high walls of the building, where a temporary gallows is erected for the purpose. A Court of Sessions, which sets monthly for the trial of those who break the peace of society, occupies a room in this building. The Recorder and two Aldermen take their seats upon the bench. The clerk and officers of the court are in front, with a large table for the lawyers and witnesses. In a box which is a little elevated, the criminal is placed. On the left hand of the judges are rows of benches for the jurors. The usual forms having been gone through, the court opens, and then the District Attorney, in a loud voice, says to the High Constable, “Put A.B. (naming the culprit) to the bar!” Then away go two or more constables to the far end of the room, in each of the corners of which are two iron railing grates, one for men, and one for women, in which the prisoners are put, and taken out, as the District Attorney calls for them. The constables unlock the massive doors, and lead the unhappy person to the box, before the judges. Here he is, exposed to the gaze of judges, lawyers, jurors, and a multitude of others, enough of itself, one would think, to terrify evil doers. The trial now begins; a number of witnesses give in their testimony; the lawyers sum up the evidence, and plead the cause, one on one side and another on the other side of the question. Sometimes the trial lasts for many hours, nay, often as many days; sometimes it is soon ended, when the jurors retire to an adjoining room, and comparing their judgments in the matter, and having all agreed upon a verdict, return, marching in Indian file, and with solemn countenances, to resume their seats. What an anxious time to the prisoner! How he trembles in breathless anxiety! A solemn stillness pervades the whole room! All eyes are fixed upon the foreman of the jury, when he is called upon by the clerk, as follows: “What do you say, gentlemen; do you find the prisoner guilty, or not guilty?” If guilty, the prisoner is remanded back to his prison of bars and bolts; and when the term of the court is ended, he with others who may have been found guilty, are all called up before the judges to receive their sentences, some to the House of Refuge, and others to the Penitentiary or State Prison.
Now all this we print here, to let young people see the consequences of transgressing. Vice will surely be punished:– Who then would do a wrong act! “How can I do this evil,” said Joseph, “and sin against God?” And how can children, who become wicked by lying, stealing, and other vices, ever expect to escape punishment! Did you but once seriously consider the pain and aching hearts you give to your parents or guardians, and even to the jurors and judges, who find themselves reluctantly obliged to punish offenders, you certainly would, if not entirely lost to every sense of duty, at least pause and think what you are doing!