Spain Supports the American Revolution & New York Welcomes the Spanish

North Americans who fought for independence from 1763 to 1783 relied on battlefield aid, silver coin, and huge loans from both France and Spain. Spain funneled money and supplies through private merchants like Diego María de Gardoqui, of Gardoqui & Sons in Bilbao.
 
After the revolution, grateful for wartime support and recognition of a republican United States, New Yorkers found new tolerance for their former rival and began welcoming the Spanish themselves. George Washington invited Gardoqui to stand with him at Federal Hall during his inauguration as president in 1789. Even more startling, the city’s tiny Spanish-speaking community built New York’s first Catholic church—St. Peter’s on Barclay Street—aided by money and art from Spain and Mexico.   

Dominick Lynch and Thomas Stoughton, Journal, 1783–88. New-York Historical Society. After the revolution, European merchants Dominick Lynch and Thomas Stoughton decided New York was ripe for an import/export business with Spain. Moving from Bruges to New York in 1783 ahead of his partner, Stoughton pioneered new trading networks with Spain and Spanish America, keeping track in his journals of daily expenses and complicated debt arrangements on three continents.
 
Often employing Spanish ships like the Santa del Rosario, Lynch & Stoughton imported lemons, Madeira wine, sherry, brandy, and raisins from Spain and Southern Europe; and sugar, coffee, silver, and “Nicaraguan wood” from Havana, Cartagena, and Central America. Exports included flour and timber to Dublin, Amsterdam, Cádiz, and the Spanish and French Caribbean islands.
 
Transporting the goods posed many dangers, including pursuit by pirates. In 1786, Stoughton and Lynch insured the “body of Capt. John Smith, master of Ship Jenny” against an attack by “Barbary corsairs” on his journey from New York to Lisbon.
 
Stoughton also served as Spanish consul in New York from 1794 to at least 1812, and his relatives maintained business and family connections with Spain. 
Dominick Lynch and Thomas Stoughton, Journal, 1783–88. New-York Historical Society.

Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, probably 18th century. Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 42.384. New Yorkers’ new-found tolerance for the Spanish extended to the city’s few Catholics. For a brief period under the Duke of York (who became King James II in 1685), local Catholics had been permitted to worship in public. The King’s overthrow in 1688 ended the practice, and until the American Revolution, priests in New York were banned, "papists" barred from voting, and Protestant rule enforced by periodic "no-popery" riots.
 
In 1785, prominent Catholics including Spanish minister Diego de Gardoqui and merchants Dominick Lynch and Thomas Stoughton received permission to build the city’s first Catholic church: St. Peter’s on Barclay Street. Construction was funded by Spain's King Carlos III, the Archbishop of Mexico City, and the Bishop of Puebla. The Archbishop also contributed an oil painting of the crucifixion by José María Vallejo that hangs above the altar to this day.
 
The 18th-century Virgin shown here—combining elements of Spanish, Spanish American, and Asian artistic traditions—is the kind of religious object that local Catholics were now free to obtain from the Spanish world.  
Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, probably 18th century. Brooklyn Museum, Frank L. Babbott Fund, 42.384.

Dominick Lynch and Thomas Stoughton, Journal, 1783–88. New-York Historical Society. St. Peter’s Church, at 22 Barclay Street, was built in 1786 and improved in the early 1790s. John McComb, Jr.—the future architect of New York City Hall—made this lovely drawing in an unsuccessful bid to do the alterations. St. Peter’s was demolished and replaced in 1840 by the Greek Revival building that still stands today—a designated New York City landmark. The church narrowly escaped destruction on 9/11.
 
John McComb, Front View of St. Peter's Church with the intended steeple, 1785. New-York Historical Society.
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