Of the three street commissioners, John Rutherfurd (1760–1840) was the only one born in Manhattan but brought the least relevant experience to the work. He spent most of his life in New Jersey, attending to his vast, mostly inherited landholdings; at his death he was said to be the state’s largest landowner. He served briefly in the New Jersey General Assembly and represented the state in the United States Senate (1790–98).
It seems possible that he was tapped for the street commission through the influence of fellow commissioner and relative Gouverneur Morris (Rutherfurd was married to a daughter of Morris’s half-brother), who may have desired a pliant ally.
Judging from Morris’s frequent diary references to Rutherfurd’s absences from or lateness to meetings of the street commissioners, it seems likely that Rutherfurd contributed the least to the commission’s work, with the headstrong visionary Morris and the skilled surveyor De Witt dominating the decision-making. GK