See H. L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, Vol. III (1907, repr. 1957); J. Reich, Leisler's Rebellion (1953).
(born 1640, Frankfurt am Main—died May 16, 1691, New York, N.Y.) German-born colonial insurrectionist. He immigrated to New Netherland (New York) in 1660 and became a wealthy merchant. Objecting to the British unification of New York and New England (1685–89), he led the revolt called Leisler's Rebellion, established himself as lieutenant governor of the province (1689–91), and called the first intercolonial congress (1690) to plan action against the French and Indians. When he reluctantly surrendered to a new British governor, he was charged with treason and hanged, along with his son-in-law.
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In late 1688, James II was deposed for his Catholicism in the Glorious Revolution. The event introduced the principle that the people could replace a ruler they deemed unsuitable; uprisings against royal governors--though not against the principle of Royal government per se--sprouted throughout the colonies. James' newly appointed governor of New England, Edmund Andros, was already unpopular due to his stricter enforcement of the Navigation Acts and other restrictions on colonists. He attempted to flee, dressed as a woman, but was caught and sent back to England.
Backed by Dutch laborers and artisans who resented the English ruling elite, Leisler enacted a government of direct popular representation. By some counts, he also moved to redistribute wealth to the poor. Both policies earned him the scorn of New York's predominantly Anglican merchant and aristocratic classes.
The new king, William III, dispatched a new governor in 1691. After Leisler refused to cede authority to a Major Ingoldsby, English troops entered the city and armed conflict ensued. Upon Sloughter's arrival, the militia under Leisler surrendered their position inside the fort and Leisler and eleven others were arrested for treason. He was tried and found guilty, and he and his son-in-law Jacob Milborne were hanged, and then beheaded while still alive.May 16.
After a year had passed, the others arrested were released. In 1695, an appeal by Leisler's family to the Royal apparatus in England resulted in all charges being reversed. The family's property was ordered restored. Those in New York who orchestrated Leisler's demise, refused to follow these instructions. The pro and anti-Leisler factions would remain in contention at the provincial level until the arrival of Governor Robert Hunter in 1710, at which time the factional disputes had died down.
Some believe these transactions sparked the beginning of America's two-party political system.
At the same time, the presence of British soldiers on colonial soil and the reinvigorated enforcement of the heretofore neglected Navigation Acts led to increased tension between colonists and British forces. And in that sense in hindsight Leisler's Rebellion, like the others, can be seen as precursors to the American Revolution that began in the 1760s.