was an uprising in late 17th century colonial New York
, in which militia captain Jacob Leisler
seized control of lower New York from 1689
. The uprising, which occurred in the midst of Britain's "Glorious Revolution
," reflected colonial resentment against the policies of King James II
. Royal authority was restored in 1691 by British troops sent by James' successor, William III
After the accession of James II
to the throne of England
, New York became a royal colony. James II decreed the formation of the Dominion of New England
the following year, and in May, 1688
added the colonies of New York and New Jersey
, designating New York City
as the capital
. This unilateral union was highly unpopular among the colonists.
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.
The rebellion and royal response
Amidst this turmoil, Jacob Leisler
), a well-born Calvinist
immigrant merchant turned militia captain, deposed Lieutenant Governor Francis Nicholson
in 1689. The coup was ostensibly intended to hold New York for William III and Mary II
. Opposition within New York to Leisler's rule came mainly from the Albany Convention
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.
Some scholars argue that the rebellion established a core of rebellious sentiment against British domination, and reinforced the sentiment that the colonies were subject to British rule by their free will, not nature. Others make the point, however, that when taken in context with other rebellions in the same period—Bacon's Rebellion
in 1676, the Dominion of New England
involving Edmund Andros
from 1686-1869, Culpepper's Rebellion
in North Carolina in 1677, and the Protestant Rebellion against the Catholic-dominated government in Maryland
in 1689—Leisler's Rebellion follows a pattern. In all of these rebellions a group of middling planters, merchants, or tradesmen rebelled against a group of well-entrenched elites who held a monopoly on power. In none of these cases did participants rebel against British rule. Rather, their struggle was with local authorities who they saw as preventing access to greater wealth or power within the British 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.
- Max Kade German-American Research Institute: The Papers of Jacob Leisler, offering an overview of Leisler's significance
- New York University: The Jacob Leisler Papers Homepage, virtual archive of Leisler-related papers as well as information about NYU's physical documentary holdings
- McCormick, Charles H. Leisler's Rebellion (Outstanding Studies in Early American History). Garland, 1989. (ISBN 0-8240-6190-X)
- Reich, Jerome R. Leisler's Rebellion: A Study of Democracy in New York, 1664-1720. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953. (
- Schnurmann, Claudia. Representative Atlantic Entrepreneur: Jacob Leisler, 1640-1691 in Postma, Johannes and Enthoven, Victor, eds. Riches from Atlantic Commerce: Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, 1585-1817. Leiden: Brill, 2003. (ISBN 90-04-12562-0)