The New International Encyclopædia/Leisler, Jacob

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LEISLER, līs′lẽr, Jacob (?-1691). A character prominent in the history of colonial New York. He was born in Frankfort, Germany, and in 1660 came to New Amsterdam as a soldier in the Dutch West India Company's service. Leisler's importance in history is due to the part he played in New York affairs in the three years following the English Revolution in 1688. On May 13, 1689, the New York militia, following the example of Massachusetts, which had imprisoned Andros, rose against Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson, and the three royal councilors resident in New York seized the Government for William and Mary, and chose a committee of safety, at the head of which was Leisler, who was appointed commander of the fort. Leisler at once set vigorously to work putting the town in condition to resist an expected attack from the French. One of his acts was to construct a new half-moon battery on the spot which has since taken the name of the Battery. On December 9th a letter from the new Government in England addressed to Nicholson, or, “in his absence, to such as for the time being take care for preserving the peace and administering the laws in the said Province of New York,” was delivered to Leisler. Taking this letter as his authority, Leisler assumed the title of Lieutenant-Governor, appointed a council, chose Jacob Milbourne as secretary, and proceeded to carry on the government partly in accordance with the old Dongan charter. A number of the most influential inhabitants, especially those who had held office under the Andros régime, opposed Leisler, and some of them fled to Albany, which for a time held out against his authority, but after the destruction of Schenectady, February 19, 1690, by the French and Indians, submitted to him. Thus for a time he was supreme in the Colony; and some of his most violent enemies were imprisoned. In May, 1690, by his invitation, the first intercolonial congress that had ever assembled met in New York, and planned an expedition against Canada, which, however, was unsuccessful. In January, 1691, Captain Ingoldsby, who sailed from England with Sloughter, the new Governor, but had been separated from him at sea, arrived in the Colony, and, although his commission did not give him authority to act as Governor, demanded possession of the fort and of the government. With this demand Leisler refused to comply, and some blood was shed before Sloughter himself arrived in March. As soon as he was convinced of the new Governor's authority, Leisler surrendered; but, at the instigation of Leisler's enemies, Sloughter convened a special commission of oyer and terminer, which condemned Leisler, his son-in-law Milbourne, and eight others to death. The prisoners were reprieved for a time, but at length Sloughter was prevailed upon to sign the death-warrants of Leisler and Milbourne, and on May 11, 1691, they were hanged. Four years later, however, the son of Leisler prosecuted an appeal in England, and succeeded in getting the confiscated estates restored and the bill of attainder reversed. Upon no other subject in New York colonial history has there been more difference of opinion than upon that of Leisler's character and government, and historians have not yet come to an agreement upon the matter. Consult: Hoffman, The Administration of Jacob Leisler (in vol. xiii. of Sparks's “Library of American Biography,” Boston, 1844); Brodhead, History of the State of New York (New York, 1853-71); and vol. ii. of the Documentary History of the State of New York (Albany, 1849-51).