Council of Appointment of the State of New York.

Military minutes of the Council of appointment of the state of New York, 1783-1821 (Volume 1) online

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1783— t82I.

HUGH HASTINGS, State Historian.


Volume L

Albany :





Hon. S. F. Nixon, Speaker of the Assembly, Albany, N. Y.:

SIR — I herewith submit the annual report of the State His-
torian. While the business of the oflfice has steadily and
healthily increased in many respects, the office force remains
substantially as it was during the second year of its existence. Not
only has the correspondence increased to an inordinate extent, but
the queries that have been submitted and answered, from all parts
of the country, have in themselves formed no inconsiderable part
of the work of the department. The nature of the questions
submitted for decision, ranging from those of a purely genealogical
nature to those of an important historical character, indicates
not only the growing interest of the people all over the country in
historical studies and historical pursuits, but has resulted practically
in the maintenance of a bureau of information for the dissemination
of historical knowledge of all kinds and character.

In other respects the department has expanded. The mere work
of transcribing official records is in itself comparatively an easy
task, but the real labor is involved in preparing and editing the
work for the printer, in reading proofs, guarding against inaccu-
racies of any description, in transcription, in composition and
in typographical corrections, and in distributing the volumes after
they are printed and bound. During the year 1900 this office
printed and distributed three volumes of the Public Papers of
George Clinton, and delivered to the state printer two volumes of


iv Annual Report of the State Historian.

the Ecclesiastical History of the State of New York, under author-
ity of the provision made in the supply bill of 1899 and 1900, The
number of volumes distributed by this office during that period
aggregates 10,490.

In addition to the varied nature of this work, the correspond-
ence of the office was scrupulously maintained, and every query
that was submitted was answered without unnecessary delay. The
report on the work of the Dutch Records Department was trans-
mitted to the Senate January 9th. The present report embraces the
military appointments of the Council of Appointment^ covering the
{period from the signing of the treaty of Paris in 1783 to 1821,
wntn, under the action of the Constitutional Convention of that
ycar)^ the Council of Appointment ceased to exist. Properly to
elucidak this matter, it was deemed essential to prepare chapters
on the constitutional history of New York during the colonial
period, and on the conditions that existed at the time of the adop-
tion of the first constitution of this State. What originally had
been intended as a brief outline has expanded into a lengthy treatise,
covering the period from the earliest Dutch times to the separation
of the province from the mother country.

I remain.

Very respectfully,


State Historian.
State Capitol, Albany, April 20, 1901.


No. I— The Old Capitol at Albany, constructed 1806, razed 1879—

No. 2— Birthplace of the First Constitution of New York at Kings-
ton — opposite page 32.

No. 3 — The Senate House, Kingston, 1777— opposite page 63.

No. 4— Temporary Capitol at Albany, i 797-1807— opposite page 450.



FOR many years after the settlement of the colonies the inhab-
itants bestowed but little thought and attention upon the
proposition of self-government. The duties of citizenship con-
cerned them but remotely. Fictitious ideas prevailed and exagger-
ated rumors were circulated over Europe concerning the wealth
and the possibilities of America, which, united with the air of
mystery and of romance that enveloped the new country, attracted
the curiosity and aroused the cupidity of the most wayward and
most reckless classes of the old world. These early colonists dis-
played conspicuous courage in crossing the great trackless waste in
their tiny shallops and in facing and braving the unknown dangers
they encountered during the voyage and the multitudinous priva-
tions after their arrival. As developers of the new country, however,
they were pronounced failures, for as a rule they were shiftless, indo-
lent, dependent and irresponsible. What a discouraging outlook is
given on the arrival of Director General Kieft in New York in 1638!
The 'official records report that many of the farms were devoid of
tenants and of cultivation or had been thrown into common, that
trading vessels with one exception were in bad condition/that the
houses were out of repair, that only one sawmill out of three was
in operation, that the fort in New Amsterdam lay in a state of
dilapidation and decay, and that the site of the magazine was scarce
discoverable. In 1656 Van der Donck paints a different picture.
He states that people of property had now,settled in New York, that

2 Annual Report of the

good buildings had been erected, fine farms cultivated and' excellent
pasturage and orchards maintained, whereas before this period the
emigrants were adventurers, who had brought in little, carried
away much and thought nothing of the common good. Before the
West India Company began to exercise the arbitrary prerogatives
granted by its articles of incorporation, the settlements of New
Netherland consisted merely of a few trading posts, with surround-
ing forts that had been erected for their protection, MiUtary as
well as civil authority was vested in the commandant of these forts.

As a creature of the States-general, the West India Company,
the declared rival of the French for the Canadian fur trade, managed
affairs in the colony with an iron hand. Scant consideration was
given the settler. The policy of the company was purely com-
mercial, and in the furtherance' of that policy the powers of govern-
ment, executive, legislative and judicial, were delegated to a director-
general or a governor and his council; the latter consisting of an
indefinite number of persons, generally not exceeding six, who
were appointed by the governor. The official acts of the governor
were subject to the approval of the company, and the company was
subordinate to the States-general, who exercised -general super-
vision and in whom was vested the ultimate sovereignty. The
colonial government and colonial laws closely followed those of the
fatherland, but an indulgence was conceded to a citizen across the
sea that was withheld from the settler in the colony.

Severe as were the restrictions, political and religious, under the
Dutch, the colonists enjoyed life far more advantageously under
the rule of the English, Ostensibly they exercised all the freedom
of Englishmen, under the declaration of Governor Fletcher "there
are none of you but are big with the privileges of Englishmen and
Magna Charta," but, in reality, they had no voice in governing

State Historian. 3

themselves — the King and his Council dictating, often framing and
systematically executing all laws.

Liberty of action was restrained as arbitrarily as liberty of speech
was suppressed. To successive governors the Crown issued the
same sort of repressive instructions. "Allow no person to use a
printing press on any occasion whatever " was one of the orders
received by Governor Dongan, of New York, and by Lord Effing-
ham, one of Virginia's early governors; while the sentiments of
those in authority during the time of Cromwell are reflected in the
expressions of Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, who
declared for King Charles II and who gave thanks to God that
there were no free schools nor printing; " for learning has brought
heresy and disobedience and sects into the world, and printing has
divulged them and libels against the best government. God keep
us from both! " The damage to history by this barbaric policy is
irreparable and incalculable. Tlie political and legislative history
of the province of New York under the proprietary government of
James, Duke of York, is buried under the prejudices and bigotry
of the age; for the acts of the governors and the transactions of the
councils were intrusted to the uncertain care of manuscripts which,
by constant handUng and frequent mutilation, have become de-
fective, imperfect and consequently worthless. Viewed from the
standard of ethics, morals and liberty of the twentieth century, the
meek submission and the refulgent humility of the colonists of the
seventeenth century are as inexplicable as their willingness to con-
tribute cheerfully and generously to the support of the home gov-
ernment was admirable. The steadily developing prosperity of the
colonies became a source of unfeigned jealousy to England, whose
exchequer was often stripped and laid bare through the extrava-
gances of the reigning "monarchs. With the growth and expansion

4 AxxuAL Report of the

of the colonies, however, and with a keen appreciation of their
pohtical dependency and helplessness, there was born the perfectly
natural ambition to participate in the responsibilities of government
to secure a voice in the disbursement of moneys to which the
colonists in part contributed, particularly in the imposition and in
the collection of taxes. In the first charter of freedoms and exemp-
tions the colonists were allowed the hollow concession of appoint-
ing a deputy, wIk^ was permitted under certain conditions to give
information to the director-general and Council. The duties of the
deputy fell far short of the dignity of advisory. His knowledge of
the colony and of the Indians was technical and thorough, and
was utilized to supply the deficiencies of the governor and Council
whenever a crisis occurred; but when he presumed to suggest re-
forms or propose remedies for existing evils and abuses, he was
promptly removed from ofifice, for leading to " dangerous conse-

Charles II in one of his impulsive humors had granted representa-
tive government to Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was not,
however, until the arrival of Colonel Thomas Dongan that
New York obtained a semblance of representative government. Of
the early governors of N^ew York^ Dongan seems to be the broadest
gauge and the most enlightened and progressive. He was an
avowed Papist, and was sent by his royal master, James, Duke of
York, who had received from Charles II the grant of territory com-
prising Nf>w Jersey and New York, to introduce papacy in a coun-
try where more hostility existed against it than sympathy for it.
Like a good soldier, in the enemy's country, Dongan moved cau-
tiously and conservatively. He had arrived in New York in August,

1683, eleven months after his appointment, and had been received^r

,.r •'
by the colonists with marked tokens of honor. James had ordered

State Historian'. 5

him to call an assembly of representatives, and accordingly on
October 17, 1683, the representatives of the people of New York-
met, for the first time, in assembly in Xew ^'()rk City, 'i'hc sessions
continued until November 3d. This assembly enacted laws in effect
that the supreme authority under the \<\n^ and duke " shall for-
ever reside in a governor, council and the peopK' met in pcncral
assembly;" the exercise of the chief magistracy shall be vested in
a governor, assisted by a council, who is to govern according to law;
the oldest of the council shall act in the absence of the governor;
assemblies shall be held triennially; the legislative power shall rest
with the governor and council and twenty-one representatives and
as many more as his Royal Highness shall deem necessary; the
representatives shall appoint their times of meeting and to adjourn
from time to time at their will— to be sole judges of the qualifica-
tions of their own members— to be free from arrest while " sitting
and going and coming;" no tax shall be imposed but by consent!
of the three powers, governor, council and representatives; bad
allowed except for treason and felony; no freeman compelled to
receive soldiers into his house but in time of war; no court shall
have power to issue execution against any man's land, to be sold
or otherwise disposed of without the owner's consent: all person^
professing faith in God by Jesus Christ, to have free and full liberty,
unmolested to exercise the mode of worship agreeable to them, pro-
vided they do not disturb the good people; and that all the Christian
churches in the province shall enjoy the same privileges as


The province was divided into shires and counties— New \ork.
Westchester, Ulster, Albany, Dutchess, Orange. Richmond. K
Queens, Suffolk; and Dukes and Cornwall counties, which lay
bevond the boundaries of the province. Equally important was

6 Annual Report of the


the act determining the jurisdiction of the courts of justice — town
and county, courts of Oyer and Terminer; and a court of Chancery
to be regarded as the Supreme Court. During the sessions of 1685
and 1686 charters were granted to the cities of New York and
Albany respectively. The hope of the colonists for better things
was short-lived, however. The Assembly promised by the Charter
of Liberties and Privileges never convened; for in February, 1685,
Charles II died, his brother James ascended the throne, and as James
the King repudiated many acts of James the Duke; the charter was
promptly vetoed and the Assembly was abolished. The governor
returned to the monopoly of executive, legislative and judicial au-

At this juncture Louis XIV of France was recognized as the
most powerful sovereign in Europe. James on his accession to the
throne had promised " to preserve the government both in church
and state as it is now by law established " — a statement that com-
pletely disarmed his people of any suspicion that might have been
entertained regarding his Catholic proclivities. The declaration had
scarcely been known ere he attempted to make a religious coalition
with the House of Bourbon. His campaign was well under way
before his people discovered his duplicity. In England, Scotland
and Ireland Protestant officials were summarily ejected from office
and were succeeded by Catholics; officers of high rank in the army
were removed for no other reason than that they refused to bow
to the Church of Rome. The King's headstrong, obstinate course
soon involved him into a network of difficulties that threatened dis-
aster. In America Dongan fell under the royal displeasure by his
failure to establish the church on a durable footing. Whether the
clear-headed Irishman yielded to local sentiment and influence, or
whether he foresaw where the King's tyrannical course would bring

State Historian. 7

him, he procrastinated under the argument that the hostility of the
Five Nations to the Jesuits of Canada was the best safeguard for
New York.

New York had not escaped the wave of religious intolerance that
had been rolling over Europe during the past half century. As
early as 1640, the Dutch records carry an ordinance prohibiting the
exercise of all other religions except the " Reformed as it is at pres-
ent preached and practiced by public authority " in the United
Netherlands. The following year, however, the phlegmatic Dutch
revoked this arbitrary mandate and " allowed the good number of
respectable English people " " the free exercise of their religion."
The spirit of the times hardly justified freedom of worship. The
power of the state was systematically and often unprincipally exerted
in promoting and maintaining the religious denomination of that
state. The persecution of the English by the Dutch in 1640 was
no more sinister or reprehensible than the persecution of the Jews
by the Catholic rulers and the persecution of the Catholics and the
Jews subsequently by the Church of England. As far back as
1644, the great and good Father Jogues, the first Catholic mission-
ary to New York, fovmd that the colony harbored Catholics, English
Puritans, Quakers, Lutherans, Anab'aptists called Mnistes [Mennists
or Mennonites as they are known to-day], and Dutch Reformers,
and that an order was in force denying " public worship " to all
but Calvinists. And yet in 1700 the statute book was defaced by a
law which ordered that every popish priest who came into the prov-
ince voluntarily should be hanged, recalling the forty-four years of
Queen Elizabeth's reign, during which thirty priests and five
sympathizers were executed.

Peter Stuyvesant had exacted from his conquerors the stipulation
that liberty of conscience and church government should prevail
then and forever— a stipulation that Governor Dongan was not dis-

8 Annual Report of the

posed to repudiate. His royal master, with overweening confidence
in liis ecclesiastical supremacy, disregarded every obligation that
a just and honest monarch would recognize and honor, and was
finally undone by the rallying cry for William and Mary, " a free
Parliament and the Protestant religion! "' With the fall of James
the common contest against Catholicism ended, but hardly had
William and Mary assumed the reins of government ere the ques-
tions of religious toleration and freedom of worship began to be
agitated anew. To attain this end, royal patronage was prostituted
in a manner and for purposes that, even in these days of alleged
corrupt politics, would excite a prodigious cry of condemnation.
The colonial governors in the main were blundering, worn-
out, and incompetent soldiers, or poor and worthless scions
of nobility, whose contempt for the colonists was only equaled by
their ignorance of the country they were sent to govern. As a rule
they allied themselves with the so-called aristocratic party of the
colony — the time-servers of the Crown.

No better illustration of the subserviency of that class to royal
influence can be found than in the address which the House of Rep-
resentatives made April i8, 1691, to Governor Henry Sloughter,
the notorious and contemptible creature who was responsible for
the disgraceful episode, known as the Leisler-Milborne murder.
" In all most humble manner " the representatives " heartily con-
gratulate your Excellency's arrival in this government " that as in
their " hearts we do abhor and detest all the rebellious, arbitrary
and illegal proceedings of the late usurpers; " " so we do from the
bottom of our hearts with all integrity acknowledge and declare,
that there are none that can, or ought, to have right to rule and
govern their majesties' subjects here;" "and therefore we do sol-
emnly declare, that we will with our lives and fortunes, support and

State Historian. g

maintain the administration of your Excellency's government."
One of the laws passed this year, ordained that no person or per-
sons " which profess faith in God, by Jesus Christ, his only sonn,
shall at any time be any wayes, molested, punished, disturbed or
disquieted, or called in question for any difference in opinion or mat-
ter of conscience in Religious Concernment who doe not under that
pretence disturb the civil peace of the province;" that all persons
were entitled to meet freely at convenient places to worship accord-
ing to their respective persuasions "always provided that nothing
herein mentioned or contained shall extend to give Liberty for any
persons of the Romish Religion to exercise their manor of wor-
shipp contrary to the Laws and Statutes of their majesties King-
dom of England." Under the guise that "'prophaneness and Liscen-
tiousness hath of late overspread this province," it was ordered
that " good sufficient " Protestant ministers should officiate in the
city of New York and the counties of Richmond. Westchester and
Queens, and that the cost of maintenance should fall upon the

Captain Richard Ligoldesby, who became involved in the Lcisler
affair, Benjamin Fletcher, who succeeded Sloughter, and Lord Corn-
burv were no improvement over the early type of governor, for
they represented an aggregation of executive incompetency blended
with irrepressible rapacity unequaled in the history of colonial
America. Fletcher and Cornbury surpassed all their predecessors
in their determination to strengthen the Churcli of England in the
province, the former openly advocating the establishment of a dio-
cese in charge of the bishop of London. Discovered in a scheme to
enrich himself by fraudulent practices, and accused of being a part-
ner of pirates on the coast, charges were preferred against him. and
were sustained. As an official Fletcher stretched the patience of
even the debauched home government and he was rccnll-d.

10 Annual Report of the

" The true nursing father of the church," Edward Hyde, Viscount
Cornbury, was preceded to this country by his reputation — that of
a spendthrift and bankrupt. He had squandered his patrimony,
been dunned by his creditors, and hounded by money-lenders until
his cousin, the Queen, Anne — whose father, James H, married the
sister of Cornbury's father — sent him to America to retrieve his
shattered income. The grandson of the notorious Edward Hyde,
the first Earl of Clarendon, chief legal adviser to Charles I, and
Lord Chancellor of England under Charles H, impeached as such
and driven in disgrace from England, Cornbury inherited many vices
and by environment acquired more. He met with as much resist-
ance as his predecessors in his plans to promote the church, but sur-
passed them all in high-handedness. His arbitrary seizure of a Pres-
byterian parsonage at Jamaica, Long Island, and his complacency
in presenting it to the Episcopal church, started the clashes between
the Assembly and the Governor that grew fiercer as time went on
and as the financial exactions shifted from the oppressive to the
tyrannical. Nor was he content to stop here. Personal liberty
was trampled under foot repeatedly by this degenerate son of the
nobility. Two Presbyterian ministers from Virginia had preached
in New York without a license. They were thrown into prison by
order of the Governor. At their trial the judge instructed the jury
to return a special verdict until the law on the subject could be
determined; but the jury, keenly sensitive of the blow that was
struck at the liberty of their countrymen, promptly acquitted the
prisoners. Not satisfied with contracting heavy debts to every
tradesman who would trust him, Cornbury degraded the dignity of
his high position by using its vast resources repeatedly to defy
his creditors. The Assembly had acted most liberally toward
him. He was allowed £i,8oo for the defence of the frontier

State Historian, ii

and a gift of £2,000 to defray the expenses of his voyage, but his un-
checked extravagance finally forced him to embezzle large sums of
money that had been appropriated for public works and for the pro-
tection of the frontier. With these facts publicly known, he threw
the Assembly into a state of panic by spurious intelligence of a con-
templated French invasion, and under this ruse succeeded in filch-
ing £1,500 more of the public money that had been confided to his

When the Assembly remonstrated against his practices, threat-
ened to establish a board to regulate and control public expendi-
tures, and insisted upon scrutinizing his accounts, they were met by
their governor in an angry speech and warned not to provoke him
to exercise " certain powers " which the Queen had vested in him.
He advised them to let him hear less about the rights of the house,
as the house had no rights beyond those permitted through the grace
and good pleasure of her Majesty. The majority of the Assem-
bly — constituting the aristocratic party — which had served him with
unswerving loyalty, he now found opposed to him; and though he
repeatedly dissolved mutinous assemblies, one after another, it was
to find in the end that each succeeding body was more obstinate than
its predecessor. Eventually the Assembly refused point blank to
vote an appropriation for the support of government, until the Gov-
ernor rendered an accounting of his stewardship — the colonists un-
selfishly denying themselves the necessary concomitants of govern-
ment rather than countenance and encourage a corrupt and profli-

Online LibraryCouncil of Appointment of the State of New YorkMilitary minutes of the Council of appointment of the state of New York, 1783-1821 (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 63)