Duer, William

Duer, William

(do͞o`ər, dyo͞o`–), 1747–99, political leader in the American Revolution and financier, b. Devonshire, England. He served for a time as aide-de-camp to Robert Clive in India, afterward spending some time in the West Indies looking after his father's estates. In 1768 he moved to New York and, having received a contract to supply the royal navy with masts, purchased a tract of timberland above Saratoga on the Hudson. He built a mansion, erected mills, and became a gentleman of influence. Elected (1775) to New York's provincial congress, he served prominently in the state constitutional convention and acted on the Committee of Public Safety. From Mar., 1777, until Jan., 1779, he was a delegate to the Continental Congress. During the American Revolution he was one of the largest contractors supplying the Continental army. From 1786 to 1789 he was secretary of the Board of the Treasury, and after the Dept. of the Treasury was organized (1789) he became Assistant Secretary under Alexander Hamilton. Duer aided Manasseh Cutler in securing the land grant for the Ohio Company of AssociatesOhio Company of Associates,
organization for the purchase and settlement of lands on the Ohio River, founded at Boston in 1786. Its organizers were a group of New England men, most of them former American Revolutionary army officers. In July, 1787, one of the directors, Dr.
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. A speculator with great holdings, Duer was probably second only to Robert Morris as a financier of the period. His multifold plans did not succeed, however; the government sued him for certain irregularities involved in his work with the Treasury Dept. He was imprisoned for debt, and his ruin is supposed to have helped create the Panic of 1792. Except for a brief period, he spent the rest of his life in prison.

Bibliography

See J. S. Davis, Essays in the Earlier History of American Corporations (1917, repr. 1965).

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Duer, William

(1747–99) merchant, financier; born in Devonshire, England. He came to New York City in 1773–74 and quickly became an ardent patriot and prosperous merchant. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress (1777–79) and thwarted the Conway Cabal conspiracy in 1778. He was briefly assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury (1789–90). Often involved in financial and land speculations, he was imprisoned for debt (1792–99, except for a short period in 1797), an event that brought about the first financial panic in New York's history.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.