Leisler, Jacob

Leisler, Jacob

(līs`lər), 1640–91, leader of an insurrection (1689–91) in colonial New York, b. Frankfurt, Germany. He immigrated to America in 1660 as a penniless soldier, married a wealthy widow, and became a trader in New York. The overthrow (1688) of the Roman Catholic James II and accession of William III and Mary II in England caused uprisings in the colonies, where many royal officials were suspected of being Roman Catholics, and fear of a Catholic French invasion prevailed. Leisler, a Protestant champion, in 1689 gained control of S New York with the aid of militia, proclaimed the new sovereigns, and was appointed commander in chief by his followers. The lieutenant governor, Francis NicholsonNicholson, Francis,
1655–1728, British colonial administrator in North America. Lieutenant governor under Sir Edmund Andros, he fled (1689) to England during the revolt in New York led by Jacob Leisler.
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, fled the country and Leisler assumed his office upon seizure of letters from King William that he interpreted as authorization. The council at Albany eventually recognized his authority, although he was bitterly opposed by the rich and aristocratic faction. Leisler maintained power through military force and the suppression of opposition. Meanwhile, William commissioned Col. Henry Sloughter as governor, and troops were dispatched to New York under Major Richard Ingoldesby, who, arriving early in 1691, sided with the faction opposed to Leisler and demanded the surrender of the fort on Manhattan island. Leisler refused, and fighting broke out. On the arrival of Sloughter, Leisler surrendered, was tried as a traitor, and was hanged in May, 1691. Parliament, in 1695, on petition of the Leisler family, passed an act reversing the attainder and later voted an indemnity to his heirs.

Bibliography

See H. L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century, Vol. III (1907, repr. 1957); J. Reich, Leisler's Rebellion (1953).

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Leisler, Jacob

(1640–91) colonial leader; born in Frankfurt, Germany. He led a rebellion in New York City during the period following the Glorious Revolution in England (1689–91). As the unofficial chief executive of New York, he called the first intercolonial congress in 1690 to oppose possible French incursions. Following the arrival of English soldiers in 1691, he was tried, convicted of treason, and hanged.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.