Van Rensselaer, Stephen

Van Rensselaer, Stephen,

1764–1839, American political leader and soldier, called the Patroon, b. New York City. He spent some years managing his property, which included most of the present-day Albany and Rensselaer counties of New York state, before entering politics. An ardent Federalist, he served in the state assembly (1789–90, 1808–10), in the state senate (1790–95), as lieutenant governor (1795–1801), and as a congressman (1822–29). His unexpected vote (1825) in the House of Representatives for John Quincy AdamsAdams, John Quincy,
1767–1848, 6th President of the United States (1825–29), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass.; son of John Adams and Abigail Adams and father of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86).
..... Click the link for more information.
 for president, instead of William H. CrawfordCrawford, William Harris,
1772–1834, American statesman, b. Amherst co., Va. (his birthplace is now in Nelson co.). He moved with his parents to South Carolina and later to Georgia. After studying law he practiced at Lexington, Va.
..... Click the link for more information.
, to whom his vote was committed, secured Adams's election. He was a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1801, a member of the New York state commission that recommended (1811) building the Erie CanalErie Canal,
artificial waterway, c.360 mi (580 km) long; connecting New York City with the Great Lakes via the Hudson River. Locks were built to overcome the 571-ft (174-m) difference between the level of the river and that of Lake Erie.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and president (1825–39) of the canal commission. As major general in the state militia during the War of 1812, he commanded troops along the northern frontier and was badly defeated in an attack on QueenstonQueenston,
village, S Ont., Canada, just N of Niagara Falls. There the British defeated American invaders in the battle of Queenston Heights (Oct. 13, 1812) in the War of 1812. The British commanding general, Sir Isaac Brock, was killed in the fighting.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in Canada; he thereupon resigned his command. Van Rensselaer founded (1824) a technical school at Troy, N.Y., which later (1826) was incorporated as Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteRensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
at Troy, N.Y.; coeducational; founded and opened 1824 as Rensselaer School; chartered 1826. It was called Rensselaer Institute from 1837 to 1861.
..... Click the link for more information.


See biography by W. B. Fink (1950).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Van Rensselaer, Stephen

(1764–1839) public official, soldier, philanthropist; born in New York City. Having inherited his father's vast upstate New York estate, he was the last of the fully empowered Dutch patroons and, being independently wealthy, was free to devote himself to public service. From 1789 to 1798 he held various state offices—in the legislature and senate and as lieutenant governor; he was a member of the state's constitutional conventions (1801, 1821); and he was active in advancing the construction of the Erie Canal. He became a major general in the New York State militia, and during the War of 1812 he led the disastrous attack on Queenston Heights, Ontario, He was a regent of the University of the State of New York (1819–39), set up the first state agricultural board, and personally paid for the state's first geological survey. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives (Fed., N.Y.; 1822–29) and when the presidential election of 1824 came to the House he cast the deciding vote for John Quincy Adams. In 1824 he founded the school that became the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.) and donated to various other educational institutions.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.