Marriage of Jacob Milborne and Mary Leisler 1691 Part II

MARRIED_February 3, 1691, Jacob Milborne to Mary Leisler.

The population of New York had not the same common bonds of feeling and interest which united those of New England, but, on the contrary, was composed of divers nationalities, the Dutch being in the ascendant in point of numbers. The province had been conquered by the English in 1664, and some remains of national jealousy still existed. But probably as serious a cause of discontent as any which existed was the exacting character of the colonial government. The greedy officials who represented the royal proprietor were rapacious and unscrupulous, nor were the masses of the Dutch people any the more reconciled to the government from the fact that many of their own leading merchants followed the fashions of the provincial court, and sought or bought the lucrative offices which were so much the object of popular enmity. The jurisdiction of this English Governor Andros (the same who was then locked up in Boston) also extended to New York, and he had divided his period of residence between the different sections, leaving a lieutenant governor to officiate during his absence in either part of his government. The members of his council were drawn from various parts of New England and New York. Those of the latter province were three in number, all merchants and all of Dutch descent. They, as was natural, sustained the power from which their greatness arose, and were not enthusiastic in believing in the permanency of the change of dynasty in the mother country, although in point of principle and religious education they could not avow themselves in opposition to it, so long, at least, as it was not certain to meet with defeat. So that, to sum up the situation in New York at the time of the seizure of the governor in Boston, we find the Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson exercising the executive authority, sustained by the three New York members of the council—Bayard, Van Cortland, and Philipse, as well as by all the subordinate magistracy which received appointment from government, and also by a few persons of English descent and of cavalier principles. This party was called by their opponents " the grandees ;" while, as to their political position, they were in a state of doubt and hesitancy, they were decided on one point, which was to retain their hold on official power to the last extremity. On the other hand, the rumbling that precedes the storm was plainly heard in the body politic ; the old Cromwellian fever stirred up some of the English ; while the Dutch, glow to move, began to deliberate and prepare for events of importance.

Revolutionary movements were first initiated in the English towns on Long Island. Magistrates were deposed, and the people marched toward New York to take possession of the fort and maintain it on behalf of their Protestant majesties King William and Queen Mary against the deposed King James and his ally the King of France. It was argued that New York having been the property of the ex-king when Duke of York, he would naturally wish to recover it, and that, with the neighboring French province of Canada on the borders to assist invasion, an assault could be made on the city of New York with every prospect of conquest, especially as the fort was in a poor condition. The revolutionists arrived at Jamaica, having recruited on their way to the number of eighty, a force which was thought to be sufficient to capture the city of New York at that time, as there were not over fifty soldiers in the fort, and a popular support was expected to be freely given by the inhabitants of the city.

In this emergency the officials in the city were assembled in council, and the revolutionary leaders were prevailed upon to send their captain to hold a conference. The assembly thus organized was called " The Convention," at which all classes of the people were represented. The most important result of its negotiations was the consent obtained from the lieutenant-governor, that the militia companies of the city and its vicinity, five in number, and embracing about five hundred men, should hold guard in the fort by turns, and meanwhile that the whole population should aid in repairing the fort and walls of the city. Whereupon the insurgents, expressing themselves satisfied, returned home, though many persons thought it would have been better to have followed the plan of the eastern colonies and ousted all the officers of the old King James, who were certainly, it was argued, little to be depended upon as leaders in case of actual invasion by the forces of the ex-king, or of his friend and ally the King of France.

The suspicions against the lieutenant-governor and his party were no doubt exaggerated by their opponents, for it is found that Nicholson at that time had openly acknowledged the reigning power in Great Britain, and had written to the king and queen setting forth the troubled condition of the province, and urging the speedy establishment of a government of their majesties' choice. This was looked upon by the opposite party as a bid for power, and served but little to mollify the extreme height to which mutual
jealousy had arisen.

But a short time elapsed before the spark fell which was to light up the fire of the revolution. The government soldiers and the militia did not agree well in the fort. Report was made to the lieutenant-governor by his orderly that the corporal of the militia company insisted upon placing a sentry on guard at a certain sally-port without order from the government officer of the fort. Whereupon the lieutenant-governor having sent for the militia officer treated him with some personal indignity, showing his pistols, and saying in his passion that he would rather see the town set on fire than submit to the pretensions of the militia. That night was passed in turmoil throughout the town, and it was obvious the next morning that the days of the existing administration were numbered. The convention met in the afternoon, and was interrupted by the march of armed troops, who came to demand the formal surrender of the fort and the transfer of the keys, which demand, after due exhibition of force to excuse the official for the relinquishment of his trust, was complied with, and the lieutenant-governor, thus deprived of his government, and, moreover, threatened with more serious results to his person, secretly made his way out of the country and departed for England.

The people having thus taken into their own hands the administration of affairs, it seemed a necessity, from the uncertainty of the time of action of the home government on colonial matters, that some form of government should be established. Accordingly, in the early part of the summer of 1689, a committee of safety was elected by different parts of the province (although some parts refused to co-operate), and Jacob Leisler received the general support as temporary commander-in-chief of the province.

Leisler being thus seated in the place of power was scouted at by his opponents as a usurper, and threats of an uprising to unseat him were freely made. It then became evident that the whole province was to become the scene of contention. The old fires were rekindled, and the parties began to marshal themselves under their respective leaders.

But the weakness of Leisler's adversaries in point of numbers was apparent, as was evinced on occasion of an alarm arising from the suspected approach of Governor Andros, who had escaped from the Boston prison. The people being required to declare themselves, about five hundred men signed to support Leisler, which was estimated to be three-fourths of the number of citizens in the city and vicinity. But, though outnumbered, the opposite faction was not overawed. They affected to despise Leisler's rabble, as they called them, and under the lead of some of the members of the late government council attempted to maintain themselves in the places of government. Especially the possession of the custom-house was the object of contention, and occasioned violent scenes, the result of which was that the grandees were driven from the city.

Three months having passed in this manner, in the early part of August, 1689, Jacob Milborne arrived in this city from Europe, having abandoned his business operations there to lend a helping hand to his friend who had thus obtained the helm of government. On his arrival, he was at once appointed Secretary to the Committee of Safety, and it may be said that he became practically the guiding spirit of the party to which he was attached.

We have previously mentioned that in May Lieutenant-Governor Nicholson had dispatched a message to the home government, setting forth the distracted state of the province, and asking that orders for a settlement be speedily sent. The same messenger who had carried the letter returned with the answer as follows: " To our trusty and well-beloved Captain Francis Nicholson, our Lieutenant-Governor and Commander-in-Chief of our Province of New York in America, or, in his absence, to such as for the time
being do take care for the keeping of the peace and administering the laws of our said Province of New York in America." It authorized the person to whom it was addressed to act as lieutenant-governor and carry on the government until further orders. At the time the letter was written, the retirement of Nicholson from the province was unknown to the home authorities, and it certainly could not have been intended to establish Leisler in authority. But, nevertheless, this interpretation was, after due deliberation, given to it, and having assumed the title of Lieutenant-Governor, Leisler appointed his associates in the Council of Government. Probably the better reasoning would have been to regard the authority conveyed by the mission to be inoperative, as the person for whom it was intended was an absentee. This construction would still have left Leisler with the same power he before possessed without the seeming arrogance of seeking that which it was never designed to be bestowed upon him. There is this, however, to be said favorable to the assumption of Leisler, that the entire community were awaiting with anxiety a final settlement of the succession to the government, and even Leis'.er's appointment would have been received by the majority of his opponents with satisfaction. This was shown by the conduct of Mr. Philipse, the associate of Bayard and Van Cortland in the former council, who recognized Leisler's assumed authority, and thus, by his example, did his party, as his late associates complained, " irreparable injury."


Website: The History
Article Name: Marriage of Jacob Milborne and Mary Leisler 1691 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From My Collection of Books: Manual of the Corporation of the City of New York; Joseph Shannon 1869
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