Leisler, Jacob

Leisler, Jacob līsˈlər [key], 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 Nicholson, 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.

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

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies