Colonial New England
Colonial New England

Jacob Leisler in Colonial New England

Jacob Leisler (1640-1691) was a German immigrant who led an insurrection against local colonial officials from 1689 to 1691 in colonial New York. A penniless soldier, he shared in the widespread colonial resentment of colonial officials, particularly those appointed by Stuart King James II and thus suspected of being Roman Catholics.

Upon receiving word of the Glorious Revolution in England, many colonists rebelled against the deposed king's colonial officials. Leisler and his militia managed to gain control of southern New York, proclaiming William and Mary as the new sovereigns, and appointing Leisler commander in chief. Though the wealthy viewed his rise as populism run amok, small farmers and city workers actively supported his rule by military force. When King William sent troops under Major Richard Ingolesby in 1691, Leisler refused to recognize Ingoldesby's authority, and fighting soon broke out. New governor Henry Sloughter arrived thereafter, and Leisler surrendered. He and his son-in-law were tried, convicted of treason and hanged in May 1691. The lingering Leisler/anti-Leisler divide consumed New York politics for generations. Four years after their executions, Parliament retroactively exonerated Leisler and his son-in-law of all charges.

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