Dongan Charters

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DONGAN CHARTERS. Thomas Dongan, as governor of New York (1682–1688), oversaw the adoption of several city charters, the most significant of which were granted to New York City and Albany. New York City had already received a charter providing for city government from Sir Richard Nicolls in 1665. Dongan, however, created a more formal government with his 1684 charter, which divided the city into the five inner wards of South, Dock, East, West, and North, and an outer ward. Each ward had the privilege of electing assessors and constables, as well as an assistant and an alderman. The assistants, aldermen, city recorder, and mayor formed the common council, which had the power to make and enforce laws but not to tax. In 1686 Dongan approved a charter of incorporation for Albany, providing for a city government similar to that of New York City. The royal governor appointed mayors in both New York and Albany.

New York City's privileges as a corporation were reconfirmed in 1731 with the Montgomerie Charter, but were lost with the British occupation in 1776 when a military government was established. After the war, charter government resumed in New York City and Albany, with only property-owning freeholders and freemen permitted to vote for members of the common council. This policy persisted until 1804, when the state legislature passed a reform bill that extended the vote for common council members to people who paid rent. The direct election of mayors was instituted in 1833.


Kammen, Michael. Colonial New York: A History. 2d ed. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. The original edition was published in 1975.

Kim, Sung Bok. Landlord and Tenant in Colonial New York: Manorial Society, 1664–1775. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1978.

Ritchie, Robert C. The Duke's Province: A Study of New York Politics and Society, 1664–1691. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977.

Smith, William, Jr. The History of the Province of New York. 2 vols. Reprint, edited by Michael Kammen. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 1972. The original edition was published in 1757.

Mary LouLustig

See alsoColonial Charters .