Varick, Richard

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Varick, Richard

VARICK, RICHARD. (1753–1831). Continental officer. New York. Born in Hackensack, New Jersey, on 25 March 1753, Varick studied law in New York City, establishing a practice with John Morin Scott just as the Revolution started. On 28 June 1775 he was made captain in the First New York Regiment, becoming military secretary to General Schuyler the following month and gaining a reputation for efficiency in adverse situations. On 25 September he was made deputy muster master general of the Northern army, and on 10 April 1777, following the reorganization of the Muster Department, he became lieutenant colonel and deputy commissary of musters, a position he held until June 1780, when the department was terminated.

In August 1780 he became aide-de-camp to General Arnold at West Point, Varick having become a friend and supporter of Arnold during the Saratoga campaign. Both Varick and the other aide, Franks, soon became uneasy about their general's activities as the new commander of West Point, but they thought that he was engaged in nothing more dishonorable than profiteering. Duped not only by his chief but also by the latter's lovely young wife, Colonel Varick was cleared by a court of inquiry that met on 2 November 1780 at West Point. He nevertheless remained under some suspicion, and although he wished to remain in the army, he was left without military employment. In May 1781 he was selected by Washington as his confidential secretary to supervise a staff of writers in the arrangement, classification, and copying of all the correspondence and other papers of the Continental army located at Washington's headquarters. This helped to restore Varick's reputation. Establishing his office at Poughkeepsie, Varick and his assistants spent more than two years in compiling the forty-four folio volumes known as the Varick Transcripts, later deposited in the Library of Congress and of great value to historians.

In 1784 Varick became the recorder of New York City. With Samuel Jones he codified New York State's statutes enacted since the Revolution in Laws of the State of New York (2 vols., 1789). Speaker of the New York assembly in 1787–1788, attorney general in 1788–1789, he then served as mayor from 1789 until 1801, when Aaron Burr's new machine swept the Federalists out of power. A founder of the American Bible Society, he was its president from 1828 until his death in Jersey City, New Jersey, on 30 July 1831.

SEE ALSO Arnold's Treason; Burr, Aaron.


Rommel, John G., Jr. "Richard Varick: New York Aristocrat." Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1966.

                              revised by Michael Bellesiles