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Leisler’s Rebellion

Leislers Rebellion


Insurrection. After James II was forced to leave the throne in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Massachusetts overthrew the royal governor in charge of the Dominion of New England, and Dutch New Yorkers soon followed suit. The rebellious New Yorkers named a Dutch merchant, Jacob Leisler, to take charge of the province. He established control but in the process alienated the powerful English merchant families of the colony. Though Leislers supporters were overwhelmingly Dutch, they had no desire to reinstate Dutch rule, only to alter the government under the recently created Dominion of New England. When the newly appointed governor arrived one evening in March 1691, Leisler refused to surrender the fort at New York City to him because it was after dark. His delay made him more vulnerable to the charge of treason, and a brief skirmish ensued. The next morning he turned the fort over to Gov. Henry Sloughter, who in turn had Leisler and nine others arrested for treason.

Trials. The Dutch leaders in the colony had miscalculated badly, and their trials demonstrated the difficulty of facing English criminal proceedings. The accused did not fully understand the intricacies of English legal procedure, and their opponents were after revenge. Two men were acquitted; six more were convicted, but later they were reprieved and pardoned. Leisler and his son-in-law, Englishman Jacob Milborne, were not so lucky. They refused to answer the charges, considering them without legal foundation. Leislers domineering ways had weakened his support in preceding months, and those whom he had arrested while in command desired that he be punished. The jury was packed with men opposed to the Leisler faction, and Leisler and Milborne were convicted and, despite popular protest, executed.

Results. The executions did not end the matter. The anti-Leisler faction proceeded to seize the land of many Leisler supporters, a practice halted in 1695 by Parliament, which also reversed the convictions. But the passionate hatred among the surviving leaders of the two factions lingered, influencing New York politics for another twenty-five years.


The order of execution for Jacob Leisler and Jacob Milborne called for them to be drawn and quartered, the ancient punishment reserved for rebels and traitors. Accordingly, they were to be hanged by their necks and being alive their bodys Cutt downe to the Earth and Their Bowells be taken out and they being Alive, burnt before their faces; that their heads shall be struck off and their Bodys Cutt in four parts. Both men met their fate in early 1691, but their bodies did not receive proper burial until 1710.

Source: Peter Charles Hoffer, Law and People in Colonial America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).


Peter Charles Hoffer, Law and People in Colonial America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992);

Michael Kämmen, Colonial New York: A History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).

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