| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
HOW A GERMAN RULED NEW YORK
 WHEN Sir Edmund Andros came to America, he had been made Governor
of New York as well as of all New England. And while Massachusetts
was having its revolution upon the accession of William and Mary
there were exciting times in New York also. When the news of the
imprisonment of Andros reached New York there was great agitation.
Almost at the same time came the news that the French had
declared war on England, which added to the people's excitement.
For they suspected Nicholson, whom Andros had left in charge as
Lieutenant-Governor, of being a Catholic; and a quite groundless
idea got about that he meant to betray the colony into the hands
of the French, or burn it to the ground.
There were very few Catholics in New York, and the Protestants had
little need to fear them. But many of the Protestants were filled
with a burning zeal for their faith, and of these Jacob Leisler,
an honest, ignorant German, now became the leader. He refused to
pay a tax because the tax collector was a "Papist," and therefore
no fit person to receive the money. Other people followed his
example, and day by day excitement grew.
At length Leisler was at the head of a great following. He got
command of the fort, and drew up a declaration which he forced
the captain of the militia and others to sign. In this he declared
that the city was in danger, and that he would take possession of
it until King William should appoint a Governor. Nicholson had no
 could not stand against a bold blusterer like Leisler,
so he ran away. He went home "to render an account of the present
deplorable state of affairs" to King William. But in order that
Nicholson should not have it all his own way at home Leisler on
his side sent an innkeeper, Joost Stoll, as his ambassador to King
William to explain matters from his point of view.
Leisler now became very autocratic. He called himself Lieutenant-Governor,
he disarmed and arrested all the "Papists," and every one was a
"Papist" who did not yield readily to him. He had enormous power in
his hands for good or evil, but he was far too ignorant and vain
to use it well. Indeed he used it so badly that even some of the
men who had hailed him with delight turned against him.
Leisler by many signs knew his popularity was failing. Then
his friend, the innkeeper, returned from England with the doleful
news that King William had taken not the slightest notice of him.
The King indeed would not deign to recognise the existence of the
upstart German "governor," and had appointed a new Governor who
would shortly arrive in New York.
This was bad news for Leisler, and it seemed to drive him crazy.
He grew more and more tyrannical. At length his tyranny became so
bad that many of the chief people of New York wrote a letter to
the King and Queen complaining of it.
In this letter they told the King and Queen that they were sore
oppressed by "ill men" who ruled in New York "by the sword, at the
sole will of an insolent alien, assisted by some few, whom we can
give no better name than a rabble." From other parts of the colony
too letters were written calling Leisler a bold usurper, and begging
the King to do something "to break this heavy yoke of worse than
 Nor did the people confine themselves to writing letters. Leisler
found himself insulted at every turn. He was mobbed, and stoned,
and called "Dog Driver," "General Hog" and other ugly names.
Meanwhile on the stormy seas the ships bringing out the new Governor
and Lieutenant-Governor were being tossed hither and thither. The
waves dashed high, the wind drove the ships helplessly before it,
and the Archangel, which bore the Governor was separated from the
others, and driven far out of its course. Thus it happened that
Ingoldsby, the Lieutenant-Governor, arrived in New York without the
Governor. However he sent to Leisler asking him to allow the soldiers
he had brought to enter the fort. This request made Leisler very
angry. He refused to allow the soldiers to enter the fort unless
Ingoldsby showed him orders in writing either from the King or
This Ingoldsby could not do, for all the orders were in the
Governor's ship, and where that was he could not tell. And finding
that Leisler would yield to no reasoning, after four days he landed
his men with as much care as if he had been making a descent into
an enemy's country, and lodged them in the town hall.
So six weeks passed. Ingoldsby was determined to stay, Leisler just
as determined that he should go. At length Leisler sent Ingoldsby
a notice to disband his force in two hours, or take the consequences.
Ingoldsby refused to disband his force. So from the fort Leisler
fired upon the soldiers in the town hall, and several were killed.
More trouble seemed likely to follow, but some of Leisler's soldiers
had already had enough, so they laid down their arms and went home.
Next day Governor Sloughter arrived. Hearing of all the commotion
he landed hastily, and going to the town hall ordered the bell to
be rung, and his commission to be read to the people.
 Then he sent Ingoldsby to demand the surrender of the fort.
But Leisler was by this time crazy with the idea of his own importance.
He refused to give up the fort until he received orders from the
King direct, addressed to his very own self. This was absurd, for
the King was hardly conscious of Leisler's existence. The Governor
therefore paid no attention to these proud demands, and sent
Ingoldsby again to demand possession of the fort.
Again Leisler refused. It could not be done so easily as all that,
Still a third time the Governor demanded the fort. And again with
scorn Leisler refused.
It was now nearly midnight, and the Governor decided to do nothing
more till morning.
With morning reason seemed to return to Leisler. He wrote a letter
to the Governor begging him to take the fort. But the Governor
took no notice of the letter. He simply sent Ingoldsby to command
the garrison to give up their arms and march out, promising at the
same time free pardon to every one except Leisler and his Council.
The men obeyed at once. They marched out and Leisler found himself
For two years he had lorded it in New York. Now his day was done.
After a short trial he and his friend and son-in-law Milborne were
condemned to death, and hanged as traitors.
At the time many applauded this severity, but afterwards most people
were sorry. For after all Leisler had meant well, and in spite of
his arrogance he had still many friends left. He was now looked
upon as a martyr, and for many a long day New York was torn asunder
with bitter strife over his tragic ending.
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