Colonial Rule Was Oppressive

Footnotes to Long Island History

Colonial Rule Was Oppressive



Thomas R. Bayles


         Francis Lovelace succeeded Richard Nicolls as governor in 1667, and ordered a special levy of taxes upon the towns of Long Island to raise funds to repair the for at New York.  The east-end towns agreed to this, provided they were allowed the right of representation in the legislature, “but not otherwise.” 

          The towns of Jamaica, Huntington and Hempstead refused to submit to this order because they were denied a voice in the government they were called upon to support.  In this refusal, we see the first fruits of that spirit of desperate resistance against “taxation without representation,” which a little more than a hundred years later, culminated in the war for independence.

          It was in keeping with his views on the subject of holding the people in submission, as expressed by Governor Lovelace in a letter to a friend, by imposing “such taxes on them as may not give them liberty to entertain any other thoughts, but how to discharge them.”

          ---Return of the Dutch

          The rule of Governor Lovelace was brought to an unexpected end by the surrender of the colony to its former masters, the Dutch.  While England was engaged in war with Holland, the latter sent out two small squadrons to destroy the commerce of the West Indies.  This was accomplished with brilliant success, and they then turned their attention to the recapture of the former Dutch possessions in America.  Arriving at Sandy Hook on July 30, 1673, they demanded the surrender of the fort and colony, which was yielded without opposition.

          Anthony Colve, who was appointed governor of the colony, commenced the work of forcing the people to submit to his authority.  This was an easy matter in the towns which had been under the Dutch before, but with the towns of the east riding it was quite different.  After modifying the conditions, Huntington and Brookhaven submitted, but Southold, Southampton and Easthampton rejected all attempts at compromise.

          The sent deputies to Connecticut to obtain protection against the Dutch, and the three towns were organized into a county under the protection of Connecticut.

          In the autumn of 1673, the Dutch governor sent three deputies to three towns to induce them to submit.  They sailed down the Sound and visited Southold and Shelter Island and found the people armed and assembled for resistance, so their errand was a fruitless one.  The Dutch were so enraged that they threatened to send an armed force to the east end.  Connecticut sent troops to the assistance of the east end towns, and although the Dutch mad several attempts to gain a foothold, they were firmly repulsed.

          ---Peace Declared

          In February 1674, peace was declared between the mother countries, so it was clear that Long Island would be restored to the English authority.  On June 29, 1674, the Duke of York obtained from the King a new patent for the province of New York, and soon after appointed Edmund Andros governor of the colony.  The new governor arrived on October 31, and at once set about reinstating the Duke’s government.

          This was simply a repetition of the former despotism, and in 1682, a meeting of delegates from some of the towns was held to devise some means of obtaining relief from the intolerable conditions which existed.  Five of the residents of Huntington who attended this meeting were arrested at the governor’s order, and imprisoned without charge or trial.  The unlimited power of the governor was exhibited by several other similar instances.

          About this time, the governor was impelled, either by a compassionate regard for the feelings of the people, but more likely through fear of a general uprising, to give heed to the demands of the people.  the subject seems to have been referred to the Duke, who appointed Col. Thomas Dongan as governor, and he took the position on August 27, 1683, with instructions from the Duke to call a general assembly of the people’s representatives.

          The first assembly of the colony of New York was accordingly held on October 17, 1683.  This assembly adopted a bill of rights, repealed some of the more obnoxious of the Duke’s laws, altered and amended others, and passed such laws as they judged the colony required.

          ---Counties Formed

          At this session, an act was passed abolishing the ridings, and organizing in their place the counties of Kings, Queens and Suffolk, and five others within the province.  In October, the same assembly met again and the court of assize was abolished, among other acts.

          Charles II, King of England, died February 6, 1685, and the throne was taken by his brother, Duke of York, under the title of James II.  He abolished the colonial assembly of New York, and established the governor as its supreme head, subject to such instructions as the King himself might issue.  this was the end of the people’s voice in legislation.

          By the accession of the Duke of York to the throne, all the colonies of New England came under his power, and he appointed Sir Edmund Andros governor over the whole, including New York.  On July 28, 1688, Gov. Dungan received orders to deliver the seal of the province to Andros.  He appointed Francis Nicholson over New York, and went himself to Boston.

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