The Duke's Province: A Study of New York Politics and Society, 1664-1691

By Robert C. Ritchie | Go to book overview

8 The Reassertion of Central Authority: The Dongan Administration

The establishment of the assembly and the passage of the Charter of Libertyes fueled hopes for the future of representative government. Sessions in 1684 and 1685 wrote legislation on issues such as public morals and legal technicalities, building experience and reputation for the representatives. 1 The activities of the assembly promised to broaden the political base in New York, creating the potential for an expansion of the political elite beyond the small group of government officials and New York merchants clustered around the governor. Yet, these hopes for progress were diminished after 1683 with the reversal of the assembly's work in England and the increasing dominance of Thomas Dongan.


Restructuring the Government

Dongan's administration preserved aspects of the old regime while carrying out important changes. The continuity was most noticeable in the composition of the council. York ordered him to continue Philipse and Van Cortlandt and choose eight new members and allow the council "freedom of debates and vote in all affaires of publique concerne." 2 The addition of Lewis Morris, Nicholas Bayard, and John Palmer strengthened the merchant faction. Career officials such as John Spragge (the secretary), Lucas Santen (the collector), James Graham (the attorney general), and two officers from the garrison, Anthony Brockholls and Captain Jervais Baxter, created a solid bloc for the government. Palmer, who held a number of legal offices, was also a member of this group. The single exception to the

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