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Rip Van Dam

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Title: Rip Van Dam  
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Subject: West Side Historic District (Saratoga Springs, New York), 1660s births, 1749 deaths, People from Albany, New York
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Rip Van Dam

Rip Van Dam
Portrait from c. 1720
23ºcolonial governors of Province of New York
In office
Preceded by John Montgomerie
Succeeded by William Cosby
Personal details
Born c.1660
Beverwyck, Albany, New York
Died 10 June 1749
New York City
Political party republican liberal
Profession acting governor
Religion Christian

Rip Van Dam (c.1660 – 10 June 1749) was the acting governor of the Province of New York from 1731 to 1732. As one of the leaders of the republican liberal (or "country") party, Van Dam confronted the subsequent royal governor William Cosby.


  • Early life 1
  • Merchant of New York 2
  • Politician 3
    • Councilman of the Royal Governor 3.1
    • Acting Governor 3.2
  • Against the new Royal Governor 4
    • The Successor 4.1
  • Death 5
  • Sources 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Rip Van Dam was born, about 1660, at Beverwyck, Albany, New York, where he was raised. His father was Claes Ripse Van Dam, a middle class local socialite who traded through his carpentry business and operated as a contractor. By him, Van Dam was related to the Dutch Church of Albany. Van Dam's mother was named Maria Bords.

Merchant of New York

In Albany, Van Dam was employed since his adolescence by Robert Story, a businessman of Manhattan, New York City, who was trading around. Subsequently, Van Dam was sent to New York, to study business management earnestly, and he became a prominent merchant, running his own business. Van Dam was married, in 1684, to Sarah Van Der Spiegle of New York, begetting 9 children at least.


During the royal governance of Lord Bellomont, Van Dam resisted his enforcement of the Navigation Acts and Bellomont reacted by confiscating some of Van Dam's vessels, alleging violations of those acts. By such struggle, Van Dam became engaged into politics. In 1699, Van Dam was elected to represent New York City in the Province of New York Assembly in Albany, and he became the opposition leader.

Councilman of the Royal Governor

Van Dam rallied those merchants who had been affected by Bellomont's restrictions and together they issued a complaint to King William III. Effectively, in response, the new royal governor Lord Cornbury removed some councilmen, in 1701, accusing them with promotion of political disorder. Into one of the vacancies of councilman, Van Dam was appointed instead, in 1702. Indeed, it was uncommon that a native of Albany became a member of the governor's council as it was an office which was usually reserved for prominent noble figures and wealthy New Yorkers. It functioned in New York City.

Van Dam served as a councilman for 30 years. As a councilman's rank was determined by the length of his tenure, eventually Van Dam reached the presidency of the council as the oldest member and, often, he represented the royal governor. For instance, Van Dam travelled annually to Albany, to renew the English-Iroquoian alliance on the governor's behalf.

Acting Governor

After the royal governor John Montgomerie's death in 1731, Van Dam, who was the council president, was appointed acting governor of New York Province.

Against the new Royal Governor

By opposing the Molasses act, Van Dam was rewarded, receiving 1,000 pounds by the assembly. Besides, the assembly had disposed a bill through which the liberal institutions of New York got much money. In April 1732, the designated royal governor William Cosby arrived. Disliking such liberal manoeuvres, Cosby decided that Van Dam should restore half of his salary of interim governor. Van Dam durst replying that, before he might comply for such demands, Cosby should return the privilege fortunes, which were being defalcated out of the English treasury for fake provincial expenditures, by Cosby since his appointment. Cosby assumed in August 1732 but Van Dam refused to take his corresponding oath of councilman.

Cosby was enraged by Van Dam's stubbornness so he filed a lawsuit against him to despoil the half of his acting governor salary. Van Dam was processed through a chancery court (with neither a jury nor a faithful following of the law texts) whereas his defence was taken by William Smith and James Alexander. The court of chancery was quite unpopular amongst the New Yorkers. Nonetheless, it was upheld although one of the three Supreme Court judges, the Chief Justice Lewis Morris, voted against it, in 1733, arguing the illegality of such type of chambers of justice. Despite his judicial victory, Cosby reacted so Van Dam was dismissdismissed off the governor council and Morris was ousted. Nonetheless, Morris' liberal party won the elections in that same year, against the royal party.

In 1734, Van Dam's Heads of Articles of Complaint Against governor Cosby was published, at Boston, Massachusetts. Under the appellative of The Morrisites, the liberal party of New York aligned for Van Dam's claims, with his active participation. Oppositely, the royal loyalists, The Court Party, stood with Cosby.

John Peter Zenger's aggressively liberal New York Weekly Journal newspaper, of which Van Dam had been a founder (1733), used the Van Dam case much in its every day crusade of free government. Usually, like the other liberal figures of New York, Van Dam wrote unsigned articles which were published by Zenger. In 1734, Cosby burned piles of the publication, prosecuting Zenger in the historical Zenger's trial of 1735.

The Successor

Usually, Van Dam was absent, off the regular sessions of the governor's council. By this reason, Van Dam was suspended by Cosby, who issued this secret order during his deathbed.

Thus, Van Dam didn't assume the New York governorship after Cosby's decease (1736). Instead, the corresponding councilman James DeLancey and his adherents were ready to use the weapons to defend Van Dam's claim. Nonetheless, the conflict ended because, from London, several communiques endorsed Clarke's interim governorship.


Van Dam filed his will in 1746, detailing his own estate extensively. He died in New York city, in 10 June 1749.


External links

  • Rip Van Dam – New York State Museum
  • Works by or about Rip Van Dam in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
Government offices
Preceded by
John Montgomerie
Governor of the Province of New York (acting)
Succeeded by
William Cosby
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