Pierre Van Cortlandt's Constant Leadership
Piggybacking off yesterday’s article, today we look at another long term member of New York’s first Gubernatorial Administration.
Pierre Van Cortlandt was Lieutenant Governor of New York State from 1777-95, almost the entirety of the Founding Period.
Pierre Van Cortlandt
Pierre Van Cortlandt had long been a member of the Colonial Royal Government when disaffected Patriots began turning toward rebellion.
Due to his high status in the community (he owned enormous tracts of land in Upstate New York which employed hundreds of tenant farmers), the British Government attempted to secure his loyalties.
Unfortunately for them, Cortlandt would have none of it. He quickly sided with the Patriots.
Pierre was chosen for all of the New York Provincial Congresses, chairing many of them.
The Provincial Congress delegated much of its responsibility to local Committees of Safety. The New York City Committee of Safety, the colony’s largest, was presided over by Cortlandt.
In this position, he signed all correspondence and was in charge of communicating with other Committees.
After the war began, he exchanged information regularly with General George Washington.
Additionally, he was commissioned as Colonel for the Westchester Militia, who he would lead for four years.
After independence, Cortlandt was submitted as a candidate for Governor.
Oddly enough, George Clinton won for both Governor and Lieutenant Governor. As he could only hold one office, he declined the Lieutenant Governor position and Cortlandt was given it on an interim basis.
The following year, Pierre was officially voted in as Lieutenant Governor. He would hold the position for the next two decades.
During his time as Lieutenant Governor, Cortlandt ran the State on several occasions while Clinton was out fighting the war.
When the fighting came to a halt, Pierre was one of the lucky few who wrote into New York City with George Washington to celebrate the British evacuation.
Later, he would be an important member of the New York Ratification Convention where he supported the Constitution.
Cortlandt also became a Federalist, which is a bit strange as his longtime partner Governor Clinton was one of the leading Anti-Federalists in the nation.
Want more Founders from New York?
OK, here you go:
Revolutionary New York City was an important battleground during the Founding.
‘Battle for New York’ discusses this interesting time and place.
If you’d like a copy you can get one through the Amazon affiliate link below (you’ll support this site, but don’t worry, Amazon pays me while your price stays the same).