New York: A Middle Colony
The English took control of the settlement of New Netherland in 1664. The English renamed the colony New York in honor of its new proprietor (owner), James, the Duke of York. The duke gave huge chunks of his colony to two friends, Sir George Carteret and Lord John Berkeley, who then established the colony of New Jersey to the south of New York.
The duke also awarded large estates along the Hudson River to wealthy Englishmen. The new landowners charged high rents to farmers working their land. However, this practice created a great difference in wealth between the landowners and their poor tenants, and it discouraged people from settling in New York.
The duke of York expected his colony to be a moneymaking business. As its owner, he appointed people to run the colony. He also issued his own laws and decided what New Yorkers should pay in taxes.
Although New York's rich landlords approved of the duke's approach to governing his colony, farmers, fishers, and tradespeople did not. They demanded the right to elect an assembly to make laws for New York. The duke refused, saying that elected assemblies had a habit of disturbing the “peace of the government.”
After years of protest, the duke finally allowed New Yorkers to elect an assembly in 1683. This first assembly passed 15 laws, the most important of which was a charter listing a number of rights that most colonists believed they deserved as English citizens. Among them were the right to elect their own lawmakers, the right to trial by jury, and the right to worship as they pleased.
When the duke saw what the assembly had done, he abolished it. New Yorkers did not get a new assembly until, under the leadership of Jacob Leisler (LIES-ler), they rebelled in 1689. Leisler was elected commander in chief of a democratic council that governed until 1691. That year, New York was finally granted the right to elect an assembly with the power to pass laws and set taxes for the colony.