Stephen De Lancey
Stefan Bielinski

Stphen De Lancey was born at West Farms (Westchester County) in December 1738. He was the son of landholder and assemblyman Peter De Lancey and his wife Elizabeth Colden.

Stephen De Lancey was trained for the law and was a member of the New York debating society. But by the mid-1760s, he had relocated to Albany. Among his clients was Sir William Johnson. In January 1767, De Lancey was awarded the freedom of the city. He married Esther Rynderts and began to raise a family. He was a member of and contributor to St. Peter's Anglican Church.

De Lancey used family connections with the provincial government to establish himself in the upriver city. In 1765, he was commissioned clerk of the city and county of Albany. He held that post until 1776 - the last clerk under the colonial government. In 1769, he was appointed county surrogate. A year later, he was named as one of the masters of the provincial chancery court. In addition, he served several times served as a commissioner to treat with the Indians.

Following the death of his father in 1770, his mother needed help in managing their Westchester property - a chore that became more arduous in the turbulent years that followed!

Rooted in Albany, in May 1775 Stephen De Lancey was elected to represent the second ward on the Albany Committee of Correspondence. As late as October 31, he still attended committee meetings. But a year later, he was branded by the committee as "disaffected" after refusing to sign the non-imporation agreement. On 4 June, he was in the group of Tories who chose to celebrate the king's birthday at Cartwright's tavern. Two weeks later, he was ordered to turn over the clerk's papers and, with other Tories, was deported to Hartford, Connecticut.

Liberated in December 1776 by order of Governor Trumbull, De Lancey joined his family in New York City where he remained until the end of the war. In 1783, his family removed to Annapolis, Nova Scotia where he resumed his legal practice. In 1786, he was made a member of the provincial council.

Stephen De Lancey died in May 1809 in Annapolis, Nova Scotia.



the people of colonial Albany The life of Stephen De Lancey is CAP biography number 7805. This profile is derived chiefly from family and community-based resources. A frequently cited sketch appears in NYCD 8:480. He also was called "Jr." and sometimes confused (hopefully, not by us) with his younger cousin, Stephen De Lancey - also a Tory!

Peter De Lancey was the second son of Etienne and Anne Van Cortlandt De Lancey. He was born in New York City, 26 August 1705; died at West Farms on October 17, 1770. A man of wealth and influence, he sat in the New York Assembly for Westchester County from 1750 to 1768, when he declined re-election in favor of his second son, John. Stephen was the oldest of his six sons. Of his five daughters, Alice married Ralph Izard, the South Carolina senator, and Susan became the wife of Colonel Thomas Barclay, the first British consul appointed in New York after the peace of 1783. This profile is based on a sketch in NYCD 6:469.

Legal: The best book on colonial lawyering still is Paul M. Hamlin, Legal Education in Colonial New York (New York, 1939). De Lancey later submitted a claim for the loss of his law library. However, his many public offices worked against a large legal practice or an active role in acquiring frontier land!

Family connections: He was the grandson of Lieutenant Governor Cadwallader Colden - who called him "my grandson" when describing his clerk's appointment to superiors. Stephen's famous uncles were James (1703-60) and Oliver (1718-85), De Lancey - brothers of his father.

1776-1809: His life during and after the war is still under consideration! See "A Loyalist attorney's Critique of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, 1786" Nova Scotia Historical Review 11:1 (1991).

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first posted: 8/20/01