Sheriffs of Albany, 1686-1800
The sheriff was an annual appointment of the royal governor. He served both city and county. Typically, appointees were recommended by members of the governor's council. A number of the sheriffs were former soldiers. Others were prominent Albany residents. Appointment to the sheriff's office rewarded loyalty. It was a position of responsibility and also opportunity - as sheriffs collected fees for executing legal papers, caring for prisoners, and a range of other functions!
During the New Netherland era, the schout fiscal acted as chief law enforcement officer. Gerrit Swart was commissioned schout of Rensselaerswyck in 1652. After 1664, the sheriff was nominated by the Albany magistrates and confirmed by the proprietary governor. In 1670, Swart was superceded by Captain Silvester Salisbury.
The Bicentennial History of Albany described the office as follows: "This officer, during the colonial period, was appointed annually by the Governor-General and Colonial Council. Under the first Constitution, he was appointed annually by the Council of Appointment, and no person could hold the office for more than four successive years; he could hold no other office, and must be a freeholder. Since the adoption of the Constitution of 1821, he has not been required to be a freeholder, is elected for three years, and is ineligible for the next succeeding term."
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first posted 01/28/02; last revised 2/8/13