Extent: 10 boxes, 8 bound volumes, 44 oversize folders
The Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers consists of 715 objects documenting the lives of several related wealthy and prominent families from the New York City region, specifically Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester County. Objects include ample correspondence; legal, financial, and business documents; military papers and orders; genealogical material; personal writings; and a broad range of real estate documents, many of which are oversize. The collection provides a rich and deep source of information about the personal and political lives of New York City–region Loyalists before, during, and after the Revolutionary War. The collection also contains personal correspondence to and from John Jay and John Quincy Adams.
A brief discussion of the historical context of the Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers is critical to deciphering the connections within and among the collection’s series. The majority of the items date from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s and originate from the New York City region, primarily the settlements in and around Long Island and Westchester County. This period, encompassing the late Colonial, Revolutionary, and early National years, was one of volatility, conflict, and incessant change in the area. In 1765, after nearly 100 years under British rule, the Empire moved to impose the Stamp Act on its colonists, throwing New York City into turmoil as residents both protested the tax and anticipated the coming unrest. A sense of restlessness and unease permeated the city, building slowly until word finally came of the dispute at Lexington and Concord in 1775—long-simmering resentments had finally erupted into outright armed conflict and the war was on. From 1776 until the passing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 the British occupied the islands of Manhattan, Staten Island, and western Long Island, ruling with unrelenting military law and imposing rigid regulations on the densely packed area. Continental troops remained in the vicinity as well during these seven years, first in New Jersey and later north of the city, and residents of the entire region weathered the strain of close proximity to two large and voluble armies in a standoff, each operating with the emotional intensity of youth and a deeply held sense of moral imperative.
Most of the families in this collection were Loyalists who remained faithful to the British during the war. Key to understanding the milieu in which these families existed is the fact that, contrary to public declarations from leaders on both sides of the conflict, in many areas there was little definitive separation between those who pledged allegiance to the revolutionary cause and those who renounced it. They lived in intimate relation to their supposed enemies; differences in opinion existed even within families. With food and fuel scarce, ideological boundaries were blurred and military lines crossed as Patriots and Loyalists breached both to visit with family and friends and do business in the thriving black markets. For Loyalists, reasons for remaining true to the crown varied in accordance with economic, racial, and regional contexts. While some Loyalists, such as those represented within this collection, were members of the wealthy privileged elite with obvious interests in maintaining the status quo, many were not. Some were poor and feared losing what modicum of protection the British provided. Some were slaves who had been promised freedom if they crossed military lines to side with the British. Many were refugees from surrounding colonies who flowed into the city to join with British forces out of a sense of duty or, in some cases, to seek respite from the violence being perpetrated in rural areas by Patriots who demanded uncompromising loyalty to the revolutionary cause. Regardless of the reasoning, rarely were their decisions unadulterated by socioeconomic concerns and familial bonds.
The early postwar years in the New York City region were a blur of debate, political jockeying, and transformation as the young nation (and city) sought to establish stable political and economic systems. After the British departed in defeat, estates and property that had been confiscated in the name of independence were suddenly up for grabs. Patriots and Loyalists alike raced to claim (or reclaim) lands. In 1779, New York had enacted the anti-Loyalist Act of Attainder, requiring “the forfeiture of real and personal estate” of 59 prominent Loyalists, who were then to be considered enemies of the state—the Act also banished those named from the state entirely. Several eminent De Lanceys, Judge Thomas Jones, and Colonel Richard Floyd, all influential New Yorkers well represented in this collection, were among those named in the Act, the immediate effect of which was to virtually decimate some of the large Loyalist estates in Westchester and Suffolk Counties. In the war’s aftermath, Loyalist families were often violently attacked, their families uprooted and their possessions plundered; formerly prosperous members of the Colonial elite now found themselves run out of town, humiliated.
By the early-mid 1800s, relative stasis had resumed in the region, but the area had seen a remarkable in- and outflux of inhabitants and continued to experience significant change as interests clashed and power consolidated and shifted. It is against this backdrop of displacement, divided loyalties, and political instability that the objects in this collection are set.
Scope and Content
The Edward Floyd De Lancey Collection of Family Papers consists of 715 objects documenting the lives of several related wealthy and prominent families from the New York City region, specifically Manhattan, Long Island, and Westchester County. The objects date from the early Colonial through the pre–Civil War years and include ample correspondence; legal, financial, and business documents; military papers and orders; genealogical material; personal writings; and a broad range of real estate documents. Subject matter of the bulk of the material focuses on the personal and family issues, affairs of debt and estate, and business dealings of De Lancey’s own extended family, most of whom were Loyalists who remained faithful to the crown during the Revolutionary War. Many of the letters are among family members and document family history spanning several generations. The collection also includes objects from the Loyalist Allaire, Floyd, Jones, and Palmer families; these, combined with the De Lancey papers, provide a rich and deep source of information about the personal and political lives of New York City–region Loyalists before, during, and after the war. Much of this material pertains to the effects of the 1779 Act of Attainder and subsequent seizure of Loyalist properties in Westchester and Long Island. Notably, the collection also contains 243 pieces of correspondence to and from founding father John Jay, his son Peter Augustus Jay, his nephew Peter Jay Munro (Edward Floyd De Lancey’s maternal grandfather), and a young John Quincy Adams. These letters, spanning the postwar years 1783–1818, discuss Jay family and real estate concerns and evince the close relationships among the three Jay family members.
The collection was created by Edward Floyd De Lancey (1821–1905), a lawyer and historian who served as the second president of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the first president of the Westchester County Historical Society.
Series I: De Lancey Family Papers (1738–1900)
Sub-Series A: Correspondence (1753–1900)
Sub-Series B: Financial and business documents (1767–1839)
Sub-Series C: Genealogies and family papers (1738–1894)
Sub-Series D: Legal and real estate documents (1739–1865)
Series II: Jay Family Papers (1778–1828)
Sub-Series A: Letters, John Jay to Peter Jay Munro (1783–1818)
Sub-Series B: Letters, Peter Jay Munro to John Jay (1783–1812)
Sub-Series C: Letters, John Quincy Adams to Peter Jay Munro (1783–1784)
Sub-Series D: Letters, Peter Jay Munro to Peter Augustus Jay (1794)
Sub-Series E: Letters, Peter Augustus Jay to Peter Jay Munro (1794–1809)
Sub-Series F: Other Correspondence; Wills; Real Estate Documents (1778–1828)
Series III: Floyd Family Papers (1679–1777)
Sub-Series A: Correspondence (1726–1844, bulk 1726–1777)
Sub-Series B: Financial and legal documents (1687–1813, bulk 1687–1768)
Sub-Series C: Military documents (1756–1765)
Sub-Series D: Real estate documents (1679–1763, bulk 1679–1697)
Series IV: Jones Family Papers (1755–1838)
Sub-Series A: Correspondence (1760–1838)
Sub-Series B: Financial and legal documents (1755–1904, bulk 1755–1812)
Sub-Series C: Journals (circa 1790)
Sub-Series D: Real estate documents (1779–1806)
Series V: Associated Families (1660s–circa 1876)
Sub-Series A: Allaire Family (1753–1824, bulk 1753–1807)
Sub-Series B: Jackson Family (1794–1828)
Sub-Series C: Palmer Family (1701–1800)
Sub-Series D: Other papers (1660s–circa 1876)