Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 27 >> Van Dyck to Yaper >> Van Rensselaer

Van Rensselaer

till, canal and erie

VAN RENSSELAER, Stephen, American politician and soldier, known as The Patroon"; b. New York, 1 Nov. 1764; d. Albany, 26 Jan. 1839. He was fifth in lineal descent from Killian Van Rensselaer (q.v.), the original patroon of the Dutch colony of Rensselaers wyck. He entered Princeton College in 1771, but owing to the proximity of the British army was removed to Harvard, where he was gradu ated in 1782. In 1789 he was elected to the as sembly, and the next year to the State senate, to which he was re-elected annually till 1795, when he was chosen lieutenant-governor and served till 1801. He presided over the State Constitutional Convention of 1801 and in 1808 10 was again in the assembly. He was made major-general of the State militia, and in 1812 directed the assault upon Queenstown, Canada. After the war he joined with DeWitt Clinton (q.v.) in the construction of the Erie Canal, for exploring the proposed route of which he had been one of a commission in 1810-11, and from 1816 till his death was one of the board of canal commissioners, and for 15 years was its president. He was again a member of the

legislature in 1816, in 1819 was elected a regent of the University of the State of New York, and was subsequently its chancellor. In 1821 23, at his own expense, he employed Professors Eaton and Hitchcock to make geological and agricultural surveys of a large part of the State. In November 1824 he provided st.itable build ings at Troy, and established a scientific school for the instruction of teachers. This school was incorporated in 1826 as the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and he continued to aid in supporting it until the end of his liie. From 1823 to 1829 he was a member of Congress. He published 'A Geological and Agricultural Survey of the District Adjoining the Erie Canal) (1824). Consult Barnard, 'A Discourse of the Life, Services, and Character of Stephen Van Rensselaer) (1839).