Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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VAN DYKE, Nicholas, statesman, born in New Castle county, Delaware, 25 September, 1738; died there, 19 February, 1789. He was educated in his native county, studied law, was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1765, and attained eminence in the profession. He took an active part in the military and political affairs of his county, attaining the rank of major in the militia. In 1774, when the freeholders of New Castle county held a general meeting to consider the Boston port bill, he was appointed on the committee of thirteen to correspond with the other colonies. On this committee he was associated with Thomas McKean and George Read. He was a deputy from his county to the State convention of July, 1776, which framed the first constitution of the state, he was elected with James Sykes, 22 February, 1777, to the Continental congress in the room of John Dickinson and John Evans, who declined to serve. He continued in congress until 1783, and was one of the delegates that ratified the articles of confederation. In 1781 congress appointed him one of a committee of five to confer with the people of New Hampshire relative to the admission of that colony into the "federal union of these states." In 1777 he was a member of the council of the state of Delaware, and in 1779 its speaker. In 1777 he was also appointed a judge of admiralty. He was elected president of the state of Delaware in 1783, holding the office until 1786. Governor Van Dyke was a firm believer in the sovereignty of the state.--His son, Nicholas, senator, born in New Castle, Delaware, 20 December, 1769; died there, 21 May, 1826, was graduated at Princeton in 1788. In his class were David Stone, afterward governor and chief justice of North Carolina, William Kirkpatrick, subsequently Federal judge and a member of congress, and Smith Thompson, afterward secretary of the navy and justice of the United States supreme court, yet President Witherspoon said of him in a letter to George Read, 2 October, 1787: "If you have any opportunity of seeing Mr. Van Dyke, please assure him that his son is, I think, without doubt, the first in his class." After his graduation he studied law with his brother-in-law, Kensey Johns, and was admitted to the bar at New Castle in April, 1792. He was elected in 1799 to the legislature of Delaware, and in 1807 to congress, serving until 1811. In 1815 he became a member of the senate of Delaware, and from 1817 till 1826 he was a member of the United States senate. Lafayette, who was present at the wedding of Mr. Van Dyke's daughter to Charles I. Du Pont, and gave away the bride, was his personal friend, and declared that "in his judgment Mr. Van Dyke was one of the first statesmen in rank whom he knew in America." William T. Reed said of him:" If surpassed by some of his contemporaries (inferior to few, if any, members of the bar throughout the Union) in profound knowledge of the law and in dialectical power, he was a sound lawyer, and superior to them all as a Huent, graceful, and successful advocate and in the skilful management of his cases. He never lost his predilection for general literature, and was remarkable for the ease and elegance of his manners and conversational powers, for Ins taste in architecture and his fondness for indulging in it. In the senate of the United States he not only maintained but increased the high reputation of the representatives of Delaware for statesmanship and ability as a debater. He was of the Federal party."
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