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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Sir Richard Nicolls

NICOLLS, Sir Richard, first English governor of New York, born in Ampthill, Bedfordshire, England, in 1624; died at sea, 28 May, 1672. He was the fourth son and youngest child of Francis Nicolls, of the Middle Temple, and of Ampthill. The civil war put an end to his studies at one of the English universities, and he joined the king's army, though only eighteen years old, and was made captain of a troop of horse. On the fall of the royal cause he fled to Holland, entered the service of the Duke of York, served with him in the continental wars, and at the restoration of Charles II. was appointed gentleman of the bed-chamber to the Duke of York. Being of fine presence, clear head, and pleasant manners, and a good linguist, speaking French and Dutch as well as he did English, he was appointed the chief of the coInmission that was charged by Charles II., in 1664, to settle disputes between and with the New England colonies, and "to reduce" New Netherland from the Dutch. Nicolls sailed with his fleet from Portsmouth, 15 May, 1664. Stopping at Boston, and directing Winthrop to meet him at the west end of Long Island, he reached Gravesend bay, 25 August, 1664, but three of his ships did not arrive till the 28th. He demanded the instant surrender of New Netherland. A successful resistance being out of the question, Stuyvesant reluctantly negotiated. After long discussion between the representatives of Stuyvesant and those of Nicolls, articles of surrender were agreed to on Saturday, 6 September, at Stuyvesant's Bowery house, which Nicolls signed the same day. On Sunday the Dutch council considered them, and early Monday morning, S September, 1664, they were signed by Stuyvesant, and the ratifications were exchanged. Nicolls took possession of New Netherland the same day, the Dutch troops marching out of the fort at New Amsterdam and the English marching in. Nicolls at once gave to the conquered territories the names of the titles of his patron, calling the province and city " New York." Long Island and Westchester county "Yorkshire." and the northern portion of the province "Albania" and its chief town "Albany." By his prudent and mild conduct and pleasing manners, Nicolls so overcame the prejudices of the Dutch that, on 25 and 26 October, 1664, Stuyvesant, Van Cortlandt, and all the other officials and chief men of New Amsterdam took the oath of allegiance to Charles II. as sovereign, and the Duke of York as lord proprietor of New York, and acknowledged Nicolls to be the duke's deputy governor, under the latter's commission, dated 2 April, 1664. On 8 March, 1665, he published, in a convention of delegates at Hempstead, "the duke's laws," the first code of English law in New York. It was drawn up by Matthias Nicolls (q. v.), secretary of the province, from the laws in the other British colonies, the common law of England, and the former Roman-Dutch law of New Netherland. On 12 June, 1665, he established the English municipal government of the city of New York by a mayor, alderman, and sheriff, in place of the Dutch burgomaster and schepens, and appointed Nicholas Bayard, Stuyvesant's nephew, the first clerk of the common council. In 1666 he was engaged in settling difficulties with the Indians and the French, and reconciling minor disputes among the Dutch and English people of the province. In 1667 he applied to the Duke of York for permission to resign, which, after some delay, was granted, but, at the duke's request, he remained till the arrival of his successor, Colonel Francis Lovelace, with whom he made a journey through the province to introduce him to the magistrates and people. On 25 August, 1668, after a notable dinner that was given in his honor by the city authorities, he was escorted to the vessel by the largest procession of military and citizens that had then been seen in New York, and sailed for England, amid the regrets of the people among whom he had come as a conqueror. Nicolls's rule was honest and wise: his decisions as chief of the court of assizes under " the duke's laws" were just, and his government was marked with moderation and integrity. On his return to England he took his former place in the Duke of York's household, and at the beginning of the war with Holland in 1672 served with him in the fleet under his command, and lost his life in the battle with De Ruyter on 28 May, 1672. He lies buried in the chancel of Ampthill parish church, where a white marble monument is erected to his memory, its upper part inclosing the cannonball that killed him, with the words "Instrumentum Mortis et Immortalitatis." Below it is a Latin inscription testifying to his merits as a soldier, governor, and scholar, and, as he requested in his will, mentioning his family. Sir Richard was never married.

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