Alexander McDougall

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For the English cricketer, see Alexander MacDougall (cricketer). For the 13C-14C Scottish lord known as Alexander MacDougall, see Alexander of Argyll. For the Great Lakes seaman and ship designer, see Whaleback.
Engraved portrait by H.B. Hall, 19th century

Alexander McDougall (1732[1]— June 9, 1786) was an American seaman, merchant, a Sons of Liberty leader from New York City before and during the American Revolution, and a military leader during the Revolutionary War. He served as a major general in the Continental Army, and as a delegate to the Continental Congress. After the war, he was the president of the first bank in the state of New York and served a term in the New York State Senate.

Early life[edit]

McDougall was born on the Isle of Islay,[1] in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland in 1732.[2] He was one of the five children of Ranald and Elizabeth McDougall. In 1738 the family immigrated, going to New York as part of a party led by a Scottish Army Veteran, Captain Lachlan Campbell.[3] Campbell had described fertile land available near Fort Edward, but when they arrived in New York City, they discovered that Lachlan had been awarded a patent for about 30,000 acres (121 km²) and expected them to become tenants to his estate. Ranald withdrew and found work on a dairy farm on the island of Manhattan. The family prospered and young Alexander began his commercial career as a delivery boy for milk in New York.

In around 1745, when he was fourteen, Alexander signed on as a merchant seaman. He worked on a number of vessels, and then in 1751 he went trip to Great Britain. During this trip, a stop to the Island of Islay was made. He stayed only a few months, but married a cousin, Nancy McDougall, and brought her back to New York. He continued a seagoing merchant career, becoming a part-owner and operator of several small cargo sloops that worked coastal trade routes.[4]

Privateer to merchant[edit]

After the onset of the French and Indian War in 1756, McDougall became commissioned by the crown as a merchant privateer. During the war, McDougall commanded two ships; the Tyger, an 8 gun sloop, and the "Barrington", a 12 gun sloop. An able captain as well as a knowledgeable merchant, he made a modest fortune in captured ships and the sale of their cargo.[5]

In 1763 McDougall gave up the seafaring life. The war had ended, his wife Nancy died, as did his father. He was left with responsibility for his three children and his mother. So he converted his seagoing assets and with the small fortune he had accumulated during the war, invested in land and became a merchant and importer. By 1767 he had his affairs in good order. He owned land in Albany County and as far away as North Carolina. He remarried, this time to Hannah Bostwick. Though their increasing wealth earned them recognition, it did not earn them acceptance into the traditional society in New York City. Longstanding members of high society such as the Livingstons and the De Lancey's looked up him as crude and unpolished. [6]

Prelude to revolution[edit]

When revolutionary fervor grew with resistance to the Stamp Act, McDougall became active in the Sons of Liberty, and later was a leader in the movement in the colony of New York. Difficulties in the city and colony were increased by the Quartering Act, which required the colonists to provide housing and support to the British troops. The Province of New York assembly had refused to pass appropriations for their housing in 1767 and 1768, and been prorogued. Then the new assembly of 1769 approved money for their support.[7] McDougall wrote and had printed an anonymous broadside, To the Betrayed Inhabitants, which criticized the vote and sparked the Battle of Golden Hill.[8] He was accused of libel and arrested on 7 February 1770, but refused to post bail, so he was jailed. He spent two periods in jail, for a total of about five months, but wasn't convicted. His imprisonment became another cause for protest. The Sons of Liberty called him, "the Wilkes of America" in an effort to paint him as a political martyr. This was symbolized by the group and was incorporated into the protests.[9]

McDougall became the street leader of the Sons of Liberty, and organized continued protests until the city became under de facto control of the Patriots in 1775. He organized the city's reaction to the Tea Tax in 1773 and led their action, similar to the Boston Tea Party.[10] He became a member of the Committees of Correspondence and Safety[11], the New York City Committee of Sixty[12] and when New York established their revolutionary government in 1775, he was elected to the New York Provincial Congress.

Continental Army[edit]

On June 30, 1775, McDougall became a commissioned colonel of the 1st New York Regiment by an act of the New York Provincial Assembly.[13] Eventually, McDougall would rise the the rank of Major General in the Continental Army.[14] Soon after his commission, McDougall's troops were sent north to take part of the campaign in Canada, among them were two of McDougall's sons. The Colonel stayed behind to raise funds and troops. The campaign ultimately failed. One of McDougall's sons was captured and the other died of a fever near Montreal.[15]

During the early period of the war, McDougall played a role in preparing for the siege of New York by the Regulars. The city was unprepared for an extended fight and the defense of the city was a primary focus for George Washington and his staff.[16] When the Regulars attacked New York, it quickly became apparent that the Continental Army would be unable to hold the city. The Continental Army needed to make a quick retreat from the city in order to avoid heavy losses. Colonel McDougall helped oversee the evacuation effort by boat.[17]

After the Continental Army left New York, they traveled north and made an initial stand against the British near the village of White Plains. Here, McDougall helped to hold off the British and allow for the main body of the army to avoid conflict. For much of the remainder of the war, McDougall was stationed in the Highlands of the Hudson. Throughout the war, McDougall was an outspoken advocate for the Continental Army and for better conditions for its soldiers.[18]

Public Service[edit]

In 1780, he was elected as delegate the the Continental Congress. He spent only 37 days in Congress, however, he was soon nominated to serve as the Secretary of Marine. He served in that role from February 7, 1781–August 29, 1781. In 1784, he was elected to the State Senate.[19]

He died 9 June 1786.

Legacy[edit]

MacDougal Street in the New York City's Greenwich Village is named for him.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Barnes, Marcia L. "The Son of Liberty from Islay". Ileach. Ileach Ltd. Retrieved 10 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Champagne, Roger (1975). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady, New York: Union College Press. p. 5. 
  3. ^ MacDougall, William (1977). American Revolutionary: A Biography of General Alexander McDougall. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 4. 
  4. ^ Champagne, Roger (1975). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady, New York: Union College Press. p. 7. 
  5. ^ Champagne, Roger (1975). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady, New York: Union College Press. p. 8. 
  6. ^ MacDougall, William (1977). American Revolutionary: A Biography of General Alexander McDougall. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 15. 
  7. ^ MacDougall, William (1977). American Revolutionary: A Biography of General Alexander McDougall. Westport: Greenwood Press. pp. 25–26. 
  8. ^ McDougall, Alexander (December 1769). To the Betrayed Inhabitants. 
  9. ^ Champagne, Roger (1975). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady: Union College Press. pp. 27–35. 
  10. ^ {{cite book|last1=Champagne|first1=Roger|title=Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York|date=1975|publisher=Union College Press|location=Schenectady|page=46}
  11. ^ "New York Committee of Correspondence". American Archives. 
  12. ^ "The New Committee of Sixty Elected". American Archives. 
  13. ^ "State of the Four Regiments raised in the Colony of New York". American Archives. 
  14. ^ Champagne, Roger (1977). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady, New York: Union College Press. 
  15. ^ MacDougall, William (1977). American Revolutionary: A Biography of General Alexander McDougall. Westport: Greenwood Press. pp. 71–73. 
  16. ^ MacDougall, William (1977). American Revolutionary: A Biography of General Alexander McDougall. Westport: Greenwood Press. p. 76. 
  17. ^ MacDougall, William (1977). American Revolutionary: A Biography of General Alexander McDougall. Westport: Greenwood Press. pp. 81–85. 
  18. ^ Champagne, Roger (1977). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady, New York: Union College Press. 
  19. ^ Champagne, Roger (1977). Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York. Schenectady, New York: Union College Press.  pg=205

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