- For the U.S. HEW secretary, see F. David Mathews; for the candidate in the Australian Capital Territory general election, 2012, see David Mathews (Political Candidate); for a similar name, see David Matthews
David Mathews (died 1800) was a lawyer and politician from New York City. He was a Loyalist during the American Revolutionary War and was Mayor of New York from 1776 until 1783. He resettled in Nova Scotia after the war, and became a leading political figure in the Cape Breton colony that was created in 1786.
Mathews was born in New York to Vincent Mathews and Catalina Abeel. He earned an A.M. degree from the College of New Jersey (Princeton University) in 1754. He married Sarah Seymour on November 6, 1758 in New York.
Mathews lived in Flatbush and was mayor, in 1776, when he was implicated in a plot to kidnap George Washington, then Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. Mathews and William Tryon, the governor of Province of New York, were implicated in the plot, as was a member of Washington's Life Guard, Thomas Hickey, who was eventually executed. The New York Provincial Congress ordered Mathews's arrest for "being Engaged in a Conspiracy against the Authority of the Congress and the Liberties of America." The charges were never proven, and he was briefly imprisoned, and then either escaped or was paroled and returned to New York.
When British forces occupied the city in August 1776, Mathews resumed his office as mayor. When the British evacuated on November 10, 1783, he left with other Loyalists to Nova Scotia. Failing to gain an appointment as that province's attorney general, he traveled to Cape Breton Island, which in 1786 was separated into a separate colony. There he was appointed attorney general and a member of the Executive Council by Lieutenant Governor Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. Although an elected house of assembly was to have been established, this did not occur, and Mathews became a leading and divisive figure in the small colony's politics. He had a difficult relationship with both DesBarres and his successor, William Macarmick, who eventually left the colony in 1795, leaving Mathews, as senior councilor, as administrator of the colony. Mathews then packed its government with friends and business associates. When he was succeeded as administrator by John Murray, the latter dismissed him from the post of attorney general. Mathews made common cause with the Duke of Kent, who had a personal dislike of Murray, and engineered Murray's replacement.
Mathews died near Sydney in 1800.
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Van Doren, Carl. Secret History of the American Revolution. New York: Viking Press, 1941.
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