Harmanus Bleecker

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Harmanus Bleecker
Harmanus Bleecker.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th district
In office
March 4, 1811 – March 3, 1813
Preceded by Killian K. Van Rensselaer
Succeeded by Abraham J. Hasbrouck
Personal details
Born October 9, 1779 (1779-10-09)
Albany, New York
Died July 19, 1849 (1849-07-20) (aged 69)
Albany, New York
Citizenship  United States
Political party Federalist
Spouse(s) Sebastiana Cornelia Mentz Bleecker
Profession Attorney, teacher, ambassador

Harmanus Bleecker (October 9, 1779 – July 19, 1849) was a United States Representative from New York, Chargé d'Affaires to the Netherlands and philanthropist.

Early life[edit]

Harmanus Bleecker was born into an old Dutch family in Albany, New York on October 9, 1779.[1] He studied law with John Vernon Henry and James Emott,[2] was admitted to the bar in 1801, and commenced practice in Albany.[3][4]

Bleecker was also a highly regarded teacher, and among the students who learned the law in his office were: David Dudley Field (1805-1894);[5] Stephen Johnson Field;[6] Charlemagne Tower;[7] Bradford R. Wood;[8] Peter Gansevoort;[9] Solomon Southwick;[10] and Charles Fenno Hoffman.[11]

Political, legal and business career[edit]

He was elected as a Federalist to the 12th United States Congress, holding office from March 4, 1811 to March 3, 1813.[12] He was not a candidate for renomination in 1812 and resumed the practice of law in Albany.

Bleecker also pursued several business ventures, including serving on the board of directors of Albany's Mechanics and Farmers Bank.[13] In addition, he was a Trustee of the Erie and Champlain Canals.[14]

Bleecker was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1814 and 1815.[15]

Though Bleecker had been an opponent of the War of 1812 while in Congress, during the war he worked with Governor Daniel D. Tompkins to finance the equipping, supplying and pay of the state militia after it was federalized.[16]

In 1817 Bleecker received an honorary LL.D. degree from Union College, and he was an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.[17][18] From 1822 to 1834 Bleecker was a member of the University of the State of New York Board of Regents.[19]

Bleecker opposed slavery, and was a member of the American Colonization and New-York Colonization Societies. The societies advocated for free African Americans to be relocated to what society members believed was greater freedom in Africa, including the colony of Liberia.[20]

In the late 1820s Bleecker was one of New York's Commissioners who worked with Commissioners from New Jersey to determine the boundary between the two states.[21]

In 1839 Bleecker was a member of the original Board of Governors that founded Albany City Hospital, now Albany Medical Center.[22][23]

Diplomatic career[edit]

He was Chargé d'Affaires to the Netherlands from May 12, 1837 to June 28, 1842, initially appointed by President Martin Van Buren, who was friendly with Bleecker and shared his interest in Dutch culture and language.[24] He was chosen in preference to John Lloyd Stephens, who also aspired to the Netherlands job. As a practitioner of the traditional Dutch culture as it had been passed down in Albany and a speaker of the old-style Dutch language, Bleecker was very well received by the government and people of the Netherlands.[25]

Retirement and death[edit]

After returning to Albany in 1842, Bleecker retired from most public life and business pursuits.[26] From 1846 until his death he was a member of the Executive Committee that organized and oversaw the State Normal College, now the State University of New York at Albany (SUNYA).[27] He died in Albany on July 19, 1849[28] and was buried at Albany Rural Cemetery, Section 3, Lot 61.[29][30]

Personal relationships[edit]

Harmanus Bleecker Library, constructed with bequest from Harmanus Bleecker.
Entrance to Bleecker Library.

Harmanus Bleecker maintained numerous friendships and professional relationships, many of which transcended political leanings.

For many years he practiced law with Theodore Sedgwick (1780-1839), the son of Federalist legislator and judge Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813), and he was once engaged to Judge Sedgwick's daughter Catharine Sedgwick.[31][32] He was also a close friend of Federalist Congressman and Boston Mayor Josiah Quincy (1772-1864).[33]

In addition, Bleecker was a longtime friend of Democrat Martin Van Buren, with whom he shared an interest in the Dutch culture and language.[34]

Harmanus Bleecker also maintained a close friendship with Democratic Congressman and Senator John Randolph (1773-1833).[35] Bleecker and Randolph exchanged portraits as a token of their mutual esteem, and each displayed in his home the portrait of the other.[36]


Bleecker married Sebastiana Cornelia Mentz of Arnhem, a woman many years younger than him, whom he met while he was a diplomat in the Netherlands.[37] She lived with him in Albany, and inherited his estate.[38] They had no children, and after Bleecker's death she married Hendrick Coster and returned to the Netherlands, where she died in 1885.[39] The executors of the Harmanus Bleecker estate, which she left to benefit the City of Albany as Bleecker had requested, decided to spend the $130,000 ($3.32 million in 2012 dollars) to construct and maintain Harmanus Bleecker Hall, a library and theater.[40][41][42] In more recent times the building has been renovated as private office space, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[43]


Bleecker was the subject of a biography, 1924's Harmanus Bleecker: An Albany Dutchman, 1779-1849, by Harriet Langdon Pruyn Rice. Harriet Rice was the daughter of John V. L. Pruyn and granddaughter of Amasa J. Parker. John Pruyn and Amasa Parker had been involved in the disposition of Bleecker's estate, which gave Harriet Rice access to Bleecker's papers.[44]


  1. ^ John D. Whish, Albany Guide Book, 1917, page 90
  2. ^ Peleg Whitman Chandler, The Monthly Law Reporter, Volume 2, Volume 12, 1850, page 276
  3. ^ New York State, Public Papers of the Governors, Volume 2, 1902, page 379
  4. ^ Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany, Volume 1, 1869, page 299
  5. ^ James Parton, Sketches of Men of Progress, 1871, page 23
  6. ^ Alden Chester, Edwin Melvin Williams, editors, Courts and Lawyers of New York: A History, 1609-1925, Volume 1, 1925, page 1382
  7. ^ Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Charlemagne Tower Collection of American Colonial Laws, 1890, page 7
  8. ^ University of the State of New York, Annual Report of the Education Department, Volume 1; Volume 15, Part 1, 1921, page 392
  9. ^ Laurie Robertson Lorant, Melville: A Biography, 1998, page 5
  10. ^ Joel Munsell, The Albany Annual Register for 1849-1850, Part 2, 1850, page 276
  11. ^ Bessie Louise Pierce, Joe Lester Norris, As Others See Chicago: Impressions of Visitors, 1673-1933, 1933, page 70
  12. ^ David Johnson, John Randolph of Roanoke, 2012, Appendix 2
  13. ^ Alfred Habegger, The Father: A Life of Henry James, Sr. 2001, page 75
  14. ^ George Rogers Howell, Jonathan Tenney, editors, Bi-Centennial History of Albany, Volume 2, 1886, page 524
  15. ^ Sebastian Visscher Talcott, editor, Genealogical Notes of New York and New England Families, 1883, page 399
  16. ^ New York State, Public Papers of the Governors of New York, Volume 3, 1902, page 241
  17. ^ New York Alpha of the Phi Beta Kappa, Union College, Centennial Catalog, 1922, page 12
  18. ^ Phi Beta Kappa Society, General catalog, 1776-1922, 1923, page 623
  19. ^ Stephen C. Hutchins, Civil List and Constitutional History of the Colony and State of New York, 1880, page 184
  20. ^ New-York State Colonization Society, Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1829, page 24
  21. ^ New York State Bill Drafting Commission, Laws of the State of New York, 1827, page 327
  22. ^ New York State Legislature, Laws of the State of New-York, 1839, page 212
  23. ^ Peter R. Eisenstadt, Laura-Eve Moss, editors, The Encyclopedia Of New York State, 2005, page 48
  24. ^ J.A. Spencer, D.D., History of the United States, 1858, page 547
  25. ^ Hans Krabbendam, Cornelis Abraham van Minnen, Giles Scott-Smith, editors, Four Centuries of Dutch-American Relations: 1609-2009, 2009, page 263
  26. ^ Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Cornelis A. van Minnen, A Bouquet From the Netherlands: Liber Amicorum Presented to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. on the Occasion of his Seventieth Birthday, 1987, page 22
  27. ^ State College for Teachers, An Historical Sketch of the State Normal College at Albany, N.Y., 1894, page 2
  28. ^ Joel Munsell, The Albany Annual Register for 1849-1850, Part 2, 1850, page 277
  29. ^ Edward Fitzgerald, A Hand Book for the Albany Rural Cemetery, 1871, page 22
  30. ^ Albany Rural Cemetery Burial Cards, 1791-2011, entry for Harmanus bleecker, accessed July 20, 2013
  31. ^ William Cullen Bryant, The New-Yorker, Theodore Sedgwick, November 28, 1840
  32. ^ Lucinda L. Damon-Bach, Victoria Clements, editors, Catharine Maria Sedgwick: Critical Perspectives, 203, Chronology: page xxxiv
  33. ^ Edmund Quincy, Life of Josiah Quincy of Massachusetts, 1867, page 305
  34. ^ Martin Van Buren, The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren, 1920, page 429
  35. ^ William Cabell Bruce, John Randolph of Roanoke, 1773-1833, Volume 1, 1922, Preface, page vi
  36. ^ Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Albany Fifty Years Ago, Volume XIV, December, 1856 to May, 1857, page 458
  37. ^ Joel Munsell, The Annals of Albany, Volume 1, 1869, page 26
  38. ^ Gould, Banks & Co., Laws of the State of New York, 1852, page 465
  39. ^ Weed, Parsons & Co., History of the Young Men's Association for Mutual Improvement in the City of Albany, 1888, page 19
  40. ^ New York State Courts, The New York State Reporter, 1898, page 9
  41. ^ The National Magazine, The Railroad Men of America, Volume 8, May 1888, page 348
  42. ^ New York Times, Mr. Bleecker's Legacy: Judge Parker's Offer to the Young Men's Association, December 20, 1887
  43. ^ Go Historic, Harmanus Bleecker Library, Albany, March 27, 2013
  44. ^ Harriet Langdon Pruyn Rice, Harmanus Bleecker: An Albany Dutchman, 1779-1849, 1924, title page

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Auguste Davezac
U.S. Minister to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Christopher Hughes
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Killian K. Van Rensselaer
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 7th congressional district

March 4, 1811 to March 3, 1813
Succeeded by
Abraham J. Hasbrouck