Henry Cruger

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Henry Cruger, Jr. (November 22, 1739 – April 24, 1827) was an American and British merchant at the time of the American Revolution. He has a unique distinction of having been elected to both the Parliament of Great Britain (MP, 1774–1780, 1784–1790) and the New York State Senate (1792–1796).

Early life[edit]

Henry Cruger was born in New York a member of a wealthy merchant family originally from Germany: his grandfather John Cruger was an alderman and Mayor of New York City. His uncle John Cruger, Jr. was also a Mayor of New York City and was Speaker of the New York Assembly. Henry Cruger Sr., his father, was also a member of the New York Provincial Assembly and then the Governor-General's Council.

Cruger studied at King’s College (now Columbia University) in New York City, but before being graduated he moved to Bristol, England in 1757 where he was placed in a family mercantile house. In 1765 Cruger was elected to the Bristol Common Council, a position he held until 1790. He was named sheriff of the city for 1766–1767. Cruger was elected to Parliament fpr Bristol as a radical Whig in the election of 1774 in which British policy towards the colonies was an important issue. The other Whig candidate, also elected but by a smaller majority was Edmund Burke, who was, among other things, the provincial agent for the Province of New York.

In his maiden speech before Parliament, Cruger criticized it for worsening the breach between Britain and her colonies. In 1776, he faulted the ministry for abandoning British sympathizers in the colony of New York. In 1777, he supported the repeal of the Declaratory Act (1766), and by 1780, he favored American independence. Defeated for reelection in 1780, he became Bristol’s mayor in 1781. In 1784, Cruger was again returned to Parliament as the member for Bristol as a supporter of William Pitt the Younger. Throughout his political career in England he urged conciliation with America.

In 1789 he sought in vain for a consular appointment in the United States from Pitt. He returned to New York in 1790 after an absence of 33 years and was elected as a Federalist to the New York State Senate in 1792, urging conciliation with Great Britain while serving an otherwise undistinguished single four-year term.

Family life[edit]

Cruger was married three times, firstly in 1765 with a daughter of Samuel Peach of Tockington a wealthy linen draper and banker [some sources name her as Cristina, some say Ellin, some say Hannah]. Regardless, she died in 1767, leaving a son Samuel Peach Cruger, who changed his name to Samuel Peach Peach by 1788 after inheriting his grandfather Samuel's fortune. Cruger had a daughter with his second wife, Elizabeth Blair. Elizabeth died soon after his return to New York in 1790. He married his third wife, Caroline Smith, when he was age 60 and with whom he fathered four more children. He died at home in New York City in his 88th year.

Cruger's house in Park Street, Bristol, on the corner of Great George Street, is marked by a commemorative plaque.

References[edit]

  • Sir Lewis Namier and John Brooks, eds. The House of Commons, 1754-1790, vol. 2 (Oxford University Press, 1964), 280-282.
  • Henry Cruger Van Schaack, Henry Cruger: the Colleague of Edmund Burke in the British Parliament; a Paper Read before the New-York Historical Society, January 4, 1859 (New York: C. B. Richardson, 1859).