Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Young, Alfred F., 1925-2012

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


United States--History--Revolution; 1775-1783--Committees of correspondence


Through an analysis of the development, functions and membership of the Committees of Correspondence in Albany County, New York, I have attempted to assess their contribution to the provincial movement for independence. This study has been directed toward answering three basic questions. First, what was the significance of the committees? Second, did the majority of the Albanians support the committees? If, however, the committee was representative of only a segment of the county's inhabitants, how did this effect the course of the Revolution? And finally, what was the nature of the American Revolution in Albany County? The sources for this study are numerous. Most important were the minutes of the Albany Committees of Correspondence, the journals of the Provincial Congress, and the records of a variety of other revolutionary organizations. The analysis of active committeemen is based primarily on Jackson Turner Main's working charts on the composition of New York legislature before and after the Revolution, Albany tax lists, a calendar of Indorsed Land Papers, and the extensive genealogy collection in Newberry Library, Chicago. Personal reminiscences, travel accounts and the published papers of individuals who resided in New York during this period gave me valuable insights and added depth to my understanding of eighteenth century America. A study of the Albany committees indicated that they were vehicles for the transference of political power and civil authority from the royal to the state established government after 1777. A study of the political involvement of some of the committees' most active members highlights this continuity. At the same time the committee provided for the local management of the war, they enforced resolves of the Provincial and Continental Congresses and they served as a major supplier of necessities to the patriot army. Meanwhile, the decision to detach the colonies from Great Britain was not unanimous. There were large and important segments of the county’s populace who did not support the Whigs and their committees of Correspondence. Disaffection was not confined to any one economic group but was caused by a variety of factors. It was frequently based upon the individual's definition of what was in his own best interests in economic and occasionally political terms. Against this background of loyalism, the Revolution takes on many of the aspects of a civil war. Within the county it was primarily the extension of struggles for power between already existent factions: the tenants versus the landlords, the prominent established Dutch gentry against the royal appointees who were predominantly British newcomers, etc. A socio-economic analysis of the active committeemen indicated that the majority were members of Albany's financially secure and prominent families. Their positions within the societal hierarchies appears to have been threatened by British actions. These men oppose the King in an attempt to maintain their positions. Thus the Revolution in Albany was fundamentally a conservative movement. Neither the leaders nor the committees* activities indicate a desire to make major changes in the existing social, political or economic systems. The war, therefore, was a revolution only in terms of the overthrow of British rule.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes maps.


151 pages




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