Van Rensselaer, Hon Stephen

Van Rensselaer, Hon. Stephen a distinguished statesman and general in the War of 1812-15, patroon of the manor of Rensselaerwyck, and an eminent Christian, was born in New York city Nov. 1, 1764, and graduated at Harvard University in 1782. In 1789 he was elected a member of the Legislature, and in 1795, at the age of thirty-one, was lieutenant-governor and president of the Senate of his native state. He held this office six years. From 1800 to 1820 he was often a member of the Assembly, and also sat in two Constitutional conventions. He was elected to Congress in 1822; was president of the Board of Canal Commissioners fourteen years before his death; and was chancellor of the Board of Regents of the University of New York at his decease. In 1787 he began his military career, and was a major-general of Volunteers, commanding on the Niagara frontier, during the War of 1812-15 with Great Britain. He was honorably engaged in the battle of Queenstown. Yale College conferred on him the degree of doctor of laws in 1825. He was one of the first Board of Managers of the American Bible Society in 1816 and was always foremost with its illustrious founders and friends. In the affairs of the Reformed Church, of which he was "a burning and a shining light," he held many positions of great prominence and usefulness. With perhaps one exception, he was the most wealthy man in the United States, and he dispensed his misnomer with a munificence that was worthy of his ancient patrimony, which embraced a territory of twenty-four miles square, haying Albany as its center. From this inheritance he was called the patroon, a title now extinct by law with "the death of his eldest son, and for generations past the only hereditary title known among us." His private influence was immense. He so administered his vast estates as to win the confidence of the tenants and of the whole community in his guileless wisdom and unsullied and unselfish integrity. His charities were continually flowing out with discriminating kindness and bountiful benevolence, yet silent and unostentatious. As an elder in the Church at Albany, and a member of the ecclesiastical courts of his denomination, he bore his full share of labors, responsibility, and liberality. But he was not a sectarian; he belonged to the city of God. The manor-house at Albany was noted for his princely hospitality and Christian influences. "The guest who crossed that threshold forgot that he was a stranger; and, though poor, amid all the appliances of uncounted wealth, felt only that he was at home." His piety was radiant with goodness and with the beauty of a holy life. He died suddenly, at home, Jan. 26, 1839. "In the midst of his affectionate children and near his devoted wife, within the hall where the servant of God and the friend of man ever found an unfeigned welcome, his venerable head fell upon his bosom. He was asleep in Jesus." His portrait, admirably taken in old age, adorns the hall of the Board of Managers of the American Bible Society. His memory is an inspiration for the lovers of the country and the Church of God. See Bethune, Commemorative Sermon; Rogers, Historical Discourse. (W. J. R.T.)

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