William Duer (1747-1799)

William Duer, of New York; Member of the Continental Congress

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Born in Devon, England, to a wealthy family with slave-driven estates in Antigua, he was educated at Eton College. He briefly served as aide-de-camp to Lord Clive in India before spending a few years on his family's sugar plantations in Antigua. He came to New York in 1773 and bought up large tracts of land around Albany, entering the lumber industry. Siding with the Patriots, he was elected a Member of the Continental Congress and served as assistant secretary in the Treasury under his friend, Alexander Hamilton. His business activities while serving in the Treasury eventually came under scrutiny and unable to satisfy his creditors, he was sent to debtors prison in 1792. He was never released. The extent of his bad business practices (always borrowing and never repaying from an increasingly large and influential circle, eg. Walter Livingston) set off the first financial panic in post-colonial New York City. He died disgraced after seven years in prison, but he was the father and ancestor of many of New York's most distinguished names. He and his wife were the parents of seven children.


Contributed by Mark Meredith on 12/03/2019 and last updated on 07/12/2019.