Alexander McDougall


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MacDougall, ALEXANDER, military officer; born in Scotland in 1731; came to America about 1755, and settled near New York. He learned the trade of a printer, and took an early and active part with the Sons of Liberty of New York. When a scheme for cheating the people of New York into a compliance with the provisions of the mutiny act was before the Assembly, the leaders of the Sons of Liberty raised a cry of alarm. Early on Sunday morning, December 16, 1769, a handbill was found widely distributed over the city, addressed, in large letters, "To the Betrayed Inhabitants of the City and Colony of New York," and signed "A Son of Liberty," It denounced the money scheme as a deception, covering wickedness, and that it was intended to divide and distract the colonies. It exhorted the New York Assembly to imitate the patriotic course of those of other colonies; and it closed with a summons of the inhabitants to "The Fields" the next day, to express their views and to instruct their Assemblymen to oppose the measure; and in case they should refuse to do so, to send notice thereof to all the other assemblies, and to publish their names to the world. In response to the call, full 1,400 people gathered around the liberty pole in "The Fields," where they were harangued by John Lamb, and the people, by unanimous vote, condemned the action of the Assembly in passing obnoxious bills. The sentiments of the meeting were embodied in a communication to the Assembly, which was borne by a committee of seven leading Sons of Liberty—Isaac Sears, Caspar Wistar, Alexander MacDougall, Jacob Van Zandt, Samuel Broome, Erasmus Williams, and James Varick. Toryism was then rife in the New York Assembly. Twenty of that body, on motion of James De Lancey, voted that the handbill was "an infamous and scandalous libel." Only one member—Philip Schuyler—voted No. The Assembly then set about ferreting out the author of it, and a reward of $500 was offered. The frightened printer of the handbill, when arraigned before the House, gave the name of MacDougall as the author. He was taken before the House, where he refused to make any acknowledgment or give bail. He was indicted and cast into prison, where he remained a month, and then pleaded not guilty and gave bail. When brought before the House again, several months afterwards, he was defended by George Clinton. His answer to the question whether he was the author of the handbill was declared to be a contempt, and he was again imprisoned. In February, 1771, he was released and was never troubled with the matter again. MacDougall was the first to suffer imprisonment for "liberty since the commencement of the glorious struggle," and he was regarded as a martyr. At public meetings his health was drunk, and men and women of distinction in the city thronged the prison and furnished him with luxuries. Popular songs were composed and sung under his prison windows, and emblematic swords were worn in his honor.

MacDougall was active in the appointment of delegates to the first Congress in 1774, and was colonel of the 1st New York Regiment. On August 9, 1776, he was made a brigadier-general, and in the retreat from Long Island he superintended the embarkation of the troops. In the battle of WHITE PLAINS he was conspicuous. In the spring of 1777 he was in command at Peekskill, and in October of that year he was made a major-general in the Continental army. MacDougall was in the battle of Germantown, and in March, 1778, he took command in the Hudson Highlands, when, with Kosciuszko, he finished the fortifications there. In 1781 he was a member of Congress, and was made Minister of Marine (Secretary of the Navy), but did not fill the office long. He was again in Congress in 1784-85, and in the winter of 1783 he was at the head of the committee of army officers who bore the complaint of grievances to Congress from Newburg. He was elected a State Senator in 1783, and held the office till his death in New York City, June 8, 1786.



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