Hendrick Fisher was a preacher and politician from New Jersey. He participated in the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. He also led the opposition to the British in New Jersey and played a key role in the Committee of Correspondence, Committee of Safety, and Provincial Congress.
Early Life and Family
- Fisher was born in the Palatinate region of Germany around the year 1697.
- His father was Hendrick Fisher, Sr. His mother’s name is unknown.
- His family emigrated to Holland, then North America, and settled in New Jersey. Fisher was around six years old at the time.
- He married a woman named Elizabeth at a young age, but the number of children they had is unknown.
- Fisher was a farmer and mechanic.
Dutch Reformed Church
- On August 11, 1721, Fisher became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church at New Brunswick. The pastor at the church was Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen
- In 1722, Fisher was elected as a Deacon of the New Brunswick church and the church at Six Mile Run.
- In 1725, he was elected as a Deacon again.
- In 1727, he was elected as an Elder of the church and held that position for approximately 50 years.
- In 1753, Governor Belcher granted the “Charter of the Five Churches” and Fisher was named as one of the incorporators. Fisher was also President of the Board of Trustees of the incorporation.
Preaching with Frelinghuysen
- Fisher’s mentor was Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen of the Dutch Reformed Church.
- By 1736, he was an assistant to Frelinghuysen.
- Fisher preached when Frelinghuysen was absent, which increased Fisher’s stature in the community.
- The ministers of the Dutch churches wanted to found a college near New York City.
- In 1770, Fisher petitioned Governor Franklin of New Jersey for a charter, which Franklin granted.
- Fisher was the first President of the Board of Trustees for Queen’s College, which later became Rutgers University.
- In 1740, he was elected to the New Jersey Assembly, but could not serve because he had not been a naturalized citizen long enough.
- In 1745, he was elected again to the New Jersey Assembly. He served in the Assembly for more than 30 years.
- In 1746–47, New Jersey sent troops to participate in the Expedition to Canada. Fisher was one of the Commissioners appointed by the Legislature to disburse the necessary funds.
- In 1750, Fisher was one of two men in charge of supplying New Jersey troops for another Northern Expedition.
- In 1755, Fisher was one of two Commissioners who were in charge of supplying an expedition led by Colonel Philip Schuyler.
- In 1765, he represented New Jersey at the Stamp Act Congress.
- In 1769, he served as Chairman of a committee that dealt with resolving the boundary between New Jersey and New York.
- On October 12, 1769, he proposed the doors of the New Jersey Assembly should be open during meetings, so the public could see and hear the Assembly’s business. The proposal was accepted by the Assembly.
Delegate to the Stamp Act Congress
On March 22, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which required a stamp to be placed on all legal documents and many printed materials in the colonies.
In May, news of the new law reached the colonies. There was immediate opposition, including riots in Boston, Massachusetts, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Savannah, Georgia.
On June 8, 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly sent a circular letter to the legislatures of the other colonies, inviting them to send delegates to a congress in New York to discuss a unified response to the Stamp Act. The precedent for such a meeting had been set by the Albany Congress in 1754.
Nine of the 13 colonies, including New Jersey, chose to send delegates to the meeting, which was held in New York City. Fisher was elected as a delegate from New Jersey, along with Robert Ogden and Joseph Borden.
The Stamp Act Congress convened on October 7, 1765. On October 19, the Stamp Act Congress issued a Declaration of Rights and Grievances. Congress sent petitions to the King and both houses of Parliament and asked for the Stamp Act to be repealed.
Fisher was the main spokesperson for New Jersey at the Congress.
Fisher signed his name to the official documents of the Stamp Act Congress.
When Fisher returned to New Jersey, he led the opposition to British policy.
On November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act took effect, but there were no stamp masters available to distribute the stamps. They had resigned or refused to perform their job due to violence and intimidation against them.
On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, primarily due to protest from British merchants who believed it would damage their prospects of doing business in the colonies. However, on that same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, which declared it had the “full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”
New Jersey Petition to the King
- In April 1768, the New Jersey Assembly resolved to send a direct petition to the King.
- It was titled “ Praying relief from the Acts of Parliament imposing a duty (on the Colonies) for the purpose of raising a revenue. ”
- Fisher was the Chairman of the committee of six men who produced the petition.
New Jersey Committee of Correspondence
- In 1773, Virginia set up the first colonial Committee of Correspondence.
- The New Jersey Assembly set up its own standing Committee of Correspondence.
- Fisher was an active member of the New Jersey Committee of Correspondence and was the Chairman by 1774.
New Jersey Committee on Grievances
- In January 1775, the Declaration and Resolves of the First Continental Congress were brought before the New Jersey Assembly.
- The Assembly set up a Committee on Grievances to review the Declarations and Resolves.
- There were 10 men on the Committee on Grievances, and Fisher was the Chairman.
New Jersey Provincial Congress
- On May 23, 1775, Fisher called for New Jersey to set up its own Provincial Congress.
- He was elected first President of the Provincial Congress of New Jersey, even though he was around 80 years old.
- He resigned soon after he was elected, due to his advanced age.
- His counterparts convinced him to return to the Provincial Congress and serve as Vice President. He served for roughly a year before he retired.
New Jersey Committee of Safety
- Fisher served as a member of the New Jersey Committee of Safety.
American Revolutionary War
- General Howe offered clemency to most Patriots who agreed to sign an Oath of Loyalty to the British.
- The Oath was not offered to Fisher, because he was considered an “arch traitor” to the Crown.
- Fisher was forced to flee his home when the British attacked New Jersey and ransacked his house and farm.
- Fisher died in 1778 or 1779.
- The date 1779 is engraved on his gravestone, but some historians believe it should be 1778.
- He was buried near St. Andrew Memorial Church in Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey.
Hendrick Fisher is important because he participated in the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. He also led the opposition in New Jersey to the British policies and was involved with the New Jersey Committee of Correspondence, Committee of Safety, and Provincial Congress.