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Peter van Schaack

Peter Van Schaack (March 1747 – 17 September 1832) was an American lawyer, born in Kinderhook, New York.[1] His ancestors were settlers. He studied law at Columbia University under Willam Smith.

Peter Van Schaack
BornMarch 1747
DiedSeptember 17, 1832 (aged 84)
Alma materKing's College
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Cruger
ChildrenHenry Cruger Van Schaack
Parent(s)Cornelius Van Schaack
Lydia Van Dyck
RelativesPeter Silvester (brother-in-law), Henry Cruger (brother-in-law)


Early lifeEdit

Van Schaack was born in March 1747, the fourth son and youngest child of Cornelius Van Schaack (1705-1776) and Lydia Van Dyck. His father owned a large estate in Kinderhook, New York. Van Schaack was one of five children. They included:[2] (1) Jannetje "Jane" Van Schaack, who married Peter Silvester (1734–1808), (2) Henry Van Schaack (1733–1823), who married Jannetje "Jane" Holland[3] (3) Cornelius Van Schaack Jr. (1734—1797), who married Angeltje "Angelica" Yates (b. 1752) and had Maria Helen Van Schaack (1773—1845), who married James Jacobus Roosevelt (1759—1840). Their child, Cornelius Roosevelt (1794—1871), married Margaret Barnhill (1799—1861) and were the grandparents of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, (4) David Van Schaack, and (5) Peter Van Schaack, himself.

In 1762, Van Schaack entered King's College and was the first man from Kinderhook to receive a college education. His classmates and friends included John Jay (1745–1829), Egbert Benson (1746–1833), Richard Harison (1747–1829), Gouverneur Morris (1752–1816).[2]


Beginning in the spring of 1766, Van Schaack began studying law in Albany with his older brother-in-law, Peter Silvester, who had married his sister Jane. In 1769, he was licensed to practice law, at the same time as Benson and Harison.[2]

In 1773, he was given the task of collating and revising the Colonial Statute Laws from 1691–1773, which he completed in 1774.[2]

American RevolutionEdit

Van Schaack was a strong loyalist, who at first agreed with and supported the colonists' complaints (including the Sons of Liberty). He eventually began to disagree with the revolutionaries and became an opponent of the American Revolution. He founded his opposition in a belief that the colonies were part of the British Empire, that Parliament had the authority to pass laws, and that Britain had the right to collect taxes. He believed that the colonies could not function without British rule, and thought that they needed the protection of Great Britain in order to survive. He also thought that if the colonies became independent, they would fight among themselves over their new form of government, thus he did not want to risk that chance.[2]

At the time of the Revolutionary war, Van Schaak opposed it. He left for Great Britain in 1778, and lived there for seven years. He then returned to America, and to legal practice.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1765, Van Schaack married Elizabeth Cruger, the daughter of Henry Cruger (1739–1827), a wealthy New York merchant.[2] Together, they had:

  • Henry Cruger Van Schaack

Van Schaack died in Kinderhook on September 17, 1832.


  1. ^ Newman, Roger K. (2009). The Yale Biographical Dictionary of American Law. Yale University Press. p. 560. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Collier, Edward Augustus (1914). A History of Old Kinderhook from Aboriginal Days to the Present Time: Including the Story of the Early Settlers, Their Homesteads, Their Traditions, and Their Descendants; with an Account of Their Civic, Social, Political, Educational, and Religious Life. Kinderhook, New York: G. P. Putnam's sons. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Henry Van Schaack". Find A Grave Memorial. Retrieved 20 April 2016.