Best known as a leader of a 1689 New York rebellion that came to bear his name, Jacob Leisler was one of late seventeenth-century New York's most prominent merchants, land developers, and foremost exponent of Reformed religious fundamentalism and Orangist political ideology. He was intimately bound to the social, economic, and political development of New Netherland and New York from 1659, when he was employed as a nineteen-year-old in the Dutch West India Company's Amsterdam office, until his execution for treason in New York City in May 1691. .
Jacob Leisler was born into a prominent European Calvinist family that included Dr. Jacob Leisler, his grandfather and chief counselor to the Counts of Oettingen, Reverend Jacob Victorian Leisler, his father and pastor of the Frankfurt-am-Main French Reformed congregation, and the noted Huguenot theologian Simon Goulart. Leisler's brothers, Johann Adam and Frantz, were Swiss bankers who financed such Protestant states as the duchy of Wuertemburg. As a member of the Calvinist elite, Leisler was connected with such political and intellectual figures of his day as Dutch artist Henri Couturier, the pro-Orangist Rotterdam group of English exiles, which included Gilbert Burnet, Charles Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, and Charles Mordaunt, earl of Monmouth, as well as with the New England Divines Cotton and Increase Mather. .
In the New World, Leisler catapulted to fame in 1689 when, in the wake of England's Glorious Revolution, he assumed the role of King William III's governor of New York. He thereupon implemented a program based on direct popular representation that had, as contemporaries noted, wide impact from the Chesapeake to New England. The following year he called for and hosted English America's first intercolonial congress and organized the first intercolonial military action independent of British authority. Leisler's administration of New York split the province into two distinct camps that were closely aligned with the Regent and Orangist factions in the United Provinces and the Whig and Tory factions in England, the legacy of which, according to some historians, is America's unique two-party system.