Last name also spelled Delancy, DeLancy, De Lancey, de Lancey.
James DeLancy was born in New York state, into a wealthy and politically and socially prominent family. There is some confusion as to his relationship to other family members, as there were three men named "James DeLancey" in the family in roughly the same period. James DeLancey the elder (1703-1760) was for a time the British lieutenant-governor of the New York colony. His son, also named James (17321800), was a Loyalist officer in the American Revolution. His cousin James, son of Stephen DeLancey, was almost certainly the James DeLancey named in the pamphlet.
This last James was Sheriff of Westchester, New York (or West Chester, as it is called in some records) from 1770 to 1776. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1776, the DeLancy family sided with the British, and several of them, including James, fought against the rebels. James was the commander, with the rank of Captain, of a troop of some fifty Loyalist cavalry soldiers known as DeLancey's Horse, and later had the rank of Colonel in command of a troop of several hundred cavalry known as the Westchester Refugees. They were also known as the Cowboys, from their practice of stealing cattle from the rebels and selling them to the British army. The Westchester Refugees appear to have been an effective force, harassing the rebels and defending British-held positions around New York. Despite several attempts by Washington and the rebel troops, the Refugees were never captured.
In the usual manner of historical accounts, DeLancey's troops are called heroes by some and rogues by others. A roadside monument in New York gives the American view of DeLancey (excerpts only):
to First Rhode Island Regiment
2880 Crompond Road, Yorktown Heights, NY
The First Rhode Island Regiment was composed predominantly of enslaved African American soldiers who had enlisted in the American Continental Army to earn their freedom. During the American Revolution, these men fought courageously to defend American liberty against the aggressions of British tyranny.
In 1780 the first Rhode Island Regiment, under the command of Colonel Christopher Greene, was charged with defending northern Westchester lines against the ravages of British troops and roguish Loyalist Refugees led by James DeLancey. At dawn on May 13, 1781, DeLancey and 200 Loyalist Refugees mounted a surprise attack on Colonel Greene's headquarters... Within moments, DeLancey and his renegade Refugees overtook the 50 American soldiers encamped in tents around the house. When firing ceased, six soldiers had been slain, Colonel Greene was mortally wounded, and the remaining officers were killed.
Leaving the wounded Colonel Greene by the road to die, DeLancey and his Refugees then ... ordered the African American soldiers to ground their firelocks and surrender. Refusing the surrender, the African American soldiers leveled their muskets and fired upon DeLancey and his column of Refugees. The African American Rhode Island Regiment fought courageously, but all were killed.
James himself puts a different spin on his wartime activities in in a letter resigning his commission, possibly when he was already in Nova Scotia (excerpts only):
New York 3d April 1783
Westchester County New York Militia
Memorial & Resignation of James DeLancey
To his Excellency Sir Guy CARLETON Knight of the most honorable Order of the Bath General & Commander in Chief &c
The Memorial of James DeLANCEY of West Chester County Esquire.
Most humbly sheweth,
That your Memorialist has, from the very Commencement of the present Controversy between Great Britain & America, evinced the most zealous & unequivocal Attachment to his Sovereign & the British Constitution, & since the Year 1777, has commanded the Militia & loyal Refugees in the County to which he belongs— a Corps consisting of five hundred Men, who, as well as your Memorialist, have served without either Pay or Cloathing.
That by Means of their Service, the Enemy has been constantly kept at such a Distance from Kings-Bridge, as to render that Post perfectly secure, & to keep up a Communication with the Country People for the Supply of the Magazines & Markets at New York.
That the Enemy have been repelled in every Attempt to destroy the People under your Memorialists Command, & that in the many Engagements which he has had with them your Memorialist has been so fortunate as to capture a Number of Prisoners sufficient not only for the Exchange of his own Men, but also for the Release of above five hundred British Prisoners. ...
That your Memorialist has at all Times exerted the most anxious & unwearied Attention to preserve the Property of the Inhabitants in the Country & afford them every Protection, by which means he is well convinced that he has acquired & maintained the firm & general Attachment at least of such of them as were loyally disposed—
But that he now finds to his great Mortification, that there is a Number of People, irritated at his Zeal & Service in the Cause of Government, who secretly endeavour to prejudice him in your Excellencys Opinion, by collecting in an underhanded Manner, Depositions respecting every Irregularity committed in the County of West Chester & its Vicinity, which are indiscriminately charged against the Refugees under his command, tho most of them have originated from People who have no Connection with that Corps.
That your Memorialist, finding it impossible to conteract the Artifices of such designing Men, whose Enmity against him is probably caused by his steady Attachment to Government, & who seek to gratify it by taking the most unfair methods to ruin him in your Excellencys Opinion; & being prompted by a Regard to his Reputation which has hitherto remained unimpeached, finds himself compelled to request Permission to resign a Command which he accepted at the repeated Solications of two General Officers; which he hoped, from his manner of executing it, would gain him the Esteem of all the Kings Friends; & which in the present Situation of Affairs it can no longer be useful to retain. ...
[Great Britain, Public Record Office, Headquarters Papers of the British Army in America, 30/55/7302. http://www.royalprovincial.com/military/rhist/wcomil/wcomem1.htm]
After the war, Loyalists still in New York were subject to the Confiscation Act, which decreed that "each and every of them who shall at any time hereafter be found in any part of this state shall be and are hereby declared guilty of death as in case of felony without benefit of clergy" and ordered the confiscation of their property. James DeLancey is among sixty New York Loyalists named under the Act; his confiscated property was sold by the state for over $234,000.
In 1782 (or possibly 1783) James DeLancy fled to Nova Scotia, along with many others who had supported Britain during the war; some records say that the Loyalists arrived in Nova Scotia with only what they could carry. James apparently managed to bring his household and his slaves, one of which was possibly the Jack named in the suit.
The Loyalists were promised land as compensation for their confiscated property in New York, but it took about two years before the promise was kept. From all indications, DeLancey, who continued to use the title "Colonel", did well in exile.