From 1776 to 1792, the executive leader of Delaware was known as the President and was elected by the State General Assembly. After the ratification of the United States Constitution, Delaware developed its own new constitution that called for the popular election of a governor.
NICHOLAS VAN DYKE was born at the Van Dyke family Burwick estate in New Castle County, Delaware. His family was a prominent one in the community and he grew up comfortably. In 1765, he was admitted to the bar in Pennsylvania. He soon thereafter married his first wife, Elizabeth, and the couple had their first daughter. Unfortunately, both Elizabeth and their daughter would pass away by 1770. Van Dyke remarried to Charlotte Stanley in 1774. Van Dyke first became involved in government in 1774, when he served as a member of the Boston Relief Committee in Delaware after the British closed the Massachusetts port. In 1776, he was a member of the Delaware constitutional convention and subsequently served in the first State Senate. From 1777 to 1782, he would go on to serve in the Delaware House of Representatives, the Delaware Admiralty Court, and the Continental Congress. After the resignation of President Dickinson, the General Assembly held a special election to elect the next president. Van Dyke received eighteen out of thirty votes and began his term on February 1, 1783. During his term, the Revolutionary War ended, Delaware was one of the few states to use tariffs and taxation to help the federal government pay down the war debt, and famous loyalist Cheney Clow was spared from execution. After the end of his term, Van Dyke would go on to serve for several months in the State Senate before passing away on February 19, 1789 at the Berwick estate.