Nicolls, Richard, 1624–72, first English governor of New York, b. Bedfordshire, England. He served in the English civil war as a royalist and followed the Stuarts into exile, where he entered the service of the duke of York (later King James II). In 1664, Charles II laid claim to the Dutch colony in America and gave it to the duke of York, who appointed Nicolls governor. Nicolls and his followers took New Amsterdam from the Dutch with little difficulty. Despite his arbitrary powers, he was an effective ruler of the English colony, renamed New York. He balanced the interests of the English and Dutch settlers and brought about a gradual transition to English institutions. He issued the legal code known as the Duke's Laws in 1665. After his resignation (1667) Nicolls returned to England and was killed at the naval battle of Southwold Bay in the third Dutch War.
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