Van Rensselaer, Stephen, 1764–1839, American political leader and soldier, called the Patroon, b. New York City. He spent some years managing his property, which included most of the present-day Albany and Rensselaer counties of New York state, before entering politics. An ardent Federalist, he served in the state assembly (1789–90, 1808–10), in the state senate (1790–95), as lieutenant governor (1795–1801), and as a congressman (1822–29). His unexpected vote (1825) in the House of Representatives for John Quincy Adams for president, instead of William H. Crawford, to whom his vote was committed, secured Adams's election. He was a delegate to the constitutional convention of 1801, a member of the New York state commission that recommended (1811) building the Erie Canal, and president (1825–39) of the canal commission. As major general in the state militia during the War of 1812, he commanded troops along the northern frontier and was badly defeated in an attack on Queenston in Canada; he thereupon resigned his command. Van Rensselaer founded (1824) a technical school at Troy, N.Y., which later (1826) was incorporated as Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
See biography by W. B. Fink (1950).