Attorney General of New York, 1810; 1813-1815
Abraham Van Vechten was born in Catskill, New York on December 5, 1762. Educated at the academy in Esopus (Kingston) and at Kings College (now Columbia University), he studied law in the office of John Lansing, Jr. (later Chancellor of New York), and was admitted to the bar in October 1785, the first lawyer admitted to practice following the adoption of the State Constitution.
Initially, Abraham Van Vechten established a law practice in Johnstown, New York, but he soon returned to Albany where he rose to prominence. Specializing in appellate practice, he frequently argued cases with and against attorneys such as Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Samuel Jones. Van Vechten regularly appeared before the Supreme Court of Judicature and the Supreme Court of the United States. He was counsel to Bradshaw in the New York Supreme Court case of Bradshaw v. Rogers & Magee and represented Chancellor Lansing before the New York Court of Errors in Yates v. Lansing. He appeared for Thomas Addis Emmet before the Supreme Court of Judicature, arguing that alienism did not prohibit admission to the New York bar.
In 1796, Van Vechten was appointed District Attorney of the fifth judicial district, and served as Recorder of the City of Albany from 1797 until 1808. Elected to the New York State Senate for two terms, 1798 to 1805 and 1816 to 1819, he also served in the New York Assembly in 1806 and in 1808 to 1813. As a Senator, he was a member of the Court of Errors, but when Governor John Jay offered him an appointment to the New York Supreme Court of Judicature he declined, preferring to remain a legislator and a practicing lawyer. He served as New York State Attorney-General in 1810, and again from 1813 to 1815.
Known as a kind and courteous man, Van Vechten made a practice of advising the settlement of disputes without recourse to litigation. He championed Federalist policies at the drafting of the State Constitution of 1777 and the Federal Constitution of 1787. He was a member of the 1821 New York Constitutional Convention, where he proposed the extension of the franchise.
Abraham Van Vechten died in Albany in 1837.
Charles Elliott Fitch. Encyclopedia of biography of New York, vol. 1 (1916).