Attorney General of New York, 1712-1721
David Jamison, a native of Lithgow, Scotland, was a member of the Sweet Singers, a Quaker/Mennonist sect persecuted by the Stuart kings upon their returned to the English throne. Jamison was arrested, tried and sentenced to be hanged for burning a bible, but the sentence was commuted to exile by an order of the Privy Council dated August 7, 1685. To cover the cost of his transportation to America, Jamison was required to serve an indenture of four years and he was assigned to Reverend Clarke, the Fort James chaplain. When word of Jamison’s scholarship reached the citizenry, they arranged to purchase Jamison’s time from Mr. Clarke so that a Latin school could be set up in the City.
Jamison was appointed Deputy Secretary and Clerk of the Council in April 1691, and commenced his legal studies. He was the Clerk of the Court that tried Jacob Leisler. When the Earl of Bellomont arrived in New York as Governor in 1698, Jamison was dismissed from office but not long afterward, on October 6, 1698, David Jamison was admitted to the New York bar. He was an active member of the New York Bar Association, formed in 1709.
In 1711, Jamison was appointed Chief Justice of New Jersey, and on June 10, 1712 he became Attorney General of New York, replacing May Bickley, who was removed from office following the prosecutions in the “Negro Plot of 1712.” Bickley had held the office of Attorney General pending the return of John Rayner to the Province, and Jamison took office on the same condition. When Rayner died, Jamison received a formal commission to the office on January 22, 1720. During this time, Jamison was a member of the Governor’s Council and Recorder of New York City.
James Alexander was appointed Attorney General of the Province in 1721 and from then on, Jamison devoted himself to practice at the bar and was counsel in most of the important cases before the courts. He was particularly noted for his bravery and character in defending those prosecuted on religious grounds.
On May 27, 1697, Jamison and eight others obtained The Great Nine Partners’ Patent in Dutchess County, and later that year, Jamison became one of the seven patentees of 1,200 acres of land in Deerpark, Orange County.
David Jamison died in New York on July 25, 1739.
E. B. O’Callaghan. David Jamison in The Magazine of American History, Volume 1 (1877)
Paul Hamlin and Charles Baker. The Supreme Court of the Province of New York, 1691-1704 (1959)