James Duane


Attorney General of New York, 1767

James Duane was born in New York City on February 6, 1733. His father died on August 14, 1747, and James became the ward of Robert Livingston. He went to live in Livingston Manor, Columbia County, where he completed his education. James Duane then studied law with James Alexander and was admitted to the New York bar in 1754.

As one of the leading lawyers before the Revolution, James Duane was retained to represent clients in many of the major cases of the day — Trinity Church v. Flandreau; Schermerhom v. The Trustees of Schenectady Patent; King v. Colden; and the landmark case of Forsey v. Cunningham in which he was attorney for Waddell Cunningham. Briefs and legal analysis that he wrote have survived and they display Duane’s impressive command of the law. In 1767, Duane served as Attorney General of New York during the absence of John Tabor Kempe.

From 1776-1783, Duane was a New York delegate to the Continental Congress and was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation in 1781. As a member of the Convention of the Representatives of the State of New York, James Duane was a supporter of the New York State constitution.

Duane became Mayor of New York in 1784 and served in that office for four years. He was elected to the New York Senate where he served from 1782-1785 and from 1788-1790. On September 25, 1789, President George Washington nominated Duane to the Federal District Court in New York and following confirmation by the United States Senate, Duane held that judicial office until he resigned due to ill health in 1794.

James Duane died in 1797 and is buried at Christ Church in Duanesburg, Schenectady County, the township to which Duane had been granted a patent in 1765.



Ralph J. Caliendo. New York City Mayors (2010)

Rossiter Johnson & John Howard Brown. The 20th Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans (1904)

Martha Joanna Lamb. History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise and Progress (1877-81)


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