John Savage


Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, 1823-1836

John Savage, born on February 22, 1779, in Salem, Washington County, New York, attended the common schools, graduated from Union College in 1799 and studied law in the office of Judge Woolworth in Troy. Admitted to the bar in 1800, he set up practice in Salem, NY. In 1806, he was appointed District Attorney of the Fourth District, and he represented Washington and Warren Counties in the New York State Assembly in 1814.

He was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Fourteenth and Fifteenth United States Congresses in which he served from March 4, 1815, to March 3, 1819 and was chairman of the Committee on Revisal and Unfinished Business. Returning to New York, he served as District Attorney of Washington County until 1821, when he became New York State Comptroller.

In January 1823 Governor Joseph Yates appointed Comptroller Savage to be the first Chief Justice under the State’s second constitution, adopted in 1821. Perhaps his most well-known decision is that in People v. Fisher (14 Wendell 9 [1835]) in which he concluded that the actions of labor unions could constitute criminal conspiracy. This remained the law of New York until 1870, when Fisher was overturned by statute.

Serving as Chief Justice until 1836, John Savage was a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket in 1844.

John Savage died in Utica, New York on October 19, 1863. In November 1888, Miss Laura W. Savage presented the Court of Appeals with a portrait of the Hon. John Savage that had been painted by Henry Inman in the 1830s, accompanied by a letter from Hon. Ward Hunt, also a descendant of John Savage.



Bell and Clark. “Historical Sketch of the Supreme Court of New York.” 23 Medico-Legal J. 238 (1905-1906).

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress:

New York Times (November 29, 1888).


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