Associate Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, 1777-1798
John Sloss Hobart was born on May 6, 1738, in Fairfield, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale College in 1757. Details of his legal education are unclear. Hobart was a member of the New York “Stamp Act” Congress that met on October 7, 1765. He became a member of the Sons of Liberty in November 1765 and was a deputy from Suffolk County to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Provincial Congresses of New York, held during 1775 and 1776.
Following the Declaration of Independence and the setting up of a Convention of Representatives of the State, he was appointed a leader in their deliberations. Hobart served on the committee that reported the resolution to approve the Declaration of Independence; on the Committee to Prepare and Report a Constitution; on the Committee that organized the Council of Safety (of which he became a member) and, with Gouverneur Morris and John Jay, on the committee that devised the first Great Seal of the State.
In May 1777, Hobart was appointed by the Convention as an Associate Justice of the newly organized Supreme Court of Judicature. Following the Hadden Case, when his appointment was approved by the Council of Appointment, he continued to serve on that Court for 20 years until he reached the mandatory retirement age of sixty. In 1793, he received the honorary degree of LL.D. at the anniversary commencement of Yale College, New Haven. Chancellor James Kent described him as a faithful, diligent, and discerning judge.
On January 11, 1798, Hobart was selected by the New York Legislature to succeed Gen. Philip Schuyler in the United States Senate. Four months later, on May 5, 1798, he resigned from the Senate to accept an appointment as a judge of the U.S. District Court for New York, an office he held until his death in New York City on February 5, 1805.
His good friend Egbert Benson had a marble memorial slab installed in the wall of the Supreme Court courtroom in New York City Hall. It was inscribed:
John Sloss Hobart was born at Fairfield, Connecticut. His father was a minister of that place. He was appointed a judge of the supreme court in 1777, and left it in 1798, having attained sixty years of age. The same year he was appointed a judge of the United States district court for New York, and held it till his death at the house of James Vatson on Throggs’ Neck, Westchester Co., in 1805. As a man, firm — as a citizen, zealous — as a judge, distinguished — as a Christian, sincere. This tablet is erected to his memory by one to whom he was as a friend — close as a brother.
Public papers of George Clinton, first Governor of New York, 1777-1795, 1801-1804.
Benjamin Franklin Thompson and Charles Jolly Werner. History of Long Island, vol. 2 (1918).
Charles Elliott Fitch. Encyclopedia of biography of New York, vol. 1 (1916).