Joseph Dudley


Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, 1691-1692

Joseph Dudley, the first Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on September 23, 1647. The fourth son of Thomas Dudley, Governor of Massachusetts, he was educated at the Free School in Cambridge and graduated from Harvard College in 1665. He became the representative from Roxbury at the Massachusetts Bay General Court, House of Deputies (lower chamber of the legislature) in 1673, and became a member of the House of Assistants (upper chamber) in 1676.

In 1682, when King Charles II of England sought to revoke the Massachusetts Bay Company charter, Dudley was sent by Massachusetts Bay to London to advocate for its preservation. James II succeeded to the throne in 1685 and, by royal appointment dated October 8, 1685, Joseph Dudley became president of the Massachusetts Provisional Council. When James II established the Dominion of New England in America in 1686, he appointed Sir Edmund Andros as Governor. Joseph Dudley became a member of the new governor’s Council and, in 1687, was appointed Chief Justice of the Dominion’s Superior Court.

James II was deposed in 1688, and William of Orange and Queen Mary ascended to the English throne. In April 1689, word of the revolution reached Boston, and the colonists rose up against Andros and Dudley. They were jailed and sent to England for trial, where the charges against Dudley were dismissed. While in England, he became acquainted with Colonel Henry Sloughter, the newly-appointed governor of New York. He was appointed to the Governor’s Council, and sailed with the Governor’s retinue to New York in December 1690. In early 1691, Governor Sloughter appointed Dudley Chief Judge of the special session of the Court of Oyer and Terminer convened to try Jacob Leisler for treason. When, on May 6, 1691, the New York Assembly established the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, Joseph Dudley was appointed its first Chief Judge. Governor Sloughter died suddenly in July 1692 and his successor, Governor Fletcher, favored the Leislerian faction. These events caused Joseph Dudley to leave the Province and return to Roxbury, MA. Governor Fletcher removed Dudley from office and appointed William Smith in his place.

In 1693, Dudley returned to England and became Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle of Wight. In 1702, Queen Anne appointed him Governor of Massachusetts, a position he held until 1715. He died at Roxbury, MA, on April 2,1720.



Daly, Charles Patrick. Historical Sketch of the Judicial Tribunals of New York from 1623 to 1846. New York, 1855.

Hamlin, Paul M., and Charles E. Baker. Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York, 1691-1704. New York, 1959.

Kimball, Everett. The Public Life of Joseph Dudley: A Study of the Colonial Policy of the Stuarts in New England, 1660-1715. New York, 1911.


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