Josiah Ogden Hoffman


Attorney General of New York, 1798-1801

Josiah Ogden Hoffman was born on April 14, 1766, in Newark, New Jersey. He received his legal education in the law office of his maternal uncle, Abraham Ogden, in Morristown, New Jersey. Following the Revolutionary War, Hoffman practiced with Cadwallader Colden and was considered an outstanding litigator. He argued cases all over the United States and frequently appeared before the Supreme Court of the United States. Josiah Hoffman was the associate, and often the opponent, of Alexander Hamilton, James Kent, Ambrose Spencer, Thomas Addis Emmet, Wells, and other eminent jurists. His addresses to juries were popular with the public and frequently reprinted. One such was The trial of Lieutenant Renshaw, of the U.S. Navy : Indicted for challenging Joseph Strong to fight a duel. With the speeches of the learned counsel, Colden, Hoffman and Emmet.

Elected as a Federalist member from New York County (Manhattan), Hoffman served in the State Legislature during 1791-95, and was again elected in 1797. From 1798 to 1801, Josiah Hoffman served as the New York State Attorney General and, at the insistence of Alexander Hamilton, prosecuted the case of People v. Frothingham. Hoffman became Recorder of the City of New York in 1808 and continued in that office until 1815. Later, in 1828, he was appointed First Associate Judge of the Superior Court of Judicature of New York, an office that he held until his death.

Hoffman and Colden were also entrepreneurs and, in 1815, formed a corporation to exploit a steamboat monopoly they had purchased from Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton. The license gave them “a right to the exclusive navigation of the waters of the East river or Sound” and their steamboat was called The Fulton.

Josiah Ogden Hoffman died in New York City, January 24, 1837.



Charles Elliott Fitch. Encyclopedia of biography of New York: a life record of men and …, vol. 1, p 285 (1916).

David McAdam, et al. History of the Bench and Bar of New York (1897).


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