George W. Clinton

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Hon. George William Clinton
1842clintons.jpg
Portrait of George W. Clinton
7th United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York
In office
1847–1850
Appointed by James K. Polk
Preceded by William F. Allen
Succeeded by James R. Lawrence
12th Mayor of Buffalo
In office
March 8, 1842 – March 14, 1843
Preceded by Isaac R. Harrington
Succeeded by Joseph G. Masten
Personal details
Born (1807-04-21)April 21, 1807
New York City
Died September 7, 1885(1885-09-07) (aged 78)
Menands, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Laura Catherine Spencer
Children 9
Parents DeWitt Clinton
Maria Franklin
Residence Buffalo, New York
Education The Albany Academy
Alma mater Hamilton College (1825)
Norwich University (1827)
Litchfield Law School (1828)

George William Clinton (April 21, 1807 – September 7, 1885) was a New York lawyer, politician, judge, author and amateur naturalist.[1] He served as Mayor of Buffalo, New York from 1842 to 1843.[2]

Early life and family[edit]

Clinton was born on April 21, 1807 in New York City to Maria Franklin (1775-1818) and DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), while the latter was serving as Mayor of New York City. His father later became a U.S. Senator and the 6th Governor of New York.[3] He was the grandson of Major General James Clinton (1736-1812), grandnephew of George Clinton (1739-1812), the 4th U.S. Vice President, nephew of George Clinton, Jr. (1771-1809), a U.S. Representative, and James G. Clinton (1804-1849), also a member of the House of Representative.[1][2]

Education[edit]

Clinton grew up in Albany, New York, and attended The Albany Academy. He graduated from Hamilton College in 1825 and Norwich University in 1827, and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1828, he attended the Litchfield Law School,[4][5] completed his legal studies with Judge Ambrose Spencer (1765-1848), and was admitted to the bar in 1831.[2]

Career[edit]

Clinton initially practiced law in Albany with Matthew Henry Webster and then in 1832 formed a partnership with the son of his legal mentor, John Canfield Spencer (1788-1855), who eventually became the 17th United States Secretary of War and 16th United States Secretary of the Treasury in Canandaigua, New York. He served as the District Attorney of Ontario County from 1835 to 1836.[2]

In 1836, he moved to Buffalo and settled on the north side of East Mohawk Street between Washington and Ellicott Streets. The same year he organized the local Democratic Party with 20 or so other citizens.[1]

Political career[edit]

On March 22, 1838, he was appointed Collector of Customs at Buffalo[6] by U.S. President Martin Van Buren. Clinton served in this role until 1842. In March of that same year, Clinton was elected Mayor of Buffalo by a nearly unanimous vote. Although a Democrat, his election was unique in that he was not a party candidate. During his term the City Charter was revised. On March 14, 1843, he presided over his last council meeting.[7]

Clinton was appointed as United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York under President James K. Polk, and served from 1847 to 1850. From 1854 to 1878 he was Judge of Buffalo's Superior Court. His legal writings included the three volume Digest of the Decisions of the Law and Equity Courts of the State of New York. In 1867, he was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention.

Later career[edit]

In 1856, he was appointed a Regent of the University of the State of New York.[8] He served until his death, and attained the position of Vice Chancellor of the board.[2]

In 1882, he moved to Albany to become editor of the Clinton Papers, a collection left by his granduncle George Clinton.[2] Clinton was one of the organizers of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, founded on December 5, 1861. He was chosen its first president, and served for 20 years in that role. He was an amateur naturalist, and published 1882's Catalogue of the Native and Naturalized Plants of the City of Buffalo and its Vicinity.[1]

Personal life[edit]

On May 15, 1832 he married Laura Catherine Spencer (1810-1891), the daughter of John Canfield Spencer, his former law partner.[2] Their children included:

  • De Witt Clinton[7] (1833-1873)
  • Charles Clinton[7]
  • Elizabeth Spencer Clinton (1835-1918), who married Henry L. Clinton (1820-1899), a prominent New York lawyer.[9]
  • Spencer Clinton (1839-1914), an attorney in Buffalo, who married Sarah Riley (1851-1880), daughter of William A. Riley and Frances A. Stillman, in 1870. After her death, he married her sister, Carrie Riley (1859-1887), and in 1895, he married a third time to Cora Caldwell (1870-1925).[7]
  • Catharine Clinton (1841-1881), who married Albert J. Wheeler (1841-1924), president of the Western Savings Bank and Wheeler-Monarch Elevator Company.[10]
  • Minnie Natalie Clinton,[11] who married Abram H. Baldwin[7]
  • George Clinton (1846-1934), an attorney in Buffalo, married Alice Thornton (1847-1931), daughter of Thomas F. Thornton and Jane Parker.[7]

He died on September 7, 1885 while walking through Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands. He was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Cemetery[12] after a service at St. Paul's Cathedral,[13] still clutching the clover he was holding when he died.[1][2][14]

Honors[edit]

In 1864, Clinton was awarded the honorary degree of LL.D. by Hamilton College.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Day, David F. (1885). George W. Clinton, LL.D. Vol. 12. Torrey Botanical Society. pp. 103–106. JSTOR 2476072. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "STRICKEN IN A CEMETERY THE SUDDEN DEATH OF VICE CHANCELLOR CLINTON: STRUCK BY APOPLEXY WHILE ENGAGED INA BOTANICAL EXPEDITION — THE STORY OF A USEFUL LIFE.". The New York Times. September 8, 1885. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  3. ^ "DE WITT CLINTON. SKETCH OF THE FAMOUS GOVERNOR BY HIS SON. PAPER READ BEFORE THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF BUFFALO BY HON. GEORGE W. CLINTON GOV. CLINTON VINDICATED FROM ASPERSIONS RECENTLY CAST UPON HIS MEMORY THE GOVERNOR AS A STATESMAN, AS A MAN, AND AS A FATHER.". The New York Times. April 10, 1875. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "Litchfield Ledger - Student". www.litchfieldhistoricalsociety.org. Litchfield Historical Society. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  5. ^ Litchfield Law School (1900). The Litchfield Law School, 1784-1833. Litchfield, CT: Litchfield Enquirer. p. 25. 
  6. ^ "The Buffalo Directory". Courier Company of Buffalo. Courier Company of Buffalo: 22. 1 January 1842. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f MEMORIAL AND FAMILY HISTORY OF ERIE COUNTY NEW YORK, Volume I. 419-421 Lafayette Street: Winthrop Press. 1906–1908. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  8. ^ Chester, Alden; Williams, Edwin Melvin (Aug 11, 2004). Courts and Lawyers of New York: A History, 1609-1925. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. ISBN 9781584774242. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  9. ^ "DEATH OF HENRY L. CLINTON Lawyer Passes Away at His Home After a Long illness. IN MANY CELEBRATED CASES Once Received a Fee of Over $300,000 — His Success in Criminal and Civil Practice.". The New York Times. June 8, 1899. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  10. ^ "Obituary Notes". The New York Times. September 26, 1924. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  11. ^ Foley, Janet Wethy. Early Settlers of New York State: Their Ancestors and Descendants, Volumes I-VI (PART I - i-iii). Heritage Books. ISBN 9780788437113. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  12. ^ "JUDGE CLINTON'S FUNERAL.". The New York Times. September 12, 1885. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  13. ^ "HONORING JUDGE CLINTON'S MEMORY.". The New York Times. September 11, 1885. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "JUDGE CLINTON'S MEMORY HONORED.". The New York Times. September 9, 1885. Retrieved 9 August 2016. 
  15. ^ IPNI.  Clinton. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
William F. Allen
United States Attorney for
the Northern District of New York

1847-1850
Succeeded by
James R. Lawrence
Political offices
Preceded by
Isaac R. Harrington
Mayor of Buffalo, NY
1842–1843
Succeeded by
Joseph G. Masten