James De Lancey

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James De Lancey
Governor of the Province of New York
In office
MonarchGeorge II
Preceded bySir Danvers Osborn, 3rd Baronet
Succeeded byCharles Hardy
Governor of the Province of New York
In office
MonarchGeorge II
Preceded byCharles Hardy
Succeeded byCadwallader Colden
Personal details
BornNovember 27, 1703
New York City
DiedJuly 30, 1760 (aged 56)
New York City
Alma materCorpus Christi College
Inner Temple

James De Lancey (November 27, 1703 – July 30, 1760) served as chief justice, lieutenant governor, and acting colonial governor of the Province of New York.

Early life and education[edit]

De Lancey was born in New York City on November 27, 1703, the first son of Étienne de Lancy and Anne, a daughter of Stephanus Van Cortlandt. His brother, Oliver De Lancey, became a senior Loyalist officer in the American War of Independence, joining General Howe on Staten Island in 1776, and raising and equipping De Lancey's Brigade, three battalions of 1,500 Loyalist volunteers from New York State. His sister Susannah Delancey became the wife of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, and another sister, Anne DeLancey, became the wife of John Watts, member of the New York General Assembly.[1]

James went to England for his schooling, and to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he was tutored by future Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Herring, before studying law at the Inner Temple, London.[2] Having been admitted to the bar in 1725, he returned to New York to practice law and enter politics.


Also in 1729, De Lancey was made a member of the New York Assembly, and in 1731 was appointed as second justice of the Supreme Court of New York. In 1730, De Lancey was chosen to lead a commission to frame a new charter for the City of New York. Passed into law in 1732 by the New York Assembly, "the Montgomerie Charter," was principally the work of James De Lancey, who, for his services, was presented with the Freedom of the City Medal.

In 1733, on the removal of chief justice Lewis Morris, De Lancey was appointed in his stead, and served as chief justice of New York for the remainder of his life. He presided over the 1735 trial of journalist John Peter Zenger on charges of sedition and libel against Governor William Cosby. Zenger won his case, and the Zenger trial is recognized as a landmark case in establishing freedom of the press in America.

In 1744, one year into George Clinton's position as Governor of New York, De Lancey was granted a commission as New York's chief justice where he became a dominant political force with many relying on his support for their continued time in office and salary.[3] In the same year, he was elected a member of The American Philosophical Society.[4]

In 1746 a dispute arose between Governor George Clinton and the New York Assembly regarding the governor's salary. Chief Justice De Lancey supported the legislature's position in the controversy, thus incurring the enmity of Governor Clinton, who subsequently refused to acknowledge a commission from King George II (dated October 27, 1747), appointing De Lancey as Lieutenant Governor of New York. Governor Clinton withheld De Lancey's commission as lieutenant governor until October 1753.

With the advent of the French and Indian War, Lt. Gov. De Lancey convened and presided over a congress of colonial delegates held in Albany, New York in June 1754 (Albany Congress), for the purpose of establishing an alliance with the Indians for the common defense against the French.

In October 1754, Lt. Gov. De Lancey granted a charter for the creation of King's College (now Columbia University). In July 1755, Lt. Gov. De Lancey attended a council of governors of the colonies, held at Alexandria, Virginia, to coordinate defense matters with General Braddock against the French.

In September 1755, Sir Charles Hardy arrived from London and assumed the functions of Governor of New York, thus returning Lt. Gov. De Lancey to his role as Chief Justice. Hardy's tenure as governor came to an end in July 1757, when Sir Charles took command of a military expedition to Louisbourg, Nova Scotia, once again leaving De Lancey the de facto ruler of the province, which he remained till his death.


In 1729, James De Lancey married Anne Heathcote, daughter of Caleb Heathcote, a former mayor of New York City, at Trinity Church.

De Lancey died on July 30, 1760 in New York City.


  1. ^ Stevens, Walter Barlow (1921). Centennial History of Missouri, Vol. 2, 1921. Chicago : S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. p. 76.
  2. ^ "De Lancy, James (LNCY721J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  3. ^ Judd, Jacob (February 2000). De Lancey, James (1703-1760), jurist and politician. 1. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.0100207.
  4. ^ Bell, Whitfield J., and Charles Greifenstein, Jr. Patriot-Improvers: Biographical Sketches of Members of the American Philosophical Society. 3 vols. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1997, 1:120–124.
  5. ^ Raymond, Marcius D., p. 37
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Danvers Osborn
Governor of the Province of New York (acting)
1753 — 1755
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Hardy
Preceded by
Sir Charles Hardy
Governor of the Province New York (acting)
1758 — 1760
Succeeded by
Cadwallader Colden (acting)