Roger Skinner studied law and became an attorney, first in Connecticut and later in New York. While practicing in Connecticut, Skinner served as clerk of the Litchfield County Probate Court from 1796 to 1806. Among the students who learned the law from him after his move to New York were Silas Wright and Judge Esek Cowen of Saratoga Springs.
As a resident of Sandy Hill, he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1808, and was a member of the New York State Assembly from 1808 to 1810. He served as District Attorney for the 4th District of New York from 1811 to 1812 and was United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York from 1815 to 1819. He was a member of the New York State Senate from 1817 to 1821, and in 1821 he was a member of the state Council of Appointment.
On November 24, 1819, Skinner received a recess appointment from President James Monroe to the seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York vacated by Matthias Burnett Tallmadge. Monroe formally nominated him on January 3, 1820, and Skinner was confirmed by the United States Senate on January 5, 1820. He received his commission the same day, and served on the bench until his death. Upon ascending to the bench, Skinner sold his law office to Benjamin F. Butler, who took over his clients and his pending business.
As a judge, Skinner resided in Albany. He was a lifelong bachelor, and fellow politician Martin Van Buren was a widower, so Skinner and Van Buren shared a house. Van Buren and Skinner were Democratic-Republicans; when Van Buren created the Albany Regency clique to lead New York's Bucktails (the anti-DeWitt Clinton faction that eventually became New York's Democratic Party), Skinner was counted among its members. In an often-recounted incident of political miscalculation, when Clinton's political career seemed at an ebb in 1824, Skinner engineered his removal from the Erie Canal Commission. Clinton had long been identified among the public as the canal's biggest proponent; voter outrage at his removal led to his return to the governorship in the 1824 election. The maneuver against Clinton had been executed without Van Buren's knowledge; initially, Skinner and the Bucktails believed they had brought about Clinton's political death. Later, Van Buren is said to have remarked to Skinner that in politics it's possible to kill someone "too dead".
Death and burial
Skinner died in Albany on August 19, 1825; Van Buren nursed him during his final illness, and was with him when he died. Skinner was buried in Martin Van Buren's family plot at Albany Rural Cemetery, Section 62, Lot 34. He died without a will, and Butler was appointed to administer his estate.
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- Our County and Its People, p. 507.
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- "The President has appointed the Hon. Alfred Conkling...", p. 3.
- The Life and Times of Martin Van Buren, p. 197.
- Martin Van Buren and the American Political System, p. 91.
- The Empire State: A History of New York, p. 300.
- "Albany Rural Cemetery Burial Cards, 1791-2011".
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- Klein, Milton M. (2001). The Empire State: A History of New York. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
- Marsh, Dwight Whitney (1895). Marsh Genealogy: Giving Several Thousand Descendants of John Marsh of Hartford, Ct. 1636-1895. Amherst, MA: Carpenter & Morehouse.
- Van Buren, Martin; Mackenzie, William Lyon (1846). The Life and Times of Martin Van Buren: The Correspondence of His Friends, Family and Pupils. Boston, MA: Cooke & Co.
- History of Litchfield County, Connecticut. Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & Co. 1881.
- "Albany Rural Cemetery Burial Cards, 1791-2011, entry for Roger Skinner". Ancestry.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com, LLC. Retrieved July 8, 2017. (Subscription required (. ))
- "New York Wills and Probate Records, 1659-1999, entry for Roger Skinner". Ancestry.com. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com, LLC. January 14, 1826. Retrieved July 8, 2017. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Appointments by the President: Roger Skinner". Washington Gazette. Washington, DC. November 29, 1819. (Subscription required (. ))
- "Appointments by the President, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate: Roger Skinner". National Advocate. New York, NY. January 19, 1820. (Subscription required (. ))
- "The President has appointed the Hon. Alfred Conkling..." Connecticut Mirror. Hartford, CT. September 8, 1825. (Subscription required (. ))
- Roger Skinner at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Roger Skinner at Political Graveyard
- Roger Skinner at Open Jurist
- Roger Skinner at Find a Grave
Matthias B. Tallmadge
|Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York
|United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York