About James DeLancey
James DeLancey (1703–1760) served as chief justice, lieutenant governor, and acting colonial governor of the Province of New York.
DeLancey was born in New York City on November 27, 1703, the first son of Etienne DeLancey and Anne-daughter of Stephanus Van Cortlandt. James went to England for his schooling, and to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge before studying law at the Inner Temple, London. Having been admitted to the bar in 1725, he returned to New York to practice law and enter politics.
In 1729, James DeLancey married Anne Heathcote, daughter of a Mayor of New York City Caleb Heathcote, at Trinity Church, New York. That same year, DeLancey 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, DeLancey 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 DeLancey, who, for his services, was presented with the Freedom of the City Medal.
In 1733, on the removal of chief justice Lewis Morris, DeLancey 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 1746 a dispute arose between Governor Clinton and the New York Assembly regarding the governor's salary. Chief Justice DeLancey 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 DeLancey as Lieutenant Governor of New York. Governor Clinton withheld DeLancey's commission as lieutenant governor until October 1753.
With the advent of the Seven Years' War, Lt. Gov. DeLancey convened and presided over a congress of colonial delegates held in Albany N.Y. 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. DeLancey granted a charter for the creation of King's College (now Columbia University). In July 1755, Lt. Gov. DeLancey 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. DeLancey 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 DeLancey the de-facto ruler of the province, which he remained till his death on July 30, 1760 in New York City.
He was survived by a son, Captain James DeLancey (1732–1800), who took over the family drygoods business and went into New York provincial politics.
His sister was the wife of Sir Peter Warren (admiral).
His daughter was a wife of Thomas Jones (historian).
His daughter, Susannah, died unmarried. She raised Susannah Burritt, the daughter of Rev. Blackleach Burritt and Martha Welles.