Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of the New-York Historical Society, 1804-1954

Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of the New-York Historical Society, 1804-1954

Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of the New-York Historical Society, 1804-1954

Knickerbocker Birthday: A Sesqui-Centennial History of the New-York Historical Society, 1804-1954

Excerpt

A native of New York City, Egbert Benson graduated from King's College in 1765 and became a member of the bar four years later. He was a Revolutionary patriot of great activity and helped set up the new State government; a member of the Provincial Congress in 1776, of the Council of Safety from 1777 to 1778, of the first Legislative Assembly in 1777, where he drafted some of the most important legislation. He also served as first Attorney General for eleven years beginning in 1777. In national affairs, he was a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation, 1781-1784, to the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and represented New York in the first two United States Congresses. He was a strong backer of the Administration and especially of the measures advocated by Hamilton. In 1794 he began a seven-year term as Justice of the New York Supreme Court and in 1801 became Chief Justice of the Second United States Circuit Court. When this court was abolished in 1802 he retired to private practice but served briefly in Congress, 1813-1815. His legal learning, which was second only to that of Hamilton, was recognized by his receiving the degree of Doctor of Laws from Union, Harvard, and Dartmouth. He served as Regent of the University of the State of New York from 1787 to 1802, as a Trustee of Columbia College from 1804 to 1815, and as first President of our Society, of which he was a Founder, from 1805 to 1815. He published a standard legal work on Cases and Queries in 1809, A Vindication of the Captors of Major André in 1817, and a Memoir on New York Dutch Place Names, which he had delivered before the Society in 1816, appeared in 1825 and was reprinted in our Collections for 1848. His last years were spent in Jamaica, Long Island. The Society owns his oil portrait by Gilbert Stuart as well as Jarvis's early copy of it.

DURING the eleven years of Benson's presidency our nation was governed by Jefferson to 1809 and then by Madison; Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri became Territories and Louisiana a State. The war between Great Britain and France closed European ports to our shipping and we retaliated with the Embargo Act which prohibited our ships from sailing to Europe . . .

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