Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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YATES, Robert, jurist, born in Schenectady, New York, 17 March, 1738 ; died in Albany, New York, 9 September, 1801. He received a classical education in New York city, where he also studied law under William Livingston, and, having been admitted to the bar in 1760, established himself in practice in Albany, and soon attained eminence in his profession. He espoused the cause of the colonies from the beginning of the difficulty with Great Britain, and wrote several essays under the signature of " The Rough Hewer," which attracted much attention. He was a member of the New York provincial congress of 1775, 1776, 1777, and in 1776 was chosen one of the council of safety. In August, 1776, he served on the committee that drafted the first constitution of the state, and in the same year became one of the judges of the supreme court, of which he was chief justice from 1790 till 1798. He was a member of the convention that formed the constitution of the United States, whose adoption he opposed in the State convention. Soon after this period he was commissioned to treat with the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut on the subject of territory, and to settle the claims of New York against the state of Vermont. He was noted for his moderation and impartiality as a jurist.---His kinsman, Peter W., member of the Continental congress, born in Albany, New York, was a lawyer by profession, and well known in the courts of Albany both before and after the Revolution. He was a member of the committee on correspondence in 1775, but resigned, having angered his colleagues by a letter ridiculing a public reception that was given to General Philip Schuyler. His popularity was so great that he was re-elected, but he declined to serve. He represented New York in the general congress from 1785 till 1787.--Robert's son, John Van Ness, lawyer, born in Albany, New York. 18 December, 1779; died there, 10 January, 1839, was educated for the bar, and engaged in practice at Albany. He was made a master in chancery in 1808, and became involved in a legal contest with Chancellor John Lansing, who had adjudged him guilty of malpractice and contempt of court. Though the full bench of the supreme court sustained the chancellor, the arrest was finally declared illegal by the court of errors: vet a subsequent suit for damages failed, because Lansing had committed the act in the discharge of his judicial functions. Yates was recorder of the city of Albany in 1808 and again in 1811-'16, and in 1818-'26 was secretary of state. He also held other offices, and was appointed by the legislature to add notes and references to the revised laws of New York, performing the task with ability and success. He published also "Select Cases Adjudged in the Courts of the State of New York, Containing the Case of John V. N. Yates and the Case of the Journeymen Cordwainers" (New York, 1811); "A Collection of Pleadings and Practical Precedents, with Notes thereon" (2d ed., 1837): a continuation of Chief-Justice William Smith's " History of the Province of New York" (Albany, 1814); with Joseph W. Moulton, a "History of the State of New York" (1824-'6); and, in conjunction with John L. Tillinghast, a "Treatise on the Principles and Practice, Process, Pleadings, and Entries in Cases of Writs of Error" (2 vols., Albany, 1840).
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