Abraham Van Vechten

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Abraham Van Vechten (December 5, 1762 – January 6, 1837) was an American lawyer and a Federalist politician who served twice as New York State Attorney General.

Early life

Abraham Van Vechten was born on December 5, 1762, in Catskill, Albany County (now Greene County), New York. He was the son of Dutch Americans Teunis Van Vechten (1707–1785) and Judikje "Judith" Ten Broeck (1721–1783).

His brothers were Samuel Ten Broeck Van Vechten (1742–1813) and Teunis Van Vechten (1749–1817), who became a prominent merchant in Albany and held the office of commissary on the staff of New York State Governor Morgan Lewis during the revolution.<ref name="Sullivan"/> Their maternal grandfather was Jacob Ten Broeck (1688–1746), nephew of Dirck Wesselse Ten Broeck (1638–1717). Van Vechten was educated at Columbia College, studied law with John Lansing, Jr., and began practice in Johnstown, New York, but soon removed to Albany.


In 1792, he was elected one of the first directors of the Bank of Albany. From 1796 to 1797, he was Assistant Attorney General for the Fifth District, comprising Albany, Saratoga, Schoharie and Montgomery Counties. He was a Federalist presidential elector in 1796, and cast his votes for John Adams and Thomas Pinckney.

Van Vechten was the first lawyers admitted to the bar after the adoption of the New York State Constitution and ranked among the most gifted men of that time, including Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and Robert Livingston.

Public office

From 1797 to 1808, Van Vechten served as Recorder of the City of Albany. Concurrently, he was a member of the New York State Senate, serving in the 22nd through the 28th New York State Legislatures from 1798 to 1805, representing the Eastern District, which included Washington, Clinton, Rensselaer, Albany and Saratoga counties.

After leaving the Senate, he was elected to the New York State Assembly, serving in the 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd, 34th, 35th and 36th New York State Legislatures from 1808 to 1813, representing Albany County. While serving in the Assembly, he also served as the 10th New York State Attorney General from 1810 to 1811, and again from 1813 to 1815 as the 13th Attorney General, under Governor Daniel D. Tompkins.

His successor was Martin Van Buren, who later became the 8th President of the United States.

After serving as Attorney General of New York, he was elected to return to the State Senate, serving in the 39th through the 42nd New York State Legislatures from 1816 to 1819, representing the Middle District, which included Albany, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Orange, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties.

In 1821, he was a delegate to the New York State Constitutional Convention, where he opposed the extension of the franchise. From 1797 to 1823, he was a regent of the University of the State of New York.

In the 1828 presidential election, Van Vechten was a presidential elector, voting for the 6th President, John Quincy Adams and Richard Rush.

Personal life

In 1784, he married Catharina Schuyler (1766–1820), eldest daughter of Philip P. Schuyler (1736–1808) of the prominent Schuyler family. She grew up on her father's farm in the Schuyler Flatts section of the Manor of Rensselaerswyck. Catharina was the great-granddaughter of Pieter Schuyler (1657–1724), the first mayor of Albany, and Maria Van Rensselaer, daughter of Jeremias Van Rensselaer (1632–1674). Together, they had thirteen children, including:

  • Judith Van Vechten (1785–1799)
  • Phillip Van Vechten (1786–1814)
  • Teunis A Van Vechten (1787–1811)
  • Anna Van Vechten (1789–1857)
  • Elizabeth Van Vechten (1791–1878)
  • Samuel Van Vechten (1794–1824)
  • Gertrude Van Vechten (1798–1842)
  • Jacob Ten Broeck Van Vechten (1801–1841)
  • Judith Van Vechten (1803–1825)

Van Vechten died in Albany on January 6, 1837, and was buried at Albany Rural Cemetery.

Van Vechten papers at the New York State Library:

Abraham Van Vechten Papers, 1686-1867 SC7006 Quantity: 37 boxes (19 cu.ft.) Access: Open to research. PROCESSED BY: Papers collected by Abraham Van Wyck Van Vechten and presented to the New York State Library by his daughters, Mrs. Effe Van Vechten Knox and Mrs. Marie Van Vechten Huntington. View catalog record

Related Materials: Van Vechten Family Papers | Abraham Van Vechten Legal Papers

Biographical Note: Abraham Van Vechten was born in Catskill, N.Y. in 1762 and died in Albany in 1837. He was one of the first lawyers admitted to the bar after the adoption of the state constitution and soon ranked with the gifted men of that time, among whom were Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and Robert Livingston. At various times he held the positions of recorder of the city of Albany, 1797-1808; state senator, 1798-1805 and 1816-1819; member of the assembly, 1806, 1808-1813; attorney-general, 1810, 1813-1815; member of the constitutional convention, 1821, and regent of the University of the State of New York, 1797-1823. Though in public office for some twenty years, the larger portion of his life was devoted to the practice of law and especially to the trial of cases on appeal. On several occasions he was offered the appointment of judge of the Supreme Court but declined the honor because he preferred the labors of the bar to those of the bench. The reports of the appellate courts of this state give some indication of the amount of professional labor performed by him.

Scope and Content Note: The collection includes about 5,000 papers. Of these 125 are deeds with dates ranging from 1712 to 1828; some of the earlier ones are on parchment and many are not recorded. Three original land patents are included, one granted in 1667 by Gov. Richard Nicolls to Abraham Staats, another in 1790 by Gov. George Clinton to Ephraim Blower, and the third in 1791 by Gov. Clinton to John Taylor. There are 15 wills, three of them in Dutch, between the dates 1747 and 1818; mortgages, leases and other legal documents are numerous and most of them are earlier than 1800. There are papers, both legal and personal, relating to the families of Bradstreet, Caldwell, Cochran, Duncan, Duryea, Finck, Fonda, Forsyth, Grover, Hicks, Jackson, Lyon, Malin, Newkirk, Schuyler, Taylor, Ten Broeck, Thompson, Vandenburgh, Van Horn, Van Rensselaer, Van Schaack, and Viele; to the North Dutch, and the Associate Reformed Presbyterian churches of Albany, and to Union College. There are also several early maps and surveys.

Papers classified by counties include documents of Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Washington, Montgomery, Herkimer, Oneida, Dutchess, and Queen counties.

In addition, the collection contains a large number of Mr. Van Vechten's briefs on cases in the Albany Mayor's Court, the Supreme Court, the Court of Chancery, and the court for the Correction of Errors.

Further reading