James Delancey was born into the English aristocracy on November 27, 1703. He presided over the 1733 libel suit brought by Governor William Cosby against journalist Peter Zenger. This case is a major landmark in establishing freedom of the press in America.
Delancey was educated at Cambridge and trained in law. He arrived in colonial Manhattan in 1729. Prior to being named Chief Justice by Royal Governor William Cosby, he served on the Governor's Council and as second judge of the colony's Supreme Court.
Eighteenth century American colonists demanded increased freedom while proponents of royal rule desperately sought to maintain power in the face of rising opposition and democracy. Delancey and Cosby staunchly supported the English Crown and the concept of royal privilege. Many colonial New Yorkers were individualistic entrepreneurs seeking financial success and independence and did not quietly defer to what they viewed as antiquated claims of royal privilege.
James DeLancey, chief justice and lieutenant governor of the Province of New York, 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.