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William P. Van Ness

William Peter Van Ness (February 13, 1778–September 6, 1826) was a United States federal judge.

Early Life and education

Van Ness was born in Ghent, New York. He is the son of Judge Peter Van Ness (1734– 1804), a lawyer and farmer. The home and land were later purchased by Martin Van Buren, who renamed the estate Lindenwald. Peter Van Ness is buried on the Lindenwald estate.

William Van Ness's brothers included U.S. Representative and Washington, D.C. mayor John Peter Van Ness and Vermont governor Cornelius Peter Van Ness.

William Van Ness attended Washington Seminary and graduated from Columbia College in 1797.

After graduating from college William Van Ness read law in the office of Edward Livingston, attaining acceptance to the bar in 1800.

Early Career

William Van Ness practiced law in New York City, Albany, and Hudson from 1800 to 1812.

Van Ness, a friend of Aaron Burr, was an active participant in the 1800 presidential campaign as a vocal supporter of the Democratic-Republican candidates, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.

In 1801 Van Ness served as a Delegate to the New York Constitutional Convention, which was called to amend the state constitution of 1777.

Martin Van Buren completed his legal studies in Van Ness's office in 1802 and became an attorney in Columbia County, New York.

In July, 1804 William Van Ness served as Aaron Burr's second in Burr's duel with Alexander Hamilton, and was present when Burr killed Hamilton.

Judicial career

On May 25, 1812, Van Ness was nominated by President James Madison to a new seat on the United States District Court for the District of New York. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on May 26, 1812, and received his commission on May 27, 1812. On April 9, 1814, he was reassigned by operation of law to the newly subdivided United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Career as an author

Van Ness was the author of several political and judicial works, including: Examination of Charges against Aaron Burr (1803); The Laws of New York, with Notes, (with John Woodworth), (2 vols. 1813); Reports of Two Cases in the Prize Court for New York District (1814); and Concise Narrative of Gen. Jackson's First Invasion of Florida (1826).

Death and burial

Van Ness served on the bench until his death in New York City. He was buried in Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery.

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