Council of Appointment

The Council of Appointment (sometimes also Council of Appointments) was a body of the Government of New York that existed from 1777 to 1822.


Under the New York Constitution of 1777, the Council of Appointment consisted of the Governor of New York, who was ex officio President of this council but had only a casting vote, and four members of the New York State Senate, one each from the State's senatorial electoral districts. These State senators were elected for a one-year term by the New York State Assembly and could not be re-elected for the following term.

The Council had the power to appoint all State, county and municipal officials within the state of New York for which no other means of appointment or election was provided for in the State Constitution. The offices filled by the Council included the State Comptroller, the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, the Surveyor General, the Chancellor, the justices of the New York Supreme Court, sheriffs, district attorneys, judges, surrogates, city and county clerks, mayors (including the Mayor of New York City), all military officers and many others.

The Council of Appointment had its origins in the fear of too much popular influence in the government. The first New York Constitution was aristocratic and elitist in spirit. As long as the governor alone nominated appointees, he had as much power over the State's patronage as a medieval king. On the other side, during the long tenure of Governor George Clinton, very rarely an office holder was removed, and the Council only filled vacancies as they occurred by resignation, death, declination of re-appointment, or term limit.

Troubles, however, arose after the Federalist Party and the Democratic-Republican Party appeared, and began to alternate as majority in the Assembly. Because of the lack of clarity in the 1777 New York Constitution, the parties struggled over who, exactly, held the power to make nominations and appointments. The constitution stated that the governor would have the "casting voice, but no other vote; and with the advice and consent of the said council..." The custom arose that the governor made the nominations, and the Council approved, or rejected, them. But when the legislature had a majority of the opposition, they would elect three or four senators and outvote the governor. Governor John Jay, who had drafted the Constitution, asserted that the Council could not propose appointees, only vote for or against the governor's nominees. So when the Council voted down all of his nominees, in his opinion, nobody could be appointed. The question was settled at the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1801, which amended the Constitution, giving the right of nomination to the governor and each one of the Council members concurrently. This led to an annual scramble for office, especially if the majority in the Assembly changed.

Alexander Hamilton criticized the Council in his Federalist No. 77.

The council was abolished by the New York State Constitutional Convention of 1821 and ceased to exist at the end of the year 1822, at which time more than 15,000 offices had been under its control. Under the Constitution of 1821, the State cabinet officers and Supreme Court justices were elected by the State Legislature, and most of the county and local officers were elected in local popular or legislative elections. The governor continued to appoint only a very small number of officers and had the right to make recess appointments.

List of membersEdit

Southern D. Middle D. Eastern D. Western D. Elected on
John Morin Scott Jesse Woodhull Alexander Webster Abraham Yates, Jr. September 16, 1777
Jonathan Lawrence Zephaniah Platt Ebenezer Russell Dirck Wessel Ten Broeck October 17, 1778
Isaac Roosevelt Levi Pawling Alexander Webster Rinier Mynderse September 11, 1779
Stephen Ward Ephraim Paine[1] Ebenezer Russell Abraham Ten Broeck September 11, 1780
Arthur Parks[2] March 23, 1781
Isaac Stoutenburgh Zephaniah Platt Alexander Webster Henry Oothoudt October 25, 1781
Jonathan Lawrence John Haring Elkanah Day William B. Whiting July 22, 1782
Ezra L'Hommedieu Jacobus Swartwout Alexander Webster Abraham Yates, Jr. January 21, 1784
Isaac Roosevelt Joseph Gasherie Ebenezer Russell William B. Whiting October 19, 1784
Lewis Morris Jacobus Swartwout David Hopkins Philip Schuyler January 19, 1786
William Floyd John Hathorn Ebenezer Russell Peter Schuyler January 18, 1787
John Vanderbilt Anthony Hoffman David Hopkins Philip Schuyler January 18, 1788
Samuel Townsend John Hathorn John Williams Peter Van Ness January 2, 1789
Philip Livingston John Cantine Edward Savage[3] Philip Schuyler[4] January 15, 1790
Isaac Roosevelt Thomas Tillotson Alexander Webster Peter Schuyler January 14, 1791
Philip Van Cortlandt David Pye William Powers Stephen Van Rensselaer January 14, 1792
David Gelston Joseph Hasbrouck Robert Woodworth John Frey January 14, 1793
Selah Strong Reuben Hopkins Zina Hitchcock Philip Schuyler January 7, 1794
Richard Hatfield Joseph Hasbrouck William Powers Jacobus Van Schoonhoven[5] January 6, 1795
Joshua Sands Abraham Schenck Ebenezer Russell Michael Myers January 7, 1796
Andrew Onderdonk Ambrose Spencer Leonard Gansevoort Thomas Morris January 9, 1797
Ezra L'Hommedieu William Thompson Moses Vail Joseph White January 8, 1798
William Denning Ebenezer Foote[6] Ebenezer Clark John Frey January 4, 1799
Samuel Haight Robert Sands James Gordon Thomas R. Gold January 28, 1800
DeWitt Clinton Ambrose Spencer[7] John Sanders Robert Roseboom November 7, 1800[8]
Benjamin Huntting James W. Wilkin Edward Savage Lemuel Chipman January 30, 1802
Ebenezer Purdy[9] John C. Hogeboom Jacobus Van Schoonhoven[10] Jacob Snell February 8, 1803
John Broome Abraham Adriance Thomas Tredwell Caleb Hyde February 7, 1804
John Schenck Joshua H. Brett Stephen Thorn Jedediah Peck January 29, 1805
DeWitt Clinton Robert Johnson Adam Comstock Henry Huntington January 31, 1806[11]
Thomas Thomas James Burt Edward Savage John Nicholas January 29, 1807[12]
Benjamin Coe Peter C. Adams John Veeder Nathan Smith January 29, 1808[13]
Jonathan Ward James G. Graham Isaac Kellogg Alexander Rea January 27, 1809
Israel Carll Robert Williams[14] Daniel Paris Amos Hall January 31, 1810
Benjamin Coe James W. Wilkin John McLean Philetus Swift January 30, 1811
William W. Gilbert Johannes Bruyn Henry Yates, Jr.[15] Francis A. Bloodgood February 1, 1812
Peter W. Radcliff[16] James W. Wilkin John Stearns Jonas Platt January 12, 1813
Elbert H. Jones Morgan Lewis Samuel Stewart Henry A. Townsend January 25, 1814
Jonathan Dayton Lucas Elmendorf Ruggles Hubbard Farrand Stranahan February 1, 1815
Darius Crosby William Ross Perley Keyes Archibald S. Clarke February 5, 1816
Walter Bowne John Noyes John I. Prendergast Henry Bloom February 2, 1817
Peter R. Livingston Jabez D. Hammond Henry Yates, Jr. Henry Seymour January 31, 1818
Stephen Barnum William Ross George Rosecrantz Stephen Bates February 3, 1819
John D. Ditmis John Lounsbery Levi Adams Ephraim Hart January 11, 1820
Walter Bowne John T. More Roger Skinner David E. Evans November 8, 1820
John Townsend Charles E. Dudley Benjamin Mooers Perry G. Childs January 10, 1822


  1. ^ Paine was expelled from the State Senate in March 1781
  2. ^ Parks was elected in place of Paine. When he took his seat on March 29, all members of the Council, including Parks, protested against his "by-election" for which there seems to have been no legal basis. Nevertheless, the amended Council, with Parks, made the appointments for the remainder of the term.
  3. ^ Edward Savage, father of John Savage
  4. ^ Schuyler was at this time a U.S. Senator from New York, and lost his seat in the State Senate on January 27 when the State Legislature declared the incompatibility of holding both seats concurrently. Nevertheless, Schuyler retained his seat in the Council of Appointment, claiming that it was not required to hold the seat in the State Senate once elected to the Council. Any mention of the Paine/Parks precedent of 1781 was carefully avoided, but Schuyler was quite right, considering that every time a state senator was elected to the Council during the last year of his term, and was not re-elected, the senatorial term expired on June 30, but the ex-senator continued a member of the Council until January next. See also United States Senate election in New York, 1789#Election and aftermath
  5. ^ Jacobus Van Schoonhoven (1744–1814), merchant, of Half Moon, state senator 1794–1805
  6. ^ Ebenezer Foote, County Clerk of Delaware Co. 1797–1801
  7. ^ Spencer changed sides in 1798
  8. ^ These members were elected during the special session of the Legislature, but they did not take their seats before the full year of tenure of the previous members had expired. They met for the first time on February 11, 1801, and rejected most of Governor John Jay's nominations, among them eight different Federalist nominees for Sheriff of Dutchess County. They met again on February 18, and appointed a Democratic-Republican as Sheriff of Dutchess Co. The Council met again on February 24. At this meeting, Gov. Jay refused to put the question on the Council members' nominees, and the members refused to vote on the Governor's nominees. Thus deadlocked, the Council adjourned and were not convened again by Gov. Jay. who instead submitted the question of the right of nomination to the State Legislature which called a constitutional convention to clear up the point. The Council met again on August 8, called by Governor George Clinton, and for the remainder of their term, proceeded to make a clean sweep, removing almost all Federalists from office. The constitutional convention met in October, and gave the right to nominate appointees to the Governor and the members of the Council concurrently.
  9. ^ Ebenezer Purdy, of Salem, state senator 1801–06, resigned March 16, 1806, before his expulsion because of bribery was voted upon
  10. ^ In 1796, Saratoga Co. was re-apportioned from the Western to the Eastern District.
  11. ^ At this time the Democratic-Republican Party was split in two factions, the Lewisites (supporters of Gov. Morgan Lewis) and Clintonians (led by of DeWitt Clinton). This Council had a Clintonian majority, and removed most of the Lewisite incumbents.
  12. ^ This Council had a Lewisite majority and removed most of the Clintonian incumbents.
  13. ^ This Council had a Clintonian majority, and removed again the Lewisite incumbents.
  14. ^ Williams had been elected as a Democratic-Republican, but changed sides right after his election to the Council of Appointment. At this time, there was a Federalist majority in the Assembly, but all State senators from the Southern and the Middle Districts were Democratic-Republicans. Thus the Federalist assemblymen had to choose two of their opponents and, because of the casting vote of Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins, could not have had a majority in the Council but, aided by Williams, the Council removed most of the Democratic-Republican incumbents. Among others, the Surrogate of Dutchess Co., James Tallmadge, Jr., was removed, and Williams's son-in-law Thomas J. Oakley appointed instead.
  15. ^ Henry Yates, Jr., brother of Joseph C. Yates
  16. ^ Peter W. Radcliff, brother of Jacob Radcliff


See alsoEdit