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Samuel Seabury (February 22, 1873 – May 7, 1958) was an American lawyer and politician from New York.[1] Seabury is famous for dedicating himself to a campaign against the corrupt Tammany dominance of New York City politics. He later presided over the extensive 1930–32 investigations of corruption in the New York City municipal government, which became known as the 'Seabury Hearings'. Seabury became a Georgist after reading Progress and Poverty.[2]

Samuel Seabury
Judge Samuel Seabury.jpg
Seabury circa 1913
Born(1873-02-22)February 22, 1873
DiedMay 7, 1958(1958-05-07) (aged 85)
OccupationJudge, attorney, politician
EmployerNew York Court of Appeals
Known forSeabury Commission
Spouse(s)Maud Richey
Parent(s)William Jones Seabury
Alice Van Wyck Beare
RelativesSamuel Seabury (1729–1796), Samuel Seabury (1801–1872), ancestors



A descendant of several Anglican priests (including the first American Episcopal bishop, Samuel Seabury, whose portrait later hung over the fireplace in his library),[3] this Samuel Seabury was the son of William Jones Seabury, professor of canon law (and himself the son of theologian Samuel Seabury), and Alice Van Wyck Beare. On June 6, 1900, this Sam Seabury married Maud Richey (d. 1950), but they never had children.

Legal and judicial careerEdit

Seabury graduated from New York Law School in 1893, and was admitted to the bar in 1894. In 1899, he ran on the Independent Labor, Republican, and other minor parties', tickets for the New York City Court but was defeated by the Tammany Hall candidate. In 1901, Seabury ran again for the City Court, this time on the Citizens Union ticket, and was elected to a ten-year term.

In 1905, Seabury ran for the New York Supreme Court (actually a trial court) on the Municipal Ownership League ticket headed by William Randolph Hearst for Mayor, but was defeated. In 1906, he ran again, this time on the Democratic and Independence League fusion ticket headed by Hearst for Governor, and was elected to a fourteen-year term.

In 1913, Seabury ran on the Progressive ticket for the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, but was defeated. The following year, he ran again, this time on the Democratic, Progressive, Independence League, and American tickets, and was elected to a fourteen-year term, becoming the only Democrat elected that year. On December 8, 1914, Seabury was appointed to the Court of Appeals three weeks before his elective term would begin, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of William B. Hornblower.

In 1916, the Democrats nominated Seabury for Governor of New York. He resigned from the bench believing that the Progressive Party would nominate him too, based on what he thought were promises by Theodore Roosevelt. The Progressives, however, endorsed Republican incumbent Charles S. Whitman after Roosevelt told them that "no Progressive should vote for Seabury." Seabury supposedly responded by calling Roosevelt a "blatherskite" to his face. Whitman defeated Seabury.

Seabury then resumed his private law practice. Active in the New York City Bar Association with William Nelson Cromwell, Seabury succeeded Cromwell as that organization's president from 1939–1941.

In 1930–1932, Seabury became lead investigator of the Hofstadter Committee (sometimes called the Seabury Investigations), a joint legislative committee which investigated corruption in New York's municipal courts and police department and called over a thousand witnesses. Those investigations forced Jimmy Walker out of the office of Mayor of New York City. In 1950, Seabury published The New Federalism, expressing doubts about increasing governmental power.[4]

Investigative techniqueEdit

Seabury's chief counsel, Isidore Kresel, pioneered the innovative investigative technique that Seabury used in his investigations of Tammany Hall during the Seabury Commission. This technique has since become standard. Prior to this technique, an investigative commission or committee relied on interviews and public testimony from confessors to inform on decisions and outcomes of investigations. Kresel's method relied, instead, on gathering incredible amounts of facts pertaining to the investigation, including bank account documents, brokerage accounts, leases, title records, and income tax returns, and then using these documents to confront a witness during questioning.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

An invalid for several years, Seabury died at Hand's Nursing Home in East Hampton.[1] He was buried in the graveyard of Trinity Church (Manhattan).[6]

A park was named to honor Judge Seabury. On the corner of 96th street and Lexington Avenue, it was renovated in 2005–2006.


  1. ^ a b "Samuel Seabury Dies on L. I. at 85. His Investigations in '30's Led to Resignation of Walker as Mayor Judge Seabury ls Dead at 85; Forced Walker Out of Office". New York Times. May 7, 1958. Retrieved 2009-08-18. Samuel Seabury, a former judge whose investigations led to the resignation of James J. Walker as Mayor of New York City, died at 1:30 this morning. He was 85 years old and had been an invalid at Hand's Nursing Home here for several years.
  2. ^ Mitgang, Herbert (1996). The Man Who Rode the Tiger: The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury. Fordham Univ Press. ISBN 978-0-8232-1722-9.
  3. ^ Herbert Mitgang, Man who Rode the Tiger (J.P. Lippincott, 1963) republished (Fordham University Press, 1996) p. 7
  4. ^ Agar, Herbert (1 January 1951). "Review of The New Federalism". Columbia Law Review. 51 (2): 252–254. doi:10.2307/1118865. JSTOR 1118865.
  5. ^ Allen, Oliver E. (1993). The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. p. 243. ISBN 0-201-62463-X.
  6. ^ "Samuel Seabury (1873–1958) – Find A Grave Memorial".

External linksEdit

Municipal ownership and operation of public utilities in New York City