Chancellor James Kent

“Here Lies Beacon’s Most Illustrious Son” reads the headline over the photo of a gravestone in the September 26, 1939, edition of The Beacon News.

Kent 1939 newspaper photo Kent 1939 newspaper article

The newspaper referred to James Kent, former Chancellor of New York and Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, whose modest gravestone lay fallen over somewhere in the oldest section of St. Luke’s Cemetery in Beacon.

James Kent, portrait by Alonzo Chappel, from Library of Congress website

James Kent, portrait by Alonzo Chappel, from Library of Congress website

Kent, however was not one of Beacon’s sons. He was born in Dutchess County, in Fredericksburg, which is now part of Putnam County and did practice law in Poughkeepsie, but he had little association with Beacon other than being buried here. His interment in our city came about when his son, William Kent, had the chancellor’s body removed from Marble Cemetery in Manhattan and moved to Beacon.
According to an article in the April 1873 edition of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record,

“Then, pious hands prepared a fitter resting place for him in the retired and beautiful cemetery attached to St. Luke’s Church, in the village of Matteawan.”

The Kent stone today.

The Kent stone today.

The article contains a further description of the grave as a

“… large white marble slab resting at four corners on four upright marble posts.”

The grave toppled from the posts sometime before 1939 and while the grave has been uncovered, there are, so far, no signs of the posts. The Beacon Historical Society plans to restore this grave.

James Kent had an illustrious career. He served as Chancellor of New York State, the highest judicial position in the state, from 1814 – 1823. He was the first law professor of Columbia University. Kent County, Michigan is named after him, because he represented the Michigan Territory in its dispute with Ohio.

The Commentaries can be found online. Click on the picture to link to Open Library.

The Commentaries can be found online. Click on the picture to link to Open Library.

He is known for his Commentaries on American Law, which generations of American law students studied and which is still available on Amazon.  Scholarships are still given in his name, and scholarly articles written about him and his writings. ITT Chicago-Kent College of Law is named after him.

In the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress, statues represent eight categories of knowledge. Chancellor Kent represents law.

James Kent - Library of Congress

James Kent – Library of Congress

Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, by his great grandson, William Kent, is available on "Open Library" - click on the picture to read the book

Memoirs and Letters of James Kent, by his great grandson, William Kent, is available on “Open Library” – click on the picture to read the book

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