Saturday, March 1, 1997

James Kinsey

State Court Chief Justice

Born in 1731 in Philadelphia, James Kinsey was instrumental in New Jersey's transition from colony to state. His father, John K. Kinsey, had served as Speaker of the New Jersey Assembly before moving to Philadelphia and holding the same post in the Pennsylvania Assembly. The elder Kinsey also served as Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, led the Quaker Party, and was Clerk of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. Both were descended from John Kinsey, one of the founders of Burlington.

Like his father, James Kinsey studied law, was active in the Society of Friends, and a political leader. He studied law, passed the bar in 1753, and by the 1770's was well-known attorney. In 1772, he was elected to the New Jersey assembly. He opposed Royal Governor William Franklin, who lived across town, and in 1774, started the Burlington Committee of Correspondence, to turn public opinion against King George III.

James Kinsey married twice. His first wife was Phoebe Wood. After her death, he married Hannah Decow of Burlington. His children were John, James, Philip, Thomas, Charles, Ann, Mary, and Hannah.

Kinsey was elected in September of 1774 to the Continental Congress, but as a Quaker, chose to resign in November of 1775, rather than swear an oath of allegiance. He continued his legal practice, and was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey in November 1789, serving in that office until his death in 1803. Kinsey is buried in St. Mary's churchyard in Burlington, and his portrait has hung in the New Jersey capitol building in Trenton.

Kinsey's house, built in 1770, was sold after his death by his wife Hannah. Located at 38 West Broad Street, the house now serves as Lodge 965 of the Loyal Order of Moose.

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