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Field, David Dudley II

Born: 1805-02-13 Connecticut

Died: 1894-04-13 New York, New York

Flourished: 1825-1877 New York, New York

David Dudley Field, II, was an author, lawyer, law reformer, and politician. The oldest son of the Reverend David Dudley Field, a well-known American clergyman and author, David, II received his early education from private tutors at the family home in Haddam, Connecticut. He matriculated to Williams College, graduating in 1825. Settling in New York City, Field read law and earned admission to the New York bar in 1828. Rising to a prominent position in the New York bar, he developed a lucrative law practice. Field combined his practice with a strong commitment to law reform. Convinced that American jurisprudence needed a unification and simplification of legal procedure, Field toured Europe in the 1830s, studying the legal systems of the United Kingdom, France, and other countries, and began publishing pamphlets, books, articles, and broadsides urging the codification of common law procedure. In 1847, he received appointment as head of a state commission to revise New York's legal procedures and practices. In 1850, the commission completed the code on civil and criminal procedure, and the New York State Assembly enacted it into law. In 1857, Field became chairman of another state commission to create a written code of all state law not already codified by the previous commission. Field personally crafted most of the political and civil codes. Completed in February 1865, the codification completed by the commission became the basis for many law codes around the nation. In politics, Field gravitated to the anti-slavery wing of the Democratic Party, supporting Martin Van Buren and the Free Soil Party in the election of 1848. In 1856, he supported John C. Fremont and the Republican Party. In February 1861, he represented New York at the peace convention in Washington, DC, called in hopes of averting civil war. During the Civil War, Field backed the Lincoln administration. After the war, he returned to the Democratic Party, serving a short stint in the House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1877.

Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1996 (Alexandria, VA: CQ Staff Directories, 1997),1025; "Field, David Dudley," The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910), 10:321; Henry M. Field, The Life of David Dudley Field (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1898); Gravestone, Stockbridge Cemetery, Stockbridge, MA.