Bio Sketch of the Honorable Michael Ulshoeffer


Michael Ulshoeffer, second Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, was born in New York City, March 30, 1793. His father, George Ulshoeffer, born in 1748, at Creglingen, in the dominion of the Margrave of Anspach and Bayreuth, was forced into the British service and sent to America in 1777. Many of these Hessians became in the end citizens of the Republic. George Ulshoeffer remained in America after the war, and in 1785 came to New York, where he resided, a teacher of music, until his death in 1836. He married Margareth Miller, of Pennsylvania, who survived him many years and died in this city at the age of ninety-eight. Their son, Michael Ulshoeffer, studied law in the office of T. W. Smith, at No. 3 Cedar Street, and afterwards became his partner. In 1813 he was admitted as an attorney in the Mayor's Court or Court of Common Pleas, and in the same year in the Supreme Court of the State.

He was appointed in 1814 a Notary Public, and in in 1815 a Master in Chancery, and served from 1815 to 1825 as Notary of the City Bank. In 1816 he was admitted as a counselor-at-law in the Mayor's Court and in the Supreme Court, and in 1817 to the United States Circuit and District Courts. In 1817 he was elected to the State Assembly, and was re-elected in 1818, 1819, 1820, and 1821. Hammond, who was opposed politically to Judge Ulshoeffer, in his "History of Political Parties in the State of New York," several times refers to his career in the Legislature. He says that " The principal and most zealous of the members of the New York delegation ( opponents of DeWitt Clinton) in 1888 were: Ogden Edwards, Peter Sharpe, and Michael Ulshoeffer," and again, that " In 1820, the most powerful and efficient men in opposition to endorsing the action of the Comptroller in auditing the accounts of Daniel D. Tompkins, late Governor, were Root, Sharpe, Remain, Ulshoeffer, J. T. Irving, and Seymour, and that for skill in argument, pungency of  wit, and clear, sound, logical powers of mind, few men of that age would, he imagined, have excelled Oakley, Williams, Root, Spencer, Ulshoeffer, Remain, and McKown."

In General Wilson's "History of the City of New York," it is written that " When in 1820, a bill providing for a convention to revise the Constitution of the State was disapproved by the Council of Revision—Chancellor Kent writing the opinion with all the conservatism of a trained lawyer—the report of Michael Ulshoeffer, chairman of the select committee of the Assembly, combated the logic of the veto with great vigor, and the report was regarded as the abler State paper of the two. In 1819, Mr. Ulshoeffer was admitted as solicitor and counsellor in chancery. Mr. Ulshoeffer was in partnership with William W. Boyd from 1823 until 1829, when Mr. Boyd retired on account of ill-health. In 1821 he was appointed Corporation Attorney of the City of New York. In 1823, it was resolved by the Common Council that he should perform the duties of counsel to the Board during their pleasure. In 1825 he was formally appointed counsel to the Corporation, and the same year the offices of attorney and counsel to the Corporation were separated. He served until 1829. In 1828 he was admitted an attorney and counsellor in the Superior Court of the City of New York.

In 1834 he was appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the Senate, Associate Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and was re-appointed in 1843. In 1846 he was elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas under the new Constitution and drew the shortest term, two years. He was chosen First Judge by his associates in 1838, and held the office continuously until the expiration of his service on the bench, December 31, 1849. His portrait was painted by Elliott at the request of members of the bar, and hangs in what was the Court room of the General Term of the Common Pleas. As there were no regular reports of the Court of Common Pleas in his time, a few of his opinions appear in the first of E. D. Smith's Reports and in the Code Reporter and City Hall Reporter. Judge Ulshoeffer never afterwards practiced law, but served on many boards and commissions and as a referee and arbitrator. He was one of the commissioners to appraise the lands taken for Central Park. He was one of the founders of the Law Institute of New York City. He joined the Tammany Society in 1817 and
was elected Sachem in 1818.
The only public office he held after leaving the bench was as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in 1859 and 1860 under the Act of 1857. The Act of 1860 legislated the Board out of office.

He was a vestryman of St. Mark's Church for years, then warden. Afterwards a vestryman of Grace Church, until forced by age to retire. He served frequently as a delegate to the Diocesan Convention, where he was on the Committee for the Incorporation of Churches.

In politics he always claimed to be a Democrat, but insisted that often the party had deserted its principles. He voted for those he considered the best men without much regard to party. He was a War Democrat. During his last years he spent much of his time in
reading over and destroying his papers and correspondence, and left nothing concerning himself or others. Although he lent his books freely, he always refused to allow any of his private papers to go out of his hands, believing that much unnecessary trouble is caused by raking over men's lives, and that there is much to be forgiven and more to be forgotten.

He married Mary Ann Gracie in 1823 and had several children, some of whom survive. He died in New York City, Sept. 6, 1881, at the age of eighty-eight years.


Website: The History
Article Name: Bio Sketch of the Honorable Michael Ulshoeffer
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


 BIBLIOGRAPHY: History of the Court of Common Pleas of the City and County of New York with Full Reports of All Important Proceedings by James Wilton Brooks, LL.D of the New York Bar-New York 1896
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