Cortlandt Parker


Cortlandt Parker (Perth Amboy, Middlesex, New Jersey, United States; June 27, 1818 - Newark, Essex, New Jersey, United States; July 29, 1907) was a prominent American jurist and politician, who served as a legislator for New Jersey in 1857.


Cortlandt Parker was the son of Penelope Butler (1785-1823) and James Parker II (1776-1868), a prominent United States Congressman and member of the New Jersey State General Assembly (1806-10, 1812-13, 1815 -16, 1818, 1827). His parents were married on January 5, 1803 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and together they had 9 children.

Cortlandt Parker was the ninth child in order of birth and one of his sons, Charles W. Parker (1862-1948), was a Justice of the United States Supreme Court. One of his brothers, James Parker III (1805-1861) was a prominent Cincinnati judge in Ohio and married Anna Forbes Foster (1808-1891), who in turn was the daughter of Captain Cleaveland Alexander Forbes (1780-1857) and Susanna Foster (1756-1816).

Cortlandt Parker married Elizabeth Wolcott Stites (1827-1907) in 1847 and together they had 13 children: Richard Wayne Parker (1848-1923), Katharine Morris Parker (1849-1925), Elizabeth Walcott Stites Parker (1852-1886), James Parker (1854-1934), Mary Frances Parker (1855-1942), Cortlandt L. Parker Jr (1857-?), Parker (1859-?), Parker (1859-?), Cortland Parker Jr. (1860-?), Parker (1861-?), Charles W. Parker (1862-1948), Chauncey Goodrich Parker (1864-1943) and Robert Meade Parker (1864-1945).


Cortlandt Parker was born in 1818 in Perth Amboy, the capital of New Jersey in the revolutionary days. At the age of fourteen he had made all the advancements in his studies that were necessary to enter the freshman class at Rutgers College, New Jersey, where examinations were held in those days, and he graduated from Rutgers College in 1836 at the age of 18 years.

Some of his classmates were Associate Justice Joseph P. Bradley (1813-1892) of the Supreme Court of the United States, Frederick T. Frelinghuysen (1817-1885), the United States Senator from New Jersey, and Secretary of State during the mandate of William A. Newell (1817-1901), governor of New Jersey from 1857 to 1860.

He studied law with Theodore Frelinghuysen, his classmate's uncle, in Newark, and was admitted to the bar in 1839. At age 21 he immersed himself in politics and worked hard to achieve some preliminary successes in law.

In 1844, Theodore Frelinghuysen, his former tutor, was a running mate of Henry Clay (1777-1852) in the Whig nomination, and Parker stumped the state with this presidential nomination. He was deeply interested in the slave question and, unhappy with the position of the Whigs, he joined the Republican Party. He was a staunch Republican from that time until his death.

In 1857, Governor Newell appointed him Essex County Attorney, a position he held for ten years, and it was the only public office he accepted. In general, he was recognized for many years as the principal and, at his death, was the oldest and most distinguished active representative of the New Jersey bar. He turned down the nominations to Congress, a judge position in a court to adjust the Claims of Alabama, one in the Supreme Court of New Jersey and refused to serve as minister in Vienna, which was offered to him by President Chester A. Arthur ( 1829-1886).

He served on a commission appointed to resolve the Delaware border dispute and was appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) to preside over the hearing of the Tilden-Hayes controversy in New Orleans and refused to serve as Russia's minister, offered by President Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893).

Mr. Parker was a member of the New Jersey and Essex County Bar Associations, of which he was president, and many of his speeches were published.

Together with Chief Justice Beasley and Supreme Court Justice Depue, he reviewed the laws of the state. He received a Juris Doctor degree from Princeton University and Rutgers College, and was president of the American Bar Association for several years. In turn, he was a prominent member of the Protestant Episcopal Church and one of its most active and trusted legal advisers.


Cortlandt Parker died on July 29, 1907 in Newark at the age of 89 and his remains rest in the historic Mount Pleasant Rural Cemetery in Newark, Essex County, New Jersey, United States.


Some of his sons were Major General James Parker of the United States Army; Congressman R. Wayne Parker; Supreme Court Justice Charles W. Parker; Chauncey and Cortlandt Parker.


  • History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, Compiled by William H. Shaw, Vol. I, publ. 1884, pgs. 277-278.
  • The Washington Post, Mon., 29 July 1907, pg. 3.
  • Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, 1920.
  • History of Middlesex County, New Jersey, Vol. I, publ. 1921, pgs. 235-236.
  • The New York Times, Weds., 31 Jul 1907.