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David Dudley Field Edit Profile


David Dudley Field II (February 13, 1805 – April 13, 1894) was an American lawyer and law reformer who made major contributions to the development of American civil procedure. His greatest accomplishment was engineering the move away from common law pleading towards code pleading, which culminated in the enactment of the Field Code in 1850 by the state of New York.


Field was born in Haddam, Connecticut. He was the oldest of the eight sons and two daughters of the Rev. David Dudley Field I, a Congregational minister and local historian, and Submit Dickenson Field. His brothers included Stephen Johnson Field, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Cyrus Field, a prominent businessman and creator of the Atlantic Cable, and Rev. Henry Martyn Field, a prominent clergyman and travel writer.


He graduated from Williams College in 1825, studied law with Harmanus Bleecker in Albany, and settled in New York City. After his admission to the bar in 1828, he rapidly won a high position in his profession.


Admitted to New York bar, 1828. Delegate of National Democratic Convention, Syracuse, New York, 1847, introduced “Cornerstone” resolution. Attended National Republican Convention, Chicago, 1860.

Chairman of New York delegation to Peace Conference, Washington, District of Columbia, 1861. Member of United States House of Representatives from New York, 44th Congress, 1877. Prominent lawyer, 60 years.

Handled litigation following Civil War, Milligan Case before Supreme Court of the United States Court, 1867, Cummings and McCardle cases, 1868, Cruikshank Case, 1875. Counsel for Jay Gould, James Fish, later charged with unprofl. conduct, no vote taken. Chief counsel for defendant in prosecution of Boss Tweed.

Counsel for Tilden before Hayes-Tilden Electoral Commission, 1876. Counsel for plaintiff in case of New York versus Louisiana before Supreme Court of the United States Court. His efforts effected addition of Article I, Section 7, also Article VI, Section 24 to New York State Constitution of 1846, appointing 3 commissioner to “reduce into a written and systematic code the whole body of the law of this state”.

Appointed one of 3 commissioner (New York State Codes completed 1865). California adopted all 5 of “Field” Codes. Headed movement for codification of laws of nations.

Visited Europe, attended confs. devoted to international affairs, 1866-1894. An early fighter for international law, published Draft Outline of an International Code, 1872.


  • Field's most important work, however, was his lifetime effort to reform United States law through codification. In place of the existing complex and scattered mass of legislative enactments and court decisions from various jurisdictions, Field wanted the law arranged in clear, systematic, and comprehensive codes, prepared by experts and enacted by each state legislature. His proposed Civil Code aroused the opposition of leading conservative members of the New York State bar, and met defeat after a bitter fight.

  • Most successful of his codes was the Code of Civil Procedure (see also Legal Procedure (Civil),), which, after adoption by New York in 1848, spread westward. Various forms of it were eventually adopted in twenty-four states. All of Field's codes-the Penal Code, the Political Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the two already cited-were adopted in California due to the influence of his brother Stephen, then a member of the Supreme Court of California. His codes of procedure had substantial influence also on the framing of the English Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875.


  • publication (1872)

    • Draft Outline of an International Code


Member United States House of Representatives from New York, 44th Congress, 1877.


In 1829, Field married Jane Lucinda Hopkins, with whom he had three children: Dudley, Jeanie, and Isabella. After his wife's death in 1836, Field remarried twice, first to Harriet Davidson (d. 1864) and second to Mary E. Carr (d. 1874). The eldest child, Dudley Field, followed in his father's footsteps and studied law.

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