James Graham sailed to New York aboard the Blossom in the entourage of Governor Edmund Andros in 1678. He is reputed to have been a grandson of the Marquess of Montrose, a supporter of Charles I, who was executed in Scotland in May 1650, and he is believed to have carried the family seal with him to America. From the first, he earned his living as a lawyer and a merchant and he was granted patents to large tracts of land in Ulster County, Staten Island, and New Jersey. When the office of the Recorder of the City of New York was created in 1683, James Graham was appointed to the position and he held it until shortly before his death in 1701. From December 10, 1685, when he succeeded Thomas Rudyard as Attorney General of the Province, he simultaneously held both offices. Two years later, he was appointed to the Governor's Council.
In 1688, when New York was annexed to the Dominion of New England, Graham moved to Boston to take office as the Dominion's Attorney General and following the collapse of the Dominion was imprisoned with Governor Andros and exiled to England. Graham returned to New York in 1691, and was elected to the Assembly where he held the office of Speaker between 1691-1694 and 1695-1698.
When Attorney General Thomas Newton left the Province in April 1691, George Farewell was appointed in his place but the Assembly considered Farewell inept and, in May 1691, James Graham was again appointed Attorney General, an office that he held until January 1701. In 1696, Graham was appointed Advocate General of the Court of Vice-Admiralty and in May 1699, he was appointed to the Governor's Council.
In 1700, James Graham lost favor with Governor Bellomont, who had him removed as Recorder of the City of New York. Bellomont urged the English authorities to replace Graham as Attorney General and, on January 21, 1701, Sampson Shelton Broughton took office in his stead.
James Graham, whose daughter Isabella had married Lewis Morris, died a few days later at Morrisania.
Charles Warren. History of the Harvard Law School and of Early Legal Conditions in America (1908)
Paul Mahlon Hamlin, Charles Edwin Baker. Supreme Court of Judicature of the Province of New York 1691-1704, (1959)