Robert Livingston the Elder

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Robert Livingston the Elder
Robert Livingston (1654-1728).jpg
Portrait of Robert Livingston the Elder.
Born Robert Livingston the Elder
(1654-12-13)December 13, 1654
Ancrum, near Jedburgh, County of Roxburgh, Scotland
Died October 1, 1728(1728-10-01) (aged 73)
Ethnicity Scottish
Spouse(s) Alida
Children Nine children, including Philip, Robert and Gilbert.

Robert Livingston the Elder (December 13, 1654 – October 1, 1728) was a New York colonial official, and first lord of Livingston Manor. He married Alida Schuyler (widow of Nicholas Van Rensselaer) in 1679. He was the father of nine children, including Philip, Robert and Gilbert. He was also uncle of Robert Livingston the Younger, grandfather of Philip Livingston and William Livingston.

Early life[edit]

He was born in the village of Ancrum, near Jedburgh, in the County of Roxburgh, Scotland, one of seven children of the Reverend John Livingston, a lineal descendant of the fourth Lord Livingston, ancestor of the earls of Linlithgow and Callendar, a minister of the Church of Scotland, who was sent into exile in 1663 due to his resistance to attempts to turn the Presbyterian national church into an Episcopalian institution. The exiled family settled in Rotterdam, in the Dutch Republic, thus Robert Livingston was fluent in the Dutch language, which helped him greatly in his later career in the former Dutch colony of New Netherland.[1]


Following the death of his father in 1673, Robert Livingston returned to Scotland and then sailed for Boston to find his fortune in North America. Livingston's father was well-known in Puritan Boston where a merchant advanced the young son enough stock and credit to undertake a trading venture to Albany, New York. Livingston arrived in Albany in late 1674. With his business and language skills, in August 1675 he became secretary of to Nicholas Van Rensselaer, director of Rensselaerswyck. In 1679 he married Van Rensselaer's widow, Alida Schuyler, the daughter of Philip Pieterse Schuyler, vice-director of Fort Orange. Robert Livingston amassed one of the largest fortunes in seventeenth century New York.

Map of Livingston Manor in 1777

In 1686, he and his brother-in-law, Pieter Schuyler, persuaded Governor Thomas Dongan to grant Albany a municipal charter like that awarded to New York City a few months earlier. Livingston was named clerk of the city and county of Albany, collecting a fee for each legal document registered.[1] With Pieter Schuyler, he led the opposition in Albany to Leisler's Rebellion. He served as Secretary for Indian Affairs from 1695 until his death. He served as a representative to the New York provincial assembly in 1709–1711 and 1716–1725 and was elected speaker in 1718.

According to Cynthia Kierner, "Robert Livingston valued public life primarily as a source of private profits. Livingston's generation looked upon politics as a business."[2]

In 1696, he backed Captain William Kidd's privateer voyage on the Adventure Galley.

Through the influence of Governor Thomas Dongan, and confirmed by royal charter of George I of Great Britain in 1715, Robert Livingston obtained a patent to 160,000 acres (650 km²/ 250 sq mi) that would become Livingston Manor in Columbia and Dutchess County.[1]

His will provided for the establishment of the Livingston Memorial Church and Burial Ground.[3] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.[4]

Before entailing the bulk of the estate to his eldest son, Philip, Robert Livingston bequeathed about 13,000 acres to his third son and namesake, Robert, which went to form the estate of "Clermont".[5]

Family and descendants[edit]

  • Johannes b. April 26, 1680, d. 1720
  • Margaret b. December 5, 1681
  • Joanna Philipina b. February 1, 1683 - d. January 24, 1689
  • Philip b. July 9, 1686, second Lord of the Manor
  • Robert b. July 24, 1688, owner of the Clermont estate
  • Gilbert (Hubertus) b. March 3, 1690, married Cornelia Beekman, granddaughter of Wilhelmus Beekman, Mayor of New York[6]
  • William b. March 17, 1692, - d. November 5, 1692
  • Joanna b. December 18, 1694
  • Catherine b. May 22, 1698 - d. December 6, 1699[5]

Philip Livingston's grand-daughter, Catherine Livingston married Abraham De Peyster a loyalist Officer who served with the King's American Regiment and was at Battle of King's Mountain;

Margaret Livingston, daughter of Gilbert Livingston married Peter Stuyvesant (1727–1805), great-grandson of Peter Stuyvesant.

Notable descendants include George W. Bush, the entire Fish and Kean families, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of New York Anna Morton, actors Montgomery Clift and Michael Douglas, actress Jane Wyatt, medical resident Asad Rizvi, poet Robert Lowell, cinematographer Floyd Crosby, his son David Crosby, author Wolcott Gibbs, and almost the entire Astor family.[citation needed]


Further reading[edit]

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