Robert R. Livingston (chancellor)
|United States Minister to France|
|Appointed by||Thomas Jefferson|
|Preceded by||Charles Pinckney|
|Succeeded by||John Armstrong|
|1st United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs|
October 20, 1781 – June 4, 1783
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||John Jay|
|1st Chancellor of New York|
July 30, 1777 – June 30, 1801
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||John Lansing|
November 27, 1746|
New York City, New York, British America
|Died||February 26, 1813
Clermont, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Mary Stevens Livingston|
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
Robert R(obert) Livingston (November 27, 1746 (Old Style November 16) – February 26, 1813) was an American lawyer, politician, diplomat from New York, and a Founding Father of the United States. He was known as "The Chancellor", after the high New York state legal office he held for 25 years. He was a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, along with Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Roger Sherman.
Livingston was the eldest son of Judge Robert Livingston (1718-1775) and Margaret Beekman Livingston, uniting two wealthy Hudson River valley families. He had nine brothers and sisters, all of whom wed and made their homes on the Hudson River near the family seat at Clermont Manor. Livingston graduated from King's College, renamed Columbia University following the American Revolution, in 1764.
Livingston married Mary Stevens, daughter of Continental Congressman John Stevens, on September 9, 1770, and built a home for himself and his wife south of Clermont, called Belvedere, which was burned to the ground along with Clermont in 1777 by the British Army under General John Burgoyne. In 1794 he built a new home called New Clermont, which was subsequently renamed Arryl House – a phonetic spelling of his initials, "RRL" – which was deemed "the most commodious home in America" and contained a library of four thousand volumes. Livingston was known for continually quarreling with his relatives.
Livingston was appointed Recorder of New York City in October 1773, but soon identified himself with the anti-colonial Whig Party and was replaced a few months later with John Watts, Jr. He was a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, although he was recalled by his state before he could sign the final version of the document. However, he sent his cousin, Philip Livingston, to sign the document in his place. (Another cousin, William Livingston, was a signer of the United States Constitution.)
In 1777-1801, Livingston was the first Chancellor of New York, then the highest judicial officer in the state. He became universally known as "The Chancellor", retaining the title as a nickname even after he left the office. Livingston was also U.S. Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 1781 to 1783 under the Articles of Confederation.
In 1789 Livingston joined the Jeffersonian Republicans (later known as the Democratic-Republicans), in opposition to his former colleagues John Jay and Alexander Hamilton who founded the Federalists. He formed an uneasy alliance with his previous rival George Clinton, along with Aaron Burr, then a political newcomer. He opposed the Jay Treaty and other Federalist initiatives.
We have lived long but this is the noblest work of our whole lives ... The United States take rank this day among the first powers of the world.
During his time as U.S. minister to France, Livingston met Robert Fulton, with whom he developed the first viable steamboat, the North River Steamboat, whose home port was at the Livingston family home of Clermont Manor in the town of Clermont, New York. On her maiden voyage she left New York City with him as a passenger, stopped briefly at Clermont Manor, and continued on to Albany up the Hudson River, completing in just under 60 hours a journey which had previously taken nearly a week by sloop. In 1811 Fulton and Livingston became members of the Erie Canal Commission.
Livingston was a Freemason, and in 1784 he was appointed the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York, retaining this title until 1801. The Grand Lodge's library in Manhattan bears his name. The Bible Livingston used to administer the oath of office to President Washington is owned by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, and is still used today when the Grand Master is sworn in, and, by request, when a President of the United States is sworn in.
After his death, Livingston was buried at St. James Episcopal Churchyard in Hyde Park, New York.
In 1904 the U.S. Post office issued a series of postage stamps commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase along with the central figures involved in this historical transformation of the United States. The engraved image of Livingston is taken from a Gilbert Stuart (1783–1872) oil painting of 1794.
A statue of Livingston was commissioned by the state of New York and placed in the National Statuary Hall collection of the U.S. Capitol building, pursuant to the tradition of each state selecting two individuals from the state to be so honored.
The Robert Livingston high rise building at 85 Livingston St. in Brooklyn, NY is named for him.
In popular culture
- In the 2008 HBO miniseries, John Adams, Livingston is portrayed by actor Alex Draper. Livingston also appears in the Broadway musical 1776, where he is appointed to the committee for drafting the Declaration of Independence. In the film version of the musical, he is played by actor John Myhers.
- Livingston family
- Edward Livingston (1764-1836), Robert's younger brother, who also served as U.S. Minister to France
- At the time, the Livingstons used their father's first name as a middle name to distinguish the numerous members of the family, as a kind of patronymic. Since he and his father had the same name, he never spelled out the middle name but always used only the initial.
- The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. XI (1880), p. 6.
- Robert R. Livingston, Encyclopedia of World Biography.
- The Louisiana State Capitol Building
- Clermont State Historical Site: http://clermontstatehistoricsite.blogspot.com/search?q=robert+livingston
- Collins, Lewis (1877). History of Kentucky. p. 478.
- Bonham, Jr., Milledge L. "Robert R. Livingston." in Samuel Flagg Bemis, ed. The American Secretaries of State and their diplomacy V.1 (1928) pp 115-92.
- Brecher. Frank W. Negotiating the Louisiana Purchase: Robert Livingston's Mission to France, 1801-1804 (McFarland, 2006)
- Dangerfield, George. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York, 1746-1813 (1960)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert R. Livingston (chancellor).|
- United States Congress. "Robert R. Livingston (id: L000372)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- The Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library of New York
- Louisiana purchase Risks and Rewards page
|Recorder of New York City
|New office||Chancellor of New York
|New office||United States Secretary of Foreign Affairs
|United States Minister to France