Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Philadelphia County
New York delegate Robert R. Livingston was on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence.
A son from a wealthy family in New York, Livingston entered the law profession after graduation from King’s College. Invited to the Continental Congress, he was appointed to help draft the Declaration of Independence, yet he did not sign it. As Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Chancellor of New York, he administered the oath of office to President Washington. He negotiated the Louisiana Purchase from the French and aided in constructing the first steamboat with Robert Fulton.
Robert Robert Livingston was born the eldest of ten children to Robert Robert Livingston, a provincial Supreme Court judge, and Margaret Beekman. Living most of his life in New York City, he graduated in 1764 from King’s College (currently Columbia University ) with a degree in law. He studied with the chief justice of New York, Judge William Smith Jr., for several years. In 1770, he married Mary Stevens, the daughter of a great New Jersey landowner. Together they had two daughters. He inherited a large estate on the Hudson Valley named the “Clermont” from his father and built a large home named “Belvedere” for his family to live. It was burned by the British Army, and he later built the “Arryl House.” From 1768 to 1770, he practiced law with John Jay before becoming a recorder of New York City and a member of the mayor’s council. In 1775, he was elected to the New York Provincial Congress and became a member of the Continental Congress in 1776. It was here that he helped Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Roger Sherman in the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. However, he did not sign it due to the fact that he needed to return home to New York before it was signed. Under the Articles of Confederation, Livingston was Secretary of Foreign Affairs. By 1789, Livingston was a leading political figure and partook in the opportunity to deliver the oath of office to President George Washington. In 1801, he became the minister to France. In this position, he laid claim to American control of the Mississippi and worked to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase from the French, which became the greatest real estate purchase in history when it doubled the country’s territory. In partnership with Nicholas Roosevelt and his brother-in-law, John Stevens, they worked to build their own steam engine. When this proved to be too difficult, he partnered with Robert Fulton in the making of the North River Steamboat, later named the Clermont. Despite the fact that this was the beginning of the new era in transportation, Livingston’s investment caused him financial troubles. Due to his interest in agriculture, he founded the New York Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Manufactures, and the Useful Arts. In 1809, he published his Essay on Sheep, which applied his thoughts on farming and the Merino sheep of Spain to his own land. Robert R. Livingston died at Clermont in Columbia County on February 26, 1813, at the age of 66. He is buried in St. Paul’s Churchyard in Tiivoli, New York. There are Livingston Counties in Kentucky and New York that are named after him.
Bellesiles, Michael. Livingston, Robert R. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History. Ed. Harold E. Selesky. Vol. 1. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2006. 642. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 14 Sep. 2011.