Robert R. Livingston

Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1794

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QUICK FACTS
BORN:
27 November 1746 in New York, New York
  DIED:
26 February 1813 in Clermont, New York
Buried at St. Paul Episcopal Church in Tivoli, New York.

Robert R. Livingston was a delegate to the Continental and Confederation congresses and was on the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. He was the first confederation secretary for foreign affairs until 1784 and he served as New York's chancellor, the chief equity judge. He was a member of the New York Ratifying Convention, and his notes of the debates are valuable in understanding the last, crucial days of the convention. As the highest ranking judicial officer in New York, he administered the oath of office to George Washington as president on April 30, 1789.

For all their talk of reason and enlightenment, Washington and the other leading Founders were more religious than they sometimes seem. Most of them had no quarrel with religion as long as it was reasonable and orderly. Washington was a member of his Anglican, later Episcopal, church vestry, and he remained a frequent churchgoer — though unlike his wife, Martha, he never became a member of his church, meaning that he did not partake of the Eucharist on communion Sundays. Washington, the perfect Freemason, considered himself enlightened in religious matters (being no bigot myself to any mode of worship), and he almost never knelt in prayer and seems never to have purchased a bible.

Gordon S. Wood
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009)