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.

[Thomas Jefferson] was undoubtedly complicated. He mingled the loftiest visions with astute backroom politicking. He spared himself nothing and was a compulsive shopper, yet he extolled the simple yeoman farmer who was free from the lures of the marketplace. He hated obsessive money-making, the proliferating banks, and the liberal capitalistic world that emerged in the Northern states in the early nineteenth century, but no one in American did more to bring that about. Although he kept the most tidy and meticulous accounts of his daily transactions, he never added up his profits and losses. He thought public debts were the curse of a healthy state, yet his private debts kept mounting as he borrowed and borrowed again to meet his rising expenditures. He was a sophisticated man of the world who loved no place better than his remote mountaintop home in Virginia. This slaveholding aristocrat ended up becoming the most important apostle for liberty and democracy in American history.

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