Do You Know About Phillip Livingston?


philip-livingstonDid you know that Phillip Livingston, NY Signer of the Declaration of Independence, grew up at the Manor of Livingston?  The Manor home property consisted of 160,000 acres of land along the Hudson River, in what is now Columbia County, New York.  Manors were political entities and the size of the estate, alone, would earn the family a seat in the Royal legislature.  PhIllips’s brother Robert would subdivide the property, and sell it off, in later years.

Besides being from a prominent New York family, Phillip was accomplished in his own right by 1754. He advocated for the founding of King’s College and the establishment of a Professorship of Divinity, at Yale.  King’s College would later go on to become Columbia University. He helped build the first meeting house for the Methodist Society, in the US, and helped in the organization of the New York Public Library. He was also elected a New York City Alderman, for the East Ward, which had a population of 11,000 and its northern boundary was just north of Wall Street.  By 1759, he was elected to the Provincial Assembly, to represent New York City and corresponds with Edmund Burke during this time.  This correspondence would engage Burke to advocate for the colonies. the tax crises, he helps prepare an address to the Lt. Governor of New York and it stated “We hope your honor will join

In 1764 the tax crises arises and like many other signers Phillip gets involved in the issue.  He helps prepare an address to the Lt. Governor of New York which stated: “We hope your honor will join with us in the endeavor to secure that great badge of English Liberty of being taxed only with our consent; which we conceived all his majesty’s subjects at home and abroad equally entitled to.”[1] He was elected a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, in 1765, but was not an advocate for breaking away from the Mother Country.  Over time, this opinion would change and he would gradually come over to the patriot’s side regarding independence.  His opinion at this time was the right for independence was “the most vain, empty, shallow and ridiculous project.”[2]  This was not an unusual stance, for his moderate views.  He, like other moderates, viewed separation as a last resort only after all other diplomatic measures had been exhausted.  But this episode was just the beginning of his long transition, from loyalist to patriot. This transition was slowed as he was opposed to the tactics used by the Sons of Liberty.

He would be elected to the Continental Congress but his duration would be short as he dies in 1778 from what we now call congestive heart failure but was known as dropsy in the 1770’s.  John Adams would write that Livingston was “great rough, rapid, mortal. There is no holding any conversation with him. He blusters away, says if England should turn us adrift, we should instantly go to civil wars among ourselves.”[1] Adams like Peter and William Livingston, his brothers, better because Livingston looked down upon him.  Adams and his cousin Samuel Adams would often dine with his older brother but then would decline Livingston’s invitation the next day.

[1] Barthelmas, Della Gray. The Signers of The Declaration of Independence: A Biographical and Genealogical Reference (Jefferson, NC, London, McFarland, 2003) 165

[1] Kiernan, Denise, and Joseph D’Agnese. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of The Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence (Philadelphia: Quirk Book, 2009) 69

[2] Kiernan, Denise, and Joseph D’Agnese. Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of The Men Who Signed The Declaration of Independence 69

Advertisements