Livingston, the name of a family various members of which have been distinguished in American history. John Livingston (born in 1603), the common ancestor of the family, and a lineal descendant of the fifth Lord Livingston, ancestor of the earls of Linlithgow and Callender, was an energetic preacher of the Reformed church in Scotland, and, having been banished in 1663 for nonconformity to prelati-cal rule, took refuge in Rotterdam, where he died in 1672. Of his seven children, his son Robert (born in 1654) emigrated to New York about 1675, and in 1686 received from Gov. Dongan a grant of a large tract of land, which was in 1715 confirmed by a royal charter of George I. erecting the manor and lordship of Livingston, with the privilege of holding a court leet and a court baron, and with the right of advowson to all the churches within its boundaries. This tract embraced large portions of what are now the counties of Dutchess and Columbia, N. Y., and is still known as the Livingston manor, though the greater part of it has long since passed out of the hands of the family. He was a man of influence in the colony, and procured the fitting out of the ship with which Capt. Kidd undertook to restrain the excesses of the pirates.
I. Philip, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, son of Philip and great-grandson of John Livingston, born in Albany, N. Y., Jan. 15, 1716, died in York, Pa., June 12, 1778. He graduated at Yale college in 1737, subsequently embarked in business in the city of New York, and in 1754 and several years afterward served in the capacity of alderman. In 1758 he was returned to the colonial house of assembly from the city of New York, and continued a member of that body till 1769, when in consequence of his strong whig views he was unseated by the tory majority. He was chosen a member of the first and second continental congresses. He subsequently served in the New York provincial congress, in the state assembly and senate, and at the time of his death was a delegate from New York to the continental congress, then sitting in York.
II. William, governor of New Jersey, brother of the preceding, born in the province of New York in September, 1723, died in Elizabethtown, N. J., July 25, 1790. He graduated at Yale college in 1741, and subsequently became an eminent member of the bar in New York and New Jersey. He was elected a delegate to the first continental congress from the latter province in 1774, and after the deposition of William Franklin in 1776 succeded to the office of governor, which he retained to the close of his life. During the period in which the Jerseys were the principal seat of the war he was indefatigable in his efforts to keep the militia in a state of efficiency. In 1787 he was a delegate to the convention which framed the federal constitution. He was the author of a poem called " Philosophical Solitude," a funeral oration on President Burr of Princeton college, and a variety of political and miscellaneous tracts.
III. Brock-Holst, a soldier and jurist, son of the preceding, born in New York, Nov. 25, 1757, died in Washington, March 18, 1823. He graduated at Princeton college in 1774, and in 1776 became a member of the family of Gen. Schuyler, whom he attended as aide-de-camp during the operations of the army in the north. He was subsequently attached to the suite of Gen. Arnold with the rank of major, was present at the surrender of Burgoyne, and before leaving the army was promoted to a colonelcy. In 1779 he went to Spain as private secretary to Mr. Jay, who had married his sister. Returning home after three years' absence, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1783, was appointed judge of the supreme court of the state of New York in January, 1802, and in November, 1806, was raised to the bench of the United States supreme court.
IV. Robert R., a statesman and jurist, grandson of the second Robert Livingston, born in the city of New York, Nov. 27, 1746, died Feb. 26, 1813. He graduated at King's (now Columbia) college in 1765, studied and practised law in New York, and in 1773 was appointed recorder of that city, a judicial office of which he was soon deprived on account of his participation in revolutionary measures. He was a member of the second continental congress, and was one of the committee of five appointed to draft the Declaration of Independence. He was prevented from signing that instrument by a necessary absence from Philadelphia; but he furthered the cause with zeal and efficiency throughout the war, being a member of • congress again in 1780, and secretary of foreign affairs for two years commencing in August, 1781. He was also a leading member of the Kingston convention which framed the first constitution of the state of New York, adopted in April, 1777. He was appointed the first chancellor of the state, and held the office till 1801, administering the oath of office taken by Washington on first assuming the duties of president, April 30, 1789. In February, 1801, he was appointed minister plenipotentiary to France; and in April, 1803, he completed the purchase from that country of the territory of Louisiana. Mr. Monroe had been despatched as special envoy to assist him in the negotiation, but it was so far advanced before the arrival of the latter that the treaty of cession was signed a few days afterward.
Mr. Livingston resigned his post in 1804, and, after travelling over the continent, returned home the next year. During the remainder of his life he was actively engaged in introducing into the state of New York several improvements in agriculture, and in measures for the encouragement of a taste for the fine arts among his countrymen; and he was associated with Robert Fulton in the early experiments in steam navigation.
V. Edward, brother of the preceding, an American jurist and statesman, born in Clermont, Columbia co., N. Y., May 26, 1764, died in Rhinebeck, May 23, 1836. He graduated at Princeton college in 1781, studied law at Albany, and on his admission to the bar in 1785 commenced practice in the city of New York, where at an early age he attained high rank as a jurist and advocate. In 1794 he was elected a representative in congress from the district including the city of New York, and was reelected to the following two congresses, in which he was an opponent of the administrations of Washington and Adams upon the various party questions of the period. In March, 1801, he was appointed by Mr. Jefferson United States district attorney for the state of New York, then composing but one judicial district. He was also elected mayor of the city of New York for two years, commencing in 1801. By virtue of the latter office he was at the same time judge of an important municipal court of record. A volume of reports of his judicial opinions, delivered in that court during the year 1802, edited by himself, was published at New York in 1803. During his mayoralty the city was visited by yellow fever, when his benevolence and intrepidity in remaining at his post nearly cost him his life.
He now found his private affairs so involved, through the fault of others it is said, that he was unable to pay his debts, including a considerable balance due to the general government. He promptly resigned his offices and removed to New Orleans, in hopes to retrieve his fortunes by fresh exertions in a new field. In this he succeeded thoroughly, paying his debt to the government in full, principal and interest, and making head against great difficulties, not the least of which was a severe controversy respecting the title which he had acquired to some lands at New Orleans formed by gradual deposits from the annual inundations of the Mississippi river, and called the Batture; a controversy in which, among other opposition, he encountered that of the federal government under the personal management of Mr. Jefferson himself. This matter was the subject of a special message to congress of March 7, 1808, and of a pamphlet by the president, as well as of a pamphlet by Mr. Livingston in reply. The latter eventually triumphed in the courts, though the complete pecuniary fruits of the victory only came to his family long after his death. Many years later Mr. Livingston and Jefferson became heartily reconciled.
Soon after his arrival in the territory the legislature of Louisiana commissioned him to prepare a system of judicial procedure, which was adopted in 1805, and continued in force till 1825, when it was superseded by the new and elaborate code of practice. In 1823 he was appointed, conjointly with Mr. Louis Moreau-Lislet, to revise the civil code of Louisiana, a work which was completed the next year, and substantially ratified by enactment. In 1821 Mr. Livingston had been intrusted solely with the task of preparing a code of criminal law and procedure. The next year he made a report of his plan for this work, which was soon afterward reprinted in London and Paris. The work itself was submitted to the legislature in 1826, but was never directly acted upon by that body, although by a joint resolution of March 21,1822, the plan had been approved and its completion "earnestly solicited." However, the author derived from its publication great celebrity, both in America and in Europe. It was published at Philadelphia in 1833, in 1 vol. 8vo. He had completed his draft in 1824, and a copy had been made for the printer, when both copies were destroyed by fire. The next day, at the age of 60 years, he commenced the reconstruction of the work, and in two years more it was again complete.
Upon this performance the best part of Mr. Livingston's fame rests. It is a comprehensive code, or series of codes, of crimes and punishments, of evidence, of procedure, of reform, of prison discipline, and of definitions, and is characterized throughout by the simplicity of its arrangement and by the wisdom and philanthropy of its provisions. It has visibly influenced the legislation of several countries, and portions of it have been enacted entire by the republic of Guatemala. All these juridical works were required to be prepared in both French and English, and called for the exercise of profound and philosophical knowledge, not only of the laws of England and the United States, but of the French, the Spanish, and the civil law. In 1823, on his retiring from the bar, Mr. Livingston was elected a representative in congress from Louisiana, which office he held till 1829, when he was made a United States senator from the same state. In 1831 he succeeded Mr. Van Buren as secretary of state of the United States, and in 1833 was appointed by President Jackson minister to France, where he resided till 1835, managing with success several affairs of more than ordinary importance and difficulty. On his return home he retired to Rhinebeck in his native county.
An eloquent eulogy upon his life and works was pronounced by M. Mignet in 1838 before the French academy of moral and political sciences, of which he had been chosen an associate a few years before. Mr. Livingston was a man of very social tastes, great gayety of manners, and perfection of temper. Amiability and goodness of heart were always the terms first employed in describing his character by those who remembered him. His life by C. II. Hunt was published in New York in 1864, and his "Complete Works on Jurisprudence," in 2 vols., in 1873.
VI. John H., grandson of Gilbert Livingston, born in Poughkeepsie, N. Y., May 30, 1746, died in New Brunswick, N. J., Jan. 20, 1825. He graduated at Yale college in 1762, and began the study of law; but resolving to devote himself to the ministry, he studed theology at Utrecht in Holland, where he received the degree of D. D. in 1770. In the autumn of that year he returned to America, and at once became pastor of the Dutch church in New York city. In 1775 he was married to his third cousin, the daughter of Philip Livingston; and in 1776, having removed from New York on the occupation of that city by the British, he accepted a call to Albany, where he remained three years. He then preached successively at Kingston and Poughkeepsie, and at the close of the war returned to New York. In 1784 he was appointed by the general synod of America their professor of divinity, but it was not till 1795 that a regular seminary was opened under his direction at Bedford, L. I. This establishment was closed after two years for lack of support, and he resumed his labors in New York. In 1807 the professorate was united to Queen's college, New Brunswick, N. J., and Dr. Livingston was appointed president and professor of theology. He removed to New Brunswick in 1810, and there passed the rest of his life.
His published writings comprise "A Funeral Service;" "Incestuous Marriage," a dissertation on marriage with a sister-in-law (1816); and some occasional pieces. There is a memoir of his life by the Rev. Alexander Gunn (New York, 1829).