No family took higher
rank for ability and patriotism during the early Colonial and
Revolutionary periods of American history than that of the Livingstons.
The first traceable
ancestor in Scotland was the Reverend Alexander Livingston, of
Monyabroch (now the parish of Kilsyth, Sterlingshire), Scotland, who is
said to have been “nearly related to the house of Callendar,” one of the
ancient titled families of Scotland. His son, the Reverend William
Livingston, was also minister of Monyabroch and was the father of the
Reverend John Livingston, of Ancrum, Roxburghshire, Scotland, who was
born on the 21st June, 1603. The Reverend John Livingston is said to
have been a learned minister of the Gospel, and eventually was compelled
to emigrate to Rotterdam in 1663 because of religious persecution.
Robert Livingston, the youngest son of the Reverend John Livingston,
sailed for Charlestown in New England in 1678 on the ship Catherine,
commanded by Captain John Phillips, and was the first of his name in
America, the original grantee of the Livingston Manor Patent and the
founder of a long line of eminent descendents.
Philip Livingston, the
First President of Saint Andrew’s Society, grandson of Robert
Livingston, was a son of Philip Livingston and Catherine Van Brugh, and
was born on the 15th January, 1716, at Albany, New York. He died 011 the
12th June, 1778, at York, Pennsylvania.
Little is known of his
early life and education, but he graduated in 1737 from Yale College at
New Haven, Connecticut, and in 1746 aided in founding the Livingston
Professorship of Divinity in that College. He was at this time said to
be one of the fifteen collegiate graduates in the colony.
Shortly after leaving
college he engaged in the importing business in New York City, where he
rapidly attained success and fortune in his mercantile career, and it
was said of him by Sir Charles Hardy in 1755, that “among the
considerable merchants in this City, no one is more esteemed for energy,
promptness and public spirit than Philip Livingston.”
He early took an active
and practical interest in politics and was elected one of the seven
Aldermen of the City of New York in September, 1754, retaining the
office for nine successive years. In l759> he was elected a member of
the General Assembly of the Colony from the City of New York, and filled
this position by reelection until the dissolution of this administrative
body in January.
1769. Identifying himself
with the young patriotic party in the struggle against the autocratic
treatment of the Colony by the English government, he soon was counted
among the leaders of the growing opposition to British rule. He thus
incurred the hostility of Lieutenant Governor Cadwallader Colden, who
repeatedly referred to him as a menace to the royalist control of the
Colony. In September, 1764, he prepared an address to Governor Colden in
which he vigorously opposed the system of taxation impressed on the
Colony by the Mother Country, and in consequence was elected a delegate
to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765.
During 1770, he was
appointed a member of the Committee of Correspondence with Edmund Burke,
the then agent for the Colony of New York, in England. He acted as
speaker at the last session of the Provincial Assembly he attended and
on his refusal of a reelection from the City, was returned from the
Manor of Livingston. His seat was contested by the Tory majority,
however, and he was unseated on the ground of non-residence. As soon as
the Revolutionary War broke out he was chosen a member of the First
Continental Congress, which met at Philadelphia in September, 1774, and
was continued a member until his death. In Congress he was placed on a
committee to draw an address to the people of Great Britain, and when
the Declaration of Independence was passed by that body he was one of
the signers as delegate from New York.
In his native city he
became president of the Provincial Congress in April, 1775, and was
chosen a member of the General Assembly in February, 1776. He became a
State Senator in May, 1777, and in September he was present at the first
meeting of the first Legislature of the newly created State of New York,
by which body he- was elected one of the first delegates to the Congress
of the newly confederated States.
His residence was on one
of the highest points of Brooklyn Heights, where he owned about forty
acres of land upon which he had erected a typical Colonial mansion,
overlooking the harbor of New York, and furnished with all the luxury
then attainable. It was in this house in August, 1776, that Washington
held the council of war which decided on withdrawing the Revolutionary
forces from Long Island. The British seized and occupied the house
during the Revolutionary War, using it as a naval hospital, and, as Mr.
Livingston never returned to it, the mansion rapidly fell into decay and
was eventually destroyed by fire.
His position and wealth
enabled him to advance the interests of New York City, and his name
constantly appears in the civic records.
In 1756 he was a founder
and the first President of Saint Andrew’s Society, and in the same year
became a founder of the New York Society Library. In 1770 he was one of
the founders of the Chamber of Commerce, and in 1771 acted as one of the
first Governors of the New York Hospital, chartered in that year. He
also was identified with the establishment of Kings (now Columbia)
By his early death the
newly-created nation lost a sage counsellor and an able, conservative
statesman, whose influence in the trying period of the dissolution of
the royal and the organization of a republican form of government always
was exerted for the welfare of his native land.
He married on the 14th
April, 1740, Christina Ten Broeck, daughter of Colonel Dirck Ten Broeck
and Margaret Cuyler, and had the following issue: (1) Philip Philip,
born 28th May, 1741 at Albany, N. Y.; (2) Richard, who died unmarried;
(3) Catherine, who married (1) Stephen Van Rennselaer, and (2) Rev.
Eilardus Westerlo; (4) Margaret, who married Dr. Thomas Jones; (5) Peter
Van Brugh, who died unmarried; (6) Sarah, born 7th December, 1752, in
New York, who married Dr. John H. Livingston; (7) • Henry Philip, who
died unmarried; (8) Abraham, who died unmarried; (9) Alida, who died
His portrait is
reproduced from an old painting by an unknown artist now in the
possession of the Long Island Historical Society.