CHANCELLOR ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON OF NEW YORK by George Dangerfield

CHANCELLOR ROBERT R. LIVINGSTON OF NEW YORK

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Written by the 1953 Pulitzer Prize winner for History (The Era of Good Feelings), this definitive biography of an 18th century American statesman is also an account of the large, wealthy and argumentative family to which he belonged and the part they played in politics and society in New York State. A true child of the 18th century, interested in everything, Livingston was born in 1746 to one of the great land-owning New York families and was named for his father, the first Robert R. Livingston, who had married into the important Beekman clan. A convinced aristocrat living in luxury at his great estate on the Hudson, Clermont, Livingston early lost his loyalty to the Crown. He served as a member of the 2nd Continental Congress, helped formulate the New York State Constitution, and in 1777 was named Chancellor of the State, a position he filled with brilliance until 1781, when he became Secretary of Foreign Affairs for the Congress. A jurist, not a soldier, in the Revolution, he advised Washington, saw Clermont burned by Burgoyne, rebuilt it, indulged in advanced scientific experiments in farming, and -- as was usual with the Livingstons- quarreled with his relatives. In 1801 Jefferson sent him to France as Ambassador, where he played a mysterious part in the Louisiana Purchase negotiations, and became interested in steamboats and also in merino sheep, which he imported to Clermont. Returning to America, he backed Robert Fulton financially and was a passenger on the first steamboat to steam past Clermont, where he died in 1813. Written with humor and sympathy but suffering at times from a plethora of Livingstons, this well-documented and specialized book will appeal to New Yorkers with 18th century roots and to students of New York and early American political, social, legal, agricultural and familial history. Not for hasty readers, it is a must for all New York historical collections.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1960
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace