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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 813 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ROBERT R LIVINGSTON. (1746-1813), American statesman, son of Robert R. Livingston (1718-1775; a justice of the New York supreme court after 1763) and brother of Edward Livingston (see above), was born in New York City, on the 27th of November 1746. He graduated at King's College, New York (now Columbia University), hi 1765, was admitted to the bar in 1773, and for a short time was a law partner of John Jay. In 1773 he became recorder of New York City, but soon identified himself with the Whig or Patriot element there, and was forced to give up this position in 1775. He was a member of the second, third and fourth Provincial Congresses of New York (1775-1777), was a delegate from New York to the Continental Congress in 1775-1777 and again in 1779-1780, and was a member of the committee which drafted the Declaration of Independence. He was prevented from signing that document by his absence at the time to attend a meeting of the fourth New York Provincial Congress, which on the loth of July became the Convention of the Representatives of the state of New York, and by which at Kingston in 1777 the first state constitution was adopted, Livingston having been a member of the committee that drafted this instrument. He was the first chancellor of the state, from 1777 to February 18oi, and is best known as " Chancellor " Livingston. In this capacity he administered the oath of office to Washington at his first inauguration to the presidency, in New York, on the 3oth of April 1789. Previously, from October 1781 to June 1783, he had been the first secretary of foreign affairs under the Confederation, and his European correspondence, especially with Franklin, was of the utmost value in accomplishing peace with Great Britain. In 1788 he had been a member of the New York Convention, which ratified for that state the Federal Constitution. He became an anti-Federalist and in 1798 unsuccessfully opposed John Jay in the New York gubernatorial campaign. In 18o1, having refused an appointment as secretary of the navy, he became minister to France on President Jefferson's appointment. He had refused this post when Washington offered it to him in 1794. He arrived in France in November 18oi, and in 1803, in association with James Monroe, effected on behalf of his government the purchase from France of what was then known as " Louisiana," the credit for this purchase being largely his (see LouISIANA PURCHASE). In i8o4 Livingston withdrew from public life, and after a year of travel in Europe returned to New York, where he promoted various improvements in agriculture. He did much to introduce the use of gypsum as a fertilizer, and published an Essay on Sheep (1809). He was long interested in the problem of steam navigation; before he went to France he received from the state of New York a monopoly of steam navigation on the waters of the state and assisted in the experiments of his brother-in-law, John Stevens; in Paris he met Robert Fulton, and with him in 1802 made successful trials on the Seine of a paddle wheel steamboat; in 1803 Livingston (jointly with Robert Fulton) received a renewal of his monopoly in New York, and the first successful steam-vessel, which operated on the Hudson in 18o7, was named after Livingston's home, Clermont (N.Y.). He died at Clermont on the 26th of February 1813. Livingston and George Clinton were chosen to represent New York state in Statuary Hall, in the Capitol, at Washington, D.C.; the statue of Livingston is by E. D. Palmer. See Frederick de Peyster, Biographical Sketch of Robert R. Livingston (New York, 1876); Robert K. Morton, Robert R. Livingston: Beginnings of American Diplomacy," in The John P. Branch Historical Papers of Randolph-Macon College, i. 299-324, and ii. 34-46; and J. B. Moore, " Robert R. Livingston and the Louisiana Purchase," in Columbia University Quarterly, v. 6 (1904), pp. 221-229.

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