Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

WILLIAM LIVINGSTON.

Robert, the first of the Livingston family who came to America, was the son of Jolin Liv ingston, a clergyınan, and was born on the thirteenth of December, 1654, at Ancram, a small village on the Teviot, in Roxburghshire, Scotland. The precise date of his arrival in America is unknown, but it is certain he was in the province of New York as early as 1676, as the public records show that he was Secretary to the Commissaries, who at that time superintended the affairs of “Albany, Schenectade, and the parts adjacent.” He held this secretaryship until July, 1686, during which time he acquired the original grant of land known as the Manor and Lordship of Livingston, which was the foundation of the subsequent wealth of himself and his family. About 1679, Mr. Livingston married Alida, the widow of Nicholas Van Renselaer, and sister of Peter Schuyler, by whom he had several children. Philip, his second son, was born at Albany in the year 1686, and owing to the death of his elder brother, he succeeded to the manorial estate. Little is known of his career. He resided a considerable time in the city of his birth, and was at one period connected with its municipal government. He was a member of the Assembly, and occupied other positions of honor and trust in the province.

William Livingston, the fifth child of Philip and Catherine Van Brugh Livingston, was born at Albany, New York, in the month of November, 1723. At the age of fourteen years he left his home and entered the Freshman class of Yale College. On graduating, in 1741, he immediately went to New York and commenced the study of law in the office of James Alexander, a Scotch gentleman, and a lawyer of great ability.* In this position Mr. Livingston displayed great energy and application; devoting the day to the “dry business of the law” at the desk of his instructor, and the evening to the study of mathematics and the acquirement of general knowledge. He also contributed several essays to the newspapers while a student in the office of Mr. Alexander—the first of which appeared in Parker's New York Weekly Post Boy, for the nineteenth of August, 1745, under the signacure Tyro Philolegis. In this he denounced the method of studying law. “There is perhaps no set of men," says he, “that bear so ill a character in the estimation of the vulgar, as the gentlemen of the long robe. Whether the disadvantageous idea they commonly entertain of their integrity be founded upon solid reasons, is not my design to inquire into; but if they deserve the imputation of injustice and dishonesty, it is in no instance more visible and notorious, than in their conduct towards their apprentices. That a young fellow should be bound to an attorney for four, six or seven years, to serve him part of the time for the consideration that his master shall instruct in the mystery of the law the remainder of the term; and that notwithstanding this solemn compact, which if binding on either side is reciprocally obligatory, the attorney shall either employ him in writing during the

* Mr. Alexander came to America in 1715. He was secretary of the province of New York, and through the kind offices of Governor Burnet, in whose estimation he ranked high, he was appointed a member of his council, in which position he remained several years. Smith, the early historian of New York, says of him: “He was a man of learning, good morals, and solid parts. He was bred to the law, and though no speaker, at the head of his profession for sagacity and penetration; and in application to business no man could surpass him. Nor was he unacquainted with the affairs of the public, having kerved in the secretary's office, the best school in the province for instruction in matters of government." He died early in the year 1756.-Smith's Nero York, Ed. 1757, page 152.

whole term of his apprenticeship, or if he allows him a small portion of the time for reading, shall leave him to pore on a book without any instruction to smooth and facilitate his progress in his study, or the least examination of what proficiency he makes in that perplexed science; is an outrage upon common honesty, a conduct scandalous, horrid, base and infamous to the last degree!” He continues his essay in this manner, exposing the drudgery to which lawyers' clerks were subjected at that time, and calling upon the “gentlemen of the long robe” to abolish a custom which was equally injurious to themselves and their pupils. In the spring of the next year another piece appeared in the same paper, on Pride arising from Riches and Prosperity. A misunderstanding arose between Mr. Livingston and his law-teacher in reference to the authorship and intent of this production,* the result of which was that Mr. Livingston left the office of his instructor, and entered that of Mr. William Smith, then a lawyer of some emi. nence.

About this time, while yet a student, Mr. Livingston married and established his residence in New York. In 1747 he published a poem entitled Philosophic Solitude, or the Choice of a Rural Life. This was one of the first of his poetical productions. As to its merits, an able critic says, “though it has not high poetic value, it displays the tastes of a scholar, and the virtues of an upright mind." | Mr. Livingston completed his studies, and was admitted to practice as an attorney in the fall of the year 1748. In 1752 he was associated with William Smith, • Junior, & in the publication of the first digest of the colonial laws, a second volume of which appeared from the hands of the same persons ten years afterwards. From this work the only immediate advantage Mr. Livingston derived, was that of being brought into notice; his practice, however, soon began to increase, and he rose to a conspicuous place at the bar. The samo year (1752) he commenced the publication of the Independent Reflector, the first number of which appeared on the thirtieth of November. This periodical devoted itself to “a close and impartial scrutiny of the existing establishments, and pursuing its course without fear or favor, had for its object the exposure of official abuse, negligence and corruption in whatever rank they were to be found.” It engaged ardently in the discussion relative to the religious government of Kings, now Columbia College, and exposed the injustice and impropriety of making that institution sectarian. So strong was the opposition to this journal, its editor "defamed in private society and denounced from the pulpit," it was discontinued on the twentysecond of November, 1753, after the publication of the fifty-second number. || Early in the year 1754, Mr. Livingston, in company with several other influential and educated gentlemen, laid the foundation of the Society Library of the city of New York. I In November of the same year, appeared the first number of the Watch Tower, another series of essays on the sub

* The origin of this misunderstanding is said to have beon as follows: A Mr. Rice, organist of Trinity church, forgetful of the strongly-marked distinctions which then practically established what has in later days been termed the “ Theory of Ranks," presumed to send a valentine, viz., a pair of gloves, with a copy of verses emblematic and expressive of his devo. tion to Miss Alexander. The fashionable young beauty and her mother resented it as an insult, and their conduct struck the more republican mind of young Livingston as so unreasonable, that, unmindful of the relation in which he stood to the lady's father, the pasquinade already spoken of was the result.--Sedgwick': Life of Liringston. Parker's New York Post-Boy, of March 8d, 1746.

† William Sunith held a very prominent position on the liberal side of colonial politics; became a member of his majes. ty's council, and was afterwards appointed judge of the Court of King's Bench. He was the father of the colonial historian of New York.

American Quarterly Review, No. 4, page 506. Sedgwick's Life of Livingston, page 62. $ William Smith, Jr. was born at New York, on the twenty-fifth of June, 1728. He graduated at Yale College at a very early age, and commenced the study of law at New York. As early as 1769 he was appointed a member of his majesty's bouncil, where his attendance was regular, his integrity unquestioned, and his loyalty firm to his king. On the occasion of the Stamp Act troubles, Mr. Smith proposed a plan of union of all the colonies, which was submitted to and approved by the minister, George Grenville; but through delay the plan was never carried out. He prepared a history of the provinco of New York, from the first discovery to the year 1782, which was published in 1757. On the evacuation of New York by the British in 1783, Mr. Smith went to. England, where he remained until he was appointed Chief Justice of Canada, in 2786. This office he held until his death, which took place on the third of December, 1793. 1 A complete file of this early periodical is in the library of the New York Historical Society.

In Gaine's New York Mercury, of May 14th, 1759, we find the following: “The trustees of the New York Society Ubrary have ordered the librarian to give his attendance every Monday and Thursday, from half an hour after eleven te one o'clock. The subscribers are desired to send their annual subscription to the treasurer."

ject of King's College, written principally by Mr. Livingston, and in the course of the few following years he contributed largely to the occasional literature of the country. In 1758 he was elected to the Assembly of the Colony of New York, in which body he remained twc years.

The first of a series of papers entitled The Sentinel, treating of the general and prominent subjects of the day, appeared in the New York Gazette, on the twenty-eighth of February, 1765. These papers are written with much spirit and ability, and it is probable that a greater portion of them emanated from the pen of Mr. Livingston. The most curious and characteristic of these is entitled A New Sermon to an Old Text, which forms the twenty-first number of the series, The text is, “Touch not mine anointed.After showing how often the text had been misunderstood and misconstrued by previous commentators, in favor of kings rather than the people, he demonstrates in what "touching" the anointed consists. “The Lord's anointed, that is, the people,” says he, “are very sensibly touched when they have penalties inflicted on them merely for their religious principles or worship. By entering into society men never intended, nor could intend, to make their religion a matter of civil cognizance. For religion being a prevailing disposition of the soul to universal holiness, it can neither be increased nor lessened by any political laws. And civil society, being contrived for the preservation of men's lives and properties, it can neither be injured or benefited by any man's religion. Besides, how can any person, with the least color of reason, pretend that I have a right to judge for myself, and yet punish me for using it?—that is, for doing what he acknowledged I had a right to do. To plead for it, would be a contradiction in terms. Hence, every species of persecution, whether under color of law or by open violence, is evidently touching the people, or, in other words, the Lord's anointed.

“ All those wretched nations who live under absolute governments, and are stripped of the uatural rights of mankind by their unrelenting oppressors, are most miserably touched. Tyranny, my brethren, is a kind of political damnation ; and were all the enemies of human happiness to consult together for a whole century, they could not invent a more effectual method to destroy it, than by enslaving a free people. Turn your eyes to those parts of the globe where liberty is no more, and what do you behold but nakedness, beggary and want! The lords of the creation ased like the bestial herd; and a single tyrant rioting in the spoils of thousands!

"A free people may be said to be touched, whenever any of those laws by which their civil rights are secured to them are in any degree infringed or violated. The law, my brethren, is the foundation of our liberties. Take away this, and the superstructure tumbles to the ground. How acutely, therefore, do they touch the Lord's anointed, who would raze this glorious foundation, and in its room erect the enormous Babel of despotic pleasure!

“Whenever any man declares that Englishmen have no other title to their liberty than the will of their prince, he may be said most severely to touch the people and deserves to be severely reproved for his impudence. Blessed be God, we do not hold our liberties by the precarious tenure of any man's will. They are defended by the impregnable bulwark of law, and guaranteed by the most awful sanctions. And whoever asserts the contrary is a liar, and the truth is not in him."*

The next important production of Mr. Livingston was the celebrated letter to the Bishop of Llandaff, † refuting the charges made by that prelate against the early colonists of America, in a sermon preached before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. It was one of the most spirited of the numerous pamphlets that appeared at that time, touching upon the proposed establishment of an Episcopate in America. Upon its republication in London, it attracted much attention, and drew forth the opposition, in pamphlets and parodies. In 1770, Mr, Livingston published the satire upon Lieutenant Governor Colden, entitled A Soliloquy, in which he was unusually severe upon that gentleman. In the fall of the same year he was

• New York Gazette, July 18th, 1765. The last number of the Sentinel was published on the 29th August, 1765.

+ The title of this work is, " A Letter to the Right Reverend Father in God John, Lord Bishop of Llandaff, occasioned by some passages in his Lordship's sermon, on the 20th of February, 1767, in which the American Colonies are loaded with great and undeserved reproach."

elected president of The Moot, a club organized by the principal.lawyers of New York city, for the discussion of legal questions and other points pertaining to the law. In May, 1772, he removed to the village of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and in the fall of the next year retired to his country seat, afterwards known by the significant title of Liberty Hall. But he did not long remain in this retirement. The revolutionary difficulties were assuming a more threatening aspect, and he was called upon to enter upon that which proved “the most arduous and the most honorable" portion of his life. In 1774, he was chosen a delegate to the Continental Congress, and remained in that body until the fifth of June, 1776, when he was called to take command of the New Jersey militia. His career in the Congress was consistent and effective: and in the discharge of the duties assigned to him, he increased his already high and honorable reputation.

On the thirty-first of August of the same year (1776), the first republican legislature of New Jersey elected Mr. Livingston to the office of Governor of that State; on which he resigned his command in the militia and repaired to Princeton, where he was inaugurated on the seventh of September. In his inaugural address delivered before the legislative assemblies, a week afterwards, he says: “Let us, gentlemen, both by precept and practice, encourage a spirit of economy, industry and patriotism, and that public integrity which cannot fail to exalt a nation: setting our faces at the same time like a flint* against that dissoluteness of manners and political corruption which will ever be the reproach of any people. May the foundation of our infant State be laid in virtue and the fear of God, and the superstructure will rise glorious, and endure for ages. Then may we humbly expect the blessing of the Most High, who divides to the nations their inheritance, and separates the sons of Adam. In fine, gentlemen, while we are applauded by the whole world for demolishing the old fabric, rotten and ruinous as it was, let us unitedly strive to approve ourselves master builders, by giving beauty, strength and stability to the new." In this speech, Governor Livingston displays that inflexibility yet simplicity of character for which he was eminently celebrated, both in public and private life.

While in the office of governor, he contributed several essays to the New Jersey Gazette, under the signature of Hortentius. These essays contributed much towards strengthening the hearts and nerving the arms of the Americans, who were in doubt as to the ultimate success of Great Britain. Their wit and sarcasm amused, while their sturdy independence and logical eloquence convinced, the doubting patriots. One of the most characteristic of these productions is On the Conquest of America.t “It is observable," says the writer, “that at the opening of every campaign in the spring, the British plunderers and their Tory emissaries announce the total reduction of America before the winter. In the fall they find themselves as remote from their purpose as they are in the spring: and then we are threatened with innumerable hosts from Russia and Germany, who will utterly extirpate us the ensuing summer, or reduce us to the most abject submission. They have so beat this beaten track, that for the mere sake of variety, I would advise them to explore a new road; and not compel us to nauseate a falsehood, not only because we know it to be one, but for its perpetual repetition without the least variation or alternity. According to custom, therefore, the new lie (that is the old lie reiterated) for the next summer is, that we are to be devoured bones and all, by thirty-six thousand Russians; besides something or other that is to be done to us by the King of Prussia. What this is to be is still a profound secret; but as it will doubtless be something very extraordinary, and it being impossible to conceive what else he can do to us, after we are swallowed by the Russians, he is probably, by some political emetic or other, to bring us up again. I should think, in common complaisance to human reason, that absurdities so gross, and figments so destitute of probability, would only deceive those who choose to be deceived. The Empress of Russia, though a sovereign in petticoats, knows too well that the true riches of a nation consist in the number of its inhabitants, to suffer such a number of her subjects to be knocked on the head in America, for the sake of facilitating the fanatic project of a more southern potentate in breeches, deluded by a blundering

* From this expression, and from his "inflexible impartiality," Governor Livingston was for some time after familiarly known among the people of his State by the name of “Dr. Flint."-Sedgwick, page 207.

+ This essay was published in the New Jersey Gazette, of December 24th, 1777, in the fourth number of that paper.

ministry, and the universal derision of Europe. It is her interest (and I shall wonder if ever princes proceed upon any other principle, before the commencement of the millennium) to have America dismembered from Great Britain, which must of necessity reduce the naval power of the latter, and make Russia a full match for her on the ocean. And as for the King of Prussia, considering that there never was any love lost between him and the family of Brunswick, and that he has long been jealous of the maritime strength of Britain, these artificers of fraud might with equal plausibility, have introduced the Emperor of Japan, as entering into leagues and alliances with our late master at St. James'. It is nothing but an impudent forgery from first to last, and merely fabricated to restore to their natural shape and features the crest-fallen countenances of the tories, and if possible to intimidate the genuine sons of America. The utmost they can do they have already done; and are this moment as far from any prospect of subjecting ns to the dominion of Britain, as they were in the ridiculous hour in which General Gage first arrived at Boston. This is no secret with those who have the management of their armies in America, how greatly soever the nation itself may be deluded by the pompous accounts of their progress. But whatever becomes of Old England at least, these gentlemen are sure of accumulating immense wealth during the war; and are therefore determined to keep up the delusion as long as possible. Burgoyne is the only one of any distinction, who has virtue enough to own the truth; and I am credibly informed, that he has frankly declared—that he was most egregiously deceived in the Americans,—that he had been led to believe they would never come to bayoneting,--that they had behaved with the greatest intrepidity in attacking intrenchments, that although a regiment of his grenadiers and light-infantry.displayed, in an engagement with Colonel Morgan's battalion of riflemen, the most astonishing gallantry, Morgan exceeded them in dexterity and generalship,-and that it was utterly impossible ever to conquer America." Under the signature Hortentius, Governor Livingston contributed to the United States Magazine, in 1779; but ascertaining that several members of the legislature had expressed “their dissatisfaction that the chief magistrate of the State should contribute to the periodicals, he discontinued his communications altogether, and appears to have written nothing for the press for several years,"

The promiņent position occupied by Governor Livingston, in the ranks of the patriots, coupled with the odium he had incurred by his various literary productions, issued in ridicule and detiance of the ministry and their adherents, subjected him to continual danger. Several attempts were made by the British to take him prisoner, and large bounties were offered by those in authority, for his apprehension. In one of his letters, written in 1778, he says, in noticing this state of affairs: “They certainly overrate my merit, and I cannot conceive what induces them to bid so extravagant a sum, having now raised my price from five hundred to two thousand guineas, unless it be that General Skinner intends to pay his master's debts, as he has long been used to pay his own."* Unsuccessful in these attempts upon the liberty and life of Governor Livingston, the ministerial press heaped their abuse upon him; hardly a sheet appearing from that source without some vilification of his public or private life. Rivington's Royal Gazette, the organ of the ministerial party in New York city, was particularly violent and revengeful. By this paper he was designated as The Titular Governor of the Jersies,"_" Spurious Gooernor, "-"Don Quixote of the Jersies,”Knight of the Most Honorable Order of Starvation, and Chief of the Independents ; " and in A Dream, published in the issue of the twenty-third of

The following is an account of ono of the numerous attempts made to capture Governor Livingston, and shows to what a degree party malice was carried at that time. It is taken from the New Jersey Gazette, of July 28th, 1779:-A number of villains in the vicinity of Persippeney, Morris connty, having for some days before been suspected of being concerned in a conspiracy to take or assassinate Governor Livingston, as soon as he should return from the General Assembly,

son of the governor's having previously induced one of the persons suspected to believe that his excellency was looked for on the 22d ult., caused a report to be propagated towards the evening of that day, that he was actually returned. As the young gentleman expected that the conspirators would, in consequence of the report, attack the house that night, he bad concerted proper measures for their reception. Accordingly, about two o'clock the next morning, the ruffians were discovered within fifty yards of the governor's house; but being fired upon by one of our patroles, they instantly took into the woods and fled. The person, however, who was suspected to be at the head of the gang, and who had for some time past taken up his residence in that neighborhood to facilitate the conspiracy, disappearing the next morning, was pursued and taken. He is committed to jail in Morristown, and has already made considerable discoveries. It is supposed that

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »