Robert Livingston

Robert Livingston, Diplomat, NYC

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Robert R. Livingston (November 27, 1746 - February 26, 1813), of New York, was a delegate to the New York state constitutional convention and a member of the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, although he was recalled by his state before he could sign it. Livingston served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs from 1781 to 1783, under the Articles of Confederation. As Chancellor of the State of New York, he administered the first oath of office to George Washington at Federal Hall in the City of New York, then the capital of the United States. He was a candidate for governor of New York in 1798, was U.S. Minister to France from 1801 to 1804, and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase.

After the adoption of the State Constitution of 1777, he was the first Chancellor - the chief justice of the Chancery Court, and then the highest judicial official in the state - of the State of New York, and under this title he became universally known. It remained his nickname even after he left the office in 1802.

It was during his time as Minister to France that the Chancellor met Robert Fulton, with whom he developed the first viable steamboat, the Clermont, whose home port was at the Livingston family home of Clermont Manor in the town of Clermont, New York. Its first voyage left New York City, stopped briefly at Clermont Manor, and continued on to Albany up the Hudson River in just under 60 hours, a journey which had previously taken nearly a week by sloop.

Robert R. Livingston was the eldest son of Judge Robert Livingston and Margaret Beekman Livingston. He had nine brothers and sisters, all of whom wed and made their homes on the Hudson River near the family seat of Clermont Manor. The Chancellor built a home for himself and wife Mary Stevens Livingston just south of Clermont, called Belvedere, which was burned to the ground along with Clermont in 1777 by the British Army. In 1794 he built a new home, called New Clermont but subsequently named Arryl House (phonetic spelling of his initials "RRL") which was deemed "the most commodious home in America" and contained a library of 4,000 volumes, and after his trip to France, an orangerie. Livingston attended King's College, the predecessor to today's Columbia University. He was a Freemason and the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York (from 1784 until 1801). The Grand Lodge's library in Manhattan bears his name. When he died, he was laid to rest in Tivoli, New York.

Livingston County, Kentucky, Livingston Parish, Louisiana and Livingston County, New York are named for him.

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