Robert R. Livingston
U.S. statesman and jurist
1746 - 1813

Robert R. Livingston, a justice of the New York supreme court, and brother of Edward Livingston, was born in New York City on November 27, 1746. He graduated at King's College, New York (now Columbia University), in 1765 and was admitted to the bar in 1773. 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 July 10 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, 1801, and is best lnown as "Chancellor" Livingston. In this capacity he administered the oath of office to George Washington at his first inauguration to the presidency, in New York, on April 30, 1789.

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 1801 he became minister to France on President Jefferson's appointment and in 1803, in association with James Monroe, effected on behalf of the U.S. the purchase from France of what was then known as "Louisiana."

In 1804 Livingston withdrew from public life and 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 1807, was named after Livingston's home, Clermont. He died at Clermont, New York, on February 26, 1813.

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