Robert R. Livingston (1746–1813)

Robert R. Livingston, 1746–1813, b. New York City, was the son of Robert R. Livingston (1718–75). He was admitted to the bar and became a law partner of John Jay. He was a member of the Continental Congress and a member of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, but he did not sign that document because the New York provincial congress had not authorized him to do so. He was the first secretary of the department of foreign affairs, a post created in 1781, and he issued the instructions for the commissioners to negotiate peace in France. He was (1777–1801) the first chancellor of the state of New York and an ardent supporter of the new Constitution of the United States. As chancellor, he administered the presidential oath to George Washington. One of the leading Federalists, he fell out with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay over the Federalist financial program and questions of patronage; after 1791 he was an ardent Jeffersonian. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson appointed Livingston minister to France, where he conducted the negotiations that resulted in the Louisiana Purchase. He held a monopoly on steamboat operations in New York waters, and his financing of the experiments of Robert Fulton resulted in the launching of the Clermont, the first American steamboat to be commercially successful.

See biography by G. Dangerfield (1960).

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