|Robert R. Livingston|
Richard Montgomery was married to Chancellor Livingston’s older sister, Janet. The two men became close friends often spending time talking science, agriculture and politics. Both had similar political leanings. Both were sent to New York to guide New York in the early days of the war. Livingston was chosen to go to Congress in Philadelphia while Montgomery remained in New York. With Livingston’s influence, Montgomery was selected as a brigadier general in the new army. On the last day of 1775 his friendship with Livingston came to a sudden and rather violent end when he was struck by several grapeshot while leading an assault on the city of Quebec.
|The real death of Montgomery was less clean and dramatic and more taking grapeshot to the head and groin|
|Gouverneur Morris. How could the ladies resist?|
John Jay was the Chancellor’s closest friend for many years. The two had also met at King’s College. After graduating they served their time as law clerks at the same time and passed the bar together. They briefly operated a law firm together and became fairly prominent in New York City society life. Jay even married a cousin of Livingston’s. As they matured they became the god father to each other’s children. In 1776 they made plans to live together with their wives while attending Congress but an illness for Sarah Jay prevented this from happening. During the war the men wrote the lion’s share of the New York Constitution together, they worked on the defense of the Hudson River together and they were even involved in some counter espionage together.
|John Jay shortly before he stabbed the nation in the back|
After Livingston issued the oath of office to George Washington, making him the first President of the United States of America, his relationship with his friend Jay was further strained. Jay was made Chief Justice of the Supreme Court while Livingston received no federal title. Not only was Jay earning his enmity but so was the entire Federalist party.
In a relatively short amount of time Robert Livingston would switch his allegiance to the Democratic-Republican party and bring along most of his family or “faction” as his political enemies preferred to call it. In 1795 John Adams celebrated the defeat of Tillotson for office as a victory over the Chancellor in a letter to his wife. “Mr. King is re-elected by the Legislature of New York by a majority of five in the House and two in the senate, in opposition to Mr. Tillotson, whom you know, to have married a Sister of Chancellor Livingstone. This is a great Point gain’d.”[i] Of course Adams had always hated Livingston although he blamed their animosity on Livingston saying “The Passion which has influenced the Chancellor, through Life has been envy of Mr. Jay, and consequent Jealousy of the Friendship between Mr. Jay and me. He hated me because I was the friend of Mr. Jay.”[ii]
The relationship between
the Livingstons and the Federalists became so bad that a cousin of
Livingston’s, Maturin Livingston, very nearly dueled Alexander Hamilton in 1796
but Hamilton begged off because he already had another duel scheduled.[iii]
|Of course everyone is jealous of you John Adams|
|People still voted for the man. Twice.|
It seemed that Livingston and Jay had a chance to become friends again in 1794, until Washington sent Jay to England to negotiate a new treaty that would tie up some loose ends from the Revolution. When the text of what became known as the “Jay Treaty” became generally known John Jay became one of the most hated men in America. People felt he had conceded far too much to the British. Jay was quoted as saying he could have traveled from Boston to
night by the light of his burning effigies. Livingston was perhaps the loudest
voice criticizing the treaty. He published a series of letter under the pen
name “Cato” blasting the treaty and even wrote directly to Washington to
pressure him not to ratify it. To Washington he wrote; “Nothing but your glory
can save under these circumstance the honor of our nation.”[iv]
|A rather elegant bit of graffiti from Boston. They don't vandalize like they used to.|
|Not this George Clinton|
Three years later the Chancellor was chosen to run against Jay. The election was tough and dirty. Vicious ads and letters filled the newspapers. It attracted the notice of people in other states.
Abigail Adams wrote to her son John
Quincy Adams of the Chancellor “An insatiable Ambition devours the Chancellor.
To see Mr. Jay stand higher in the publick estimation and Elected chief over
him; fills him with the same sensations, which Milton puts into the mouth of the
Arch Fiend. “Better to Reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.””[v] That’s right. She compared
him to Satan. Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison “Hard elections are
expected there between Jay & Livingston.”[vi]
|Seriously thought Livingston was worse than Satan|
Worse yet the Federalists of New York moved in masse against the Chancellor. Alexander Hamilton, who had never forgiven Livingston for opposing his financial plans in the 1780’s, went so far as to write to Timothy Pickering to ask him to examine the papers of the Chancellor from his time as Secretary for Foreign Affairs looking for ammunition to use against him.[vii]
At one point during the campaign Livingston paid a visit to Philip Schuyler at Schuyler Mansion in
Albany. Livingston and Schuyler had often found themselves
on the same side during the war, even though a very convenient case of gout
kept Schuyler from commanding the expedition against Canada which effectively
ended with Montgomery’s death. Livingston complained of Jay and the federal
government, perhaps forgetting the Schuyler was Alexander Hamilton’s
father-in-law. No sooner had Livingston finished his rant and departed the
house than Schuyler put quill to paper to report the meeting to Hamilton; “he
and his friends are Assiduous in blackening Mr. Jay’s character.” He went on to say of the Chancellor “The man
my dear Sir has worked himself up to such a pitch of Enmity against our
Government as approaches Madness.”[viii]
|Philip Schuyler, "Go to Canada? I mean ow, my toe."|
|Lets be honest Schuyler Mansion (top) really was shabby compared to the elegant Arryl House (bottom)|
Livingston lost the election. Three years later Thomas Jefferson sent him to France. He returned a few years later having doubled the size of the country with the Louisiana Purchase and went on to a life of success in agriculture and business. In the meantime, his “faction” had seen to the end of the political careers of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.(Check that story out here) Jay had retired from public service in 1801 to become a farmer but he and Livingston never spoke again.
[i] John Adams to Abigail Adams 29 January 1795 Adams Papers
[ii] John Adams to Francois Adriaan Van Der Kemp, 23 August 1806 Adams Papers
[iii] See letters between Hamilton and Maturin Livingston January 18, 20 and 21, 1796. Hamilton Papers
[iv] Robert R. Livingston to George Washington, 8 July 1795 Washington Papers
[v] Abigail Smith Adams to John Quincy Adams 27 May 1798, Adams papers
[vi] Thomas Jefferson to James Madison 3 January 1798, Madison Papers
[vii] See letters between Alexander Hamilton and Timothy Pickering 10 February and 5 April 1797 Hamilton Papers.
[viii] Philip Schuyler to Alexander Hamilton, 31 March 1798, Hamilton Papers