Henry Livingston, Jr.
About Henry Livingston
A 21st Century Man Santa

Henry Jr. The Surveyor The Major The Judge
Dutch New York The Farmer Religion Jane
The Livingstons Sarah Politics Sage Sayings

Henry Jr.

Henry Livingston, Jr. was born in Poughkeepsie New York in 1748, the third child of Henry Livingston and Susannah Conklin. The poorer of the 3 branches of the Livingston family, Henry and Susannah were rich in love, and it was a happy family into which young Harry was born.

That his parents had gotten together at all was a tribute to their love and determination. With their own parents against the match, Henry had taken matters into his own hands. Susannah had excused herself during a long Sunday sermon and gone outside for air. When her maid noticed she hadn't returned, the girl went out to search for Susannah, but the young girl was no where to be seen. Before full panic broke out among the family, one of the loungers nearby volunteered the information that young Harry Livingston had arrived and taken the girl up on his horse, then ridden off. They'd found a minister down the road willing to marry them, and they lived happily together for the next 51 years and eleven children. On Henry Sr.'s tombstone would one day be the words, "Henry Livingston, the husband of Susannah Conklin." Susannah was a very lucky woman.

The house in which Harry Jr. grew up was a wooden, two story building covered in clapboard. It was a few miles south of the Poughkeepsie town center, and right on the Hudson. A beautiful location. Except when the British came sailing up the river!

A View of Henry Sr.'s House by Henry Jr.
A View of Henry Sr.'s House by Henry Jr.

A Later View of Henry Sr.'s House

A Later View of Henry Sr.'s House

The family wasn't poor in an actual sense, only in relation to the other branches of their family. When Henry Sr. first moved to Poughkeepsie from Kingston, he appears in the tax rolls as paying about the highest taxes in the town. Besides income from his property, Henry Sr. also had income from occasional surveying jobs, and from his position as Clerk of Dutchess County, a position he held for life.

Henry Sr. was classically educated, and he supported his children in their choices of profession. For Henry Jr., the choice was obvious. He wanted to work on the land. While his older brothers studied for the legal profession, Henry was given a piece of his father's property, about a mile from his father's home, and there he built a house. He built of stone, and he put his house close to what is now Route 9, the old King's Highway that connected New York City and Poughkeepsie.

For the occasional winter, Henry would travel into New York City and wait out the thawing of the Hudson from a comfortable position in his uncle Henry Beekman's town house. While we know quite a bit of his older brother Johnnie's education and experiences, Henry's must be surmised from his writing. His education was clearly very good, very wide, and very deep. He was classically educated, scientifically and musically inclined, and remembered by his children as being a walking encyclopedia on any subject. He was certainly insatiably curious about everything, and passionate in his approach to life and learning.

Johnnie was John Henry Livingston, the second of Henry Sr. and Susannah's children. Because there were no good schools at the time in Poughkeepsie, the children were sent south to the town of Fishkill to study with a Congregational Minister, Rev. Chauncey Graham. John Henry stayed with the minister until the age of 10, when it was decided to keep him with a private tutor for the next year. The following year he was sent to a preparatory school in Connecticut, and the year after that John Henry entered Yale College. He was 12 years old.

Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, a Dutchess County historian, describes Henry's life as follows:

Henry Livingston, Jr., was born at Poughkeepsie in 1748; established his home at Locust Grove just before the Revolution; held a commission as Major under Montgomery in the expedition to Canada; returned home ill; and, recovering, lived a busy and useful life at Locust Grove until his death in 1828. He was a farmer; a lover of nature and of country llife; a surveyor; a justice of the peace; he wrote poems; painted pictures; drew maps; went to dancing parties; was fond of music (he played both violin and flute); loved children; admired pretty girls; was a fun-maker; had a favored exclamation: Dunder and Blitzen; while, finally, some of his serious writings reveal a truly devout religious faith. There may also be found in his writings traces of a good knowledge of geography, of foreign and domestic politics and of classical literature. That he had imagination is witnesses to by his story of: The Happy Vale...

The versatility of Henry Livingston, Jr., cannot be taken as typical of most men in the community in which he lived. Such varied accomplishments as he possessed are rarely found at any time or in any place centered in an individual. But his standards in art and literature, the social customs outlined in his writings; his industry and business acumen may all, with fairness, be taken as the measure of such things locally in his day.

Don Foster, in his book Author Unknown, says about Henry:

A surveyer and mapmaker by training, Henry also cut and sold lumber from a sawmill on his property, farmed his land, and operated a landing for sloops called Harry's Point, down on the river. By avocation a journalist and illustrator, Henry contributed engravings, poems, and prose satires to Poughkeepsie newspapers and New York City magazines, adopting such quirky pseudonyms as "Seignior Whimsicallo Pomposo," "Wizard," "Professor Zeritef Sharslow," "Henry Hotspur," and "Peter Pumpkineater."

The latter two pseudonyms are probably not his.

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Dutch New York

Robert Livingston, the first Lord of Livingston Manor, and Henry Jr.'s great grandfather, was pure Scots, but the rest of Henry Jr.'s blood was pretty well pure Dutch, with just a trace of Swedish thrown in for variety. Poughkeepsie was heavily Dutch, and the language was still spoken among some of the inhabitants, including Susannah's Conklin family.

New Amsterdam Dutch The Dutch were companionable people who took the evening air on their front stoop. Holland was a land of religious tolerance and educational opportunities. When the Dutch came to America, they still looked back to Europe as the determiner of fashion. As much as their incomes would allow, they dressed richly in imported materials. These petticoats and sleeves were so valued, in fact, that they were specifically called out in estate inventories. Worried about how citizens were spending their hardearned money, the New Amsterdam government attempted to forbid the use of gold or silver fringe on clothing. How effective that was we can easily imagine.

Houses were usually of brick and stone, the glazed Holland brick creating an attractive look. Practical people, the Dutch had the brick brought from Holland as ballast for the ships traveling between the new and old countries. Dutch houses of wood frequently had a gable end of brick facing the street. Inside walls were plastered, but the ceiling was frequently left with the wooden beams scoured clean. Looking at the wills and the inventories done for probate is to be amazed at the sheer quantity and quality of what filled the 17th New Amsterdam homes of the moderate and well-to-do. Rooms were crowded with furniture brought over from Europe. Besides cabinets to hold china or porcelain, the special company room would often also have a bed, and it wasn't unknown for an inventory to list a bed in the dining room.

It's almost impossible to look back to this New York Dutch culture without our current view being filtered through Washington Irving's Knickerbocker's A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty, which he wrote in 1809. This wonderfully witty and humorous look at the aristocratic ancestors on which New York high society doted did such a brilliant job of satire, that descendants of the actual ancestors who had been skewered glowed with pride that their ancestors had made it into Irving's book.

New Amsterdam Dutch Knickerbocker explains that he created his history in much the same manner his great grandfather, Hermanus Van Clattercop, built a church. When awarded the job, Van Clattercop's first act was to purchase a box of long pipes, a new spitting box, and a sizable quantity of the best Virginia tobacco. He then sat down and smoked for three months. Only after thinking through the problem did he begin hiking through the major cities of Holland, examining each and every church along the way. Finally he arrived at the Rotterdam site on which he was to build the church. There he used up another three months in walking around the site and examining it from every possible angle and from every possible vantage point. With the fascinated crowd gathered around him, Van Clattercop pulled off his coat and five layers of britches, and finally strode forward to lay the corner-stone of the church. Thirteen months to the day from when he took on the assignment! And so did Knickerbocker see the preparation by which he would write "a very large history out of a small subject."

Knickerbocker is as fun to read today as it was then, but it does have to carry on its conscience a set of Dutch stereotypes into which it's just too easy to fall. It's those very stereotypes that appear in Moore's story of the rotund, pipe-smoking Dutchman that Moore says was the inspiration for the Santa Claus of A Visit From St. Nicholas.

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But put those stereotypes beside Henry Jr., and they make no sense at all.

Henry was hardworking and hard playing. He was a family man, with no ambition greater than the desire to make his family happy. He was a strong believer in the equality of women (remember his father's tombstone!), and in their education; and he believed in the value of the individual. He spoke of Indians with the greatest respect and familiarity, and he was tolerant of the beliefs of others.

In fact, the more you learn about Henry, the more he seems to be a man completely outside of his time; the embodiment of a 21st century soul living in an 18th/19th century man. But if you think that, it's because even your teachers have been conditioned by Knickerbocker and his slow moving Dutch.

Henry was, rather, mainstream New York Dutch. And we can see that for ourselves in the memories of Ann MacVicar Grant, a young woman born in 1755 in Scotland, who was brought to America by her father, a soldier with the British army. Duncan MacVicar left his daughter with her aunt, Madame Margaretta Schuyler. Madame was a Schuyler to her bones, the daughter of John Schuyler and the wife of her first cousin, Philip Schuyler. Madame was also a first cousin of Henry Jr., though of his grandparents' generation. Her grandparents, Philip Schuyler and Margaretta van Slichtenhorst, were Henry Jr.'s great-great grandparents.

In Memoirs of an American Lady, Ann remembers her childhood around the Schuyler family, and her memories of their attitudes closely mirror those of Henry Jr., who was only seven years older than Ann. Ann wrote as an adult in Scotland, forced to support her children after the death of her husband, Reverend James Grant. She was so highly respected that Walter Scott drew up the memorial to win for her a yearly pension from King George IV.

Ann's point of view was that of an outsider in a close knit community, and was colored by the hero worship of a child for an adult. As for Margaretta Schuyler, or Madam, as she was called by Ann, she was drawn to the little girl by their shared love of poetry. Rather than writing about history or geography or great events, Ann wrote about the people and their lives.

One of her most interesting descriptions is of the way children's interactions were structured through a social mechanism known as a "company." In a small community, it's important that young people fall in love with the right people, and don't fall in love with the wrong. First cousin marriages happened often enough as it was. A company was made up of an equal number of boys and girls, of a range of ages. There could be only one child from a given family in any company, and companies stayed together for years. They competed for decorating baskets, for gathering berries, and for all the small fun activities of childhood. And twice a year the company would be invited to a child's house for a formal party. Ann describes this with the sad wisdom of the outsider never invited to enjoy one of these coveted events. And, naturally enough, when a child grew old enough to marry, they usually chose someone from their own company.

The Schuyler property was along an old Indian trail, and the relationship between the Schuylers and the Indians was close. In summer, there was often a small Indian community that would settle opposite the Schuyler house, The Flatts. The women would make items that they would sell to travelers or to the Schuylers. Ann describes one of the Schuyler women as learning the Indian language.

The Flatts

Peter Schuyler, Madam's uncle, was given the name of Quidor, or "brother." As mayor of Albany, Quidor headed the Albany Commissioners for Indian Affairs, and he was the one who escorted the four Iroquois Kings to the Court of Queen Ann in 1710. For years after his death, negotiations were frequently conducted in his name.

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The Livingstons
The Schuyler and Livingston families joined together about five years after Robert Livingston first left Holland for America. Robert Livingston came to work for the Rev. Nicholas Van Rensselaer, the manager, and uncle, of the underage lords of Van Rensselaer Manor. When Nicholas died, leaving behind the young widow, Alida Schuyler, Robert made sure she didn't grieve for long. Eight months seemed long enough. Although it was a good match for Robert in terms of social prestige and property, the letters throughout their marriage show a real and deep affection between the two.

Although Robert had been living in Holland, he was a full blooded Scotsman, descended from kings and from Robert the Bruce. Robert's father, Rev. John Livingston, had been the third in a line of ministers, but John turned out to be the one who couldn't help making waves. Already standing out for his dissident views as a young man, John was forced to twiddle his thumbs as a pastor in Ireland until he could finally get licensed from the Scottish religious hierarchy. But, after that, he seems to have fit in enough that he was one of the three men sent to interview Bonnie Prince Charles, when Charles wanted to land on Scottish soil. A year later, that landing put John in the soup when he refused to go along with the prevailing opinion that the anniversary of Charles' landing should be a religious holyday. With a bit of warning from friends, he was off to the more tolerant environs of Amsterdam.

John tried to take his Scottish congregation to America, but bad luck and shipwrecks landed him right back where they had all started from. It was left to son Robert to finally make the trek his dad couldn't make.

Robert Livingston's success didn't come from just sitting back and enjoying his wife's connections. The passion that made Reverend John preach to the masses in the fields made his son perfectly comfortable standing out from the crowd. He had intelligence, he was attractive, and he was ambitious. When Colonial Governors put together legislatures, Livingstons were there to make sure that whatever laws were passed were kind to their interests. A landowner, like family patriarch Robert Livingston, took it for granted that an assembly seat or council seat would be kept for himself or his sons as naturally as he expected that a pew would be reserved for him at church. With wealth came the administrative positions that helped keep the riches flowing. And if it was politics that on occasion forced Robert out of his offices and put his property or his freedom in danger, it was politics that would always make it right again in the end.

Robert Livingston lived in constant political turmoil, sometimes in favor, sometimes out. When out, he might well take ship himself to plead his case in person. Thus the change in the Livingston coat of arms. After Robert, they added a shipwreck.

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With the death of Robert's oldest son John, there were three sons still to carry on the family business of being rich. Philip, the eldest, and Robert, the middle son, made themselves invaluable. It was Gilbert, the younger, who tended to get himself into more hot water.

Gilbert Livingston had originally planned to become a minister, and had been sent for his education to Reverend Solomon Stoddard in Northampton MA. Stoddard is known for being one of the initial lights in the protestant Great Awakening. While Gilbert continued to be deeply religious in his personal life, he awakened to the fact that the ministry wasn't for him. Instead, he returned home and was taught surveying by his father. Surveying was the perfect occupation for someone who wanted to know first hand the value of land.

But things just never seemed to go right for Gilbert. When he took on the job of collecting taxes, a position that had worked out well for his father, Gilbert hit the scene just at the time of an economic downturn. Taxes weren't collected then as they are now. Then, the tax collector paid the king, then collected from the people what they owed. Usually that meant he came out ahead. But for Gilbert, it turned out to be a disaster. In order to pay what he owed, Gilbert was forced to sell some of the property which his wife, Cornelia Beekman, had inherited from her father, Henry Beekman. At the time of Robert's death, the manor went to Philip, a large piece of property went to Robert Jr., and what would have been Gilbert's was divided many ways among the daughters and sons, and Gilbert was forced to support his own large family on very reduced circumstances.

Cornelia Beekman Gilbert Livingston
Cornelia BeekmanGilbert Livingston

But that very experience might well have been the making of Gilbert's line. Unlike his father, on Gilbert's death he willed his estate to be equally divided among his children. While descendants of the other two lines were squabbling over inheritances, Gilbert's children were bonded together, and those close bonds continued through the generations.

Gilbert's son Henry Livingston, Sr. wrote a will that placed equality among the children just behind the welfare of his "beloved wife Susannah."

"I will that all my whole Estate both real and personal which shall remain after the payment of my debts (excepting what is before bequeathed to my widow in trust) shall be divided into ten equal parts and be given share and share alike..."

The three lines - Philip, Robert and Gilbert - interacted and intermarried. Philip's son William became the Governor of New Jersey, and his son Philip was the one who signed the Declaration of Independence. Philip the Signer's daughter Sarah married Henry Jr's brother John Henry. The daughter of William's close friend and Yale buddy, Rev. Noah Welles, married Henry Jr.

Robert had only a single child, Robert R. (yes, the R does stand for Robert), and that son married Margaret Beekman, the niece of Henry Sr.'s mother, Cornelia Beekman. It was this line that built the Hudson River estate Clermont. Through Margaret's father, Colonel Henry Beekman, the Robert line and the Gilbert line stayed close. Robert R. Jr. became the Chancellor of New York, and it was he who gave the oath of office to George Washington. The Chancellor's brother Edward was the mayor of New York City, and is most renowned for having negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, while minister to France.

The Gilbert line is not usually considered to have included such illustrious descendants as Philip the Signer, Governor William, Chancellor Robert or Mayor Edward, major historical figures descended from Robert's sons Robert and Philip. But with the election to the presidency of two Gilbert descendants, George Herbert Walker Bush and George Walker Bush, the Gilbert line might just be in for a little more attention.

It could be just old fashioned sexism that didn't consider a line that descended from a daughter to have the same weight or importance as a line that descended from a son but today, luckily, we can appreciate both sides of the descent.

Gilbert descendants
emptyPresident George Herman Walker Bush
emptyPresident George Walker Bush
emptyGovernor Hamilton Fish
emptyStuyvesant Fish
emptySenator Elisha Kent Kane
emptyJudge John Kintzing Kane
emptyGeneral Thomas Leiper Kane
emptyLt. Governor Edward Philip Livingston
emptyColonel James Livingston
Dutchess County Sheriff James Livingston
emptyEleanor Roosevelt
emptyNicholas William Stuyvesant
YLt. Governor Stephen Van Rensselaer
YMayor Philip Schuyler Van Rensselaer

Gilbert and Henry Sr. descendants
YNY Congressman Gilbert Livingston
emptyHenry Livingston, Jr.
emptyColonel Henry A. Livingston
YReverend John Henry Livingston

Gilbert, Henry Sr. and Henry Jr. descendants
YSenator and Illinois Chief Justice Sidney Breese
YRear Admiral Samuel Livingston Breese
emptyCommodore Samuel Livingston Breese
emptyBrig. Gen. Robert L. Denig, Jr.
emptyBrig. Gen. Robert L. Denig, Sr.
emptyColonel Cleveland Coxe Lansing
YBrig. Gen. Henry Livingston Lansing
YBrig. Gen. Henry Seymour Lansing
emptyColonel David Lansing McNeely
emptyArchdeacon William Reed Thomas
emptyDr. William Sturges Thomas
emptyCommodore Melancthon Taylor Woolsey

And the women, too, have done their share by bringing new blood into the family
YColonel Henry Beekman
emptyRev. George Boyd
YClerk of the NY Supreme Court Arthur Breese
emptyBrig.Gen. Henry L. Burnett
emptyCaptain John Henry Clack
emptyCommodore Robert L. Denig
emptyColonel Nicholas Fish
emptyCommisary General Samuel Hake
emptyChancellor Elisha Kent Kane
YJudge Richard Ray Lansing
emptyMatthew Mesier
emptySamuel Finley Breese Morse
YJudge Jonas Platt
emptyPresident Franklin Roosevelt
YColonel Jacob Rutsen
YPeter S. Stuyvesant
YU.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson
YNY Lt. Governor Pierre Van Cortlandt
emptyGeneral Robert Van Rensselaer
YMajor General Melancthon Lloyd Woolsey

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The Surveyor
In a time when the country was still expanding into new land, the profession of surveying was one entered into by a wide variety of educated young men interested in knowing first hand, and often first, the characteristics of parcels of land for potential land speculation.

In a letter to his grandson, a young lawyer in Illinois, Henry asked whether the boy was interested in becoming a land agent.

"That you are a competant map man there is no doubt-- I go a step further & say that every lawyer ought to be a theoretical surveyor. I have heard many gentleman of the bar mention this. The late General [Alexander Hamilton] learned it of his father-in-law General [Philip John] Schuyler."

To Take a Meridian
Land grant Application
Principal Assessor

Robert Livingston, the first Lord of Livingston Manor, knew the trade and taught his son Gilbert. Gilbert taught Henry Sr. and Henry Sr., in turn, taught Henry Jr. Other well-known surveyors included the first Governor of New York, George Clinton, and President Abraham Lincoln.

A surveying team consisted of the lead surveyor and one or more chain bearers. The lead surveyor needed a pretty heavy dose of higher mathematics to be able to compute the land boundaries. (Question: if you need to divide a property with a lake and a mountain into five equal parts to divide among five heirs, how do you count the total acreage?) The chain bearers, as the name implies, carried the chain used to measure the distance between two spots.


The New York Public Library's Gilbert Livingston Collection contains a great many of the surveys done by Henry Jr. Not infrequently, he would add decorative characters or figures or just creative doodlings to the drawings. From January and February survey dates, it would seem the job wasn't one practiced just in good weather.

Map of Poughkeepsie

A collection of papers in the New York State Archives shows that Henry was still engaged in surveying work at the age of 62, when he was acting as the interface between John Jacob Astor and the small property owners who had purchased from the state of New York the 52,500 acre Philipse Manor confiscated during the Revolutionary War.

The Philipse heirs, Mary Philipse and her husband Roger Morris, had argued that the confiscation was illegal because the original deed settled the land on the heirs, not on the current manor lords. Astor took that argument to his lawyer, and decided it was arguable enough to be worth the financial gamble, and bought the property from the heirs. He held onto the claim for quite a few years while the new purchasers improved the property with houses, barns, cleared fields, etc., then let it be known that he had a claim on their properties. Henry's job was to go door to door and explain the situation. In a letter to Astor, he says "I found a friendly personal reception everywhere." It's a credit to his personality that he wasn't strung from the rafters.

It wasn't that Astor wanted the land from the new owners. What he wanted was for the state of New York to agree that they had been wrong to confiscate the property, and to pay him to drop the matter.

In 1819, at the age of 71, Henry got the job from DeWitt Clinton to supervise two surveyors who would actually go into the field and do the final surveying work. In 1827, Henry spent two weeks in New York City testifying in the trial before his niece's husband, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson. The trial resulted in a large settlement to Astor.

Henry's writing encompassed a broad range of topics but, frequently, he wrote tongue-in-cheek humor. One such piece describes a natural phenomenon he supposedly came across during one of his surveying trips, the honey dew.

Surveying in field

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The Farmer
Though his father was well-educated, and his older brothers both aimed toward careers in the law, Henry's love was the land. Several years before he looked for a wife, Henry was given a piece of his father's property. It wasn't far from his father's home, and it had a beautiful river frontage, as well as a stand of locust trees which inspired the name Henry gave the property, Locust Grove.

Henry maintained his interest in agriculture throughout his life. He became a member of a new agricultural society that started up in Poughkeepsie, and his letters to his son and grandson were filled with information on the quality of his crops and questions about the worth of the western lands the young men were settling.

At his father's death, the land gift was credited to Henry's share of the estate, as his brother John Henry's European education was credited against his.

After Henry's death, his property was sold to John and Isabella Montgomery and, from them, to Samuel Finley Breese Morse. Morse married Henry's greatgranddaughter and brought her to the property that he, not knowing of Henry's previous ownership, also named Locust Grove.

Description of Home of Parents
Drawing of Home of Parents
Sale of Mansion of Parents
News Item
View from Henry Jr.'s Property
Sale of Henry's House
Sheep Trouble

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Sarah Welles
Much as Henry loved his land, he finally discovered what the property he loved so much was missing - a mistress. Henry's brother-in-law, General Melancthon Lloyd Woolsey, had a first cousin who was said to be one of the most beautiful women in Connecticut. Henry agreed with this general opinion.
New York, December 30th, '73

A happy Christmas to my dear Sally Welles.

Next Tuesday evening I hope to see the Girl for whom alone I would well bear to live. Yes, my dear creature, next Tuesday evening, if my God spares my life, I hope to tell you I am as sincerely your friend, as constantly your admirer, & as religiously your lover, as when I sat by your side & vow'd everlasting affection to you. I well know you will call this the "lover's cant". Call it so, my love - call it anything - I know & swear its truth, and wrap myself up in my own Integrity.

Henry rode the sixty miles to Stamford and, for his saddlesores, won the hand of his beautiful Sally. Returning home, Henry waited impatiently for his wedding day. But, while he waited, he went over and over their conversations.

"If you do not, my dear creature, love me better than any man upon earth beside, if you do not think you will not only make me happy by marrying, but that you will make yourself so too. ... Believe me, Sally, that my love to you is stable as the Earth, permanent as the skies. While I live, I shall love you.

In the spring of 1774, Henry went to Stamford Connecticut to be married to Sally by her father, Rev. Welles.

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The Major
Sally was pregnant, with the baby due in August, and the future should have looked bright but, instead, the young couple was staring straight into the storm clouds of war.

Nowhere was the decision to go to war an easy one. Poughkeepsie was a strong Whig enclave but, even there, families were torn apart. While some of Gilbert's descendants tried to stay loyal to the king, or just neutral, Henry Sr.'s family was united in wanting to see their country free of Britain. His father-in-law, Rev. Noah Welles, had been exhorting his congregation to rebellion for many years.

Janet Livingston, the daughter of Robert R. and Margaret Beekman, had married a British officer, Richard Montgomery, who offered his services to his new country. Because of illness on the part of Major General Philip John Schuyler, another of Henry Jr.'s cousins, Montgomery was given the rank of General and the assignment of invading Canada by going up the Hudson River, and then up through Lake George, and into Montreal and Quebec.

Maj.Gen. SchuylerMaj.Gen. Montgomery
Maj.Gen. SchuylerMaj.Gen. Montgomery

Montgomery wrote to his wife [PSp113], "Poor Schuyler is in so miserable a state of health as to make him an object of compassion." Montgomery left his wife with Gen. Schuyler at Saratoga, telling her "that she would never have cause to blush for her Montgomery." The drums rolled and the young men marched off to war.

Two of Janet's brothers, Henry Beekman Livingston and John Robert Livingston, were joining their brother-in-law, and Henry Jr., close to the family through his own ties with Janet's grandfather, Colonel Henry Beekman, decided to go, as well. He wrote to Colonel James Clinton, his commanding officer.

Poghkeepsie August 19th 1775

Dr. Sir
I have the pleasure to inform you that yesterday afternoon my wife was a Joyfull mother of a fine daughter- -a circumstance in providence I highly rejoice at- -You know the feelings of a father Sir on these occasions However I expect to be ready almost or quite as soon as the men here- - As no man enters with more zeal into the service of his country than myself- Captain Dubois is now by me & tells me His men are in high spirits & want to be in motion & only want camp kettles & blankets to march immediately- ... My Brother Doctr. [John Henry] Livingston was with me yesterday & desires his love to you.

I am sir your humble servant

Henry Livingston Jun.

It wasn't easy to take leave of his wife and new daughter and, in a letter from camp preserved in the Illinois State Archives, Henry tells Sally, "You seem to think a little hard of my hurrying away from you too soon when I took my leave of you. Upon my life, my beloved, ...I knew that we must part, & I also knew your weakness ...you were in a wreck."

The letter also includes the earliest record of Henry's poetry, On My Little Catharine Sleeping.

As one of the earliest units formed in the war, Henry and his men had enlisted for only six months. But, as is often the case with the military, much of that time was wasted in camp. Henry took the opportunity to play tourist, and kept a surveyor's eye on the land that he saw, as he noted in a journal which he kept between August 25 and December 22 of 1775.

September 6.- Coll'o Cortlandt & myself hir'd a chaise & took a ride to Cohoes & Schenectady & return'd at noon next day. ... The fall is abt 60 or 70 feet high & almost perpendicular, from Cohoes it's little more than 2 miles to Half Moon. The several branches of the Mohawk run with considerable rapidity till they discharge themselves in Hudsons river.

"October 9 - By trailing I caught a fine pike 2 feet long, & a clever Bass, with which kind of fish & yellow perch & sunfish the Lake abounds."

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In fact, through the whole journal there is little of the military. What interests Henry is the land through which they march, and the culture of the people.

"The town is not paved &, if it was not for a narrow walk of stones projecting out about 2 feet from the houses, the streets would be impassable in the spring & fall. While I was there, the mud in the streets was full half leg deep. In Montreal, happy is that man who can keep the wall."

Henry's journal of the expedition shows his particular interest in how the Canadians related to the same "tyrants" against whom the Americans were fighting.

October 19. In general I found the men and women much more dilatory and Idle than the people among us; to attain a bare subsistence seem'd to be the height of their wishes.

A land of slaves will ever be a land of poverty Ignorance & Idleness!

From what they heard of the treatment of the population by the British, it was amazing to Henry that the British could expect any support.

The Regular officers seeing their backwardness advis'd us to Cuff and kick them well about, & they would be much more oblidging. From that I concluded it was no uncommon thing for the poor Canadians to suffer abuses from the Regulars. Nor any wonder that they so heartily joined us against those Tyrannical slaves to Tyrants.

The result of this experience led Henry to make the following prediction to his grandson, Sidney, 44 years later!

For in the very next English contest (humanly speaking) Canada will become a member of the Union-- Enlightened Englishmen know this very well, & enlightened Englishmen cannot rapine at the idea, for it is well known that the Canada's are a burden to the mother state.

The peltry & fur traffic was never very considerable & it is daily becoming less so. The only reason for holding these provinces is its giving strengthening their hold on Newfoundland & the fisheries on its banks. These fisheries to a maritime nation be sure is a momentous object.

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Well, even Henry can't always be right.

One particularly interesting account describes a banquet which Henry gave for the leading chiefs of the Six Nations.

Had the honor of dining with the chiefs of the Caghnawaga nation, 6 in number, and 20 others but whether they were people in office cannot tell, rather think they were not. I had an elegant Dinner provided for them at one Mr Killips a Tavernkeeper in Town. ...

In compliance with their custom I opened my business with them in a set formal speech, which was interpreted by a One ey'd Chief who understood English very well-& they answered me with all that deliberation, firmness & serriousnoss peculiar to the Indians.

As one of the earliest units formed in the war, Henry and his men had enlisted for only six months. With the capture of Montreal, many of the men, including Henry, returned home.

December 1.- This morning me set out from Fort George 3 Ox teams carrying our Baggage. On one of them I rode. 4 miles on the north of Fort Edward I bought a horse, being too sick to ride on a Cart which the Teamster told me he would be forc'd to use a few miles below Fort Edward for want of snow for the sleds. Put up at Fort Edward at one Pat Smiths, Co1 Waterbury and his party went forward 5 miles, & I never overtook them again. They had all my baggage with them.

December 2- I was very Ill when I set out from Smiths and riding on a Bearskin without any stirrups, thro a small snow too, did not contribute to alleviate my distemper. I got as far as Saratoga & lodg'd at the Generals, Mrs. Schuyler & her daughter being there.

General Schuyler's Mansion

[General Schuyler was Henry's 2nd cousin. His wife, Catharine Van Rensselaer, was Henry's 3rd cousin. Catharine's brother, General Robert Van Rensselaer, was married to Henry's 1st cousin, Cornelia Rutsen.]

December 3.- Travel'd down as far as Stillwater to Parson Grahams where I stay'd a fortnight being too unwell to proceed any Farther.

[Reverend Chauncey Graham had been President of the Dutchess Academy in Fishkill, a school for boys to which Henry Sr. had sent his sons when they turned seven.]

December 22.- A little after noon I arrived in safety at my house. The God of all mercy be adored for his goodness to an unworthy sinner!

His Military Journal
His Military Commission

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Henry was, by nature, upbeat and optimistic. This characteristic crossed all aspects of his life, including his religious beliefs. He didn't see God as a threatening force but, rather, as one to whom you dedicated your life and then just trusted.

People who knew Henry and his wife recognized the value in people who could combine both happiness and goodness. John Jay, writing to Egbert Benson about Jay's young son, then living with Jay's father, asked Benson,

"Harry Livingston has been so kind as to write a letter to Mrs. Jay [John Jay's wife was Henry's 2nd cousin, and John Jay his 3rd] for which we are much obliged to him. I wish however he had been as particular about my Father etc. as about my son.

"Harry Livingston, I imagine, lives in the neighborhood. His wife is an excellent woman and, in my opinion, a rara avis in Terra [a rare bird on Earth]. I believe they both wish us well, and would not refuse to oblige me, by taking my Son to live with them, and treating him as they do their own.

In that Family he would neither see nor be indulged in immoralities, and he might every day spend some hours with his Grandfather, and go to school with Harry's children, or otherwise as you may think proper. At any rate, he must not live with his Grandfather, to whom, he would in that case be as much trouble as Satisfaction. This is a point, on which I am decided, and therefore write in every express and positive terms. Unless objections strike you, that I neither know or think of, be so kind as to speak to Mr. and Mrs. Livingston about it."

The base of Henry's belief in God was a solid foundation built by his family. Religion surrounded him. The three immediate ancestors of his great grandfather, Robert Livingston, the 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, were all ministers. Robert's father had actually been an evangelist, and preached to the multitudes in the fields.

All the way back, in the lines of his father and mother, could be found people deeply involved in the life of the church, if not as a minister, then as a deacon or elder. Henry's father was an elder of the Dutch Reformed Church, a position that implied a depth of religious theory rather than just good works within the congregation. Biographies of Henry Sr.'s grandson, Commodore Melancthon Taylor Woolsey, note that his grandfather was a minister, but it was likely an informal ministry.

John Henry Livingston, the second child of Henry Sr., graduated from Yale College at the age of 12, then decided to become a minister. It wasn't surprising that he became one of the most prominent of the Livingstons.

Rev. John Henry Livingston

Even before going to Holland to pursue his studies, John Henry dreamt of being able to bring together the two pieces of his church that had broken apart - the conservative part that required services to be in Dutch and ministers made in Holland, and the liberal part that wanted English services and American made ministers.

Dreams are often just that, but John Henry was a Livingston and so his dream had more of a chance. After coming back from Holland and serving in the Revolutionary army as a chaplain, John Henry was the one that actually did bring his church together! At the time that he died, John Henry was the president of Rutgers College.

Henry's Church-related Kin
G4grandfatherRev. Gerard BeekmanDistinguished theologian
G4grandfatherRev. William BaudertiusReformed Church at Zutphen
G4grandfatherRev. Alexander LivingstonPresbyterian minister
G3grandfatherRev. William LivingstonPresbyterian minister
G2grandfatherRev. John LivingstonPresbyterian minister
GreatgrandfatherDavid StormDutch Reformed Deacon
GreatgrandfatherDeliverance ConklinDutch Reformed Deacon
GrandfatherCapt. John Jan ConklinDutch Reformed Deacon
GrandfatherGilbert LivingstonDutch Reformed Elder
FatherHenry Livingston, Sr.Dutch Reformed Elder
BrotherRev. John Henry LivingstonDutch Reformed Minister
BrotherGilbert LivingstonDutch Reformed Elder
SelfHenry Livingston, Jr.Dutch Reformed Deacon
WifeSarah WelleDau and granddau
Yale-educated Congregational ministers
ChildJane Livingstonmarried Episcopalian minister
Rev. William Barber Thomas
Robert Henry -
Elizabeth Livingstonmarried Episcopalian minister
Rev. George Boyd
GranddauSusan Breesemarried Episcopalian minister
Rev.Dr. Pierre Alexis Proal
GrandsonRev. William R. ThomasEpiscopalian Archdeacon
Alida - MT Woolsey -
Alida Woolseymarried Rev. Isaac Pierson Stryker
John Henry - Henry Alexander -
Sarah Livingstonmarried Rev. Brogan Hoffe
Jane - Henry L. Thomas -
Rev. W.R. Thomas -
Rev. Harold ThomasEpiscopalian minister
Helena - Susanna Platt -
Manette -
Anna Maria Boydmarried Episcopalian minister
Rev. Thomas Nichols
Alida - MT Woolsey -
Alida -
Rev. MT StrykerEpiscopalian minister

At the time the Livingston family discovered that Clement Clarke Moore's name was being attached to the Christmas poem, Moore was already quite old. It was only three years later that Moore died. One of Henry Jr.'s descendants, Julia T. Livingston, suggested that the reason why the family did not confront Clement Clarke Moore when they discovered the attribution, was that he was so respected within the Episcopalian church, that they thought they could hurt the careers of members of their own family who were connected with that church.

As for Henry Jr., he married a minister's daughter, and became a deacon in the Poughkeepsie Dutch Reformed Church. Over the years following Henry's return from the Canadian expedition, Henry's family grew. But there was tragedy as well when Henry's first son, Henry Welles Livingston, died from burns in an accident at the age of a year. It was Henry's deep religious faith that helped him through his son's death.

But there was worse to come. In 1783 his beloved Sally died at the home of her widowed mother in Connecticut. For a month, Henry's financial journal was silent. When he picked up his pen again, Henry wrote:

Sep 10 - I paid Peter Quintard of Stanford in full for making coffin.

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Governor George Clinton
Governor George Clinton

Before the Revolution, the Livingston family and other large landholding families dominated New York politics. The main opponent party was a combination of merchant, tenant, and "mechanic" interests, frequently in the person of the New York City DeLancey family. And despite the extent of their landholding, most members of the Livingstons were strong supporters of the Revolution.

The Livingston interests were divided between the interests of the upper manor Livingstons, who had inherited Livingston Manor, and the lower manor Livingstons, who had built Clermont. The Poughkeepsie Livingstons had ties to both groups.

Henry Sr. had been a political lieutenant for his uncle, Colonel Henry Beekman, and had been one of the two Dutchess County Representatives after Beekman's retirement, The husband of Beekman's only child, Robert R. Livingston, was the other.

George Clinton, the first post colonial governor of New York, had ties to the Poughkeepsie Livingstons through Henry's brother, Gilbert.

"In the Dutch towns in the Province of New York, (Kingston is entirely so) the inhabitants are all related, as cousins-german in an English town. The Tappen family, in consequence of this kind of consanguinity, was related to almost the whole town." 1

Gilbert Speech Jun 24, 1788
Gilbert Speech Jul 2, 1788
Gilbert Speech Jul 4, 1788
Gilbert's Vote Jul 26, 1788

Clinton's wife was a Tappen, and her brother, Peter Tappen, was married to Elizabeth Crannell, the sister of Henry's brother Gilbert's wife. Exhale. In addition, Henry Jr.'s immediate commander in the Revolutionary expedition into Canada was George Clinton's brother James.

The result of these connections for Henry was that he received a sequence of political jobs as commissioner of sequestration, commissioner of bankruptcy, Dutchess County coroner and, by 1785 at the latest, Justice of the Peace.

The rest of Henry's brothers and sister's husbands, aunts and uncles, also did well for themselves. Brother-in-law Jonas Platt went to the U.S. Congress and, in 1810, ran unsuccessfully for Governor.

Jonas Platt for Governor

Brother Gilbert was a New York state representative and a loyal Clinton man. The uncle of Henry Sr., Pierre Van Cortlandt, had been a Colonial representative and, in 1777, was President of the Convention which framed the first constitution of the state under which he became the first Lieutenant Governor under George Clinton's governorship. Van Cortlandt served in that office for seventeen years, declining re-election in 1795.

As the politics of New York ebbed and flowed between supporters of a strong union, the Federalists, and supporters of strong states, George Clinton's people, Henry Jr. moved into the Federalist column, becoming chair of the Committee of Correspondence for Federalist John Jay, a cousin and a friend.

Political Involvement 1798
Political Involvement 1800
Brooks 1800 [missing top]
DeWitt Clinton Support 1820]

Just because Henry had an interest in politics is no reason to assume that he treated the topic with any great reverence. If there was humor to be found, it could be pretty well guaranteed that Henry would find it.


The Judge

Judge Jonas Platt
Judge Jonas Platt by S.F.B. Morse

The lack of a law degree was not an impediment to Henry Jr.'s appointment as a Justice of the Peace for Dutchess County. The position was the lowest level of the judiciary, and the solid citizens so appointed could always avail themselves of Benedict's Treatise2, a guidebook to being a judge, sort of the Cliff Notes of that day.

Today we think of JPs as the people who marry people. In Henry's time, it was the court where the lowest level of civil or criminal cases were brought. Which means it was a pretty busy place.

Judge Henry Livingston, jun.

Full of above
Chairs Support of DeWitt Clinton

Henry's legal and judicial connections were as extensive as his political ones. Brother-in-law Jonas Platt spent 7 years on the New York Supreme Court.

Gilbert Livingston, Henry's brother, was a local lawyer and law partner of U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Kent. Gilbert broke off the partnership to link, instead, with the young man who had read law with them and then married Gilbert's daughter, Sarah.

Smith Thompson was a major Poughkeepsie figure, becoming Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court, and then a member of President Munroe's cabinet. He was made a justice of the U.S. Supreme court, ran unsuccessfuly for New York governor, and toyed with running for President before his timely appointment to the Supreme Court took him out as a potential political competitor. Van Buren was a good enough friend to name a son Smith Thompson Van Buren.

Thompson is mainly remembered today for his connection with the Amastead slaves case, and by the Vassar College library that bears his name.

Three years after Sarah's death, and eight years after Henry's death, Smith Thompson married Henry and Jane's daughter, Elizabeth Davenport Livingston. For the last seven years of Thompson's twenty years on the U.S. Supreme Court, Eliza was his Washington hostess.

Three of Henry's sons - Henry Welles, Sidney and Edwin - all read law. Henry's daughter Catharine married Arthur Breese, a New York Representative, and Clerk of the NY Supreme Court.

Catharine and Arthur's son Sidney chose to hang out his shingle on the frontier of Illinois. In a series of letters to the new lawyer, Henry sent a continuous stream of love, and encouragement, and advice about how to be a good lawyer whose future was wide open.

January 27th 1820

I felicitate you in your legal diploma. That you will soon be an HONEST lawyer, I am confident. I hope & believe you will be a great one. Study hard my son, but think more! To be a 'Compleat Jurist' is a sublime character. Our celebrated Chancellor Kent began under auspices not superior to yours.

In examining witnesses, sift them thoroughly, but ever treat them with politeness, at least with humanity. No wise or great advocate will shock the feelings of an audience by treating testimony indecorously. It is not probable that many bystanders will become pleaders, but every one may be a witness.

Never let me hear that you are only a mere collector of debt. At your first contest speak. If you are even frightened at the cadence of your own voice, still speak on. If you blush & stammer, no matter, go on. Hearers always will always pardon this in a new [lawyer] & beginner. It is a complement to them & nothing disreputable to him

Henry's instincts were good. Sidney Breese became a U.S. Senator and, eventually, Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. As you walk into the rotunda of the Illinois capitol, you look up at a lifesize statue of Sidney. Apparently, he took well the advice of his grandfather.

Judge Sidney Breese
Judge Sidney Breese

As for Henry and the judiciary, well, he did with it what he most enjoyed doing with the things he loved. He teased it.


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Jane McLean Patterson

After the death of his first wife, Sarah Welles, Henry settled down to a life of single fatherhood. It was ten years before he could bring himself to jump again into the matrimonial waters, and the death of his mother might well have precipitated his decision, especially if she had been helping him with the children.

When it came time to choose a new mother for his three children and a new wife for himself, Henry decided on Jane Patterson, the sister of his next door neighbor, Margaret Patterson Mitchell. Jane was the daughter of politician Matthew Patterson, and a sprightly, lovely and warm woman. Just what Henry needed. After all, to quote Henry's later advice to a grandson, "Celibacy is good, but marriage is better!"

It was only a few months later that Henry's daughter Catherine married Arthur Breese and began her own family of Henry's grandchildren. What this meant was a houseful of humorous confusion with uncles and aunts of the same ages as their nieces and nephews.

It was a credit to both Jane and Henry that the two families merged so seamlessly, as seen in nine years later in an 1802 letter from Henry, then in the Hudson Highlands, to his thirty year old son, Henry Welles, still back in Poughkeepsie.

"When you see dear mamma, bow down to the very floor and kiss your left hand and press it to your bosom for me, and squeeze and kiss Jane and Edwin heartily for ditto. Shake Sid's and Charley's fists. You have my best affection my sweet boy."

But the best place to see the happiness that Henry found in his second family is in his small family poems.

Dialogue between Madame J. L. & her children

Sage Sayings of Henry

If one had to summarize Henry Livingston, it might be to simply say that he was a patriot, a good man who loved God and his family, and a man who lightened the world around him with his gentle and thought-provoking humor.

Henry would probably be comfortable in today's society. He lived diversity, and would appreciate seeing how far tolerance for others have spread throughout our culture. Good ideas are timeless. Even today, many of the things Henry said two centuries ago still have thoughtful application.

On what is contentment based? On something you strive for, or on something you are? What is the balance between being content in what you are and wanting more?

Is much deny'd? Yet much, my dear, is giv'n.
Thy health, thy reason unimpaired remain,
And while, as new fal'n snows, thy spotless fame,
The partner of thy life, attentive - kind -
And blending e'en the interests of the mind.

Sometimes when you're not getting what you want, it helps to rethink the problem and attack it in from a different direction.

Professor Zeritef Shoralow saw a love scene [on the planet Mars], where the lady resisted as a beseiged citadel, and the gallant made his approaches by zig-zag and countermine [military movements].

The goal should not be the greater good of a particular group at the expense of another group, but the greater good of all.

Love, and all its delectable concomitants was utterly unknown there [the planet Venus]; as that passion exists but where equality is found or understood.

Things may go better with Coke, but life goes better with laughter.

With cakes of season on the board
Collected from each housewife's hoard
We'll push the glass of mead about
And laugh the tedious ev'ning out.

Thanks for taking the time to come to visit. I do hope that you've enjoyed meeting Henry. I have to admit that I'm completely taken with the man. We've spent an intense year and a half together, and I can't think of a nicer way to have spent the time.

And so, to misquote Henry, "Happy surfing to all, and to all a good night." From both of us.
Mary Van Deusen

Will of December 1, 1817

Footnote 1:
Thomas Jones, History of New York During the Revolutionary War, ed. E.F. DeLancey, NY 1879.

Footnote 2:
Benedict, J., Benedict's Treatise: Jurisdiction, Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace, Third Edition, Alden, Beardsley & Co., Auburn NY, 1852. NY 1879.


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