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The Lords of Livingston Manor

Philip Livingston’s line - the Lords of the Manor

As a consequence of his older brother Johannes’ early and childless death and following the principle of primogeniture, Philip Livingston (1686-1749) inherited Livingston Manor and the title of Manor Lord upon his father’s death in 1728. Philip was well prepared for these functions, having assisted his father in the management of the estate as well as in his function of Town Clerk of Albany and Secretary of Indian Affairs, offices he held from 1721 up to his death.

In the early years of the 18th century an undeveloped property like Livingston Manor would not permit a family to retire as country squires. Trading was the best way to prosper and trading the Livingstons did. The fur trade had long dominated Albany’s economy, but with time as the native population of beavers also receded in upstate New York, other products had to be developed to sustain economic growth and prosperity. With their vast land tracts and abundant water resources at their disposal, the Livingstons were well placed to recognize the importance of grain as a commodity New York could export. Grain and other foodstuffs was first exported to the English West Indies, a trade which generated the merchants funds to pay for their imports of manufactured goods from England. Grain gained even more importance in American trade as the colonies’ merchants started to seek new markets, which unlike the fur trade was not subject to restrictions by the Crown.

Philip Livingston started his mercantile career at the age of 23 after an apprenticeship with one of his Schuyler uncles in Albany enabled him to thoroughly learn the trade. Later, using influence conferred to him by his offices and his parental connections, he enhanced his position until he became a mercantile factor in his own right, trading furs with New York merchants such as Stephen DeLancey and Henry Cuyler. Robert Livingston built two gristmills on the Manor and Philip Livingston soon acted as his father’s agent buying grain in the Hudson valley and selling flour in New York or later overseas. Philip often assisted the Manor Lord in the collection of rents and thus was well prepared to succeed him, upon his death in 1728, being the next in line after his older brother Johannes Livingston died childless.

Under Philip’s leadership as Lord of the Manor, the Livingston family enterprise became the foremost integrated mercantile, agricultural and even industrial concern of the now English colony of New York. Philip Livingston greatly increased the production capacity of Livingston Manor by attracting numerous tenants and further developing his mercantile activities. He first used his younger brother Robert as an agent in New York City. He then had his sons trained for the mercantile profession, sending them into apprenticeship with his merchant friends and correspondents in New York, London and Jamaica. Of his six sons, only the youngest William Livingston would not become a merchant. Instead he would become New York’s most successful lawyer and first governor of the State of New Jersey. In 1743, Philip Livingston established one of the first iron foundries in America, called Ancram, the name of a village in Scotland where the Livingstons once lived, and developed iron mining on the manor land and in Salisbury Ct. Ancram was a risky venture due to its remoteness and the lack of transportation routes in these times. It needed considerable financial means, vast areas of forest properties, iron ore and water. The Livingstons had all of this in ample supply. It would payoff handsome in the many years it granted the Livingstons a virtual monopoly in the province. Philip Livingston also owned ships and participated with his sons in lucrative privateering and triangular trade operations. Thus a key component of the Livingston business strategy was vertical integration, developing the resources of his vast land tracts and moving his sons as agents close to the markets for his products or supplies.

With his six successful sons in strategic locations, one of the largest land holdings in upstate New York and profitable industrial ventures, Philip Livingston was one of the most successful of America’s capitalists.

  

Philip Livingston married Catrina Van Brugh, the daughter of long time mayor of Albany Peter Van Brugh, and they had 11 children. His six sons distinguished themselves in their profession as merchants and lawyers or in various other ways, as politicians, public servants and philanthropists.

Robert Livingston (1708-1790), the eldest son, succeeded as 3rd and last Lord of the Manor. He married Maria Thong and had 13 children. Robert inherited Livingston Manor and his father’s position as head of the family business. He continued to rely on his brothers as business agents for Livingston Manor, particularly on Peter Van Brugh Livingston in New York. Robert Livingston 3rd (lord) expected his sons to take their uncle’s place as business agents and had them educated accordingly. His eldest son Philip Robert Livingston (1733-1756) died young of kidney trouble. His second son Peter Robert Livingston (1737-1794) married a distant cousin Margaret Livingston (great daughter of a nephew of Robert “the Nephew” Livingston) and they had 10 children. In a strange succession of events in the Livingston family history, Peter Robert Livingston’s elder brother died before their father and thus again a second son was in line for succession as 4th Lord of the Manor. 

Yet it would come otherwise Unlike his grandfather and his father, Peter Robert Livingston had similar traits of irresponsibility that already appeared in the characters of his grand-uncles Johannes and Gilbert Livingston earlier. In search of easy money, Peter Robert Livingston took speculative risks most merchants avoided and his illegal ventures caused him irreversible financial losses. His younger brothers Walter Livingston (1740-1797), Robert Cambridge Livingston (1742-1794), John Livingston (1750-1822) and Henry Livingston (1753-1823) proved more reliable as Livingston Manor’s business agents. As a result, Robert Livingston 3rd broke the family tradition of leaving the estate to his eldest son and shared Livingston Manor among his five sons. Peter Robert Livingston’s share was further restricted by trust obligations in favor of his eldest son. As a result of Robert Livingston 3rd’s will and the deaths of three of his sons only a few years after him, Livingston Manor was already divided in numerous parts by the year 1800. 

The main heirs in the fifth generation of the main line Livingstons were Robert Thong Livingston (1759-1813), Peter Robert Livingston’s eldest son and Henry Walter Livingston (1768-1810), Walter Livingston’s eldest son. Other heirs included the minor children of Robert Cambridge Livingston and the two youngest sons of Robert Livingston 3rd who were still alive, John and Henry Livingston. As in earlier generations, the daughters of Robert Livingston and Maria Thong also inherited, but smaller shares of the estate, generally in form of sizeable dowries at the time of their marriage. By marriage, these daughters did equally well. Mary Livingston (1738-1821) married James Duane, a prominent New York attorney; Catharine Livingston (1744-1832) married John Patterson and Alida Livingston (1747-1791) married Valentine Gardiner.

 

     

Peter Van Brugh Livingston (1710-1793), Philip Livingston and Catrina Van Brugh’s second son was a prominent merchant in New York, a Whig and strong opponent of the Stamp Act and other British taxation. He was president of the first provincial congress and one of the original trustees of the College of New Jersey (Princeton). His privateering ventures during the French and Indian war made brought him a large fortune. Peter Van Brugh Livingston married Mary Alexander, a sister of Lord Stirling, and they had 15 children. None of them distinguished himself in a particular manner, though some made good marital alliances. Philip Peter Livingston (1740-1810) married Cornelia Van Horne. He was a Tory, went to England in 1775 but later returned to the US and settled on a farm he called Livingston House in Dobbs Ferry. Catharina Livingston (b.1743) married Nicholas Bayard jr, a New York City merchant of a distinguished Huguenot family who settled in New York in the 17th century and allied itself to such prominent dynasties as the Stuyvesants and the Jays. The Bayards were already linked to the Livingstons through the marriage of Alida Vetch (b.1701), the first Lord of the Manor’s granddaughter to Stephen Bayard (1700-1757) in 1724. Susannah Livingston (b.1757) married John Kean a forebear of Hamilton Fish Kean, a successful broker in the 20th century.

Philip Livingston (1716-1778), the fourth son was another merchant, alderman of the City of New York, a member of the Continental Congress, New York State senator and signer of the Declaration of Independence. Philip Livingston was also one of the founders of the New York Society Library in 1754, of the Chamber of Commerce in 1770 and one of the governors of the New York Hospital. He married Christina Ten Broeck, the daughter of Colonel Dirck Ten Broeck, and they had 9 children. Because of his political engagement and his numerous philanthropies, Philip “the Signer” Livingston is remembered as one of the most distinguished Livingstons in the family’s over 300 years history in America. His line further produced a series of dynastic marriages, among whose the one in 1764 of his daughter Catherine Livingston (1745-1810) with Stephen Van Rensselaer II, the 7th patroon of huge Rensselaerswyck, was certainly the most significant. Finally, the two foremost families of New York were united in their main lines. (Earlier unions between the Livingston’s and Van Rensselaer’s were either childless or concerning secondary lines of the two families).

William Livingston (1723-1790), the youngest son of Philip Livingston and Catrina Van Brugh, was one of New York’s leading lawyers and a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses. He fought actively in the American Revolution and was elected the first governor of New Jersey in 1776, an office he held for life. William Livingston married Susannah French and they had 13 children. In 1774, his daughter Sarah Van Brugh Livingston (1756-1802) married John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the United States, in what was then qualified as a royal wedding in New York. Sarah (Livingston) Jay became New York’s foremost social hostess and the guest lists of her dinners defined New York’s high society in the end of the 18th century. William’s son Henry Brockholst Livingston (1757-1823) was a lawyer and strong supporter of Thomas Jefferson breaking the Schuyler-Livingston tradition of supporting the Federalists. In 1802 he became a judge of the New York supreme court and in 1806, by appointment of Thomas Jefferson, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Other children of Philip Livingston and Catrina Van Brugh distinguished themselves mainly through the marital alliances they made. Another son, John Livingston (1714-1786), also a merchant in New York, married Catherine De Peyster; as to the three daughters, Sarah (1725-1805) married William Alexander Lord Stirling, Alida (1728-1790) first married Henry Hansen, then Colonel Martin Hoffman, and Catherine (b.1733) married John L. Lawrence, Alderman of New York.

 

 

 

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