COLLECTION GUIDES

1664-1839

Guide to the Microfilm Edition


Collection Summary

Abstract

This microfilm edition contains two collections of personal, business, political, legal, military, and family papers of William Livingston and the Livingston family of New York and New Jersey.

Biographical Sketch

William Livingston was an attorney, writer, legislator, Revolutionary War soldier, and the first governor of the state of New Jersey. He was born in Albany, N.Y. on 30 Nov. 1723 to Philip and Catharine (Van Brugh) Livingston. At the age of 14, he spent a year doing missionary work among the Mohawk Indians. After graduating from Yale in 1741, he studied law in New York City, was admitted to the bar in 1748, and practiced as an attorney. He founded the weekly periodical The Independent Reflector, where he published essays on many political subjects, and served in the New York Assembly from 1759-1762 before moving to Elizabethtown, N.J. The estate he built there in the 1770s is called Liberty Hall.

During the American Revolution, Livingston was a member of the Essex County (N.J.) Committee of Correspondence, a representative in the First Continental Congress in 1774, and a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in 1775-1776. A brigadier-general, he left Congress in June 1776 to serve as commander of the New Jersey militia. He was elected the first governor of New Jersey just two months later, a post he held until his death. In 1787, while governor of New Jersey, he also represented the state at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and was one of the signers of the Constitution. As a delegate to the Convention, he served as chairman of the Committee on State Debts and Militia and as a member of the Committee on Slave Trade and Navigation.

Livingston was a member of the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and other organizations. He married Susannah French in 1745, and their children included: Susan, who became the third wife of John Cleves Symmes; Catharine, who married first Matthew Ridley and second John Livingston; William, Jr.; Sarah Van Brugh, who married John Jay, the first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court; and Henry Brockholst, Revolutionary War officer and later Supreme Court justice. William Livingston died in Elizabethtown, N.J. on 25 July 1790.

Sources

Livingston, William. The Papers of William Livingston. Ed. Carl E. Prince. Trenton, N.J.: New Jersey Historical Commission, ca. 1979-1980.

Sedgwick, Theodore. A Memoir of the Life of William Livingston, Member of Congress in 1774, 1775, and 1776; Delegate to the Federal Convention in 1787, and Governor of the State of New-Jersey From 1776 to 1790. New York: J. & J. Harper, 1833.

Collection Description

This microfilm edition is comprised of two collections, the William Livingston family papers and the William Livingston family papers II. The collection consists of personal, business, political, legal, military, and family papers of William Livingston and the Livingston family of New York and New Jersey, including Susannah (French) Livingston, John C. and Susan (Livingston) Symmes, Matthew and Catherine (Livingston) Ridley, John and Sarah (Livingston) Jay, and Henry Brockholst Livingston. Included is correspondence pertaining to family matters, politics, legal issues, business, and military matters; orders and other papers documenting William Livingston's command of the New Jersey militia as brigadier-general; petitions, letters, and other papers from his service as first governor of New Jersey during the Revolutionary War; financial volumes, letterbooks, and law registers; material related to Brockholst Livingston's service in the 3rd and 4th New York Regiment during the Revolutionary War and his trip with John Jay to Europe in 1781; military papers of Col. Peter Schuyler and papers of Schuyler family members; and John Morke logbooks. Among the many correspondents are George Washington, Abraham Clark, Nathaniel Greene, Hugh Mercer, John Hancock, John Witherspoon, and William Alexander.

Acquisition Information

The William Livingston family papers were given to the MHS by Charles L. Nichols in March 1922. The William Livingston family papers II were collected in the early 19th century by Theodore Sedgwick and later given to the MHS by the Sedgwick family.

Arrangement Note

The William Livingston family collection is a microfilm edition of two collections at the MHS: the William Livingston family papers (Ms. N-1579.1) and the William Livingston family papers II (Ms. N-1579.2). These two collections have been microfilmed together as described in the Detailed Description of the Collection below. The arrangement of the physical papers in the two collections, however, does not match their arrangement on the microfilm. For use of the papers, see the Box List.

The William Livingston family papers II make up Series III of this microfilm edition. Series I, II, and IV are all part of the William Livingston family papers.

Detailed Description of the Collection

I. Loose papers, 1695-1839

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains legal and financial papers, including accounts, receipts, indentures, estate papers, deeds, resolutions, etc., as well as correspondence of Livingston family members. Family correspondence begins ca. 1774. Correspondents include William Livingston, Susannah (French) Livingston, Susan (Livingston) Symmes, John C. Symmes, Catharine (Livingston) Ridley (later Livingston again), William Livingston, Jr., Sarah Van Brugh (Livingston) Jay, John Jay, Henry Brockholst Livingston, Peter R. Livingston, Margaret Livingston, Ann Van Horne, M. Clarkson, Elias Boudinot, Elisha Boudinot, Alexander Hamilton, and many others on personal, political, and legal matters. The series contains correspondence and other papers of William Livingston related to the American Revolution and his work as governor, including drafts of letters and copies of letters from his letterbook made by Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. in 1829-1831; letters from Henry Brockholst Livingston while private secretary to John Jay, U.S. minister to Spain; and papers related to William Livingston's estate and to the publication of his memoirs after his death.

Reel 1
1695-1780
Reel 2
1781-1788
Reel 3
1789-1791
Reel 4
1792-1839

II. Volumes, 1697-1810

This series contains four letterbooks; three law registers; financial volumes, including receipt books and estate accounts; and the proceedings of three courts-martial presided over by William Livingston.

Reel 5
Register of cases, 1759-1763, 1782
Reel 5
Receipt book, 1759-1790
Reel 5
Receipt book, 1778-1784
Reel 5
Proceedings of the courts-martial of Jacob Crane, Isaac Gillam, and John Burnet, Oct. 1781
Reel 5
Receipt book, 1785-1786
Reel 5
Receipt book, 1777-1789
Reel 5
Receipt book, 1786-1787
Reel 5
Receipt book, 1786-1789
Reel 5
French translations, undated
Reel 5
Personal accounts, 1748-1772
Reel 5
Accounts of the William Livingston estate, 1794-1810
Reel 5
Accounts of the William Livingston estate, 1790-1810
Reel 5
Letterbook, 6 Aug. 1744-1 Jan. 1745

This volume, entitled "Letters to Miss F and others," contains love letters from William Livingston to his future wife Susannah French, as well as letters to his father and other personal correspondence. Most of the recipients are indicated only by initials, but some are identified in penciled annotations in another hand.

Reel 5
Letterbook, 17 Apr. 1754-25 Apr. 1770

This volume contains letters by William Livingston, primarily on legal and financial matters. Among the correspondents are Robert Crafton, Champion & Healy, Thomas & James Hayward, Thomas Monkland, and James Stevenson. Also included are two long letters to David Thompson at the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam about the French and Indian War and other subjects, and another to his nephew Peter encouraging him to stay in school.

Reel 5
Letterbook A, 1697-1776

This volume contains incoming and outgoing correspondence of William Livingston, as well as a few other papers. Letters related to Livingston's service as brigadier-general of militia in June-Aug. 1776 include correspondence with Hugh Mercer, Joseph Reed, Samuel Tucker, and George Washington. Many letters discuss desertions and the capture and treatment of prisoners. Beginning in Sep. 1776, letters relate to his work as governor of New York and include correspondence with John Hancock and William Alexander, Lord Stirling. Letters by Livingston are mostly drafts.

Letterbook A is not a traditional letterbook consisting of copies of outgoing correspondence retained by Livingston. The correspondence in this volume was collected, arranged, and bound by Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. in 1832.

Reel 6
Letterbook B, 1 Jan.-29 Dec. 1777

This volume is a continuation of Letterbook A. Included are letters related to prisoners, appointments, and other military and political matters; proclamations, resolutions, and minutes of House meetings; a letter from Livingston's daughter Catharine about damages to their home by British troops (12 Jan. 1777); and several detailed letters from his son Henry Brockholst Livingston while serving in the Saratoga Campaign (June-Aug. 1777). Also among the correspondents are Philemon Dickinson, John Hancock, Susan Livingston, William Livingston, Jr., William Paterson, Israel Putnam, and George Washington.

Letterbook B is not a traditional letterbook consisting of copies of outgoing correspondence retained by Livingston. The correspondence in this volume was collected, arranged, and bound by Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. in 1832.

Reel 7
Register of cases, 1750-1762
Reel 7
Register of cases, 1753-1759

III. William Livingston family papers II, 1698-1822

Arranged chronologically.

This series contains family and personal correspondence, as well as military, political, legal, and financial papers. Correspondents include William Livingston, Susannah (French) Livingston, Henry Brockholst Livingston, Susan (Livingston) Symmes, Catharine (Livingston) Ridley, William Livingston, Jr., Sarah Van Brugh (Livingston) Jay, John Jay, Peter Van Brugh Livingston, and John Livingston. Included are letters from Brockholst, many to his sister Susan and father William, during and after his Revolutionary War service. Other letters to Susan (Livingston) Symmes were written by Matthew Clarkson and John Matthews. Papers of William Livingston during his service as brigadier general in the Revolutionary War and as governor of New Jersey include orders, returns, appointments, correspondence, and petitions. The series also contains manuscript copies by Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. of select correspondence; military papers of Peter Schuyler, colonel in the New Jersey militia during King George's War and the French and Indian War; and early papers of Schuyler family members.

Reel 8
1698-1783
Reel 9
1784-1787
Reel 10
1788-1822

IV. Miscellaneous and oversize papers, 1664-1832

Reel 11
Miscellaneous, undated, and oversize papers, 1664-1832

This reel includes printed material, as well as the logbooks of John Morke. John Morke (-1755) sailed on trading voyages from Boston to Scotland, 1732-1734; Boston to England, 1740; and New York to England, 1753-1754.

Reel 12
Large manuscripts and parchment, 1710-1796

Box List

The arrangement of the two collections that make up this microfilm edition, the William Livingston family papers (Ms. N-1579.1) and the William Livingston family papers II (Ms. N-1579.2), does not match their arrangement on the microfilm. The physical papers are arranged as indicated in the Box List below.

Original letters from George Washington have been removed to Special Collections. Photocopies are available for use by researchers.

William Livingston family papers (Ms. N-1579.1)

Box 1
Loose papers, 1695-1779
Box 2
Loose papers, 1780-1788
Box 3
Loose papers, 1789-1800
Box 4
Loose papers, 1801-1839
Box 5Folder 1-13
Loose papers, undated
Box 5Folder 14-15
John Morke logbooks, 1732-1754
Box 6Folder 1
Receipt books, 1777-1789, 1778-1784, 1785-1786
Box 6Folder 2
Receipt book, 1786-1787
Box 6Folder 3
Receipt book, 1786-1789
Box 6Folder 4
Proceedings of the courts-martial of Jacob Crane, Isaac Gillam, and John Burnet, Oct. 1781
Box 6Folder 5
French translations, undated
Box 6Folder 6
Personal accounts, 1748-1772
Box 7
Letterbook A, 1697-Aug. 1776
Box 8
Letterbook A, Sep.-Dec. 1776
Box 9
Letterbook B, Jan.-Oct. 1777
Box 10
Letterbook B, Nov.-Dec. 1777
Box OS 1
Broadsides, 1754-1832
Box OS 2
Manuscripts, 1664-1832
Box OS 3
Large manuscripts and parchment, 1710-1796
Vol. 1
Register of cases, 1759-1763, 1782
Vol. 2
Receipt book, 1759-1790
Vol. 3
Accounts of the William Livingston estate, 1794-1810
Vol. 4
Accounts of the William Livingston estate, 1790-1810
Vol. 5
Register of cases, 1753-1759
Vol. 6
Register of cases, 1750-1762
Vol. 7
Letterbook, 17 Apr. 1754-25 Apr. 1770
Vol. 8
Letterbook, 6 Aug. 1744-1 Jan. 1745

William Livingston family papers II (Ms. N-1579.2)

Box 1
1698-1781
Box 2
1782-1784
Box 3
1785-1787
Box 4
1788-1789
Box 5
1790-1822

Preferred Citation

William Livingston family collection, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.

Persons:

Livingston, Brockholst, 1757-1823.
Livingston, Susannah French, 1723-1789.
Livingston, William, 1723-1790.
Livingston family.
Jay, John, 1745-1829.
Jay, Sarah Livingston.
Symmes, John Cleves, 1742-1814.
Symmes, Susan Livingston, b. 1748.
Ridley, Catherine Livingston, 1751-1813.
Ridley, Matthew, 1746-1789.