A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Robert Treat Paine Papers, Volume 3

From Robert R. Livingston
Livingston, Robert R. RTP
Clare Mount 6th March 1776. Dear Sir,

As a slight indisposition had confined me to my room when I rec’d your favour of the 14th of Feby. I was unable to make the inquiries you request relative to the making of cannon. I however wrote immediately to Coll. Livingston1 upon the subject. He informs me that he had been lately applied to on that head by the committee of safty in New York that he told them he was unacquainted with the mode of casting cannon & could not therefore venture to undertake it, But that his furnace would be in blast by the middle of April, That it was at their service for that or any other publick use together with the labourers employed in it, if they chose to take it into their hands & send up some person that understood that branch of business to superintend the same. That he had not yet received any answer from them so that it will be in your option to close with this offer since I dare say the committee will relinquish it to you if you should chuse it. In case you do it will be necessary to send up some person immediately to superintend the laying of the hearth, as I suppose it will be necessary to make it much larger than is usually done for running of pigs—& Mr. Livingston says he must shortly begin to lay his in case his furnace should not be taken. The superior quality of the iron, & the extensive manner in which this work is carried on induces me to believe that you will find this more suitable to your purpose than almost 174any other you could pitch upon. I have not seen the process you mention for making saltpetre. I am sorrey to say that nothing has been done here towards it, tho’ I doubt not its practicability & I hope that ee’r long it will be more general. I wrote you fully on the subject of powder Mills in my last, which I hope you have recieved. I dare say you have seen my brother & spoke to him on the subject which was the principle cause of his journey to Philadelphia.

I have been much surprized at the determination of the Congress to break the third & fourth battalions of Yorkers & in corporate them with the first & second. The third distinguished itself remarkably, & the fourth have never met with any censure—yet by this resolution the officers either find themselves degraded or dismissed, nor indeed can they tell in what light they are to consider themselves. My brother & Coll Courtland2 have both applied to me about it & tho’ they have wished to go to Quebeck yet they are not told prevented by not knowing in what capacity they are to act. I wish this could be explained. I expect to hear from you by my brother. In the mean while remain Dear Sir Your Most Obt: Hum: Servt:

Robt. R. Livingston

RC ; superscribed: “Robt. Treat Paine Esqr.”; endorsed.


Col. Robert Livingston of Livingston Manor wrote to the New York Provincial Congress on Mar. 2, 1776, reiterating his offer to cast cannon at his forge. The Provincial Congress on Mar. 13 declined his offer as their minimal need for heavy artillery at that this did not warrant the necessary changeover of his forge (Peter Force, ed., American Archives [Washington, 1837–1846], 4th ser., 5:376–377).


Philip Van Cortlandt (1749–1831) was a member of New York’s First Provincial Congress in 1775. On June 18 of that year he was commissioned as lieutenant colonel of the Fourth New York Regiment, although illness prevented him from assisting in General Montgomery’s expedition against Montreal. He later became colonel of the reorganized Second New York Regiment, joining it the day after the Battle of Trenton. After the war, he served in Congress representing New York for 16 years ( DAB ).