Biography and History

LIVINGSTON, EDWARD (b. Columbia Co., N.Y., 1764; d. Dutchess Co., N.Y., 1836), lawyer, statesman. Son of Robert Livingston (1718-1775). Graduated College of New Jersey (Princeton), 1781; studied law at Albany under John Lansing. Practiced law in New York City post 1785. Congressman, (Democrat) Republican, from New York, 1795-1801. Acting (1801-1803) simultaneously as U.S. attorney for New York and as mayor of New York City, he was held responsible for the deflacation of an agent and gave up all his own property to be sold in order to make restitution of the loss to the Treasury. Removing to New Orleans, La., 1804, he began practice of the law there, struggling meanwhile under a weight of private as well as public debt. Falsely accused of abetting Aaron Burr in his 1806 activities, Livingston no sooner cleared himself of these charges before he was brought into controversy with President Jefferson over the rights to certain alluvial lands at New Orleans which Livingston claimed. Dispossessed of the property, he published pamphlets on the subject and complained of his treatment in the courts and before Congress.

As chairman of the New Orleans committee of public defense, Livingston organized the people of Louisiana in their resistance to British invasion, 1814. At the battle of New Orleans he served Andrew Jackson as aide-de-camp, interpreter, and adviser. Commissioned, 1821, to revise the Louisiana penal law, he completed a code in 1825 which aimed at the prevention rather than the punishment of crime. Although it was not adopted, the publication of the code brought him wide fame. As a Democrat, he represented the New Orleans district in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1823-1829, and was chosen by the legislature to be U.S. Senator, 1829-1831. As U.S. secretary of state, 1831-1833, he drafted the celebrated 1832 proclamation to the South Carolina nullifiers; he also secured an admission by the French Government in 1831 of the justice of American claims for spoilation under the Berlin and Milan decrees. His last public service was as U.S. minister to France, 1833-1835.

Source: From the finding aid for C0280

  • Edward Livingston Papers. 1683-1877 (inclusive), 1764-1836 (bulk).

    Call Number: C0280

    The Edward Livingston Papers document the career of American lawyer, diplomat, statesman, and legal theorist Edward Livingston. The collection also contains domestic, financial, and property records of some three dozen others, mostly members of the Livingston/Beekman branch of the Hudson River Valley Livingstons and the Montgomery, Davezac, Barton, and Hunt families; the family surveyor/agent John Cox, Jr.; and an Albany-area merchant Benjamin French, whose forfeited estate ended up in Edward Livingston's hands for debt collection.