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Neilson, William, 1795-1812
Collection Description & Creator Information
Edward Livingston, 1764-1836, a key figure in local, national, and world politics, is represented by correspondence, writings, property records, financial records, and other manuscript and printed items. In general, the arrangement of his papers is dictated by his varied career; however, a sizable correspondence series, spans most of his adult life. Livingston's correspondents comprise a veritable "who's who" of late 18th- and early 19th century politicians, statesmen, and jurists.
The collection is especially strong in Livingston's work in the area of criminal jurisprudence. A special series on the subject contains correspondence with world-renowned legal theorists and jurists, topical writings and drafts, and a collection of works on such issues as penal reform and the abolition of capital punishment. There is also much documentary evidence of his role in the Jackson administration as a supporter in the Congress and Senate, and later as secretary of state and minister to France. A draft of the "Nullification Proclamation," written by Livingston for Jackson, is in the collection. The collection also contains many legal records relating to both his law practice and private affairs, including the 1803 "customs house funds scandal," his entanglement with General James Wilkinson over the Burr controversy, and the split with Thomas Jefferson over the New Orleans Batture.
The women of the Livingston family - Margaret Beekman Livingston, 1724-1800 (Edward's mother); Janet Livingston Montgomery, 1743-1828 (Edward's sister); Louise D'Avezac Livingston, circa 1781-1860 (Mrs. Edward Livingston); and Coralie Livingston Barton, 1803-1873 (Edward and Louise's daughter) - are well represented in the collection. Margaret and Janet, both widowed in mid-life, became powerful landowners and matriarchs in the Hudson Valley, as well as central figures in society. Their land records, financial documents, and correspondence from the well-born and poor tenant alike are clear evidence of their stature. Mrs. Livingston, too, was a well-respected hostess in whose parlor intellectuals and political figures gathered. Coralie, once the belle of New Orleans, was devoted to her father, and remained interested in her father's work in criminal jurisprudence. Her efforts led to the re-issue of Edward Livingston's works in 1873, and it was she who augmented his collection of works on that subject after his death.
There are small, but significant concentrations of records of relatives-by-marriage, such as brother-in-law Auguste Davezac, 1780-1851, diplomat to the Netherlands; Thomas Pennant Barton, 1803-1869, who joined father-in-law Edward Livingston on the mission to Paris as secretary to the legation; and General Richard Montgomery, 1738-1775, husband of Janet Livingston, whose letters on the fatal march to Quebec are a particular attraction of this collection.
The collection contains a variety of ledgers and other financial records which span almost three centuries; account books, rent books, day books, receipts, and balance sheets abound. Many of these records relate to the Hudson Valley area, notably lands that were passed down from Henry Beekman, 1688-1776, to Margaret Beekman Livingston, and later to Janet Montgomery.
The records of agent/surveyor John Cox, Jr., 1756-1825, are especially interesting for their insight into the life of the laboring class of the young republic. Cox worked for many of the Livingstons, surveying their properties, drawing up deeds, leases, and rent agreements, and corresponding with tenants. His work shows up throughout the papers of his employers as well-especially in their financial and real estate records. The written and limned evidence of Cox's career, coupled with surviving personal records and family correspondence, present a well-rounded picture of a faithful employee and Colonial American "everyman" bent on self-improvement.
Like Cox, the papers of Benjamin French are in contrast to the rest of the collection. Their presence here is owed to a twist of fate; French's estate was forfeited to the State of New York for suspected loyalism to the crown during the Revolution, passed through several different hands, and finally settled with Edward Livingston, who attempted to collect the outstanding debts due the late merchant. These records provide insight into Albany-area business in the years preceding and encompassing the start of the American Revolution. Divided into series relating to claims of his estate and a general file of business records (receipts, balance sheets, promissory notes, orders, and correspondence), these documents paint an interesting picture of Hudson River Valley trade at the onset of the Revolutionary struggle.
Note that most, if not all, of the creators documented in this collection are also represented in Series 17: Papers Related to Landholdings.
- Custodial History:
Some items were transferred from General Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (C0140) over the years.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
The Edward Livingston Papers and the Delafield Family Papers were acquired by the Special Collections, Princeton University, as one large gift by the Delafield family in the Spring of 1986. Prior to the donation, certain items were removed and kept by Historic Hudson Valley (HHV) of Tarrytown, New York, for research purposes connected with Montgomery Place, the historic home of the Livingston and Delafield families. The following items are extracted from a list compiled by Jaquetta Haley, Director of Research for HHV, 3/23/86. Items duplicated for our collection are identified as such.
List of Items Housed at Historic Hudson Valley
Blueprints, maps, plans, etc.
Plans for playhouse
Plans for 1922 renovation of house
Plans regarding location of the new state road
Blueprints for Montgomery Place
Plans for heating Montgomery Place
Blueprints for squash court at Montgomery Place
Plans for barn alterations at Montgomery Place
Location of buildings at Montgomery Place
Plans for Montgomery Place sewage system
1923 landscape design for Montgomery Place
Ehler's landscape proposal, 1850's, Montgomery Place
Roll of wallpaper samples from Montgomery Place
Survey of original purchase of Montgomery Place by John Cox, Jr., 1802
Survey of Montgomery Place purchase by John Cox, Jr., 1802
Plan for drainage to north and south of the avenue
A.J. Davis drawings for coach barn, rolled, in poor condition
A.J. Davis plans or proposals regarding Montgomery Place renovations of 1842-1843 and 1860-1863, both with regard to mansion house and the outbuildings
Proposals (not by A.J. Davis) for renovations of house or outbuildings at Montgomery Place
Thomas P. Barton plant journal, 1840's
1921-1922 inventory of Montgomery Place taken by John Ross Delafield, with comments on each item by Julia Barton Hunt
Papers relating to construction of buildings on property, or to the creation of the landscape
1804 contract for the interior of Montgomery Place
1844 contract for work on pavilion and south wing, according to A.J. Davis' plans
A.J. Downing correspondence with Louise Livingston, Cora L. Barton, and Thomas P. Barton, and some lists of plants in Thomas Barton's hand (xerox copies are in the Edward Livingston Papers, in each recipient's series)
1859 contract for construction of the coach house
1860 contract for barn, 2 sheds, and corn house
Account regarding work done on interior of house, 1854
Specifications for 1920's greenhouse and potting shed
Surveyor's notes regarding grading of north and south side
Property lines, deeds and surveys
Railroad map showing south and west property line, from rock in south bay
File on St. John's Church regarding transfer of property, 1930's
File relating to the purchase of the Sawkill property, 14 items
Deed for New York State property to Janet Montgomery, river rights, 1807
Contract between Louise Livingston and A.J. Donaldson regarding Sawkill property
Petition regarding ownership of the rock in south bay
Deed of John Van Benthuysen to Janet Montgomery, 1802
Survey of north boundary of property, 1801-1802
Mr. Spurr's property
Survey, John Bard and Louise Livingston, 1860
Sale of land to Hudson River Railroad in 1850's
Miscellaneous Manuscripts, etc.
Sample of original drawing room wallpaper
Coralie Barton's sketch of Janet Montgomery (old copies are in the Edward Livingston Papers in either Janet Montgomery's or Cora Barton's series)
File on the mill at Annandale, 19 items
Ink sketch of north portico of Montgomery Place
Sawkill and Annandale (14 items)
Century Plant and Conservatory, including negatives
J. Dennis Delafield as a child at lily pond
Montgomery Place and Annandale (6 items)
Photographs from 1966 Antiques (10 items)
Original photograph of century plant and conservatory
Montgomery Place interiors and exteriors, 1920's - 1960's, Montgomery Place Orchards, 1944 (146 items)
Portraits of Louise L. Hunt
The Edward Livingston Papers were the gift of Mr. J. Dennis Delafield and Professor Penelope D. Johnson in 1986. Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Delafield Fund.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
Open for research use.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.
- Credit this material:
Neilson, William; Edward Livingston Papers, C0280, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Box 31