- Livingston was born in August 1718 in New York, at the family’s estate, which was called Clermont Manor.
- His father was Robert Livingston, who was known as “Robert of Clermont,” and his mother was Margaret Howarden.
- In 1742, he married Margeret Beekman.
- His son, also named Robert R. Livingston, went on to become a successful lawyer, politician, Chancellor of New York, and a Founding Father. He represented New York in the Second Continental Congress and served on the Committee of Five, which produced the Declaration of Independence. As U.S. Minister to France under President Thomas Jefferson, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.
- Another son, Edward Livingston, also was a successful lawyer and politician.
- From 1759 to 1763, he was a member of the New York Provincial Assembly.
- From 1760 to 1763, he was a Judge on the Admiralty Court.
- In 1765, he represented New York at the Stamp Act Congress.
- In 1775, he was elected to the Committee of One Hundred in New York City.
Delegate to the Stamp Act Congress
On March 22, 1765, Parliament passed the Stamp Act, which required a stamp to be placed on all legal documents and many printed materials in the colonies.
In May, news of the new law reached the colonies. There was immediate opposition, including riots in Boston, Massachusetts, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Savannah, Georgia.
On June 8, 1765, the Massachusetts Assembly sent a circular letter to the legislatures of the other colonies, inviting them to send delegates to a congress in New York to discuss a unified response to the Stamp Act. The precedent for such a meeting had been set by the Albany Congress in 1754.
Nine of the 13 colonies, including New York, chose to send delegates to the meeting, which was held in New York City. Livingston was elected as a delegate from New York, along with Phillip Livingston, William Bayard, Sr., John Cruger, Jr., and Leonard Lispenard.
The Stamp Act Congress convened on October 7, 1765. On October 19, the Stamp Act Congress issued a Declaration of Rights and Grievances. Congress sent petitions to the King and both houses of Parliament and asked for the Stamp Act to be repealed.
Livingston voted in favor of the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, however, the delegates from New York were not authorized to sign their names to the official documents of the Stamp Act Congress.
On November 1, 1765, the Stamp Act took effect, but there were no stamp masters available to distribute the stamps. They had resigned or refused to perform their job due to violence and intimidation against them.
On March 18, 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act, primarily due to protest from British merchants who believed it would damage their prospects of doing business in the colonies. However, on that same day, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act, which declared it had the “full power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”
Livingston supported the colonists but was not in favor of independence. He preferred to see the colonial government continue, as long as the people were provided the full rights of Englishmen.
- He died on December 9, 1775, at Clermont Manor in New York.
Robert “The Judge” Livingston is important because he was a delegate from New York to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. He was also a politician and judge in New York, and the father of Robert “The Chancellor” Livingston, who was a Founding Father.
Visit the Clermont State Historic Site in New York
Clermont Manor, where Robert “The Judge” Livingston was born, is a New York State Park. It is located in Germantown, New York, and sits on the east bank of the Hudson River.