Wednesday, January 23, 2019


In addition to his work in government and international relations Chancellor Robert R. Livingston also worked on improving he agricultural society of America. As a founding member and president of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, along with Stephen Van Rensselaer, Simeon DeWitt, Gouveneur Morris and many others, the Chancellor filled the pages of the Transactions of the Society with his thoughts, ideas and transactions

In one experiment, that Boris and Natasha
could have probably gotten behind, he tried to domesticate elk and moose. This was published in the Transaction of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures Instituted in the State of New-York, Volume I in 1801. This was based on an observation of his that every society, every place that people developed seemed to be provided with animals that could serve as beasts of burden. Cattle and horses in Europe, elephants in parts of Asia, the camel in North Africa, even the llama in South America and reindeer in the far north. In fact it was only the zebra and giraffe that he couldn't understand as to how they escaped being domesticated. He saw moose and elk as the equivalent animals in North America.

Definitely no problems putting a harness on an animal with antlers like that 
For some reason the Chancellor had more ready access to elk. In fact he owned three that he kept pastured with his cattle. He took two of these elk, each about two years old, and twice tried putting them in a harness. He was very encouraged by his results. Both animals took a bit about as easily as a colt of similar age. One problem he quickly saw though is that the animals had delicate mouths that could be easily damaged if the bit was mishandled.

So graceful and majestic

Based on these experiments the Chancellor felt that Elk could best be used pulling carriages. They were as muscular as horses but their natural gate is a faster so they could, in theory, out pull a horse.

The Chancellor never had the chance to experiment in real life on a moose. He apparently only ever examined a dead juvenile. The rest of his knowledge was based on books and stories told by hunters. He saw the great musculature of moose as an advantage and believed that they could grow up to ten feet tall in domesticity because they wouldn't be desperate for food in the winter.

You ain't a pageant winner either 
The only draw back to moose in the Chancellor's eyes was that they were ugly. In his words; "we must however , except beauty, for few animals have a more uncouth appearence; the head is out of all proportion large, the neck shorter than the head, the body much shorter compared to its height than that of either horse or ox."

He was most offended by the hind end of the moose, "the tail, if it may be so called, is a broad, short flap, that hardly covers the anus."
He wasn't wrong


That reason was the Louisiana Purchase
 For some reason, despite his early success with these experiments the Chancellor never continued on with them and they were never picked up by anyone else on any large scale. His experiments with elk continued to make its way into print for nearly a hundred years. Its mentioned in 1803's Animal Biography; or Anecdotes or the Lives, Manners and Economy, of the Animal Creation Arranged According to the System of Linnaeus by W. Bingley, 1832's A Book of Quadrupeds for Youth and in a 1901 article in the Albany Argus by Judge Robert Earl, who was pushing to start attempting to domesticate both animals again. It was even written about in a blog in 2019. See here Even still no one has jumped into this effort whole heatedly.

Except this guy. He's some kind of moose whisperer 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Judge Robert Livingston and Margaret Beekman Livingston's Prodigious and Proficient Progeny


Sometimes its amazing to sit back and look at the Revolutionary generation of Clermont Livingstons, the children of Judge Robert Livingston and Margaret Beekman Livingston. Not only did ten of their eleven children live to adulthood but that all of those children took part in more than seventy years of American history.
At least my name is in "Hamilton"

Janet as drawn by her niece when she was quite old
The oldest child of the Judge and Margaret was Janet. She was briefly married to the reputedly dashing General Richard Montgomery
That's going to be a hard no.
before a blast of grapeshot at Quebec ended their wedded bliss. She remained unmarried for the rest of her life, turning down several offers including one from the "hero of Saratoga" Horatio Gates. This often leads to her being depicted as a grieving widow for the rest of her life. In fact she was a savvy businesswoman who earned enough money to build Montgomery Place in memory of Richard and lead a very comfortable life which included a great deal of reading.

The next oldest was Robert.To summarize his career;briefly; Continental Congress, Address to the People of Great Britain, Declaration of Independence, New York State Constitution, Chancellor, Secretary for Foreign Affairs , George Washington's Oath of Office , Minister to France, Louisiana Purchase, steamboats, merino sheep and on and on and on. You can read more about his career here, here, here, here, and here.

After the Chancellor came Margaret. She married Thomas Tillotson, one of the most boring men in history, But under her tutelage he served as an assemblyman, state senator and Secretary of State for New York. This allowed Margaret to play hostess to the elite of New York's politics.

Henry Beekman Livingston's career as a military officer and hero of the Revolution has been well documented here, here, here, and here. The Battle of Long Island, The Battle of Saratoga, The Battle of Monmouth, Rhode Island and Valley Forge. A man who rubbed shoulders with the Marquis de Laffayette,

                       The Baron von Steuben,

                                                                                                                          George Washington

                                                                 and George Clinton.

"I don't think that's the right George Clinton"
Catherine Livingston Garretson
*Probably not a real quote
Catherine Livingston married the Reverend Freeborn Garretson after waiting out her mother, who was unhappy with the idea of her marrying a Methodist, for years. Catherine and Freeborn set about spreading Methodism throughout America. Catherine frequently hosted missionaries before they headed off to spread their message and frequently corresponding with them, giving them the courage to continue their missions.

I did nothing wrong-John Livingston 
The next son was John Livingston. John was mainly a simple business man. He had supplied the Continental Army during the Revolution. He spent most of the war in Boston where he could over see shipments coming in and going out. After the war he developed a rather interesting business strategy you can read about here. (warning not for the faint of heart) It earned him the nickname "The Lord of Vice".

You might say I Burrn'd him- Morgan Lewis
Gertrude Livingston married Morgan Lewis in 1779. He was a general in the army and the son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, With her and her family's help Morgan served in the assembly, state Senate, as New York Attorney General, and Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court. Gertrude would have reached her peak when she was first lady of New York state when Morgan Lewis defeated Aaron Burr for the governorship in 1804. Gertrude and Morgan's country house has been remodeled and added onto to become Mills Mansion in Staatsburg.

Joanna Livingston married a distant cousin, Peter Robert Livingston. She too was a force in Albany society wen her husband served in the Senate and the Assembly.

The youngest daughter of the family Alida Livingston
 married General John Armstrong of Pennsylvania. She travelled to France with him when he replaced her brother Robert as Minister to Napoleon's Court. She was a member of Washington D.C. society when John was a senator from New York. John would also serve as Secretary of War during the War of 1812. He and Alida had to flee the city when the British came to burn it in 1814. Unsurprisingly this marked the end of his career as Secretary.

Finally we come to the baby of the family. Edward Livingston. Edward had his own adventures during the War of 1812 (look here). Held several government positions from and in both New York and Louisiana and even found himself a member of Andrew Jackson's administration.

From the birth of the nation to the end of the middle of the nineteenth century the children of The Judge and Margaret Beekman Livingston had their hands in state and national politics. It is simply astounding that this much talent could find itself focused on one family at one time.