Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The Circles Edward Livingston Ran In

Edward Livingston's second career in Washington D. C. put him in the company of some of the most famous politicians the United States has ever seen. His term as a representative from Louisiana from 1823 through 1829, his time in the senate from 1829 through 1831 and his time as a member of Andrew Jackson's cabinet placed him among the men that would shape America in the lead up to the Civil War. 

First and foremost Edward was a close personal friend of Andrew Jackson's. They had met in congress in 1796 and formed a relationship of mutual respect. The Battle of New Orleans Read about that here made them brothers in arms. Jackson was comfortable enough with Edward to joke, when a British rocket whizzed over his head and he ducked, that he never "saluted" enemy fire but as that was the first rocket he had seen the least he could do was to "pay his respects." 
Martin Van Buren

When Jackson became president he did not forget the friendship and wise advice Edward had given him. He made him Secretary of State in 1831 and counted him among his primary advisers. Edward was so trusted that Jackson allowed him to draft his response to the Nullification Crisis, which of course worked and delayed the Civil War by thirty years. 

Edward followed another famous politician into the Secretary of State's office, future president Martin Van Buren. Van Buren would serve as Jackson's vice-president from 1832 until the end of his presidency and would follow him as president. Interestingly enough Van Buren, though 18 years younger than Edward was born and raised in Kinderhook only a few miles from Livingston's home of Clermont. Both men were northerners who had thrown their lots in with the southern Jacksonian Democrats for the time being.
Thomas Hart Benton

Other allies of Jackson and Edward included Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. Benton advocated strongly for Jackson's election while he was in the senate. Jackson then counted on Benton and his oratorical skills to get his legislation through the Senate. Interestingly, over his career Benton became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of slavery. Which Democrats like Jackson and even Edward had no real problem with. In 1849 he ended his senate career by declaring himself against slavery. Reaction to this and his anti-slavery stance during the debate on the Compromise of 1850 led a a senator from Mississippi to attempt to shoot Benton on the Senate floor. Benton served two years in the House of Representatives after the end of his senate career but politically he was effectively done. Benton was one of eight senators written about by John F. Kennedy in his book Profiles in Courage. 
David Crockett

The King of the Wild Frontier, Davy Crockett or as he preferred to be called the Representative from Tennessee David Crockett was also an ally of Jackson and Edward during his first term in office from 1827 until 1830. Then Crockett earned the loathing of both Jackson, and by extension Edward and his constituents by speaking out strongly against Jackson's Indian Removal Act. The Act that when passed lead to the Trail of Tears as the Cherokee Tribe was forced west of the Mississippi. Crockett called the bill wicked and unjust. Without the support of the president of most of his people Crockett lost his bid for reelection in 1831. He was reelected in 1833 but defeated again in 1835 leading to his most famous statement on the people of his district, "they could go to Hell, he would go to Texas." He died there on March 6, 1836 at the Alamo

Edward Livingston spent twenty of his 71 years holding some political office or another. It was nearly inevitable that he would meet some legends in his time. But Edward was their equal. Standing as he did, a bridge between the revolutionary generation and the antebellum generation. Perhaps the highest praise came from Thomas Jefferson, a one time political enemy of Edward's called him the greatest legislator to ever live. 

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