Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Cooking with Rex McVitty: Lamb Curry

Rex and Honoria McVitty

Today I present to you another blog written by Rex McVitty. This time it is his recipe for curry. This recipe was obtained by a visitor to Sylvan Cottage while Rex and Honoria Livingston McVitty were living there. Apparently this was his go to meal when visitors came calling.  Without further adieu I present to you the recipe as he wrote it down with the caveat I have not tried this myself yet. 
Rex on the porch of Sylvan Cottage

Indian Lamb Curry

-Leg of lamb -cut chunks from the bone (not to small) cook bones for stock to add later

-Brown meat in lamb fat

-season to taste with the following:

    Salt & Pepper

    Curry Powder (more than other spices)

    nutmeg

    ginger

    cinnamon

    mace

    cloves

    dry mustard (Coleman's)

    bay leaves (a few) 

-When meat is almost cooked add the following:

    One large onion (cut up)

    A few stalks of celery cut up

    1/2 small yellow turnip (rutabaga) (cut up)

    A few white turnips (cut up)

    One large apple (peeled and cut)

    One orange (cut)

    One lemon (cut)

    One large potato (white)

    One Sweet potato

    sage

    allspice

    1/2 pound boiled chestnuts (or more if preferred)

    1/2 pound seedless green grapes (if preferred)

-Add broth from bones when needed as Curry is cooking.

-Serve with cooked rice and heated raisins and nuts and butter. The kind you prefer(almonds, cashew, pecans) on platter and chutney on separate dish.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ambition and Slander: Chancellor Robert R. Livingston's Run For Governor in 1798

Chancellor Robert R. Livingston
          Chancellor Robert R. Livingston was an ambitious man. He secured several prominent political 

positions for himself, including Chancellor of New York and Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the 

Articles of Confederation government. But he lusted for the positions that were just beyond his reach.         

Not that George Clinton
De Witt Clinton
            He saw an opportunity in the 1798 New York gubernatorial election. It was not only the governorship of New York that he sought but the Democratic-Republican nomination for president in the 1800 election which would be easier to obtain as governor. (Dangerfield 1960, 274) In 1798 Chancellor Livingston would face off against his former friend and Federalist John Jay, who had been serving as governor since 1795 having defeated George Clinton, the long serving first governor of the state, for the seat.
that's the one

           

Stephen Van Rensselaer
On March 2, 1798 DeWitt Clinton wrote to Livingston to tell him he had been officially nominated for governor by the Democratic-Republican party. Interestingly enough their nominee for lieutenant governor was Stephan Van Rensselaer, the sitting lieutenant governor and also nominated again by the Federalist party for the seat. Livingston was disappointed by the choice the Democratic-Republicans had made in nominating Van Rensselaer as he viewed the man as a political enemy.


Even before the official nominations were in a hard election was predicted between the presumptive candidates. Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Monroe in December of 1797 to say he expected an extremely hard election between Livingston and Jay, who he thought was becoming unpopular in his own party. (T. Jefferson 1797) In January 1798 Jefferson wrote to James Madison to repeat his theory of a hard election in New York. (T. Jefferson 1798)
           

John Jay
     One of the most important issues of the brief campaign became loyalties and ties to other countries. John Jay was seen as an Anglophile because of his negotiation of the Jay Treaty in 1794. He had been sent to England to clear up several lingering issues after the Revolutionary War including trade issues and the impressment of American sailors by British ships. The final treaty granted the United States trading rights to Britain and the British West Indies and guaranteed that America would not join the neutral alliance forming in Europe as England and France went to war once more. The treaty did not address the impressment of British soldiers or enforce the removal of British posts they were supposed to abandon at the end of the Revolution but had not. These issues, left hanging, contributed to the start of the War of 1812. While most Federalists celebrated these closer ties with Britain and quickly pushed the treaty through congress, the Democratic Republicans denounced the treaty. Some Federalists did as well, including Chancellor Livingston. Its possible to draw a straight line from the treaty to his switching parties and the end of his friendship with Jay.

Philip Schuyler
Chancellor Livingston was seen as a Francophile. He had worked closely with French government officials during the Revolution and understood better than most that without France’s help victory over the British would have been impossible. In a letter to Alexander Hamilton, after a visit from the Chancellor, Philip Schuyler wrote that the Chancellor was even willing to forgive the current goings on in France to maintain the alliance with them.

In the same letter Schuyler wrote that the Chancellor and his friends were being “assiduous in Blackening Mr. Jay’s character.” Livingston claimed that Jay had given away too much in the Jay Treaty and would not only cause a rift with France but possibly make them subservient once again to Britain. Schuyler, a Federalist, chose not to believe a word of it. (Schuyler 1798)

Alexander Hamilton
In April 1798 Alexander Hamilton, a leading Federalist wrote a screed against those who sided with France claiming that those who spoke against Britain only did so out of loyalty to France. He also suggested that it was only the “virtue” of the American peace negotiators in France at the end of the American Revolution that kept them from being under the thumb of the French as those who directed them, i.e. Chancellor Livingston in his role as Secretary for Foreign Affairs, would have wished. (Hamilton 1798)

Spreading word of the XYZ Affair also damaged Livingston’s chances of being elected governor. The scandal, which consisted of France demanding bribes and loans before they would begin negotiations with the United States over issues created by the Jay Treaty. The break down in negotiations would result in the Quasi-War with France beginning later that year. News of French the French demands turned more Americans, and New Yorkers, against the French and their Francophile allies in the United States.

In addition to the writings of the political elites the campaign was also fought in taverns and other public places. Broadsheets, maligning the character of the opponent, were printed by both sides. They were left where the common voter could read them or hear them read in the hopes of swaying votes one way or another.

Thomas Jefferson
The election was held in April. Not on a specific day but spread out over several days to allow far flung counties to get their ballots to Albany. When the votes were counted Livingston had received 13,632 votes and Jay 16,012. Livingston’s ambitions were stifled, and Jay would continue as governor.

      Livingston nursed his wounds for three years until Thomas Jefferson, who had received the Democratic-Republican nomination for president in 1800 that Livingston had yearned for, appointed him minister to France in 1801. Livingston began to rebuild his ambitions.





Works Cited

Dangerfield, George. 1960. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York 1746-1813. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.

Hamilton, Alexander. 1798. "A French Faction, [April 1798]." Founders Online. April. Accessed April 6, 2021. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-21-02-0248.

Jefferson, Thomas. 1798. "To James Madison from Thomas Jefferson, 3 January 1798." Founders Online. January 3. Accessed April 6, 2021. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/01-17-02-0050.

Jefferson, Thoms. 1797. "From Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 27 December 1797." Founders Online. December 27. Accessed April 6, 2021. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-29-02-0478.

Schuyler, Philip. 1798. "To Alexander Hamilton from Philip Schuyler, 31 March 1798." Founders Online. March 31. Accessed April 6, 2021. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-21-02-0227.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Pierre-Etienne du Ponceau: The Indispensable and Long Lived Man

 


Pierre-Etienne du Ponceau or Peter Stephen du Ponceau after he anglicized it arrived in America at the age of 17 in the Company of the Baron von Steuben.  Von Steuben had hired him, as a translator and aide-de-camp, in France. Some people have speculated that du Ponceau and von Steuben, a gay man, had a personal relationship as well as a professional one.

Du Ponceau was given the brevet rank of captain in the Continental Army. He translated von Steuben’s orders to the army from German to English at Valley Forge. Du Ponceau resigned from the army in 1779 when it was believed he had consumption (Tuberculosis).

He recovered from his illness, that was almost certainly not Tuberculosis, by 1781. He became the undersecretary for foreign affairs to Robert R. Livingston when he became Secretary for Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation. The small staff also included Lewis Morris as undersecretary for domestic affairs. At first all Livingston could offer the men was a room in his house, food and the chance to meet the upper crust of society when they visited him. Although Congress was not thrilled with du Ponceau’s choice as undersecretary eventually Livingston was able to secure an $800 salary for du Ponceau. Du Ponceau would have been responsible for translating incoming and outgoing mail from and to various European courts. He continued in this role until 1783 when the war ended.[i]

After the war du Ponceau settled in Philadelphia where he became a lawyer. He also continued to study languages, which was where his true genius lay. He had translated von Steuben’s Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States in 1779. After the war a steady stream of books of his own followed, including English Phonology, Making our National Literature Independent, and Grammar of the Language of the Leni Lenape or Delaware Indians. He published several other books on the languages of the Indigenous American. Du Ponceau became one of the first westerns to realize that the Chinese written language was made of words and was not ideographic.

Du Ponceau was elected to the most prestigious organizations of the time. The American Philosophical Society in 1791, becoming president of the Society in 1828. In 1818 he was elected to the American Antiquarian Society and in 1820 the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In his personal life du Ponceau married twice and had three children, all of whom he outlived. In fact, du Ponceau continued to be a vibrant and useful man well after much of the Revolutionary generation had retired or died.

In 1805 James Madison asked du Ponceau to describe for him the history of British aggression toward neutral parties during times of war.[ii] Du Ponceau, in fact, quite liked Madison. In 1808 he passed on word from Robert R. Livingston that the Clintonians in New York would vote for Madison for president.[iii] In 1810 du Ponceau sent the first copy of his translation of Bynkershock’s Questions Juris Publicis out of “respect and veneration of your character and my attachment to your person.[iv]

Du Ponceau would also be a frequent correspondent of Thomas Jefferson as well. They corresponded on matters of politics but also on matters of natural history and languages. On July 12, 1820 du Ponceau sent a list of numerals to Jefferson comparing the language of the “Nottoway, Onondago and Mohawk.”[v] On the next day du Ponceau passed on a lexicon of several words in many indigenous languages.[vi]


Around 1840 du Ponceau became one of the few veterans of the Revolutionary War to sit for a daguerreotype. Du Ponceau died in 1844 at the age of 84. He is buried in Philadelphia.





[i] Dangerfield, George Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York 1746-1813 Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York 1960 p 145-146

[ii] “To James Madison from Peter S. Du Ponceau, 8 July 1805,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/02-10-02-0029. [Original source: The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, vol. 10, 1 July 1805–31 December 1805, ed. Mary A. Hackett, J. C. A. Stagg, Mary Parke Johnson, Anne Mandeville Colony, and Katherine E. Harbury. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014, pp. 36–44.]

[iii] “To James Madison from Peter Stephen Duponceau, 26 November 1808,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/99-01-02-3757.

[iv] “To James Madison from Peter Stephen DuPonceau, 15 November 1810,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/03-03-02-0017. [Original source: The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 3, 3 November 1810–4 November 1811, ed. J. C. A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996, pp. 14–15.]

[v] “Peter Stephen Du Ponceau: List of Indian Numerals., ca. 12 July 1820, 12 July 1820,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-1382.

[vi] “Peter S. Du Ponceau: Comparative Vocabulary of Nottoway and Iroquois Idioms, ca. 13 July 1820, 13 July 1820,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-1388.



Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Mysterious Muscoe Livingston: A Hunt Through History For A Man With a Fascinating Name

 

            Muscoe Livingston, aka Musco and occasionally Muscow. This name has popped up in my research since 2018. He has proved to be elusive since then. Appearing in a document here and there but not in the Livingston genealogy. So, I finally decided to track this guy down and see who he was.

            First, I found in a letter from Richard Henry Lee to George Washington that indicated Muscoe (I’ll use the most common spelling from here out) was from Virginia.[i] Muscoe appears to have been his mother's maiden name. 

OK, so there’s a Virginia branch of the Livingston family. Where did they come from? A little more digging turned up a man named Livingston who migrated to Virginia, possibly as early as 1654, which would mean the Virginia Livingstons predate the New York Livingstons by twenty years.

The earliest record of Muscoe I can find is a letter from him to the American Commissioners in France, Benjamin Franklin, Arthur Lee and John Adams, offering his “services to my country, in the line of my profession (the Sea).”[ii] This was on April 8. On April 13, the Commissioners recommended Muscoe be made a lieutenant on the frigate Boston under the command of Samuel Tucker.[iii] Following another letter by John Adams, Muscoe was named second lieutenant of the Boston.[iv]

The Boston and the Hancock capture the Fox

The Boston was a somewhat famous frigate in the new U.S. Navy. She and the frigate Hancock had captured the British frigate Fox in 1777 but unfortunately the Hancock and the Fox were lost to a squadron of three British frigates who came upon them a short time later. In early 1778 the Boston brought John Adams to France.  It would later be captured by the British during the fall of Charleston. 

Muscoe’s time on the Boston was short. He was only on the ship for one cruise of twenty-four days during which they took four prizes. Sending one loaded with a cargo of medicine to Boston and bringing the other three into port at Lorient to be sold.

Though successful the cruise was short because the crew Captain Tucker had brought on board became restless to the point of near mutiny. He had to confine two of his own sailors and said if he had to carry his prisoners, from the captured ships, to Boston he would build a prison on his foredeck for them and for the crew.[v]

Muscoe did not return to the Boston because of illness. Captain Tucker showered praise on him, however, for his work on board the ship. He was “a good commanding officer and beloved throughout the ship.” Tucker recommend that he be given his own command.[vi]

Later that year Muscoe and an American merchant named John Bondfield purchased a ship of their own to turn into a privateer. While Bondfield applied to the commissioners for the letter of marque, Muscoe, who would be captain, set about arming the ship with ten 6-pound cannons and swivel guns. The ship would be named Livingston “in honor of Governor Livingston, the late Mr. P. Livingston and the branches of that respectable family.” Bondfield predicted the ship would be ready to sail November 1, 1778.[vii]

Delay after delay led to the ship not sailing until May of 1779 with Muscoe not in command. He stayed in France frequently acting as a messenger for the commissioners until at least the spring of 1780 before returning to America.[viii]In 1789 Muscoe was suggested as the surveyor for Norfolk and Portsmouth to George Washington by Richard Henry Lee. It is unclear if he received the post. [ix]

            Between 1793 and 1798 when he died Muscoe was the head of a fairly successful trading business, with several ships sailing for him. He even expanded into France in 1793, perhaps always trying to make up for the great fortune he had lost in Jamaica during the early days of the Revolutionary War.[x]

            Muscoe Livingston appears to have been a very, very distant cousin of the New York Livingstons but at least aware of the power of his name based on the name he gave his privateer ship. After the briefest of naval careers, Muscoe seems to have spent most of his time preparing for a career after the war as a trader. So finally, my curiosity about Muscoe Livingston is satiated. I haven’t been able to put together a complete biography of the man but at least I have a general idea of who he was and what he did during the American Revolution.



[i] “To George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, 27 July 1789,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-03-02-0185. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 3, 15 June 1789–5 September 1789, ed. Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989, pp. 330–332.]

[ii] “Musco Livingston to the American Commissioners, 8 April 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-26-02-0192. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 26, March 1 through June 30, 1778, ed. William B. Willcox. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987, p. 256.]

[iii] “The Commissioners to Samuel Tucker, 13 April 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-06-02-0017. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 6, March–August 1778, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 29–30.]

[iv] “From John Adams to Samuel Tucker, 29 April 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-06-02-0052. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 6, March–August 1778, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 68–69.

[v] “Samuel Tucker to the Commissioners, 3 July 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-06-02-0191. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 6, March–August 1778, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 256–257.

[vi] “To John Adams from Samuel Tucker, 4 July 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-06-02-0194. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 6, March–August 1778, ed. Robert J. Taylor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 259–260.]

[vii] “John Bondfield to the American Commissioners, 10 October 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-27-02-0514. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 27, July 1 through October 31, 1778, ed. Claude A. Lopez. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1988, pp. 532–533.]

[viii] “From John Adams to Muscoe Livingston, 10 April 1780,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/06-09-02-0091. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Papers of John Adams, vol. 9, March 1780 – July 1780, ed. Gregg L. Lint and Richard Alan Ryerson. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp. 120–121.]

[ix] “To George Washington from Richard Henry Lee, 27 July 1789,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-03-02-0185. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 3, 15 June 1789–5 September 1789, ed. Dorothy Twohig. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1989, pp. 330–332.]

[x] “To Thomas Jefferson from Henry Lee, 7 June 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-26-02-0203. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 26, 11 May–31 August 1793, ed. John Catanzariti. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 218.]

Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Maple Sugar Bubble of the 1790's

 

            

Sugar Maple Tree

Acer Sacharinum,
The sugar maple tree. Every year, about this time, thousands of Sugar Maples are tapped so that the sap can be collected. Boiled it becomes syrup or even maple sugar. And there for a very brief time in the early 1790’s intersected abolitionists, land speculators and entrepreneurs.

Dr. Benjamin Rush
            Dr. Benjamin Rush was an ardent abolitionist. He was also one of the most ardent supporters of the maple sugar. In an address read before the American Philosophical Society on August 19, 1791 Rush espoused the benefits of maple sugar. Each sugar maple could produce twenty to thirty gallons of sap which could be boiled down to five or six pounds of maple sugar. Some families had produced up to 600 pounds of sugar a year using just the family labor. And for all intents and purposes the sugar was as good if not better than the sugar that came from the West Indies. Rush even conducted an “experiment” where he, Alexander Hamilton, a merchant by the name of Henry Drinker and several ladies tasted tea and coffee sweetened with cane sugar and maple sugar. It was unanimous that they could not tell the difference.[i]

             And that was the key for Rush. If Americans could make their own sugar, for their own consumption and for export, people would become less dependent on West Indies sugar and the need for enslaved people would decrease there. He got many people on his side, the Quakers who were very much against slavery were in favor of the plan to end enslavement in the harsh conditions of the West Indies. He also got Thomas Jefferson and George Washington on his side.[ii]

            In the midst of this growing interest of maple sugar, Janet Livingston Montgomery sent a

Janet Livingston Montgomery

sample of the sugar to Edward Newenham, a member of the Irish Parliament who she had met on her trip to Ireland in 1790. She was probably having maple sugar produced on her land to help satisfy the desire for it. Shew was a shrewd business woman who ran her land very well. In a letter to George Washington, Newenham admitted the product was good and that if it could be commercialized would be a boon to the American economy but doubted New York could produce enough of the sugar to be effective.[iii]

            Washington replied that the manufacture of maple sugar was promising because the sugar maple tree grew in several states and that there was no reason to doubt the production of the sugar would not be profitable.[iv]

            Another great proponent of the maple sugar craze was William Cooper, founder of Cooperstown and father of James Fenimore Cooper. In fact Alexander Hamilton thought no one could shed more light on the subject of maple sugar production than

William Cooper

William Cooper.[v] He thought that the desire for maple sugar would bring more people to his land grant and he could make money selling land to the settlers moving west. He also produced his own sugar. In 1791 he expected to bring in £3,000 worth of sugar to market himself alone. For the anti-alcohol groups it was also said that less profit could be made by turning maple sugar into liquor than selling it as sugar so people were less likely to distill it. Although Thomas Jefferson thought that the liquor produced tasted exactly like whiskey.[vi]

            America was now fully in the midst of a maple sugar bubble. Benjamin Rush even formed the Pennsylvania Company of Quakers to produce maple sugar. Thomas Jefferson had more than 60 maple trees planted on the property at Monticello. It was expected that even with domestic consumption the yearly export of maple sugar would be worth at least $1,000,000.

            Then the bubble burst. Several maple sugar venture in New York failed. William Cooper found that people were not willing to move to the wilderness just to produce maple sugar. Rush’s company went bust, in debt for £1,400. Supply had outstripped demand, leaving the entrepreneurs and land speculators holding the bag. As for the abolitionists, they were disappointed that maple sugar had not been able to put the sugar islands and their associated enslavement, out of business.[vii]

            From beginning to end the maple sugar bubble lasted about three years, from 1791 and 1794. Everyone was disappointed, except for those who like the flavor of maple. Thousands of trees are still tapped every year and their sap boiled down for maple syrup and even a little maple sugar. Perhaps next time you take a bite of syrup covered pancakes you’ll think of Benjamin Rush and his attempt to use maple trees as a way to end slavery in the West Indies.

Maple sap drips into a catch bucket waiting to be made into something sweet



[i] Rush, Benjamin An account of the sugar maple-tree, of the United States, and of the methods of obtaining sugar from it, together with observations upon the advantages both public and private of this sugar. : In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, Esq. secretary of state of the United States, and one of the vice presidents of the American Philosophical Society. : Read in the American Philosophical Society, on the 19, of August, 1791, and extracted from the third volume of their Transactions now in the press. / By Benjamin Rush, M.D. Professor of the institutes and of clinical medicine in the University of Pennsylvania. http://name.umdl.umich.edu/N19030.0001.001 accessed 3/3/21

[ii] Lucia C. Stanton, 11/90. Originally published as "Sharing the Dreams of Benjamin Rush," in Fall Dinner at Monticello, November 2, 1990, in Memory of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1990), 1-12. https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/sugar-maple accessed 3/3/21

[iii] “To George Washington from Edward Newenham, 10 March 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-07-02-0309. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 7, 1 December 1790 – 21 March 1791, ed. Jack D. Warren, Jr. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998, pp. 538–542.]

[iv] “From George Washington to Edward Newenham, 5 September 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-08-02-0349. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 8, 22 March 1791 – 22 September 1791, ed. Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999, p. 496.]

[v] “From Alexander Hamilton to William Cooper, 3 August 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-09-02-0006. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 9, August 1791 – December 1791, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1965, p. 8.]

[vi] “From Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1 May 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-20-02-0101. [Original source: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, vol. 20, 1 April–4 August 1791, ed. Julian P. Boyd. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982, pp. 342–344.]

[vii] Lucia C. Stanton, 11/90. Originally published as "Sharing the Dreams of Benjamin Rush," in Fall Dinner at Monticello, November 2, 1990, in Memory of Thomas Jefferson (Charlottesville, VA: Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, 1990), 1-12. https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/sugar-maple accessed 3/3/21

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Twisting Tale of the Hamilton-Livingston Family

 

Maturin Livingston

Maturin Livingston (1769-1847) was the great-grandson of Robert (the nephew) Livingston who had come to New York to assist his uncle Robert Livingston, First Lord of Livingston Manor in his business dealings.

          Maturin was born in New York City and attended the College of New Jersey, later Princeton, in 1786. Soon thereafter he became a lawyer. He was a delegate to the 1801 New York Constitutional Convention and held the post of Recorder of the City of New York twice.

         

Alexander Hamilton

In 1796 he exchanged notes with Alexander Hamilton which seemed destined to lead to a duel. On January 18, 1796 Hamilton wrote:

Sir

I have been informed that not long since at Philadelphia, in presence of a number of persons, you made mention of the altercation which happened between us on the Eighteenth of July last, and by direct comments or insinuations endeavoured to convey the idea that I had acted with want of spirit on that occasion. I owe it to myself to inquire of you what foundation, if any, there may be for this information. In a matter of this delicacy, you will be no doubt sensible of the propriety of explicitness; that it may be clearly understood whether there was any intention on your part directly or indirectly to throw such an imputation upon me.

I am Sir   Your humble serv[i]

Two days later Maturin responded:

I this moment received your note of the 18th instant, and do not hesitate to give it an immediate answer. It is so long since the conversation alluded to in it took place, (and in which many of the company joined) that I can not now charge my memory with all that then passed. I well remember however generally, that the procedure of the town meeting at New York on the subject of the treaty, and what succeeded it relative to yourself Commodore Nicholson and me, occupied a considerable part of that conversation. The Manner in which the altercation between yourself and me was introduced, I have been informed has been related to you by Mr B Livingston. The relation must remove every impression of my having introduced the subject, nor have I any recollection of commenting upon it in the way you have been informed.

I am Sir   Your Humble Servt.

Maturin Livingston

Jany 20th 1796[ii]

To this Hamilton replied:

Sir

It is not my wish to cavil nor can I as a reasonable man have any desire to pursue the question between us further than a due regard to my own delicacy may demand. But having weighed maturely the contents of your letter of yesterday I am obliged to think that it is not sufficiently explicit. The course of your own ideas and conduct hitherto must afford you a consciousness whether on the occasion alluded to there could have been an intention on your part to throw at me the imputation mentioned in my first letter,1 and if there was any situation which may prevent a recollection of what passed, it is still in your power at this time to satisfy what is due to delicacy by a disavowal of the exceptionable sentiment.

I am Sir   Your humble ser,[iii]

Morgan Lewis
After this the feud seems to have fizzled out. It does not seem to have risen to the necessity of an actual duel although Hamilton did have at least a dozen challenges that were resolved without violence before that one that did come to actual violence.

But what comes next is the weird twist to this tale. Maturin Livingston had married Margaret Lewis, the only daughter of Morgan Lewis and his distant cousin Gertrude Livingston, who was the sister of Chancellor Robert R. Livingston. In 1844 they inherited Staatsburgh, Morgan Lewis's mansion. 

Alexander Hamilton Jr.
Maturin and Margaret had at least 12 children. One of their youngest daughters, Angelica married Alexander Hamilton Jr., the grandson of Alexander Hamilton, the same man with whom he almost dueled.


Alexander Hamilton Jr. was an interesting man in his own right. Born in 1816 to James Alexander Hamilton (James practiced law in Hudson for several years), he attended but did not graduate from West Point. He became a lawyer and for two years served as Secretary to the Legation of the United States at Madrid under Washington Irving, who had his own connection to the Livingston family, having courted Serena Livingston.

General John Wool
When the Civil War broke out Hamilton joined the Union Army but resigned at the end of 1861. When the New York City Draft Riots broke out in July of 1863 he served as an aid to General John Wool in putting them down.

New York City Draft Riots


















Unfortunately, Hamilton and Angelica Livingston only had one child who died at the age of 11 months, so the combined Livingston-Hamilton line died out.  

This weird and twisting tale shows us one thing about Maturin Livingston. He must not have been a man to hold a grudge or he never would have let his daughter marry into the Hamilton family. It also shows how interconnected the Livingstons were during the 18th and 19th century. The family was large enough where distant cousins could marry to ensure that they married someone of the same social rank. Choices outside of the family were extremely limited including so few of the right breeding that old grudges had to be dropped to make room for new marriages.



[i] From Alexander Hamilton to Maturin Livingston, [18 January 1796],” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-20-02-0015. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 20, January 1796 – March 1797, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974, pp. 41–42.]

[ii] “To Alexander Hamilton from Maturin Livingston, [20 January 1796],” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-20-02-0017. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 20, January 1796 – March 1797, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974, p. 44.]

[iii] “From Alexander Hamilton to Maturin Livingston, [21 January 1796],” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Hamilton/01-20-02-0018. [Original source: The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, vol. 20, January 1796 – March 1797, ed. Harold C. Syrett. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974, pp. 44–45.]