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.]

2 comments:

  1. Hello how do you know that Henry beekman Livingston had African American children where does it tell you that? I hope your read this please and thank you

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    Replies
    1. I believe there may have been passing reference to that in "Nancy Shippen: Her Journal Book" but more recent research has cast doubt on that.

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