William Livingston, New Jersey

William Livingston, New Jersey

William Livingston was the governor of New Jersey from 1776 to 1790 during the American revolutionary wars. Livingston was also one of the signatories of the United States constitution.

William Livingston (1723-1790) was born in Albany on November 30, 1723 to Catherine Van Brugh and Philip Livingston. From his early childhood up to the age of 14, William was raised by his grandmother. He commenced studies at Yale University in 1738 and graduated in 1741 at only 18 years of age. He went on to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1748 after which time he began practicing law in New York.

William Livingston became a strong supporter of civil rights especially media and religious freedoms. In 1772, he moved to Elizabethtown (present day Elizabeth) New Jersey where he built his growing family a large country home. That house still stands today and is known as Liberty hall.


Due to its proximity to Francis Barber's academy and frequent visits by young men including Alexander Hamilton who was a boarder at the Francis Barber academy, Livingston's home became a center of activity. His daughters, Susan, Sarah and Catherine became known as 'the three graces'.

In April 1774, Livingston's daughter Sarah was married to a young New York lawyer, John Jay at the liberty hall. John Jay was later to serve as the first Supreme Court Chief Justice as well as President George Washington's first secretary of state.

From July 1774–June 1776, Livingston was a member of the Continental Congress. He was commissioned as a brigadier general of the New Jersey militia in October 1775 where he served till he was elected New Jersey governor in August 1776.

Livingston held the office of governor until his death on 25th July 1790. For safety reasons, Livingston's family was located in Parsippany for much of the period from 1776-1779. His home, Liberty hall was frequently visited by naval forces or British troops due to a substantial reward offered at the time for the capture of Livingston. The Livingston family later returned to Liberty hall in 1779 to begin the process of restoring their looted home.

In 1742, Livingston married Susanna French. Together they had 13 children. His daughter, Susannah married John Cleves in 1780. Julia Kean, another descendant of William Livingston was wife to Hamilton Fish, New York governor who went on to serve as a secretary of state.

In the 1787, a constitutional convention was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Livingston attended this convention as a delegate and was one of the signers of the constitution. He died in Elizabeth town New Jersey in 1790 and was originally buried in the Trinity church New York. In 1846, he was reinterred at Brooklyn's green wood cemetery.

William Livingston is often regarded as the first New Jersey governor since he was the first revolutionary governor. His contributions to the independence struggle and great service to the new nation were recognized two years before his death in 1788 receiving an honorary doctorate from Yale University, where he had attended as a teenager.

Livingston Township in New Jersey is named in his honor and so is the Governor Livingston high school in Berkeley heights New Jersey.

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