Henry Livingston
Van Kleeck House

New York Joins the Revolution

By May of 1775, the revolution was heating up. Even though New York still had a Colonial Assembly, the rebellious New Yorkers started their own, separate New York government, which met in New York City. These elected delegates were primarily Patriots, rather than Loyalists, and their agenda was revolution.

In September, for example, while Henry Livingston was moving up toward Canada with General Montgomery, the group requested Washington to remove all public bells and send them to New Jersey for safekeeping. The British were looking for materials from which to cast cannons.

When the Declaration of Independence was declared, New York's Fourth Provincial Congress met in the White Plains' Courthouse on July 5th to endore it and, 4 days later, declared New York's independence. The next day, the 10th, the body changed their name to the "Convention of Representatives of the State of New York." They intended to govern New York with this Congress until they could get a fully formed government created, a task they started on quickly.

On August 1st, 1776, a committee was named to formulate a government for New York State. Abraham Yates was the chair. On the following March 12th, the committee returned to the congress with a draft of their proposal, written by John Jay. The president of the congress was then Pierre Van Cortlandt, the husband of Henry's aunt Joanna! After making changes to the document, the New York congress adopted the first New York State Constitution on April 20th, 1777. Then they stood on the steps of the Kingston Senate building and read the whole thing aloud to the people!

Kingston Senate
Kingston Senate Building

Under this new State Constitution, there were three branches of government: the executive branch, the judical branch and the legislative branch. The executive branch was headed by a governor. The Legislature was composed of two houses - the Senate and the Assembly. Senators were elected every four years, and members of the Assembly had to stand for election every year. Talk about never ending politics!

The rules for who could vote depended on whether you were voting for a senator or for an assemblyman. To vote for a senator, you had to have a freehold (property) that was worth 100 pounds above indebtedness. But to vote for a senator, you didn't need to be quite that well-to-do. A freehold worth 20 pounds or a rental of one for 40 shillings would qualify you as a voter, as long as you had been a county resident for six months and had paid your taxes.

In a little over a month, June of 1777, New York had elected a Governor - George Clinton, the brother of Colonel James Clinton, Henry Livingston's commander for Montgomery's expedition to Canada. George Clinton was New York Dutch, and he was connected to the Livingstons through the web of Poughkeepsie family ties. George Clinton's wife was Cornelia Tappan. Cornelia's brother, Dr. Peter Tappen, was a friend of Henry's, and was married to Elizabeth Crannell, the sister of Gilbert Livingston's wife, Catharine Crannell.

New York also elected a Lieutenant Governor, Uncle Pierre Van Cortlandt! Van Cortlandt was to serve in that office for 17 years.

George ClintonxxPierre Van Cortlandt

In September of 1777, the brand new New York State Legislature met in Kingston for the very first time. Among the assemblymen were Henry's 1st cousin (of his father's generation), Philip Livingston, and Henry's 2nd cousin, Robert R. Livingston, Jr. Robert had been one of the five men who had drafted the Declaration of Independence, but he never signed it since he had hurried back to New York. Philip had signed the Declaration, so it was Philip who went into the history books, though Robert did get to give the oath of office to George Washington. His other consolation prize was to become Chancellor of New York State. John Jay, Henry's 3rd cousin married to Henry's 2nd cousin, was named Chief Justice of the New York Supreme Court.

Signer Philip LivingstonxxChancellor Robert R. Livingston, Jr.

New York now had a government that was created by the people, and elected by the people.

The New York Government Moves to Poughkeepsie
Meeting 1 - First Congressional Session Sep 1 - Oct 7, 1777 Kingston
Meeting 2 Jan 5 - Apr 4, 1778 Poughkeepsie
Meeting 3 Jun 22 - Jun 30, 1778 Poughkeepsie

The first session of the Provincial Congress under the New York Constitution met at Kingston, and ran for a month in the autumn of 1777. They left when the British, annoyed by meeting resistence from the town, burned it. So the government picked up lock, stock, and legislation and moved to Poughkeepsie. With the center of New York government in Henry's home town, there was no way he could ignore politics. Walter Livingston, Henry's second cousin, was Speaker of the Assembly, of which brother Gilbert was a member. Cousins John Jay and Sarah moved in next door to Gilbert, and Uncle Pierre Van Cortlandt was elected Lt. Governor, frequently taking charge of the state when General, as well as Governor, Clinton was away on military business.

1777 Constitution provided for a Council of Appointments, which appointed sheriffs, city mayors, district attornies, coroners, county treasurers, and all other officers of the state, save the governor, lieutant governor, state treasurer and town officers.

Under the previous New York state government, Henry had been made a Commissioner of Sequestration in 1776, responsible for confiscating the property of British loyalists. Like his brother Gilbert's father-in-law, Bartholomew Crannell! But the position also had it's advantages and, after the war, the confiscated property was purchased by Gilbert and Peter Tappan, who had both married Crannell daughters. Since Crannell had been one of the leading Poughkeepsie citizens, the Crannell home was used to house Governor Clinton during the war.

Clinton House
Clinton House

Under the new constitution, Henry was reappointed Commissioner of Sequestration, serving from 1777 to 1781, and brother Gilbert was made a Surrogate of the Court on Jun 16, 1778.

As soon as the First Congressional Session ended in 1778, John Jay and his wife Sarah moved from town into Henry's home for a nine day visit. Sarah Jay was the daughter of Governor William Livingston, the best friend of Henry's father-in-law, Rev. Dr. Noah Welles. John Jay was the great grandson of Stephen Van Cortlandt, the husband of Gertrude Schuyler, while Henry was the great grandson of Alida Schuyler, the wife of Robert Livingston, 1st Lord of Livingston Manor, and Gertrude Schuyler's sister. Which made Henry and John Jay third cousins, and Henry and Sarah second cousins.

John JayxxSarah Van Brugh Livingston

The visit came just a month before Henry's wife Sarah was due to deliver their third child. Their second child, a son, had died of burns in a fire six months before, so the new baby was eagerly anticipated.

The Second Congressional Session
Meeting 1 - Second Congressional Session Oct 13 - Nov 6, 1778 Poughkeepsie
Meeting 2 Jan 28 - Mar 16, 1779 Poughkeepsie

Speaker: Walter Livingston, of Albany
Dec 10 '78 John Jay served as President of the 5th Continental Congress until Sep 28, 1779.
1778 CoA - George Clinton, Zephaniah Platt
Mar 6 '79 Swartwout, Thompson, Livingston - Coroners

Israel ThompsonHenry Livingston, Swartwout, and Thompson were coroners togetherJacobus Swartwout

The Third Congressional Session
Meeting 1 - Third Congressional Session August 18 - Oct 25, 1779 Kingston
Meeting 2 January 27 - Mar 14, 1780 Albany
Meeting 3 April 22 - July 2, 1780 Kingston

Sep 27 '79 John Jay appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain.
Oct 5 '79 "In the evening Mr Jay came here with his horse"
Oct 6 '79 "Mrs Jay & footman & one other horse"

Evert Bancker of New York Speaker. Where is Walter?

The Fourth Congressional Session
Meeting 1 - Fourth Congressional Session Sep 7 - Oct 10, 1780 Poughkeepsie
Meeting 2 Jan 17 - Mar 31, 1781 Albany
Meeting 3 Jun 18 - Jul 1, 1781 Poughkeepsie

'80 The winter was remembered by Henry as "savage in the extreme."
Jun 28 '81 Brother Gilbert, Master in Chancery
'81 Zephaniah Platt on Council of Appointments
Jun 28 '81 Sequestration Comissr Isaac Bloom, vice H. Livingston resign
Guisbert Schenck a member from Dutchess

Letter from John Jay to Egbert Benson regarding Henry Livingston

The Fifth Congressional Session
Meeting 1 - Fifth Congressional Session Oct 24 - Nov 23, 1781 Poughkeepsie
Meeting 2 Feb 21 - April 14, 1782 Poughkeepsie

Meeting 1 - Sixth Congressional Session Jul 11 - Jul 25, 1782 Poughkeepsie
Meeting 2 Jan 27 - Mar 23, 1783 Kingston

Matthew Patterson, Thomas Storm, Jacobus Swartwout were members of the Assembly from Dutchess County.

Melancthon Smith
    7 May 1744, Jamaica, Queens NY
    29 Jul 1798, Jamaica, Queens NY
delegate to the First Provincial Congress in New York, May 22, 1775; served in the Continental Line Regiment which was organized June 30, 1775; organized and became captain of the Dutchess County Minutemen; secret service commissioner and sheriff of Dutchess County, N.Y., in 1777 and 1778
Aug 26 '72  "Exchang'd hats with Melancthon Smith & am to give him last 3 Bus. wheat (pd him the cash)

Ezra Thompson
    27 May 1735, Huntington NY
Ezra Thompson was the father of Henry's son-in-law, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Smith Thompson, whose first wife was Sarah Livingston, the daughter of Henry's brother Gilbert.

Henry's Opinions



Montgomery's Expedition,   NY Congress,   Ratifying Convention,   Erie Canal,   Clermont,   Washington's Inauguration,   Lafayette  

Illustrated 1823 'Night Before Christmas',    

All Henry Livingston's Poetry,     All Clement Moore's Poetry     Historical Articles About Authorship

Many Ways to Read Henry Livingston's Poetry

Arguments,   Smoking Gun?,   Reindeer Names,   First Publication,   Early Variants  
Timeline Summary,   Witness Letters,   Quest to Prove Authorship,   Scholars,   Fiction  

   Book,   Slideshow,   Xmas,   Writing,   The Man,   Work,   Illos,   Music,   Genealogy,   Bios,   History,   Games  

Henry's Home

Mary's Home

IME logo Copyright © 2003, InterMedia Enterprises