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January 10th, 2011

In 1774, Livingston was chosen as a member of the New York delegation to the First Continental Congress. Eventually, after repeated appeals to the British king were denied, he

Phillip Livingston, January 15, 1716 – June 12, 1778

accepted the fact that fighting was inevitable.

While serving in Congress, he continued to be active in politics in New York and was appointed president of a provincial congress in 1775. In February 1776, he was unanimously appointed as member of the colonial general assembly. In April of 1777, after a constitution for the state of New York was adopted, he was chosen as state senator and served on the board of treasury and as a member of the marine committee.

He was also a member of the Secret Committee which imported weapons and gunpowder for the army. He spent a huge amount of his own personal resources in purchasing military supplied for the army.

Phillip Livingston, the austere aristocrat who feared the Sons of Sons of Liberty, did not escape the wrath of the British. Before the British landed, his lucrative mercantile business was already bankrupt. In 1774, Livingston had strongly supported the voluntary boycott of British imports, which was so effective that imports to the value of 437,937 pounds at New York in 1774 dropped to only 1,228 pound in 1775,

When Phillip Livingston signed the Declaration, he believed he was putting his vast fortune in jeopardy, and indeed it was so. All his business interests fell to the enemy. His mansion on Duke Street was seized by the British and turned into a barracks for enemy troops. His country estate on Brooklyn Heights was turned into a British naval hospital. Homeless, his family fled up the Hudson River to Kingston, New York. They were again endangered when the British burned Kingston. Phillip Livingston was never able to return home, and his health was devastated because of the strain from the war. Remaining faithful to the cause, he and his family sold some of their remaining property to help maintain the country’s credit.

For Phillip Livingston, the revolution meant personal ruin and yet his spirit remained strong. Although in poor health by 1778, his country’s great need impressed upon him so much that despite his doctor’s report of dropsy in the chest with no rational prospect of recovery, he bid his final goodbye to his loved ones and pressed himself to take his seat in Congress. The British had taken possession of Philadelphia, forcing Congress to leave the city and meet in New York.

Yet in this dubious and anxious state, his love to his country continued strong
And unwavering. For her good he had made many sacrifices; and now that her
Interests seemed to require his presence in Congress, he hesitated not to relinquish
His comforts of home, and those attentions which, in his feeble and declining state,
He peculiarly needed from a beloved family.

His son Henry, who was now a member of George Washington’s family by marriage, attended his father in the last few days of his life. On June 12, 1778, he breathed his last and was deeply mourned by family, friends and all of Congress.

His last moments were correspondent with the tenor of his well-spend life.
He met, with characteristic firmness and Christian fortitude, the trying hour
With separated him from this world.

He never lived to see Cornwallis’ surrender and freedom procured.

End Note: This edited version of Philip Livingston is taken from For You They Signed by Marilyn Boyer (see Bibliography). This wonderful book tells the story of each of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. As noted in the Introduction, King George ordered his troops to hunt down and kill every signer to quash the rebellion. These  stories of our founding fathers and brave men should be known by everyone of us. We recommend you read the book.  Go to New Leaf Publishing Company website at http://tinyurl.com/4j5tvsc to review the book for purchase. We will publishing more edited versions of these signers stories in future postings.

Bibliography: Marilyn Boyer, For You They Signed, Copyright © 2009 Marilyn Boyer (Master Books, P O Box 726, Green Forest, AR 72638) Printing 2009 and 2010. Reprinted by permission of the Publisher.