Where is Governor Livingston?

Liberty Hall Kean

William Livingston’s Liberty Hall

New Jersey’s revolutionary-era governor William Livingston was constantly on the run during the war.  Here, for example, is historian James Gigantino on Livingston during the British occupation of New Jersey in 1776:

Livingston’s whereabouts from mid-December to early January remain unknown; not known even if he remained alive, John Hancock addressed a late December letter to “Governor Livingston or the present Executive power in New Jersey.”

Livingston managed to survive several assassination plots. His home in Elizabeth-Town (Liberty Hall) was damaged by the British. And he was forced to move his family back and forth between Liberty Hall and Parsippany.

Here is Gigantino again:

Livingston had good reason to request personal protection.  British troops attacked Elizabethtown in February 1779 with the intention of capturing or assassinating him at Liberty Hall.  Finding only his wife and daughters, they hoped to seize the governor’s papers, but the quick-witted Livingston women instead proffered a pile of old law papers and correspondence from a recently captured British ship….Apparently , the governor agreed that a strong “conspiracy against me” had formed in Essex [County, New Jersey].  After the summer of 1779 and until the end of the war, he never returned for significant periods to Liberty Hall.  He believed that both he and his wife had to accept the inevitability that the British would burn their home and that the couple should “prepare ourselves to bear it with Christian fortitude.”

This is the context for understanding a letter that I read over the weekend.  A twenty-six-year-old British spy (and a former member of the Elizabeth-Town militia) named John Cunningham wrote the February 26, 1780 letter to William Tryon, the loyalist governor of New York.  It contained intelligence on the Continental Army.  Here is a relevant taste:

The Assembly is now sitting in Mount Holly in West Jersey. It is hard to say where Governor Livingston is to be found….In general the old County man may be said to be disgusted…They openly say the country has been cheated by the cry of Liberty, and that it is all a Delusion….Dr. Witherspoon is turned out the Congress–Mr. Livingston the state Governor less and less tolerated. He is called Cruel and miserly & cowardly both by Whigs and Tories. He is universally spurned at for dodging up and down the Country and shunning his own house where he leaves one of his daughters almost always alone.

According to Cunningham, things were not going very well in New Jersey in the winter of 1780.  Earlier in the letter he discusses the dire conditions among the Continental Army at Morristown and notes that the people of Morristown are tired of having the army in town.

Source: (CO 5/1110 The British Nation Archives, Adam Matthew Database).

My Home County Says Enough Is Enough!


Ford Mansion, Morristown, NJ, 1901 (Wikipedia Commons)

Morris County, New Jersey (home of Montville Township) responds to the Boston Port Act–June 27, 1774

A meeting of a respectable body of the Freeholders and inhabitants of the County of Morris, in the Province of East New jersey, at the Court House in Morristown, in the said County, on Monday, the 27th June 1774. Jacob Ford, Esquire, Chairman

1st. Resolved, That George the Third is lawful and rightful King of Great Britain and all other his Dominions and countries, and that as part of his Dominions it is our duty not only to render until him true faith and obedience, but also with our lives and fortunes to support and maintain the just dependence of these his Colonies upon the Crown of Great Britain.

2d. That it is our wish and desire, and we esteem it our greatest happiness and security to be governed by the laws of Great Britain, and that we will always cheerfully submit to them as far as can be done, consistently with the constitutional liberties and privileges of free born Englishmen.

3d. That the late Acts of Parliament for imposing taxes for the purpose of raising a revenue in America, are oppressive and Aribtrary, calculated to disturb the minds and alienate the affections of the Colonists from the mother country, are replete with ruin to both, and consequently that the authors and promoters of said Acts, or of such doctines of the right of taxing America being in the Parliament of Great Britain, are, and should be deemed enemies to our King and happy Constitution.

4th. That it is the opinion of this meeting, that the Act of Parliament for shutting up the Port of Boston, is unconstitutional, injurious in its principles to the general cause of American freedom, particularly oppressive to the inhabitants of that town, and that, therefore, the people of Boston are considered by us as suffering in the general cause of America.

5th.  That unanimity and firmness in the Colonies are the most effectual means to relieve our suffering brethren at Boston, to avert the dangers justly to be apprehended from that alarming Act, commonly styled the Boston Port Bill, and to secure the invaded rights and privileges of America.

6th.  That it is our opinion, that an agreement between the Colonies not to purchase or use any articles imported from Great Britain or from the East Indies, under such restrictions as may be agreed upon by the general Congress thereafter to be appointed by the Colonies, would be of service in procuring a repeal of those Acts.

7th. That we will most cheerfully join our brethren of the other counties in this Province in promoting an union of the Colonies, by forming a general Congress of Deputies to be send from each of the Colonies, and do now declare ourselves ready to send a Committee to meet with those from the other counties at such time and place as by them may be agreed upon, in order to elect proper persons to represent this Province in the said Congress.

8th.  That it is the request of this meeting that the County Committees, when met for the purposes aforesaid, do take into their serious consideration the propriety of setting on foot a subscription for the benefit of the sufferers at Boston, under the Boston Port Bill, above mentioned, and the money arising from such subscription to be laid out as the Committees so met shall think will best answer the ends proposed.

9th.  That we will faithfully adhere to such regulations and restrictions as shall by the members of said Congress be agreed upon and judged most expedient for avoiding the calamities, and procuring the benefits intended in the foregoing resolves

10th. It is our request that the Committee hereafter named, do correspond and consult with such other Committees as shall be appointed by the other counties in this Province, and particularly that they meet with the said County Committee, in order to elect and appoint Deputies to represent this Province in a general Congress.

11th. We do hereby desire the following gentleman to accept of that important trust, and accordingly do appoint them our Committee for the purposes aforesaid: Jacob Ford, William Windes, Abraham Ogden, William De Hart, Samuel Tuthill, Jonathan Stiles, John Carle, Philip V. Cortlandt and Samuel Ogden, esquires.

(Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey (Trenton: Naar, Day & Naar, 1879), p. 11-13.

History is Good for Business

MorristownMorristown National Historical Park in New Jersey, the place where George Washington and the Continental Army spent part of the winter of 1777 and most of the winter of 1779-1780, makes a lot of money for Morristown and the surrounding Morris County region.

In 2016, 252,500 visitors came to the park.  They spent $15 million dollars in the region.

American history does not just help us become better citizens, but it is also good for the economy.

Read more here.