William Livingston Governs New Jersey

William Livingston Governs New Jersey

William Livingston was perhaps the most powerful man in New Jersey during the American Revolution.

Although a transplant from New York, Livingston carried his adopted State through the Revolutionary War and beyond.  

William signed two of the nation's Founding Documents and just narrowly missed a third.


William Livingston

William Livingston was born in Albany, New York to the wealthy Livingston Family.  He received the finest of educations and attend Yale.

After an apprenticeship, he began practicing law in New York City.

William and three friends began a weekly publication known as the Independent Reflector which primarily argued against the creation of King’s College (known today as Columbia).

His distaste for the new University stemmed from his upbringing. Upstate New York was primarily Presbyterian.  Meanwhile, NYC was full of Anglicans.  Livingston was afraid the College would be used as an excuse to bring a Bishop to the colony.   (The full debate between the New York 'country’ and 'popular’ factions I will save for a later article.)


New Jersey

Although King's College was built (and no Bishop ever arrived), William Livingston was briefly elected to the Provincial Assembly.

After leaving this office, he moved to New Jersey where he quickly established himself as a leader in another resistance movement...the American Revolution.


First Continental Congress

William represented New Jersey in the First Continental Congress where he signed the Articles of Association.  This was the first Founding Document of the United States and it called for a boycott of all British goods.

Livingston returned the following year for the Second Continental Congress. He remained until June of 1776.



With independence becoming inevitable, Livingston left Congress just before the vote for separation. Although he supported the measure, he knew there was work to be done in his adopted home.

William returned to New Jersey where he was elected Governor.  He replaced William Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's son.  Livingston would hold this position for the next 14 years, the entirety of the Revolution. 


Constitutional Convention

A decade later, while still Governor, William Livingston was sent as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

He supported the need for a strong national government and signed the Constitution that September.

Although he was appointed to be Minister to the Netherlands, William declined.  Livingston would remain Governor of New Jersey until he passed away just two years later.


It is always interesting to me that someone like William Livingston can play such a large role in the Revolution, including signing the Constitution, and be overlooked as he is today.  Truthfully, there is a lot more that can (and will) be said about him on this site.  As always, I tried not to get carried away.

Fortunately, William Livingston is one of the few 'lost' Founders who has a biography.  I suggest you pick it up at your library or through the link below as his role in creating the United States (and specifically New Jersey) should not be overlooked.  Our links go through Amazon and the small percentage we receive does not increase your price.  Enjoy!

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