New York’s Philip Livingston was a true patriot who died in harness.
Like so many of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, Livingston went from riches to rags in the Revolutionary War. Even though his vast business holdings had been ravaged by the British, Livingston and his family, driven to great difficulty by the ruin of their homes and property still managed to scrape together a significant amount to donate to the struggling rabble of Washington’s army.
Despite his financial ruin, Livingston’s heart remained true to the American cause. His doctor had given him a very unfavorable report on his health. The diagnosis was dropsy, with no rational prospect of recovery.
What to do?
The logical response would have been to set one’s affairs in order and prepare to spend the brief remaining time with those near and dear. But not so for Livingston. Instead, believing that he could still render service to his beloved country, he bade farewell to his dear family and returned to his seat in the continental Congress.
He died there on June12, 1778.
LETTER OF PHILIP LIVINGSTON TO HIS DAUGHTER
[Letter of Philip Livingston (the signer of the Declaration of Independence) to his daughter, Mrs. Van Rensselaer, at Albany. Written soon after Lexington and Concord]
NEW YORK the 5th May 1775
MY DR KATEY:
You have no Doubt been very uneasy at the melancholy News from Boston, which has occasioned the greatest confusion and anxiety here; the Town is however now pretty quiet, how long that will continue God only knows.
We are in the greatest State of Uncertainty whether any Troops are coming here from England or not, if they do I am very fearful it will occasion Disturbances of a very serious Nature.
People here are determined not to Submit to the oppressive acts of Parliament, and to give New England all the assistance they can. I shall leave this Place for Philadelphia next Monday to attend the continental Congress, where it is very probable Steps will be taken from the Necessity of the Times, that every good Man wou’d wish could be avoided.
But in Such Times the strictest Union of Councils is necessary and I believe and doubt not but the Congress will unite like one Man in every Measure necessary for the common Safety. The Boston Delegates came to Town this Afternoon, the Account of that Battle is much as we heard it; the King’s Troops began first – they lost 112 Men & 167 wounded, the Provincials lost 37 Men – Boston is surrounded by 16,000 Men who are in high Spirits and think themselves an Overmatch for all the Troops that General Gage has there and expects to have– God grant them Success.
Send Stephen down that he may be at School, Elizabeth Town is safe enough. I see you have let the Island– You must agree with the Tenants to pay Taxes – not to plant more than 30 acres of Corn in one year, nor nearer together than common, and not two years following in one Place. To keep at least 30 Acres in mowing Ground – (&c &c)
I remain dear Katey
Your Affet. Father