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American Aristocracy: The Livingstons
     

American Aristocracy: The Livingstons

by Clare Brandt
 

A Livingston descendant once called New York's Hudson River Valley, "Livingston Valley," and with good reason. The original 1686 Royal patent of 160,000 acres on the east side of the Hudson River to Scottish merchant Robert Livingston grew within two generations to nearly one million acres and included vast portions of the Catskill Mountains as well. Intermarriages

Overview

A Livingston descendant once called New York's Hudson River Valley, "Livingston Valley," and with good reason. The original 1686 Royal patent of 160,000 acres on the east side of the Hudson River to Scottish merchant Robert Livingston grew within two generations to nearly one million acres and included vast portions of the Catskill Mountains as well. Intermarriages with other wealthy and influential Hudson Valley families—the Roosevelts, Delanos, Van Rensselaers, Schuylers, Astors, and Beekmans, to name a few—created a dynasty and a landed aristocracy on the banks of the new republic's most important river—an irony embedded at the core of the "American experiment." At one time forty Livingston mansions lined the east shore, and the family's reach into NYS and American politics, economics, and social scene was profound and enduring.

Their influence on early American politics was pervasive, with Livingstons on the Provincial Assembly, as members of the Continental Congress, on the committee to draft a Declaration of Independence, as first Chancellor of New York State and co-drafter with John Jay of the state's Constitution, justice of the NYS Supreme Court, Minister to France—the list goes on. And, of course, there was the patron of Robert Fulton who brought a revolution to commerce with the world's first steamship, known as the Clermont after the Livingston estate in Columbia County that is now a State Historic Site

Includes a map of the Hudson Valley showing Livingston family land holdings and a genealogy of the Livingston family from 1654 to 1964.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Three hundred years ago, in 1686, an ambitious Scottish immigrant named Robert Livingston received a royal patent to 160,000 acres of land in the Hudson River Valley. By his grandchildren's time, ``Livingston Manor'' comprised one million acres, and the Livingstons had become the landed gentry whose rise and decline is recounted in this appealing popular history. Brandt, ably researching her way through a centuries-old maze of intermarriages, portrays dozens of Livingstons of every stripe (merchants, drunks, etc.), who sometimes served the nation (one signed the Declaration of Independence; another was a governor of New Jersey), often feuded, and always had an eye out for the land, the family and their ``bluebloodedness, exclusivity, and money.'' After 1800, democracy, industrial change and their own insularity cut the influence of the family, many of whose members now struggle to maintain servantless manors. Photos not seen by PW. (April 18)
Library Journal
It is an imposing task to write a biography of an important family over 300 years of American history, but Brandt has done just that. She keeps track of literally hundreds of Livingstons and provides a genealogical scorecard for readers. She traces the transition from aristocracy to democracy in the passage of generations of this powerful Hudson River Valley clan. Founder Robert Livingston arrived in Albany in 1674. He and his descendants cemented their social and economic positions through astute marriages. For 150 years a Livingston played a rolefirst powerful, then peripheralin New York and American politics. After about 1830, however, the social foibles of an effete aristocracy prevailed. An entertaining, educational, and comprehensive book. Harry W. Fritz, History Dept., Univ. of Montana, Missoula

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385158756
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/01/1986
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
312

What People are Saying About This

Author of Terra Nostra and The Old Gringo - Carlos Fuentes
"Beautifully shows that only through irony can one relate to time. ... A detached humor and precise detail permit Clare Brandt to present all the sweep and irony of this American comedy."
Author of Our Crowd and The LeBaron Secret - Stephen Birmingham
"A rich and absorbing slice of American, social, and family history. It is hard to understand why it has never been written before."
Author of Closest Companion and former editor of American Heritage Magazine - Geoffrey C. Ward
"A vivid chronicle of a great American family whose members prove to have been every bit as entertaining—and almost as important—as they thought they were."
Author of The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization - Richard Slotkin
"Admirably concise, thoroughly researched. ... The care with which the work has been done allows you to feel like a responsible adult while you're savoring the family secrets."

Meet the Author

Clare Brandt is the author of The Man in the Mirror: A Life of Benedict Arnold (Random House, 1994).

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