Wife of Declaration of Independence Signer Philip Livingston
Image: Philip Livingston
Christina Ten Broeck was born in Albany, New York, on December 30, 1718, the daughter of Albany civic leader Dirck Ten Broeck and his wife Margarita Cuyler, and the great-granddaughter of Albany mayor Dirck Wesselse Ten Broeck. She was the third of twelve children, and grew up in Albany with her sisters and brother in a comfortable home on Market Street.
Philip Livingston was born January 15, 1716, at his father’s townhouse in Albany, and spent most of his childhood there or at the family manor at Linlithgo on the Hudson River, about 30 miles to the south. He was born into the well-to-do and prominent family. His father, also named Philip Livingston, was of Scotch descent and the Second Lord of Livingston Manor, and controlled a large landholding grant near Albany. His mother, Catharine Van Brugh, was of Dutch lineage. His maternal grandfather was Albany mayor Pieter Van Brugh. While he was growing up, Philip divided his time between his father’s townhouse and the Manor House built in 1699.
Philip graduated from Yale College in 1737. Like many of his relatives, he settled in New York City, where he entered the import business. He is said to have been naturally silent and reserved, and to have appeared austere to strangers. Yet he was uncommonly mild and affectionate to his family and friends.
Philip Livingston married Christina Ten Broeck April 14, 1740, at the Albany Dutch Church, and they moved into a stone townhouse on Duke Street in Manhattan. They had nine children – five boys and four girls – and only one son and three daughters gave them grandchildren. Their first child was baptized at the Albany Dutch church in 1741.
As time went on, Philip built up a fortune, particularly as a trader during the French and Indian War (1754-63). He became prominent as a merchant, and was elected Alderman in the city of New York in 1754. This was his first appearance in public life, and he was reelected to that office every year until 1763. The population of the city was 10,881 at that time.
Also in 1754, he went as a delegate to the Albany Congress. There, he joined delegates from several other colonies to negotiate with the Indians, and discuss common plans for dealing with the French and Indian War. They also developed a Plan of Union for the Colonies, which was rejected by King George.
Beginning in 1759, Philip served three terms as an elected representative to the General Assembly of the Province of New York, which was convened on January 31 of that year. This body consisted of twenty-seven members, representing a population of about 100,000 inhabitants, the population of the colony at that time. He would hold that office until 1769, when the Provincial Assembly was dissolved by the Royal Governor.
Image: Livingston Country Home
In 1764, though retaining his Duke Street home in Manhattan, Philip acquired a country house and forty-acre estate on Brooklyn Heights, overlooking the East River and New York Harbor.
Like many early Patriots, he initially did not necessarily desire to make a complete break from the mother country, but eventually he aligned himself with the rising opposition to the arbitrary measures the British were imposing on the colonists.
In October 1765, Livingston attended the Stamp Act Congress, which produced the first formal protest to the crown as a prelude to the American Revolution. Philip became strongly aligned with the radical block in that Congress. He joined New York City’s Committee of Correspondence to continue communication with leaders in the other colonies. A believer in dignified protests mounted by lawyers and merchants, he resented the riotous behavior of such groups as the Sons of Liberty.
In the 1769 elections, the Tories gained control of the legislature. In his bid for reelection, Livingston attempted to unite the moderate factions. Defeated in New York City, which from then on was Tory-dominated, he managed to obtain reelection from the Livingston Manor district. The new assembly, claiming he could not represent an area in which he did not reside, unseated him, but he didn’t let that stop him.
The patriotic character and sentiments of Mr. Livingston, led him to dislike the power of the British government over the colonies. The colony of New York was, for a time, more under the influence of the British crown than several others, and more slowly adopted measures which hastened forward the revolution. But all along, there were individuals in that colony of kindred feelings with those in Massachusetts and Virginia.
Like other early patriots, Philip Livingston was probably willing to submit to the authority of the mother country, while that authority was reasonable. On the eve of independence, there were four Livingstons in Congress: Philip, his younger brother William, his young cousin John Jay (the husband of Sarah Livingston), and the still younger cousin Robert. All Livingstons believed that America should be free, yet not wholly independent of the mother country.
Philip’s cousin, Robert perhaps summed up the family’s attitude best of all, “Every good man wishes that America should remain free, in this I join heartily; at the same time I do not desire she should be wholly independent of the mother country. How to reconcile these jarring principles, I profess I am altogether at a loss.” Once the vote for independence was in, however, the Livingston family abandoned this position and accepted reality.
Committee of Fifty-One
In 1774, Livingston became a member of the committee of fifty-one, a group that selected New York City delegates to the Continental Congress. The Committee of Fifty was formed in May 1774, in response to the news that the port of Boston would be closed by the British, under the Boston Port Act. Prior to this committee’s formation, opposition to the British was through the informal leadership of the Sons of Liberty and the Committee of Correspondence. This committee was the first formed for action. On May 16, Francis Lewis was added to make it the Committee of Fifty-One.
From late 1774, this committee exercised control of New York City. They declared that Boston was “suffering in the defense of the rights of America,” and on May 23, 1774 the committee called for a Continental Congress. This body of men was convened on September 5, 1774, and was known as the First Continental Congress. Livingston and his family lived for a time in Philadelphia, where the Congress sometimes met.
The sentiments which Philip Livingston had avowed, and the distinguished part which he had taken in favor of the rights of the colonies marked him as a proper person to represent the colony in this important congress of 1774. He sat on committees dealing with marine, commerce, finance, military, and Indian matters. In the deliberations of this body, he assisted in preparing an address to the people of Great Britain.
The First Congress resolved to boycott British imports, and the Committee of Fifty-One formed a Sub-committee of Observation to enforce this boycott. Livingston also served on the Committee of Sixty, formed to enforce congressional enactments. The next year, he won election to the Committee of One Hundred, which governed New York City temporarily until the First Provincial Congress of the colony met later that year.
In July 1775, Livingston signed the Olive Branch Petition, a final attempt to achieve a compromise with the Crown. The petition appealed directly to King George III to cease hostilities and restore harmony. But the King refused to respond to the plea and proclaimed the Colonies to be in a state of rebellion. Subsequently, Philip Livingston became a leader of the crusade for American liberties, and an active promoter of efforts to fund and raise troops for the War for Independence.
When New York established a rebel government in 1775, Livingston became the President of the New York Provincial Assembly, and had to divide his time between the Congress and the Assembly. He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress that met from 1775 to 1778, where he strongly supported separation from Great Britain.
Philip Livingston was absent from Congress on July 2, 1776, when independence was declared, but on August 2, he signed the Declaration of Independence along with the other delegates. He was one of two Dutch American signers of the Declaration; the other was Lewis Morris. Both signers do not carry Dutch names, but both had Dutch American mothers, who are clearly linked to the original Dutch settlers in what was then called New Netherland.
Image: Livingston’s Signature on the Declaration of Independence
After the defeat of the Continental Army in the Battle of Long Island (August 27, 1776), General George Washington and his officers met at Livingston’s residence in Brooklyn Heights and decided to evacuate the island. As the result of the ill-fated peace negotiations at Staten Island in September, between Admiral Richard Howe and three representatives of the Continental Congress, the British occupied New York City.
Livingston and his family had fled to their other residence in Esopus (later Kingston), New York, where the State capital was temporarily located before moving to nearby Poughkeepsie. Their property in New York City was seized by the British. They utilized Livingstons’ Duke Street home as a barracks, and their Brooklyn Heights residence as a Royal Navy hospital, and also confiscated his business interests. The British later burned the city of Kingston to the ground, as they did Robert Livingston’s mansion, Clermont, across the Hudson River.
The New York Constitution was adopted at Kingston on April 20, 1777, and Livingston was elected to the New York State Senate in May 1777, while continuing to serve in the Continental Congress.
On May 5, 1778, he took his seat in the new United States Congress, which was being held in York, Pennsylvania. This was an eminently critical and gloomy period in the history of the revolution. The British had taken possession of Philadelphia, compelling congress to leave that city. Despite his poor health, Livingston continued to serve his country in the positions to which he was elected.
Mr. Livingston’s health became exceedingly precarious. Yet, his love for his country continued strong and unwavering. For her good, he had made many sacrifices; and, now that her interests required his presence in congress, he did not hesitate to leave the comforts of home, and the care he badly needed from his beloved family, who were still at Kingston. He bid them an affectionate farewell, expressing his conviction that he expected to see them no more.
After he took his seat in congress, his decline was rapid. His youngest son, Henry Philip Livingston, was a captain in General Washington’s Guard during the Revolutionary War. Upon hearing of his father’s failing health, he obtained a leave, and was present during the last few days of his father’s life.
Philip Livingston died suddenly on June 12, 1778, at the age of 62, the third earliest signer to die (after John Morton and Button Gwinnett). At the time, he was still serving in the Congress at York, PA. The Congress attended his funeral as a body, and declared a mourning period of one month. He is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery in that city. It was unfortunate that he was not able to see the results of American Independence, a cause he had fought for so valiantly.
By that time, sixty-year-old Christina Livingston had come home to Albany. Despite the years and distance, Christina’s Albany roots always remained strong. A substantial inheritance from her husband, father, and brother included income acreage and houses in Albany.
A doting grandmother, Christina spent her remaining years living with her daughters – both of whom had married Dutch Reformed ministers. Settled in Albany, she made her will in 1800.
Eighty-two-year-old Christina Ten Broeck Livingston died on June 29, 1801 and was buried in the Dutch Church cemetery.
Philip Livingston’s grave is marked by an obelisk that was erected by his grandson, Stephen Van Rensselaer. Part of the inscription reads:
Eminently distinguished for his talents and rectitude, he deservedly enjoyed the confidence of his country and the love and veneration of his friends and children.