John Jay Papers
Documents filtered by: Author="Livingston, Robert R." AND Period="Confederation Period"
sorted by: editorial placement
Permanent link for this document:

To John Jay from Robert R. Livingston, 25 January 1784

From Robert R. Livingston

New York 25th. Jany 1784

Dear John

Your Brother is just returned from Rie, & informs me that he left your Brother & sister there in health, & as comfortably situated as they could expect, tho not quite so well as they could wish. The season was too far advanced on their removal to admit of all the repairs that were necessary in the house. The quiet which in my last1 I mentioned to have prevail’d here, still continues with very few interruptions.2 Tho the imprudence of the Tories have in some instances given disgust to the warm Whigs particularly in a contest for the government of the church corporation to the exclusion of those out of the Lines, and in appointing Mr. Moore rector in order to fill the church a few days before we came in. The Legislature have interposed & the government of the church is transfered to the Whigs.3

Our parties are 1st. The Tories who still hope for power under the Idea that the remembrance of the passed should be lost, tho they daily keep it up by their avowed attatchmt. to great Britain. 2d The violent Whigs who are for expelling all tories from the state4 in hopes by that means to preserve the power in their own hands. The third are those who wish to suppress all violences, to soften the rigours of the Laws agt the Royalists, & not to banish them from that social intercourse which may by degrees obliterate the remembrance of past misdeeds. But who at the same time are not willing to shock the feelings of the virtuous citizens that have at every expence & hazard fulfilled their duty, by at once destroying all distinction between them & the Royalists, & giving the reins into the hands of the latter. But ^who^ at the same time wish that this sentiment ^distinction^ should rather be found in the sentiments of the people than marked out by the Laws. ^you will judge^ To which of these parties the disqualifications contained in our election bill has given the representation when I tell you that the members for this City & County5 are Lamb, Harpur, Sears Van Zant, Malcom, Rutgers, Hughes, Stag, Willet—6 I must however do all parties the justice to say that they profess the highest respect for the laws & that if we except one or two persons they have as yet by no act contradicted that profession. You will receive with this a ratification of the treaty. congress are now convened at Anapolis in consequence of their curious resolution to have two places of residence of which they are by this time asshamed & tired. We are very angry here with Great Britain, on account of her west india restrictions (from which by the bye they suffer greatly) and are fulminating resolutions to prohibit all intercourse with her which I think will probably be the case eer long.7 Thus have I given you a sketch of our politicks which will only be interesting to you if as I sincerely hope you mean to return soon to us. I wish it were possible for me to have your assistance in a suit against Hoffman which a principle of duty has induced me to revive—8 Some purchases of real estate that I have in view & which I am persuaded will be sold very cheap, make me desirous of having a credit in Europe for about £6000. Stirling payable at six weeks sight. For which I will give the best real security here to any agent that may be appointed to receive it. The interest to begin for the sums I shall draw for the time of drawing the bills—if you could effect this for me either in England or Holland & let me know it by the first opportunity. I have also thought that probably Lady Warrens esstate might be purchased cheap at this time, Coll Skinner gave £5000 for it, it has since suffered greatly by the loss of the wood &c: and it will pay pretty smart taxes in future, if however you can get it for something about that sum, & approve the bargain I am willing to join you in it, if you can borrow the money to pay for it—9 Business & politics have extended this Letter to such an unreasonable length that I dare not hazard a subject nearer my heart than either but must at this time confine all it dictates to simple assurances of the firm & tender affection with which I am & ever shall be dear John Your friend

R R Livingston

Since writing the above I am more doubtful whether Lady Warrens estate would turn out a good purchase at the rate I mention. I would only therefore wish you to inquire at what it may be got

ALS, NNC (EJ: 6871), Endorsed: “ . . . Recd 12 Ap 1784 / by Co. Franks”. Dft, NHi: Robert R. Livingston (EJ: 1540). Endorsed by RRL. E, NN: Bancroft (EJ: 2743). The ALS is shorter, less detailed, and generally more moderate in tone than the draft, significant omissions and changes from which are noted below.

1See above, RRL to JJ, 29 Nov. 1783.

2Here in the Dft RRL had included “except that Rivington has been beat by N. Cruger & intimidated by the committee of Mechanicks so as to be induced to stop his press—”. The reference is to the New York and West India merchant Nicholas Cruger (1743–1800), the son of Henry Cruger Sr. On the postwar attacks on Rivington, see John Nerone, Violence against the Press: Policing the Public Sphere in U.S. History (New York, 1994), 50; and Paul A. Gilje, The Road to Mobocracy, Popular Disorder in New York City, 1763–1834 (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1987), 76–78.

3Here in the Dft RRL reported: “The imprudence of the tories have in some instances given a handle to the warm whigs to attack them—our extreme moderation gave them confidence & not content with protection they sought for power—particularly in ap ^filling up the vacancy in the vestry with violent Royalists &^ appointing Mr. Moore whose conduct has been extremely reprehensible Rector of Trinity Church & continuing about 10 Days before we came in & continuing in ^him^ in spite of the earnest request of the whig members. This ended in a petition to the Legislature who upon a presumption that the charter was suspended with the other laws of the state during the government of the br[itish] in the City made void their election & vested the temporalities of the church in nine trustees till the charter could be reorganized—for which purpose a law is now before them—”.

On the disputes over control of Trinity Church, see above, Catharine W. Livingston to JJ, 30 Dec. 1783, note l.

4Here in the Dft RRL had referred to “warm & hotheaded whigs” and added “& who would wish even to render the more moderate ^Whigs^ suspected”.

5In the Dft RRL wrote: “Certain disqualifications in the election Law passed before the evacuation have given ^those that are supposed to be^ the second of these parties the appointment of representatives for this district—”.

6Here in the Dft RRL added: “However I am not without ^hopes^ from the weight of the characters which form the third ^party^ that they will prevent those violences which the second may meditate and support tha a respect for the laws which indeed I must do them all ^parties^ the justice to say they profess & that they have yet by no act contradicted that profession—”.

Elected to represent the City and County of New York in the 7th session of the State assembly, convened 21 Jan., were: Robert Harpur, John Lamb, Isaac Sears, Peter Van Zandt (1730–1812), John Stagg (1732–1803), William Malcom, Henry Rutgers (1745–1830), Henry Hughes, and Marinus Willett. Sears, Lamb, and Willett derailed an attempt by the New York State assembly to censure the attack on Rivington described above. See PAH description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (27 vols.; New York, 1961–87) description ends , 5: 300–301.

7Here in the Dft RRL wrote: “The object of general politics which most engages our attention at present is the West India trade which we consider as of the utmost moment—the several states are about to empower Congress to restrict the commerce of Britain till she opens that trade to us—” For states’ responses to the Order in Council of 2 July 1783, see William Bingham to JJ, 10 Mar. 1784, note 2, below. On the issue of British restrictions on American trade with the British West Indies, see “Negotiating a Trade Agreement” (editorial note), on pp. 373–86.

8In the October 1784 term of the Supreme Court held at Albany, RRL brought an action of ejectment against Zachariah Hoffman. The dispute, which went back to 1744, concerned certain lands on the southern boundary of RRL’s estate, Clermont. RRL acted as his own attorney, while Hoffman was represented by Egbert Benson, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Ogden (d. 1839). RRL won his suit, and Hamilton later lost his motion for a new trial. The matter was eventually settled by a compromise. See RRL to JJ, 30 July 1784, below; and Dangerfield, Robert R. Livingston description begins George Dangerfield, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York, 1746–1813 (New York, 1960) description ends , 183–84, 480n.

9This passage is rendered in greater detail in the Dft: “The number of real estates that are daily selling here belonging to persons that are about to leave the state together with confiscated property which will be sold in the spring the scarcity of money & the high price of bills open a great field for speculation if a man had such a credit in Europe as to be enabled to draw about 6 or 8000£ on six weeks sight— I wish as you are upon the spot that you would endeavour to establish such a credit for me upon some good house ^either in England or Holland^ I will allow 6 pr. Cent for the Money— And give real security to any agent that may be appointed here to take ^it^ for so much as I shall draw— If this can not be done in England it may be easily done in Holland on your representation of the security— I have also thought that at this critical moment Lady Warrens (now Col[one]l Skinners estate) might be purchased on good terms if you think so & chuse to be concerned I wish you to make it on our joint account taking up money in England to pay for it provided it does not exceed £6000 Stirling Coll. Skinner purchased it at 5000—since which it has suffered greatly by the destruction of all the wood, &c.—and if I mistake not he will be compelled by taxes good round taxes to part with it.”

At issue were the vast colonial and European land holdings of Admiral Sir Peter Warren (1703–52), inherited by his, wife Susannah De Lancey Warren (1707–71), who entrusted the management of her New York City property to her brother Oliver De Lancey. RRL’s reference is to Warren’s 300-acre Greenwich Village estate, which on Lady Warren’s death was inherited by her daughters, and managed jointly by her brother and her sons-in-law, Colonel William Skinner (d. 1780), Major-General Charles Fitzroy (1737–97), and Willoughby Bertie, earl of Abingdon (1740–99). One of the few estates of an absentee landlord to remain intact throughout the Revolution, the Warren properties in New York City and Cortlandt, were divided among Fitzroy, Abingdon, and Colonel Skinner’s daughter, Susanna Maria Skinner (1769–1821). No evidence has been found that Skinner had purchased the property from the heirs, or that JJ made any inquiries about the property while in Europe or sought private loans on RRL’s or his own behalf. Julian Gwyn, The Enterprising Admiral: The Personal Fortune of Admiral Sir Peter Warren (Montreal, 1974), 36, 47, 64–68; correspondence with Julian Gwyn of Nova Scotia, 2008.

Index Entries