William Livingston, US Constitution signator, Continental Congressman, 1st New Jersey Governor, Revolutionary War Brigadier General of the New Jersey Militia, was born on November 30, 1732, at Albany, New York, the fifth son of Catharina (Van Brugh) and Philip Livingston. He was a brother of Philip Livingston, signer of the Declaration of Independence. He spent much of his time growing up with his Dutch maternal grandmother and at age fourteen he left home to minister to the Mohawk Indians. He would boast that he had no English blood in him, only a mixture of Scottish and Dutch. He was graduated from Yale in 1741 after which he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1748. He practiced law in New York and married Susanna French. They had thirteen children. “As many children as there are states in the Union,” he would boast. He had simple tastes and he a love of the country. He never wore a wig and was described as “plain and genteel.” His own description of himself was “a long nosed, long chinned, ugly looking fellow.” He was elected to the New York Legislature in 1759, but started buying land near Elizabethtown, New Jersey in 1760. He did not move there until 1772 and then lived in the village until 1733 until “Liberty Hall” was completed and he could move in with his family. As the revolution approached he said “We have crossed the Rubicon. We cannot recede nor should I wish we could.” He was soon appointed Brigadier General of the New Jersey Militia. He once wrote, “I can assure you I never was more sensible of my own ‘nothingness’ in military affairs…the fatigue I have lately undergone; constantly rising at two o’clock in the morning to examine our lines which are very extensive, till daybreak.” He did not regret that this would only last for three months when on August 31, 1776 he was elected Governor of New Jersey.
Twice his home “Liberty Hall” was attacked by the British with the objective of capturing him, but each time he was forewarned and he eluded them. Once when he was warned that nine fellows were without arms and “dressed like countrymen” to try and capture him he wrote in reply “They are as great blockheads as they are rascals for taking so much pain and running such risk to assassinate an old fellow whose place might instantly be supplied by a successor of greater ability and greater energy.” He was a prolific writer, often using pseudonyms for articles, but his writing was such that George Washington would at times enlist his aides to read his dispatches.
After his wife’s death his health declined rapidly and he would live just another year when he passed to another realm on July 25, 1790. He was followed as governor, by his friend William Paterson, whose daughter would marry his brother’s grandson. His wife and he were both buried first in the family vault in Trinity Churchyard, in Manhattan, New York City and were reinterred with their son Brockholst Livingston in a vault at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, Kings County, New York, USA, Plot: Section 98, Lot 564/565, on May 7, 1844.