Appointed by President Andrew Jackson
Misfortune, wrote the biographer of Edward Livingston, followed Livingston's footsteps from the end of his first congressional career in 1801 to the end of his life. Yet despite repeated setbacks, both personal and political, Livingston persevered to become secretary of state and minister to France under Andrew Jackson. Though not given much latitude or responsibility in foreign affairs as secretary of state by Jackson, this “Montesquieu of the Cabinet, ” so called because of his scholarship and Francophilia, shown most brightly in his post in Paris following his duties in Washington.
Livingston was born May 28, 1764, at Clermont, Columbia County, New York. Receiving his early education at home at Esopus, now Kingston, New York, he graduated from Nassau Hall (Princeton University) in 1781 and studied law in Albany and New York, counting among his fellow students Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. He was admitted to the bar in 1785 and began a law practice in New York City. He married a merchant's daughter, Mary McEvers, in 1788, and their union produced three children.
Born into a wealthy family long powerful in the politics of New York, Livingston received his political tutelage from his brilliant brother, Robert, member of the Continental Congress, secretary of foreign affairs during the Confederation, and envoy to France. Livingston early on met important national figures, such as Lafayette, Washington, Jefferson, and of course, Hamilton and Burr and developed a wide circle of acquaintances. Livingston was a devoted defender of the Republic and often expressed strong nationalistic views. Yet, guided by the example of his brother (17 years his senior), he developed a cosmopolitan view of the world that included a healthy respect for France and a disdain for Britain (due, in part, from British troops having burned the family's home during the Revolution).
After serving in Congress from 1795 to 1801, where he was one of the leaders opposing Jay's Treaty, Livingston was appointed federal district attorney and, later, mayor of New York. Livingston served admirably during an epidemic of yellow