Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Philip Livingston


   The patriotic character and sentiments of Mr. Livingston, led him to regard, with great jealousy, the power of the British government over the colonies. With other patriots, he was probably willing to submit to the authority of the mother country, while that authority was confined to such sets as reason and justice approved. But, when the British ministers began to evince a disposition to oppress the colonies, by way of humbling them, no man manifested a stronger opposition than Mr. Livingston. His sentiments on this subject may be gathered from an answer, which he reported in 1764, to the speech of Lieutenant Governor Colden. In the extract we give, may be seen the very spirit of the revolution, which led to American independence.

   "But nothing can add to the pleasure we receive from the information your honor gives us, that his majesty, our most gracious sovereign, distinguishes and approves our conduct. When hiis service requires it, we shall ever be ready to exert ourselves with loyalty, fidelity, and zeal; and as we have always complied, in the most dutiful manner, with every requisition made by his directions, we, with all humility, hope that his majesty, who, and whose ancestors, have long been the guardians of British liberty, will so protect us in our rights, as to prevent our falling into the abject state of being forever hereafter incapable of doing what can merit either his distinction or approbation. Such must be the deplorable state of that wretched people, who (being taxed by a power subordinate to none, and in a great degree unacquainted with their circumstances) can call nothing their own. This we speak with the greatest deference to the wisdom and justice of the British parliament, in which we confide. Depressed with this prospect of inevitable ruin, by the alarming information we have from home, neither we nor, our constituents can attend to improvements, conducive either to the interests of our mother country, or of this colony. We shall, however, renew the act for granting a bounty on hemp, still hoping that a stop may be put to those measures, which, if carried into execution, will oblige us to think that nothing but extreme poverty can preserve us from the most insupportable bondage. We hope your honor will join with us in an endeavor to secure that great badge of English liberty, of being taxed only with our own consent ; which we conceive all his majesty's subjects at home and abroad equally entitled to."

   The colony of New-York, it is well known, was, for a time, more under the influence of the British crown than several others, and more slowly, as a colony, adopted measures which hastened forward the revolution. But all along, there were individuals in that colony, of kindred feelings with those who acted so conspicuous a part in Massachusetts and Virginia.

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Last modified January 2, 2004