"perhaps true wisdom would distinguish happiness and riches" Louis Otto

Anne Hume Shippen, better known as Nancy, was all but forced by her father to marry Henry Beekman Livingston because of Livingston’s wealth and prestige. Prior to that marriage though she was head over heels for a young member of the French Legation to America, Louis-Guillaume Otto.

            Otto’s origins are a bit murky. He was either born in 1753 in Strasbourg, Alsace, France or in 1754 in Baden in what would become southwest Germany. He was educated at the University of Strasbourg before entering the diplomatic service
Louis Otto

            He arrived in Philadelphia in 1779 as a member of the French delegation to the United States. He met Nancy and they exchanged frequent visits and romantic letters. She also began courting Henry Beekman Livingston at this time, much more to her father’s liking. Otto once wrote: “Your papa knows that my fortune cannot be compared with that of Livingston therefore he prefers him, perhaps true wisdom would distinguish happiness and riches.” Nancy married Livingston anyway.

            In March of 1787 Otto married his own Livingston, Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Van Brugh Livingston. Unfortunately, she died in December of that same year.
            Otto’s diplomatic career was on the ascent though. In 1785 he had replaced Francois Barbe-Marbois as Secretary (leader) of the French delegation in America. When he returned to Revolutionary France in 1792, he was made head of the Political Division for Foreign Affairs.
            A year later turbulence in the government led to a slight hiccup in Otto’s career. He was dismissed from the service, arrested and scheduled to be executed by guillotine. Somehow though he talked his way out of the execution though and was made a member of the diplomatic delegation sent to Berlin.
Napoleon Bonaparte
Marie Louise

            In 1800 Otto was sent to Great Britain as the Commissioner for Prisoners of War. He was in charge of negotiating prisoner exchanges and supplying French prisoners taken by the British. Soon though he was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain. He spent the year 1801 hammering out a peace treaty with his British counterparts which was signed in 1802 by Joseph Bonaparte and Charles Cornwallis. The French Revolutionary Wars were over. The Treaty of Amiens, as the treaty was called after the town in which it was signed, would be the only peace between Britain and France from the beginning of the fighting in 1793 and Napoleon’s abdication in 1814. The treaty lasted a year until May of 1803 when the British seized a bunch of French ships in British ports and the French responded by seizing more than 1,800 British citizens in France and Italy. The Napoleonic Wars had begun.

            In 1803 Otto was sent to Bavaria as ambassador where he greatly impressed Napoleon. To honor his service Napoleon named him to the Conseil d\’État and honored him as Grand officier of the Légion d\’honneur. He also created him the Comte de Mosloy in 1810.
            In 1810 Otto was sent to Vienna as the ambassador to Austria. He was responsible for negotiating Napoleon’s second marriage to the archduchess Marie Louise. She was empress of France until Napoleon was forced to abdicate and sent to Elba in 1814.
The Battle of Waterloo

            Otto was not part of the restoration government as he was viewed as far too much of a Napoleon supporter. During Napoleon’s return in 1815, known as the 100 Days, Otto was made Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs. Napoleon’s second reign effectively came to an end at Waterloo. Otto took the opportunity to retire from public life, living another two years before dying in 1817. He was buried in Paris.

The Court Martial Of Henry Beekman Livingston: The Legal Action That Helped Win The Battle of Saratoga

On March 23, 1777 a body of British soldiers were brought out of New York City on transports, sailed up the Hudson River and landed at Peekskill. There they burned store houses full of supplies and barracks where American soldiers were supposed to sleep. (Washington 1777)
           

Henry Beekman Livingston

Henry Beekman Livingston, colonel of the 4th New York Regiment and Colonel Van Cortlandt’s regiments were present but received no orders and could only watch as the British landed. Livingston estimated them at only about 500. The American regiments faced the British force at about 400 yards, and it seemed that they were poised for battle when suddenly the Americans received orders from their brigadier general Alexander McDougall to retreat. They carried away what supplies they could, but the British were able to destroy the rest, burn their store houses and barracks. The following day Marinus Willet attacked their advanced guard and the British retreated to their ships, sailing away the next day. (Livingston 1777)

            McDougall had a slightly different recollection of the event. He said the enemy greatly outnumbered him and he had to retreat. Most of the supplies that were destroyed were destroyed on his orders to prevent the enemy from carrying them off. The skirmish on Monday with the advanced guard supposedly threw the British into confusion and led to them sailing away. (McDougall 1777)
            This event was the last straw for any kind of civil

Alexander McDougall

relationship between Livingston and McDougall. Livingston thought McDougall was below him, the son of a dairy farmer and a common merchant before the war started it rankled Livingston to no end to have some one of lower social rank promoted above him in the army. McDougall thought Livingston was haughty, overly aggressive and we can only assume the blatant classism that Henry displayed must have annoyed him some.

            Livingston began to talk to other officers about McDougall. He indicated that McDougall was a coward for retreating from the enemy at Peekskill. Word got back to McDougall, possibly from Henry’s own regimental paymaster who was also McDougall’s son-in-law. When Major General Israel Putnam arrived in the Highlands in June to take command, he found Livingston under arrest and awaiting a court martial for “Traducing” the character of General McDougall in ordering the retreat and for using language unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman.
            While Henry was under arrest, an unsigned letter began to circulate in the American camp calling McDougall “a poor contemptible mean half starved Scotchman who didn’t have the courage or class to give satisfaction (to duel) with someone he had offended. McDougall was sure Livingston had written the letter but could not prove it. If he had been able to he intended to charge Livingston with mutiny as well.
Not that George Clinton
            Putnam ordered the court martial held with George Clinton as president. Livingston was found not guilty of everything except breach of respect for a senior officer-but not to the degree that was unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. He was rebuked in general orders and the matter should have been dropped. It also seems to indicate that at least some officers agreed with Henry in that McDougall had been to quick to retreat that day.
That\’s the guy
            Except it was not. Livingston called McDougall out and although he originally agreed to the duel McDougall would never fight Livingston. (Putnam, To George Washington from Major General Israel Putname, 10 June 1777 1777)
            Putnam soon found himself on the outs with Livingston as well. He had ordered Livingston south to White Plains, but hearing that the British were moving on Morrissania he sent Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt to take command of the two regiments. Livingston was the senior to Van Cortlandt at the time and took great offence at being told to submit himself to the command of another inferior. He actually returned to camp rather than carry out Putnam’s orders and wrote to Washington to demand his rank be clarified to those who didn’t seem to understand. He also found himself desirous of being out of the Hudson Valley and requested a transfer. (Putnam, To George Washington From Major General Israel Putnam, 4 July 1777 1777)
          

Israel Putnam

  McDougall was not sorry to see Livingston go although he thought he could make a good soldier with more experience. His greatest problem was the chain of command probably because to that point all his commands had been intendent. He was in charge when he was stationed at Fort Constitution and he was in command on the east end of Long Island.

            Eventually Livingston, who had hoped to have his regiment transferred to the army of George Washington would be assigned to the Northern Army under Horatio Gates. They fought at both battles of Saratoga. At the second battle Livingston once again took his own initiative and followed Benedict Arnold on his unapproved attack on the Hessian works. Livingston would claim to be the second man into Breymann’s redoubt behind Arnold but only because Arnold was on a horse.

This action won the October 7, 1777 battle for the Americans and eventually led to the surrender of General John Burgoyne’s army. The Court Martial of Henry Beekman Livingston led eventually to his regiment being removed from the Hudson Valley and moved to the Northern Army. Its very possible that without that court marital the Battle of Saratoga could have ended differently.
           
           

Works Cited

Livingston, Henry Beekman. 1777. \”To George Washington from Henry Beekman Livingston, 29 March 1777.\” Founders Online. March 29. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0017.
McDougall, Alexander. 1777. \”To George Washington from Alexander McDougall, 29 March 1777.\” Founders Online. March 29. Accessed May 12 , 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0018.
Putnam, Israel. 1777. \”To George Washington From Major General Israel Putnam, 4 July 1777.\” Founders Online. July 4. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-10-02-0187.
—. 1777. \”To George Washington from Major General Israel Putname, 10 June 1777.\” Founders Online. June 10. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0660.

Washington, George. 1777. \”From George Washington to Major General William Heaat, 29 March 1777.\” Founders Online. March 29. Accessed May 12, 2020. https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-09-02-0015.

\”An Insidious Foe\”: General John Armstrong Jr.

General John Armstrong Jr. lived long enough to be the only member of the Continental Congress to be photographed. The dog  however seems indifferent to the idea.

John Armstrong Jr. was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to Scots-Irishman John Armstrong Sr. (obviously)

John Armstrong Sr. 

and his wife Rebecca Lyon Armstrong (her maiden and married name which meant she didn\’t have to get her linens remonogrammed) on November 25, 1758. Records of his child hood are pretty minimal so its unclear if he was a trouble maker then but he was certainly well on his way to being one by the time the Revolutionary War broke out. 


His career started off innocuously enough in the Pennsylvania militia, bur John Armstrong Sr. had been adamant  that his two sons would receive the best possible educations they

General Hugh Mercer, One tough s.o.b.

could. This soon brought Armstrong to the attention of General Hugh Mercer, who made him his aide-de-camp. Had he been able to stay with Mercer Armstrong probably would have had an exemplary military career but unfortunately while on route to Princeton on January 3, 1777 with the 350 men of the Continental vanguard Mercer encountered the British army. His horse was shot out from under him and he was quickly surrounded and cut off from his military family, including Armstrong, by the British. Getting to his feet, Mercer was ordered to surrender. Instead he drew his sword and began hacking, slashing and thrusting at the British around him. He never stood a chance and was soon beaten to the ground and bayoneted at least 7 times.

Dr. Benjamin Rush. Think Hawkeye from MASH but with better suits.

As the rest of the Continental Army delivered a decisive beating to the British at Princeton Armstrong carried Mercer into a nearby house, where despite the best medical care available in the form of one of America\’s leading doctors, Benjamin Rush, Mercer died nine days later.

It should be noted that the first six times he was stabbed only made Mercer angry (maybe)


Armstrong was next asked to act as an aide to General Horatio Gates for whom he would

General Horatio Gates, who later acquired the nickname
\”Granny\” Gates which was surely applied with love and
respect.

work off and on for the rest of the war. Given Gates success at the Battles of Saratoga and George Washington\’s relative lack of success in 1777, what with losing Philadelphia and all, an informal cabal formed seeking to replace Washington with Gates. This meant that friends of Gates were always a question mark in Washington\’s mind.  

This included Armstrong who was desperately seeking advancement in the army at this point. Armstrong joined the expedition against Castine, Maine  but this also ended in disaster and a court martial for Paul Revere, who may have left some men to fend for themselves in order to save his personal baggage.  Armstrong was then made adjutant general of the army in Rhode Island but was immediately replaced. When the British evacuated Newport, Rhode Island Armstrong was sent to congress with the news, a job that traditionally ended with a promotion for the messenger but Armstrong received nothing.  The taint of the cabal was strong. n 1780 he fortunately missed the Battle of Camden after coming down with Malaria. That battle saw Gates abandon his army and retreat further, faster than anyone thought possible.


Two more undistinguished years found Armstrong encamped with the army at Newburgh. There Armstrong wrote two letters designed to stir up trouble. The letters, addressed to the officers of the army, claimed that Congress was trampling upon their rights by not paying them and not having a retirement plan ready for them. The letters seemed to hint at a coup by the army. They called for a meeting of the officers.. On March 15 Washington took control of the meeting and reconfirmed his control of the army. As he spoke he called out the then anonymous letter writer \”Can he be a friend to the Army?\” said Washington. \”Can he be a friend to his country? Rather is he not an insidious foe?\” Then pulling out his glasses and saying something to the effect of \”Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country\” he read a letter from Congress

A recreation of the building in which  Washington addressed the officers
of the army at New Windsor Cantonment State Historic Site 

promising benefits to the army officers as the men who had been contemplating mutiny wept openly.  

After the war Armstrong returned to Pennsylvania where he almost caused a civil war in 1784 by leading 400 militia men into the Wyoming Valley to try to run off some settlers from Connecticut. Connecticut and Vermont, for some reason, responded with militias of their own. Only the timely interdiction of Timothy Pickering stopped blood shed, sent the militias home and allowed the settlers to keep their

Timothy Pickering

land. 

Armstrong next spent two rather unimpressive years in the Continental Congress in 1787 and 1788, or as it was then known the Congress of Confederation. They were essentially a lame duck congress limited not only by the powers granted them under the Articles of Confederation but by the knowledge that their very form of government would soon be replaced by the new Constitution. 


In 1789 Armstrong made his career by marrying Alida Livingston, the youngest daughter of Judge Robert R. Livingston and his wife Margaret Beekman Livingston. He was now brother in law to Chancellor Robert R. Livingston and the young and upcoming politician Edward Livingston. Armstrong parlayed his family connections into three stints in the Senate between 1800 and 1803 during which time he took part in a conspiracy to give the Livingston faction total control of New York State which eventually led to the death of Alexander Hamilton. Read about that here and here


In 1804 Armstrong replaced his brother-in-law Chancellor Robert R. Livingston as minister to France where he stayed until 1810, holding the post under both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. 



Alida and her daughter Margaret

Upon returning to America he built a house called La Bergerie on land his wife inherited from her parents. They had seven children, including a daughter Margaret Rebecca, who would later marry into the Astor family. The Astors renamed La Bergerie, Rokeby, by which it is still known today. The main activity at La Bergerie was raising merino sheep purchased from the Chancellor. 


Armstrong as he appeared about the time hebecame Secretary of War. 

In 1813, during the War of 1812, James Madison tapped John Armstrong to become the seventh Secretary of War of the United States.  Armstrong was utterly out of his league and had no idea of what to do to prepare the army for the impending British invasion. When the British landed in Maryland the army simply ran away in a battle that became mockingly known as \”The Bladensburg Races.\” The British then marched into Washington D.C. and burned it down. 

You get your bosses house burned down and see what happens to you. 


A month later Madison unceremoniously fired Armstrong, who returned to Rokeby, his public career over. But lets be honest there\’s not a lot of places to go after you let the British burn down the White House. Alida passed away in 1822 and Armstrong spent the rest of his life tending his sheep and writing. He died in 1843 and is buried in Rhinebeck.

Edward Livingston Knew Davy Crockett and You Didn\'t

Edward Livingston\’s second career in Washington D. C. put him in the company of some of the most famous politicians the United States has ever seen. His term as a representative from Louisiana from 1823 through 1829, his time in the senate from 1829 through 1831 and his time as a member of Andrew Jackson\’s cabinet placed him among the men that would shape America in the lead up to the Civil War. 

First and foremost Edward was a close personal friend of Andrew Jackson\’s. They had met in congress in 1796 and formed a relationship of mutual respect. The Battle of New Orleans Read about that here made them brothers in arms. Jackson was comfortable enough with Edward to joke, when a British rocket whizzed over his head and he ducked, that he never \”saluted\” enemy fire but as that was the first rocket he had seen the least he could do was to \”pay his respects.\” 

Martin Van Buren


When Jackson became president he did not forget the friendship and wise advice Edward had given him. He made him Secretary of State in 1831 and counted him among his primary advisers. Edward was so trusted that Jackson allowed him to draft his response to the Nullification Crisis, which of course worked and delayed the Civil War by thirty years. 

Edward followed another famous politician into the Secretary of State\’s office, future president Martin Van Buren. Van Buren would serve as Jackson\’s vice-president from 1832 until the end of his presidency and would follow him as president. Interestingly enough Van Buren, though 18 years younger than Edward was born and raised in Kinderhook only a few miles from Livingston\’s home of Clermont. Both men were northerners who had thrown their lots in with the southern Jacksonian Democrats for the time being.

Thomas Hart Benton


Other allies of Jackson and Edward included Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. Benton advocated strongly for Jackson\’s election while he was in the senate. Jackson then counted on Benton and his oratorical skills to get his legislation through the Senate. Interestingly, over his career Benton became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of slavery. Which Democrats like Jackson and even Edward had no real problem with. In 1849 he ended his senate career by declaring himself against slavery. Reaction to this and his anti-slavery stance during the debate on the Compromise of 1850 led a a senator from Mississippi to attempt to shoot Benton on the Senate floor. Benton served two years in the House of Representatives after the end of his senate career but politically he was effectively done. Benton was one of eight senators written about by John F. Kennedy in his book Profiles in Courage. 

David Crockett


The King of the Wild Frontier, Davy Crockett or as he preferred to be called the Representative from Tennessee David Crockett was also an ally of Jackson and Edward during his first term in office from 1827 until 1830. Then Crockett earned the loathing of both Jackson, and by extension Edward and his constituents by speaking out strongly against Jackson\’s Indian Removal Act. The Act that when passed lead to the Trail of Tears as the Cherokee Tribe was forced west of the Mississippi. Crockett called the bill wicked and unjust. Without the support of the president of most of his people Crockett lost his bid for reelection in 1831. He was reelected in 1833 but defeated again in 1835 leading to his most famous statement on the people of his district, \”they could go to Hell, he would go to Texas.\” He died there on March 6, 1836 at the Alamo

Edward Livingston spent twenty of his 71 years holding some political office or another. It was nearly inevitable that he would meet some legends in his time. But Edward was their equal. Standing as he did, a bridge between the revolutionary generation and the antebellum generation. Perhaps the highest praise came from Thomas Jefferson, a one time political enemy of Edward\’s called him the greatest legislator to ever live.

Warts and All: How "That" Uncle At Your Holiday Dinner Is More Like A Livingston Than You Might Think

       The upcoming holidays have me thinking a lot about the complicated relationships we have with other people. Most people love their families, but we can all think of that one cousin or uncle who always says something weird that makes us uncomfortable during dinner, the family member whose opinions are completely out of touch with those of everyone around them. It does not make us hate them completely although it may make us want to throw yams at them. We accept family warts and all.


By the way, if you can’t think of \”that\” family member then I’ve got some bad news for you.

Image result for crazy uncle thanksgiving
Its you. This is how your family sees you.



Anyway, we have a similar situation when looking at historical figures. They can be held as paragons in one hand and terrible people

in the other.  The classic examples that are always brought up are George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, leaders in American freedom, held enslaved people. Chancellor Robert R. Livingston also held enslaved people over the course of his life. When he traveled to Philadelphia to attend Congress, he always brought at least one enslaved man who would act as his body man. At the same time the Chancellor was also an early member of the New York Manumission Society, which worked to end slavery in New York. He even waffled a bit on the issue in his will, which called for his enslaved people to be freed but only if it was convenient for his wife Mary.

          

       We see more biases pop up from other members of the family as well.Margaret Beekman Livingston was a highly respectable woman. She ran a highly successful estate for twenty-five years following the

death of her husband, including rebuilding it from almost nothing following its destruction by the British. She raised ten highly successful children. Yet when her daughter Catherine wanted to get married Margaret refused to give her consent for years. She had no objections to the character of the man in question or his ability to support her daughter. She objected to the fact that he was a Methodist.

         

      Perhaps the most controversial character in the family’s history is Henry Beekman Livingston. No one disputes that Henry was a successful army officer from the time he joined the army in 1775 until he resigned in 1779. It’s after his marriage to Nancy Shippen that he became controversial. In her journal Nancy accused Henry of being a violent tempered paranoid who ruthlessly and systematically ruined her life. Some historians have even inferred from the journal that there may have some abuse in the relationship.

         

       On the other hand, there are documents that show that after

Nancy left him that Henry met Maria Van Clief. Henry and Maria had three children, John, Harriet and Charles. Although Henry and Maria never married Henry never denied the children were his. Maria died in 1809. During both the Jefferson and Madison administrations, Henry tried to get John an appointment in the army by writing directly to the presidents. Failing that he sent him to law school. Harriet never married and lived with Henry until his death. Charles was described by his uncle, Freeborn Garretson, as having an “imbecile mind.” From what we know Charles was in some way developmentally disabled, but Henry took care of him until he died. Sadly, Charles died only a month after his father.

          

        So, what does the hypocrisy, bias and other family problems tell us about the Livingston and about the other founders? It tells us they were people. Real people. They were not merely the marble statues and Gilbert Stuart paintings we are left with today. They were real people with problems, complicated thought processes, changing opinions and feelings. They did not do the things they did so that we could deify and worship them 250 years later but so that they could live the best lives they could in their own time. Sometimes they did things right and sometimes they did things wrong.

         

       It’s important to remember this as we enter into the season of family gatherings. Remember that we accept our family warts and all and most importantly refrain from throwing the yams. 

Unless your \”uncle\” is wearing a MAGA hat. In that case feel free to throw the yams at him. And the bowl they\’re served in. And a shoe.

Do Not Disrespect The Yams

Moose And Elk!

In addition to his work in government and international relations Chancellor Robert R. Livingston also worked on improving he agricultural society of America. As a founding member and president of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures, along with Stephen Van Rensselaer, Simeon DeWitt, Gouveneur Morris and many others, the Chancellor filled the pages of the Transactions of the Society with his thoughts, ideas and transactions

In one experiment, that Boris and Natasha
could have probably gotten behind, he tried to domesticate elk and moose. This was published in the Transaction of the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts and Manufactures Instituted in the State of New-York, Volume I in 1801. This was based on an observation of his that every society, every place that people developed seemed to be provided with animals that could serve as beasts of burden. Cattle and horses in Europe, elephants in parts of Asia, the camel in North Africa, even the llama in South America and reindeer in the far north. In fact it was only the zebra and giraffe that he couldn\’t understand as to how they escaped being domesticated. He saw moose and elk as the equivalent animals in North America.

Definitely no problems putting a harness on an animal with antlers like that 

For some reason the Chancellor had more ready access to elk. In fact he owned three that he kept pastured with his cattle. He took two of these elk, each about two years old, and twice tried putting them in a harness. He was very encouraged by his results. Both animals took a bit about as easily as a colt of similar age. One problem he quickly saw though is that the animals had delicate mouths that could be easily damaged if the bit was mishandled.

So graceful and majestic

Based on these experiments the Chancellor felt that Elk could best be used pulling carriages. They were as muscular as horses but their natural gate is a faster so they could, in theory, out pull a horse.

The Chancellor never had the chance to experiment in real life on a moose. He apparently only ever examined a dead juvenile. The rest of his knowledge was based on books and stories told by hunters. He saw the great musculature of moose as an advantage and believed that they could grow up to ten feet tall in domesticity because they wouldn\’t be desperate for food in the winter.

You ain\’t a pageant winner either 

The only draw back to moose in the Chancellor\’s eyes was that they were ugly. In his words; \”we must however , except beauty, for few animals have a more uncouth appearence; the head is out of all proportion large, the neck shorter than the head, the body much shorter compared to its height than that of either horse or ox.\”

He was most offended by the hind end of the moose, \”the tail, if it may be so called, is a broad, short flap, that hardly covers the anus.\”

He wasn\’t wrong

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

That reason was the Louisiana Purchase

 For some reason, despite his early success with these experiments the Chancellor never continued on with them and they were never picked up by anyone else on any large scale. His experiments with elk continued to make its way into print for nearly a hundred years. Its mentioned in 1803\’s Animal Biography; or Anecdotes or the Lives, Manners and Economy, of the Animal Creation Arranged According to the System of Linnaeus by W. Bingley, 1832\’s A Book of Quadrupeds for Youth and in a 1901 article in the Albany Argus by Judge Robert Earl, who was pushing to start attempting to domesticate both animals again. It was even written about in a blog in 2019. See here Even still no one has jumped into this effort whole heatedly.

Except this guy. He\’s some kind of moose whisperer 

The Alien and Sedition Acts

Edward Livingston and the Alien and Sedition Acts

John Adams’ term as President is not a high point of American history. In fact, with the Alien and Sedition Acts, he and the Federalists managed to pass some of the most un-American legislation in history. Forget four score and seven years, the Federalists could not wait twenty years before they tried to create a dictatorship.
          The Alien and Sedition Acts essentially allowed John Adams to imprison or fine any one he wanted. Specifically, the Sedition Act allowed the President to imprison or fine anyone who criticized the government. The Alien Acts allowed for the imprisonment or fining of anyone born in another country. The Naturalization Act, which is also lumped in with this other nonsense, raised the years of residency from five to fourteen in order to become a citizen of the country.
          The Federalists claimed that new immigrants were harming the country. European radicals were coming to America to start the next French Revolution! Harrison Gray Otis, a Massachusetts Federalist congressman, exclaimed that there was no need to “invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, not the turbulent and disorderly of all the world to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquility.”[i] The truth of course was that new immigrants had proven more likely to vote for the Democratic-Republican party and the Federalists had to do something about the erosion of their power.
          So why was this attempt to discourage immigration so un-American? Let’s take a look at the Declaration of Independence. You know the document that John Adams supposedly helped to write? Although the fact that he signed these Acts into law makes one wonder if he ever even read it. After you get past the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness part, the Declaration becomes a list of complaints against King George III. One of them reads as follows:
“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”
To put it simply, the idea the immigrants are welcome here, necessary here, is one of the founding principles of the United States of America. Unanimous, indisputable, right there on the parchment.
When the Alien Friends Act was read before Congress in May of1798, Edward Livingston gave it a stinging, three-hour long rebuke on the floor. Newspaper accounts of his speech would take up ten full columns. This earned him the scorn of Abigail Adams who wrote; “we want more Men of Deeds, and fewer of Words.”[ii]Of course the Adams had hated the Livingstons for more than two decades at this point and Abigail was always quick to defend her husband.
         

And he did need defending. In the speech Edward Livingston called out the Federalist party for trying to “complete the picture of tyranny” by giving John Adams the power to dispose of his enemies with no oversight. Several journalists were imprisoned or fined under the Sedition Act for criticizing Adams’ administration. The Alien Act would allow him to do the same to others based solely on their place of birth and the President’s “present interest or passion”

          Having shown over the course of his three-hour lecture that the bill was “at war with the fundamental principles of our government” Livingston and the other Democratic-Republicans could only hope they had swayed enough of the majority Federalists that the bill would not move forward. They had not and the bill moved on and was eventually signed into law.
          What were the implications of this? In the short term, John Adams lost his

reelection bid in 1800 making him the first president voted out of office for attempted despotism. Thomas Jefferson became president and most of the acts were allowed to expire. The imprisoned were released and fines were eventually returned.

          The Alien Enemies Act languished on the books for more than a century. Then another particularly virulent cycle of xenophobia hit, and the Act was dusted off by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. He used it to round up Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants and put them in concentration camps. This action has been almost universally condemned.
          It is a sad fact that throughout the history of the United States of America fearmongers have used the threat of a dangerous “other” to garner more power for themselves. America has always been fortunate though that there have been good people to stand up and fight when xenophobes try to seize power.

[i] Morison, Samuel Eliot Harrison Gray Otis 1765-1848 The Urbane Federalist Houghton Mifflin Company Boston 1969 p 108

[ii] “Abigail Adams to William Smith, 10 June 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-12-02-0095. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 12, March 1797 – April 1798, ed. Sara Martin, C. James Taylor, Neal E. Millikan, Amanda A. Mathews, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Gregg L. Lint, and Sara Georgini. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015, pp. 154–156.]

Richard Montgomery Had The Clap

Just to be upfront, this particular post is not going to have a lot of pictures. You’ll see why.

Richard Montgomery is best known as a hero of the Revolutionary War. The former British army officer who gave his life leading his men in a heroic charge against the walls of Quebec. His wife, Janet Livingston Montgomery, was left a saintly widow the keeper of her husband’s memory.  
But this post isn’t about that.
The much romanticized Death of Montgomery 

Richard Montgomery 
This post is about Montgomery the man. The Montgomery, who after experiencing some of the worst fighting and conditions imaginable in the French and Indian War returned to Ireland to recover his health. There he met a woman who struck his fancy. They engaged in a relationship in which they enjoyed connubial bliss without actually marrying.

That is until 1769. I’ll let Montgomery tell you what happened next with a passage from a letter he wrote to a friend; “in short she has clapped me” She gave him the clap.

Gonorrhea.

Montgomery was understandably upset. He wrote, “I have touched no other woman” which seems to indicate this mystery lady was less inclined to monogamy than he was . His “indignation and rage” were so great that he considered abandoning the woman with pocket change but instead as “the flames of my passion have subsided with those of my urine” he settled her with seventy pounds a year.

The end of this story brings up a great many questions. Who was this woman? Had Montgomery intended to marry her? Why did he feel the need to pay her so much money? Was there a child involved?  These questions may never be answered.

Neisseria gonorrhoeae 
What is known is that Gonorrhea had no cure in the 18th century. According to the CDC Neisseria gonorrhoeae is a bacterium that infects the mucus membranes of the reproductive tract. Its symptoms include pain, discharge from the urethra, painful or burning urination (which Montgomery clearly had) and cysts on the skin of the effected area. Untreated it could lead to sterility in both men and women. Today Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. In Montgomery’s time treatments were few. Mercury injected into the urethra was used for both Gonorrhea and Syphilis. For men, the French were known to “clap” or hit from both sides an appendage with a cyst to get rid of it. (This is one possible source for Gonorrhea’s nickname “the clap” and really, really horrible to think about)

This syringe for injecting mercury into the Urethra
was found in Blackbeard\’s wrecked ship


Since there was no way that Montgomery could have gotten rid of his Gonorrhea by the time he married Janet Livingston in the drawing room at Clermont in 1773 and there is no indication that they did not conjugate their marriage, it stands to reason that he passed the clap on to his wife. 

This may have been a part of why she never married again. Without dismissing the affection, she felt for Montgomery remarrying would also have led to humiliation for her and him. A new husband on discovering that he had been “clapped” could only come to two conclusions; that Janet was loose in her morals and we can see that type of reaction from Montgomery to his initial infection or that Richard Montgomery had been a bit free with himself and infected not only himself but his wife. This would surely have caused a scandal because immediately after his death Montgomery was so lionized by the colonies. The first monument that Congress ever voted to build was a monument to Montgomery and later editions of Common Sense by Thomas Paine featured an appearance by Montgomery’s very patriotic ghost.

Richard Montgomery is remembered today as the leader of the invasion of Canada and a hero of the Revolution, but he was a man. A man with a “disagreeable companion” which affected his life and Janet’s since; perhaps, had he not gotten the clap he would have married his mystery woman and stayed in England,. Her decisions about love and marriage after Montgomery’s death were probably at least partially influenced by the condition that her husband had shared with her and a need to protect both her reputation and his. [i]

Now aren\’t you glad I didn\’t add more pictures?

[i]The letter in which Richard Montgomery talks about his venereal disease belongs to the Montgomery Collection at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.

I should also give credit to Rick Atkinson’s excellent book The British are Coming which was the means by which I became aware of the existence of the letter this blog is based on.

We\'ve Done This Before

\”His Rotundity\”
John Adams’ term as President is not a high point of American history. In fact, with the Alien and Sedition Acts, he and the Federalists managed to pass some of the most un-American legislation in history. Forget four score and seven years, the Federalists could not wait twenty years before they tried to create a dictatorship.
          The Alien and Sedition Acts essentially allowed John Adams to imprison or fine any one he wanted. Specifically, the Sedition Act allowed the President to imprison or fine anyone who criticized the government. The Alien Acts allowed for the imprisonment or fining of anyone born in another country. The Naturalization Act, which is also lumped in with this other nonsense, raised the years of residency from five to fourteen in order to become a citizen of the country.
          The Federalists claimed that new immigrants were harming the country. European radicals were coming to America to start the next French Revolution! As one oft quoted though stubbornly anonymous congressional Federalist is said to have exclaimed that there was no need to “invite hordes of Wild Irishmen, not the turbulent and disorderly of all the world to come here with a basic view to distract our tranquility.”[i] The truth of course was that new immigrants had proven more likely to vote for the Democratic-Republican party and the Federalists had to do something about the erosion of their power.
Its there. Look close.
          So why was this attempt to discourage immigration so un-American? Let’s take a look at the Declaration of Independence. You know the document that John Adams supposedly helped to write? Although the fact that he signed these Acts into law makes one wonder if he ever even read it. After you get past the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness part, the Declaration becomes a list of complaints against King George III. One of them reads as follows:
“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.”
To put it simply, the idea the immigrants are welcome here, necessary here, is one of the founding principles of the United States of America. Unanimous, indisputable, right there on the parchment.
When the Alien Friends Act was read before Congress in May of1798, Edward Livingston gave it a stinging, three-hour long rebuke on the floor. Newspaper accounts of his speech would take up ten full columns. This earned him the scorn of Abigail Adams who wrote; “we want more Men of Deeds, and fewer of Words.”[ii]Of course the Adams had hated the Livingstons for more than two decades at this point and Abigail was always quick to defend her husband.
         

And he did need defending. In the speech Edward Livingston called out the Federalist party for trying to “complete the picture of tyranny” by giving John Adams the power to dispose of his enemies with no oversight. Several journalists were imprisoned or fined under the Sedition Act for criticizing Adams’ administration. The Alien Act would allow him to do the same to others based solely on their place of birth and the President’s “present interest or passion”

          Having shown over the course of his three-hour lecture that the bill was “at war with the fundamental principles of our government” Livingston and the other Democratic-Republicans could only hope they had swayed enough of the majority Federalists that the bill would not move forward. They had not and the bill moved on and was eventually signed into law.
          What were the implications of this? In the short term, John Adams lost his

reelection bid in 1800 making him the first president voted out of office for attempted despotism. Thomas Jefferson became president and most of the acts were allowed to expire. The imprisoned were released and fines were eventually returned.

Did I fucking stutter?
          The Alien Enemies Act languished on the books for more than a century. Then another particularly virulent cycle of xenophobia hit, and the Act was dusted off by Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II. He used it to round up Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants and put them in concentration camps. This action has been almost universally condemned.
          It is a sad fact that throughout the history of the United States of America fearmongers have used the threat of a dangerous “other” to garner more power for themselves. America has always been fortunate though that there have been good people to stand up and fight when xenophobes try to seize power.

[i] This quote appears in almost all articles about the Alien and Sedition Acts but I have been unable to identify the speaker as of yet. Does any one have any more information?

[ii] “Abigail Adams to William Smith, 10 June 1797,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-12-02-0095. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 12, March 1797 – April 1798, ed. Sara Martin, C. James Taylor, Neal E. Millikan, Amanda A. Mathews, Hobson Woodward, Sara B. Sikes, Gregg L. Lint, and Sara Georgini. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015, pp. 154–156.]

"Tired With Being There" Henry Beekman Livingston\'s Brief Time as a Guest of the British Navy

As he took stock of his situation after the Battle of Saratoga General Horatio Gates felt the need to address the situation to his south. While Gates and the Northern Army had been drubbing General John Burgoyne, General Sir Henry Clinton had launched an attack up the Hudson River Valley, taking Forts Clinton and Montgomery, burning Kingston, burning Clermont and a number of other private homes. Gates found this offensive and let Clinton know it in a harshly worded letter.

A perfect choice for messenger boy
          To deliver the letter Gates sent Colonel Henry Beekman Livingston of the 4thNew York Regiment who had a personal stake in the matter as the British had burned down his mother’s house in their attack. Gates ordered Henry to find the enemy at Fort Montgomery, assuming that they would have occupied the fort after they had taken it. They had not, choosing instead to return to New York City.
          Henry, of course, decided to exceed his orders and headed south. At King’s Bridge he was taken aboard the H.M.S. Mercuryunder the command of James Montagu. Montagu immediately passed Henry off on his first officer Lieutenant Logan.
James Montagu\’s statue in West Minster Abbey
          Lt. Logan took Gage’s message from Henry and sent it ashore. As for Henry he now found himself a sort of guest, sort of prisoner on the ship. While he was not put in chains he had very little in the way of freedom while he waited for an answer to his message. He could not set foot ashore. Henry described his treatment as “very Indifferent.”

Henry Clinton, not great at checking his messages

          After two days aboard the ship it appears that Montagu and Henry had begun to get on each other’s nerves. Henry was constantly bombarding Montagu and Logan with demands to send more messages to Clinton or for answers as to why he had not had an answer yet. Finally,Henry demanded to send another message to Clinton, from whom he was yet to receive a response and Montagu refused to offer him any more help. Henry was “Tired of being here.”
          It was time for Montagu to get rid of Henry. He could have simply turned him over to one of the prison hulks in New York Harbor, but for a pesky sense of honor. Henry had traveled under a flag of truce so Montagu put Henry ashore back at King’s Bridge.

HMS Jersey, the most famous prison hulk

How many ships did you sink?
          
















This allowed Henry to return to his regiment in time to join them at Valley Forge and serve in the army for another year. On Christmas Eve of 1777 Montagu ran the H.M.S. Mercury into a sunken obstacle in the Hudson River and lost her. The obstacle had been placed by the Americans, maybe by the Committee to Defend the River of which Henry\’s brother Robert R. Livingston was a member. He would have a rather unimpressive career after that until June 1, 1794 when he was killed at the Battle of Ushant, the Glorious First of June during the Napoleonic Wars.[i]

Not shown, James Montagu getting hit by a cannon ball early in the battle.


[i] Henry Beekman Livingston wrote a report on his journey south to George Clinton on November 13, 1777.  The letter is now in the New York State Archives Henry Livingston Papers collection.
Not that George Clinton