Constituting America – 2022 Christmas Auction
Auction Ends: Nov 17, 2022 10:00 PM EST


Rare Book: Biography of Founding Father William Livingston

Item Number
Estimated Value
$170 USD to jdf21ff46
Number of Bids
12  -  Bid History

Item Description

William Livingston played a major role in the American Revolution and the evolution of American democracy in its early years. He was a member of both the First and Second Continental Congresses, served as a brigadier general during the war, helped in the writing of the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and was New Jersey’s first governor from 1776 to his death in 1790. He grew up as a member of the Livingston family of New York, which was “extremely prominent” in that state’s political and economic affairs: http://hudsonriverzeitgeist. com/home/2015/5/8/five-things- you-should-know-about-the- livingston-family.  A graduate of Yale University, he wrote prolifically about the ideas that were central to the rise of American democracy in a magazine he edited titled The Independent Reflector. william-livingston/ 


There are only two full biographies of this important Founding Father in existence today. The second to be written was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2018: oah-2021/9780812250640/ william-livingstons-american- revolution/.  It focuses on Livingston’s life as a political actor in early American history. The first biography emerged from a doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago in 1935 and was completed in revised and expanded form by  1940 but never published. It focuses on Livingston’s life as a political theorist.  Its author, Harold W. Thatcher, taught American history at the University of Maryland before World War II, then became chief of the Historical Section of the US Army Quartermaster Corps during the war, and then chaired the Department of History at Wilkes College (now University) from 1947 to his retirement in 1965.  The biography was first made available to the public, with new front matter provided by his son, in 2021 at this website: resources/579c2009-0082-4eaf- 8f95-fcb53e22a681.  Recently 100 copies were printed and bound as a regular book for family members and friends but one copy is now offered in this auction to raise money for an organization of which William Livingston himself would be very proud.  It turns out to be a very timely contribution to ongoing debates about democracy today. As the author notes in his Preface, written just as World War II was getting under way, “We who still believe in the democratic way of life have therefore been compelled to re-examine the basic tenets of our faith in order that we may be better prepared to defend them against the impact of a hostile ideology. In the United States the starting point for such a re-examination must be the ideas of the founding fathers, for it is on those ideas as a foundation that we have constructed our present democratic philosophy.”

Donated by our dear friend Mr. Sanford Thatcher, the author's son