Supreme Court Justice Livingston Recommends
a Young New Yorker to James Madison
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Justice Livingston writes a letter of recommendation to President-elect James Madison for Peter Cruger, son of an influential New York City merchant. BROCKHOLST LIVINGSTON.
Autograph Letter Signed, to James Madison. New York, November 30, 1808. 1 p.
New York 30th Novr. 1808
Mr: Peter Cruger, a son in law of Mr Church, with whom you are acquainted, being on a visit to Washington, I take the liberty of recommending him to your attentions & civilities, & have the honor to be, with great respect, your very obed sert
Livingston and Madison were each Jeffersonians, the former having been appointed to the Supreme Court by Thomas Jefferson in 1806. At the date of this letter, Secretary of State Madison had just won the presidential election of 1808 over Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Cruger was related by marriage to deceased Federalist leaders Alexander Hamilton and Philip Schuyler, but that did not necessarily preclude a friendly visit to Madison.
Henry Brockholst Livingston (1757-1823) – member of the powerful Livingston family of New York and New Jersey, the future Supreme Court Justice dropped his first name to distinguish himself from other relatives of the same name. He attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) with James Madison. In the early years of the Revolution, Livingston was a captain of the New York line and served on the staffs of Benedict Arnold and Philip Schuyler, falling into disfavor when Horatio Gates assumed command of the Northern Army. He accompanied his brother-in-law, John Jay, as secretary in 1782, and was captured by the British. After his release, he returned to New York City and studied to enter the law. He was active in New York politics as a Jeffersonian Republican, killed Federalist James Jones in a duel in 1798, and helped Jefferson and Burr win New York in 1800. From 1802 to 1807, he served on the New York Supreme Court. In 1807, Jefferson nominated him to replace William Paterson on the U.S. Supreme Court. Though many expected him to be a spokesman for the Jeffersonian party on the Marshall Court, Livingston fell under the sway of the affable Federalist Chief Justice, John Marshall, and produced only eight dissents in sixteen years on the court. He was an expert in commercial and prize law and generally favored using the law to promote capitalist development.
James Madison (1746-1836) often called the “Father of the Constitution” for his instrumental role in conceiving and defending a plan to create a more powerful national government before and during the Constitutional Convention of 1787. From the piedmont of Virginia, Madison was the co-author of The Federalist Papers with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, co-founder of the Jeffersonian Republican Party, Congressman, Secretary of State, and fourth president of the U.S. (1809-1817). President Madison led the nation during the War of 1812.