Associate Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature, 1802-1806
(Henry) Brockholst Livingston, the son of Governor William Livingston of New Jersey, was born on November 25, 1757. A classmate of James Madison, he graduated from Princeton in 1774. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, Livingston joined the Continental Army and participated in the siege of Ticonderoga. He served as an aide to General Benedict Arnold in the Saratoga campaign, and witnessed General John Burgoyne’s surrender in 1777.
In 1779, Livingston served on a diplomatic mission to Spain as private secretary to John Jay. On his return voyage, he was captured by the British. He was later paroled, whereupon he commenced his legal studies in the law office of Peter Yates in Albany. Admitted to the bar in 1783, he practiced law in New York City from 1783 to 1802, and was a counsel for the defense in the landmark case of Rutgers v. Waddington (1784).
Brockholst Livingston was appointed an Associate Justice of the New York Supreme Court of Judicature on January 8, 1802. During the years 1802 to 1806, he wrote 149 opinions, including a famous dissent in the fox hunting case of Pierson v. Post (1805).
On December 15, 1806, Henry Brockholst Livingston was nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States by President Thomas Jefferson. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 17, 1806, and served on the Supreme Court from then until his death.
A recognized expert in maritime law, prize law and commercial law, he was considered one of the “silent” members of the Court. Although he wrote few opinions, he was known for his scholarly observations, good humor and quick wit. He had a reputation for easing the tensions among the Justices that threatened to divide the Court.
In 1818, he was conferred with an LL.D. by Harvard College. Henry Brockholst Livingston died in Washington, DC, on March 19, 1823.
Alden Chester and Edwin Melvin Williams. Courts and Lawyers of New York: A History, 1609-1925, vol. 1.
Melvin Urofsky. The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary.
Susan Dudley Gold. McCulloch V. Maryland: State v. Federal Power.