Edward Livingston bigraphy, stories - American jurist and statesman

Edward Livingston : biography

26 May 1764 - 23 May 1836

Edward Livingston (May 28, 1764 – May 23, 1836) was an American jurist and statesman. He was an influential figure in the drafting of the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825, a civil code based largely on the Napoleonic Code.Lawrence Friedman, A History of American Law (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005), p. 118. Louisiana, along with Scotland and Quebec, is one of a few "mixed" jurisdictions whose law derives from both the civil and the common law traditions. He represented both New York, and later Louisiana in Congress and he served as the U.S. Secretary of State from 1831 to 1833.U.S. Department of State, "Secretary of State Edward Livingston" (15 July 2003), http://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/people/livingston-edward.


Almost immediately upon his arrival in Louisiana, where the legal system had previously been based on Roman, French and Spanish law, and where trial by jury and other particularities of English common law were now first introduced, he was appointed by the legislature to prepare a provisional code of judicial procedure, which (in the form of an act passed in April 1805) was continued in force from 1805 to 1825. In 1807, after conducting a successful suit on behalf of a client’s title to a part of the batture or alluvial land near New Orleans, Livingston attempted to improve part of this land (which he had received as his fee) in the Batture Ste. Marie. Great popular excitement was aroused against him; his workmen were mobbed; and Governor William C. C. Claiborne, when appealed to for protection, referred the question to the Federal government.

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Livingston Code

In 1821, by appointment of the Louisiana Legislature, of which he had become a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives in the preceding year, Livingston began the preparation of a new code of criminal law and procedure, afterwards known in Europe and America as the "Livingston Code". It was prepared in both French and English, as was required by the necessities of practice in Louisiana, and actually consisted of four sections: crimes and punishments, procedure, evidence in criminal cases, reform and prison discipline. Though substantially completed in 1824, when it was accidentally burned, and again in 1826, it was not printed in its entirety until 1833. It was never adopted by the state. It was at once reprinted in England, France and Germany, attracting wide praise by its remarkable simplicity and vigor, and especially by reason of its philanthropic provisions in the code of reform and prison discipline, which noticeably influenced the penal legislation of various countries. In referring to this code, Sir Henry Maine spoke of Livingston as “the first legal genius of modern times”.Cambridge Essays, 1856, p. 17. The spirit of Livingston’s code was remedial rather than vindictive; it provided for the abolition of capital punishment and the making of penitentiary labor not a punishment forced on the prisoner, but a matter of his choice and a reward for good behavior, bringing with it better accommodations. His Code of Reform and Prison Discipline was adopted by the government of the short-lived United States of Central America under liberal president Francisco Morazán. Livingston was the leading member of a commission appointed to prepare a new civil code, which for the most part the legislature adopted in 1825, and the most important chapters of which, including all those on contract, were prepared by Livingston alone.

Livingston was again a representative in Congress during preliminary work in the preparation of a new civil code, done by James Brown and Moreau Lislet, who in 1808 reported a "Digest of the Civil Laws now in force in the Territory of Orleans with Alterations and Amendments adapted to the present Form Of Government”.

Early life

Livingston was born in Clermont, Columbia County, New York. He was the youngest son of Robert Livingston and a member of the prestigious Livingston family. He graduated from Princeton University in 1781, was admitted to the bar in 1785, and began to practice law in New York City, rapidly rising to distinction. From 1795 to 1801 Livingson was a Democratic-Republican U.S. Representative in the United States Congress from the state of New York, where he was one of the leaders of the opposition to Jay's Treaty, and introduced the resolution calling upon President George Washington to furnish Congress with the details of the negotiations of the peace treaty with the Kingdom of Great Britain, which the President refused to share. At the close of Washington’s administration he voted with Andrew Jackson and other radicals against the address to the president.

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