Committee of Five & National Politics

The Declaration of Independence is undoubtedly one of the most crucial documents in American history. Although Thomas Jefferson is credited as the author of the document, he was not alone in drafting the language in entirety. In fact, a Committee of Five appointed by the Continental Congress comprised of members: John Adams of Massachusetts, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Robert Livingston of New York. The Continental Congressional committee worked throughout June 17776 to draft the historic document. Livingston was cautious in his approach because he feared that too hard of a push for independence would antagonize the British rule. The committee was far more informal than the majority of others in regards to records, and notes from their meetings, maybe because of the significant time constraint placed on the issue.

The purpose of the Committee of Five was to provide the Committee of the whole with the first draft, which each member insisted that Jefferson be the man with the pen in hand. Livingston’s primary ideology at this time lied with the Federalist Party, seeking the establishment of centralized government and ultimately a constitution, which he pushed for further in the 1780s and throughout his tenures in the Continental Congress. The result of the Committee of Five’s result was discussed, and the final remarks made by Congress was the addition of: “That these United Colonies are, and, of right, ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown, and that all political connexion between them, and the state of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” (Journals of the American Congress 1774-1788).

Ultimately, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776. Despite Robert Livingston’s significant input on the language of the Declaration, he was unfortunately recalled back to the New York Congress before having the chance to sign it.

The Committee of Five was not the only time Livingston had influence on national policy. As mentioned above, during the 1780s, he and John Jay were crucial in their fight to have the US Constitution ratified. Remember, Livingston is still a Federalist at this point, so he pushed immensely, gathering support from his home state of New York. Robert Livingston has on multiple occasion been influenced policies during some of the thickest parts of American diplomacy and politics, making him a key member of the Early Republic political team. 

Committee of Five & National Politics