Robert Livingston was born in the city of New York in 1747. He was educated at King’s (now Columbia) College, where he was graduated in 1764. He studied law under William Smith, chief justice of New York, and became an eminent Lawyer. Livingston became politically active in the era of the Stamp Act Revolt, and was probably (along with his brother, William), involved with the Sons of Liberty in New York.
In 1776, as a member of the Provincial congress of New York, he was selected to attend the Continental Congress. He was one of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence but was recalled by his state before he could sign it.
Livingston was appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Secretary of State) soon after the Articles of Confederation were adopted. He served that post until 1783, when he was appointed Chancellor of the State of New York. He was an advocate for the Federal Constitution, and served as a delegate to the New York convention held at Poughkeepsie in 1788, to ratify it. On the 30th of April, 1789, Livingston administered the presidential oath of office to George Washington.
In 1801, President Jefferson appointed Robert Livingston resident minister at the court of Napoleon. It was he who negotiated the Louisiana Purchase from the French. He was also a patron of Robert Fulton, who refined the steam engine. Chancellor Livingston died on the 26th of February, 1813, at the age of sixty six.