William Livingston and New Jersey’s Revolutionary Environment


  • James J. Gigantino II




The impact of the environment on the American Revolution in New Jersey cannot be understated as environmental factors ranging from climate to crop yields to geography all intensely impacted the course of the Revolution. This talk, delivered on November 18th at the opening reception of the NJ Historical Commission’s 2016 NJ Forum, explores the relationship between the natural environment and military and political policies through the eyes of William Livingston, New Jersey’s first governor. Throughout the conflict, the environment became a constant actor and foil to Livingston, forcing him to make political decisions in tandem with not only British movements but more frequently, owing to climatic, geographic, or agricultural factors. In addition to looking at Livingston, the article examines the interplay between Livingston and his own conceptions on the environment from his pre-revolutionary past. Finally, the article discusses how average New Jerseyans understood the role of his revolutionary government in the context of various environmental factors. Most Jersey farmers and landless laborers based their support for the revolutionary movement not on ideology but on environmental factors that constantly challenged their loyalty to both sides.