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Livingston, Robert (13 December 1654–01 October 1728), colonial merchant, landowner, and politician, was born in Ancrum, Scotland, the son of the Reverend John Livingstone, a minister of the Church of Scotland, and Janet Fleeming. Livingston’s father faced the threat of prosecution as a noted Presbyterian minister in a Scottish church that was moving strongly toward Episcopacy in the aftermath of the Restoration of Charles II, and in 1663 the family fled Scotland for the Protestant haven at Rotterdam. The city of Rotterdam had a large community of Scottish merchants in the seventeenth century, and at a young age Livingston began to engage in commerce, possibly under the tutelage of two brothers-in-law who were active traders in that city....

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Nelson, William (1711–19 November 1772), merchant, planter, and public official, was born in Yorktown, Virginia, the son of Thomas Nelson, a merchant, and Margaret Reade. His father sent him to England for his education in 1722. Part of his time in England was spent in Penrith, Cumberland, but the details of his education are not known. Clearly the stay was a long one; the first indication that he was back in Virginia was in 1732 when he was appointed to the York County Court as a justice of the peace. Nelson then entered the family mercantile firm, a flourishing business that included periodic involvement in the slave trade. By this time he was being described as “a young Gentleman of merit and fortune.” In 1738 he married Elizabeth Carter Burwell from an old and distinguished Virginia family; they had six sons. (The eldest son, ...

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Williams, David Rogerson (08 March 1776–17 November 1830), politician, planter, and textile manufacturer, was born on the family plantation, on the Pee Dee River near Society Hill, South Carolina, the son of David Williams, a well-to-do planter, and Anne Rogerson. The elder Williams died a few months before his son’s birth and left an estate that had grown to some 4,300 acres and 70 slaves by David’s sixteenth birthday. Growing up in Charleston, where his widowed mother settled, Williams experienced the powerful influence of ...