WELCOME TO THE BLOG IN THE WORDS OF WOMEN

Based largely on the book of the same name, the blog is a kind of trailer for it and the primary source material it contains. An invitation, you might say … to eavesdrop on the lives of women writing 250 years ago … to become acquainted with 144 little-known but amazingly articulate chroniclers … and to discover a valuable new perspective on the Revolutionary Era.

The women featured lived between 1765 and 1799. But once you attune your ears to their way of writing, their voices easily leapfrog across the centuries. Read just a few sentences and you’ll find yourself back in time, entering their concerns, sharing their feelings. And what they have to say is always fascinating, often eye-opening, sometimes heart-rending.

Please bookmark the blog and visit regularly to see which writers and issues are being featured. There are two new posts weekly: on Monday and Thursday. And do explore those related to the many topics listed on the right. In addition to posts based on the book, others introduce the writings of women who didn’t make it into the book or who turn up as a result of ongoing research. To subscribe via email, click here. Leave a comment. Email a question. And enjoy your visits.

“While woman’s bound, man can’t be free . . . “

New Jersey was the first state to grant women the right to vote. They, as well as men, had to be property holders. Because there was some confusion about what the State Constitution meant on the subject, in 1797 a law was passed confirming that women had the right to vote statewide. See “for whom he or she votes” below.

An Act to regulate the Election of Members of the Legislative-Council and the General Assembly, Sheriffs and Coroners, in this State
Passed by the New Jersey General Assembly at Trenton, February 22, 1797.
[…]
9. And be it enacted, That every voter shall openly, and in full view deliver his or her ballot (which shall be a single written ticket, containing the names of the person or persons for whom he or she votes) to the said judge, or either of the inspectors, who, on receipt thereof, shall, with an audible voice, pronounce the same of such voter, and if no objection is made to the voter, put the ballot immediately into the election box, and the clerk of the election shall thereupon take down the name of such voter in a book or poll list, to be provided for the purpose; and if an adjournment of the poll shall take place during the election, the aperture in the top of the box shall be secured by the bolt aforesaid, and the names on the poll list shall be counted, and the number put down in writing, and the said list locked in the box, and the keys kept separate by two of the persons hereby appointed to conduct the election.

The following poem appeared in 1797 in the “Newark Centinel of Freedom.” It reflects the difference of opinion on the matter of voting rights for women. “Democrats” refers to Jeffersonians. Women did vote in fairly large numbers, but not for long. The Assembly passed a law in 1807 limiting the franchise to white males.

Let Democrats with senseless prate,
maintain the softer Sex, Sir,
Should ne’er with politics of State
their gentle minds perplex Sir;
Such vulgar prejudice we scorn;
their sex is no objection. . . .
While woman’s bound, man can’t be free
nor have a fair election.

See this SOURCE for New Jersey’s actions. Find the poem HERE.

posted April 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: New Jersey, Poetry, Voting rights

“that the majority of … Electors were for me is … pleasing “

Before leaving John Jay and his wife Sarah just after the result of the gubernatorial election of 1792 was known, I thought it would informative to present a letter from John to Sarah regarding his feelings about his loss.

East Hartford, 18th June, 1792My Dear Sally:
About an hour ago I arrived here from Newport, which place I left on Friday last. The last letters which I have received from you are dated the 2d and 4th of this month. The expectations they intimate have not, it seems, been realized. A Hartford paper, which I have just read, mentions the result of the canvass; after hearing how the Otsego votes were circumstanced, I perceived clearly what the event would be. The reflection that the majority of the Electors were for me is a pleasing one; that injustice has taken place does not surprise me, and I hope will not affect you very sensibly. The intelligence found me perfectly prepared for it. Having nothing to reproach myself with in relation to this event, it shall neither discompose my temper, nor postpone my sleep. A few years more will put us all in the dust; and it will then be of more importance to me to have governed myself than to have governed the State.

I cannot believe that Jay was quite so sanguine about his loss as he said he was. President Washington in 1794 designated Jay to negotiate a treaty with Britain at a time when many provisions of the Treaty of Paris were not being carried out and another war seemed imminent. Although the Jay Treaty was not popular because it was deemed to be too generous to the British it did postpone a war until a time when the United States was slightly better prepared—1812. It barely squeaked by the Senate and probably destroyed any chance that Jay might have had to be president of the United States. Upon Jay’s return to New York in 1795 he found that he had been elected governor of New York.

Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 212-13.

posted April 13th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Jay Treaty 1794, Jay, John, Jay, Sarah Livingston, New York

“the issue . . . is doubtful, rendered so by a Quibble.”

Sarah Jay continued to provide information on the outcome of the election for governor of New York State, an office for which her husband John was a candidate. John Jay was a Federalist and his opponent was an Anti-Federalist. Sarah is extremely knowledgeable about the election process and details for John the arguments taking place in Otsego County over which ballots should be accepted as legal. The outcome would decide the election.

New York 10th June 1792My dear Mr. Jay,
On friday myself & the Children had the pleasure of receiving your kind letters of the last of May & first of June, since which I hope you have recd. two packets from me sent to Judge Marchant’s care by Captn. Peterson & Captn. Cahoon. I intended to send this by to-morrow’s post, but I have just heard that Captn. Peterson is again to sail on tuesday, so that I think it best to postpone it ‘till then, as I can then send you the papers & give you decisive accounts relative to the election.

At present the issue of it is doubtful, rendered so by a Quibble. If the suffrages of the people are admitted, they give you a majority of 400 Votes, but if the County of Otsego are to lose their’s, Clinton will have the majority of a small number. Yesterday was published in Childs’s paper the opinion of 8 of the principal Lawyers of the City in favor of the legality of the return of the votes. I will send you the Gazettes that contain the discussions on that question. To-morrow I am inform’d are to be published the opinions of 8 or 9 on the other side & to be signed by them. Oh how is the name of Livingston to be disgraced! Brockholst [Sarah’d brother], Edward, William S. Maturin &c. are to be of the number: those shameless men, blinded by Malice Ambition & interest have conducted themselves with such indecency during the election & daily since the Canvassing of the votes, as to open the eyes of every one respecting their views in their opposition to you. It is said, & I believe it, that Brockholst & Ned first suggested the doubts on that subject.

The Canvassers of the votes are eleven, eight of whom are partizans of Clinton, & three are in favor of you. In order, as is supposed, to Cloak themselves, they Officially asked the Opinion of [Aaron] Burr & [Rufus] King. Their Opinions have not yet been printed, but I’m inform’d by good Authority that King’s is decidedly in favor of the Old Sheriff’s being intitled to act, until a new Sheriff was commissioned to succeed. Mr. Burr (as was suppos’d) was too sore to be unbiassed, he has therefore delivered in an Opinion which like a two edged sword cuts both ways, for he declares that there was no Sheriff: which, if admitted destroys the legality of the votes & casts an Odium on the Governor for suffering so important an Office to be vacant. Should the Canvassers be hardy enough to decide against the privileges of the People, & instead of suffering them to choose a Governor, take upon themselves to give them one, it will occasion great agitation throughout the State. I am satisfyed that the sentiments of the people are with you, whether you are, or are not Governor, it appears that you are the choice of the people. . . .

Monday evening.
Well! my dear Mr. Jay, the Canvassers have taken upon them to give the people a Governor of their election not the one the people preferred. When Governor Clinton was 108 votes a head, it was thought dangerous to examine the votes of Tioga County, it being reduced to a certainty that that County alone wd. give you a Majority independant of the Votes of Otsego. Another quibble was therefore invented, & they were likewise set aside. I am inform’d that the Recorder, Isaac Roosevelt, & Mr. Canzevort are determined to enter their protest, & likewise to publish the votes of those Counties which they think illegally thrown aside; & which if admitted would have given you a majority of a thousand votes.

The dejection, uneasiness & dissatisfaction that prevails, casts the darkest Odium upon our shameless Governor, while it makes your light shine still brighter than ever. One of the Clintonians told a gentleman of our acquaintance that he too was now convinced of the necessity of a change. Judge Hobart came last evening to Congratulate me on your triumph; I told him I really conceived it such. Peter Munro [John Jay’s nephew] is writing to you, & has promised to collect those papers which are most interesting. The hand-bill inclosed is Duer’s, but I think it best to conceal the Author’s name. Those Lawyers who had boasted their design of publishing their opinions against the votes, have taken care not to perform their promise.

Since you have so honorably lost your election, I could acquiesce in it with pleasure, did it not deprive me of the pleasure of seeing you soon & of enjoying your company for a great part of the year, but I will not dwell upon one disagreeable circumstance when so many agreeable ones concur to make me happy. Oh my dear Mr. Jay! What transport does it give me to hear the praises that are daily bestowed upon you. Much rather would I lose a Crown as you have lost the Office contended for, than gain an empire upon the terms Governor Clinton steals into his.

Tuesday Morng.
I find they have not yet announced in the paper the appointment of Governor. I am told that it is intended that it shd. be accompanied with the protests of Jones &c. There is such an ferment in the City that it is difficult to say what will be the consequence. I shall leave my letter unseal’d until evening shd. any thing occur in the interval that is interesting you shall be apprised of it. I am sitting in your room to write & at your table & have almost persuaded myself that I am making my communications verbally.

People are running in continually to vent their vexation. Poor Jacob Morris looks quite disconsolate. King says he thinks Clinton as lawfully Governor of Connecticut as of New York, but he knows of no redress.

Captn. Peterson is ready to sail as soon as the wind changes, I think it best therefore to close this letter & send it; I can again write to-morrow as that is Post-day if there is any thing worth writing. We are all well, & had been delighting ourselves with the prospect of seeing you soon. The Children therefore when they heard of the decision of the Canvassers exclaimed Oh! Mama then we shall not see Papa this great while. My only consolation is, that time has wings, & tho’ they will appear to me to be clogg’d, yet they will finally waft you back to us.

Till then my best beloved farewell!
S. Jay

Although John Jay last the election for governor of New York State in 1792, he won in the next election (1795) and served for two three-year terms during which time the state capital was moved from New York City to Albany. Subsequently Jay retired from public life to his farm in Bedford, New York, where he lived until 1829. Sadly, Sarah died in 1802 soon after they moved. Their home is now The John Jay Homestead State Historic Site in Katonah, New York. A lovely farmhouse in a glorious setting, it is open to the public.

Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 210-12. The portrait of Governor George Clinton is by Ezra Ames.

posted April 10th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clinton, George, Jay, John, Jay, Sarah Livingston, New York

“Now for the elections”

All the talk in our country, recently, of “rigged” elections and illegal voters brings to mind the candidacy of John Jay for governor of New York State in 1792. Jay had been nominated to oppose the incumbent George Clinton. Back then, candidates “stood” for election, they did not “run.” There were attacks on Jay focused not on his integrity which was unimpeachable, but on his support of a strong central government and his advocacy of the abolition of slavery. Opponents claimed that it was John Jay’s particular wish “to rob every Dutchman of the property he possesses most dear to his heart, his slaves . . . [and] to oblige their masters to educate the children of those slaves.” Scurrilous pieces purported to have been written by Jay appeared in the newspapers but he denied any knowledge of them.

In fact, Jay did not campaign and showed very little interest in the outcome. At the time he was Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and was off riding circuit in New England. Letters between Jay and his wife, the lovely and intelligent Sarah Livingston, nevertheless contained references to and information about his candidacy and the course of the campaign. It took a month and a half for the contest to be decided after the votes were cast because ballots from each county had to be properly forwarded to the office of the secretary of the State, and there was a dispute over votes from Otsego County. Sarah claims she would be happy if John did not win. She wrote on June 2nd:

. . . . The Children as well as myself still enjoy health; the little miniature piece [Sarah Louisa, the youngest of the Jay children] continues good humor’d, healthy & sprightly. . . . So much for the home Department.

Now for the elections. How my Love will you bear the mortification of embarking on board a Rhode-Island Packet to return to New York, leaving to Judge Cushing the superlative pleasure of traversing the green woods, & attending learned disquisi[ti]ons at Bennington? Yet that I believe must be our deplorable fate unless something very unexpected should occur. I shall send you a news-paper from which you will perceive how the election stands, & this evening I will obtain an account of the examination of the votes this day. Judge Hobart is so sanguine, that he is sure of a majority for you, even tho’ the Otsego votes shd. be lost. You will doubtless be pleased at having a majority in the City of New York & County of West-Chester, as being the places in which you are most known. . . .

To morrow the packet is to sail & if any thing new takes place I shall have the pleasure of communicating it to you. It is expected that Votes will all be canvass’d by this day se’en night. If earlier you shall have immediate intelligence pr. post, Judge Hobart told me that he wd. write you if he did not depend upon me, but that it was unnecessary to make you pay double postage.

More on the election in the next post.

Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 209-10. The print of Sarah is from the portrait collection at the New York Public Library. Jay is shown in his robes as Chief Justice; Portrait by Gregory Stapko after Gilbert Stuart, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.

posted April 6th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clinton, George, Jay, John, Jay, Sarah Livingston, New York

Henrietta Marchant Liston

LOUISE NORTH, readers may recall, is the co-editor, with Landa Freeman and myself, of two published books: In the Words of Women—The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799 (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) and Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005). We three had a wonderful time reading and selecting the letters and other writings of our subjects. One of the women we came across in our research, Henrietta Marchant Liston, so entranced Louise that she struck out on her own to publish a book of her writings. The result is The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014). Henrietta was the wife of the second British minister plenipotentiary to the new United States, Robert Liston. The pair traveled for more than twelve months during their stay of four-and-a-half years: throughout the eastern seaboard from Charleston, SC to Quebec. Henrietta kept a journal and her observations are a delight to read. See posts here, here, here, and here. Her curiosity is limitless and her language is full of zest.

Louise’s research took her to the National Library of Scotland which is the repository for the Liston materials. On International Woman’s Day last month the Library posted two links, one to a short video about Henrietta Liston and the other of some digital images of her journals. They are really well done and I am certain you will enjoy them even if you have not read Louise’s book. In fact you may wish to read the book after you view them. Louise hopes that will be the case.

posted April 4th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Primary sources, Travel

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