Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

” to be united with a gentleman of respectable connexions”

In 1796, when HARRIOT WASHINGTON was twenty years old, she caught the eye of Andrew Parks, a young merchant. He wrote to George Washington on April 1 seeking his consent to marry Harriot and asked Harriot’s Aunt Betty, with whom she was still living, to do the same.

I have made my addresses to her and she has refered me to you, whose consent I am to acquire, or her objections to a Union with me are I am assur’d insuperable, having therefore no hope of possessing her, unless I should be so fortunate as to obtain your assent, and as my happiness measurably depends upon your determination, I shall endeavour by stating to you my situation and prospects in Life, to merit and induce your approbation. . . . ”

Washington replied to Parks on the 7th that he would give the matter serious consideration warning the young man that

My neice Harriot Washington having very little fortune of her own, neither she, nor her friends, have a right to make that (however desirable it might be) a primary consideration in a matrimonial connexion. . . . My wish is to see my niece happy; one step towards which is, for her to be united with a gentleman of respectable connexions, and of good dispositions; with one who is more in the habit (by fair and honorable pursuits) of making, than in spending money—and who can support her in the way she has always lived.

Washington also wrote to his sister regarding the proposal; he was nothing if not thorough and told her that he would look into the young man’s background and asked her to do the same.

Altho’ she has no right to expect a man of fortune, she certainly has just pretensions to expect one whose connexions are respectable, & whose relations she could have no objection to associate with. How far this is, or is not the case with Mr Parks, I know not for neither his own letter, or yours give any acct of his family nor whether he is a native or a foreigner—& we have his own word only for his possessing any property at all altho’ he estimates his fortune at £3000. A precarious dependance this when applied to a man in Trade.

Interestingly, Washington said he wished that Harriot could have remained single and settled at Mount Vernon to which he expected to return after the end of his presidency “because then she would have been in the way of seeing much company, and would have had a much fairer prospect of matching respectably than with one who is little known—and of whose circumstances few or none can know much about.”

Parks wrote back to Washington at the end of April giving him the name of a reference (his brother-in-law and business partner), describing his financial situation and what he had to offer Harriot.

I hope I possess most of the requisites, necessary to make your Niece happy[,] I have been for several Years, accustom’ed to Business, which has, I am persuaded, kept me clear of a temper, for vicious dispositions; my connexions, are respectable generally, inasmuch as they are people of Business, and mostly in good circumstances. I have described to your Niece, as nearly as I could, what my Situation would afford, in the style of living; which wd not be more than genteel, and comfortable, this she sais, will perfectly satisfy her, and render her happy, provided you can think it sufficient.

After further assessments of Parks’ suitability and his sister’s remark that Harriot was “Old Enougf now to make choice for her self, and if they are not happy I believe it will be her one falt, he bars the Best caracter of any young Person that I know.” Washington gave his consent to the marriage which occurred on July 16, 1796. Washington footed the bill and invited the young couple to Mount Vernon when business would allow. They did pay a visit in September of 1798.

Information on this segment of Harriot Washington’s life can be found HERE, April 5, 2017. Sources for quoted passages of letters: “To George Washington from Andrew Parks, 1 April 1796,” http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-00396. “From George Washington to Andrew Parks, 7 April 1796,” http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-00413. “From George Washington to Betty Washington Lewis, 7 April 1796,” Founders Online, National Archives, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-00411. “To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 5 July 1796,” http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/99-01-02-00691. All are from Founders Online National Archives and were last modified on June 29, 2017. They are Early Access documents from The Papers of George Washington and are not the authoritative final versions.

posted July 6th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Courtship,Lewis, Betty Washington,Marriage,Parks, Andrew,Virginia,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot

“what shall I Due! Due?”

JEMIMA CONDICT, at the ripe old age of twenty-on, ponders in her journal whether, and whom, she should marry. It seems she had an eye on a cousin but was not sure whether a union with a close relative was forbidden by her church. So she decides to consult her mother.

A delightful read, for Jemima has such a conversational style of writing and includes what might be called dialogue.

Wensday. [February 1775] Being full of thoughts about What to Do as I have this year Past. Sometimes I think I will Serting Bid him farewell forever But I thought I would talk to my mother & see if I could be Convinst one way or tother for I want to Hear the ground of What they have to say. So one Day my mother Says to me your father is going to get you a Chest I told her I should be Glad of one But Would not have her think twas because I thought to Marry. Why Says she Don’t you never intend to marry? I told her People said I was going to have Mr. ——. But they tell me they don’t think it is a right thing; and it is forbid &c. But Cant none of them as I Can find out tell me where it is forbid So Says I, what Do you think of it mother; She said She did Not think it was Right except I thought It was myself. I askt her if she thought my thinking it was right would make it so. She said my thinking so would cause A Contented easy mind.

Well Says I, But that ant telling what you think about it She Said she had heard his mother talk about it & she was against his Coming here. She said Moreover that she was apt to think I would Live a dogs Life amongst them. this made me to think I would not have him. But I still insisted upon hearing what she had to Say. at Last she told me that She had thought a great Deal about It & for her part Could Not see but that It was right & as for its being forbid She did not think there was such a Place In the Bible. She Said Likewise that she Did Not See what Ministers Should marry them for if twas forbid. So after this and much more being said I turned it off with a Laugh & Said What a fool am I, I talk as if I was going to marry a Cousin In good earnest but Did not know as I had one that would have me but If I hold my toungue & Say Nothing others will have all the talk. they talk to me but Convince they Don’t. I Could wish with all my heart I New the Right way & Could be made To Chuse it; but if it be rong Then What a fool was I While yong to Place my mind on such a one as a Cousin, its very true. Its o poor me what shall I Due! Due? Why I tell you What a conclusion I made & I hope I may hold to it & that Is to Trust in him Who knows all things for he knows What is best for me & What I ought to Do & What I ought not to Do. And will, I hope order things in mercy for me.

A bit more from Jemima Condict in the next post.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 44-46. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 14th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima,Courtship,Marriage,New Jersey

“Was took With The measles”

You may recall JEMIMA CONDICT from previous posts here and here. She lived in Pleasantdale, New Jersey and kept a journal from the age of eighteen (1772) until she died in childbirth at twenty-five. (She was married to Aaron Harrison.) Much of the journal concerns her religious life: there are texts of scripture, verses of hymns, descriptions of sermons, notes on her attendance at the Church of Newark Mountain (which became the Presbyterian Church of Orange which still stands), and her inner struggles of conscience. But there are other entries as well which provide a glimpse into Jemima’s life and those in her circle as well as events during the Revolutionary War. Herewith a selection of entries.

May the 10 [1772] Rose in the morning tho not very early and Went to weaving yet not very willingly for tho I Love that yet it likes not me and I am in the Mind that I never shall be well as long as I Weave. this spring is a very sickly time, the Measles spreads very fast Beside other Disorders. they are sick each side of us Yet the Lord is still throwing mercy To us, he has given us Health whilst others have sickness & is spareing our lives Whilst Others are taken away. . . .

June the 10 I went to Newark I and my Sisters. We thought to Have had A good Deal of pleasure that Day But before I got Home I had a like to have Had my Neck broke I rid a young Horse and it Was a very windy day and the Dirt flew and there Was chairs and Waggons a rattling and it scared the horse so that he started and flung me of[f] and sprained my arm and now I am forced to write with one [illegible]. . . .

Sunday August 16 Was took With The measles and on Monday Night I broke out in My face and Hand. on Tuesday I was a Red as a Chery And I Was of a fine Coular. My measles turned on Wednesday But still felt very Mean all that week and a Sunday. yet is Great Mercy Shown to me I want so bad As Some.

Jemima spent some time with friends from West Branch who urged her to visit them.

They told me there was young men Plenty there for me But I thought I was In no hurry for a husband at Present. And if I was I thought it was too far to go upon uncertaintys. So I concluded to Stay where I was & I Believe I shan’t Repent it. A Husband or Not, for I am best of[f] in this spot. . . .

thursday I had some Discourse with Mr. Chandler. he asked me why I Did not marry I told him I want in no hurry. Well Said he I wish I was maried to you. I told him he would Soon with himself on maried agin. Why So? Because says I you will find that I am a crose ill contrived Pese of Stuf I told him I would advise all the men to remain as they was for the women was Bad & the men so much worse that It was a wonder if they agreed. So I scard the poor fellow & he is gone. . . .

More from Jemima’s journal in the next post.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930). The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 9th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima,Daily life,Illness,Marriage,New Jersey

Conduct in the Married State

Richard Hill, with his wife, and several of their children, was living in Madeira in 1759 to which he had relocated when his businesses in the colonies failed. Lifelong Quakers, the family, though scattered, kept in close touch with kin in England and America. Although Quakers were technically committed to the spiritual equality of men and women, practically, men/husbands exercised control in political and economic matters. Richard Hill’s advice in the letter that follows (an exception to “the words of women”) to his newly married daughter RACHEL HILL WELLS (1735-1796) is certainly loving and well intentioned but it puts the burden of keeping the relationship on a sound footing on the wife who is advised in general to defer to her husband and make her influence felt through indirect means.

Madeira, Feb. 22, 1759My Dear Rachel.:—
I received thy very acceptable letter of December 11th . . . and am glad to find things I sent thee and thy sisters came seasonably and pleased. But I am more especially pleased that all objections to the consummation of thy affair with R. W. are obviated, as I cannot but think favourably of his principles and professions, and consequently hope there is a prospect of thy being happy with him. But how firm soever his affection may be, it will be always necessary to cherish and keep it from sinking by a decent and becoming tenderness of him, and by a discreet conduct in all thy actions. Indeed there is no qualification of more use to carry us well through the world than prudence. And one of the greatest effects of prudence is the good government of our passions. Whoever expects to be happy otherwise than in proportion as they can govern their passions will be disappointed. In this troublesome life we must meet with many trials, and the way to support ourselves under them is to receive them with resignation and to moderate our desires, which they prevent us from gratifying. In a married state new difficulties will frequently occur, and the parties will often have occasion to make concessions to each other, and generally the party that is the readiest to make them, is the gainer by finding the other more condescending after it.

It is of more consequence than people generally imagine, to be careful against disputing about small matters, for great things have small beginnings; and obstinately persisting in an opinion, about a trifle may end in a quarrel, which may lay a foundation for succeeding ones, and at last disputing on every occasion may become familiar; it is therefore of great importance carefully to avoid a first jar or quarrel, which lays a foundations for a second, &c.

A woman who must rise or fall by the good or ill conduct of her husband, has a right to give her opinion in what concerns them both, but it’s best policy in her to gain an influence over him by kindness, mildness, and condescension, and then it will be lasting. . . .

I wish thee, my dear child, all happiness in this life and that to come, and am
Thy most affectionate father,
Richard Hill
I desire thy acceptance of a box of citron.

John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854), 167-68. The illustration of Rachel Hill Wells is from the Digital Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia.

posted February 2nd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Hill, Dr. Richard,Marriage,Wells, Rachel Hill

“to relieve a sisters anxiety”

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES had written a letter to her husband-to-be in 1794 before their marriage referring to the state of her finances and her intention to repay her sister Kitty for money she had borrowed.

Feby 10– Baltimore [17]94Permit me my friend once more to intrude upon your patience & waste so much of your time as to endeavor to clear myself of the heavy charges brought against me in your letter of the 4th february.

I never manifested any distrust of your circumstances, in the first letter you wrote me, you said your fortune was sufficient & I had the fullest confidence in your word.—what I proposed respecting mine was merely to relieve a sisters anxiety whose income was insufficient without the addition of mine, and judging it could be no object with you: how this can be construed into self love I cannot see. I think it would have been an act of great generosity in both of us. I am sorry you are obliged to recur to ages back to find love matches. I see them daily among my acquaintances, altho in many cases previous settlements & stipulations take place, either at the request of parents, friends or the desire of the gentleman. doubtless many connections are founded in interest—for my own part I never would give my hand where I was not attached upon any consideration. I think an Union founded on esteem promises the most happiness, as that will remain when passion declines: I am sorry you have so mistaken my Ideas upon the subject, and still more, that having been flattered with your good opinion, I should be so unfortunate as to forfeit it. as to the plan of living at Morris about a twelve month & then to be fetched to the Miamis, and after a few years residence there (to arrange your affairs) to return to Jersey, it was precisely your own plan the morning of your departure do you not recollect that you said you would write to Mr [Peyton] Short [Cleves son-in-law] to come to Morris & you would protract your stay as long as possible—and when in your last but one you talked of gardening, I presumed you meant at Morris—I have only one proposal more to make, which is that you do just as you wish in the matter. Your will shall be mine. I know not what more I can say. If you choose to go alone to the miamis—my best wishes shall accompany you. Indeed my friend your letter has wounded my feelings more than ever I expected they would have been by you. Since mine has offended you forget the contents, and be assured I erred with the best intentions in consequence of a promise made Mrs R. before I thought of changing my situation; However that may be, in this I am clear that I am with esteem & affection your friend

John Cleves Symmes tried to use Susan’s letter to assert his claim that she had given him control of her finances and did not have the authority to repay her sister. He failed. In 1808, after living several years in Ohio, Susan Livingston Symmes left her husband and returned to the East. Although she did not divorce him she lived apart from him in New York until his death in 1814. Susan died in 1840 and is buried in Stockbridge, New York, in what is known as the Sedgwick Pie. It gets its name from its shape and layout. The family patriarch, Theodore Sedgwick, and his wife lie in the center; family members, relatives, servants, pets, etc. are arranged in concentric circles around him.

American Women Writers to 1800, Sharon M. Harris – editor, (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), 92-94.

posted December 1st, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Marriage,Ohio,Sedgwick Pie,Symmes, John Cleves,Symmes, Susan Livingston

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