Archive for the ‘Ramsay, Martha Laurens’ Category

“avoid . . . the bucks, the fops, the idlers of college”

Lest you should be put off completely by Martha Laurens Ramsay, her religious temperament and the self criticism she constantly engaged in, note what her husband in the introduction to her Memoir has to say about her as a mother.

[She] exerted herself to keep [her children] in good humour; gave them every indulgence compatible with their best interests; partook with them in their sports; and in various ways amused their solitary hours so as often to drop the mother in the companion and friend; took a lively interest in all their concerns, and made every practical exertion for their benefit. . . . [A]s a mother [she] was very moderate in urging her parental rights, and avoided, as far as was consistent with a strict education, everything which might provoke her children to anger.”

According to her husband, Martha as a parent felt it wise to “make proper allowance for indiscretions and follies of youth . . . and to behave . . . in the most conciliatory manner, so as to secure their love and affections on the score of gratitude.” It should be noted that “She . . . on proper occasions, used the rod, but always with discretion and judgment, sometimes with prayer, often with tears, but never with anger.”

Martha Ramsay persisted in advising her children on the proper paths they should take and how they should behave. To conclude this series, here are some excerpts from letters she wrote to her son David who was sent to Princeton at a young age.

God has given you an excellent understanding. Oh, make use of it for wise purposes; acknowledge it as his gift; and let it regulate your conduct and harmonize your passions. Be industrious; be amiable. . . . I am glad you like your room-mate. I hope he is one who will set you no bad example, and with whom you may enjoy yourself pleasantly and innocently. . . . From the tenor of your last letter, it may be fairly inferred that you are dissatisfied with the strictness of a collegiate course; and if you should not go through a collegiate course, what then? Can you go through any virtuous course without economy, industry and self-denial? Can you fit yourself for usefulness on earth, or happiness in heaven, in any other way than doing your duty in the station in which God has placed you? And if your chief ambition is, without caring whether you are as wise and good, to wish at least to be richer than your father and mother, will not a diligent attention to collegiate studies and duties be the readiest method to fit you for such eminence in whatever profession you choose, as shall enable you to attain this golden treasure. . . .

Your vacation is now at no great distance. I hope you are not trifling away this prime of your days, content with such attainments as will excuse you from censure; but emulous of ranking with the most studious, most prudent, and most virtuous of your companions. I wish I could inspire you with a laudable ambition, and with feelings that would make you avoid any unnecessary intercourse with the bucks, the fops, the idlers of college; and think that the true intention of going to a seminary of learning is to attain science, and fit you hereafter to rank among men of literary and public consequence. . . . [I]n order to accomplish all, or any of these purposes, you must be frugal, and not attempt to vie in wasting money with the sons of rich planters, who only go to college for fashion’s sake, and whose lives are as useless as their expenses.

David seemed to need/want more money than his parents had agreed to provide. His mother chided him for that

The real expense of boarding and tuition in colleges is a matter well known from printed statements; it is easy, therefore, to calculate what beyond it is necessary for the clothing, pocket money and conveniences of a young man, who does not go to college to be a fashionist, to support various changes of apparel, to drink, to smoke, to game, but to lay in a sufficient stock of knowledge, and to attain such literary honours, as may be the foundation of future usefulness, a fortune to him. . . . Your last letter was written in a strain of affection and good resolution, which gave me great pleasure. . . . May God bless you, my dear son, and make you a son of comfort and honour to your dear father, and your most affectionate mother and friend, Martha Laurens Ramsay

David Ramsay words describing his wife as mother are taken from her Memoir pages 28 and 45-46. Passages from Martha Laurens Ramsay’s letters to her son David can be found in her Memoir on pages 246, 247-48, 251-252, 264, 265, and 266. At the end of the exchange of letters between mother and son, Dr. Ramsay pointed out that the David was never censured by the the college, nor was he ever accused of immoral conduct. His standing in his class remained reputable and his prospects for graduating from college were fair.

posted March 16th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Education,Ramsay, Martha Laurens,Religion

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your husband”

This is Women’s History Month and the tendency is to search for what might be called proto-feminists from the past and present them as models. But most eighteenth century women, even those who were intelligent, well educated and knowledgeable, did not envision or laud equality of the sexes. Martha Laurens Ramsay was such a one.

Her husband, David Ramsay, writing in the introduction to Memoir of his wife that he published after her death, remarked on her view of conjugal duties. Even though she was well educated and familiar with those pressing for equality of the sexes, she believed she was subordinate to her husband. He wrote: ” [S]he yielded all pretensions on this score, in conformity to the positive declarations of holy writ . . . which . . . in her opinion outweighed whole volumes of human reasoning.” He went on to quote scripture which dictated her behavior. “In sorrow, thou shalt bring forth children, and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Gen. iii. 16.) And: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your husband as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husband in every thing.” (Eph. v. 22, 23, 24.)

The quoted passage can be found HERE.

posted March 12th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Marriage,Ramsay, Martha Laurens

“deeply exercised in soul”

Martha Laurens Ramsay (see previous post) was a very religious woman who, according to her Memoir and diary, was given to constant self-examination and deep contrition for unnamed sins. Abasement, shame, remorse—all a kind of self-flagellation which is difficult to read and harder to understand from a woman who seems to have been the model of goodness, duty, and propriety.

She made a commitment to live her life in the service of God when she was a little more than a child.

Thursday Dec 23, 1779Being this day Fourteen Years and seven weeks old

I do this day, after full consideration, and serious deliberation, and after earnest prayer for the assistance of Divine Grace, resolved to surrender and devote my youth, my strength, my soul, with all I have, and all I am, to the service of that great and good God, who has preserved and kept me all my life until now, and who in infinite compassion has given me to see the folly of my ways, and by faith to lay hold on a dear Redeemer, and obtain peace to my soul through his precious blood.

Following are some revealing passages from her Memoir, diary, and religious exercises that her husband Dr. David Ramsay published shortly after her death in 1811.

[October] 21st. Nanny, our servant, died in an instant of apoplexy. Lord, make it useful to the young people in our family, and may we all improve by the warning.

Contrition for Mispent Time, and Resolutions to Improve it in Future. . . . What a great portion of my time, is devoted to sleep and meals; to outward adornings; to provisions for the flesh; to vain visits; to unprofitable conversation; to idle curiosity; and ten thousand other trifles, which too often occupy the greater part of the day.

November 25. [1791]
[This day] my dear little Patty [her daughter] fell into the parlour fire; but by God’s good providence I was enabled to snatch her out, and smother the flame, before she had received any considerable injury; may God’s goodness deeply affect me; and may I show forth his praise in a holy life. Lord, pluck her as a brand from everlasting burnings, and make her thine own child.

September 7th. [1795] Three things I have particularly desired of the Lord at his table yesterday; 1st. that my easily besetting sin might receive its death’s wound. . . . 2d. The thorough conversion of a very near and dear friend. . . . 3d. that my dear husband maybe preserved from worldly entanglements, and enabled so to manage his earthly affairs, that they may never interfere with his heavenly business; and more especially, that we may rather be satisfied with a smaller portion of this world’s goods, than run the risk of being greatly involved. . . . my wish is to manage my family affairs with discretion; to avoid extravagance; to make no unnecessary demands on my dear and affectionate husband, that the desire of largely supplying my wants or wishes, may not be a snare to him, to make him engage in large schemes for riches. . .

November 29. 1797. since the death of my dear little Jane, which happened the last day of July, after two months of anxiety and suspense, I have been in great weakness of body, and sadness of mind. During the last three weeks of her sickness, I was deeply exercised in soul. Some very especial sins and failures in duty, were set home on my conscience, and in her sickness I felt the rod due to may departures from God, and the unevenness of my walk.I endeavoured to seek the Lord, by deep contrition, confession of sin, repentance, faith, and prayer. I sought the Lord by day, and spent almost every hour of the night, that I could spare from nursing, prostrate before him, taking hardly any bodily rest. I thought if the life of the child should be granted me. it would be an evidence, that the Lord, for Christ’s sake, had forgiven me those things, which with so many tears, and with such brokenness of spirit, I had bewailed before him; and there were appearances of her recovery; but, alas, how vain were my hopes. My child was taken, and I was plunged into the double sorrow of losing a most cherished and beloved infant, and of feeling the stroke, as a hiding of the Lord’s face, and a refusal to be entreated by so great a sinner. . . . Show me any unrepented sin; discover to me any indulged or hidden iniquity, which may have provoked thee to hide thy face from me; and give me that true repentance , which consisteth, not only in confessing, but in forsaking sin.

The above passages can be found online HERE, pages 65, 110, 112, 124, 127, 166-68.

posted March 9th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Death,Ramsay, Martha Laurens,Religion

“I am fatherless”

Martha Laurens Ramsay (1759-1811) was the daughter of Henry Laurens of Charleston, South Carolina. A merchant and plantation owner—he made a great deal of his money in the slave trade—Laurens served as president of the Continental Congress and was a commissioner appointed to assist in the negotiation of the Treaty of Paris; he could not take up the latter post in a timely fashion because he was captured by the British and imprisoned for a time in the Tower of London.

Martha early developed a passion for learning which her father encouraged, although he reminded her that she ought to turn her attention to the domestic matters which would stand her in good stead as a wife. He wrote in a letter to her when she was fifteen, “When you are measuring the surface of this world, remember you are to act a part on it, and think of a plumb pudding and other domestic duties.”

In 1787, Martha married David Ramsay, a Pennsylvania-born physician, patriot, and one of the first historians of the American Revolution. She bore him eleven children of whom eight survived. Martha died in 1811; in the following year her husband edited and published her memoir and portions of her diary, from which the following letter is taken.

Charleston, December 17, 1792My Very Dear Husband,
You have doubtless heard, by this time, that I am fatherless, and will feel for me in proportion to the great love you have always shown me, and your intimate knowledge of my frame, and the love I had for my dear departed parent. Never was stroke to an affectionate child more awful and unexpected than this has been to me. I had heard from my dear father, that he was somewhat indisposed, but not confined even to the house; however, last Tuesday and Wednesday week I was seized with so inexpressible a desire to see him, that nothing could exceed it, and nothing could satisfy it, but the going to see him. Accordingly, on Wednesday noon, very much against my family and personal convenience, I set out with faithful Tira and little Kitty, and slept that night at Mrs. Loocock’s; the next morning it rained, but I could not be restrained. I proceeded to Mepkin, and arrived there at one o’clock, wet to the skin, I found my dear father indisposed, as I thought, but not ill. He conversed on indifferent matters; seemed very much delighted with my presence; told me I was a pleasant child to him; and God would bless me as long as I lived; and at twenty minutes before eight o’clock, retired to rest. The next morning, at seven o’clock, I went to his bedside, he again commended my tenderness to him, and told me he had passed a wakeful night; talked to me of Kitty and of you; had been up and given out the barn door key, as usual. At eight I went to breakfast. In about ten minutes I had despatched my meal, returned to him, and thought his speech thick. and that he wavered a little in his discourse. I asked him if I might send for Dr. M’Cormick; he told me if I desired a consultation, I might; but that he had all confidence in my skill, and was better. I asked him why his breathing was laborious; he said he did not know, and almost immediately fell into his last agony; and a bitter agony it was; though perhaps, he did not feel it. At ten o’clock, next day I closed his venerable eyes. Oh, my dear husband, you know how I have dreaded this stroke; how I have wished first to sleep in death, and therefore you can tell the sorrows of my spirit; indeed they have been, indeed they are very great. I have been, and I am still in the depths of affliction; but I have never felt one murmuring thought; I have never uttered one murmuring word. Who am I, a poor vile wretch, that I should oppose my will to the will of God, who is all wise and all gracious; on the contrary I have been greatly supported; and if I may but be following Christ, am willing to take up every cross, which may be necessary or profitable for me. I left Mepkin at one o’clock on Saturday, as soon as the body of my dear parent was decently laid out, and I was sufficiently composed for travelling. I know, by information, that the awful ceremony was performed last Tuesday. I have never been able to write till this day. Our dear children are well. Eleanor comes to my bedside, reads the Bible for me, and tells me of a heavenly country, where there is no trouble. Feeling more than ever my dependance on you for countenance, for support and kindness, and in the midst of sorrow, not forgetting to thank God that I have so valuable, so kind, and so tender a friend;
I remain, my dear husband,
Your obliged and grateful wife,
Martha Laurens Ramsay

When Martha writes of “the awful ceremony,” she is referring to cremation, which was her father’s wish; she had known about this for some time but was resolved not to witness it. The responsibility for carrying out Laurens’ instruction was entrusted to his son. Martha’s husband and editor of her Memoir, believes that his decision was the result of a concern that he might be buried before he was actually dead. He also believed that Laurens considered fire, according to the Scriptures, to be purifying. Obviously Martha found it difficult to deal with her father’s cremation.

The remark by her father about “plumb pudding” as well as the above letter can be found in the Memoirs of the Life of Martha Laurens Ramsay, compiled and edited by her husband David Ramsay (Charleston: Samuel Etheridge, Ju’r, 1812), pages 56, 207-10. The portrait of Martha as a girl of eight is by John Wollaston (1767) and can be viewed HERE.

posted March 5th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Death,Laurens, Henry,Ramsay, Martha Laurens,Religion

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