Archive for the ‘France’ Category

“we celebrated the Anniversary of our Independance”

John Jay and his wife Sarah Livingston Jay were in Paris in July of 1783 where John as a Peace Commissioner had been influential in drafting the Preliminary Articles of Peace in 1782 which were awaiting the official signing. Sarah wrote a long letter to her sister Kitty in Elizabeth Town, New Jersey, including a passage describing how they had celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Passy l6th July 1783
My dr. sister,
On the 4th of July we celebrated the Anniversary of our Independance here at Passey, but the next I hope to celebrate in yr. company, & I’m sure that our pleasure will not be less animated even tho’ we shou’d substitute butter-milk in lieu of champagne to commemorate the illustrious event. I’ll inclose you a copy of the toasts Mr. Jay prepar’d for the occasion. . . . How nearly my dear Kitty! does extreme felicity approach a painful sensation. I’ve more than once experienc’d it; nor were my feelings divested of that kind of sensibility on the 4th of July, for I found it difficult to suppress the tears that where ready to flow to ye memory of those who in struggling to procure that happiness for their country which we were then celebrating had fallen in the glorious attempt. . . .

Because the following toasts Sarah enclosed are in her hand it has been thought that she gave them on the occasion of the signing of the Treaty of Paris. However, upon close reading, it is clear that they are more appropriate for an Independence Day celebration and were most likely given by John Jay on July 4, 1783.

1. The United States of America, may they be perpetual.
2. The Congress.
3. The King & Nation of France.
4. General Washington & the American Army.
5. The United Netherlands & all other free States in the world.
6. His Catholic Majesty & all other Princes & Powers who have manifested
Friendship to America.
7. The Memory of the Patriots who have fallen for their Country. May kindness
be shown to their widows & children.
8. The French Officers & Army who served in America.
9. Gratitude to our Friends & Moderation to our Enemies.
10. May all our Citizens be soldiers, & all our soldiers Citizens.
11. Concord, Wisdom & Firmness to all American Councils.
12. May our Country be always prepared for War, but disposed to Peace.
13. Liberty & Happiness to all Mankind.

posted July 3rd, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “we celebrated the Anniversary of our Independance”, CATEGORIES: France,Independence,Paris

“I am much pleased with France.”

In 1779, John Jay, who was serving as president of Congress, was chosen to represent the United States as minister plenipotentiary to Spain. Unusual for that time, his wife Sarah Livingston Jay accompanied him, leaving their young son with her parents in New Jersey. Jay’s mission to secure money and supplies to support the war for independence was not successful. He was frustrated at every turn and was happy to be summoned by Benjamin Franklin to Paris in 1782 to help draft the treaty of peace with Britain. A child, named Susan, born to the Jays in Madrid, died. Another, Maria, was born there and made the trip with her parents to Paris. Arriving in June, the family was felled by a severe “disorder which from its very general influence was call’d influenza.” By August, Sarah was feeling much better and wrote to her mother describing what she saw on the journey from Bordeaux to Paris.

I am much pleased with France. It seems to be one of the favorite spots of Nature if we may judge of her disposition towards it by the enchanting prospects & fertile fields that perpetually engage the attention of a Traveller; but nothing pleased me more than the gaiety & industry of the inhabitants. I could not but remark their natural inclination for chearful objects displayed in their little flower gardens, for there is scarce a peasant’s cottage without the appurtenance of a garden & many of them have little bowers that discovers a very pretty taste; in short such was the impression which their apparent content & good Humour made upon me that I became again reconcil’d to the lot of humanity. . . .

Sarah paints a pretty picture of France which would be in turmoil by 1789.

Sarah’s letter can be found in Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, page 121.

posted May 5th, 2014 by Janet, Comments Off on “I am much pleased with France.”, CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,France

” … Nancy is much puzzled between Otto & Livingston.”

In 1778, two events changed the character of the Revolution. The British left Philadelphia for the Tory stronghold of New York which became the center of British power in America and was occupied until the end of the war. Also during that year France signed a Treaty of Alliance with the United States, bolstering its war effort with supplies, troops and naval vessels. Congress returned to Philadelphia, now in the hands of American forces under the command of General Benedict Arnold, and with elaborate ceremony welcomed the French minister to the United States.

Although her husband was still in the field and her son at school, Alice Shippen was once more back in her own home with her daughter Nancy, now fifteen, educated, “finished,” and more than ready to take her place in society. And to be courted. One of her suitors was Colonel Henry B. Livingston, a member of the wealthy New York Livingstons, who had served with valor during the war. Another was the secretary of the French Minister to the United States, Louis Guillaume Otto (on the left). Nancy Shippen. He soon became enamored of her to the point of composing music for her, exchanging poems with her, passing by her house on a regular basis, eventually visiting her frequently and playing the harpsichord with her. Nancy’s father, Dr. William Shippen, wrote this letter to his son Thomas who was back at school in Maryland after the new year festivities. He summarizes the situation nicely.

… Nancy is much puzzled between Otto & Livingston. She loves ye first & only esteems the last. On Monday she likes L & his fortune. On Tuesday even when O comes he is the angel. L will consummate immediately. O not these 2 years. L has solicited the Father & Mother. O is afraid of a denial. In short, we are all much puzzled. L has 12 or 15,000 hard. O has nothing now, but honorable expectations hereafter. A Bird in hand is worth 2 in a bush. They are both sensible. O handsome. What do you think of it?

Dr. Shippen’s letter appears in Nancy Shippen Her Journal Book, compiled and edited by Ethel Armes, page 101. The image of Otto, watercolor on ivory, ca. 1780, was painted by Charles Wilson Peale and is at the Smithsonian American Art Institute.

posted June 20th, 2013 by Janet, Comments Off on ” … Nancy is much puzzled between Otto & Livingston.”, CATEGORIES: Capital of the United States,Courtship,France,Philadelphia


The fascination with hot air and gas balloons gave rise in the 1780s to what was called “balloonmania.” Ascents drew enormous crowds. Balloon motifs appeared everywhere: on furniture, jewelry, medallions, hairstyles, hats, clothing, ceramics, commemorative plates, bowls and even food as in “filet à la Montgolfier.” Pictured here are some samples, including caricatures, particularly of clothing. See other evidence of this fad here.

posted June 6th, 2013 by Janet, comments (1), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Fashion,France

Britain to America: a satiric puzzle

In the Book Division of the Clements Library of the University of Michigan is a mock letter written from mother Britain to her daughter America. Published in 1778 by Matthew Darly, Britain asks America to put aside her recent French alliance: “So be a good girl, discharge your soldiers and ships of war and do not rebel against your mother. Rely upon me and do not consort to what that French rascal shall tell you.” The letter was written as a rebus, a puzzle in which pictures are used to represent words or parts of words. See what you can make of it. Reading “toe” as “to” and “eye” as “i” helps.

If you are stumped, here is a transcription provided by the book Rebellion and Reconciliation: Satirical Prints on the Revolution at Williamsburg.

(Britannia) (toe) Amer(eye)ca.
My (deer) Daughter (eye) (can)(knot) (bee)hold w(eye)thout (grate) pa(eye)n (ewer) (head)strong (back)-(ward)ness (toe) ret(urn) (toe) (ewer) Duty in (knot) op(posy)ing (awl) the good (eye) long (eye)ntended for (ewer) (sole) Hap(pie)ness & (bee)ing told t(hat) (eye) have g(eye)v’n (ewer) (hand) (toe) a (base) & (double-faced) (Frenchman) (Eye) have sent (yew) 5 over/wise (men) the (grate)est of (awl) my (child)ren (toe) put (yew) (toe) r(eye)ghts & (hope) (yew) w(eye)[ll] l(eye)s(ten) (toe) them & m(eye)nd w(hat) they say (toe) (yew) they have (eye)nstr(yew)et(eye)ons [instructions] (toe) g(eye)ve (yew) t(hose) th(eye)ngs (yew) (form)erly required. so (bee a good (girl) d(eye)scharge (ewer) (soldiers) & (ships) of war & (doe) (knot) re(bell) aga(eye)nst (ewer) (moth)er rely upon me & (doe)(knot) (console)t [consort] to w(hat) t(hat) french R(ass)c(awl) sh(awl) tell (yew) IC he w(ants) (toe) b(ring) on an enm(eye)ty (toe) (awl) (union) (bee)tween (yew) & (eye) (but) l(eye)s(ten) (knot) (toe) h(eye)m (awl) the (world) takes (knot)(eye)ce [notice) of h(eye)[s] (doubleface). I’ll send h(eye)m such MessaGG [messages] from my (grate) (gun)s as s[h](awl) make h(eye)s (heart) repent & know t(hat) (one) good or (eye)ll t(urn) mer(eye)ts a (knot)her.
NB let (knot) (eighty) [hate] take (two) much hold of (ewer) (heart).
(Eye) am (ewer) fr(eye)end & (moth)er.

The Clements Library of the University of Michigan produces a blog called Clements Library Chronicles. The rebus can be found on the December 11, 2012 POST.

posted February 28th, 2013 by Janet, Comments Off on Britain to America: a satiric puzzle, CATEGORIES: France,Independence,Resistance to British

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