Archive for the ‘Morris, Mary White’ Category

“Our little boys Arrived . . . as Shabby as lolls”

Among the circle of friends of MARY WHITE MORRIS were the daughters of William Livingston and Susannah French, particularly Catharine called “Kitty” and Sarah who had married John Jay.
The Jays had sailed for Europe in 1779 when John had been appointed minister plenipotentiary to Spain. The vessel they set out in was dangerously disabled by a storm and had to put in at Martinique (referred to as Martinico). Securing passage on another ship John and Sarah arrived at Cadiz and proceeded to Madrid.
Kitty Livingston had enjoyed an extended visit with Mary and Robert Morris during the summer of 1780. From August to October she had returned to the family home, Liberty Hall, in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, to tend to her mother who was ill. She subsequently fell ill herself. Mary wrote to her from Philadelphia.

Be assured my dear Kitty, that tho, this is the first moment I have found leisure to write to you, You have been the constant Companion of my thoughts, this is the only Resource Left For the loss of your Sosiety, which I do assure you, can not be made up to me here, Our little boys Arrived a day or two after You left us, as Shabby as lolls, but a welcome, as the fondest of Parents, cou’d make them – last Evening they and Miss Hetty (the Morris daughter Hester known as Hetty) Gave a Ball, to the Masters, & Misses of their Acquaintance, Bob (Robert Morris Jr,) Opend it, in a minuet with much Applause, which gave Me Sensations, Similar and Equally flattering to any I ever felt, when giveen [sic] to myself, on such occations, This is encouragement For you to Marry as you see we have the advantage of loveing over again – [M]y party on the occation [included] . . . the Minister, Monr. Marbois, Mr. Bingham. A Propo you have I suppose received the letters sent you by this young Gentleman, from Mrs. Jay, which was Wrote at Martinico I sincerely wish, he had Arrived a Few days sooner, that you might have partaked, if you will allow me the expression, of my pleasure, in hearing from him talk of Mrs. Jay, who he says, is the lovelyest women [sic] he ever Saw, and that if She had been the Queen of France, could not Have met with more attention, than were paid Her in that Land.
I do most heartily Congratulate you, & yours, my Dear Kitty, on the wish’d for Intelligence, of your dear Freinds [the Jays] being Arrived safe at their Destined Port. [T]he emotions I felt after hearing they were safe, was to fly to you with the News, but upon Enquireing, found it came here from headquarters, of course you had it before us. . . .
Yours affectionately, M.M.

Robert Morris adds in a postscript to “my worthy & amiable Friend” that “Molly” (Mary Morris) wrote the letter despite a bad headache. François Barbé-Marbois was the French chargé d’affaires. William Bingham arrived in Philadelphia in late April or early May carrying letters from Sarah Jay written in Martinique. The word “lolls” in the letter means an idle person; a spoiled child.

Massachusetts Historical Society, Matthew Ridley Papers II (1754-1782), Box 1 of 5; Ms. N-797. transcribed by Louise North.

posted June 22nd, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Amusements,Children,Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

“Cupit has given our little General a . . . Mortal wound”

In the fall of 1777, the British under General William Howe occupied Philadelphia and while the British spent a comfortable and enjoyable winter season there, General Washington and his troops endured dreadful deprivations at Valley Forge. When General Howe resigned his command in 1778, Captain John André and John Montresor orchestrated a spectacular farewell for him called the Meschianza (Italian for medley or mixture) that included a regatta, a procession, a joust of pretend knights, a ball, and fireworks. Prominently featured in the festivities were several of the city’s fashionable young ladies, Peggy Shippen, Rebecca Franks, daughter of loyalist David Franks, and Peggy Chew, daughter of Benjamin Chew among them.
Howe’s replacement, General Sir Henry Clinton, decided later in 1778 to withdraw from Philadelphia and consolidate the British position in New York City in expectation of a possible attack by American and French troops (France had signed a treaty with the United States in 1778).
Those who had fled Philadelphia returned to reclaim their city. General Benedict Arnold was in charge of the American forces there and it wasn’t long before the social calendar was full once again. MARY WHITE MORRIS (See previous posts here, here, here, here, and here.) wrote to her mother, Esther Hewlings White on 10 November 1778:

. . . I know of no News, Unless to tell you that we are very gay, as such, we have a great many Balls and Entertainments and Soon, the Assembly will begin, tell Mr. Hall Even our military Gentlemen here, are too Liberal to make any Distinctions between Wig and Tory Ladyes, if they make any, Its in favor of the latter, such, Strange as it may seem, is the way those things are Conducted at present in this City, it Originates at Headquarters, and that I may make some Apology for such Strange Conduct, I must tell you that Cupit has given our little General a more Mortal wound, than all the Host of Britons cou’d, unless His present Conduct can Expiate, for His past, — Miss Peggy Shippen is the fair One . . .
Mary Morris

The “little General” is, of course, Benedict Arnold.

The letter is in the Robert Morris Collection at the Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll] The illustration is a sketch made by Captain André of a costume he proposed for the ladies participating in the celebration, from John Fanning Watson, Extra-Illustrated Manuscript of the Annals of Philadelphia (1830) and can be found HERE.

posted June 18th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Amusements,Arnold, Benedict,Loyalists,Morris, Mary White,Philadelphia,Shippen, Peggy,Washington, George

“Mr. Morris has met with a great loss”

By the middle of April 1777, it became abundantly clear that the goal of the British was to capture Philadelphia. MARY WHITE MORRIS again writes to her mother about the situation. (See previous posts here, here, here and here.) The Continental Army was in dire straits. When several colonies did not contribute their share of assessed monies during the winter of 1776-77, Robert Morris loaned the government $10,000 to provision the desperate troops. And he underwrote the operations of privateers that ran British blockades in order to bring much needed supplies to this country, often to his loss, to which Mary refers in the following letter dated 14 April.

My Dear Mamma
There is orders from the Governor, to Innoculate all the Troops that are quarterd there [in New Town] Immediately. . . . There are now three men of War in our Bay, which look as if they intend this way; Mr. Morris has met with a great loss, as well as the Continent, by them, the ship Morris with a most Valuable Cargo of Arms, Ammunition, and dry goods. She had provided Her self with guns, to keep off any common Attack, but was most Unfortunately beset by three, the Roe buck one of them, at our Capes, She defended her Self bravely as long as it was possible, and then the Captain run her on Shore, and very bravely blew her up, and poor fellow, perished HimSelf, in his Anxiety to do it Effectively. We are prepareing for another flight in packing up our furniture, and Removeing them to a new purchase Mr. Morris has made 10 miles from Lancaster, no Other than the famous House that belongd to Stedman and Steagle at the Iron Works, where you know I Spent 6 Weeks, so am perfectly well acquainted with the goodness of the House and Situation. The Reason Mr. Morris made this purchase, he looks upon the other not Secure if they come by water. I think Myself very luckly in haveing this Assylum, it being but 8 miles fine road from Lancaster where I expect Mr. Morris will be if he quits this, besides many of my freinds and Acquaintances. So I now Solicite the pleasure of your Company, at this ones [once] famous place. . . .
We now begin to be Alarmd for Our City, theres 8 Sail of Men of War, at our Capes, and its thought are only waiting for their Transports to make an attempt. . . . I hope youll let me know if there is any thing in your House, you wish me to pack up and take care of for you. . . .
This Alarm is not like the first, every body as yet, seems quite Composed.

Two weeks later Mary Morris, still in Philadelphia, grumbled: “Theres no doubt, if General Washington had a Tolerable Army, he might with Ease, take every Man of them in Brunswick, but we cant deserve so fortunate an Event, Else our Contrimen wou’d have Spirit Enough to Undertake it.”

The letter can be found on pages 106-07 of In the Words of Women. The Roebuck, pictured above, was a 44-gun British frigate. More information about the ship and its movements during the Revolution can be found on this WEBSITE.

posted June 15th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Inoculation,Money,Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

“don’t you feel quite important, I assure you I do”

I seem to be fixated on MARY WHITE MORRIS. Her story is interesting and reflects the plight of many well-to-do families in Philadelphia. Uncertain whether to stay or flee must have been hard. Mary and her children remained in Philadelphia in April 1777, awaiting evidence of the enemy’s movements. She kept her mother informed. Needless to say, rumors abounded. (See previous posts here, here, and here.)

April the first [1777]My Dear Mamma
. . . a little time Unmolest’d holding our Selfs in Readiness to fly again, if the enemy moved this way, they are not yet in motion in the Jerseys, but have sent some Ships up the north River, and Destroyd one of our magazines, many think, as I told you in my last, that their Arms will be turnd to that quarter this Spring, the Congress has appointed General Gates Commander of our northern Army, he fully expects to be visitd by them, but the Discovery of a plot last week, makes me Affraid he is mistaken, and that this is still their object, theres a fellow who is Commissioned by Lord Howe, been tampering with our Pilots, makeing them great Offers, and promises of makeing their Fortunes, if they would go with him to New York, the Honest fellows, took 50 pounds as an Earnest of their promise, but with the good intention of proveing the fact, went Immediately to the Generals and lodged their Information, Accordingly he was produced and Confessd the Charge, he is an Englishman, has Served Cucessively the late mayors of this City as a Clark, went to new York, was Introduced to Lord Howe, by your Freind Joseph Galloway for those purposes which Commission, has Ended this day with his Life. . . . Mr. Hancock intends Resigning his Seat in Congress and going home, it is Imagined he will be appointd Governor of Boston, they meant to have Complimentd Mr. Morris with the Presidentship [of Congress] but he told the Gentlemen who informed Him of it, he could not Serve, as it would Interfere intirely with his private Business, so begd it might be drop’d, any peice of Intelligence I give you that only Concern our Selfs and freinds, I hope will be confined to Mr. Halls Family. . . .
. . . . [B]y a Vessel that’s arrived at Connectigut with a very Valuable Cargo of Arms, Ammunition, Woolens, and a variety of other articles, the Congress have still a more Valuable one, Dispatches from Doctor Franklin, the French have lent us a Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling without Interest, payable when the United States have Established Independance and peace, he is received as our Embassador, and says we have every thing to expect from the favorable Disposition of the French
[D]on’t you feel quite important, I assure you I do, and begin to be Reconsiled to Independence. . . .
your very affectionate Daughter
Mary Morris

poor Tom has been under Doctor Shippens Hands
ever since we got home it was a great misfortune
he had not the attendance of a good Surgeon before,
as it would have save[d] him a good deal of Pain.

Mary wrote again on April 8 urging her parents to come to Philaldephia.

[I]t is well worth the Ride to see how Confident every one now seems of Success, Except the Torys, theres no Other news from the Camp, than that Deserters are comeing in Constantly, who all agree, that the Enemy are very Sickly, and a general Defection between the Hessian and British Soldiery, these accounts joind to the Curcumstances of their not moveing yet, all this fine weather, Joind the good News from France, has given Life and Spirit to every body who wishes us Success. . . . we have reason to think, there will be a Bank Established in France, for the Support of our Continentall money. . . .

Joseph Galloway, mentioned by Mary, became a Loyalist during the Revolution. His wife Grace Growden Galloway was unhappy in her marriage and remained in Philadelphia after the British evacuated to try to prevent the property she brought to the marriage from being confiscated by the Patriots. She was unsuccessful. Her husband took their only surviving child Elizabeth with him when he fled to New York. After the war, Galloway lived out his days in England.
When Mary says “I . . . begin to be Reconsiled to Independence,” she indicates that she as well as her husband were not initially in favor of independence, although they resented the actions of the British. Her husband in fact absented himself from the Congress when it voted for independence so that Pennsylvania’s vote would not be divided. He later signed the Declaration of Independence placing his signature right beneath that of John Hancock and committed himself to the American cause.

The letters come from the Robert Morris Collection at the Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll].

posted June 11th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Franklin, Benjamin,Galloway, Joseph,Hancock, John,Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

“Philad. is still their Object”

In March 1777, MARY WHITE MORRIS returned from Maryland to Philadelphia to be with her husband Robert, her spirits buoyed by the promise of French help. (See previous posts here and here.) Her pleasure at being home was short lived as it soon became clear that the British planned to attack the city. She wrote her mother 25 March 1777:

My dear Mamma
last Wensday noon I had the pleasure to arrive safely in Dear Philadelphia after a much pleasanter Journey than I expected from our Seting off, it made me very Happy to find my Self at home, after so long an Absence, with the terrible Apprehensions we fled with of never seeing it again, it looks more like it Used to do a great deal, than what I expected to see it, from the Accounts we had, in Short I have seen so many more of my Acquaintances then I expected, and with such Chearfull Happy Countenances as made me forget for a Day or two, that I must not look upon my Self as at home, but prepare my mind for alarms, which its expected we shall have; as soon as the Roads will Admit of the Enemys moving theres Varyous Opinions, w[h]ere they mean to open this Summers Campane, General Gates, who is jest gone from here, thinks they Intend to the North River, to join Carltons Army, and compleat there First Plan, others think Philad. is still their Object, while some beleive it will be on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. However a very little time will Determine, and we Shall want to know before we move to our Farms. . . .
[E]verybody Exclaim at my Thinness, Several of my Acquaintances did not know me, till they had time to recollect, and then declared there was very little traces of my former Self, I attribute it to want of Exercise, as I enjoyd such good health . . . .
I remain with the Utmost Affection your
Dutifull Daughter M. Morris

Billy has been told, that the Congress appointd Him there Chaplain, when in Baltimore, but has not yet heard it from them, and begs it may not be mentiond.

As you may surmise from the letter, Mary was pregnant. Her fourth son was born July, 1777. Billy was her brother William. Born in Philadelphia and ordained in England, he returned to America in 1771 and served as chaplain to the Continental Congress 1777-1789, and then as chaplain to the United States Senate. He later became bishop of Pennsylvania.

Robert Morris Collection: Henry E. Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll].

posted June 8th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

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