Archive for the ‘Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne’ Category

“too wise to wrinkle their foreheads with politics”

Thomas Jefferson and ANNE WILLING BINGHAM continued their correspondence, he in Paris where he was the American minister and she in Philadelphia where she was a leader of society. In his letter of May 1788 to Anne he makes mention of the developing tensions that ultimately led to the French Revolution—”Paris is now become a furnace of Politics.” The letter is also most interesting as it contains his views on the proper place of women, which were typical of the times.

Paris May 11, 1788DEAR MADAM,
— A gentleman going to Philadelphia furnishes me the occasion of sending you some numbers of the Cabinet des Modes & some new theatrical pieces. These last have had great success on the stage, where they have excited perpetual applause. We have now need of something to make us laugh, for the topics of the times are sad and eventful. The gay and thoughtless Paris is now become a furnace of Politics. All the world is now politically mad. Men, women, children talk nothing else, & you know that naturally they talk much, loud & warm. Society is spoilt by it, at least for those who, like myself, are but lookers on. — You too have had your political fever. But our good ladies, I trust, have been too wise to wrinkle their foreheads with politics. They are contented to soothe & calm the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate. They have the good sense to value domestic happiness above all other, and the art to cultivate it beyond all others. There is no part of the earth where so much of this is enjoyed as in America. You agree with me in this; but you think that the pleasures of Paris more than supply its wants; in other words that a Parisian is happier than an American. You will change your opinion, my dear Madam, and come over to mine in the end. Recollect the women of this capital, some on foot, some on horses, & some in carriages hunting pleasure in the streets, in routs & assemblies, and forgetting that they have left it behind them in their nurseries; compare them with our own countrywomen occupied in the tender and tranquil amusements of domestic life, and confess that it is a comparison of Amazons and Angels. . . .

Madame de Rochambeau is well: so is Madame de la Fayette. I recollect no other Nouvelles de societe interesting to you. And as for political news of battles & sieges, Turks & Russians, I will not detail them to you, because you would be less handsome after reading them. I have only to add then, what I take a pleasure in repeating, tho’ it will be the thousandth time that I have the honour to be with sentiments of very sincere respect & attachment, dear Madam,
your most obedient & most humble servant.

Jefferson’s letter can be read online HERE.

posted April 14th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bingham, Anne Willing,French Revolution,Jefferson, Thomas,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne

“The Sentiments of an American Woman”

Continuing the story of Esther De Berdt Reed: Esther was able to return to her home in Philadelphia in 1778 after the British left. She wrote to her brother Dennis in England in September 1779: “[A]fter danger’s past, how sweet is safety and peace—peace, I mean, as to own dwelling; and we are no longer obliged to leave our houses, or stay there with constant dread and apprehension. These are now past, I hope never to return. . . . ”
In May 1780, Esther Reed’s last child was born; he was named George Washington. While she was pregnant, concerned with the welfare of the troops, Esther suggested the idea of a subscription for the relief of the Continental soldiers and orchestrated a network of women to solicit sufficient funds for this purpose. Furthermore, to forestall any possible criticism of this undertaking, she published “The Sentiments of an American Woman” in which she reviewed the brave deeds of women throughout history and extolled the courage and self-sacrifice of the men in the Continental Army.

On the commencement of actual war, the Women of America manifested a firm resolution to contribute as much as could depend on them, to the deliverance of their country. Animated by the purist patriotism, they are sensible of sorrow at this day, in not offering more than barren wishes for the success of so glorious a Revolution. They aspire to render themselves more really useful; and this sentiment is universal from the north to the south of the Thirteen United States. Our ambition is kindled by the fame of those heroines of antiquity, who have rendered their sex illustrious, and have proved to the universe, that, if the weakness of our Constitution, if opinion and manners did not forbid us to march to glory by the same paths as the Men, we should at least equal, and sometimes surpass them in our love for the public good. . . .

Who knows if persons disposed to censure, and sometimes too severely with regard to us, may not disapprove our appearing acquainted even with the actions of which our sex boasts? We are at least certain, that he cannot be a good citizen who will not applaud our efforts for the relief of the armies which defend our lives, our possessions, our liberty? The situation of our soldiery has been represented to me; the evils inseperable from war, and the firm and generous spirit which has enabled them to support these. But it has been said, that they may apprehend, that, in the course of a long war, the view of their distresses may be lost, and their services be forgotten. Forgotten! never; I can answer in the name of all my sex. Brave Americans, your disinterestedness, your courage, and your constancy will always be dear to America, as long as she shall preserve her virtue.

We know that, at a distance from the theatre of war, if we enjoy any tranquility, it is the fruit of your watchings, your labours, your dangers. If I live happily in the midst of my family, if my husband cultivates his field, and reaps his harvest in peace; if, surrounded with my children, I myself nourish the youngest, and press it to my bosom, without being affraid of seeing myself seperated from it, by a ferocious enemy; if the house in which we dwell; if our barns, our orchards are safe at the present time from the hands of those incendiaries, it is to you that we owe it. And shall we hesitate to evidence to you our gratitude? Shall we hesitate to wear a cloathing more simple; hair dressed less elegant, while at the price of this small privation, we shall deserve your benedictions. Who, amongst us, will not renounce with the highest pleasure, those vain ornaments, when she shall consider that the valiant defenders of America will be able to draw some advantage from the money which she may have laid out in these; that they will be better defended from the rigours of the seasons, that after their painful toils, they will receive some extraordinary and unexpected relief; that these presents will perhaps be valued by them at a greater price, when they will have it in their power to say: This is the offering of the Ladies. . . .
by An American Woman

Mary Morris wrote to her friend Catharine Livingston about the plan and her part in it:

I dare say you have heard of the Ladys plan for raiseing a Subscription for the Army. I will enclose you one of them but there is an Alterration taken place instead of waiting for the Donations being sent the ladys of each Ward go from dore to dore & collect them. I am one of those, Honourd with this business. Yesterday we began our tour of duty & had the Satisfaction of being very Successful. There were two ladys that were very liberal One 8000 dollars & 10000. . . .

Many men were scandalized by women soliciting door to door, deeming it unseemly. Many made fun of the effort. But it seemed to have worked wonderfully well. By July 4, 1780, Esther Reed wrote General Washington that the ladies had raised “200,580 dollars, and £625 6s. 8d. in specie, which makes in the whole in paper money 300,634 dollars.” She was also proud of the fact that the contributors were from all levels of society: from a black woman, Phillis, to Adrienne de Noailles, Marquise de Lafayette.
Read about Washington’s reaction in the next post.

The material quoted is taken from In the Words of Women, pages 131-32.

posted October 29th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Morris, Mary White,Patriots,Philadelphia,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Washington, George

Visit of the “Hermione”

In a previous post, mention was made by SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY in a letter to MARY WHITE MORRIS of a dinner she had attended at the Lafayettes. (The Jays dined there frequently.) Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis, had returned to France after the victory at Yorktown in 1781 and was much celebrated. Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles, his wife, (pictured) had expressed a desire to visit America but she never did make that trip. Lafayette, however, returned to the United States in 1784 to visit George Washington. When he came back to Paris he became embroiled in the chaos of the French Revolution. He ordered the storming of the Bastille, sending the key of that prison as a souvenir to Washington.

Lafayette became the leader of the liberal aristocrats and favored a constitutional monarchy. For his views he, with many other aristocrats, were considered guilty of treason by the Radicals who had taken control of the Revolution. In the Reign of Terror that followed, he was seized and imprisoned in Austria. Since Adrienne came of an old aristocratic family, her mother, grandmother, and sister were guillotined. (Read a description of the execution recorded by their Catholic confessor here.) She was also arrested but her life was spared due to the intervention of prominent Americans. When Adrienne was released she, with two of her daughters, joined her husband in prison in Austria. (That sort of thing was done back then.) In 1797 Lafayette was freed and, with his family, returned to France. Sadly Adrienne died at age 47 in 1807. Lafayette made another trip to the United States in 1824. It was a triumphal tour.

We were reminded of his visit by an event that occurred this past weekend when a replica of the ship Hermione on which Lafayette sailed in 1824 arrived in New York. Passing Governor’s Island to the sound of celebratory cannon fire, the three-masted, 32-gun frigate docked at the South Street Seaport. On Sunday, accompanied by many private vessels, it sailed around the southern tip of Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty and up the Hudson River to the Intrepid. Returning to the East River it made its way to Greenport on Long Island. The Hermione resumes its journey northward along the coast this week, with stops at Newport (8-9); Boston (11-12); Castine, Maine (14-15); and Lunenberg/Halifax, Nova Scotia (18), before returning to France.

In honor of Lafayette’s visit to the New-York Historical Society in 1824, that institution currently has an exhibition which is worth seeing—“Lafayette’s Return: The ‘Boy General,’ the American Revolution and the Hermione;” it will run through August 16. See details here.

If your curiosity has been piqued you may want to read a new biography of Lafayette: The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio.

Presumed portrait of Adrienne Lafayette by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard painted in 1790.

posted July 6th, 2015 by Janet, comments (3), CATEGORIES: French Revolution,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Lafayette, Marquis de,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne,Morris, Mary White,Washington, George

“With what pleasure my dr madam do I take up my pen”

SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY and MARY WHITE MORRIS continued to correspond. See previous post. By this time Sarah was in Paris where her husband John served as a peace commissioner. Her subjects were children—two of the Morris sons had been sent to Europe to continue their education. And clothes—after all this is Paris. And then there are the Marquise de Lafayette and Marie Antoinette. Making for an interesting letter, don’t you think?

Paris 14th Novbr. 1782With what pleasure my dr madam do I take up my pen as a medium of or substitute for a conversation with you by admitting no other idea to rob me of your image; I enjoy, at least for the moment the most pleasing delusion—Yesterday your little sons by passing their holiday with me made me very happy—Robert so exceedingly resembles Mr. Morris that I feel for him a respect mingled with my love; tho’ at the same time I regret his distance from his father’s example & counsel—When (as it sometimes happens) among our Little Americans that my decision is referr’d to respecting matters of right & wrong, I always request Robert’s opinion; & when he hesitates, I ask him what he thinks would be his Father’s sentiments upon such occasions, to which he generally replys very justly; & I remark to him the certainty of his acting with propriety while he imitates so worthy an example—Tommy (who is likewise a fine boy) told me that his last letters mention’d [his sisters] Hetty’s & Maria’s illness—I hope they are now quite recovered as well as my dr. Kitty [Sarah’s sister Catharine]—will you embrace them for me?
If during my stay in Paris it is in my power to serve you, nothing my dr Mrs Morris can give me greater pleasure than receiving yr commands—at present the prevailing fashions are very decent & very plain; the gowns most worn are the robes à l’Anglaise which are exactly like the Italian habits that were in fashion in America at the time I left it—The sultana, resembling the long polinese is also à la mode, but as it is not expected that it will long remain so, every body makes them of slight silk—There is so great a variety of hats, Caps, cuffs &c. that it is impossible to describe them. I forgot to mention that the robe à l’Anglaise if trimm’d either with the same or with gauze is dress, but if intirely untrimm’d must be worn with an apron & is undress: negligees are very little in vougue: fans of 8 or 10 sous are almost the only ones in use.—
At the Marquis de la Fayette’s table I had the pleasure of hearing you my dear Mrs. Morris mention’d the other day as well as Mr. Morris in terms to me the most grateful imaginable—The Marchioness [Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles] is a most amiable woman who express’d her inclination to see America in very flattering terms, & I could not forbear assuring her that if she ever honor’d us by a visit, she would find that her Character there had already prepar’d the Americans to receive her in a manner, that would convince her that the Marquis, tho’ much esteem’d, was not the only one of his Family that they respected.—
The Queen has lately return’d to Versailles after a residence of 8 or 10 weeks at Passey – While there I used some times to have the pleasure of seeing her at the Plays—She is so handsome & her manners are so engaging, that almost forgetful of republican principles, I was even ready while in her presence to declare her born to be a Queen.— There are however many traits in her character worthy of imitation even by republicans, & I cannot but admire her resolution to superintend the education of Madame Royale her daughter, to whom she has alotted chambers adjoining her own, & persists in refusing to name a Governante for her. . . .
Mr. Jay . . . desires me to assure you that his esteem for you is not less than that with which
I have the honor to be
my dr madam
yours sincerely
Sa. Jay

The letter appears in Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay, compiled and edited by Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North and Janet M. Wedge, (Jefferson, N.C.: Mcfarland & Co, 2005), page 123. The Illustration of the robe à l’Anglaise can be found HERE. The Marie Antoinette portrait is by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1783 taken from Wikepedia.

posted June 29th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Education,Fashion,Jay, John,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Lafayette, Marquise Adrienne,Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Marie Antoinette,Morris, Mary White,Paris

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