Archive for the ‘Lewis, Betty Washington’ 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

“the thing’s that were sent are very pretty”

The year 1794 found HARRIOT WASHINGTON writing once more to her uncle, George Washington, who had promised his deceased brother Samuel to look after her, asking for money to buy a few articles of clothing. Harriet had been living with George Washington’s sister Betty Washington Lewis at her home Kenmore in Fredericksburg, Virginia, when she received an invitation in November of 1793 from Betty’s married daughter, Betty Lewis Carter, to visit with her in Culpeper, Virginia. Preparing to return to Fredericksburg Harriot wanted something new to wear for the celebration of Washington’s birthday.

Culpeper [Va.] January [7, 1794]I hope My dear Uncle will excuse my troubling him so soon again, but as he is the only Freind, on earth that I can apply to, for any thing I am induced to think that my necesity will apologize for me. I have spent the winter in Culpeper with Cousin Carter, in a very retired manner, we have scarcely seen a person since we came up, and as I am just a going to return to Fredericksburg, I shall be thousand time’s oblieged to My dear Uncle, if he will give me as much money as will get me a silk jacket and a pair of shoes to wear to the birth night as that will be the first Ball I shall have been to this winter.

Cousin Carter join’s me in love to you and Aunt Washington. I am My dear Uncle Your affectionate Neice
Harriot Washington

Harriot thanked her uncle in a letter of February 9 for “the bundle” she received, noting that “the thing’s that were sent are very pretty,” and “there could not be any procured here as handsome.” According to two entries dated 11 March 1794 in George Washington’s Household Accounts, he paid $19.19 for “sundry articles” sent to Harriot and 25 cents for the freight to Fredericksburg of the box containing these articles. It is interesting that Harriot received clothing rather than money.

Citation: “To George Washington from Harriot Washington, 7 January 1794,” and “To George Washington from Harriot Washington, 9 February 1794,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-15-02-0038. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 15, 1 January–30 April 1794, ed. Christine Sternberg Patrick. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, pp. 49–50, p. 206.]

posted June 29th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Lewis, Betty Washington,Virginia,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot,Washington, Martha

“be so good as to send me . . . money”

In October of 1792 George Washington sent his niece Harriot Washington (his deceased brother Samuel’s daughter), who had been at Mount Vernon, to live with his sister Betty Washington Lewis. Betty’s husband had died and Betty and her family found themselves in some financial distress. Harriet wrote letters to her uncle asking for money for herself. (He had promised to take care of her). It must have been embarrassing to do this; it makes me squirm to read this letter.

Fredericksburg [Va.] January 5 [1793]I hope my dear Uncle will excuse my troubleing him again, Aunt Lewis has desired me to ask you for a little money there is a few thing’s I want, that I would be much obleiged to you for, she say’s if you will send me some she will keep it, & I shall not get any thing but what I really want, I hear the Birth night is to be kept, and as every one is a going here and as I should like to go I will thank my dear Uncle if he, will be so good as to send me enough money, to get me a ⟨s⟩lite Lutestring or something, of that kind, as there is some very pretty one’s here, Aunt Lewis will get it for me and I will take great care of it[.] I had a violent pain and inflamation in my jaw last week I was obleiged to have my tooth drawn, and the Doctor charged two dollar for it. . . . If you please to give my love to Aunt Washington. I am my dear Uncle Your affectionate Neice
Harriot WashingtonP.S. Aunt Lewis desirers me to give her love to you and say’s she would have wrote to you but she had not time.
H.W.

George Washington sent “Money for Harriot” in a letter to his sister later in January. According to local newspapers a ball was planned to commemorate George Washington’s birthday. Lutestring is a glossy fabric used for women’s dresses and ribbons.

Betty Washington Lewis wrote to her brother George on January 29, 1793 saying she had received the money for Harriot and she provided a few details about Harriot’s situation.

My Dear Brother
Your letters of Januy the 6the and 14the of this Month came duly to hand, the enclosed letter to my son Robert met with a speedy conveyance the same day, the other with the Money for Harriot, which I shall see that no part of it shall be laid out but in those things that is really necessary, it is unfortunate for her my living in Town for many things that could be wore to the last string in a Cuntry Place, will not do here, where we see so much Company, I must say less would be more agreeable to me.

I must in justice to Harriot say she Payes the strictest regard to the advice I give her and really she is very Ingenious in makeing her Clothes and altering them to the best advantage. . . . Harriot desir’s me to thank you for your Kindness to her, and Joins me in returning your Compliment, by wishing you many happy New Years. I am with sincear love to you and my sister [Martha] Your Affet. Sister
Betty Lewis

Citation: “To George Washington from Harriot Washington, 5 January 1793,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-11-02-0373. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 11, 16 August 1792 – 15 January 1793, ed. Christine Sternberg Patrick. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002, pp. 590–591. “To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 29 January 1793,” founders Online pp 60-81.

posted June 26th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clothes,Lewis, Betty Washington,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot

“send me a gettar”

George Washington had five full siblings and three half siblings. His father Augustine remarried (Mary Ball) after his first wife died. George was the eldest child of that union. George was close to his half brother Lawrence who, when he died of consumption, willed Mount Vernon to him. Betty, his sister, is said to have strikingly resembled him. She married Fielding Lewis and when he died, much in debt, George undertook to do what he could for her and her children.

George’s brother Samuel, two years his junior, gave him a lot of grief. Married five times he was always in financial difficulty. Exasperated, George wrote in 1781: “In God’s name how did my brother Samuel get himself in so enormously in debt?” Nevertheless George lent him rather large sums of money.

HARRIOT WASHINGTON (1776-1822) was one of Samuel’s children by his fourth wife whom George undertook to care for in 1785 after her father died and her stepmother remarried. Harriet was shuffled between relatives, living at Mount Vernon and with her Aunt Betty Lewis, Washington’s sister, from 1790 to 1795. George Washington was not too happy with Harriot’s behavior, considering her spoiled. She has “sense enough,” he told his sister, “but no disposition to industry nor to be careful of her Cloaths,” which are “(I am told) dabbed about in every hole & corner.” Sounds like a typical teenager to me. Harriot wrote several letters over the years to her uncle usually asking either for money or for specific items as in the following letter. Washington had assumed the office of president and was living in New York City with Martha and her grandchildren when Harriot penned this letter.

Mt Vernon April 2d 1790I now set down to write to my dear Uncle as I have not wrote to him since he left this place I should have done it but I thought you had so much business that I had better write to Aunt Washington yet I am sure you would be very glad to se me improveing myself by writeing letters to my friend’s.

I am a going to ask you My Dear Uncle to do something for me which I hope you will not be against but I am sure if you are it will be for my good, as all the young Ladyes are a learning musick, I will be very much obleiged to you if you will send me a gettar, there is a man here by the name of Tracy that teaches to play on the harpsicord & gettar, a gettar is so simple an instrument that five or six lessons would be sufficient for any body to learn, If you think it proper to send me a gettar I will thank you if you will send it by the first opportunity I was informed the other day that you and Aunt Washington were certainly a comeing home this Summer which gave me a great deal of pleasure for I want to se you very much.1

If you please to give my love to Aunt Washington[,] Nelly & Washington. I am My Dear Uncle your Sincere Neice
Harriot Washington.

Frank E. Grizzard, Jr., “Washington, Samuel, (1734-1781),” George! A Guide to All Things Washington, Charlottesville, VA: Mariner Publishing, 2005, 337-338. “To George Washington from Harriot Washington, 2 April 1790,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-05-02-0199. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 5, 16 January 1790 – 30 June 1790, ed. Dorothy Twohig, Mark A. Mastromarino, and Jack D. Warren. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996, pp. 310–311.]

posted June 16th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Lewis, Betty Washington,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot,Washington, Lawrence,Washington, Martha,Washington, Samuel

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