Archive for the ‘Washington, Frances “Fanny” Bassett’ Category

“clanse the House from the garret to the sellers”

MARTHA WASHINGTON certainly knew exactly what she wanted to have done at Mount Vernon before she and the President arrived in the summer of 1792. The following letter to FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON is full of instructions. The “Major” is George Augustine Washington, Fanny’s husband and the President’s nephew. He is obviously ill and, in fact, dies the next year, from tuberculosis it is thought. The couple have two children: Maria and Fayette. Martha’s spelling leaves a great deal to be desired but I expect readers will be able to grasp her meaning.

Philadelphia July the 1st 1792My Dear Fanny –

I am happy to hear of your letter of June the 25th that you and the children are well – and truly sorry you had not better accounts from the Major when you last heard from him – I hope in god that you have since had more favorable accounts from him – The President has fixed on the 12th to leave this place for Mount Vernon if nothing happens to prevent us – wish my dear Fanny that you would make Frank clanse the House from the garret to the sellers – have all the Beds aird and mended and the Bed cloths of every kind made very clean the Bed steads also well scalded – and the low bed steads put up to be ready to carry out of one room into another as you know they are often wanted. I have not a doubt but we shall have company all the time we are at home – I wish you to have all the chinia looked over, the closet clened and the glasses all washed and every thing in the closet as clean as can be than they will be ready when wanted with much less troable than to have them to look for when ever in hurry they may be wanted.

I do not wish to have the clouded cotten made into chear covers – nor the chares stuffed, or done anything to, till I come home as it is probable that the old covers will last as long as I shall stay home by a vessel that will live this in a day or two – I shall send several articles – that could not be had when we sent the last things round – I hope the major will not hurry him self back if he finds benefit from the mountain air it is of the greatest concequince that his health should be established and I hope he will be very careful in doing as the Doctors directs him – I shall be sorry not to see dear Little Maria if the jaunt is for her good – I must be content. I am glad that Fayette is recovered and hope I shall find you and the children quite well – impress it on the gardener to have every thing in his garden that will be nessary in the House keeping way as vegetable is the best part of our living in the country – I dare say you have made the table cloths as well as they can be done – as to the window curtain and bed curtain they may as well be put up – I shall send a carpit for our parlor so that it will be ready by the time I get there if the vessel lives this on tuesday as we expect

The President has given miss Harriot a guitarr – I have inclosed the key it is sent in the vessel with several other things – I shall be glad to have the little caps made and sent before I live this as I wish to give them to the ladie as soon as done we are all well – Mr & Mrs Lear intend a trip to the eastward when we set out for the southward – the weather is extremely warm hear and has been so for some days past – all hear join me in love to you and children – and believe me my dear

Fanny your most
affectionately
M Washington

Note the reference to the “guitarr” that the President gave to his niece Harriot. See POST.

Citation: Martha Washington, “Letter, to Fanny Bassett Washington, July 1, 1792,” online HERE, Item #462 (accessed July 19, 2017).

posted July 20th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Housekeeping,Lear, Tobias,Mount Vernon,Philadelphia,Washington, Frances "Fanny" Bassett,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine,Washington, Harriot,Washington, Martha

“let me know if you are in a certain way”

Martha Washington’s surviving correspondence includes more letters to her niece FANNY BASSETT WASHINGTON than anyone else. At this point Fanny had married George Washington’s nephew, George Augustine. They were in residence at Mount Vernon, she managing the household, he the estate. They had a daughter Maria. Martha wrote this letter from Philadelphia, the capital of the United States at that time, on April 19, 1791.

Mr dear Fanny

By Austen who is come home to se his friends I have the pleasure to tell you we are all tolerable well—I have never heard from the president since he left Mount Vernon—nor from you. Some day last week i wrote to you and inclosed some muslin borders for —?— to hem—When they are done be so good as to send them back to me by Austin when he comes as his stay will be short indeed[;] I could but illy spare him at this time but to full fill my promise to his wife[.] The children join me in love to you the major and children—you must let me know if you are in a certain way and when the event will happen, as it must be very inconvenient to you for us to come home about the time—our stay will be short and I wish to have all well if possible at this time[.] I expect to be coming home some time about the first of August—how are your brothers, is B Lewes married—
Adieu my dear Fanny & believe
me your most affectionate
M Washington

Austen was a slave. it was the practice of George and Martha to send the slaves they had in Philadelphia back to Mount Vernon regularly to avoid a Pennsylvania law which allowed slaves to gain their freedom after a six-month residency. Martha asks if Fanny is pregnant.

The letter can be found HERE.

posted July 17th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Mount Vernon,Pennsylvania,Philadelphia,Slaves/slavery,Washington, Frances "Fanny" Bassett,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else”

It was not only George Washington who gave money, advice and assistance to various members of his extended family—see previous posts about Harriot Washington—but also his wife MARTHA WASHINGTON who did the same for her needy relatives.

FRANCES “FANNY” BASSETT was Martha’s niece, the daughter of her sister Anna Maria Dandridge and Burwell Bassett. When Anna Maria died in 1777 Martha offered to take Fanny in as her sister had requested if she died before Fanny grew up. Martha wrote to Burwell “If you will lett her come to live with me, I will with the greatest pleasure take her and be a parent and mother to her as long as I live.”

It was not until the mid 1780s that Fanny would come to live at Mount Vernon. Indeed she was like a daughter to Martha, especially since her own Patsy had died at the age of seventeen in 1773. Martha wrote to her friend Elizabeth Willing Powel of Philadelphia, Fanny “is a child to me, and I am very lonesome when she is absent.”

George Augustine Washington, the nephew of George Washington who was at that time living at Mount Vernon, soon became smitten with Fanny and the two married in 1785. They were invited, with their children, to make Mount Vernon their home; George Augustine managed the estate and Fanny took care of the household. Martha wrote to Fanny from the then capital of the United States, New York City, in 1789.

I have by Mrs Sims sent you a watch it is one of the cargoe that I have so long mentioned to you, that was expected, I hope is such a one as will please you it is of the newest fashon, if that has any influence on your tast—The chain is of Mr [Tobias] Lears* choosing and such as Mrs Adams the vice Presidents Lady and those in the polite circle wares. It will last as long as the fashon—and by that time you can get another of a fashonable kind—I send to dear Maria a piece of Chino to make her a frock—the piece of muslin I hope is long enough for an apron for you, and in exchange for it, 1 beg you will give me the worked muslin apron you have like my gown that I made just before I left home of worked muslin as I wish to make a petticoat of the two aprons—for my gown—Mrs Sims will give you a better account of the fashons than I can—I live a very dull life hear and know nothing that passes in the town—I never goe to the publick place—indeed I think I am more like a state prisoner than anything else, there is certain bounds set for me which I must not depart from – and as I can not doe as I like I am obstinate and stay at home a great deal—

The President set out this day week on a tour to the eastward . . . my dear children** has had very bad colds but thank god they are getting better My love and good wishes attend you and all with you . . . kiss Maria I send her two little handkerchiefs to wipe her nose

Adieu
I am my dear Fanny yours
most affectionately
M Washington

* Tobias Lear was Washington’s friend and secretary.
** Grandchildren Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and George Washington Parke Custis, called “Wash.”

Martha sounds as if she would have preferred to be at Mount Vernon rather than New York. She is clearly uncomfortable as first lady. Indeed she did not journey northward for her husband’s inauguration but arrived later. Washington was finding his way in a new role and so was she. It took her some time to figure out how she should behave and what was expected of her.

Sources: See Mount Vernon HERE and HERE. The portrait of Fanny was painted in 1785 by Robert Edge Pine and is at Mount Vernon. The miniature, watercolor on ivory, of Martha Washington is by Charles Willson Peale, 1772, and is held by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association.

posted July 10th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Custis, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke,Custis, George Washington Parke,Lear, Tobias,Mount Vernon,Powel, Elizabeth Willing,Washington, Frances "Fanny" Bassett,Washington, George,Washington, George Augustine,Washington, Martha

“the folly of misspending time”

HARRIOT WASHINGTON, the orphaned daughter of George Washington’s brother Samuel, lived at Mount Vernon under the care of Frances [Fanny] Bassett Washington from 1785 until 1792 when she was sent to live with George Washington’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Washington was not happy with Harriot’s comportment and feared for her future. He could be quite severe on occasion and was certainly not adverse to giving advice when he felt it was warranted. The President wrote to her from Philadelphia on October 30th, 1791:

…. You are just entering into the state of womanhood without the watchful eye of a Mother to admonish, or the protecting aid of a Father to advise and defend you; you may not be sensible that you are at this moment about to be stamped with that character which will adhere to you through life——the consequence of which you have not perhaps attended to, but be assured it is of the utmost importance that you should.

Your Cousins, with whom you live are well qualified to give you advice, and I am sure they will if you are disposed to receive it——But if you are disobliging——self willed and untowardly it is hardly to be expected that they will engage themselves in unpleasant disputes with you, especially Fanny, whose mild and placid temper will not permit her to exceed the limits of wholesome admonition or gentle rebuke. Think then to what dangers a giddy girl of 15 or 16 must be exposed in circumstances like these——To be under but little or no controul may be pleasing to a mind that does not reflect, but this pleasure cannot be of long duration, and reason, too late perhaps, may convince you of the folly of misspending time. You are not to learn, I am certain, that your fortune is small——supply the want of it then with a well cultivated mind. with dispositions to industry and frugality——with gentleness of manners——obliging temper——and such qualifications as will attract notice, and recommend you to a happy establishment for life.

You might instead of associating with those from whom you can derive nothing that is good, but may have observed every thing that is deceitful, lying, and bad, become the intimate companion of and aid to your Cousin in the domestic concerns of the family.

Many Girls before they have arrived at your age have been found so trustworthy as to take the whole trouble of a family from their Mothers; but it is by a steady and rigid attention to the rules of propriety that such confidence is obtained, and nothing would give me more pleasure than to hear that you had acquired it——The merits and benefits of it would redound more to your own advantage in your progress thro’ life, and to the person with whom you may in due time form a matrimonial connexion than to any others——but to none would such a circumstance afford more real satisfaction than to Your affectionate Uncle
G. Washington

Note that uppermost in Washington’s mind was that Harriot develop “qualifications” that will make her attractive as a potential marriage partner, especially since she did not possess a substantial dowery. An advantageous marriage was the goal of most girls of good family.

“From George Washington to Harriot Washington, 30 October 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified March 30, 2017, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-09-02-0074. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 9, 23 September 1791 – 29 February 1792, ed. Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000, pp. 130–131.]

posted June 19th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Education,Washington, Frances "Fanny" Bassett,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot

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