Archive for the ‘Money’ Category

“I . . . hope that what I’ve done will receive yr. approbation”

After the Revolutionary War, John Jay was often away from his home while performing his duties as secretary for foreign affairs or as chief justice of the United States. But these absences from the family circle lasted only some months at a time, and John was still within reaching distance in case of an emergency. So the shock of SARAH LIVINGSTON JAY, upon hearing the news—not from her husband but from the newspaper—that President Washington was sending John Jay to England in 1794 to try to avert a possible war, is even now heart-wrenching.

New York 18th April 1794 My dr. Mr. Jay,
. . . . how my dr. Mr. Jay is it possible! The Utmost exertion I can make is to be silent. Excuse me if I have not philosophy or patriotism to do more. I heard of the nomination yesterday, so did the Children. The paper of to-day mentions it as a report that deserves credit. . . . Had any one predicted that dread wd. be mingled with my desire to see you could I have believed it? Never! Yet so it is. Should you leave us I must intreat you to permit your son [Peter Augustus] to accompany you. . . .
Adieu my best beloved! Absent or present I am wholly yours Sa. Jay

John Jay, asserting that he could not “desert my Duty for the sake of my Ease and Domestic concerns & comforts,” persuaded Sarah to change her mind, although only after he agreed to take their 18-year-old son with him. This time, the separation would last just over one year.

Sarah, as she had done before, oversaw the household and her children’s education, represented her husband entertaining public officials, monitored the building of the mills at the farm in Bedford, New York, and managed the family’s finances. She asked for advice when necessary, but carefully explained to John how she had handled investment matters herself.

New York 25th Octbr 1794My dr. Mr. Jay,
. . . . By this time I hope you have recd. my letters informing you that your Jamaica business is satisfactorily settled. The Money which I have received for you on that Debt, not being able to loan, I have embarked in the National Bank: the first sum of near 1000₤ procured 5 shares of 400 dollar each at 24 pr. Cent advance as I wrote you formerly, & I then intended awaiting your orders respecting the disposition of the rest; but finding it improbable that it could be placed to any advantage at all (a friend of yours having for a long time had 2000₤ to put out without having any applications for it) & the funds continuing to rise, I resolved last week to purchase 5 shares more at 29 pr. Cent advance; I shall however take care not to be so sanguine as to risque it after having by its rise cleared the interest the sum ought to make. Had I not been diffident of acting without yr. advice I shd. already have cleared 12 per. Cent. but I shd. not now have done what you when here, disapproved, had I not been of opinion that were you here at present, you would have altered your sentiments with the times. I shall however respect yr. sentiments more than my own, & will therefore probably sell out again in a month’s time, perhaps less. At the rate I’ve purchased for you it yields 6 pr. Cent, & even at fifty advance (which ‘tis thought it will soon be) better than 5 pr. Cent. . . . I sincerely hope that what I’ve done will receive yr. approbation, as my Conduct has not been the effect of a Gambling disposition, but the result of mature reflection aided by the Advice of those in whose judgement I had reason to confide. . . .
Once more, my dearest Mr. Jay receive the Adieus of your ever affecte. Wife

From Landa M. Freeman, Louise V. North, Janet M. Wedge, Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2005), pp.221-2, 235-7. Image from
Papers of John Jay, at Columbia University.

posted March 22nd, 2018 by Louise, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Business,Jay, John,Jay, Peter Augustus,Jay, Sarah Livingston,Money

“The transition was great indeed!”

John Cleves Symmes’ land in Ohio called the Symmes Purchase was poorly surveyed and badly managed; portions were sold to settlers before Symmes and his associates had finalized the contract for them. Meanwhile Symmes went about building a home in North Bend, Ohio, during which time Susan Livingston Symmes and Symmes’ daughter Anna went to stay with her older sister Maria Short in Lexington, Kentucky. There Anna Tuthill Symmes met William Henry Harrison and fell in love. The couple married in 1795. Harrison went on to become President of the United States.

SUSAN LIVINGSTON SYMMES became disappointed in her marriage rather quickly. Her husband did not consult her on their place of residence nor did he honor his promise to allow her to visit Morristown frequently. He also sought control of the money she brought to the marriage and decided that she could not “receive the interest or transfer the Stock” at her own discretion; she had wanted to use her money to repay her sister Kitty Livingston Ridley for debts incurred before her marriage. Susan contacted an attorney for assistance but it turned out that the lawyer was a friend of her husband’s who violated client confidentiality by passing along information to her spouse. Here is the letter she wrote to Judge Robert Morris at New Brunswick.

North Bend March 4, 1796Sir
I feel myself greatly embarrassed, & distressed at addressing a Gentleman so much a Stranger to me, & upon so delicate a subject, & nothing but my confidence in the benevolence of your disposition; & the apparent necessity for vindicating my own & Sisters character should have induced me to trouble you upon this occasion—Happening to cast my eye this morning over a paper that the Judges’s [Symmes] nephew was reading, & observing my own name, it excited a curiosity to join in the perusal, when to my surprise I found it to be a letter from the Judge in answer to one of yours respecting Mrs. R. [Ridley’s] business; in which I find he labours under several mistakes—It will doubtless appear singular to you, that I should not rather endeavour to convince him than you—& I think myself obliged to assign the reasons, one is, that the Judge has not been pleased to communicate your letter or his answer; tho’ the most important is, least the ungrateful subject should bring altercation, & interrupt that harmony which I wish ever to maintain–

He asserts that I transferred the 2400 dol. [to Mrs. Ridley] at Phil[adelphia], when on my way thro’ to N.Y. with him, (which was some time in June or July)—The fact is they were transferred the preceeding Spring at Baltimore, the certificates being on the books at Annapolis, could not I believe have been transfered at Phil—This transaction I acquainted Mr. S. with, no person being privy to it, tho I had no objection to its being public, & at the same time shewed him my accounts which was within a very few days after our marriage—& told him that the certificates (on the books of Pennsylvania) which I then shewed him, were Mrs. R[‘s], that I must make them over to her before I left the Country. His displeasure was great, he insisting upon it that it was all a gift of mine [from Kitty]—There was no more occasion to inform Mr. S. before our union that I pd. Mrs. R. than that I had pd. my other Sisters & Brothers. . . .

Mr. S. saw the account with the list of the other property I had & yet says I gave Mrs. R. three forths of my property—It was my intention to settle with her whenever stock rose that I could sell to advantage, & either divide the profits (if any accrued) with her or pay her the sums I had received on her account with interest from the time of receiving them. The Spring I made over the 2400 dollars, certificates were selling at 16s & Mrs. R. took them at par, so that she should complain if any one—I never made a mystery of any thing, I always told the Judge that my fortune was inconsiderable, but that Mrs. R. & myself by living together could be comfortable & independent—when conversing about property so shortly after our marriage he told me he had been informed I had six thousand pounds, & was greatly disappointed to find that I had not the half—that was no fault of mine—Certain it is that I have never spent a shilling either of his money or what was mine, but I have been a prudent, industrious, obedient wife, accommodating myself entirely to his manners & way of life, which are very different from what I have been accustomed to before our marriage—The transition was great indeed! & unspeakable is my mortification to find Mrs. R[‘s]. opinion of the Judge better founded than mine—Mrs. R. is a woman of the strictest veracity; & most rigid honor, & would not lay claim to property which was not her right. . . .

What I have said on this subject to you Sir, I have never hinted to any one of my own family—Your own delicacy will suggest to you the propriety of keeping the contents of this letter a most sacred secret—
I am Sir
With the greatest Respect
Susan Symmes

It seems strange that Susan had not settled the matter of her money with her husband before their marriage or arranged for a prenuptial agreement; without one, according to the practice of the time, all property—real estate, stocks, money—belonging to the wife would be controlled by the husband. It is interesting that Kitty Livingston did not have a high opinion of Symmes.
Next time, the letter Susan had written earlier to John Cleves Symmes on this subject.

American Women Writers to 1800. Contributors: Sharon M. Harris – editor, (New York: Oxford University Press,1996), 92-94.

posted November 28th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Livingston, Catharine "Kitty",Marriage,Money,Ohio,Philadelphia,Symmes, Susan Livingston

“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

“Flying from Home”

MARY WHITE MORRIS (1749-1827) was the daughter of Thomas White, a lawyer and surveyor, and Esther Hewlings Newman White. Her brother, William White, became the bishop of the American Episcopal Church. In 1769, Mary married Robert Morris (1734-1806), the Philadelphia merchant and financier, who almost single-handedly arranged the financing of the Revolutionary War, his own firm profiting handsomely in the process. With many others, in the winter of 1776, Mary had left the city in expectation of the arrival of British troops. She sought refuge with her stepsister Sophia Hall near Aberdeen, Maryland, her distress heightened by the medical needs of her son Thomas. Members of the Continental Congress moved their deliberations to Baltimore but left Robert Morris to oversee affairs in Philadelphia. At the time of this letter, the Morris children included Robert, Thomas, Esther “Hetty”, and William. Charles (b. 1777), Maria, and Henry would follow.

December the 20 [1776]Dear Mr. Morris
I had not time by Joseph [a servant] to acknowledge the Receipt of your Letter by Mr. Hudson, we were at Suscohanah Ferry, I was Sorry the House was so crowded, tho with Delegates, he could not get Lodging, Else should have had more of His Company, He took an Oppertunity of telling me his House in Baltimore, was at our Service, my answer was, I should be Governd by You intirely, in my Future place off Aboad; I long to give You an Account, of the many Difficulties, and uneasyiness we have Experienced in this journey Indeed my Spirits, were very Unable to the task, after that greatest Conflict, Flying from Home, the Sufferings of our poor little Tom, distress’d us all, and without the Affectionate assistance of Mr. Hall, and the Skillfulness of Doctor Cole, whose Services I shall never forget, I don’t know what might have been the Consequence, as it was a boil of an uncommon Nature, and Required the Surgeons Hand; we had reason to Apprehend too, we should lose our goods, the many Circumstances, of this Affair, I must leave till I see you, as neither my Patience, nor Paper will hold out, Only that Mr. Hall. . . . Invited me to Lodge at His House, which when I declined, he politely Offerd me any Services in his power, and finding I had goods to be Carted Down he Immediately Offerd his Teems, which as soon as they arrived at the Bridge, were press’d for the Publick, but after all the Dangers, Ive the Pleasure to inform you, they are safely housed in this Hospitable Mansion. . . .
Joseph has returnd to Town for His Cloaths, I lent him our White Horse, he will wait on you for my nedles that are in a White nedle book in our tea table Draw[er] in the back Parlor, if they are not there Hero must apply to Anna for She must find them, Excuse me for troubleing you for what youll call trifling but indeed they are very necessary to me. . . .
I was Upstairs with my Children, when my mother Deliverd me your first Letter, you never Saw greater joy Sparkell in the Eye, then did Bobs, when he found it was from his Pappa, Read it out loud, mamma, will you, do mamma, till he was observed, which put a Stop to his Pleaseing Curiosity, your Darling Daughter is very Hearty and Saucier than ever, Bil is as stout as Ussiall, but Tom looks very thin, and will while his Sore Discharges as it does at Present, do give me the Pleasure of Hearing from you by every Oppertunity
your Affectionate M. Morris

The letter is in the Robert Morris Collection: Henry E. Huntington Library, Lists No. 5, pages 53-55, transcribed by Louise North. [Microfilm, courtesy of Dr. Elizabeth Nuxoll]. The portrait is by Charles Willson Peale.

posted June 1st, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Children,Health,Money,Morris, Mary White,Morris, Robert,Philadelphia

“I have Don . . . much to Carrey on the Warr . . .”

To continue in the New Jersey mode I seem to be in at present, let me direct your attention to the Lovell sisters. Rachel Lovell Wells and Patience Lovell Wright had by 1771 become known for the wax figures they sculpted. The Virginia Gazette (October 3, 1771) described an exhibit of their works in Boston that “brought . . . such Perfection as has amazed Spectators of all Ranks in the respective Capitals where they have been exhibited. The Figures they have brought here show the Return of the prodigal Son, the celebrated Mr. Whitefield (George Whitfield, an English Anglican preacher and a founder of Methodism who helped spread the Great Awakening; he died in 1770) and the beloved Farmer of Philadelphia (the author of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania). Gentlemen acquainted with those admired Personages confess their Obligations to the Skill and Industry of those Ladies, for reviving the former from the Grave, and presenting his numberless Friends in Boston with the living Image of John Dickinson, Esquire.”

With a letter of introduction to Benjamin Franklin from his sister Jane Mecom, Patience Lovell Wright went to London in 1772 where she sculpted wax figures of famous people including George III and his wife Charlotte (see post). Rachel stayed on this side of the Atlantic and plied her trade as best she could. She bought war bonds from the state of New Jersey but moved to Philadelphia after the British left because there was more demand for her skills there. Rachel returned to New Jersey after the war. Finding herself in financial difficulty, she petitioned the state legislature for monies she thought were due her. But the New Jersey Assembly decided that to claim interest the person had to be living in the state in 1783. Although Lovell technically did not qualify, she thought she was unfairly deprived of what rightly should be hers. In May 1786, after her first, second and third petitions were refused, she petitioned the Continental Congress in an attempt to recover her losses. While the outcome of her petition is not known, it is interesting to read of her circumstances and how she put her case. Historian Linda Kerber writes in her book Toward an Intellectual History of Women (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997) that the petition of Rachel Wells is “the most moving witness to the American Revolution left to us by a woman.” A caveat: Rachel’s spelling is worse than Jane Mecom’s, and her punctuation is non-existent. I have not altered the former but have inserted periods where appropriate to facilitate reading.

To the Honnorabell Congress I Rachel do make this Complaint, Who am a Widow far advanced in years & dearly have occasion of ye Intrust for that Cash I Lent the State.

I was a Sitisen in ye Jearsey when I Lent ye State a Considreable Sum of Moneys & had I justice don me it mite be Suficant to Suporte me in ye Contrey whear I am now, near bordenton . . . but being torn to peases & so robd by the Britans and others I went to Ph[iladelphi]a to try to git a Living as I coud doe nothing in bordentown in my way. So after ye English left there . . . I went to Ph[iladelphi]a & was their in the year 1783 when our assembley was pleasd to pas a Law that no one shoud have any Intrust that livd out of jearsey state. I have Sent in a petition to ye assembly. They say it lies in your brest as the Cash was Lent to you. They give me a form of an oath which runs thus that I was a Residentor when I put ye Cash into the office & was in ye year [17]83 and am Still. I can swear that I was then & am now but in [17]83 I was not. Now gentelemen is this Liberty. Had it bin advertised that he or She that moved out of the State Should Louse his or her Intrust you mite have sum plea against me. But I am innocent. Suspected no trick. I have Don as much to Carrey on the Warr as Maney that Sett Now at the healm of government & no notice taken of me before this. . . .

Cant there be order given to our assembly that the widow Rachel Wells in and of the jearsey state may have the Intrust of her cash that she Lent ye state in 1778 & not make good that Law made in Eighty Three. I hartely pity the others that ar in my Case that cant speak for themselves. . . . God has spred a plentifull Tabel for us & you gentelmen are the Carvers for us. Pray forgit not the poor weaklings at the foot of the tabel. Ye poor sogers [soldiers] has got Sum Crumbs that fall from their masters tabel. . . . Why not Rachel Wells have a Littel Intrust. If She did not fight She threw in all her mite which bought ye Sogers food & Clothing & Let them have Blankets & Since then She has bin obligd to Lay upon Straw and glad of that. . . . I do expect to hear Something to my Satisfaction verey soon.

That I may say before I leave this world that the state did me justice, though I never expect to See the principal is the prayer of your humbel sarvent Rachel Wells

Bordentown may 18, 1786

Wells’s petition can be found HERE; there are mistakes in the transcription however. My source is a photocopy of the original (from the Papers of the Continental Congress, (M-247), Roll 56, Item 42: VIII, 354-355) that appears in Linda Kerber’s book mentioned above, pages 100-101.

next page

   Copyright © 2018 In the Words of Women.