Archive for the ‘Courtship’ 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,” “From George Washington to Andrew Parks, 7 April 1796,” “From George Washington to Betty Washington Lewis, 7 April 1796,” Founders Online, National Archives, “To George Washington from Betty Washington Lewis, 5 July 1796,” 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 Off on ” to be united with a gentleman of respectable connexions”, CATEGORIES: Courtship,Lewis, Betty Washington,Marriage,Parks, Andrew,Virginia,Washington, George,Washington, Harriot

“what shall I Due! Due?”

JEMIMA CONDICT, at the ripe old age of twenty-on, ponders in her journal whether, and whom, she should marry. It seems she had an eye on a cousin but was not sure whether a union with a close relative was forbidden by her church. So she decides to consult her mother.

A delightful read, for Jemima has such a conversational style of writing and includes what might be called dialogue.

Wensday. [February 1775] Being full of thoughts about What to Do as I have this year Past. Sometimes I think I will Serting Bid him farewell forever But I thought I would talk to my mother & see if I could be Convinst one way or tother for I want to Hear the ground of What they have to say. So one Day my mother Says to me your father is going to get you a Chest I told her I should be Glad of one But Would not have her think twas because I thought to Marry. Why Says she Don’t you never intend to marry? I told her People said I was going to have Mr. ——. But they tell me they don’t think it is a right thing; and it is forbid &c. But Cant none of them as I Can find out tell me where it is forbid So Says I, what Do you think of it mother; She said She did Not think it was Right except I thought It was myself. I askt her if she thought my thinking it was right would make it so. She said my thinking so would cause A Contented easy mind.

Well Says I, But that ant telling what you think about it She Said she had heard his mother talk about it & she was against his Coming here. She said Moreover that she was apt to think I would Live a dogs Life amongst them. this made me to think I would not have him. But I still insisted upon hearing what she had to Say. at Last she told me that She had thought a great Deal about It & for her part Could Not see but that It was right & as for its being forbid She did not think there was such a Place In the Bible. She Said Likewise that she Did Not See what Ministers Should marry them for if twas forbid. So after this and much more being said I turned it off with a Laugh & Said What a fool am I, I talk as if I was going to marry a Cousin In good earnest but Did not know as I had one that would have me but If I hold my toungue & Say Nothing others will have all the talk. they talk to me but Convince they Don’t. I Could wish with all my heart I New the Right way & Could be made To Chuse it; but if it be rong Then What a fool was I While yong to Place my mind on such a one as a Cousin, its very true. Its o poor me what shall I Due! Due? Why I tell you What a conclusion I made & I hope I may hold to it & that Is to Trust in him Who knows all things for he knows What is best for me & What I ought to Do & What I ought not to Do. And will, I hope order things in mercy for me.

A bit more from Jemima Condict in the next post.

Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 44-46. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 14th, 2017 by Janet, comments (2), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima,Courtship,Marriage,New Jersey

“he will make thee a good husband”

After DOLLEY PAYNE TODD recovered from yellow fever and the death of her husband and her younger son in 1793 she began to be seen in Philadelphia society once again. Soon she received a note from a friend conveying a request from Aaron Burr that she meet James Madison who very much wanted make her acquaintance. The two met at her home and soon the attentions of the “great little Madison” (he was 5′ 4″) resulted in talk of an engagement. According to a memoir compiled by Dolley’s grand niece the rumor reached the President and Mrs. Washington. The niece recounted a conversation said to have taken place when Mrs. Todd and Martha Washington met.

“Dolly,” said Mrs. Washington, “is it true that you are engaged to James Madison? ” The fair widow, taken aback, answered stammeringly, *’No,” she “thought not.” ” If it is so,” Mrs. Washington continued, “do not be ashamed to confess it: rather be proud; he will make thee a good husband, and all the better for being so much older. We both approve of it; the esteem and friendship existing between Mr. Madison and my husband is very great, and we would wish thee to be happy.”

It seems there was substance to the rumor. Dolley and James Madison were married in September of 1794 in her sister’s home, Harewood, in Virginia. After the wedding celebration the couple resided in the Madison home, Montpelier, but by the end of the year they were back in Philadelphia. At Madison’s request Dolley shed her Somber Quaker attire and joined in the gaiety of the Philadelphia social scene.

Source: The Memoirs and Letters of Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison, President of the United States, edited by her Grand-Niece (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., The Riverside Press, Cambridge: 1886) 14-17. Dolley’s portrait, dated 1804, is by Gilbert Stuart and is in the Library of Congress.

posted September 22nd, 2016 by Janet, Comments Off on “he will make thee a good husband”, CATEGORIES: Courtship,Madison, Dolley,Madison, James,Marriage,Washington, George,Washington, Martha

“you have nothing to fear from any rivals”

The correspondence between Esther De Berdt in England and Joseph Reed in America continued. Esther remained constant in her love as did Joseph, although circumstances kept them apart, not least the deteriorating relations between the colonies and the mother country and the failure of plans to secure a position for Reed in England. She wrote Reed from Enfield 22 October 1767.

I [am] happy to find that you were relieved from the anxiety and fears arising from my seemingly long silence. These are pains we must be subject to, while absent from each other. However, I hope that one day all [will] be forgot in the pleasure of meeting; and, though long delayed, nothing shall tempt me to give up the pleasing expectation. Three years are now past, since I was made happy by your company here, and though I am surrounded by my friends, yet I own to you, there is a heaviness about my heart that I cannot get rid of, when I recollect how much happier I have spent this day of the year [her birthday]; and now I receive no small pleasure in thinking that perhaps while I am writing, your thoughts are with me, and paying a visit, though but in imagination. However, any way, I . . . please myself with the fond hope that before another year passes, I shall have it in my power to realize the happiness of bidding you welcome, and in a greater degree add to your comfort and ease than I ever had it in my power to do, and this shall be the delightful employment of my future life. . . . Indeed, it has long been my study to improve and cultivate those qualities your partiality imagines I possess. But in whatever you are disappointed, this you will ever find true, that my heart is fixed in its choice of the object of its affection and esteem, and never had a latent wish to change.
I really believe it is unnecessary for me to say you have nothing to fear from any rivals, who, though in some circumstances suitable, are very far from having the least share of my love, nor is there any foundation for you being apprehensive that I shall ever give encouragement to hopes which I never intend to gratify. . . . I find our connexion is no longer a secret among our friends in America. . . . I am at a loss to know how they came by their intelligence. . . . Oh! my dear friend, how long will it be before I can let them know whom I have distinguished as the companion of my future life, and give you the last and dearest proof of the sincerity and constancy of my affection? But this is hid in the dark womb of futurity, and it is for us to wait in patience. This liberty of communicating our thoughts is yet left us. . . .
I am persuaded you do not forget me . . . for I should not be happy if I did not think your judgment and reason were in my favor. . . .
Adieu, my very dear friend, and never doubt the sincerity or affection of
E. De Berdt

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 123-26.

posted September 24th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Britain,Courtship,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

“Do you want to hear that I still love?”

Esther DeBerdt was born in London, the daughter of a merchant who was also the colonial agent for Massachusetts. American Joseph Reed had come to London in 1764 to study law. The two met and fell in love. Joseph proposed but she wrote to him in November of 1764: “as to my going to America, it cannot be. It would bring down the gray hairs of my dear and affectionate parents with sorrow to the grave.” In 1765 Reed had to return to America to deal with family problems. Esther’s father acknowledged their engagement and the two corresponded. Esther wrote in March 1765: “Do you want to hear that I still love? It’s a truth which I am not ashamed to own, and at one time or another, to make it appear to all the world. Never doubt this till I send you word. Your sincere and affectionate friend. . . .” In June Esther wrote: “you will (maybe) wonder when I tell you that your expectations are too high of me I am sure you will not find me that charming creature you expect. Love must have blinded you, or you would have seen faults that would make you love me less. May you be always blind. . . .” The following letter from Esther to Joseph is dated 28 March 1766.

. . . This Scrip comes rich, with presents for you, my Pappas Picture which I have attempted to draw, is packed up with Mrs. Cox goods & Directed for you, I don’t doubt but you will like it, the hand from whence it comes, I know will make it acceptable, we think it a pretty good likeness, but it is not high finished, for fear of taking away the resemblance, & I thot it better to send it you just rough, then to do it only by halves, such as it is you are more welcome to it, than any body in America; I suppose some of our good Friends will wonder at it being sent to you, they must wonder sometime yet, but I assure you it gives me pleasure to have it in my power to shew any particular mark of Regard to you—I have finished your Ruffles at last. Mr Burkitt has taken them to put them into Mr. T. Smiths trunk. I am afraid they are too small in the Arm, you must get Miss Reed to put in a little gore that should be exactly the Size of your wrist, to button with the Shirt,—there must be some care in the Washing of them it must be in Cold water, & your Sister must take up every loop & edge of the ruffles, they must not be Ironed, but when they dry draw the Silk out, I have tried every way & find none so good as this, tell Miss R.—I don’t know if some of your Friends will not begin to suspect our Connexions, the Picture, & seeing a pair of ruffles of a Ladies work, will perhaps be a Sufficient reason, its happy we are not ashamed of one another,—I speak for myself I reckon it one of the greatest honours I have to Boast of, & perhaps I may say it for you too, but that I leave for you I know how partial you are to me, I hope you will always be or you will find what I said to be too true, that my good Qualities are not as numerous as you Imagine. . . .”

More on this long distance courtship in the next post.

William B. Reed, Esther De Berdt, afterwards Esther Reed, of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: C. Sherman Printer, 1853), 29, 49-50, 52. Other letters can be read online HERE. The letter of 28 March 1766 is in the Joseph Reed Papers at the New-York Historical Society. It was transcribed by Louise North.

posted September 17th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Americans Abroad,Courtship,London,Reed, Esther De Berdt,Reed, Joseph

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