“Now for the elections”

All the talk in our country, recently, of “rigged” elections and illegal voters brings to mind the candidacy of John Jay for governor of New York State in 1792. Jay had been nominated to oppose the incumbent George Clinton. Back then, candidates “stood” for election, they did not “run.” There were attacks on Jay focused not on his integrity which was unimpeachable, but on his support of a strong central government and his advocacy of the abolition of slavery. Opponents claimed that it was John Jay’s particular wish “to rob every Dutchman of the property he possesses most dear to his heart, his slaves . . . [and] to oblige their masters to educate the children of those slaves.” Scurrilous pieces purported to have been written by Jay appeared in the newspapers but he denied any knowledge of them.

In fact, Jay did not campaign and showed very little interest in the outcome. At the time he was Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and was off riding circuit in New England. Letters between Jay and his wife, the lovely and intelligent Sarah Livingston, nevertheless contained references to and information about his candidacy and the course of the campaign. It took a month and a half for the contest to be decided after the votes were cast because ballots from each county had to be properly forwarded to the office of the secretary of the State, and there was a dispute over votes from Otsego County. Sarah claims she would be happy if John did not win. She wrote on June 2nd:

. . . . The Children as well as myself still enjoy health; the little miniature piece [Sarah Louisa, the youngest of the Jay children] continues good humor’d, healthy & sprightly. . . . So much for the home Department.

Now for the elections. How my Love will you bear the mortification of embarking on board a Rhode-Island Packet to return to New York, leaving to Judge Cushing the superlative pleasure of traversing the green woods, & attending learned disquisi[ti]ons at Bennington? Yet that I believe must be our deplorable fate unless something very unexpected should occur. I shall send you a news-paper from which you will perceive how the election stands, & this evening I will obtain an account of the examination of the votes this day. Judge Hobart is so sanguine, that he is sure of a majority for you, even tho’ the Otsego votes shd. be lost. You will doubtless be pleased at having a majority in the City of New York & County of West-Chester, as being the places in which you are most known. . . .

To morrow the packet is to sail & if any thing new takes place I shall have the pleasure of communicating it to you. It is expected that Votes will all be canvass’d by this day se’en night. If earlier you shall have immediate intelligence pr. post, Judge Hobart told me that he wd. write you if he did not depend upon me, but that it was unnecessary to make you pay double postage.

More on the election in the next post.

Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005), 209-10. The print of Sarah is from the portrait collection at the New York Public Library. Jay is shown in his robes as Chief Justice; Portrait by Gregory Stapko after Gilbert Stuart, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D.C.

posted April 6th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Clinton, George, Jay, John, Jay, Sarah Livingston, New York

Henrietta Marchant Liston

LOUISE NORTH, readers may recall, is the co-editor, with Landa Freeman and myself, of two published books: In the Words of Women—The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799 (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) and Selected Letters of John Jay and Sarah Livingston Jay (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005). We three had a wonderful time reading and selecting the letters and other writings of our subjects. One of the women we came across in our research, Henrietta Marchant Liston, so entranced Louise that she struck out on her own to publish a book of her writings. The result is The Travel Journals of Henrietta Marchant Liston (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2014). Henrietta was the wife of the second British minister plenipotentiary to the new United States, Robert Liston. The pair traveled for more than twelve months during their stay of four-and-a-half years: throughout the eastern seaboard from Charleston, SC to Quebec. Henrietta kept a journal and her observations are a delight to read. See posts here, here, here, and here. Her curiosity is limitless and her language is full of zest.

Louise’s research took her to the National Library of Scotland which is the repository for the Liston materials. On International Woman’s Day last month the Library posted two links, one to a short video about Henrietta Liston and the other of some digital images of her journals. They are really well done and I am certain you will enjoy them even if you have not read Louise’s book. In fact you may wish to read the book after you view them. Louise hopes that will be the case.

posted April 4th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Primary sources, Travel

“I am about to leave you”

A salute to JEMIMA CONDICT, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer, in this last post of Women’s History Month. Jemima’s compulsion to commit her thoughts to paper is the reason we have information about her life and the events during the American Revolution. “Sometimes after our people is gone to Bed I get my Pen for I Don’t know how to Content myself without writing Something.” She was not well schooled but she did learn to write: “When I was But a Child my Dear Parents sent me to school to Mrs. D.W. where there was some Children that I now think was none of the Cleverest. I Don’t write this to excuse myself for I know I want sent to Learn of them, But O how ready I was to idle!”

In April of 1779 she bade farewell to her parents and sister as she was about to marry her first cousin Revolutionary War Captain Aaron Harrison. Recall her conversation with her mother about marrying a close relative in this post.

Dear & Loveing parents I am about to leave you & Do Beg your forgiveness for all I have Done a miss while in your servis. I Confess I have bin a greaf to you all my Days Instead of a Comfort which is now a greaf to me. I thank you for all your Kindness to me. I am going Where I Shall have No father to Pray Night & morning [her father was a preacher]. I have Lived this four and twenty years under great mercys, But I have made So poor use of them, it is just I should be Deprived of them all, yet Dear father I Beseach of you Not to forget me, But Pray for me, O Pray for me Dayly, So after onece more asking your forgiveness & Blessing I remain your

My Dearest & Loving Sister, you & I have Lived many years together, But Now we must Part, which is a hard thing to me, O how Can I? my Dear Sister, I have not Bin Such a sister to you as I ought to a bin yet Cant you forgive me? yes pray So forgive all & don’t forget me. We have Spent many Pleasant hours together & hope we shall as many more & bettor then an any we have before. So farewell my Dear Sister, farewell.

Jemima had a child, Ira, in November 1779 and died of complications of childbirth.

The first quote is from In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799, by Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) xiii. The other excerpts are from 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), 70-72.

posted March 30th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth, Condict, Jemima, Education, New Jersey, Religion

“When God his Summons Sends”

That inveterate writer JEMIMA CONDICT from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, summarizes what had befallen her family in the past year.

It is now the 2 of JANUARY [1777] & as I have not had time to write any this winter I thought this a Proper Season, as I am up With my Sick Sister, to take Pen in Hand & Recollect a little of What is Past. I intended to kept a Strickt account of the Times, But as Providence has ordered matters, I have my Hands full By Night & Day, So that I shall Now only jest Tell you In Broken Languige What Troubles we have had in Our family. since I Saw you Last. My Dear mother was taken Sick the 25 of October & was So Bad that we Did not much Expect her recovery. It was then I thought I Should Bin Deprivd of that great Blessing I had so Long undeservedly enjoyd. My Youngist Brother also Lay Very Bad So that we did not Expect him to Live for many Days. Dear father was taken Sik Quick after, But through the Goodness of God they Soon recovered; So that we were in Hopes of having health in our habitation. But at Chrismas my Sister was taken Sick & was Extreme Bad. She had a Strange Disoder. it Lay in her throat & Stomack Sometimes she would be So Choack that we never expected She would Come too agin. another of my Brothers Likewise at the Same time was very Sick; But it has Pleased a holy god to show us his Power in Raiseing them to a State of health.

JANUARY ye 29 1777 Samuel ogden my Brother in Law was taken Sick at Newark & was Brought up to his uncle abrams. Where after a Short tho Tedious fit of Sickness Died; his mother Being there to tend him; she was taken Sick the Next Night & Died the week following So the both died from home yet not from friends.

And so all must Go
When God his Summons Sends

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), 64-65, 66. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society, “Manuscript Group 123.”

posted March 27th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Condict, Jemima, Death, Illness, New Jersey

“the Blody flux”

JEMIMA CONDUCT, the young woman from Pleasantdale, New Jersey, once again writes about actions of the British.

Monday May first [1775]. this day I think is a Day of mourning we have word Come that the fleet is coming into Newyork also & to Day the men of our Town is to have a general meeting to Conlud upon measures Which may Be most Proper to be taken; they have Chose men to act for them & I hope the Lord will Give them Wisdom to Conduct wisely & Prudently In all matters.

In 1776, disease ravaged the area. “July 23, Did that Distressing Disorder the Blody flux Began to rage in this Neighborhood.” Jemima cites death after death: of friends and neighbors, adults and children, civilians and soldiers. “August the 16th, Then Died Jered freeman. he was taken Sick at newyork among the Sogers & was brought home & Died Soon After.” Some soldiers were killed in action, but more died as a result of sickness.

September 1776. We hear News from our army at Montigue & Several of them we hear is Dead. sense there Departure Benjamin Canfield & Stevan Morris, David Luis Died with the Camp Disorder & william acorn we hear was killed by the injuns; Sen Jabez freeman the Son of the Late Diseast John freeman is Dead, also Sias Heady Died up there with Sickness.

The bloody flux or dysentery is characterized by bloody diarrhea. The “Camp Disorder” is likely typhus. It is heartbreaking to read Jemima’s list of the dead. It goes on and on, year after year, and is a reminder of the fragility of life at that time and the ineffectiveness of treatment. What is also impressive is the way sickness and death were borne: always regarded as God’s will, to be accepted. Gratitude was expressed for those who had been spared.

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), 52, 59, 60, 61. The original of Jemima Condict’s diary is in the archives of the New Jersey Historical Society.

posted March 23rd, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: American soldiers, Condict, Jemima, Death, Illness, Medicine

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