Monday, December 31, 2018

Reading - 18C American Family with Books

1796 Jonathan Budington 1766-1854 George Eliot and Family with a book & a journal

Children were considered ready for further educational instruction outside the home once they had mastered reading the Bible, but not before then. Fathers &/or grammar schools typically taught boys to write, a job-related skill not deemed essential for girls. Thus a typical colonial girl & boy could both read, but only the boy could also write.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Women in the Whiskey Rebellion, America's 1st Civil War

Initially, US soldiers & local militias maintain the union in the Early Republic. Washington Reviewing the Western Army, at Fort Cumberland, Maryland, after 1795, attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer (German-born American artist, c.1755-1821)

Not long after the United States was created, it faced one of its first domestic tests -- and booze was at the heart of it. In 1791, America was drowning in war debt, so President Washington reluctantly levied a tax on whiskey to help repay the country's creditors. Unfortunately, corn whiskey was much more valuable than raw corn, so many farmers focused their production on booze, rather than grain. Some laborers were even paid in whiskey.

During the American Revolution, individual states had incurred significant debt. In 1790, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton pushed for the federal government to take over that debt. He also suggested an excise tax on whiskey to prevent further financial difficulty. At first, President George Washington was opposed to Hamilton’s suggestion of a whiskey tax. In 1791, Washington journeyed through Virginia & Pennsylvania to speak with citizens about their views. The idea was enthusiastically supported by citzens & local government officials alike, & Washington took this assurance back to Congress, which passed the bill. But protests against the new tax began immediately, arguing that the tax was unfair to small producers, and they were right. Under the new law, large producers paid the tax annually at a rate of 6 cents per gallon, & the more they produced, the further the tax breaks. Small producers, however, were stuck with a 9 cents per gallon rate. Farmers took further issue because only cash would be accepted for tax payment.

The resulting Whiskey Rebellion was a 1794 uprising of farmers and distillers in Western Pennsylvania in protest of a whiskey tax enacted by the federal government. Following years of aggression with tax collectors, the region finally exploded in a confrontation that had President Washington respond by sending troops to quell what some feared could become a full-blown 2nd revolution.

1791 Local violence by men disguised as women...

The law was immediately a failure, since refusals to pay the taxes were as common as intimidation against officials hired to collect them. Excise officers sent to collect the tax were met with defiance & threats of violence. Some producers refused to pay the tax. Perhaps inevitably, violence broke out. On September 11, 1791, excise officer Robert Johnson was riding through his collection route in Western Pennsylvania. Johnson was surrounded by 11 men dressed as women, who stripped him naked & then tarred & feathered him before stealing his horse & abandoning him in the forest. Johnson recognized two men in the mob. He made a complaint & warrants were issued for their arrest. A cattle drover named John Connor was sent with the warrants, & he suffered the same fate as Johnson, & was tied to a tree in the woods for five hours before being found. In response, Johnson resigned his post, fearing further violence. Incidents escalated over the next few years.

1793 A local tax collector's wife & children are assaulted

In 1793, the home of Pennsylvania excise officer Benjamin Wells was broken into twice. The first time, a mob of people forced their way in & assaulted Wells’ wife & children. The second incident involved six men, in disguises, while Wells was home. The intruders demanded Wells’ account books at gunpoint & insisted he resign his position.
Frederick Kemmelmeyer (American artist, c.1755-1821) President George Washington reviewing the Western army at Fort Cumberland October 18, 1794, the day before they arrived in Bedord, Pennsylvania

In the summer of 1794, Federal Marshall David Lenox began the process of serving writs to 60 distillers in Western Pennsylvania who had not paid the tax. On July 14, Lenox accepted the services of tax collector & wealthy landowner John Neville as guide through Allegheny County. On July 15, they approached the home of William Miller, who refused to accept his summons. An argument ensued, & when Lenox & Neville rode off, they were face-to-face with an angry mob, armed with pitchforks & muskets—some were believed to be drunk. Someone had told the mob that federal agents were dragging people away, but Lenox & Neville were allowed to pass, once that was understood to be untrue. Nonetheless, a shot was fired as the 2 men rode away. On the morning of July 16, Neville was asleep in his home, Bower Hill, when he was awakened by a crowd of angry men—some of whom had been served summons the previous day. The men claimed that Lenox needed to come with them, because there was a threat to his life. Neville didn’t believe the men & ordered them off his property. When the mob refused to move, Neville grabbed a gun & shot at the crowd, striking & killing Oliver Miller. In retaliation, the mob shot back at the house. Neville made it inside the house & sounded a signal horn he had devised for just such an occurance, after which he heard the sound of his slaves attacking the crowd with firearms.Six of mob were wounded, before they fled with Miller’s body. By evening, the mob had reconvened for a meeting with a group of other people, who declared revenge on Neville.
General Wayne Obtains a Complete Victory Over the Miami Indians, August 20th, 1794 by Frederick Kemmelmeyer (German-born American artist, c.1755-1821)

July 1794 Mob allows women to flee before burning house down

On July 17, 1794, as many as 700 men marched to drums & gathered at Neville’s home. They demanded his surrender, but Major James Kirkpatrick, one of 10 soldiers who had come to the property to help defend it, answered that Neville was not there. In fact, Kirkpatrick had helped Neville escape the house & hide in a ravine. The mob demanded that the soldiers surrender. When that request was refused, they set fire to a barn & slave dwellings. The Neville women were allowed to flee to safety, after which the mob opened fire on the house. Following an hour of gunfighting, the mob’s leader, James McFarlane, was killed. In a rage, the mob set fire to other buildings & the soldiers soon surrendered as the Bower Hill estate burned to the ground.

Less than a week later, the mob met with local dignitaries who warned that Washington would send a militia to strike them down & they had to strike first. Wealthy landowner David Bradford, along with several other men, attacked a mail carrier & discovered three letters from Pittsburgh expressing disapproval of the attack on Neville’s property. Bradford used these letters as an excuse to encourage an attack on Pittsburgh, inciting 7,000 men to show up at Braddock’s Field, east of the city. The city of Pittsburgh, fearing violence, sent a delegation to announce that the 3 letter writers had been expelled from the city & to offer a gift of several barrels of whiskey. As the day ended, the crowd had drunk deeply from the barrels & weren’t inspired to descend on Pittsburgh with any fury, instead gaining permission to march through Pittsburgh peacefully.
Jonathan Welch Edes (American artist, 1750-c 1793-1803) Overmantel showing Militia in a Field, 1790, Massachusetts

With signs that the rebels were hoping to reignite the conflict & believing it was linked to unrest in other parts of the country, Alexander Hamilton wanted to send troops to Pennsylvania, but George Washington opted for a peace envoy instead. The peace envoy failed, & state militia—consisting of more than 12,000 men from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland & New Jersey—followed. Led by George Washington, it marked the first & last time a sitting president led armed troops. Washington met first with the rebels, who assured him the militia was not needed & that order had been restored. Washington opted to retain the military option until proof of submission was apparent. The large & well-armed militia marched into Western Pennsylvania & was met with angry citizens but little violence. When a rebel army didn’t appear, the militia rounded up suspected rebels instead. However, the rebellion’s instigators had already fled, & the militia’s prisoners weren’t involved in the rebellion. They were marched to Philadelphia to stand trial regardless. Only 2 men were found guilty of treason, & both were pardoned by Washington. The federal response to the Whiskey Rebellion was widely believed to be a critical test of federal authority, one that Washington’s fledgling government met with success. The whiskey tax that inspired the rebellion remained in effect until 1802. Under the leadership of President Thomas Jefferson & the Republican Party (which, like many citizens, opposed Hamilton’s Federalist tax policies), the tax was repealed after continuing to be almost impossible to collect.
A Militia Meeting. Satirical English print 1773

Opposition to the whiskey tax & the rebellion itself built support for the Republicans, which overtook Washington’s Federalist Party for power in 1802. But, of course, women could not vote in The United States of America until 1920.

See
The Whiskey Rebellion: Frontier Epilogue to the American Revolution. Thomas P. Slaughter.
Failures of the Presidents. Thomas J. Craughwell.
Whiskey Rebellion. National Park Service.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Reading - 18C American Woman with a Book

1794-96 James Earl (American artist, 1761-1796) Rebecca Pritchard and her daughter Eliza reading & sewing

Not only was reading taught & mastered in the colonial home, but the home was the primary place of reading throughout people’s lives. For those of Protestant faiths, morning & evening devotions required reading & contemplation of religious texts, & often families & neighbors gathered in the home for further religious study

Friday, December 28, 2018

George Washington as a Freemason - No Women Allowed

William Joseph Williams (1759-1823) George Washington, Mason, 1794

In July 1792, Washington had turned down a request for a sitting from American artist William Joseph Williams, telling Governor Henry Lee of Virginia:"I am so heartily tired of the attendance which, from one cause or another, I have bestowed on these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them; and have adhered to it; except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence, be refused. I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it, which is, that these productions have, in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax upon individuals, by being engraved, and that badly, and hawked, or advertised for Sale."Williams then offered to paint Washington's portrait for the Alexandria (Virginia) Masonic Lodge No. 22. Lodge officers wrote Washington in 1793 that it would be" a source of the most refined gratification the tracing out and contemplating the various ornaments of his character in the resemblance of his person. Williams's portrait shows Washington as a Virginia past master, with Masonic regalia and jewels. Williams's careful depiction includes a scar on Washington's left cheek, smallpox scars on his nose and cheeks, and a mole under his right ear.

George Washington joined the Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the age of 20 in 1752. During the War for Independence, General Washington attended Masonic celebration and religious observances in several states. He also supported Masonic Lodges that formed within army regiments. At his first inauguration in 1791, President Washington took his oath of office on a Bible from St. John's Lodge in New York. During his two terms, he visited Masons in North and South Carolina and presided over the cornerstone ceremony for the U.S. Capitol in 1793. In retirement, Washington became charter Master of the newly chartered Alexandria Lodge No. 22, sat for a portrait in his Masonic regalia, and in death, was buried with Masonic honors.
A Timeline of George Washington's Masonic Activities

November 4, 1752 - Initiated as Entered Apprentice at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1753
March 3, 1753 - Passed to the Degree of Fellow Craft at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4
August 4, 1753 - Raised a Master Mason at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4.

1778
December 28, 1778 - Marched in a Masonic procession in celebration of Saint John the Evangelist Day

1779
June 24, 1779 - Celebrated Saint John the Baptist Day with American Union Military Lodge at West Point, New York
December 27, 1779 - Celebrated Saint John the Evangelist Day with American Union Military Lodge at Morristown, New Jersey

1781
October - Reportedly visited Lodge No. 9 at Yorktown, VA with General Lafayette after defeat of British General Cornwallis

1782
Brothers Watson and Cassoul of Nantes, France present Washington with silk Masonic apron, acknowledged by letter dated August 10
June 24, 1782 - St. John the Baptist celebration - Marked with American Union Military Lodge at West Point, New York.
December 27, 1782 - St. John the Evangelist Day - Celebrated with Solomon's Lodge No. 1, Poughkeepsie, New York.

1784
June 24, 1784 - St. John the Baptist celebration - Marked with Alexandria Lodge, Alexandria, Virginia
June 24, 1784 - Made an honorary member of Alexandria Lodge No. 39 (Now Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22) Alexandria, Virginia
August 1784 - Presented a Masonic apron made by Madame de Lafayette to General and Bro. de Lafayette

1785
February 12, 1785 - Walked in Masonic funeral procession for Bro. William Ramsay at Alexandria, Virginia

1788
April 28, 1788 - Named Charter Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 when a new charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia was issued. Unanimously re-elected Master December 20, 1788 for one year.

1789
Elected honorary member of Holland Lodge No. 8, New York, NY
April 30- Inaugurated President of the United States using Bible from St. John's Lodge No. 1, New York

The George Washington Bible, which belongs to St. Johns Lodge in New York City, was first used on April 30, 1789, by the Grand Master of the Masons in New York, to administer the oath of office to George Washington. Other presidents who took their oath of office with this Bible are Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush.

1791
April 15, 1791 - Welcomed by members of St. John's Lodge No. 2, New Bern, NC

May 1791 - Received the greetings of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina by General Mordecai Gist, Grand Master, Charleston, SC

1793
September 18 Acting Grand Master - Laid the cornerstone for the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.

1794
1794 William Williams painted Washington in Masonic regalia at the request of Alexandria Lodge 1797 March 28 Received a Masonic delegation from Alexandria Lodge.
Artist Hattie E. Burdette (1872-1955) depicts George Washington here donning full masonic regalia, including the apron, which bears a pyramid icon. His hat is adorned with a masonic compass, and he wears a sunburst around his neck. The apron also features the American flag crossed with another. A ''G'' hovers over his shoulder, rumored to symbolize God.The original was painted especially for the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission.

1798
April 1, 1798 - Attended Alexandria Lodge No. 22 Proposed a toast at the banquet that followed

1799
December 18, 1799 - Buried at Mount Vernon with Masonic rites as well as those of the church, conducted by Alexandria Lodge

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Why did 18C Freemasons, including Jas Madison & Geo Washington celebrate on Dec 27?

December 27 is the feast of Saint John the Apostle & Evangelist.

Freemasons claimed that "Those artificial distinctions which societies introduce, Masonry obliterates." But, in fact, 18C women were not allowed in their meetings. But as the following narrative shows, they did plan for a supper & a ball to be given to the ladies during the holiday season.

Freemasons historically celebrate two feasts of Saint John. The feast of John the Baptist falls on 24 June, & that of John the Evangelist on 27 December. The Saints John are the patron saints of the Masonic order.  Two days after Christmas in 18C Virginia, Masons (dressed in full Masonic regalia) often held a procession from their lodge to a local parish church on Saint Johns Day to hear a special sermon on the blessings of love, unity, fraternity, wisdom, & brotherhood.  President George Washington was a Mason and so was fellow Virginian & later president James Madison.

Many other leaders of the American Revolution, including Paul Revere, John Hancock, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the Boston Tea Party saboteurs, were also Freemasons.  Other Presidents known to be Masons included James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford.

Visiting Fredericksburg on December 27, 1774, John Harrower, a Scottish tutor, noted in his journal: "St Johns Day. This Day a Grand Lodge in Town, And the whole went to Church in their Clothing & heard Sermon."

After the service the American Masons continued to celebrate Saint Johns Day often attending a supper & ball with their wives.  In 1778, the preparation for Saint Johns Day was noted by the minutes of the Williamsburg Lodge:
Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, Virginia

December 1, 1778
•On a motion made respecting the ensuing Saint John the Evangelist it was after mature consideration resolved that as that Feast falls on Sunday the usual Ceremonies be postponed until Monday.
•Resolved: That this Lodge meet on Monday after the ensuing Saint John & go in procession to Church & that the Reverend Brother Madison (James) be requested to preach a sermon on the occasion.
•Resolved: That this Lodge meet on Monday Afternoon to spend the Evening together & that a Ball be given to the Ladies & that Brother Charlton (Edward) be desired to provide accordingly.
Charles Willson Peale (American artist, 1741–1827) James Madison 1751-1836 in 1783 at age 33.

A Solemn Charge delivered by the Chaplain of the lodge, the Reverend Brother James Madison (later to become the 4th President of the United States) to the Brethren of the Williamsburg Lodge of Masons at Bruton Parish Church on Monday the 28th of December 1778 A.D., 5778 A.L., being the day approved for the celebration of the High Festival of Holy Saint John the Evangelist. Brothers, Though I once had the pleasure of addressing you from this place upon a similar occasion, yet the present opportunity affords me the most real satisfaction. The spirit of Masonry has revived amongst us & of consequence social & brotherly love. I do not rejoice that the mere name of Masonry, or its parade, or form, has revived, but there is a pleasing satisfaction which the heart of a good man must ever feel in beholding those principles to diffuse their God like influence which tend to break the natural ferocity of Man, to meliorate his temper, to establish universal benevolence, to expand the golden wings of charity; this is the spirit of Masonry, upon these pillars it is founded & upon them alone, may if long flourish amongst us...
Man, created by the great Author of all things was formed for equality. Those artificial distinctions which societies introduce, Masonry obliterates. Following nature as her guide, she extends her arms to all, whether the humble cottage be their lot, or whether raised to the most exalted station; benevolence, integrity & charity are the only discriminations that she knows, & these are such as nature herself have established. Pride, arrogance & ambition are the hostile foes which Masonry has to contend with. Their banners are seen displayed in every part, nay too often triumphant over misery & distress. They, regardless of primitive equality, or of the rights of Man, spread calamity wherever they appear, oppression is the iron rod by which Man is forced in the anguish of his soul to curse that existence which only prolongs his pain...His squalling nature has become the demon of affliction. His cries, his supplications are returned with the weight of accumulated woe, nothing remains but disdain. Even hope, the last asylum of the wretched, is fled. Such are the evils which those malignant passions often inflict upon too many of the human race. Where then is the refuge, the haven of safety? Where then the barrier against this torrent of misery? Christianity. Her voice, like the mild dew upon the tender herbs which the morning sun dissipates, is lost amidst the clamor of those turbulent passions. Her prospects are extended through the long vista of futurity, her rewards or her punishments wait suspended until death, closed the transitory scene. Her lessons of humanity seldom reach the hearts of those whom the wretched have most to fear. Where then, may I not once more ask, is the asylum for honest misery? Charity, that daughter of heaven, It is hers alone to mitigate the calamities of our Brethren, to wipe away the tears of misfortune. It is charity which can alone oppose that torrent of misery which so often overwhelms the honest, the incautious heart. It is Charity which must defeat the havoc which ambition & injustice would spread around. It is charity which rears the abject mind, diffuses peace wherever she arrives, smooths the rough paths of peevish nature & opens in each heart a little heaven...A good Mason will therefore consider charity at the first great essential to render him worthy of that appellation. Intercourse is the natural disposition of man & hence we see them forming particular societies. He will consider himself as the friend of human nature. He will ever bear in mind that it is his duty & profession to relieve a brother in distress wherever found; to be a father to the orphan, a friend to the captive, or like the great author of all things to diffuse benevolence on every object which claims pity or compassion. Whilst charity therefore is that power which cements our union, Masonry must ever remain one of the noblest of institutions...Friendship alone whilst man travels the thorny path of life affords a consideration which can alone render life happy or desirable. The heart of man wants some object to whom it may communicate its feelings & can have no complete enjoyment without participation. It is upon the sensibility & benevolence of others that we greatly depend for our happiness. But this sacred union can only subsist when the social & generous affections exist. Honor & immovable virtue is the basis of friendship. It is a gentle flame that illuminates only the hearts of the good. It is a tender flower that will never flourish in the cold & barren soil of selfishness & avarice. No man will deserve the honorable title of a true friend who does not interest himself in every event which happens to his friend. The true friend participates in the joys, the miseries, the calamities or the misfortunes which arise, & by participating increases the joy or diminishes the pain. The richest blessings heaven could bestow would lose more than half their value if we had no companion to share in our happiness. Adam placed in Eve, where all nature conspired to render him happy, where new pleasures courted every sense, found solitude insupportable, a friend was necessary to render even these joys a real happiness. Masonry therefore promotes the real happiness of mankind; whilst it promotes friendship & harmony. But it requires honor & virtue, both private & public, to render it permanent or lasting...The views of Masonry are noble & truly Christian, but unless its members possess the true spirit, unless virtue & honor be the cornerstones, they will rear a fabric which will neither possess beauty or order, which can only bring disgrace on the unskillful architects. The pleasures or the happiness which it affords will be like a sudden blaze streaming from the north, which plays a moment on the eye, mocks the traveler with the hope of light & then vanishes forever. But when charity, friendship, virtue & integrity diffuse their constant uninterrupted influence on its members Masonry might show human nature in its greatest perfection...The heart of man perhaps is no less strongly attracted to society than the earth to the sun.  Happiness is our beings end & aim. The pursuit of it is indeed as various as the candidates for so important a prize. Yet it must ever be found to terminate at last in the approbation of the member of that society to which we belong. The conduct which secures that approbation establishes happiness. What are all those gay declarations which power, ambition or wealth offer to their votaries? They soon pall upon the sense, soon outlive the transient joys they were supposed to bring. While the friend of man meets with pleasure, happiness & joy in the friendship he experiences from every Brother. Examine the constitution of the human mind, the cause is developed. We see that it is endued by its maker with principles of a social as well as of a private & personal kind. The happiness of each individual is wisely connected with that of the species & thus a universal dependence is established among mankind. Is it not the voice of nature which inspires such as are connected in the relations of domestic life, with that mutual affection, which forms the most indissoluble union, & which becomes a sconce of those pleasures & endearments the most exquisite human nature can receive. Is it not still the voice of nature which prompts us to look beyond the bounds of domestic connections & to interest ourselves in the public weal? Is it not the voice of nature, which calls forth the emotions of sympathy & compassion, when we behold a fellow creature in distress? And is it not still the voice of nature which expects the laudable emulation to perform those actions which at length may obtain the approbation of our brethren. The good Mason will therefore invariably promote the happiness, the interests & general welfare of every honest brother. “By this shall all men know, that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another.” But ye whose profession is friendship & charity; ye whose object it is to follow the example of the father of the universe in communication happiness to all around; ye whose duty teaches you ever to hold forth the generous balm of consolation to your brother; ye who would render benevolence as extensive as creation itself, what greater reward can the human mind conceive than the satisfaction which must result from the internal feelings of your own hearts. This is a reward which will continue when every other pleasure shall forsake us for even under the greatest reverse of fortune or the heaviest pressures of affliction, the good Mason must at all times happy in the recollection of a life devoted to the service of fellow creatures. The remembrance of his good deeds will minister consolation to his soul, in that hour when the last farewell bursts from his dying lips whilst he leaves in grateful & affectionate hearts lasting monuments of his virtues. Conscious that he hath not lived to himself along, he will leave this world in peace & enter upon that Born from whence no traveler returns with a joyful hope, that when he rests from his labours, his works with follow him.  Amen
William Joseph Williams (1759-1823) George Washington, Mason, 1794. Williams's portrait shows Washington as a Virginia past master, with Masonic regalia and jewels. Williams's careful depiction includes a scar on Washington's left cheek, smallpox scars on his nose and cheeks, and a mole under his right ear.

George Washington had joined the Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the age of 20 in 1752. During the War for Independence, General Washington attended Masonic celebration and religious observances in several states. He also supported Masonic Lodges that formed within army regiments.  At his first inauguration in 1791, President Washington took his oath of office on a Bible from St. John's Lodge in New York. During his two terms, he visited Masons in North and South Carolina and presided over the cornerstone ceremony for the U.S. Capitol in 1793.  In retirement, Washington became charter Master of the newly chartered Alexandria Lodge No. 22, sat for a portrait in his Masonic regalia, and in death, was buried with Masonic honors.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

George Washington with his wife & family - "Where & how my time is spent" - December 1769

George Washington George Washington (1731-32-1799) as a Young Man, Painted by Rembrandt Peale (American artist, 1778–1860)

December 1769 - Where & how—my time is—Spent

Decr. 1. Dined at Mrs. Campbells with the Speaker, Treasurer & other Company. Mrs. Washington & Childn. Dined at the Attorneys. Myself & J. P. Custis suppd at Mrs. Campbells.


2. Mrs. Washington & children, myself, Colo. Basset, Mrs. Basset & Betcy Bassett all Eat Oysters at Mrs. Campbells abt. One oclock and afterwards went up to Eltham.


The burgesses once more adjourned until 11:00 A.M. Monday. Before the family left town, GW paid Miss P. Davenport £3 3s. 8d. for clothing furnished Patsy and Mrs. Washington. He also paid 3s. for postage and gave Jacky £1 in cash. Mrs. Washington and Patsy had received spending money earlier in the week).

3. At Eltham all day.

4. Returnd to Town and dined at Mrs. Campbells. Spent Eveng. there also witht. Supg.


Mrs. Washington and the children remained at Eltham. In town GW bought an ornamental comb for Patsy at John Carter’s store on Duke of Gloucester Street.

5. Dined at Mrs. Campbells & spent the Evening there without supping—in.

GW on this date paid Alexander Craig, a Williamsburg saddler, 9s. 6d. on his own account and 16s. for Jacky .

6. Dined at Mr. Cockes & spent the Eveng. there.

7. Dined at Mrs. Campbells & the Evening spent in my Room.


8. Dined at Mrs. Campbells & was engagd. at Charltons abt. Colo. Moore’s Lotty. the Evg.


Bernard Moore, of Chelsea in King William County, was forced to raffle all his property in a lottery to pay his debts, part of which were owed to the administrators of Speaker John Robinson’s estate. GW was a manager for the lottery.

9. Dined at Mrs. Campbells and suppd there with the speaker &ca.

10. Dined at the Speakers & spent the Evening in my own Room.

Today being Sunday, the burgesses did not meet. GW recorded under this date the payment of 7s. 6d. to Benjamin Bucktrout, Williamsburg cabinetmaker and merchant, for repairing a coach house belonging to the printer William Rind (d. 1773). GW may have kept his new chariot there while he was in town.

11. Dined at Mr. Wythes—and the Eveng. Spent in my own Room.

12. Dined at Mrs. Campbells and Spent the Evening in my own Room.


13. Dined at Mrs. Campbells and went to the Ball at the Capitol.

The ball was given in the evening by the burgesses for the governor, the council, and the ladies and gentlemen of the town, and the Capitol was illuminated for the occasion. Of the ladies who attended, “near one hundred, appeared in homespun gowns” to show their support of the nonimportation agreement. “It were to be wished,” William Rind’s Virginia Gazette observed the following day, “that all assemblies of American Ladies would exhibit a like example of public virtue and private oeconomy, so amiably united”

14. Dined at Mrs. Campbells & spent part of the Evening in drawing Colo. Moores Lottery.

15. Dined at the Attorney’s and went to Southalls in the Evening to draw Colo. Moores Lottery.


James Barrett Southall (b. 1726) was at this time operating a tavern on Duke of Gloucester Street which he had leased from the heirs of its original proprietor, Henry Wetherburn. Located in the block nearest the Capitol, the tavern had become very popular by 1760, when Wetherburn died, and it continued to have an excellent reputation under Southall, who took it over sometime before June 1767. An experienced innkeeper, Southall had been in business elsewhere in Williamsburg as early as 1757, when GW paid him for supper and club. He remained at the Wetherburn Tavern until 1771.

16. Dined at Mrs. Campbells & drawg. Colo. Moores Lottery till 10 Oclock & then compleated it.

GW was today given permission by the House of Burgesses to be absent for a week, and he paid most of his bills in town as if he intended to go home (JHB, 1766–69, 343). The barber George Lafong was given £5 9s. 1d. to settle his account against GW, Jacky, and Patsy; James Craig, a Williamsburg jeweler, received £3 for two mourning rings bought for Harrison Manley and 2s. 6d. for repairing Jacky’s buttons; Anthony Hay was paid 14s. for three suppers and other expenses at the Raleigh; and Patsy’s medical bills were discharged: £10 15s. to Dr. Sequeyra and £2 13s. 3d. to Dr. William Pasteur, probably for medicines from his apothecary shop on Duke of Gloucester Street. Pasteur, who died in 1791, was the son of a Swiss immigrant. He had been apprenticed to a Williamsburg doctor at an early age and had opened his shop by 1759. GW also paid Pasteur 6s. 4d. on his own account.

17. Dined at the Palace and went up in the Afternoon to Colo. Bassetts.

The burgesses did not meet today, Sunday. GW paid Mrs. Campbell’s account against him, Jacky, and Patsy, a total of £42 12s. 6d.

18. Came to Town again abt. 12 Oclock. Dind at Mrs. Campbells, & spent the Evening in my own Room a writing.

19. Dined at Mrs. Campbells an hour after Candlelight & spent the Eveng. in my own Room.


20. Dined at Mrs. Campbells and spt. the Evening in my own Room.


GW today paid 8s. 3d. for “Barber & Washing.”

21. Dined at Mrs. Campbells & came up to Eltham after the House adjournd.

Governor Botetourt was reluctant to let the burgesses go home at this time, despite the fact that they had sat six days a week for over six weeks. Apparently many matters remained to be considered. “The Inclination of this Assembly,” he told them today, “could alone have engaged me to have interrupted the Business of this Session; but as I understand that it is generally desired to adjourn over the Christmas Holidays, and not to meet again till the Month of May, I do direct both Houses to adjourn themselves to the 21st Day of May next.”  Before GW left town, he paid Mrs. Campbell £1 10s. 6d. for his expenses at her place since 17 Dec.

22. Sett of for home. Dined at Todds Bridge and lodgd at Hubbards.

23. Breakfasted at Caroline Ct. House and reachd Fredericksburg abt. 4 Oclock in the Aftern. ding. at Colo. Lewis.


Caroline Court House was about halfway between Todd’s Bridge and Fredericksburg, but lay a few miles east of the main road. GW’s expenses there on this day were 8s. 9d. The chief tavern at the Court House had been established about 1733 by Samuel Coleman (1704–1748) and was now owned by his son Francis Coleman (d. 1771), a lawyer who served a term as a Caroline burgess 1769–70.

24. Went to Prayers, & dined afterwds. at Colo. Lewis. Spent the Evening with Mr. Jones at Julians.

Edward Jones was Mary Ball Washington’s overseer at the Ferry Farm. Mrs. Julian kept a tavern on the main street of Fredericksburg until about 1777.

25. Dined & spent the Evening at Colo. Lewis’s.

GW today recorded winning £2 5s. at cards.

26. Dined at Colo. Lewis & went over the River and lodgd at my Mothers.

GW today paid 2s. 6d. to a barber and 3s. 9d. for having his chariot repaired.

27. Dined and lodgd at Dumfries with Mr. Boucher & J. P. Custis who overtook us on the Road.

Before GW left his mother he gave her £6 in cash.

28. Reached home to Dinner with Mr. Boucher & ca.

29. At Home all day.


30. Mr. Boucher went away. I Rid to My Mill with Ball and agreed with [him] to Build here.


GW had decided in the spring to replace his small plantation mill with a merchant mill which could manufacture large quantities of high-grade flour suitable for sale in the colony or for export to lucrative markets abroad. By grinding his own wheat he might increase his profit from each year’s crop, and if he bought wheat from other farmers and sold flour ground from it, he could make even more money. The new mill was to be built downstream from the old one, near the point where narrow, shallow Dogue Run widened into navigable Dogue Creek, a convenient location for water transportation. But the exact site would not be determined until the terrain in the area had been thoroughly studied.  The millwright was John Ball of Frederick County, who about this time was sending goods by wagon from the Shenandoah Valley to Falmouth. He was also probably the John Ball (1742–1806) who settled on Licking Run, Fauquier County, in 1771. A son of William Ball (1718–1785) of Lancaster County, this John Ball married Sarah Ellen Payne in 1767 and later became a captain in the Fauquier militia. His eldest son, William, may have been the William Ball who was engaged to rebuild GW’s mill in 1791.

31. At Home all day.

“December 1769,” Founders Online, National Archives. Source: The Diaries of George Washington, vol. 2,14 January 1769 - 31 December 1770, ed. Donald Jackson. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976, pp. 199–204.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 1765 - John Adams' "most remarkable Year of my Life" - Stamp Act, & "Spent the Evening at Home, with my Partner & no other Company".

John Adams by John Trumbull, 1792–93

John Adams ponderous Christmas of 1765

December 1765

Braintree Decr. 18th. 1765. Wednesday.

...The Year 1765 has been the most remarkable Year of my Life. That enormous Engine, fabricated by the british Parliament, for battering down all the Rights and Liberties of America, I mean the Stamp Act, has raised and spread, thro the whole Continent, a Spirit that will be recorded to our Honour, with all future Generations. In every Colony, from Georgia to New-Hampshire inclusively, the Stamp Distributors and Inspectors have been compelled, by the unconquerable Rage of the People, to renounce their offices. Such and so universal has been the Resentment of the People, that every Man who has dared to speak in favour of the Stamps, or to soften the detestation in which they are held, how great soever his Abilities and Virtues had been esteemed before, or whatever his fortune, Connections and Influence had been, has been seen to sink into universal Contempt and Ignominy.

The People, even to the lowest Ranks, have become more attentive to their Liberties, more inquisitive about them, and more determined to defend them, than they were ever before known or had occasion to be. Innumerable have been the Monuments of Wit, Humour, Sense, Learning, Spirit, Patriotism, and Heroism, erected in the several Colonies and Provinces, in the Course of this Year. Our Presses have groaned, our Pulpits have thundered, our Legislatures have resolved, our Towns have voted, The Crown Officers have every where trembled, and all their little Tools and Creatures, been afraid to Speak and ashamed to be seen.

This Spirit however has not yet been sufficient to banish, from Persons in Authority, that Timidity, which they have discovered from the Beginning. The executive Courts have not yet dared to adjudge the Stamp-Act void nor to proceed with Business as usual, tho it should seem that Necessity alone would be sufficient to justify Business, at present, tho the Act should be allowed to be obligatory. The Stamps are in the Castle. Mr. Oliver has no Commission. The Governor has no Authority to distribute, or even to unpack the Bales, the Act has never been proclaimed nor read in the Province; Yet the Probate office is shut, the Custom House is shut, the Courts of Justice are shut, and all Business seems at a Stand. Yesterday and the day before, the two last days of Service for January Term, only one Man asked me for a Writ, and he was soon determined to waive his Request. I have not drawn a Writ since 1st. Novr.

How long We are to remain in this languid Condition, this passive Obedience to the Stamp Act, is not certain. But such a Pause cannot be lasting. Debtors grow insolent. Creditors grow angry. And it is to be expected that the Public offices will very soon be forced open, unless such favourable Accounts should be received from England, as to draw away the Fears of the Great, or unless a greater Dread of the Multitude should drive away the Fear of Censure from G. Britain.

It is my Opinion that by this Inactivity we discover Cowardice, and too much Respect to the Act. This Rest appears to be by Implication at least an Acknowledgement of the Authority of Parliament to tax Us. And if this Authority is once acknowledged and established, the Ruin of America will become inevitable.

This long Interval of Indolence and Idleness will make a large Chasm in my affairs if it should not reduce me to Distress and incapacitate me to answer the Demands upon me. But I must endeavour in some degree to compensate the Disadvantage, by posting my Books, reducing my Accounts into better order, and by diminishing my Expences, but above all by improving the Leisure of this Winter, in a diligent Application to my Studies. I find that Idleness lies between Business and Study, i.e. The Transision from the Hurry of a multiplicity of Business, to the Tranquility that is necessary for intense Study, is not easy. There must be a Vacation, an Interval between them, for the Mind to recollect itself.

The Bar seem to me to behave like a Flock of shot Pidgeons. They seem to be stopped, the Net seems to be thrown over them, and they have scarcely Courage left to flounce and to flutter. So sudden an Interruption in my Career, is very unfortunate for me. I was but just getting into my Geers, just getting under Sail, and an Embargo is laid upon the Ship. Thirty Years of my Life are passed in Preparation for Business. I have had Poverty to struggle with—Envy and Jealousy and Malice of Enemies to encounter—no Friends, or but few to assist me, so that I have groped in dark Obscurity, till of late, and had but just become known, and gained a small degree of Reputation, when this execrable Project was set on foot for my Ruin as well as that of America in General, and of Great Britain.

Decr. 19th. 1765.

A fair Morning after a severe Storm of 3 days and 4 Nights. A vast Quantity of rain fell.

About 12. O Clock came in Messrs. Crafts and Chase and gave me a particular Account of the Proceedings of the Sons of Liberty on Tuesday last, in prevailing on Mr. Oliver to renounce his Office of Distributor of Stamps, by a Declaration under his Hand, and under his Oath, taken before Justice Dana, in Hanover Square, under the very Tree of Liberty, nay under the very Limb where he had been hanged in Effigy, Aug. 14th. 1765. Their absolute Requisition of an Oath, and under that Tree, were Circumstances, extreamly humiliating and mortifying, as Punishment for his receiving a Deputation to be Distributor after his pretended Resignation, and for his faint and indirect Declaration in the News Papers last Monday.

About one O’Clock came in Mr. Clark, one of the Constables of the Town of Boston, with a Letter from Mr. Wm. Cooper their Town Clerk in these Words
Sir
I am directed by the Town to acquaint you, that they have this day voted unanimously, that Jeremiah Gridley, James Otis, and John Adams Esqrs. be applied to, as Council to appear before his Excellency the Governor in Council, in Support of their Memorial, praying that the Courts of Law in this Province may be opened. A Copy of said Memorial will be handed you, on your coming to Town. I am sir, your most obedient hum. sert.,
Wm. Cooper Town Clerk
Boston Decr. 18th. 1765
John Adams Esqr.

The Reasons which induced Boston to choose me, at a distance, and unknown as I am, The particular Persons concerned and measures concerted to bring this about, I am wholly at a loss to conjecture: as I am, what the future Effects and Consequences will be both with Regard to myself and the Public.

But when I recollect my own Reflections and Speculations Yesterday, a part of which were committed to Writing last Night, and may be seen under Decr. 18th, and compare them with the Proceedings of Boston Yesterday of which the foregoing Letter informed me, I cannot but Wonder, and call to Mind my Ld. Bacons Observation, about secret invisible Laws of Nature, a[nd] Communications and Influences between Places, that are not discoverable by Sense.

But I am now under all obligations of Interest and Ambition as well as Honour, Gratitude and Duty, to exert the Utmost of my Abilities, in this important Cause. How shall it be conducted? Shall we contend that the Stamp-Act is void? That the Parliament have no legal Authority to impose Internal Taxes upon Us?—Because We are not represented in it? And therefore that the Stamp Act ought to be waived by the Judges, as against natural Equity and the Constitution? Shall we use these, as Arguments for opening the Courts of Law? Or shall We ground ourselves on Necessity only.

Fryday. Decr. 20th. 1765

Went to Boston. Dined with Mr. Rowe, in Company with Messrs. Gridley, Otis, Kent, and Dudley. After Dinner, went to the Town House, and Attended with the Committee of the Town of Boston and many other Gentlemen in the Representatives Room till about Dark, after Candle Light, when Mr. Adams, the Chairman of the Committee, received a Message from the Governor, by the Deputy Secretary, purporting that his Excellency and the Council were ready to hear the Memorial of the Town of Boston, and their Council in Support of it. But that no other Persons might attend.

We accordingly went in. His Excellency recommended it to Us, who were of Council for the Town, to divide the Points of Law and Topicks of Argument, among ourselves, that Repetition might as much as possible be avoided. Mr. Gridley answered, that, as he was to speak last, he would endeavour to avoid Repetition of what should be said by the two Gentlemen, who were to speak before him. Mr. Otis added that as he was to speak second, he would observe the same Rule.

Then it fell upon me, without one Moments Opportunity to consult any Authorities, to open an Argument, upon a Question that was never made before, and I wish I could hope it never would be made again, i.e. Whether the Courts of Law should be open, or not? My old Friend Thatchers Officina Justitiae?

I grounded my Argument on the Invalidity of the Stamp Act, it not being in any sense our Act, having never consented to it. But least that foundation should not be sufficient, on the present Necessity to prevent a Failure of Justice, and the present Impossibility of carrying that Act into Execution.

Mr. Otis reasoned with great Learning and Zeal, on the Judges Oaths, Mr. Gridley on the great Inconveniences that would ensue the Interuption of Justice.

The Governor said many of the Arguments used were very good ones to be used before the Judges of the Executive Courts. But he believed there had been no Instance in America of an Application to the Governor and Council, and said that if the Judges should receive any Directions from the King about a Point of Law, they would scorn to regard them, and would say that while they were in those Seats, they only were to determine Points of Law.

The Council adjourned to the Morning and I repaired to my Lodgings.

Saturday Decr. 21st. 1765.

Spent the Morning in sauntering about, and chatting with one and another—The Sherriff, Mr. Goldthw[ai]t, Brother Sewal &c—upon the Times. Dined with Brother Kent; after Dinner received a Hint from the Committee that as I was of Council for the Town I not only had a Right, but it was expected I should attend the Meeting. I went accordingly. The Committee reported the Answer of the Board to their Petition. Which was, in Substance, that the Board had no Authority to direct the Courts of Law, in the manner prayed for. That the Memorial involved a Question of Law, vizt., whether the officers of the Government, in the present Circumstances of the Province, could be justified, in proceeding with Business without Stamps. That the Board were desirous that the Judges should decide that Question freely, without Apprehension of censure from the Board, and that the Board recomended it to the Judges of the Inferior Court for the County of Suffolk and to the other Judges of the other Courts in the Province to determine that Question as soon as may be, at or before their next respective Terms.  The Question was put whether that Paper should be recorded. Passed in the Affirmative.  The next Question was, Whether it was a satisfactory Answer to their Memorial. Unanimously in the Negative.

Then several Motions were made, the first was, that the Meeting be adjourned to a future Day, and that the Towns Council be desired to consult together, and give the Town their Opinions, whether any other legal and Constitutional Steps can be taken by the Town, towards removing the obstructions to Justice. The second Motion was, that those of the Towns Council who were present should then give their opinion. The Third was that Application should be made to the Judges to determine the Question Speedily.

The second prevail’d and I was call’d upon to give my Opinion first. I agreed with Kent that an Application to the Judges might be out of Character both for the Town and the Judges, and that no Person could be in any danger of Penalties on the one Hand, or of having Proscesses adjudged void on the other. But many Persons might entertain Fears, and Jealousies and Doubts, which would everlastingly be a grievance. So that I had heard no Proposal yet made for the future Conduct of the Town, which had not Difficulties and Objections attending it, so that I must conclude myself as yet in Doubt. And that I dared not give any opinion possitively, in a Matter of so much Importance without the most mature Deliberation.

Mr. Otis then gave his sentiments, and declared once for all, that he knew of no legal and Constitutional Course the Town could take but to direct their Representatives to request the Governor to call a Convention of the Members of both Houses, as he could not legally call an Assembly, and if his Excellency would not, to call one themselves, by requesting all the Members to meet. But concluded with observing, that as one of their Council was not present, and another was in Doubt, he thought it would be best to take further Time for Consideration. And the Town accordingly voted an Adjournment to next Thursday, 10 O’Clock.

A Consultation, therefore I must have with Messrs. Gridley and Otis, and We must all attend the Town-Meeting next Thursday. What Advice shall we give them?

The Question is “what legal and Constitutional Measures the Town can take to open the Courts of Law?”

The Town in their Memorial to his Excellency in Council, assert that “the Courts of Law within the Province, in which alone Justice can be distributed among the People, so far as respects civil Matters, are to all Intents and Purposes shut up. For which no just and legal Reason can be assigned.”

The Record of the Board, sent down in Answer, admits that the Courts of Law are to all Intents and Purposes shut up, and says that before they can be opened a Point of Law must be decided vizt. whether the officers of the Government in the present Circumstances of the Province, can be justified in proceeding in their Offices without Stamps? which the Judges are to determine.

Are the Board then agreed with the Town that the Courts of Law are shut up? But I hope the Town will not agree with the Board that the Judges are the proper Persons to decide whether they shall be open or not. It is the first Time I believe, that such a Question was ever put, since Wm. the Conquerer, nay since the Days of King Lear. Should the twelve Judges of England, and all other officers of Justice Judicial and Ministerial, suddenly stop and shut up their offices, I believe the King, in Council, would hardly recommend any Points of Law to the Consideration of those Judges. The King it is true of his Prerogative could not remove the Judges, because in England a Judge is quite another Thing from what he is here. But I believe the Com­mons in Parliament would immediately impeach them all of high Treason.

My Advice to the Town will be, to take the Board at their Word, and to chuse a Committee immediately, in the first Place to wait on the Governor in Council, as the Supreme Court of Probate, and request of them a determination of the Point, whether the Officers of the Probate Courts in the Province, can be justifyed, in Proceeding with Business without Stamps, in the next Place to wait on the honorable the Judges of the Superiour Court to request their Determination of the same Question, and in the Third Place to wait on the Judges of the Inferior Court for the County of Suffolk with the same Request—in Pursuance of the Recommendation of the honorable Board—and unless a speedy Determination of the Question is obtained in all these Courts in this Way, to request of the Governor a Convention of the two Houses, and if that is refused to endeavour to call one, themselves.

What are the Consequences of the supposition that the Courts are shut up? The King is the Fountain of Justice by the Constitution—And it is a Maxim of the Law, that the King never dies.

Are not Protection and Allegiance reciprocal? And if We are out of the Kings Protection, are we not discharged from our Allegiance. Are not all the Ligaments of Government dissolved? Is it not an Abdication of the Throne? In short where will such an horrid Doctrine terminate? It would run us into Treason!

22 December,
At Home, with my family. Thinking.

1765. December. 23d. Monday

Went to Boston. After Dinner rambled after Messrs. Gridley and Otis but could find neither. Went into Mr. Dudleys, Mr. Dana’s, Mr. Otis’s office, and then to Mr. Adams’s and went with him to the Monday night Clubb. There I found Otis, Cushing Wells, Pemberton, Gray, Austin, two Waldo’s, Inches, Dr. Parker—And spent the Evening very agreably, indeed. Politicians all at this Clubb. We had many curious Anecdotes, about Governors, Councillors, Representatives, Demagogues, Merchants &c. The Behaviour of these Gentlemen is very familiar and friendly to each other, and very polite and complaisant to Strangers. Gray has a very tender Mind, is extreamly timid—he says when he meets a Man of the other Side he talks against him, when he meets a Man of our Side he opposes him, so that he fears, he shall be thought against every Body, and so every Body will be against him. But he hopes to prepare the Way for his Escape at next May from an Employment, that neither his Abilities, nor Circumstances nor turn of Mind, are fit for.

Cushing is steady and constant, and busy in the Interest of Liberty and the Opposition, is famed for Secrisy,1 and his Talent at procuring Intelligence.

Adams is zealous, ardent and keen in the Cause, is always for Softness, and Delicacy, and Prudence where they will do, but is stanch and stiff and strict and rigid and inflexible, in the Cause.

Otis is fiery and fev’rous. His Imagination flames, his Passions blaze. He is liable to great Inequalities of Temper—sometimes in Despondency, sometimes in a Rage. The Rashnesses and Imprudences, into which his Excess of Zeal have formerly transported him, have made him Enemies, whose malicious watch over him, occasion more Caution, and more Cunning and more inexplicable Passages in his Conduct than formerly. And perhaps Views at the Chair, or the Board, or possibly more expanded Views, beyond the Atlantic, may mingle now with his Patriotism.

The II Penseroso, however, is discernible on the Faces of all four.

Adams I believe has the most thourough Understanding of Liberty, and her Resources, in the Temper and Character of the People, tho not in the Law and Constitution, as well as the most habitual, radical Love of it, of any of them—as well as the most correct, genteel and artful Pen. He is a Man of refined Policy, stedfast Integrity, exquisite Humanity, genteel Erudition, obliging, engaging Manners, real as well as professed Piety, and a universal good Character, unless it should be admitted that he is too attentive to the Public and not enough so, to himself and his family.

The Gentlemen were warm to have the Courts opened. Gridley had advised to wait for a Judicial Opinion of the Judges. I was for requesting of the Governor that the general Court might assemble at the Time to which they stood prorogued—and if the Town should think fit to request the Extrajudicial Opinion of the Judges. I was for petitioning the Governor and Council to determine the Question first as Supreme ordinary. Gridley will be absent, and so shall I. But I think the apparent Impatience of the Town must produce some spirited Measures, perhaps more spirited than prudent...

Decr. 24th. 1765.

Returned from Boston. Spent the afternoon and Evening at Home.

Decr. 25th. 1765. Christmas.

At Home. Thinking, reading, searching, concerning Taxation without Consent, concerning the great Pause and Rest in Business. By the Laws of England Justice flows, with an uninterupted Stream: In that Musick, the Law knows of neither Rests nor Pauses. Nothing but Violence, Invasion or Rebellion can obstruct the River or untune the Instrument.

Concerning a Compensation to the Sufferers by the late Riots in Boston.—Statute of Winchester, chap. 2. if the County will not answer the Bodies of the offenders, the People there shall be answerable for all the Robberies done, and also for the Damages.—Wingates Robberies.

Nulli vendemus, nulli negabimus, aut deferemus Iustitiam. Every Writ supposes the King present in all his Courts of Justice.


Ld. Coke says, Against this ancient and fundamental Law, and in the face thereof, I find an Act of Parliament made, that As well Justices of Assize as Justices of Peace, without any finding or Present­ment [by the verdict] of 12 Men, upon a bare Information for the K[ing] before them made, should have full Power and Authority, by their Discretions, to hear and determine all offences and Contempts, vs. the form, ordinance and Effect of any stat[ute] by Colour of which Act shaking this Fundamental Law, it is not credible what horrible Oppressions and Exactions were committed by Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley. And upon this unjust and injurious Act a new Office was created, and they made Masters of the Kings Forfeitures. But at the Parliament 1 H. 8. this Act II H. 7. is recited, made void and repealed. The fearful End of these two Oppressors, should deter others from committing the like, and admonish Parliaments, that instead of this ordinary and precious Tryal Per Legem Terrae, they bring not in absolute and partial Tryals by Discretion.

Went not to Christmas. Dined at Home. Drank Tea at Grandfather Quincys. The old Gentleman, inquisitive about the Hearing before the Governor and Council, about the Governors and secretaries Looks and Behaviour, and about the final Determination of the Board. The old Lady as merry and chatty as ever, with her Stories out of the News Papers, of a Woman longing to throw beef Stakes in a Mans Face and giving him a Pipe of Madeira for humouring of her, and of the Doctor who could tell by a Persons Face all the Disorders he or she had suffered and would suffer.

Spent the Evening at Home, with my Partner and no other Company.

Mr. S. Adams told me he was glad I was nominated for several Reasons.—1 st. Because he hoped that such an Instance of Respect from the Town of Boston, would make an Impression on my Mind, and secure my Friendship to the Town from Gratitude. 2dly. He was in Hopes such a Distinction from Boston, would be of Service to my Business and Interest. 3d. He hoped that Braintree, finding the Eyes of Boston were upon me, would fix their’s on me too, next May. His Hopes, in the two first Particulars, may be well grounded, but I am sure not in the Third...

Decr. 26th. 1765 Thursday.

At Home by the Fireside viewing with Pleasure, the falling Snow and the Prospect of a large one...

Mr. Smith and Dr. Tufts came in from Boston. Nothing remarkable. Dr. Savil spent the Evening here. Chat about the Memorial and the Hearing...

Decr. 27th. 1765. Fryday.

...At Home all day. Mr. Shute call’d in the Evening, and gave us a Number of Anecdotes, about Governor Rogers and Secretary Potter, their Persecution in Boston, their flight to Rhode Island, their sufferings there; their Deliverance from Goal, and Voyage to Antigua, and Ireland without Money, their Reception in Ireland, and Voyage to England, their Distresses in England till they borrowed Money to get Rogers’s Journal printed, and present it to his Majesty; which procured Each of them his Appointment at Michilimachana.—Shute is a jolly, merry, droll, social Christian. He loves to laugh—tells a Story with a good Grace—delights in Banter. But yet reasons well, is inquisitive and judicious. Has an Eye that plays its Lightnings—sly, and waggish, and roguish. Is for sinking every Person who either favours the Stamps or Trims about them, into private Station—expects a great Mortality among the Councillors next May. In this I think he is right. If there is any Man, who, from wild Ideas of Power and Authority, from a Contempt of that Equality in Knowledge, Worth, and Power, which has prevailed in this Country, or from any other Cause, who can upon Principle, desire the Execution of the Stamp Act, those Principles are a total Forfeiture of the Confidence of the People.

If there is any one, who cannot see the Tendency of that Act to reduce the Body of the People to Ignorance, Poverty, Dependance, his Want of Eyesight is a Disqualification for public Employment. Let the Towns and the Representatives, therefore renounce every Stamp man and every Trimmer next May.

Decr. 28th. 1765. Saturday.

Went to Weymouth with my Wife. Dined at Father Smiths. Heard much of the Uneasiness among the People of Hingham, at a sermon preached by Mr. Gay, on the Day of Thanksgiving, from a Text in James, “Out of the same Mouth proceedeth Blessing and Cursing,” in which he said that the ancient Weapons of the Church, were Prayers and Tears, not Clubbs, and inculcated Submission to Authority, in pretty strong Expressions. His People said that Mr. Gay would do very well for a Distributor, and they believed he had the Stamps in his House, and even threatned &c. This Uneasiness it seems was inflamed by a sermon preached there the sunday after by Mr. Smith, which they admired very much, and talk of printing as the best sermon, they ever heard him preach. This sermon of Mr. Smiths was from “render therefore to Caesar, the Things that are Caesars and unto God the Things that are Gods.” The Tenor of it was to recommend Honour, Reward, and Obedience to good Rulers; and a Spirited Opposition to bad ones, interspersed with a good deal of animated Declamation upon Liberty and the Times.

It seems there is a Clubb, consisting of Coll. Lincoln, the two Captain Barkers, one of them an half Pay Officer, Coll. Thaxter1 &c. who visit the Parson (Gay) every Sunday Evening, and this Clubb is wholly inclined to Passive Obedience—as the best Way to procure Redress. A very absurd Sentiment indeed! We have tryed Prayers and Tears, and humble Begging and timid tame submission as long as trying is good—and instead of Redress we have only increased our Burdens and aggravated our Condemnation.

Returned and spent the Evening at Home.

Decr. 29th. 1765. Sunday.

Heard Parson Wibird. Hear O Heavens and give Ear O Earth, “I have nourished and brought up Children and they have rebelled against me.”—I began to suspect a Tory Sermon on the Times from this Text. But the Preacher confined himself to Spirituals. But I expect, if the Tories should become the strongest, We shall hear many Sermons against the Ingratitude, Injustice, Disloyalty, Treason, Rebellion, Impiety, and ill Policy of refusing Obedience to the Stamp-Act. The Church Clergy to be sure will be very eloquent. The Church People are, many of them, Favourers of the stamp Act, at present. Major Miller, forsooth, is very fearful, that they will be stomachful at Home and angry and resentful. Mr. Vesey insists upon it that, We ought to pay our Proportion of the public Burdens. Mr. Cleverly is fully convinced that they i.e. the Parliament have a Right to tax Us. He thinks it is wrong to go on with Business. We had better stop, and wait till Spring, till we hear from home. He says We put the best face upon it, that Letters have been received in Boston, from the greatest Merchants in the Nation, blaming our Proceedings, and that the Merchants dont second us. Letters from old Mr. Lane, and from Mr. Dubert. He says that Things go on here exactly as they did in the Reign of K[ing] C[harles] Ist. that blessed S[ain]t and Martyr. Thus, that unaccountable Man goes about sowing his pernicious Seeds of Mischief, instilling wrong Principles in Church and State into the People, striving to divide and disunite them, and to excite fears to damp their Spirits and lower their Courage.

Etter is another of the poisonous Talkers, but not equally so. Cleverly and Vesey are Slaves in Principle. They are devout religious Slaves—and a religious Bigot is the worst of Men.

Cleverly converses of late at Mr. Lloyds with some of the Seekers of Appointments from the Crown—some of the Dozen in the Town of Boston, who ought as Hanncock says to be beheaded, or with some of those, who converse with the Governor, who ought as Tom Boylstone says to be sent Home with all the other Governors on the Continent, with Chains about their Necks.

1765. Decr. 30th. Monday.

We are now concluding the Year 1765, tomorrow is the last day, of a Year in which America has shewn such Magnanimity and Spirit, as never before appeared, in any Country for such a Tract of Country. And Wednesday will open upon Us a new Year 1766, which I hope will procure Us, innumerable Testimonies from Europe in our favour and Applause, and which we all hope will produce the greatest and most extensive Joy ever felt in America, on the Repeal both of the stamp Act and sugar Act, at least of the former.

Q[uery]. Who is it, that has harrangued the Grand Juries in every County, and endeavoured to scatter Party Principles in Politicks?2 Who has made it his constant Endeavour to discountenance the Odium in which Informers are held? Who has taken Occasion in fine spun, spick and span, spruce, nice, pretty, easy warbling Declamations to Grand Inquests to render the Characters of Informers, honourable and respectable? Who has frequently expressed his Apprehensions, that the form of Government in England was become too popular. Who is it, that has said in public Speeches, that the most compleat Monarchy in Europe was the Government of France? Who is it, that so often enlarges on the Excellency of the Government of Queen Elizabeth, and insists upon it so often, that the Constitution, about the Time of her Reign and under her Administration, was nearest the Point of Perfection? Who is it that has always given his opinion in Favour of Prerogative and Revenue, in every Case in which they have been brought into Question, without one Exception? Who is it that has endeavoured to biass simple Juries, by an Argument as warm and vehement, as those of the Bar, in a Case where the Province was contending vs. a Custom-House-Officer? And what were the other Means employed in that Cause vs. the Resolutions of the General Assembly? Who has monopolized almost all the Power, of the Government, to himself and his family, and who has been endeavouring to procure more, both on this side and the other side the Atlantic?

Read Shakespears Life of K. Henry 8th. Spent the Evening with the Company of Singers at Moses Adams’s...

1765. Tuesday. Decr. 31st.

Went to Mr. Jo. Bass’s and there read Yesterdays Paper. Walked in the Afternoon into the Common and quite thro my Hemlock Swamp. 1 find many fine Bunches of young Maples, and nothing else but Alders. Spent the Evening at Home with Neighbour Field.

The national Attention is fixed upon the Colonies. The Religion, Administration of Justice, Geography, Numbers, &c. of the Colonies are a fashionable Study. But what wretched Blunders do they make in attempting to regulate them. They know not the Character of Americans.

Illuminated Manuscript - Telling the Shepherds of Jesus' Birth

Illuminated Manuscript Annunciation to the Shepherds Unknown; c 1475-1480

The Washingtons celebrate Christmas at Mount Vernon

Christmas often was primarily a religious holiday in 18C Virginia. It was also, however, a festive occasion marked by visits between friends & relatives, celebratory parties, & public assemblies. As described by George Washington's correspondence, diaries & cash accounts, Christmas at Mount Vernon followed typical patterns for the region & time period.

George Washington & his slave, Billy Lee. 1780, by John Trumbull. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The Washingtons were not the only people at Mount Vernon observing the Christmas holiday. Evidence indicates that most servants & slaves had 4 days off from work at Christmas time & utilized the personal time for relaxation & observation. For a particular group of slaves, however, the Christmas holiday did not bring relief from their work. Cooks & house servants were required to work through the holiday.

Religion played a significant part in the observance of the holiday at Mount Vernon, as the Washingtons frequently attended church on Christmas day. In 1770, for example, Christmas fell on a Tuesday. After going to nearby Pohick Church in the morning, the family returned to Mount Vernon for dinner. Similar patterns were followed in 1771 & 1772, when December 25 fell on a Wednesday & Friday.

The Washingtons preferred to spend the holiday with family & friends, & George & Martha frequently had guests over at Mount Vernon to celebrate Christmas. While at Mount Vernon guests were encouraged to make themselves at home & take part in typical seasonal activities. Hunting & foxhunting, for example, were particularly favored activities. Twice in 1768 & 3 times in both 1771 & 1773, George Washington went hunting with visiting friends between Christmas & Twelfth Night.


There are, unfortunately, no surviving descriptions of a Christmas dinner at Mount Vernon & only a few indications of foods associated with this season. However, one of Martha Washington's cookbooks included a recipe for Christmas pie, a savory pastry including turkey, goose, pigeon, & chicken, baked & spiced with salt, black pepper, nutmeg, & cloves.

Information from Thompson, Mary V. "Christmas at Mount Vernon," Mount Vernon Ladies' Association Annual Report 1990. Mount Vernon, VA: Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 1990, 24-30.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Christmas Tree comes to America


Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition in the 17C, when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood & decorated them with evergreens & candles, if trees were scarce. 
The earliest American image of a Christmas tree by John Lewis Krimmel (German-born American artist,1786-1821) who was painting in Pennsylvania.   A few years after this image was sketched, one of the the earliest known written references to the actual phrase “Christmas tree” occurred in Pennsylvania in 1821, when a father in Lancaster, wrote, that his children had gone to a local mill “for Christmas trees”

The Christmas tree in American literature was mentioned in a story in the 1836 edition of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, titled "New Year's Day," by Catherine Maria Sedgwick, where she tells the story of a German maid decorating her mistress's tree. 
An engraving of St Nicholas carrying a Christmas tree in a basket, 1850

William Sandys, writing in England in the early 1850s, briefly mentioned that new fashion, the Christmas Tree: In recent times the Christmas tree has been introduced from the continent, and is productive of much amusement to old and young, and much taste can be displayed and expense also incurred in preparing its glittering and attractive fruit. It is delightful to watch the animated expectation and enjoyment of the children as the treasures are displayed and distributed; the parents equally participating in the pleasure, and enjoying the sports of their childhood over again. And where can the weary world-worn man find greater relief from his anxious toil and many cares, and haply his many sorrows, than in contemplating the amusements of artless children, and assisting as far as he is able; for it is not every one has tact for this purpose, and our young friends soon detect this, and discover the right “ Simon Pure.”  William Sandys, Christmas-tide, Its History, Festivities and Carols, With Their Music (London: John Russell Smith, 1852), p. 151. 
Christmas Tree Family, Victorian Christmas, 1858 from Illustrated London News by J. A. Pasquier


Illustration by F.A. Chapman, titled "The Christmas Tree," from the 1866 edition of Christmas Poems and Pictures

1876 Victorian Christmas Tree 



The Christmas Tree at the Middlesex Hospital.


A Christmas tree for German soldiers in a temporary hospital in 1871


This image by Winslow Homer, is titled "The Christmas-Tree." It appeared in Harper's Weekly, December 25, 1858. 

Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, & their family from the 1848 Illustrated London News.  In 1847, Prince Albert wrote: "I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest (his brother) & I were in the old time, of what we felt & thought; & their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be." He would decorate the trees himself with sweets, wax dolls, strings of almonds & raisins, & candles, which were lit on Christmas Eve for the distribution of presents, relit on Christmas Day, after which the tree was then moved to another room until Twelfth Night (January 6).  The Queen's journal of 1850 describes the scene: 'We all assembled & my beloved Albert first took me to my tree & table, covered by such numberless gifts, really too much, too magnificent."  "The 7 children were taken to their tree, jumping & shouting with joy over their toys & other presents; the Boys could think of nothing but the swords we had given them & Bertie of some of the armour, which however he complained, pinched him!"  Victoria, however, was familiar with the custom, which had been introduced by her grandmother, Queen Charlotte, the wife of George III, in 1800. The decoration and 'lighting up' of the Christmas tree was a central feature of Princess Victoria's childhood Christmases. In her journal for Christmas Eve 1832, the delighted 13-year-old Princess wrote: "After dinner...we then went into the drawing-room near the dining-room...There were two large round tables on which were placed two trees hung with lights and sugar ornaments. All the presents being placed round the trees..." That tree had been erected at Kensington Palace by Queen Adelaide, consort of King William IV.
Victorian Christmas Tree


 Victorian Christmas Tree

Victorian Christmas Tree


Some traditions credit Martin Luther with the 1st Christmas tree. Here, Luther & his Family in Wittenberg at Christmas 1536 in Wheat Sheaf  as imagined in 1853 Philadelphia

In the early part of the 19C, many Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. That stern solemnity continued until the 19C, when the influx of German & Irish immigrants overwhelmed the Puritan legacy.
The Christmas Tree from Harper's Weekly.  January 1, 1870, Harpers Weekly, 5.


John Whetten Ehninger, American, 1827–1889. Harper's, published 1 January 1870.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving in the United States from Germany & as Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. Generally Europeans used small trees about 4' in height, while Americans eventually came to prefer their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.
Christmas in Orson Reynolds House ca. 1880, Reynoldston, NY

The late 19C saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while many German-Americans continued to use apples, nuts, & marzipan cookies. Popcorn, sometimes dyed in bright colors, was strung in a garland & interlaced with berries & nuts.
Julian Alden Weir (American artist, 1852-1919)  The Christmas Tree 1890


The first electric lights on a White House family tree were used in 1894 during the presidency of Grover Cleveland.