Monday, March 25, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1755 Jeremiah Theus 1716-1774 Mrs. Thomas Lynch (Elizabeh Allston Lynch) Reynolda House

Renolda House Museum tells us the daughter of a prominent South Carolina family, Elizabeth Allston married Thomas Lynch, a well-connected South Carolinian, in 1745. At age 17, she became the mistress of Hopsewee Plantation, where the Lynch family slaves cultivated rice & indigo. As was typical of southern plantations, Hopsewee was located on a river. The river ensured transport of the plantation’s crops to market, where indigo was much in demand as a dye for the woolen industry. The Lynch family enjoyed rosperity.

Jeremiah Thëus, Charleston’s foremost portrait painter, often visited wealthy families at their plantations in order to execute commissions for portraits...The stiffness of Elizabeth’s figure may be attributed to the fact that Thëus borrowed the pose & costume details such as the nosegay & taffeta shawl from a mezzotint of about 1752 depicting the Duchess of Hamilton Brandon after a painting by English artist Francis Cotes.  It was fairly common for colonial artists to use European mezzotints as sources for poses & costumes.  Heightening the artificiality of the image is the fact that the dress is not typical of 18C colonial British America.

Elizabeth Allston Lynch died sometime around 1755, shortly after Thëus painted this portrait. Elizabeth gave birth to three children: Sabina in 1747, Esther in 1748, & Thomas in 1749. Her son Thomas Lynch, Jr. signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Nearly 27-year-old James Monroe 1758-1831 Marries 17-year-old Elizabeth Kortright 1768-1830

On January 16, 1786, future President 27-year-old James Monroe (1758-1831) married 17-year-old New York beauty named Elizabeth Kortright (1768-1830).  Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (1768-1830) was the eldest daughter of 5 children of Laurence Kortright, a wealthy New York merchant of late 17C Flemish descent, & his wife, Hannah (Aspinwall) Kortright. Her father’s fortune, much enlarged by privateering during the French & Indian War, was greatly reduced during the Revolutionary War, but Elizabeth Kortright was reared in the exclusive & formal atmosphere of New York mercantile society.  Considered one of the great beauties of the city, she first met James Monroe in 1785, when he was a Virginia delegate to the Confederation Congress sitting in New York.
Detail of a Miniature of Elizabeth Kortright (1768-1830).

They were married on Feb. 16, 1786, at New York’s Trinity Episcopal Church.  After a brief honeymoon out on Long Island, the newlyweds rode back to New York City to live with her father, until the Continental Congress adjourned. The Monroes returned to Virginia, where he had graduated from the College of William & Mary, & promptly started a family. They settled first in Fredericksburg & then in Albemarle County, Va.  There Monroe practiced law & pursued a political career which found him successively United States Senator, minister to France, governor of Virginia, minister to Great Britain, Secretary of State, &, ultimately, president of the United States.  In keeping with the custom of the day, Monroe shielded his private life from public view, by the & his wife were devoted to each other, & they were rarely separated.  Three children were born to them: Eliza in 1787; a son in 1799 who died in infancy; & Maria Hester, in 1801 or 1802, who was married in the White House in 1820 to Samuel L. Gouverneur.
James Monroe (1758-1831)

Elizabeth & her daughter followed Monroe to Paris, when President George Washington appointed him ambassador to France in 1794. There, he & Elizabeth became enthusiastic Francophiles. Elizabeth, with her sophisticated social graces, adapted easily to European society. The French aristocracy referred to her as "la belle americaine."  The violent fallout of the French Revolution marred the Monroes' sojourn in France.  They acquired a lasting appreciate of French manners & styles which was later reflected in the furnishing they purchased for the White House.  Both spoke French fluently.  Members of the aristocracy whom the Monroes befriended were increasingly falling prey to the rebels' guillotine. In 1795, Elizabeth succeeded in obtaining the prison release of the wife of the Marquis de Lafayette. When he learned that the wife of America’s great friend the Marquis de Lafayette, the dashing Frenchman who had served on Washington's staff during the American Revolution, had been imprisoned by Robespierre & was in danger of being executed, Monroe, believing that direct appeals to the Committee of Public Safety would be of no avail, arranged for his wife to visit her.  The tearful meeting of the women at the gate of the prison drew a large & sympathetic crowd, & the demonstration was sufficient to secure Madame de Lafayette’s release. 
Elizabeth Kortright Monroe (1768-1830) by John Vanderlyn

When Monroe's term as ambassador ended in 1796, he brought his family back to America & settled on the Oak Hill plantation in Virginia. For the next 15 years, he shuttled his family between stints in Virginia political office & the occasional foreign appointment. In 1811, Monroe accepted President James Madison's offer to serve as U.S. secretary of state. Six years later, Monroe himself was elected president from 1817-1825.

 After her husband’s appointment as Secretary of State in 1811 & his elevation to the presidency in 1817, Mrs. Monroe was constantly in the public eye.  No accounts of her as a person, however, survive, although her regal bearing & distinguished appearance often inspired comment.  “Her dress was superb black velvet,” one presidential guest recalled; “neck & arms bare & beautifully formed; her hair in puffs & dressed high on the head & ornamented with white ostrich plumes; around her neck an elegant pearl necklace” (quoted in Daniel Coit Gilman, James Monroe, 1883, pp. 182-83).  She seems to have been easy & affable in small groups, but her public manner was marked by a formality & reserve which some labeled haughtiness.

During their 1st year in Washington, the Monroes lived in temporary lodgings until the White House, which had been destroyed by the British during the War of 1812, was repaired. As first lady, Elizabeth, usually very social, deferred to her husband's wishes to minimize White House social events. He & Elizabeth both deplored the opulent displays of the previous first lady, Dolley Madison, preferring more private, stately affairs modeled after European society. 

As First Lady she was inevitably compared with her predecessor, the warm & open-hearted Dolley Madison, who had elevated presidential receptions above the dull level of official functions. In a rapidly growing Washington, the Monroes introduced a new formality, & White House receptions took on an austerity reminiscent of George Washington’s administration, with Monroe & his wife receiving guests but manifesting little personal solicitude.  In her 1st year Mrs. Monroe appeared only infrequently at White House dinners, & consequently ladies were seldom invited.  She further announced that she would not make or return any calls, although it had been Mrs. Madison’s custom not only to return all calls but to pay her respects to visiting ladies.  Many women, particularly the wives of Senators, took offense at the new rule, but Mrs. Monroe, supported by Louisa Catherine Adams, whose husband was then Secretary of State, prevailed, & the new policy became firmly set.  Mrs. Monroe’s French-educated & somewhat formidable daughter Eliza (Mrs. George Hay) shared her social duties at the White House, where social life was also curtailed by Elizabeth's declining health. Washingtonians, eager to being seen with the powerful even back then, mistook the lack of White House social events for snobbery.
James Monroe (1758-1831) by Gilbert Stuart

During her husband’s 2nd term Mrs. Monroe’s always delicate health failed rapidly, & her public appearances became more rare.  She preferred to spend as much time as possible at Oak Hill, their country home in Loudoun County, Va., some 20 miles from the capital, where she was joined by Monroe upon his retirement in 1825.  She died at Oak Hill in 1830 & was buried there.  Of her death the aged ex-President wrote to James Brown, “After having lived with the partner of your life, in so many vicissitudes…& afforded to each other comforts which no other person on earth could do…to have her snatched from me…is an affliction which none but those who feel it, can justly estimate” (Dec. 9, 1830), John Deposit, University of Virginia Library).  According to the family, Monroe burned 40 years' worth of their correspondence. 
James Monroe (1758-1831) painted by Rembrandt Peale about 1824-1825

Upon Elizabeth's death in 1830, Monroe moved to New York City, to live with his daughter Maria Hester Monroe Gouverneur who had married Samuel L. Gouverneur.  Monroe’s death occurred the next year.  In 1903 Elizabeth Monroe’s body was re-interred beside that of her husband in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1755 Jeremiah Theus 1716-1774 The sitter is Rebecca Brewton (1737 -1816), the honorable Jacob Mottes, 2nd wife, whom he married in 1758. Theus also painted Jacob Motte Jr. in miniature (date and location unknown). Until now, the traditional identification of the sitter had been Elizabeth Martin (1710-1757), Motte's 1st wife. Met

Rebecca Brewton Motte (1737–1815) was a plantation owner in South Carolina & townhouse owner in its chief city of Charleston. She was known as a patriot in the American Revolution, supplying continental forces with food & supplies for 5 years. By the end of the war, she had become one of the wealthiest individuals in the state, having inherited property from both her older brother Miles Brewton, who was lost at sea in 1775, & her husband Jacob Motte, who died in 1780.

In 1780, Motte left Charleston after the British occupied it, living with her family at the Mt. Joseph plantation about 95 miles away, along the Congaree River. It became known as Fort Motte after the British occupied & fortified it; she moved with her family from the big house to the overseer's house. To help patriots take over the property, she agreed to have the big house burned down.

Rebecca was the daughter of Robert Brewton, a successful goldsmith in Charleston, South Carolina, & his wife, the widow Mary Loughton, née Griffith. In this period, goldsmiths were closely tied to banking & the financial community. Among her siblings was older brother Miles (1731-1775), who married Mary Izard, daughter of planters, & became a wealthy slave trader, owning eight ships; & sister Frances (b. 1733), who married Charles Pinckney.

At the age of 19, Rebecca married Jacob Motte (1729–1780) in 1758. Also born in Charleston, Jacob was a townsman & planter, involved in politics.  By 1758 Motte already owned a townhouse in Charleston & Fairfield Plantation (Charleston County, South Carolina) on the South Santee River outside the city. Their family thrived, & they had 7 children. Two died when young; infant mortality was high in that era. They also reared Susanna Smith Elliott, who had been orphaned, when both her parents died. Rebecca treated her like one of her own daughters.

In 1779, their daughter Elizabeth (Betsey) Motte (1762-1795) married Thomas Pinckney, an attorney & planter. He served in the Revolutionary War. After she died, he married again in 1797, to her younger sister Frances, who had by then become widowed herself. Pinckney served also in the War of 1812, & became a prominent politician in South Carolina. He was elected as governor. Frances & Thomas built what is now known as the Middleton-Pinckney House in Charleston, noted as a historic home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rebecca's older brother Miles Brewton (1731–1789) gained property by a good marriage, & later owned up to 8 ships after becoming South Carolina's largest slave trader & one of the wealthiest men in the province. In 1765. he had started construction of his lavish townhouse in King Street in Charleston. It is preserved as the Miles Brewton House. By the time of the Revolutionary War, he also owned numerous plantations (growing rice & indigo), including Mt. Joseph, in what is today Calhoun County. He & his family died in 1775, lost at sea as they were traveling to Philadelphia, where he was to serve as a delegate at the Second Continental Congress. Rebecca Brewton Motte & her sister Frances inherited his townhouse & plantations.

Jacob Motte was among the men who fought in the Battle of Fort Moultrie. On June 13, 1776, the women of Charleston presented the 2nd regiment of the Continental Army with "a pair of silken colors, one of blue, one of red, richly embroidered by their own hands..." Susanna Smith Elliott presented the flags to officers Moultrie & Motte, saying, "Your gallant behavior in defense of liberty & your country entitles you to the highest honors; accept these two standards as a reward justly due to your regiment; & I make not the least doubt, under heaven's protection, you will stand by them as long as they can wave in the air of liberty." 

The Motte family supported the American Revolution & supplied troops with rice, beef, pork, corn, & fodder from 1778-1783. During the war, Rebecca Motte & her children were living for a period at the Charleston town house she inherited from her late brother Miles. It was commandeered in 1780 as British headquarters & housing for Henry, one of the high-ranking officers of the British Army after they occupied the city.

Rebecca Motte took her family out of Charleston to the comparative safety of her late brother's Mt. Joseph plantation on the Congaree River, about 95 miles from the city. Her husband Jacob died of illness that year in 1780. Motte inherited the townhouse in Charleston, as well as Fairfield plantation & their 244 slaves.

In June 1780, the British had occupied Belleville Plantation along the Congaree. Although the nearby Mt. Joseph plantation had a more commanding view of the river, the British avoided it because of a suspected smallpox outbreak at the property.

By December 1780 Rebecca & her daughters, including Elizabeth Motte Pinckney (wife of Thomas Pinckney) with her infant, domestic slaves, & others had settled at Mt. Joseph. The British allowed Thomas Pinckney on parole to recuperate there, as he had been wounded & taken prisoner in August fighting at the Battle of Camden with General Gates.

In January 1781, Thomas Pinckney left for Charleston, then Philadelphia, along with other captured & paroled patriot officers, where they were to await possible exchange by the British. His wife & infant accompanied him. Shortly after, the British left Belleville & encamped at the Mt. Joseph plantation, where they began to fortify the big house & surrounds. Because Rebecca Motte was living there, they referred to the property as Fort Motte. Motte & her remaining family & household slaves moved to the overseer's house.

In May 1781, patriots Brigadier General Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion & Lt. Col. Henry Lee III of Virginia were sent by General Nathaneal Greene to capture Fort Motte. In what became known as the Siege of Fort Motte, they arrived with about 400 men & an artillery piece. After five days of attack without dislodging the British, Marion & Lee decided to burn the mansion, which had a dry wood shingle roof. Rebecca Motte did not hesitate to "burn her home" & provided the patriot forces with some arrows from East India that were designed to light on impact. The mansion burned down, forcing the British out to surrender.

The widow Rebecca Brewton Motte had inherited considerable property from her late brother & husband. She was considered one of (if not the) wealthiest individuals in South Carolina in the Revolutionary War era, but in the 1790s, Motte had to pay off her family's war debts.

She & son-in-law Thomas Pinckney developed the rice plantation, Eldorado on the South Santee River, downstream from "Fairfield." There Brewton Motte lived with her daughter Frances & her family for the rest of her life. Some of her grandchildren remembered that she hung an old arrow quiver from the back of her chair to hold her knitting needles explaning that the quiver represented Motte's contributions during the Revolutionary War.

Friday, March 22, 2019

In Business - Lighthouse Keeper Hannah Thomas 1731-1819

Lighthouse at Plymouth (Gurnet), now Saquish Beach, MA.  

The Gurnet, a 27 acre peninsula forming the northern boundary of Plymouth Bay, is located a few miles northeast of Plymouth Rock. The Pilgrims knew the land as “the gurnett’s nose,” apparently naming the area for similar headlands in the English Channel, where the gurnet fish flourished along Devonshire’s shores. When Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1606, to map the Gurnet and Clark’s Island, he found thick pine forests & Native Americans fishing for cod using lines made of tree bark with wooden fish hooks to which a spear-shaped bone was attached.

The Gurnet became part of Plymouth on January 7, 1638. By the 1770s, 75 fishing vessels were based in the area, and at one point, Duxbury was one of the world’s leading shipbuilding enters. Under the direction of the Massachusetts Legislature, the first Plymouth Lighthouse, a wooden keeper’s dwelling measuring 15 by 30 feet, equipped with a lantern at each end of its roof, was completed in September 1768 at a cost of £660. The twin lights, exhibited at a height of 86 feet above the sea, distinguished the station from the single light used at Boston.
Gen John Thomas (1724-1776) Husband of Hannah Thomas (1731-1819). He was born in 1724. Marshfield Plymouth County Massachusetts, & died Jun. 2, 1776. Chambly Monteregie Region Quebec, Canada.

The lighthouse was built on land rented for 5 shillings a year from Dr John & Hannah Thomas. Hannah Thomas was born on April 20, 1731, in Middleborough, Plymouth, Massachusetts. She married Dr John Thomas in 1761.  Originally, the lighthouse built on their property had 2 towers which were first lit in 1769. Dr John Thomas was appointed the keeper of both lighthouses, since the towers were constructed on his land.  John, a surgeon, the 1st keeper served, until he joined the Continental Army. He recruited a regiment of volunteers from Plymouth County to help repel the British in the Siege of Boston, & then served as a major general leading troops in Quebec, where he died of small pox on June 2, 1776. Along with raising their 3 children, his widow Hannah took over John’s lighthouse post, making her the first woman lighthouse keeper in America.  

It is said that in 1776, after Fort Andrew was erected at Gurnet Point, the H.M.S. Niger reportedly sailed around the Gurnet toward Plymouth Harbor, exchanging fire with the fort’s 6-cannon battery and, many believe, destroying one of the lighthouse beacons in the process.

Plymouth’s worst shipwreck occurred in 1778, when the American privateer General Arnold was trapped in a blizzard less than a mile from Plymouth Light. Choosing to forego the risk of entering Plymouth’s inner harbor without a pilot, the captain dropped anchor hoping to ride out the storm. As the gale rose to hurricane force, the vessel drug anchor running aground on White Flats. Before residents of the Gurnet could construct a causeway over the ice to reach the stranded vessel, 72 of the its crew of just over 100 froze to death in view of the light.

After the American Revolution, the lighthouse was refurbished & put back in service with Hannah Thomas as keeper.  The prevailing work at a lighthouse included tending the light; cleaning lighthouse instruments & buildings; & keeping records of supplies; all traditional women’s work. Women had long been associated with maintaining the lights & fires within a home. This female task was noted in ancient Greece where the goddess “Hestia stays at home on Mount Olympus to keep the fires alight.” During the Early American Republic, women continued the practice of maintaining fires for cooking & warmth, as well as candles & lamps for illumination.

Hundreds of American women have kept the lamps burning in lighthouses since Hannah Thomas tended Gurnet Point Light from 1776-1786 in Plymouth, MA, staying at their posts for periods ranging from a few years to half a century. Caring for a lighthouse was a continuous occupation, making it necessary for the keeper to live where she worked. Thus, the light station was not just a government job, but also a way of life.  Most of these women served in the 19C, when the keeper lit a number of lamps in the tower at dusk; replenished their fuel or replaced them at midnight; and every morning polished the lamps & lanterns to keep their lights shining brightly. 

Several of these women were commended officially for their courage in remaining at their posts through severe storms & hurricanes. The power of ferocious storms & rushing water affected the physical structures, & took a heavy toll on the keeper, at times causing the death of the keeper or a family member. On 13 March 1832, a ferocious ice sweeping down Hudson River during spring breakup destroyed the Stuyvesant Light. Keeper Volkert Witbeck & some family members were able to survive, but Elizabeth, aged 11, and Harriet, aged 13, perished.

A few female lighthouse keepers went to the rescue of seamen, when ships capsized or were wrecked.
Ida Lewis (1842 –1911) was an American lighthouse keeper noted for her heroism in rescuing people from the seas.

Hannah Thomas, who had served since 1776, hired Nathaniel Burgess (or Burges) to act as keeper in 1786, and that same year a coasting sloop traveling from Boston to Plymouth struck a sand bar near the Gurnet. Two of the seamen from the vessel trudged 7 miles through a bitter snowstorm to reach Gurnet Lighthouse. Keeper Burgess fed & warmed them beside the fire, dispatching his assistant, perhaps Hannah’s son John, to bring in the rest of the crew.  

In 1790, the light was ceded to the U.S. government, & Hannah Thomas' son John Thomas took over as keeper. His salary of $200 per annum was lower than at other lighthouses, because the Gurnet was deemed an acceptable place to live with ample fishing & land with good soil to garden.
1843 photo of the twin Plymouth Lights. Photo from US Navy

After the lighthouse was completely destroyed in a fire on July 2, 1801, the merchants of Plymouth and Duxbury funded the construction of a temporary beacon. On April 6, 1802, Congress voted to repay them $270 and appropriated $2,500 to rebuild the lighthouse on the Gurnet. The Thomas family was paid $120 for the land on which twin, 22' tall lighthouses, spaced 30 feet apart, were built in 1803.

During the late 18C - early 19C, the US federal lighthouse service furnished some provisions, but almost all keepers found it necessary to have a garden & some livestock. Kate Moore described in the New York Sunday World, in 1889, the extra care necessary for survival at Black Rock Harbor Light in Connecticut: "I had a lot of poultry & 2 cows to care for, & each year raised 20 sheep, doing the sheering myself - and the killing when necessary. You see, in the winter you couldn’t get to land on account of the ice being too thin, or the water too rough. Then in the summer I had my garden to make and keep. I raised all my own stuff, and as we had to depend on rain for our water, quite a bit of time was consumed looking after that." Kate’s family moved to the lighthouse in 1817, her father had a paralyzing stroke in 1819, & Kate kept the lighthouse functioning until his death in 1871, becoming the official head keeper from 1871-1878.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1755 Benjamin West 1738-1820 Mary Bethel  Mrs Samuel Boude Nat Gal Art

Mary Bethel was from Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She was born about 1732, the daughter of Samuel Bethel and Sarah Bethel (Blunston) and the sister of Elizabeth Bethell; William Bethel; Edward Bethell; Samuel Bethel, II and Sythe Hammett.  In 1717, her grandfather William Bethel bought about 100 acres on the Conestoga Creek near Lancaster City, & in 1730 he was licensed to keep a public-house or a tavern in Lancaster city. Between 1737-38, he was Lancaster County treasurer.  At the age of 17, Mary married Dr.Samuel Boude,an eminent physician & druggist, and was the mother of Gen. Thomas Boude; Sarah Bethel Barber; Mary Bethel Barber: Elizabeth Lewis; Henrietta Boude and 2 others. She died after 1761.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sarah Wentworth Apthorp Morton 1759-1846, poet, humiliated child, betrayed wife, + a snarky John Adams

Gilbert Stuart Gilbert Stuart (American artist, 1755-1828) Mrs. Perez Morton (Sarah Wentworth Apthorp)

Sarah Wentworth Apthorp Morton (1759-1846) was an early American poet whose published work of the 1790s, received praise of her contemporaries, who called her "the American Sappho" after the Greek lyric poetess.  But her life was anything but lyrical.  She felt humiliated as a child, when her father was accused of having Tory tendencies.  Her carefully chosen, popular, politically-correct, patriotic husband had an affair with her younger sister right in their home, resulting in the birth of a little girl.  Her sister wrote her a letter of apology just before taking her own life.  Once again, Sarah was the focus of a huge scandal in her community.  John Adams chose to defend her husband from any culpability in her sister’s suicide.  And her husband was found guiltless.  Yes, the husband had an affair with her younger sister which produced a child, before she committed suicide; but the older husband should be forgiven & all should be forgotten. It was the male dominated 18C; and after-all, men will be men.  John Adams then recommended that the family -- her husband, her father, her brother, & herself  -- restore “peace & harmony between them…again to embrace in friendship & affection.”  The clever, patriot husband went on to become a political leader in the state.  Sarah did as she was told & reunited with him until his death in 1837.

Sarah was born in Boston, Mass., the 3rd daughter of 10 children of James & Sarah (Wentworth) Apthorp.  Her father, a 3rd generation British American of Welsh ancestry, was a well-to-do Boston merchant, as was her mother’s father, Samuel Wentworth, who came to Boston from a distinguished New Hampshire family. 

Gilbert Stuart (American artist, 1755-1828) Mrs. Perez Morton (Sarah Wentworth Apthorp) c 1802,

Until age 10, Sarah lived in the Charles Apthorp mansion on King Street (later State Street) in Boston.  Her parents then moved to Braintree, MA, where she lived until her marriage.  At this time, Braintree was the home community of the prominent Adams, Quincy, & Hancock families.  Braintree provided access to the social & cultural aspects of Boston, with the addition of rural beauty, which Sarah often celebrated later in poems.  
In Braintree, the Apthorps attended the Episcopal Christ Church, which was associated with Loyalists at the beginning of the Revolution. Town records of June 1777, list her father James Apthorp among persons suspected of being "inimical" to the colonial cause.  He & his family suffered great local unpopularity because of his suspected Tory sympathies.

In 1781, Sarah Apthop married Perez Morton, a popular, young, politically-correct, Boston lawyer & patriot, whose reputation would cement Sarah’s name among the patriots.  After graduating from Harvard in 1771, Perez Morton studied law & was admitted to the Massachusetts bar as an attorney in 1774. During the Revolution, he was a leading member of the Committee of Safety & the Committee of Correspondence. He was also an active Mason.  In April 1776, he was praised for his delivery of the funeral address for General Joseph Warren, a fellow Mason killed during the Battle of Bunker Hill.  
John Adam's wife Abigail wrote at the time, "A young fellow could not have wished a finer opportunity to display his talents."  In 1778, Perez Morton served as major & aide-de-camp to General Hancock in the Continental Army. 
In 1784, just 3 years after her marriage, Sarah Morton became mistress & manager of her ancestral home, Apthorp House, on State Street.  Here she hoped to put the Loyalist whispers of her past behind her & regain her natural place in the fashionable, aristocratic social life of a younger generation of Bostonians.  
James Brown Marston (American artist from Salem, MA, 1775-1817)  Painting of State Street or The Old State House 1801 The Apthorp mansion was the 2nd building from the right.

The newlywed Sarah's wishes for elite acceptance seemed to be coming true.  The Mortons became members of a prominent social circle. Along with the James Swans, Harrison Gray Otises, Isaac Winslows, & others, the Mortons formed a club in the winter of 1784–85 for playing cards & dancing. Although bets were limited to 25 cents, the group’s activities quickly were criticized in the newspaper. 

The society Sarah so desperately wanted became the target of ridicule & sarcasm. The Massachusetts Centinel (Boston), January 15, 1785, declared that the club was deemed "an Assembly so totally repugnant to virtue, as in its very name (Sans Souci, or free & easy )," & it was encouraged to disband.  Later, the club was satirized in a play, “Sans Souci, alias, Free & Easy:–Or, an Evening’s Peep in a Polite Circle. An entirely new entertainment in 3Acts, printed in late January 1785.”  In the play, the newlywed Mortons, who were identified as Mr. & Madam Importance, were portrayed as pompous, snobbish, & exclusive.

Apparently, neither her elite social activities, however, nor the birth of 5 children prevented Sarah from pouring her emotions into verse, which she had begun to do as a shunned young girl in Braintree.   Sarah & Perez had 4 daughters & a son.  Sarah Apthorp Morton (1782–1844), Anna Louisa Morton (1783–1843), Frances Wentworth Morton (1785–1831), & Charlotte Morton (1787–1819) lived to adulthood.  The only son to live beyond infancy, Charles Ward Apthorp Morton was born in 1786, & died in 1809. Another baby boy, born in April 1789, lived only 18 hours.

Gilbert Stuart (American artist, 1755-1828) Mrs. Perez Morton (Sarah Wentworth Apthorp) c 1802,

In 1786, Sarah’s younger sister Frances "Fanny" Theodora Apthorp (1766–1788) had come to live with the Mortons in Boston. Fanny & the head of the house, Perez Morton, became lovers, while Sarah was expecting their 5th child in 6 years.  That child was Charlotte, born in September of 1787.  It would be their last. 
Shortly after Charlotte's birth, in the autumn of 1787, Fanny also gave birth to a daughter of Perez Morton.  Fanny & Perez apparently carried on their affair for nearly another year.  The Apthorp family was in an uproar.  Sarah & Fanny's brother James wanted to challenge Perez Morton to a duel.  Fanny’s diary & letters from August 1788, include instructions to Perez Morton to take care of her child "for you know in the sight of heaven you are the Father of it."  The day before Sarah's sister Fanny decided to take poison to end her life on August 28, 1788, instead of publicly confronting Perez Morton, as the sisters' father had requested, Fanny left a note begging forgiveness from her family, especially from her sister Sarah.  

Although Perez Morton was implicated by a jury in Fanny’s suicide, his friends John Adams (1735–1826) & James Bowdoin (1726–1790) defended him in the Massachusetts Centinel on October 7, 1788:  "...the accusations brought against a fellow citizen, in consequence of a late unhappy event, & which have been the cause of so much domestick calamity, & publick speculation, have...been...fully inquired into by their Excellencies James Bowdoin, &  John Adams, Esq’rs...the result of their inquiry is, that the said accusations are not, in any degree, supported.“  Criticism of Adams & Bowdoin’s defense & disregard of the jury’s findings appeared in the Herald of Freedom & the Federal Advertiser. 

The scandal gained strength with the announcement of the publication of one of the 1st American novels, The Power of Sympathy Or, the Triumph of Nature, in January 1789. Although the novel was set in Rhode Island, its plot was clearly the story of Fanny Apthorp & Perez Morton, whose name was only weakly disguised as "Mr. Martin."  The author clearly wanted to cash in on Sarah & her family’s tragedy.

The illicit affair & subsequent suicide seemed to have no ill effect on Perez Morton’s career as a professional politician. Morton, as a Democratic-Republican, was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in May 1794.  After he & his reunited wife Sarah moved to Dorchester, Perez was elected to the House of Representatives in 1803, & in 1806 was elected Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  He was appointed attorney general in 1811, & held the office for 20 years.

Soon after the emotionally debilitating scandal, Sarah Morton’s 1st published poem, "Invocation to Hope," appeared in the July 1789 issue of the recently established Massachusetts Magazine under the pseudonym "Constantina." 

Her subject matter was predominately patriotic, celebrating the new nation, its ideals, & its leaders. From 1789 to 1793, she contributed to the “Seat of the Muses” in the recently established Massachusetts Magazine, 1st under the pseudonym “Constantia” & later as “Philenia,” the pen name by which many of her generation came to know her.   

The often humiliated Sarah chose to champion the plight of Native Americans & African slaves. Her 1st long poem, Ouâbi or the Virtues of Nature, An Indian Tale. In Four Cantos, published in December 1790, was even hailed in London, where it inspired a 3-act play. Though Sarah claimed to depict authentic native customs, her fictional Indians reflected the currently accepted literary view, not real life in the American forest, & the virtues her Native Americans exhibited were in the “noble savage” tradition. However, her reviewers, both English & American, were comfortable with these traditional descriptions & greeted her work favorably. In choosing a subject “wholly American” Sarah Morton hoped to tap into the patriotic urge which immediately followed the Revolution. She still longed to be identified with the patriot cause.

Sarah expressed abolitionist views about slavery in America in a few poems, including "The African Chief," which appeared in the June 9, 1792, issue of the Columbian Centinel describing a slave’s decision to die in order to escape the horrors of the Middle Passage & slavery. The last stanza reflected the poem's examination of heroic death & suicide:

Let sorrow bathe each blushing cheek,
  Bend piteous o’er the tortured slave,
Whose wrongs compassion cannot speak,
  Whose only refuge was the grave.

In November 1792, Sarah chose to become one of the founders of the Boston Library Society.  Her literary interests also extended to the theater.  Both she & her husband were involved in repealing the 1750 colonial law entitled "An Act to prevent Stage Plays, & other Theatrical Entertainments," & her husband Perez Morton was a trustee & shareholder of the resulting Federal Street Theatre.

Portrait of Perez Morton. By Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin. ca.1793-1814.

In Boston, Perez Morton, an elegant figure with polished manners, became a leader of the old Jacobin Club, which held meetings at the Green Dragon Tavern, & also became a decided Democrat. A political poet of Boston thus satirizes Perez Morton:

 " Perez, thou art in earnest, though some doubt thee ! 
  In truth, the Club could never do without thee ! 
 My reasons thus I give thee in a trice, — 
 You want their votes, and they want your advice ! 

" Thy tongue, shrewd Perez, favoring ears insures, — 

  The cash elicits, and the vote secures. 
  Thus the fat oyster, as the poet tells, 
 The lawyer ate, — his clients gained the shells." 

Contemporaries, who knew Sarah's identity, reading her 1794 poems "Marie Antoinette" & "Bativia" would know, that they were a blatant statement, that she did not share her husband’s pro-French sentiments. 

The sex, betrayal, & suicide scandal had made Sarah famous. Sarah’s verses, under a variety of loosely-held pseudonyms, continued to appear regularly in the Massachusetts Magazine’s "Seat of the Muses" column through 1793, as well as in the Boston Columbian Centinel until 1794. They were also reprinted in Philadelphia, New York, & New Hampshire journals. After the turn of the century, her poems appeared occasionally in the Monthly Anthology & Boston Review until 1807.  Hailed by fellow magazine poets as the “Sappho of America” & the “Mrs. Montagu of America,” she soon found entrée to other poetry corners in newspapers & magazines of the period.  

In 1797, Sarah Morton moved from Boston to nearby Dorchester, where she lived in the 1st house which she designed; & after 1808, the family took residence in Morton’s Pavilion, built by her husband.  During these years Sarah relished making her home a gathering place for the American literati & other distinguished visitors.  

Also in 1797, she published her poem, Beacon Hill. A Local Poem, Hsitoric & Descriptive, dedicated to the “Citizen Soldiers who fought, conquered, & retired under the Banners of Freedom & Washington.”  In the introduction to Beacon Hill, Sarah Morton defended her "application to literature...It is only amid the leisure & retirement, to which the sultry season is devoted," she wrote, "that I permit myself to hold converse with the Muses; nor does their enchantment ever allure me from one personal occupation, which my station renders bligatory; but those hours, which might otherwise be lost in dissipation, or sunk in languor, are alone resigned to the unoffending charms of Poetry & Science."

Sarah intended to publish Beacon Hill as the 1st segment of an ambitious larger work. "The apprehensive feelings of the author," Sarah Morton explained, "did not permit her at present to offer more than the first book."  The poem, dedicated to the Revolutionary soldiers who fought under George Washington, looks at the end of the Battle of Bunker Hill, the siege of Boston, & the Declaration of Independence & pays tribute to Washington & the Revolutionary leaders in each colony. 

William Bentley (1759–1819), pastor at Salem’s Second Congregational Church, wrote in his diary in November 1797, "The talk now about Mrs. Morton’s Poem, Beacon Hill, & it is said to exceed any poetic composition from a female pen. She is called the American Sappho.  Mr. Paine calls her so.  Besides Mr. Stearns is soon to publish The Lady’s Philosophy of Love, which they have begun to praise before they have seen it." 

However, The Reverend Mr. Bentley also voiced his doubts about the quality of the poetry; & it does not appear that Sarah Morton was encouraged to complete the other installments of "Beacon Hill," at least they were never found or published.  In 1799, she offered the companion piece, The Virtues of Society.  A Tale, Founded on Fact.

In 1823, Sarah Morton published a compilation of prose & poems in My Mind & Its Thoughts, in Sketches, Fragments, & Essays.   It was the 1st work to which she signed her own name.  In addition to new poems written to celebrate national & local events, the 1823 volume contained careful revisions of poems published earlier in newspapers or journals under her various pseudonyms. 
The book’s essays bounced from marriage, to physiognomy, to the sexes, to civility, & age. Sarah wrote in the introduction, "Thus occupied—with neither leisure, nor disposition, nor capacity to write a Book, there has always been opportunity to pen a thought, or to pencil a recollection." A list of subscribers at the end of the volume is topped by "John Adams, late President of the United States" & "His Excellency John Brooks, Governor of Massachusetts."  In total, 34 women & 125 men on this "subscribers" list were convinced to order copies of the book in advance of its publication. Many of the poems, such as "Stanzas To A Recently United Husband" or "Lamentations Of An Unfortunate Mother, Over The Tomb Of Her Only Son," are extremely personal & sad. Her "Apology" at the end of the text openly suggests that writing poetry brought her consolation from the many disappointments & grief she experienced in her life.

Perez Morton died in Dorchester on October 14, 1837, leaving all his real & personal estate to "my beloved wife Sarah Wentworth Morton."  After his death, Sarah moved from Dorcester back to the Braintree house,
 where she had lived as a child, when the family had been humiliated because of her father's Loyalist leanings.  Here she would come full circle to live out the rest of her life.

In 1846, Sarah died in Quincy, aged 86, & was buried in the Apthorp tomb in King’s Chapel, Boston.  None of her children survived her.  
Her will instructed, that she be interred in the Apthorp family vault in King’s Chapel.  She also requested that the remains of her daughter Frances Wentworth & her son, Charles, be re-interred in the family vault; so that she would have her "own remains between those of my two dearly beloved & lamented children."

By the time of her death, her fame as a poet had been mostly forgotten.  Not one of her obituaries in the Quincy Patriot, Boston Daily Mail, or Daily Evening Transcript made any mention of her literary career.  Without an ounce of compassion, they noted simply, that she was the widow of the late "Honorable" Perez Morton. The extant ledgers of the Boston Library Society attest to the numerous books she read as the years passed; & the inventory of her estate compiled at her death contains more than 250 books, including 20 volumes of Shakespeare & 9 volumes of Pope.  

This posting also based in part on information from Notable American Women edited by Edward T James, Janet Wilson James, Paul S Boyer, The Belknap Press of Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 1971 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1754 Joseph Blackburn fl 1752-1778 Margaret Sylvester Mrs David Chesebrough Met

Mrs. Chesebrough, born Margaret Sylvester, was the wife of a wealthy & prominent merchant in Newport, Rhode Island. The couple later lived in Stonington, Connecticut. Margaret Sylvester Chesebrough (1719-1782) Daughter of Mary Burroughs and Brinley Sylvester. Sister of Mary Sylvester Dering. Raised in Newport, Rhode Island and Shelter Island, New York and educated in Boston. Married “King” David Chesebrough, the richest man in Newport. Stepmother of Abigail Chesebrough Grant. Died of smallpox a month after her husband.

See Patricia and Edward Shillingburg's 2015 book Women's Words featuring the  Dering Letters which were given to the Shelter Island Library in New York, in 1916 by General Sylvester Dering.   Approximately 240 of them written by women. The men wrote about business, church business, and politics, and the women wrote about life's events and their feelings.  In this collection of letters,  Margaret Chesebrough who was married to David Chesebrough, known as “King” because he was the wealthiest man in Newport was often in the middle of conflicts between her husband and her sister’s husband over produce from the farm they jointly owned.

Monday, March 18, 2019

From Freedom of the Press to Sainthood - Elizabeth Becker Curson 1731-1787 & Strong Women

1757 Thomas McIlworth (fl 1757-67). Elizabeth Becker (Mrs. Richard Curzon or Curson) 1731-1787.

Elizabeth Rebecca Becker was born into a family of strong women, but she certainly was not born into elite colonial society. Elizabeth Becker was born in New York City in 1731, the daughter of Frederick Becker &amp his wife, Anna Catharina Zenger. Elizabeth Becker's mother Anna Catharina Zenger had sailed to New York City from Germany with her family in 1710. The Zengers hailed from the Rhine section of Germany called the Palatinate, which had been impoverished by a succession of wars & extravagant local rulers. In 1710, England's Queen Anne sent 3,000 Palatinate refugees to the colonies to establish naval stores in New York. In return for 7 years of labor, the emigrants were promised grants of land. Unfortunately 25 % died during the 2 month voyage. Among the dead was the father of Anna Catharina Zenger. She survived the voyage with her newly widowed mother, older brother 13-year-old John Peter;&her younger brother Johannes.Anna Catharina's 33-year-old mother Johannah arrived in the new world a widow with 3 children to shelter & feed. Anna Catharina married Frederick Becker in 1727, & their baby Elizabeth Becker would live through turbulent events that seemed to swirl about her throughout her life from the moment she was born.

Elizabeth Becker's uncle John Peter Zenger & his wife fight for Freedom of Speech
Trial of John Zenger

In 1711, the widow Zenger apprenticed her 14 year-old son John Peter to New York's only printer, William Bradford (1663-1752). Completing his indenture in 1718, young Zenger moved to Chestertown, Maryland, to make his living as a printer. Though he was named to print the session laws of the Maryland state legislature, he did not prosper there; & in 1722, he returned to New York. The industrious young Zenger entered into a partnership with his old master Bradford in 1725, leaving just the next year to start his own print shop, only the second in the city of New York. For several years, Zenger was active printing mostly German religious tracts until, in 1733, he was approached by James Alexander with the opportunity to print America's first political party newspaper, the New York Weekly Journal. James Alexander, a native of Scotland, had emigrated to New York, where he practiced law&became a leading member of the popular party.

The same year that Elizabeth Becker was born, the English appointed William Cosby as Governor of New York after removing him from a similar post in the Leeward Islands amid serious controversies. New York was faction-ridden. A brief period of peace ended in 1732, with the arrival of the tainted new governor, who intended to use the post to enhance his own fortunes. Shortly after arriving in New York, the new English Governor fired the Chief Justice, Lewis Morris, for having the grit to decide against him in a lawsuit. After the new governor removed the Chief Justice, attempted to fix an election, & accepted questionable honorariums, John Peter Zenger agreed to print anonymously James Alexander's attacks on Cosby's administration. These newspaper revelations so enraged the colonial governor, that he had Zenger imprisoned. Zenger was formally accused of libeling the Governor. Zenger endured nearly 9 harrowing months in New York City's jail refusing to identify Alexander or any of his sources for the offending articles.
Trial of John Zenger

Elizabeth Becker's aunt, Zenger's wife Anna, took over publishing the newspaper. With her husband in jail&young children underfoot, Anna Zenger somehow managed to keep the New York Weekly Journal publishing, missing only one issue. Because of her stubborn determination, the uninterrupted publication of the newspaper helped build public support for Zenger's plight. In 1735, Zenger's lawyer, Andrew Hamilton, argued that the newspaper articles could not be libelous, because the accusations against Governor Cosby were true.Zenger's attorney Hamilton challenged the constitutionality of the crimes for which his client was being prosecuted. It was one of the first times in American history in which a lawyer challenged the laws rather than the innocence of his clients. The jury found Zenger not guilty,&the acquittal set an important precedent for American freedom of the press. Released from jail, Zenger immediately wrote A Brief Narrative of the Case and Tryal of John Peter Zengertelling the story of the court case.

Elizabeth Becker's Marriage
When Zenger's neice, Elizabeth Becker turned 16, she met an exciting young Londoner Richard Curson (1726-1805) soon after he immigrated to New York City in 1747. Curson was 21; & after a whirlwind romance, they married in December of 1747. Newlyweds Richard & Elizabeth sailed back to England, so that the new bride could meet his family. His father, Samuel Curson III, was a successful London wine merchant with extensive business contacts in Italy & Spain. While young Elizabeth was in England with her new groom, she survived a vicious attack of smallpox leaving her severely permanently disfigured. Longing for the comfort of her family in the American colonies, Elizabeth & Richard returned to New York City in 1756, where Richard used his family's extensive contacts throughout England, Europe, the Atlantic region to became a prominent merchant & banker.By 1763, when Elizabeth was 32, she had given birth to 4 children who lived to adulthood: Rebecca, Samuel, Anna Maria, & Richard. Her husband's mercantile career was flourishing by the early 1770s. One of his companies had offices in both New York City & St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies. He was trading silks, flour, corn, gunpowder, fish, wines, slaves, tobacco, & rice in ships he was having built as far away as India. But the war & the arrival of the British interrupted Elizabeth & Richard's success in New York City. The Curson's took their youngest son Richard Jr. & fled New York City in June of 1776, to avoid possible capture by the British; because of their open sympathy for the revolution. By June, 1777, they had settled in the safer port of Baltimore, Maryland, where Richard established a new mercantile firm operating from 1777-1803. While importing goods & wines from the Caribbean,Italy, & Spain,Richard, Sr., also used 8 of his ships as privateers to run the British blockade & attack the enemy vessels during the American Revolution. Elizabeth Becker & Richard Curson thrived in Baltimore, becoming friends with Thomas Jefferson, Light Horse Harry Lee, General Horatio Gates, & Daniel Dulany.

Elizabeth Becker Curson's Children
Elizabeth Becker Curson did not fret about finances, she worried about her children -- with good reason. Because of his sympathy for the revolution, the family's oldest son Samuel had moved to St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies by March, 1776, establishing a mercantile company there. When it was safe in 1780, the young Corson returned to New York City. In 1784, an uncle in England, left 3,000 pounds to his grandnephew Samuel Curson of New York City, who used his windfall inheritance to travel extensively throughout Europe & England. By July, 1785, Samuel had established his own business in New York. His American future looked bright; but in 1785, young Samuel Curson unexpectedly applied to the U.S. Congress for the position of U.S. Consul in London.Apparently during his travels in England in 1784, he had fathered an illegitimate son with Betsy Burling who soon after married Richard John Whittell of England, a 1st cousin of Samuel Curson. Betsy's new husband tried to blackmail the wealthy American Curson family from England. Betsy's brother (or possibly her new husband posing as her brother) Walter Burling determined that he needed to be much closer to the situation, & he actually moved to Baltimore. Walter Burling persistently continued to seek monetary satisfaction for the illegitimate child from young Samuel & from his parents. He physically pursued Samuel Curson from the West Indies to London & finally back to America. In New York, on April 21, 1786, Burling challenged Curson to a duel, in which Samuel received a fatal wound dying 3 days later.Elizabeth Becker's final living son, Richard Curson, Jr., was born on 1763 in New York, & fled to Baltimore, in 1777, with his parents. In 1784, he married Elizabeth Moale, had 3 children who lived to maturity, & lived at his parents' home until 1803. Elizabeth had worried about this son Richard for years. He was in ailing health & suffered from a spinal disease since early childhood. In 1787, Elizabeth Becker Curson died & was buried at Old Saint Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Baltimore. In 1805, Richard Curson Sr. died & was buried next to his wife.The following year, their son Richard was declared a lunatic by the Chancery Court of Maryland. The custody of his person & property were given to Samuel Vincent, who had administered the estate for the elder Curson & his wife, Elizabeth Becker Curson. Richard Jr. died on June 14, 1808, & was buried next to his parents in Baltimore.

Elizabeth Becker Curson's Granddaughter becomes a Saint 
By 1786, Elizabeth Becker Curson had 13 grandchildren in America; one of her sons had been shot to death; one of her grown daughters died from childbearing; & the remaining daughter was married & raising both her own 7 children plus the 6 children of her deceased sister. Daughter Rebecca Curson had married William Seton (1746-1798) in 1767 in New York; & when she died in 1775, the newly widowed William Seton married her sister Anna Maria Curson in 1776.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)

Elizabeth Becker's grandson, her deceased daughter Rebecca Courson Seton's firstborn son William Seton (1768-1803), married another strong, determined woman, Elizabeth Ann Baley (1774-1821). She converted to Roman Catholicism; founded the American Sisters of Charity (the first sisterhood native to the United States); & was a wife, mother, widow, single parent, & educator. Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first person born in the United States to become a canonized saint.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1754 Joseph Blackburn fl 1752-1778 Mary Sylvester Met

Mary Sylvester Dering (1724-1794). Daughter of Mary Burroughs and Brinley Sylvester. Raised in Newport and on Shelter Island and educated in Boston. Married Thomas Dering in 1756 in Newport. They had 3 children, Sylvester, Elizabeth, and Henry Packer. Spent the war years in Middletown, Connecticut, but most of her adult life at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island. Thomas Dering (1720-1785). Son of Elizabeth Packer and Henry Edward Dering. Husband of Mary Sylvester Dering. Father of Sylvester, Elizabeth and Henry Packer. Proprietor of 1,000 acre Sylvester Manor from 1762 until he died in 1785.

Her portrait was most likely painted in 1754, the year in which Blackburn painted the portrait of her sister and of Abigail Chesebrough (Stonington Historical Society, Connecticut). In accordance with her unmarried status, Blackburn depicted Mary Sylvester as a shepherdess, the lamb at her side a symbol of purity and innocence. Blackburn may have derived this allegorical representation from a British mezzotint. In 1756 Mary Sylvester was married in Newport to Thomas Dering, a Boston merchant.

See Patricia and Edward Shillingburg's 2015 book Women's Words featuring the Dering Letters which were given to the Shelter Island Library in New York, in 1916 by General Sylvester Dering.   Approximately 240 of them written by women. The men wrote about business, church business, and politics, and the women wrote about life's events and their feelings. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

Men & Women Served as Slaves in the Nortern Colonies & States

Preparation for War to defend Commerce, Birch's Views of Philadelphia, Published by W. Birch, Springland Cot. near Neshaminy Bridge on the Bristol Road; Pennsylvania. Decr. 31st 1800., Plate 29

Generally, slaves in the North worked at the ports, agriculture, & as household workers.  Northern slavery grew out of the paradox the new continent presented to the arriving Europeans ...Workers were needed in the new continent to clear the land, work the soil, build the towns. Because of this acute labor shortage, all the American colonies turned to compulsory labor. In New Netherland, (the Dutch colony along the Hudson River & the lower Delaware River. By 1669, all of the land was taken over by England) in the 1640s, a free European worker could be hired for 280 guilders a year, plus food & lodging. In the same time & place, experienced African slaves from the West Indies could be bought outright, for life, for 300 guilders...

Early in the 17C, African slave status in the British Americas was not quite absolute bondage. It was a nebulous condition similar to that of indentured servants. Some Africans brought to America were regarded as "servants" eligible for freedom a certain number of years. Slavery had been on the decline in England, & in most of Europe generally, since the Middle Ages. That may be why the legal definition of slavery as perpetual servitude for blacks & their children was not immediately established in the New World colonies.

The first official legal recognition of chattel slavery as a legal institution in British North America was in Massachusetts, in 1641. Slavery was legalized in New Plymouth & Connecticut when it was incorporated into the 1643 Articles of the New England Confederation. Rhode Island enacted a similar law in 1652. That means New England had formal, legal slavery a full generation, before it was established in the South. Not until 1664, did Maryland declare that all blacks held in the colony, & all those imported in the future, would serve for life, as would their offspring. Virginia followed suit by the end of the decade. New York & New Jersey acquired legal slavery when they passed to English control in the 1660s. Pennsylvania, founded only in 1682, followed in 1700, with a law for regulation of servants & slaves.

From the beginning of the African slave trade, in the 16C to its conclusion in the 19C, slave merchants brought the vast majority of enslaved Africans into the Western Hemisphere to the Caribbean & Brazil. Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747—less than 4 percent of the total—came directly to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, & Danish holdings in the Caribbean, & the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.

New England slaves numbered only about 1,000 in 1708, but that rose to more than 5,000 in 1730 & about 13,000 by 1750. African slaves were a valuable shipping commodity useful at home, in agriculture & in ship-building. The Mid-Atlantic colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) had been under Dutch rule before the British conquered them in 1664. African slavery in the middle colonies had been actively encouraged by the Dutch authorities, & this was continued by the British.
Slaves participated in cutting & hauling the raw materials as well as building & launching ships in 18C New England

Many of the North American Dutch & English colonists in the upper colonies of colonial British America preferred to get their slaves from other New World colonies rather than directly from Africa. From the beginning of the African slave trade in the Western Hemisphere, Europe's "New World," in the 16C to its conclusion in the 19C, slave merchants brought the vast majority of enslaved Africans to the Caribbean & Brazil. Of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans to eventually reach the Western Hemisphere, just 388,747—less than 4 percent of the total—came to North America. This was dwarfed by the 1.3 million brought to Spanish Central America, the 4 million brought to British, French, Dutch, & Danish holdings in the Caribbean, & the 4.8 million brought to Brazil.

In the Northern & Middle colonies, direct imports of slaves from Africa were considered by some too dangerous & difficult. Instead, the Northern & Middle colonies often sought their African slaves from Dutch Curacao & later from British Jamaica & Barbados. These slaves were familiar with Western customs & habits of work, qualities highly prized in a region where masters & slaves worked & lived in close proximity. Having survived one climate change already, they also adjusted better to Northern winters, which incapacitated or killed some of those kidnapped directly from Africa. Both causes contributed to the adjective often used to advertise West Indies slaves being sold in the North as "seasoned."

A 2019 book African Women in the Atlantic World: Property, Vulnerability & Mobility 1660-1880 brings together scholars from Africa, North & South America & Europe to examine the ways in which African women participated in economic, social & political spaces in Atlantic coast societies. The contributors examine the role of petty traders & enslaved women in communities from Sierra Leone to Benguela. They analyse how women in Africa used the opportunities offered by relationships with European men; Christianity; & Atlantic commerce to negotiate their social & economic positions; to consider the limitations which early colonialism sought to impose on women & the strategies they employed to overcome them; to examine the factors which fostered or restricted women's mobility, both spatially & socially; & to trace women's economic power & its curtailment.

See Slavery in the North by Douglas Harper.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Women

1754 Joseph Blackburn fl 1752-1778 Abigail Chesebrough (Mrs. Alexander Grant) Art Inst Chicago

When Abigail Chesebrough was born on May 16, 1734, in Newport, Rhode Island, her father, merchant "King" David, was 32, and her mother, Abigail, was 21. Abigail Chesebrough Grant (1734-1807). Daughter of Abigail Rogers and David Chesebrough. Stepdaughter of Margaret Sylvester Chesebrough. When she was 16 years old, she inherited half of her maternal grandmother’s real and personal estates in Bristol, Rhode Island. She was also her father’s sole surviving child, which made her heiress to one of the largest fortunes in Newport. Married the Scot Alexander Grant in 1769. He represented Lord Grant’s interests in the New World.  Alexander Grant II on October 20, 1760, in Newport, Rhode Island.  Her husband Alexander Grant II was born in 1730.  He was the only child of Alexander Grant was born in 1689 in Glenmoriston, Inverness-shire, Scotland and his mother Isabella of  Inverness-shire, Scotland.  He represented his wealthy employer, relative, and benefactor, Sir Alexander Grant, Baronet of Dalvey, a London merchant in the New World.  Alexander Grant II spent much of his time between Jamaica & London & Rhode Island.  Although Abigail was reluctant to move from the colonies, they moved to London in the late 1760s.  Abigail Chesebrough and Alexander Grant II had six children in 21 years.  He died on January 18, 1783, in London, England, at the age of 53.  She died on December 1, 1807, in London, England, at the age of 73.

See Patricia and Edward Shillingburg's 2015 book Women's Words featuring the  Dering Letters which were given to the Shelter Island Library in New York, in 1916 by General Sylvester Dering.   Approximately 240 of them written by women. The men wrote about business, church business, and politics, and the women wrote about life's events and their feelings. There are letters from and about Abigail Cheseborough Grant in this collection.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

18C Early American Timeline 1730-1739

1700s Baltimore, Maryland

The population in the colonies is estimated at 655,000

William Parks of Maryland establishes a printing press in Virginia.

Baltimore is founded in the Maryland colony.

Both men & women begin wearing white stockings, made of silk or cotton.

John Wesley (1703-1791) & Charles Wesley (1707-1788) found the Methodist sect in Oxford, England

North Carolina Cherokee leaders visit London & confer with the king. They pledge friendship to the English & agree to return runaway slaves & to trade exclusively with the British.

America's first synagogue, Shearith Israel (The Remnant of Israel) is built on Mill Street in Lower Manhattan.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and members of his Junto Club found a circulating library in Philadelphia, the Library Company of Philadelphia.

Martha Dandridge Custis (1731-1802), wife of George Washington, is born on June 2 near Williamsburg, Virginia.

Work is begun on building Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Public concerts are held in Boston & Charleston, S.C.

The Spanish reverse a 1730 decision & declare that slaves fleeing to Florida from Carolina will not be sold or returned.

George Washington (1732-1799), first President of the United States, is born on February 22 in Virginia.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) begins publishing "POOR RICHARD’S ALMANACK" (for the year 1733) which contains weather predictions, humor, proverbs, & epigrams.

A theatrical company from London performs for the first time in New York City.

Georgia is the last of the thirteen English colonies to be settled. It is established not so much for economic opportunity, but to be a military barrier between Spanish-owned Florida & the Carolinas. It is also set up as a refuge for former prisoners & the poor. It also would prevent slaves escaping from South Carolina from reaching Florida, where they could gain their freedom. Charter of Georgia; June 9.

Slaves aboard the ship of New Hampshire Captain John Major kill both captain & crew, seizing the vessel and its cargo.

The Molasses Act, passed by the English Parliament, imposes heavy duties on molasses, rum and sugar imported from non-British islands in the Caribbean to protect the English planters there from French and Dutch competition.

James Oglethorpe (1696-1785) names Georgia in honor of King George II. He also founds the city of Savannah.

The first serious outbreak of influenza sweeps through New York City and Philadelphia; about three-fourths of the population is affected.

The New York "WEEKLY JOURNAL" is published by John Peter Zenger (1697-1746), opposing policies of the colonial government.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) preaches on “The Great Awakening” in New England—a religious revival that emphasizes man’s sinful nature.
Jews settle in Savannah, Georgia.

Quaker Elihu Coleman's A Testimony against That Anti-Christian Practice of MAKING SLAVES OF MEN is published.


John Peter Zenger, editor of the NEW YORK WEEKLY Journal, is imprisoned in New York for upholding freedom of the press. He is accused of libeling New York Governor William Cosby. In 1735, Zenger is acquitted when his attorney, Andrew Hamilton, says that the charges cannot be libelous because the accusations against Cosby were true. While Zenger is imprisoned, his wife continues to publish the newspaper.

John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd President of the U.S., is born on October 30, in Massachusetts.

The first opera performed in the colonies, “Flora,” opens in Charleston, South Carolina.

Women’s status in the colonies changes due to increasing wealth. Newspapers tell of runaway wives and elopements.

John Peter Zenger: A BRIEF NARRATIVE OF THE CASE AND TRYAL OF JOHN PETER ZENGER. Zenger explains the story of the court case that links his name to the notion of freedom of the press. Arrested for alleged libelous statements made in several issues of the New-York Weekly Journal in 1734, Zenger had been brought to trial in 1735. The jury found him not guilty, & the acquittal gained an important precedent for American freedom of the press

Under an English law Georgia prohibits the importation & use of black slaves. Georgia petitions Britain for the legalization of slavery.

Louis XV, King of France, declares that when an enslaved woman gives birth to the child of a free man, neither mother nor child can be sold. Further, after a certain time, mother and child will be freed.

Scots-Irish immigrants begin coming to North Carolina in large numbers, settling mainly in the Piedmont. Most are second-generation colonists moving south down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, Maryland, & Virginia, but a few come directly from Northern Ireland.

Ann Smith Franklin publishes "A BRIEF ESSAY ON THE NUMBER SEVEN." She is one of the first women printers in the American colonies, and the essay deals with the possible biblical significance of the number seven.

Charles Theodore Pachelbel (1690-1750) gives organ concerts in New York City, bringing the Bach tradition to the New World.

Elisabeth Mixer, daughter of Deacon John Mixer and Abigail Fiske who had married in Connecticut on 15 August 1695 and gave birth to Elisabeth on 30 December 1702, revealed AN ACCOUNT OF SOME SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES AND RAPTUROUS AND PIOUS EXPRESSIONS OF ELISABETH MIXER…OF WHAT GOD HAD DONE FOR HER SOUL, IN ORDER TO HER ADMISSION INTO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN ASHFORD.

The first colonial copper coins are minted, also in Connecticut.

Thomas Penn, son of William, attempts to claim more lands from the Minisink tribe of the Delaware. The original agreement, made by William Penn , was that as much land would be claimed as a man could walk in a day & a half, understood by all to mean 30 miles. Thomas Penn, wanting to expand further west, hires two trained athletes to "walk" along newly cut paths & assists them with boats across streams. The "walkers" cover sixty miles & this incident becomes known as The Walking Purchase, the beginning of the end for the Quaker peace policy in the colony

Population in the colonies is estimated at 800,000.

A smallpox epdemic begins in South Carolina.

The first successful glass factory is founded in Salem County, New Jersey.

Mail is first carried regularly through North Carolina on the post road that runs from Boston to Charlestown, S.C.

Elizabeth Timothy (?-1757) begins publishing the weekly newspaper, the "SOUTH CAROLINA GAZETTE."

John Wesley (1702-1791) and George Whitefield (1713-1779) immigrate to Savannah, Georgia as leaders of the “Great Awakening.” Whitefield's sermons promote the "Great Awakening" throughout the 1740s. One of the thousands impressed by his eloquence is Benjamin Franklin, who writes in his Autobiography, "I happened soon after to attend one of his Sermons, in the Course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a Collection, & I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my Pocket a Handful of Copper Money, three or four silver Dollars, and five Pistoles in Gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the Coppers. Another Stroke of his Oratory made me asham'd of that, and determin'd me to give the Silver; & he finish'd so admirably, that I empty'd my Pocket wholly into the Collector's Dish, Gold and all." Other preachers in this movement included Theodore Frelinghuysen of the Dutch Reformed Church, Gilbert Tennent (Presbyterian), and Jonathan Edwards.

Georgia's trustees permit the importation of black slaves.

Mary Katherine Goddard born in Connecticut. Becomes publisher of the Maryland Journal and 1st female postmistress. (See posting on Mary Katherine Goddard in this blog.)
Spanish Florida promises freedom and land to runaway slaves.


War of Jenkins' Ear: England declares war on Spain; border skirmishes erupt between colonists in South Carolina and Georgia and the Spanish in Florida.

A measles epidemic breakes out in Boston.

Moravian Church founded in America by Bishop A. G. Spengenberg(1704-1792). Moravians introduce Saint Nicholas as a central feature of Christmas celebrations.

Violent uprisings by black slaves occur on three separate occasions in South Carolina. The Stono Rebellion refers to slaves in Stono, South Carolina, sacking & burning an armory & killing whites. The colonial militia puts an end to the rebellion before slaves are able to reach freedom in Florida.

Eliza Lucas Pinckney (c. 1722-1793) begins writing her journal. Her compiled letters and journal become the life chronicle of one of the leading women of the colonial era, a prominent South Carolina planter and mother of political figure Charles Pinckney (1757-1824). Not published until 1850, it reveals an intellectually curious successful 18th century businesswoman.

HISTORY MATTERS. American Social History Project / Center for Media and Learning (Graduate Center, CUNY) and the Center for History and New Media (George Mason University).
Yale Law School, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. New Haven, CT.