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    Martha Washington writes to her niece about her impending marriage to Tobias Lear

    Martha Washington Autograph Letter Signed as First Lady to her niece Frances "Fanny" Bassett. Two pages, 7.5" x 9.2", Philadelphia, October, 18, 1794. In the letter, the First Lady makes arrangements for a visit to Mount Vernon for the family of Senator Ralph Izard, and expresses her continued support of Fanny's acceptance of a marriage proposal from Tobias Lear. In full:

    Philadelphia October the 18th 1794
    My dear Fanny

    I had the pleasure to receive your kind favor some time in the last week. And I had put your letter away so secure as to not be able to find it today. I am very glad to hear you are tolarable [sic] well yourself and your children better, your happiness my dear Fanny is I assure you very dear to the President and myself, I have no doubt but you have considered well what you are about to undertake - and I hope that the same providence that has heather to taken care of you will still be your gardien [sic] angel and protect and derect [sic] you in all your undertakings, you have my fervent [sic] prayers for your happiness [sic].

    Mrs. Izard, a ladie [sic] of my acquaintance since I have been hear is setting out on a journey to the seat in Charlestown South Carolina - Mr. Izard has been in congress ever since the president has - after serving his six years he means to retire and his family goes on this fall, they will come to Alexandria and wish much to visit Mount Vernon if it is not very inconvenient to you. I shall be much obliged to you to goe [sic] down to Mount Vernon with Mrs. Izard and her family as they would be glad to rest their [sic] a day it would be well to let Mr. Pearce know it. The ladies intend to set out on Wednesday next. Thair [sic] present intention is go to Lancaster and either York town - and come from thence to the Federal City. I would wish you to be very kind to them - and put a supply of good bread or any thing else they may want. I shall give Mrs. Izard a letter for you which she will send to you as soon as she gets to Alexandria. Mrs. Mannegot is her daughter and will I expect go all together to Mount Vernon. I will when I write next week give you all the information I can as to the time they expect to get to Georgetown. Mr. Lear is very well acquainted with the Ladys [sic] and Gentleman. If he will be so good as to let you know when they arrive at the City and go down with them it would be the more agreeable to them as he would be able to walk about with them.

    My love and good wishes attend you and your children. I have not heard of the President since he left Carlisle.
    I am my dear Fanny your ever affectionate
    M Washington.

    Fanny was the widow of George Washington's nephew, Major George Augustine Washington. They had married in 1786, and Augustine received a tract of 360 acres on the Mount Vernon plantation where they established a farm called Walnut Tree Farm. After Augustine's death, Fanny retained control of the farm and helped manage affairs at Mount Vernon in Martha's absence.

    In a letter dated August 29, 1794, Martha wrote to Fanny: "I wish I could give you unerring advise in regard to the request contained in your last letter... The person contemplated is a worthy man, esteemed by every one that is aquainted with him; he has, it is concieved, fair prospects before him;--is, I belive, very industri[ous] and will, I have not a doubt, make sumthing handsome for himself.--as to the President, he never has, nor never will, as you have often heard him say, inter meddle in matrimonial concerns. he joins with me however in wishing you every happyness this world can give.... The President has a very high opinion of and friendship for Mr. Lear; and has not the least objection to your forming the connection but, no more than myself, would wish to influence your judgement, either way--yours and the childrens good being among the first wishes of my heart." (The Papers of Martha Washington, edited by Joseph E. Fields.) The opening paragraph of the letter presented here is a continuance of these sentiments: "... your happiness my dear Fanny is I assure you very dear to the President and myself, I have no doubt but you have considered well what you are about to undertake." Her impending marriage to Lear is most certainly what Martha is referring to. Fanny married Lear the following year, but the union was short-lived. Fanny died in 1796 from tuberculosis.

    In this letter, Martha is acting as First Lady in making arrangements for a visit for the wife and children of Ralph Izard, U.S. Senator from South Carolina. Izard, who was retiring from the Senate the following March, was serving as President pro tempore of the Senate at the time this visit was to take place.

    Martha's last thought shared in the letter is that she has "not heard from the President since he left Carlisle." During the summer of 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion had reached a climax. In October, Washington decided to accompany the military forces as far as Carlisle to review their progress. After meeting with representatives in Bedford, and reviewing military forces in the southern districts, Washington returned to Philadelphia.

    The letter has been professionally restored to mend separations at folds, adding paper at margins affecting a few words. Integral address panel has been partially removed.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
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