Dolley Madison First Lady to James Madison “FREE” Frank Letter for her Friend Anthony Morris From Montpelier, VA. May 28th 1837 Mailed to Samuel B. Morris at Germantown Pennsylvania, a.k.a. “The Germantown White House”
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DOLLEY PAYNE MADISON (1768-1849). First Lady being the wife of fourth President James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Dolley Madison did much to define the role of the President's spouse, known only much later by the title First Lady, she helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set fire to it in 1814, she was credited with saving the classic Gilbert Stuart Lansdowne Portrait of George Washington when she directed her personal slave Paul Jennings to save it during the British attack.
May 28, 1837-Dated, Manuscript Letter Free Frank, “Free DP Madison”, 3 pages plus Integral Postal Cover, measuring 7.75” x 9.75”, Montpelier, Virginia, Choice Very Fine. This fresh, clean boldly penned Postal Cover and Letter written by Dolley Madison’s friend Signed, “Anthony Morris” and datelined, "Montpelier Virginia - May 28th 1837" addressed to Mr. Samuel B. Morris at Germantown Pennsylvania, having a historic connection to what became known as “The Germantown White House” (in addition, also known as the “Deshler-Morris House”), is a historic mansion in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the Oldest Surviving Presidential Residence, having Twice housed George Washington during his presidency.
There is a light strike of red "Orange C H Va. May 20" circular datestamp with matching "FREE" red handstamp, above in fine dark brown penned, “Free DP Madison”. The Letter has transmittal folds with tiny intersection holes, some minor outer soiling from the post, beautifully written on faint blue lined wove period paper that is easily readable and vividly signed. Content contains much personal, political and religious content, including information regarding teaching a student the law, reading in part:
“especially as connected with the Constitution & Laws of his Country... and the first honors of his Class at College confir’d on him as well at the commencement last year... a great fundamental truths of Christianity, I should have feared for his safety in a City of so much temptation as Philadelphia...”.
Dolley Madison spent much of her first two years as a widow locating her husband’s nieces and nephews, or their living children, in order to fulfill the terms of James’s will. By 1836 many of them had not only left Orange County but had forsaken Virginia itself, and were now living somewhere west of the original thirteen colonies. In some cases Dolley and her Orange County neighbors and relatives had lost all contact with those who had moved; they had to discover who was dead and who was alive.
Widowed, Dolley Madison found herself faced with the task of finding and paying for the legacies James Madison had bequeathed a variety of institutions, including the American Colonization Society, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and Madison College. These gifts totaled $12,000. In addition she had to fulfill his bequests to his nieces and nephews, or their surviving children. These costs amounted to an additional $9,000. James had calculated that the total sum of $21,000 could be met by the sale of his papers. Dolley, perhaps without having consulted James prior to his death, also agreed to purchase her brother’s farm for $4,000. It all added up to $25,000. Many of the documents in this section of the DMDE, therefore, record her legal quest for family clarification and list the receipts for the money she gave to each bequest and legacy.
There is little record here of the emotional toll this took on her, except her continuing ill-health and never-ending eye problems, but there is no doubt that she found her assigned tasks difficult indeed. It was not easy to locate relatives who had moved as far from Virginia as Texas or Illinois. After Dolley had supported her brother, John Coles Payne, and his family for most of his life, we can only guess at her sense of desertion as he committed himself to leave the neighborhood where he had lived for more than two decades. The Madison family seems to have provided little emotional-and no financial-support through her trials. Her niece Anna Coles Payne Causten remained with her, always by her side, but she was still a young woman, and only able to help with such tasks as letter writing or receiving visitors, or presumably shopping for food while in Washington. Her son, however, the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Edward Coles’s famous words, was largely away from Montpelier, residing either in New York or Washington, occasionally writing her, rarely helping her. When at home, and involved with her debts and land, Dolley gave her power of attorney to John Payne Todd “to ask, demand, sue for, recover and receive of & from all the several debtors of the late James Madison all such sum or sums of money, debts and demands whatsoever which are now owing unto the Estate of the late James Madison” (February 15, 1837). And she sold him land for the consideration of a single dollar.
In these years we see Dolley begin the process of selling off pieces of Montpelier, doing so from financial necessity. She offered her brother’s farm to James and Reuben Newman, despite John Payne Todd’s suggestion that she find another purchaser. Between July of 1836 and April of 1840 she made twelve conveyances of land, thus diminishing Montpelier and the Madison estate.
After the death of her husband ex-president James Madison, and despite her grief there were also moments of pleasure during these years. Dolley Madison began to return to her old social self as she receives visitors at Montpelier. Her beloved friend Anthony Morris visits her in May of 1837, bringing one of his granddaughters. The now-grown children of her daughter-sister Anna Cutts also come to spend time with her, as does the only living daughter of long-dead sister Mary Payne Jackson. In August of 1837 she and Anna visit the Virginia Springs, where they are feted and make a grand tour of the whole region.
She returned to Washington in October of 1837. She moved into the house James had purchased from Richard Cutts after Richard’s finances collapsed. Dolley slipped back into society, visiting with the President, Henry Clay, and his wife; William Preston and his wife; Daniel Webster and his wife; Joel Poinset, John J. Crittendon, John Peter Van Ness, James K. Polk, and their wives; the ministers from France and the independent nation of Texas, and more. Our lists are incomplete, but there is enough to remind us that Dolley returned to the national capital a star in her own right and the relic of the last of the Founders. This impressive Letter has its original red wax mailing seal full intact. Samuel Buckley Morris (1791-1859) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Quakers Luke Wistar Morris and Elizabeth Buckley Morris. Samuel B. Morris became a member of the shipping firm of Waln & Morris in Philadelphia. He was one of the first directors of the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society.
Samuel B.Morris was one of the founders of Haverford College, a manager of Friends Asylum, and served on the Committee for Westtown School from 1843 until his death in 1859.
The Germantown White House (also known as the Deshler-Morris House) is a historic mansion in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is the oldest surviving presidential residence, having twice housed George Washington during his presidency.
The house's alternate name comes from its first and last owners: David Deshler, who built it beginning in 1752; and Elliston P. Morris, who donated it to the National Park Service in 1948.
Deshler, a merchant, bought a 2-acre (8,100 m2) lot from George and Anna Bringhurst in 1751-52, and constructed a four-room summer cottage. Twenty years later he built a 3-story, 9-room addition to the front, creating one of the most elegant homes in the region.
On October 4, 1777, it was a scene of fighting in the Battle of Germantown, after which British General Sir William Howe occupied the house.
Isaac Franks, a former colonel in the Continental Army, bought the house following Deshler's 1792 death. It was he who rented it to President Washington.
When the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 struck Philadelphia, President Washington remained in the city until September, before making his regular autumn trip home to Mount Vernon. He and a small group of slaves returned in early November, but Philadelphia was under quarantine and they were rerouted to Germantown, then ten miles (16 km) outside the city.
He first occupied the Dove House, the headmaster's residence for Germantown Academy (now extensively altered and part of Pennsylvania School for the Deaf). He also traveled to Reading, Pennsylvania, 60 miles (96 km) northwest of the city, to see if it would make a suitable emergency capital.
Returning to Germantown, from November 16 to 30, he occupied the Isaac Franks house. His wife Martha, two of her grandchildren, Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis, and more of their slaves and staff joined him late in the stay.
The following September and October, Washington and his family returned to the Franks house for vacation, although he left early to deal with the Whiskey Rebellion in Western Pennsylvania. He met there four times with his cabinet: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of War Henry Knox. The President posed for painter Gilbert Stuart, who kept a studio nearby, and the family attended the German Reformed Church across the square.
Four slaves were held by the Washingtons at the Franks house: Oney Judge, Austin (her brother), Moll, and Hercules.
Later, the house was sold to Elliston and John Perot, and in 1834 to Elliston's son-in-law, Samuel B. Morris. The Morris family lived in the house for over a hundred years, before its 1948 donation to the National Park Service.
The house is administered by Independence National Historical Park. In 1972, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house is also a contributing property of the Colonial Germantown Historic District. In 2009, the National Park Service changed the official name of the house from the "Deshler-Morris House" to the "Germantown White House."