Letter, Martha Washingon to Elizabeth Powel, January 18, 1788

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  • Letter, Martha Washingon to Elizabeth Powel, January 18, 1788

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Letter, Martha Washingon to Elizabeth Powel, January 18, 1788


Martha Washington


This letter from Martha to her Philadelphia friend Elizabeth Powel contains a typical mix of household and family news, with Martha’s usual emphasis on the health of family members. It also highlights the difficulty of travel in the early Republic – not only the roads themselves but the myriad preparations necessary. “As you find the ways tolerable, and the commencement (that is the preparation for the journey) nearly half the execution of it…,” as Martha puts it. In fact, as is the case here, correspondents often opened letters with a reference to the last letter that was successfully delivered, as so many mail deliveries miscarried.


Martha Washington




Mount Vernon Ladies' Association



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The Martha Washington Collection, Mount Vernon.

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Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

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Dear Madam                                 Mount Vernon January the 18 1788

I have now to thank you for the very polite and affectionate letter of December the 7th – we were exceedingly happy to hear by it and by the two Mr Morris's that you reached Philadelphia without accident, and without fright in crossing the Bay and that you had the happiness to find all your friends there well. The circumstances will be an inducement to you I hope, to visit your friends to the southward more frequently. I am my dear madam much obliged for your kind attention in getting the collars for the girls. They suite very well, for I prefer them to those with Backs; - and am well pleased that you laid out the remainder of the money in ribbon and sashes for them. My pretty boy is so pleased with the Book you sent him that he had read it over and over and over and says he will write to Mrs. Powel and thank her himself, for her kind remembrance of him.

Fanny returned much better of the cough, and a good deal better in health than when she went over the mountains; but not perfectly recovered. She left this about ten days agoe - with a design to lay in at her fathers. She expects sometime in March next; in her way down she called at a Mr. McCartys to see her Brother married to the daughter of that gentleman, which will make it sometime before I shall hear from her. She is a child to me, and I am very lonesome when she is absent. Her ill luck with her first child is the only reason of her wishing to change the place of her lying inn this time. If her child lives, it will be sometime in May before she can come up - and the distance is too farr for me to goe down to see her.

The moroco thread case you was so obliging as to send me, came safe with the other things, for which please to accept my thanks. I can assure you, my dear madam, that we were much mortified at not being able to prevail on you to stay longer with us as you returned - whilst you were on the road we thought of you often and as you find the ways tolerable, and the commencement (that is the preparation for a journey) nearly half the execution of it, we shall flatter ourselves with hopes of seeing you again in this state; change of air is always conducive to health; and tho we are not as gay as you are at philadelphia, yet in this peaceful retreat you will find friendship and cordiallity; which no one who does not go fully into all the gaities of the city, will I flatter myself, be quite as agreeable.

I do most truly sympathize with you on your sisters disappointments in life. These now come, in a greater or less degree, are what all of us experience. She is blessed however with a charming family of children, and providence has been bountiful in giving her resolution and strength of Body and mind to be able to undertake the care that have developed upon her. There are few women that would not sink under the load; to the entire ruin of their families.

Mrs Stuart has lately lost her father Mr Calvert which has distressed her exceedingly. She is now with her mother, the girls are with me. Miss & Miss Patty Custis say that I would thank you in their names for the collars. They will ware them with pleasure as you was so good as to take the trouble of providing them. My little Nelly is very well, and often asks when Mrs. Powel will come to see us again. Many thanks for your kind offer in rendering Fanny and myself service. Should I have occation, I will with much freedom, accept your kind offer

My warm wishes and affectionate regards attend you and Mr Powel, in which the General begs to be included - and believe me to be with

great esteem dr Madam
your affectionate Friend
and Hble Servant
M. Washington

Original Format

Autograph Letter Signed







How to Cite this Item

Martha Washington, "Letter, Martha Washingon to Elizabeth Powel, January 18, 1788," in Martha Washington, Item #33, http://marthawashington.us/items/show/33 (accessed July 9, 2020).