Entertained in Poughkeepsie

In Poughkeepsie Biography
Visits the Utica Area
Entertained by Lansing Entertained by Breese
Painted by Morse

LaFayette in Poughkeepsie

The following is an account of LaFayette's visit: - General Marquis-de Lafayette, after an absence of thirty-nine years, revisited our country on the invitations of Congress, as the nation's guest in 1824. He reached New York on the 15th of August, in the packet ship Cadmus. Capt. Allyn, with his son and secretary. The Government had tendered him a United States frigate, but always simple and unostentatious, he preferred to come as an ordinary passenger in a packet ship.

There were no wires fifty years ago which intelligence could pass with lightening speed; but the visit of LaFayette was expected, and the pulses and hearts of the people were quickened and warmed simultaneously, through some mysterious medium, throughout the whole Union. Citizens rushed from neighboring cities and villages to welcome the French nobleman, who, before he was twenty-one years old, had devoted himself and his fortune to the American colonies in their unequal conflict with the mother country for independence; and who, after fighting gallantly by the side of Washington through the Revolutionary War, returned to France with the only reward he desired or valued - - the gratitude of a free people.

General Lafayette was now sixty-seven years of age, with some physical infirmities, but intellectually strong, in in manners and feeling cheerful, elastic and accomplished.

The General embarked at 1 o'clock, a.m. At half past two his approach was announced by a discharge of cannons from the bluff just below the landing at Poughkeepsie. Large piles of seasoned wood, saturated with tar and turpentine, were kindled upon that bluff, fed by hundreds of boys who had been intrusted with that duty, and which were kept blazing high, filling the atmosphere with lurid flame and smoke until daylight. Soon after sunrise, a large concourse of the citizens of Poukeepsie, with a military escort, arrived at the wharf.

The boat having arrived, Gen. Lafayette, accompanied by Col. Huger of South Carolina, (distinguished for his attempt to rescue the General from the prison of Olmutz) Gens. Van Courtland, Fish and Lewis, were conducted to a barouche drawn by four white horses. Gen. Brush, assisted by Col. Cunningham, then formed the procession which moved at the word of command up Main Street into Academy, and down Cannon into Market Street, in front of the Forbus Hotel, where they were formed into a hollow square, and the General was received by the Trustees of the village.

He was next conducted to the upper piazza of the Forbus House, when an address of welcome was tendered by Col. H. A. Livingston, to which Lafayette feelingly replied. He was then shown to the centre hall, where the ladies, eager to offer their tribute of respect, were presented; after which he returned to the lower piazza, and was introduced to the officers present. He then walked along the line of troops, bowing to them as he passed, and receiving their respects. Among them was an old soldier bearing the marks of poverty and hardship, but whom the General recognized, and cordially shook by the hand.

At the conclusion of these ceremonies the General was escorted to the Poughkeepsie Hotel, where an excellent breakfast was provided. LaFayette sat at the head of the table, and Major Swartwout, a soldier of the Revolution, 95 years of age, was placed at the opposite end, the seats on either side being occupied by the most prominent persons of the village. Over the folding doors were the words "Welcome Lafayette," made up wholly of the pink blossoms of the china-aster.

Breakfast over, the General was escorted to the landing, amid the firing of cannons, the waving of handkerchiefs, and the cheers from thousands, the steamer proceeded up the river to the then beautiful residence of Governor Morgan Lewis, where the party landed, proceeded to his fine old mansion and partook of a sumptous collation. About two o'clock the steamer glided through the placid waters until between four and five o'clock, when she reached Clermont, the manor house of Chancellor Livingston, of revolutionary memory. On landing, the General was received by a large body of Free Masons, and was escorted by a military company from Hudson to the beautiful lawn in front of the manor house, where the General was warmly welcomed by the Master of the Lodge in an appropriate speech. The afternoon was uncommonly beautiful. The scene and its associations were exceedingly impressive. Dinner was served in a green-house or orangery, which formed a sort of balcony to the Southern exposure of the manor house. When the cloth was removed and the evening came on, variegated lamps suspended from the orange trees were lighted, producing a beautiful and wonderfully brilliant effect. Distinguished men from Esopus, Saugerties, Upper and Lower Red Hook, Catskill, Hudson, &c, had been invited. Among these were Robert and James Tillotsen, Walter Patterson, Peter R., Edward P., and "Oakhill John" Livingston, Jacob Haight, Thomas B. Cook, James Powers; John Suydam, Judge William W. Van Ness, Elisha Williams, Jacob Rutson Van Rensselser, Ambrose L. Jordan and Justis McKinstry. But the grand even of the occasion was the ball, which was opened by General LaFayette, leading the graceful, blind widow of Gen. Montgomery, - who fell in the assault of Quebec, 1775 - amidst the wildest enthusiasm of all present. While the festivities were progressing within, the assembly tenatry who were the "manor born," were feasted upon the lawn, where there were music and dancing. The party broke up and returned to the boat about 3 A. M. The steamer hauled out into the river, but did not get underway till sunrise.

Smith, Philip H., General History of Duchess County, 1609 to 1876, Pawling, NY, 1877, pp. 358-360.

General Van Cortlandt Henry's first cousin, the son of Aunt Joanna and Lt. Gov. Pierre Van Cortlandt
General Nicholas Fish the husband of Henry's first cousin, Elizabeth Stuyvesant, the daughter of Aunt Margaret and Peter S. Stuyvesant, and the father of Governor Stuyvesant Fish
Colonel Henry Alexander Livingston Henry's nephew, the son of Brother Gilbert
Governor Morgan Lewis the husband of Henry's second cousin, Gertrude Livingston, the daughter of Robert R. Livingston and Margaret Beekman, the daughter of Granduncle Henry Beekman
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, Jr. Henry's second cousin, the son of Robert R. Livingston and Margaret Beekman, the daughter of Granduncle Henry Beekman
Peter Robert Livingston Henry's second cousin, the son of Col. Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor
Lt. Governor Edward Philip Livingston Henry's first cousin, 3x removed, the brother-in-law of Henry's brother Gilbert, married to Chancellor Livingston's daughter Elizabeth
"Oakhill John" Livingston Henry's second cousin, the son of Col. Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor
Jacob Rutson Van Rensselser Henry's first cousin, 2x removed, the grandson of Aunt Alida and Colonel Jacob Rutsen
Janet Livingston Montgomery Henry's second cousin, the daughter of Robert R. Livingston and Margaret Beekman, the daughter of Granduncle Henry Beekman, and the widow of Henry's Revolutionary War commander, General Richard Montgomery

Matthew Vassar was one of the hosts of the visit. Does Vassar Library have original source material on this?]

Biography of Marquis LaFayette

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette (Sep 6, 1757 - May 20, 1834).

Born at the château of Chavaniac in Auvergne, France. The family of La Fayette, to the cadet branch of which he belonged, received its title from an estate in Aix, Auvergne, which belonged in the 13th century to the Motier family. His father was killed at Minden in 1759, and his mother and his grandfather died in 1770, and thus at the age of thirteen he was left an orphan with a princely fortune. He married at sixteen Marie Adrienne Francoise de Noailles (d. 1807), daughter of the duc d'Ayen and granddaughter of the duc de Noailles, then one of the most influential families in the kingdom. La Fayette chose to follow the career of his father, and entered the Guards.

When this lad of nineteen, with the command of only what little English [American Minister in Paris] he had been able to pick up on his voyage, presented himself to Congress with Deane's authority to demand a commission of the highest rank after the commander-in-chief, his reception was a little chilly. Deane's contracts were so numerous, and for officers of such high rank, that it was impossible for Congress to ratify them without injustice to Americans who had become entitled by their service to promotion. La Fayette appreciated the situation as soon as it was explained to him, and immediately expressed his desire to serve in the American army upon two conditions--that he should receive no pay, and that he should act as a volunteer. These terms were so different from those made by other foreigners, they had been attended with such substantial sacrifices, and they promised such important indirect advantages, that Congress passed a resolution, on the July 31, 1777, "that his services be accepted, and that, in consideration of his zeal, illustrious family and connexions, he have the rank and commission of major-general of the United States." Next day La Fayette met George Washington, whose lifelong friend he became. Congress intended his appointment as purely honorary, and the question of giving him a command was left entirely to Washington's discretion. His first battle was Brandywine on September 11, 1777, where he showed courage and activity and received a wound. Shortly afterwards he secured what he most desired, the command of a division--the immediate result of a communication from Washington to Congress of November 1, 1777, in which he said: "The marquis de La Fayette is extremely solicitous of having a command equal to his rank. I do not know in what light Congress will view the matter, but it appears to me, from a consideration of his illustrious and, important connexions, the attachment which he has manifested for our cause, and the consequences which his return in disgust might produce, that it will be advisable to gratify his wishes, and the more so as several gentlemen from France who came over under some assurances have gone back disappointed in their expectations. His conduct with respect to them stands in a favourable point of view--having interested himself to remove their uneasiness and urged the impropriety of their making any unfavourable representations upon their arrival at home. Besides, he is sensible, discreet in his manners, has made great proficiency in our language, and from the disposition he discovered at the battle of Brandywine possesses a large share of bravery and military ardour."

Lafayette was shot in the leg at the Battle of Brandywine and taken to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he was nursed by Moravian Sisters. After he recovered, he was with Washington at Valley Forge the winter of 1777/78 and was successful in foraging attacks on the British. The marquis was with Washington at the Battle of Monmouth, New Jersey in June 1778.

In 1780 the Americans suffered a series of defeats. In May General Benjamin Lincoln surrendered Charleston, SC, Colonel Tarleton's cavalry destroyed a Virginia regiment at Waxhaw, and in August the Southern Army under Horatio Gates was defeated by Cornwallis at the Battle of Camden and de Kalb was killed.

So Washington sent Lafayette southward with 1,200 New England troops to harass Lord Cornwallis. Lafayette reached Richmond on 29 April 1781 just in time to prevent its capture by the British. Meanwhile, Lord Cornwallis marched his troops to Williamsburg, Virginia trailed by Lafayette, who realized that Cornwallis (1) was waiting there for ships to evacuate his forces, or was awaiting reinforcements. So Lafayette wrote to General Washington that the British forces could be trapped on the peninsula at Yorktown. When Washington received Lafayette's urgent letter on 9 July 1781 and two weeks later learned that Admiral de Grasse was sailing from the West Indies with some 28 sail of the line and 3,000 French troops headed for the Chesapeake Bay, he immediately abandoned his planned attack on New York City and followed Lafayette's suggestion and prepared for the march to Virginia and the Battle of Yorktown.

Few men have owed more of their success and usefulness to their family rank than La Fayette, and still fewer have abused it less. He never achieved distinction in the field, and his political career proved him to be incapable of ruling a great national movement; but he had strong convictions which always impelled him to study the interests of humanity, and a pertinacity in maintaining them, which, in all the strange vicissitudes of his eventful life, secured him a very unusual measure of public respect. No citizen of a foreign country has ever had so many and such warm admirers in America, nor does any statesman in France appear to have ever possessed uninterruptedly for so many years so large a measure of popular influence and respect. He had what Jefferson called a "canine appetite" for popularity and fame, but in him the appetite only seemed to make him more anxious to merit the fame which he enjoyed. He was brave to rashness; and he never shrank from danger or responsibility if he saw the way open to spare life or suffering, to protect the defenceless, to sustain the law and preserve order.

He was the father of Georges Washington Motier de La Fayette (1779 - 1849) and Oscar Thomas Gilbert Motier de La Fayette (1815-1881).

President George W. Bush granted him honorary citizenship on August 6, 2002.
1911 Encyclopaedia

LaFayette Visits the Utica Area

History of Oneida County, New York, 1878, p293

June 9, 1825, the deputations from the general committee of arrangements at Utica, of which His Honor, Judge Williams, was chairman, accompanied by Colonel Lansing and His Honor Judge Storrs, proceeded to Rome to meet General Lafayette. At Rome they were joined by General Weaver and his suite, on the part of the military deputation. A deputation from the committee at Rome, with Colonel Lansing, Judge Williams, and Judge Storrs, proceeded in a boat some miles up he canal and met the boat of the general. At ten o'clock in the evening, the general, his son, Colonel lafayette, M. Le Vasscur, his secretary, and another friend, were received into carriages and conducted to the arsenal, where they were received by Lieutenant Simonson, the commandant of that post, with a national salute, and the other honors usually paid to a major-general. Ladies and gentlemen were introduced, and he was then conducted to Starr's Hotel, and an address delivered him by Wheeler Barnes, president of the village. The village was illuminated. At six o'clock on the 10th inst. he visited Colonel Lansing at Oriskany, who was under his command at Yorktown. A committee from the village of Whitesboro conducted him in a barouche, attended by a military escort, to the yard of the late residence of Judge Platt, where he was introduced, and thence to the house of Mr. Berry, where he was received by the general committee of arrangements, and an address delivered him by Judge Williams. Next he visited the widow of Judge White, at whose house he was entertained in 1784, when he assisted at the treaty with the Indians held at Rome.

The procession was formed at Whitesboro. The general was seated in the barouche, accompanied by Judge Williams, and proceeded by an escort of cavalry commanded by General John J. Knox. The general was followed by a carriage conveying his son, Colonel Lafayette, Colonel Lansing, Colonel Mappa, and Richard R. Lansing. Next succeeded coaches with his secretary, M. Le Vasscur, the other gentlemen of his suite, and the Utica committee, Judge Storrs, Lieutenant Simonson, and Captain Wright, of Rome. A large cavalcade of citizens on horseback, riding three abreast, followed, and were succeeded by a squadron of cavalry under Lieutenant Cone. The procession moved rapidly, and increased as it passed, from the accession of citizens. All the way the fences were lined and the houses thronged with people, manifesting the utmost eagerness to see the favorite and guest of the Nation. When the general arrived at the boundary of the village a salute of twenty-four guns was fired. The procession entered Lafayette Street, where the troops, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Ostrom, were drawn up on both sides of the way, and saluted the general as he passed. The procession entered Genesee Street, the crowd of eager spectators accumulating with every step, and passed the bridge under the canal, where a triumphal arch was erected, with a flag prepared by Mr. Vanderlip, labeled "LAFAYETTE, THE APOSTLE OF LIBERTY, WE HAIL THEE WELCOME!" The procession moved down Genesee Street, the sidewalks, doors and, windows being thronged, and stopped at Shepard's Hotel, where the general was received on the steps at the front door by William Clark, Esq., president of the village of Utica, and the corporation, and a speech was delivered by Mr. Clarke, followed by a reply from Lafayette.

The general breakfasted and dined at Shepard's, and in the interval the ceremonies of introduction and the review of the troops were performed. An immense number of gentlemen of the county of Oneida and the vincinity were introduced to the general, and at twelve o'clock the ladies were introduced, which ceremony occupied nearly an hour, so great was the number whom patriotism, respect, and affection called to the interesting scene. The troops passed in review before the general, who received their salute standing uncovered on the steps of Mr. Shepard's front door. At the particular request of General Lafayette, the chiefs of the Oneidas were invited to meet him; and among them he recognized two whom he knew during the Revolutionary War. But one of the most solemn and affecting incidents was the interview between the general and the old soldiers of the Revolutionary army. A large number were assembled, some of whom were with him at the attack on the redoubts at Yorktown. The deep and keen feelings manifested by these venerable men on once more beholding their beloved general, and his frequent exclamations, "Oh, my friend, I know you," with the impassioned salutations, excited the liveliest sympathies of every heart.

Over the front door of Mr. Shepard's hotel was placed a splendid transparent painting by Mr. Vanderlip, on which was inscribed in large letters, "WELCOME, LAFAYETTE." After the general had partaken of a cold collation (the only dinner which circumstances would permit), at which Rev. Mr. Willey craved the blessing of Providence, the general, by particular request of the President of the United States, visited the family of Alexander B. Johnson, Esq. (Mrs. Johnson being niece of the President), who, with a few ladies of the village, received him with the cordiality and respect which all felt. On his return he called for a moment at the house of Arthur Breese, Esq. where the Rev. Mr. Galusha delivered him a neat poetical address. The general then paid his respects to the family of President Clarke, and was conducted to the packet-boat "Governor Clinton," named for the occasion "Lafayette," commanded by Major Swartwoat, and which had been fitted in tasteful and elegant style for his accomodation to Schenectady. It was drawn bu three white horses, which, with their rider, had appropriate decorations. At the moment of embarkation a salute of twenty-four guns was fired, and when the boat began to move the citizens congregated on the bridges and banks of the canal rent the air with loud and long-continued cheering, which was repeated at intervals until the general had passed the compact part of the village. At the last bridge, near the residence of the lamented Judge Miller, little boys threw baskets of flowers into the boat as it passed. The general all the time presented himself to the people, and answered their congratulations with bows and expressive gesticulations. The committee attended him to the bounds of the county, and a deputation proceeded with him.

LaFayette Visits Arthur Breese, Henry's Son-in-law

Family Memorials - A series of Genealogical and Biographical Monographs, on the families of ..., Breese, ...", Edward Elbridge Salisbury, 1885



At a very.early period in the settlement of the country [having received the honorary degree of Master of Arts from Yale College in 1789 he was established at Whitestown, Oneida Co., N.Y., in the profession of the law. On the creation of the clerkship of the Supreme Court for the Western District [in 1808], he received the appointment of Clerk, and remained the incumbent until his death. He was a man of much personal and private worth, sterling integrity and exemplary piety."


From 1808 onward his life was spent in Utica, N. Y., where he owned a beautiful house at the top of the hill on Genesee street [the street on the right], with extensive grounds attached, and at that time quite rural in its surroundings. I well remember a visit made there with my parents and sister, in our childhood, and the lively cousins we then first became acquainted with --one of whom (I need not say a lady) made this playful record of it:

"The children were held up to us as models of propriety.... I was deputed to show them the garden and the grounds, and told to pick all the fruit we wished, which they would not even taste without their mother's permission! This made a lasting impression upon me, and I wondered whether all the children in Boston were so well brought up."

To the same lady's sprightly pen I owe the following reminiscences of this home of her childhood:

"No stranger of distinction passed through the town without dining, or partaking of fruit and wine, at the house, which was one of the finest in the place at that period. My father was very hospitable, quite an epicure, and noted for his good dinners and always very choice wines.

"When the Court was in session, the judges and lawyers were frequently entertained. Although scarcely in my teens, I remember seeing Judges Savage, Woodworth, Van Ness, Sutherland and Platt - the latter was a connection of the family, and resided for a time in Utica. Among many others whom I particularly remember as constant guests were judge Southard (formerly Secretary of the Navy), John Greig of Canandaigua, Gov. DeWitt Clinton, Commodore Melancthon Woolsey, a near relation [descended, in common with Mrs. Judge Henry Livingston, from Rev. Benjamin Woolsey of Dosoris, L. I., and, on the Livingston side, first cousin of the first Mrs. Arthur Breese], and several officers of the U. S. Navy, that branch of the service having been always largely represented in our family. I have an indistinct recollection of peeping through the crack of the door to catch a glimpse of Commodore Chauncey, whilst he was dining with my father, and can recall visits paid by Commodores Rogers and McDonough, the hero of the battle of Lake Champlain; Chancellor Kent, Col. Malcolm, and seeing the great American novelist J. Fenimore Cooper.

"The venerable and greatly respected Patroon of Albany, Stephen Van Rensselaer, was an occasional guest....

"My mother [the second Mrs. Arthur Breese] was an accomplished housekeeper, presiding with grace and dignity at her table, or in the drawing-room. On matters of taste she was authority in all cases. My lather used to plead, as an excuse for such constant entertaining, his 'having a fine house, a graceful and capable wife, and a well-stocked larder'"

Arthur Breese My cousin speaks of a visit of General Lafayette at her father's house in 1824, as follows:

"My father, who was then an invalid, and unable to be present at the reception, was told by the officer of the day that the General and suite would pay him a visit, if he so desired. This exceptional courtesy enabled my parents, and a considerable number of the elite of the city who had been invited, to enjoy the honor of an introduction."

"I can well remember my mother's tasteful decoration of the drawing - rooms with flowers, the display of old-fashioned silver on the sideboard, and the table with choice wine and refreshments; and perfectly recall the personal appearance of the distinguished guest, the cynosure of all eyes -- his gracious and courtly manners, as with hat in hand he walked quietly up the broad steps of the piazza, and with much ease and apparent pleasure received the various introductions. Upon the conclusion of this ceremony I was led by my father to the General, who laid his hand gently on my head, and said 'God bless you, my dear!"

The narrative above is written by descendants of Arthur Breese and his second wife. Even after Catharine Livingston Breese, Arthur Breese's first wife and the daughter of Henry, died, Arthur maintained many of the contacts made through the Livingston family. His political mentor was Henry's brother-in-law, Judge Jonas Platt. Chancellor (and Judge) Kent, mentioned above, had been the original law partner of Henry's brother Gilbert, until Gilbert's son-in-law, Smith Thompson, became Gilbert's partner. Governor DeWitt Clinton was the son of Henry's Revolutionary War commander, Colonel James Clinton. Lt. Governor Stephen Van Rensselaer was Henry's brother John Henry's nephew, and the husband of Margaret Schuyler, the daughter of General Philip Schuyler.

LaFayette Visits Sarah Breese Lansing's Father-in-law

The village of Oriskany owes its origin to the enterprising pioneer and manufacturer, Col. Gerritt C. Lansing, who came here from Albany in 1802.

He served with distinction in the American army during the Revolution. The following notice of him, published in 1877, is "from Bagg's Pioneers of Utica."

Gerrit Lansing's house

"Born at Albany, Dec. 11, 1760, Colonel Lansing entered the army at the beginning of the war, and served until its close; was present at several important battles, and at Yorktown, under Col. Hamilton, he led the forlorn hope as lieutenant. In 1802 this gallant soldier and true gentleman of the old school settled at Oriskany, and lived there on his pension and his patrimony until his death, on the 27th of May, 1831. Both in the Army and after his removal to Oneida County, Col. Lansing was distinguished for his high integrity and his enterprise. His wife was a daughter of Col. Edward Antill, an Englishman by birth, but an officer of the Revolutionary Army high in the confidence of General Washington. After her husband's death, she lived in Utica until her own death, on the 24th of August, 1834. She possessed in an eminent degree the qualities that adorn true woman hood."

This house at 109 Dexter Avenue, is located on the site of Col. Lansing's home. The original foundation, still in existence, has walls 18 inches thick.

Gerrit Lansing's house

In these unpretentious graves at Grandview Cemetery in Whitesboro lie Colonel Lansing and his wife, Mary. The plaques were installed by the Oriskany chapter of the D.A.R.

Beneath these twin oak trees, which once bordered the drive leading to Col. Lansing's home, the Marquis de Lafayette was received by Col. Lansing, his compansion in arms at Yorktown, on June 10, 1825. The trees, which have been gone for many years, are marked by a commemmorative placque installed by the Oriskany Chapter of the D.A.R. in 1923.

Here at the entrance of the grounds
of Col. Gerrit G. Lansing
stood the two oaks underneath which
the Marquis de Lafayette,
Col. Lansing's Companion in Arms
at Yorktown
was received on the morning
of June 10, 1825
by the residents of Oriskany

Gerrit Lansing entertained Lafayette

Utica and Its Savings Bank 1839-1939, p.16
When Lafayette visited America in 1824-25, he was greatly interested in the [Erie] canal. He got a glimpse of the eastern terminal at Albany in 1824, and the next year, toward the end of his tour, he came into the Mohawk Valley from the west, arriving at Rome on June 9. There he was waited upon by a delegation from Utica, among whom was Colonel Lansing who had fought by his side at Yorktown.

He passed the night in Colonel Lansing's home at Oriskany. In the morning, after a reception at Whitesboro, a procession was formed and Lafayette was escorted to Utica.

LaFayette Painted by S.F.B Morse, the Husband of Henry's great granddaughter
The American Leonardo, Carleton Mabee, pp.96-100.
No flag-waving cheered Lafayette as he left France for his fourth and last visit to America. Police of the Bourbon King would not permit it. But across the sea other treatment was in preparation.

Eight steamboats, flecked with banners, escorted his ship as it arrived in New York Bay. Throngs on the Battery cheered, Bells clanged, cannon roared. The general disembarked at Castle Garden on a specially constructed stair, decorated with flags and laurel. At the City Hall Mayor Paulding welecomed him as one of Americaa's honored parents.

The next day, while the new song, Lafayette's Welcome, was being sold in the streets, it was proposed that the Common Council request Lafayette to sit for a portrait to hang with the full-length portraits of Washington, Clinton, Jay, and Hamilton in the City Hall. In the enthusiasm of the moment the Council agreed.

While Lafayette toured the country, adding to the amazing number of plates-from-which-he-ate and beds-in-which-he-slept, artists scrambled for the honor of painting him for the city. Vanderlyn, J.W. Jarvis, and James Herring made formal requests to the Council for the privilege. Others soon enetered the contest: Sully, Waldo, Inman, Ingham, and Morse.

Morse had come to try his luck in the city again. His painting room was again in lower Broadway, near where his mother was born on Wall Street.

In the scramble for the Lafayette commission his advantage was his facile sociability. While only in one period of his life is his record essentially a story of friendship - the period when he was to be with Cooper in Paris - nevertheless he was eminently sociable. He cultivated his brothers' and parents' friends. He knew the artists of the city better than most of those who had been there for years knew each other. Anyone who could prove himself a companion to the sparkling Allston, the moody Coleridge, the scholarly Silliman [Silliman's wife was the great granddaughter of General John Schuyler], and the erratic Percival could make himself agreeable in the drawing-rooms of New York's merchants, the leaders of city society. Their standards of public and private morality were like his own. Their social tastes were aristocratic and their political tastes, often enough, conservatively Democratic, as were his. Their homes provided the background for the intellectual and artistic life of the city, for the poets Hillhouse, Halleck, and Bryant, for the novelist Cooper and the young author Dana, for the critics Dunlap and Verplanck.

Hillhouse had introduced him to Isaac Lawrence, a wealthy merchant, when Congress Hall was being exhibited in New York. Through Hillhouse, Morse had painted Lawrence and his father-in-law, Dr. Beach, and had come to know his son, William Beach Lawrence, the future expert on international law. It was through Isaac Lawrence, as Dunlap records it, that Morse found favor in the eyes of the Common Council. Through Lawrence Morse came to know Philip Hone, the retired auctioneer, who already owned Morse's portrait of Chancellor Kent. Philip Hone was a member of the Common Council committee for receiving Lafayette.

girl with cat

Just the last month before the decision on the commission was made,Morse was painting the daughter of Philip's brother Isaac. "I am engaged in painting the full-length portrait of Mr. Hone's little daughter," Morse wrote home, "a pretty little girl just as old as Susan....I shall paint her with a cat set up in her lap like a baby, with a towel under its chin and a cap on its head, and she employed in feeding it with a spoon." And so he did, in a delightful painting that Horatio Greenough compared to Sir Thomas Lawrence's work. At the same time he was painting the wife of Elisha King, also a member of the Common Council and a member of the Lafayette committee.

Presently Morse heard that he had been chosen to do the Marquis's portrait. He was to be paid at least $700 and perhaps $1,000, and was to goto Washington for the first sittings. Without knowing the truth of his words, he wrote home: "The only thing I fear is, that it is going to deprive me of my dear Lucretia."

In January 1825 it seemed at last possible for him to think of a home for his wife and children. "When I consider how wonderfully things are working for the promotion of the great and long-desired event - that of being constantly with my dear family - all unpleasant feelings are absorbed in this joyful anticipation, and I look forward to the spring of the year with delightful prospects of seeing my dear family permanently settled with me in our own hired house here." It was bad enough to be away from Lucretia at all; but in addition the family complained of her being in New Haven. "The whole arrangement of your two families at one in New Haven," brother Richard declared, "is a bad one, & the evils inevitable." A way out was at last in sight.


At the end of the month he was at home a few days with Lucretia and her new-born baby, "Fin." He read aloud to his wife from a biography of Lafayette. Mother and child were doing well.

Morse reached Washington on February 7 and took a room in the same hotel with Lafayette - Gadsby's. That day Dr. Morse wrote him: "Your dear wife is convalescent. We shan't hurry her from her chamber at this season - the children all continue as hearty & playful as when you left them....We suppose you begin the Marquis to-day."

That afternoon Lucretia rose as usual to have her bed freshly made. She spoke cheerfully of soon being with her husband in their own house in New York; and getting into bed again, she shuddered a moment and lay back on her pillow. In five minutes, just as Dr. Morse came into the room to pay his usual visit, she was quietly gone.

The next day, Tuesday, Morse called to see Lafayette. Finley remembered he had heard that his features were poor: a slanting forehead, bulging eyes, a bulbous nose. No! They werre noble! Features and character accorded perfectly. They both showed, he thought, just the firmness and consistency for which he was distinguished. "This is the man now before me, the very man," he thought, as he wrote his dead wife, "who suffered in the dungeon of Olmutz; the very man who took the oaths of the new constitution for so many millions, while the eyes of thousands were fixed upon him (and which is so admirably described in the life which I read to you just before I left home); the very man who spent his youth, his fortune, and his time, to bring about (under Providence) our happy Revolution; the friend and companion of Washington, the terror of tyrants, the firm and consistent supporter of liberty, the man whose beloved name has rung from one end of this contenent to the other, whom all flock to see, whom all delight to honor; this is the man, teh very identical man!"

He almost melted with emotion as the General shook his hand and said: "Sir, I am exceedingly happy in your acquaintance, and especially on such an occasion." They agreed to meet the next day for breakfast and the first sitting.

The second day after his wife's death, still unaware of it, he passed a gay evening at the President's levee. The votes in the election had been so split among Jackson, Crawford, Clayk, and John Quincy Adams that none had a majority, and the choice had been thrown into the House. And the House vote had been close - so close, in fact, that, as Van Buren's story goes, the election of Adams was uncertain without the aid of the aged Congressman Van Rensselaer. As the balloting began he had not yet made up his mind. He prayed, opened his eyes, saw a discareded Adams ballot at his feet, and, considering it a sign of God, voted for Adams. [This was the Stephen Van Rensselaer known as the "Old Patroon." He was Henry's brother Gilbert's nephew.] At the White House levee Morse congratulated Adams; he could easily see that the President-elect was in high spirits. He noticed that General Jackson went up to him and cordially shook him by the hand. Jackson, he thought, bore his defeat like a man. Vice-President-elect Calhoun was there, too, and of course the Marquis.

Morse's stay in Washington was nearly over when he received news of his wife's death. Lafayette told him that no one could sympathize more than he; he too had lost a young and beautiful wife.

The next day Morse left for home. In New Haven he found that the funeral had taken place several days earlier, and that his wife's body rested beside those of two of her five children.

Again and again her husband had told her the Lord had given her to him, and the Lord would take her from him in His own good time. He had pleaded that each might be willing to close the lids of the other calmly, even cheerfully, believing that eternity opened before them together. Still her sudden going was not easy for him. The family trembled as it watched him struggle to regain his poise. When he found among her papers and in her diary fresh evidence that she had faith and was "prepared" to die, he was somewhat consoled. But even then his brothers feared that he was abandoning himself too freely to grief.

Leaving his motherless children to Nancy and their grandmother, he returned to New York. The balm of work served him well. Orders flooded upon him - perhaps because men realized that his need for work was more urgent now than his financial need had ever been. He continued his sittings with Lafayette when the Marque was in New York being feted by the new mayor, Philip Hone.



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