tv Book Discussion on The Washingtons CSPAN March 22, 2016 8:52pm-10:02pm EDT
when everybody had slaves. everybody had slaves. there were slaves in every country in the world. there were slaves in europe. there had always been slaves. there were slaves in every, every state. every member, every person who signed the articles, the declaration of independence except john adams had owned a slave at least one time. he could not imagine a world without slaves. during the revolution many people were pulling on him. there was a movement against slavery. and so people like some of his aides, like henry lawrence of south carolina, or most creately, lafayette of france, or hamilton of new york were saying, no, slavery has to end x you should be a leader of it. he didn't go that far. and he kept his own slaves. of course, many of his slaves were owned by his wife. but he was always pulled by this desire that this is not the trend of the future.
ben franklin, of course, had been -- had switched. he had owned slaves when he was younger, he became a leading abolitionist, ben franklin. people can change. washington couldn't change that much. but on his deathbed he'd written two wills. with we don't know what was in one. on his death bed he asked that both be brought to him. he tore up one and asked that it be burned. and the one that remains is the one that freed the slaves. washington was a man of action, not of words. and he must have believed, because this was -- that this act would send a message to the future. i don't think he wanted to be on the wrong side of history. he wanted to send a message, and that's how he sent it, through his action. do we have time for one more? nope. unfortunately, i don't have any time. i'll walk down and talk to you, but thank you so much for coming. it's been a delight to be here. [applause]
>> on capitol hill tomorrow morning, the acting chief of the u.s. border patrol briefs members of the house oversight and government reform subcommittee live at 9 a.m. eastern on c-span3. then the house foreign affairs committee looks into the president's plan to close the u.s. detention facility at guantanamo bay, cuba. that's live at 9:30 eastern here on c-span2. >> next, a look at the domestic side of george and martha washington's life as president and first lady. flora fraser discusses her book, the washingtons: george and martha at mount vernon in virginia. this is just over an hour. >> good evening, everyone. this is where you say good evening back. that's good, that's good, that's good. [laughter]
i want to thank you all for joining us this evening. i'm the president of george washington's mount vernon. it's my pleasure to welcome you all here for this intallment of the ghei hart gains lecture. we are honored to have flora fraser with us to discuss her book, "the washingtons: george and martha, joined by friendship, crowned by love," the father and mother of our country and of the struggle for independence that he led. already the book has been hailed as a major work on american history, an important contribution to understanding the joys, complexities and intricacies of the union of our greatest founding father to the nation's very first first lady. 2015 actually marks, believe it or not, the enth year of -- tenth year of the lecture series. [applause] yes, how about that? [applause]
established in 2006, the series honors ga item j with heart -- gayheart gains. gay and her husband and family are here with us this evening. many of you know her well, but i'd like to ask you to stand and be recognized. [applause] they told me when i took the job that when you became emerita, you might not hear from somebody, but gay is still calling me with great ideas, and i can still barely keep up with her. [laughter] so i'm grateful for all you've done. the lecture series was funded by gay's dear friend lou. lou deserves double accolades this evening, because he's the one who tipped me to flora fraser's compelling book of scholarship on george and martha washington. [applause]
lou is also a great guardian of american history, having cofounded the institute for american history, lou and his lovely wife, louise, are here, and we are glad to have you both back. so they travel -- everyone should know they come all the way down from near gettysburg, pennsylvania be, to do this, and so we're just really glad you're here. thank you very much. [applause] it's also a really great pleasure to introduce steven bombwell. steven is the winner, was the winner -- is the winner of the 2013 george washington book prize for his work. we acknowledge also gildalerman as our partners in establishing the prize, and actually i would say for lou's benefit it was really the first very specific book on washington to win the prize. so, steven, we're delighted you're here.
thank you for being here. [applause] tonight marks another milestone in mount vernon's renewed efforts to educate the world about martha washington and the critical role she played as partner to her beloved george washington. earlier this year we expanded our partnership with the washington papers project at the university of virginia to undertake a comprehensive edition of martha washington's papers in both letter press and digital format. in march of next year we will welcome susan swain and richard norton smith to discuss their new book, first ladies. we continue to add new content about martha washington, and we acknowledge the charm, grace and wisdom of mary wiseman, our own very special martha washington, who delights and educates visitors here on the state. it is impossible, as we will learn tonight, to fully know george washington and understand him and mount vernon without knowing the story of martha washington.
in 1816 john adams posed this question: would washington have ever been commander of the revolutionary army or president of the united states if he had not married the rich widow of mr. custis? so as you know, ever-jealous of the deep affection shown by the american people to washington in both life and death, he frequently cited washington's stature, his rugged good looks and his luck in marriage as evidence that that's all that took him to where he got to. [laughter] so in her book, flora fraser turns adams' rather derisive question on its ear and makes the argument that, in fact, washington's marriage to martha completed him. her conclusion is, and i quote with, that martha viewed george not only with wealth, but with the confidence he had earlier lacked. together this couple, loyal british summits when they married in 1759, became disaffected with rule from london and with remarkable consequences for their union as much for the future of the united states with.
biographies. flaura served as a trustee of the london national portrait gallery from 1999 to 2008. since 2011 she has been a member of the development council at waterloo college oxford three she's a patron of free open air theater.org the company that showcases greek drama at the scoop. i had to look on the web. the scoop is in outdoor amphitheater located near tower bridge. she currently resides in london and where a specially grateful to you to travel this far to be the episode join me in welcoming flora fraser. [applause] >> thank you curt. curt,, lou and this latest gentleman is a privilege and a pleasure to be speaking here
this evening at mt. vernon. i have had the most glorious day mucking around the mansion and grounds, and i have put on the background to this talk, just this image which most of you will know it's the watercolor by birch and i was sitting on the piaf the on a chair this morning and i was looking at the beautiful view kept on the pristine of maryland opposite, thanks to the mt. vernon organization and to my left i looked in there indeed was a field of horses. so this is just a small tribute
to the work of mt. vernon and both preserving and reinterpreting george and martha's home in ever new and surprising ways. i find the story of george and martha's marriage so in grossing , vital to his success as a commander and president. i would happily narrate all 40 years of it but we don't have time for that, and i would like to save some time at the end of my remarks for any questions you would like to ask me. about anything you would like. where did i get this nice coat? [laughter]
and well, as curt said, martha didn't only bring wealth, she was a rich widow and she brought i think a confidence to george. he was nervous, easily cast down and her spirits were shored up right in the beginning of their marriage. over 15 years of marriage at mt. vernon before the war, they ward bonds of devotion. martha journeyed to george's
headquarters every winter over the war. valley forge and bleak headquarters in new york and new jersey. she was there for him and he for her. and in the presidency, again, they forged of those roles president and presidential partner together. this up of all my books, their marriage, and the story of the washington square for they are in mt. vernon, in the war, in the different presidential homes , it's a story about human connection. it's a shifting union.
they start by being colonial conservatives. they become radicalized, swept to the helm of the rebellion and then take charge in government and i could talk about any one of those periods ended my book i'd divide these periods into three looks, book one, book two and book three and i like that old fashioned way of dividing a book. and i want to talk tonight about the third chapter of their lives , the period that they spent as president and
presidential spouse but remembering that all the time this was what they wanted to get back to. and when there was a congressional recess they came home with joy and went back to the life of duty if not regret with a wish to come back home again. washington had looked forward to a life of retirement at mt. vernon when the revolutionary war ended in 1783. he was just over 50, martha eight months older than him. he was 51 and martha was 52 to be exact but hopes of a quiet
old age a rooted during the five years after the war while the constitution was being framed. word came in march 1789 of washington's election as first president of the united states and he wrote to general henry knox who was the secretary of war, mike movements to the chair of government will be accompanied with feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution. [laughter] george moved swiftly putting mt. vernon within two days of the news of his election. his destination was a house in new york on cherry street located close to today's birkeland bridge. it was rented bike congress for a year to serve as first
presidential residence. here at mt. vernon martha was far from pleased of this elevation and she wrote to a nephew, when or whether he will ever come home again, god only knows. i think it was much too late for him to go into public life again but it was not to be avoided. she added, our family will be deranged as i must soon follow him. in new york, the household was pretty much in need of martha. you can imagine washington and his secretary although both of them are very efficient, they were both missing martha's capable and cheerful presence
and leader wrote a chatty letter to washington's nephew who is living here and she said we have engaged the tavern keeper is stewart and superintendent of the kitchen. in the dining room there he added oysters of lobsters make very conspicuous on the table and never go untouched. tell madam washington this. there are hope this report would have some effect that she is remarkably fond of these fish. [laughter] and he would hasten to the city. he said we are extremely desirous of seeing her here. washington meanwhile was canvassing political colleagues soon to form an official cabinet
he wanted their opinion on what he called the etiquette proper to be observed by the president. alexander hamilton, soon to be secretary of the treasury was firm on may the fifth. he wrote the president to accept no imitations and to give formal entertainment only twice or four times a year on the anniversary's of important events in the revolution. washington having digested adams -- asked john adam's newly vice president if his appearance rarely at tea parties might be permissible. perhaps george contemplated martha's a reaction to the confined life sketched out. adams had no taste for further
out -- for polities himself and replied as the president she should have no with society but upon public business or at his -- the term love a hat to save the least unfortunate connotations. it derives of course from french ritual ended notes that formal perception following the king rising from his bed. [laughter] weather in colonial days or in revolutionary america had always been satirical and now it had come to new york but the new republic was in so many ways a matter of experiments. argument raged in congress about the correct forms of address for the president. john adams considered a royal order princely title necessary
to uphold the presidents to authority. his highness and excellency was suggested. the anti-federalists senator william mcclay fomented our house seems determined and to run into all the foolery's finery said court etiquette and office for mr. adams. ultimately congress decrees on may the 14th, 1789 that washington should bear the unadorned title of the president and mrs. washington often known as lady washington became very firmly mrs. washington. towards the end of may martha set out for new york. she took with her her two
grandchildren nelly age 10 and george washington age eight. as you all know far better than i they were the children of her son jackie who had died of camp fever or type this shortly after the victory at york town and the washington's ever since his death had given a home to these 22 are worth the youngest two of his four children. lewis, one of the presidents many nephews recorded martha's departure from mt. vernon. the servants of the house and a number of the field because took
leave of their mistress. numbers of these poor wretches seemed greatly agitated, much affected, my aunt equally so. when the party stopped at abington the plantation were martha's older granddaughters lived the promotion was to greater. to lewis wrote the family in tears, the children are bawling, everything in the most lamentable situation. the new president came over to the jersey shore to meet his wife and conduct a party to their new home in manhattan. the washington's had always priced the hours they spend alone together. now at cherry street they took breakfast and private and with only one servant, not in livery in attendance. until dinner at 4:00, lunch,
lunch and. washington worked with the secretaries or was in conference with cabinet colleagues. martha supervisor grandchildren and saw the running of the household and often went shopping. [laughter] additionally she kept up a detailed correspondence with her niece sonny bassett washington, wife to george augustine at mt. vernon. george augustine was in charge of the plantation and fannie in charge of the house. martha described her new life to fannie in mid-june, since she arrived in new york she wrote i have not had 1/2 hour to myself. her hair was said and dressed every day and she were white muslin summer dresses. she told her niece, you would
they fear think me a good deal in the fashion if you could see me. nelly parke custis was loving the city her grandmother reported. she is a little wild creature and spends her time at the window looking at carriages etc. passing by which is new to her. and if you think of the carriages coming up to mt. vernon, not this constant traffic in the metropolis of new york. martha noted that her granddaughter was to begin music the following week and entrance money was paid to compose alexander two to teach nelly the piano. she became of fine performer. mrs. graham school for young ladies in maiden lane, nelly was also conscientious student. eight rolled wash had charm and
high spirits but no powers of application. the president's ambition to make him a scholar were doomed. but the sons of alexander hamilton and henry knox washington did patrick winik -- on the next week. he much preferred life at home for he was thoroughly spoiled by his grandmother and all the servants. for the washington's, the levy, the trying word -- drawing room to tuesday levy was strictly ford gentleman and occupied an hour from 3:00 until 4:00 in the afternoon. washington the host was a majestic figure at these assemblies. his great height and power from the old marked him out in his habit of silence was unnerving.
he appeared still more regal when he adopted a suit of black felt that following his mother's death in august, 1789 and the portrait is of washington and that black velvet coat against the gold and crimson background. he is as splendid as any european monarch but he is the president. regardless of what the anti-federalists -- when not on parade washington war undress her everyday dress or would have visiting grandson described as pepper and salt close, a sort of cloth tweet. martha hosted the friday reception in the drawing room.
husbands brought their wives and daughters to curtsy to washington before circulating and enjoying lemonade and ice cream. the president bore no sort of the drawing room nor did he carry a hats which signified that he was a guest at his wife's gathering. but kathy green widow of general nathaniel green described the aura that surrounded washington. no person presumes to sit in his presence and he is treated in most respects as if he had a crown. there were some public mockery of martha's queenly drawing rooms. queen charlotte hosted such entertainments in london but they never attracted such obloquy as a wooden time the tuesday levy abigail adams wrote
on first meeting martha this august that there was not the least tincture of pride about the president's wife and a further visit compounded mrs. adams respects. a most becoming pleasantness sits upon her countenance and an apartment. i found myself much more deeply impressed than i ever did before their majesties -- john adams being the american minister. abigail praises martha's white hair, her beautiful teeth, her plane but costly clothing. martha was careful in public to present herself as bland and benign. in private she spoke her mind whether condemning jefferson for ill treatment of her husband or weighing and two family member
member -- advice to family members. and fannie washington reported that one of her children here was unwell martha replied, children that eat everything if they like and feed as yours do must be full of worms. [laughter] indeed my dear fannie i never saw children's stuffed as yours was when i was down in virginia. every
from the president and mrs. washington from new york had little effect. martha wrote to her knees about charlotte and experienced slave seamstress page she's so lindall and that she will do nothing but which is told. she knows what work is to be done. and george was equally fretful about the estate and the work being done and being overseen by george augustin. it was a sacrifice that they didn't hesitate to make for
washington to become the servant of congress again. but it was a sacrifice for a couple in their late 50's and going into their 60s but not to be here overseeing the estate and the home they cared so very much about. martha reproached fannie for hospitality. never was his, the presidents intention to give winer go to n/a c-span's to entertain people to come to mt. vernon out of curiosity. rom may always be had. [laughter] the washingtons had brought some house slaves from mt. vernon. many of the domestic however at cherry street were white servants hired in the city and
washington secretary leader commented that they were all impressed with an idea that they are the best servants that can be obtained. this was decidedly not the washingtons view. when a new steward john hiatt replaced francis the president declared i strongly suspect that nothing is brought to my table of liquors, fruits are other things that is not used as profusely as his. [laughter] both the washingtons looked forward to congressional recesses when they went home and could live as private individuals for a time. in new york george did enjoy a measure of enjoyment oddly enough at the theater when he showed himself in the
presidential box. he was met with acclamations and cheers just as george iii or any monarch in that capital was met with cheers. they'll boo dax they have to be honest at the theaters of london during the course of the play however within the privacy of his box washington could relax with gas and these were often with their wives old friends from the war and now in government. the hamiltons, the knocks in is, robert morris and mary. but it was an isolated life they
were living and one very contrary to the hospitable sociable virginia way of life that they were used to, even headquarters in the war had been more sociable than their life in the presidential mansions of new york or philadelphia. martha sometimes chafed against the restrictions of her position she wrote in october 1789 to fannie when the president was away on a tour. they never go to any public place. indeed i think i'm more like a state person are than anything else. there are certain bounds set for me which i must not depart from. ..
>> george iii's birthday had been the most important day in the secular calendar. and jefferson, ec tear of state -- secretary of state jefferson -- [inaudible] washington obviously spended to introduce these trappings of the english court with the aim of ultimately establishing a constitutional monarchy.
in fact, month by month washington, with martha's help, was stamping authority on the office of president. protocol and etiquette was being established with these dinners and criticism of the executive branch dimmed in many quarters. in late february 1790, the washingtons took up residence in a new presidential home leased by congress. this was a large house on broadway close to bowling green, the french ambassador had previously rented. and in this diplomat had left all furnishings to be sold following his departure for europe. congress, on washington's advice, purchased wonderful
suites of sofas and chairs upholstered in green silk, full-length mirrors and other costly items for the reception rooms. and washington himself bought the 309-piece dining service -- dinner service, sorry, which is as is on display. not all 309 pieces -- [laughter] but as the information says in the talmond room here in the museum, and it was used thereafter, and he eventually brought it back here. easier in office now, washington had less compunction about displays of grandeur when he judged them fitting.
and the senator who came to the congress dinner in the new residence described the feast to which they sat down -- soup, fish, meats, fowl preceded mouth-watering desserts, apple pies, pudding, ice creams, jellies, watermelons, musk melons, apple, peaches, nuts. in virginia the washingtons, as colonial land gentry, as commonwealth citizens, had always been generous hosts. given the scale of their entertaining in new york and in philadelphia later, it's fortunate washington accepted the government salary of $25,000 a year. for a few days in may 1790, at the house on broadway, washington's life and the security of the fledgling united states hung in the balance.
influenza was raging in new york x on may the 10th, the president was laid low. he battled to breathe. his lungs were severely inflamed, and doctors came from philadelphia as well as new york medics who were called in to the case. his condition worsened and became acute, can and on the 15th a caller at the mansion on broadway found the household in tears and the president's life despaired of. it was an extraordinary moment in the history of the young republic. if washington died, would adams -- who had no glorious war record and no gift as yet for conciliating cabinet colleagues -- be a, fail as
president? the very constitution had been written in the expectation that washington would serve for some years as president. but george washington had, as you all know, a very strong physique. and the same day that his life was despaired of, he began to perspire copiously, and that -- then his breathing eased, and within days he was declared safe. a proper recovery would take time, but tranquility was restored to the state. two months later it was washington, fully recovered, who signed the residence act creating federal district to accommodate the new capital, the
national capital which one day would be named washington in the district of columbia. two of martha's granddaughters would settle there, and the washingtons would visit. but that all lay in the future. for now, the federal government would have its home in philadelphia, and congress rented a very fine mansion on market street in philadelphia belonging to financier robert morris. the anti-federalists remained keen to limit governmental pomp and splendor. in 1793 responding to reports of -- [inaudible] seizing power in france, they attacked with renewed fervor washington's presidential style. monarchical -- sorry, monarchical prettinesses, if
that's possible -- [laughter] such as stately nods instead of shaking hands, titles of office, seclusion from the people, etc. but washington didn't alter the stately gatherings over which he and martha presided. they received the envoys of foreign monarchs as well as those of foreign republics in the style they believed upheld the dignity of the united states. nor did he call a halt to the celebrations on his birth night. in 1796, a thousand people gathered at a ball in philadelphia to celebrate the february anniversary. during washington's second term, politicians who approved the revolutionary program in france criticized a treaty negotiated by chief justice john jay with
britain. they claimed it grossly favored british interests, and washington -- closely associated with the negotiations -- was abused as the senate vote on the treaty neared. though it was enacted and protest ebbed, the public attacks had made washington miserable. in march 1796 john adams wrote: the they were tuesday of the -- they were tuesday of the jack to pins touches him more nearly than he mourns in words, and a year later -- shortly before his second term ended -- the president told a dinner partner in philadelphia that he was like a child within view of the holidays. i have counted the months, then the weeks, and i now reckon the days previous to my release.
[laughter] john and abigail adams became the new occupants of the presidential residence on market street. mrs. adams acknowledged, to be the successor of mrs. washington and to make good her place will be an arduous task. and she wrote a note to mrs. washington asking for guidance. i will endeavor to follow your steps. martha for so long a punctilious presidential spouse was content to withdraw with her husband, so very long a servant of congress, from the public gaze. the curtain is falling, she wrote to cady green in georgia, and she looked forward to a more tranquil theater at home in virginia. as i'm sure you know, the high of retirement to which the washingtons had looked forward
did not last long before washington and then martha passed away. with their deaths, the closeness of their marriage faded from the memories of patriots keen to honor the father of the nation with wreaths and monuments and statuary. i would love it if my book served to bring martha out of the shadows and restore her to the side of her fascinating, strong but frail, confident but doubting husband george. thank you. [applause]
and i'd be delighted if anyone had any questions to try and answer them. >> so where did you get that coat? [laughter] >> i'm very glad you asked me that. [laughter] i got it from a shop close to me in london called paul smith. and i absolutely love it, and i call it my author coat. [laughter] and i have a secret that when i'm writing, i write more or less in pajamas. [laughter] and so it's very nice to go out every four or five years -- [laughter] and speak about my books and put on my author coat. [laughter] yes. >> what made you decide to write about martha washington?
>> it was -- what made me decide to write about martha washington. it was coming here. i came -- i love sightseeing. i was in d.c. talking about an earlier book, "princesses: the daughters of george iii," and i came out to visit, as so many do, mount vernon. and i came, and i went into the mansion, i looked at the house, and i thought this is so english. and then i looked around at the streams of american school children and said, don't be so ridiculous. and also this is, you know, the american couple.
but the thought persisted. and i kept thinking about it. and then i thought, well, they were british to start off with -- [laughter] and, indeed, when they, when they furnished the home or embellished the house with martha's wealth, they were a british colonial couple. but it was that journey and the fact that martha was as keen a patriot as george in the war. you read her letters to friends from winter headquarters, and she's, you know, thrilled that
burgoyne's been defeated. [laughter] she's terrific. and so i think it was, but it was the two of them, and it was this idea that they were together all the way through. they, and also that they worked at their marriage, if you like. they made compromises. and i was fascinated to -- but it did take, it sort of, i had to think it is not only biting off quite a lot to write about george washington if you are a brit -- [laughter] but it is also a bit of a cheek, you know, which i think is not an american expression, but i
think it's a bit cheeky. it's more than a bit cheeky, it's very cheeky. [laughter] but with british understatement, i say it's a bit of a cheek as a brit to write about george and martha. but all i can say is i enjoyed every, every inch of the way researching here at mount vernon, going to the the virginia historical society to look at the custis papers and, of course, going to all the wonderful national parks, the winter headquarters and, you know, i love a battlefield, so i went to all the battlefields too. [laughter] i was brought up on british battlefields, so -- [laughter] yes. >> in the -- [inaudible]
they seemed to be fierce hi loyal to each other and to their families. was it a series of very small events or a cataclysmic event that broke their loyalty to their british citizenship? >> it was a series of, it was really the stamp act that started it. but even before that they were never happy with the service done them by the firms in london. they were always, as were most virginians, worried that they weren't getting the right price for the tobacco.
they were always, i would imagine with some justice, complaining that the goods sent to them were a variety of things; didn't work, if they were clothed, they were last year's fashion. in other words, they thought they were being pawned off with shoddy goods, effectively. and so there was always that. and washington made the decision here to, you know, grow wheat for the domestic market. but, so i would say it was small, small and incremental. he didn't want to, you know? it was almost like the violence was not something he wanted to
resort to early. but if he had to, he would, and he did. and and that is how the conversations go in his letters. and he had george mason as his next door neighbor who was such, for me, george mason is off is -- is such a fascinating founding father. and to have george washington here and george mason next door and not only were they drafting each other's trees, but they were having these conversations about what legislation to try and get through in williamsburg or later in philadelphia. i think it was a very productive relationship between, between the two georges on the potomac.
>> you very deliberately did not call martha the first lady. do you know when that became used for the president's wife? >> i, it was used only after her death about a first, she was called the first lady of the nation. and i am having, my brain is cheese because i've just written a piece, well, i've never done one before, but i think it's what they call a blog. anyway -- [laughter] it's, i felt very strongly about
this, and so i wrote, and it's on the huffington post web site. and it might, it just went up a couple of days ago. and i'm thinking it was said about dolley madison. does anyone know if that's true >> [inaudible] >> it is, okay. whep! [laughter] so it was dolley madison after her death, she was named in an obituary piece, or was it -- no, i think it was a book about her, the first lady of the nation, and it had never been used during her lifetime. in my huff post blog, i suggest that it would be a nice nod
towards the first president's spouse to refer to the next, the next supporter of the next president as the presidential partner, as martha washington was called by washington, an agreeable partner and a consult for life. and after her death, of course, was called a worthy partner for mr. washington. i feel presidential partner covers all possible -- [laughter] sexes. [laughter] [applause] and it works.
because if you have a presidential partner who by chance has been a president himself -- [laughter] that's fine, because you just say the president and mr. president. [laughter] or mrs. president. i like to the the idea. i mean, i also love term "first lady," and i adore the smithsonian display of first ladies' gowns, not least mrs. obama's white dress which i thought was absolutely fabulous. but, you know, maybe it's time for a new room -- [laughter] there might be white tie and tails as well as gowns.
[laughter] or not. yes. >> thank you very much, and i look toward to reading -- forward to reading your book. >>, thank -- oh, thank you so m. >> i don't know if i need this, my voice carries pretty well. certainly, i know that martha washington traveled to different camps during the war and spent months -- >> yes. >> -- on the road with george washington. and if that's not love, i don't know what is. we're marriott, i'm a marriott person myself. [laughter] but i understand that in the very beginning before they met, he actually was in love with someone else. and i don't imagine that when they met it was lightning bolts
out of the blue, and, you know, an instant love match. could you talk about the development of their relationship? >> absolutely. and i was just talking with doug this afternoon about their marriage. it was a small society, virginia, in the 18th century. williamsburg was the town where everyone was going to meet at the governor's ball. if they hadn't met, which you can't know whether they had met or not, george and martha, but certainly when martha became available as a wealthy widow, they had friends and
professional acquaintances in common, and one of them was robert carter nicholas who was the custis lawyer and also did some legal work for george. and his wife was sister to sally fairfax. mrs. fairfax, with whom washington was in love. and in love minutes before he proposed to martha too. [laughter] and so it was a very suitable marriage for both of them. martha needed someone to look after the custis estates, she needed a guardian for her children. she did, i must say, do a are
capable job -- do a very capable job for the year that she was a widow and handled business with, and handled businessmen in london with some asparety which is impressive. nevertheless, a marriage, she's young, was almost inevitable. and washington, i would say, started rational, not cool, but let's say tepid compared to how he felt about martha later. and there were strains on that marriage. they had no children. that is tough.
the correspondence may be that they never made reference to it in letters to each other. martha destroyed their correspondence. but their affection and almost the romantic nature of their relationship only grew as they got older. i can't pinpoint when it is, but i would say that washington's respect for martha grew enormously during the war, and he realized during the war, during those months that he was without her in the campaigning season of those eight years just how much he missed her. he thought at the beginning of the war that she would be
lonely, and he wrote her that wonderful letter. but it's a letter which is here in the library. he wrote from never about to go and take command at cambridge. but he was worried that she would be lonely and that, and he was worried that he would be worrying about her being lonely. well, as it turned out, he was lonely. and they never thought at the beginning of the war that she would be going to him, but he was who sent for her. and i think the war changed their relationship as wars do change relationships. but i think that was when he
really realized, and that was when he said during the war, he said to benjamin franklin's daughter, mrs. batch, i'm not sure which is right, he said dancing at a ball during the war he said i've been, today -- it was 12 night, it was epiphany, january the 6th, and he said this is the day 20 years ago i was married to mrs. washington. and much later he told martha's wayward granddaughter, eliza custis who i rather love, he said to her that marriage is the foundation, most important foundation of life. and it was his marriage to
martha that made him think that. i don't think -- i mean, marriage is the most important foundation of etch's life, but -- of everyone's life, but for washington's, i do think it was. he was married to the right person. >> one more. >> yep. >> did martha washington keep a diary -- [inaudible] >> if she did, she burned it, unfortunately. but we, we do have her letters. i find her letters extremely vivid. and as doug said, the martha washington papers project is underway.
and i, there's, you know, who knows where there may not be martha washington letters that were not published in the edition of her papers by joseph fields. it's going to be very exciting over the next four or five years. i think it will go online and be published as well in about four years. so i'm, i have to say it's one of the few times that i'm looking forward to revising my book. [laughter] because then i can read all martha's, all the new letters that i hope will come out. because, you know, america's a treasure-trove of 18th century papers in the different historical societies, and people travel so much in