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tv   The Presidency Martha Washingtons Papers  CSPAN  November 3, 2022 2:32am-4:01am EDT

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good evening, ladies and gentlemen. good evening. my name is kevin butterfield. i'm the executive director of the washington library. it's my great pleasure to welcome you here tonight on behalf of the mount vernon ladies association and to our annual martha washington lecture. the event was created to share scholarship and insights into the life and times of martha washington and is made possible through a generous grant from the richard s reynolds foundation of richmond, virginia. tonight's exciting program celebrates the publication of an important new book, the papers of martha washington, one many years in the making actually part and related to a much bigger project, the papers of george at the university of virginia and sponsored by the mount vernon ladies association. since 1968, the project began with the ambitious aim of publishing all of george washington's correspondence, but it's since expanded to include other members of his family, allowing us to know so much more
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about the personal lives and associates of this remarkable founding family at this time, i'd like to thank each of the donors of the papers of martha washington project. hold your applause to the end, because there are several the richard reynolds foundation. i'd like to particularly thank major and pam reynolds, who are likely watching us virtually tonight. thank you for all of your support. the dr. shaw foundation, the founders washington committee for historic mount vernon, karen buchwald, right. julia colby cook. jacqueline b mars. the honorable paul michael and miss p brooke england. mr. and mrs. c ashton newell. miss kate schuster. the h.w. wilson foundation and the mount vernon ladies association of the union. please join me in thanking them. tonight. it's going to be a lot of fun because when we're done, we're going to walk out into the reception area and continue the conversation and the
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celebration. copies, copies of the papers of martha washington, along with for frazier's award winning book, the washingtons will be available for purchase. i've seen many people lining up already for will be signing copies of her book. miss washington is not here to sign her book. we were serving rum punch and authentic 18th century recipe from the book dining with the washingtons. we'll have several original letters written by martha washington on view in a display case, so be sure to track those down. we'll also be and you would have seen it as you came in the hand-sewn reproduction of martha washington's children's games quilt, which is an exact copy of the original in our collection expert quilter cecilia anne masterly completed it after two years of meticulous work, a process that uncovered ms.. washington's remarkable skill and eye for detail. cecilia's passionate about sharing the craft and history of quilting and will be available to answer your questions now to welcome our wonderful speakers. and there will be a panel following where you'll have an opportunity to ask questions of
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both of them. for frazier, as a professional writer and historian, his career began with apprenticeships under her grandmother and mother, both well known historical biographers. she's written numerous historical biographies of her own, including princesses the daughters of george, the third, the unruly queen, the life of queen caroline, venus of empire. the life of pauline bonaparte, and of course, the washingtons, george and martha, joined by french crowned bivalve, which received 2016 george washington book prize for it was also mt. vernon georgian papers fellow where she worked at windsor castle and the archives on her forthcoming biographies of the jacobite heroine flora macdonald and lord horatio nelson. after a presentation by four frazier, katherine geren come to the podium. she's a research editor at the papers of george washington. and the center for digital editing at the university of she holds degrees from bowling green state university and sarah lawrence college, and she was one of the team of editors who completed the papers of martha
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washington and is now working on the digital edition of the papers of bush. rod washington. i also want to say this broom and the 200 and i think 300 people who are watching us virtually is just such an exciting celebration of what we've been able to do across years. we've been diving into this project to better understand martha washington and women in the 18th century. this martha washington lecture is just such a success. i'm to see so many people here. i know there are a few hundred more watching us virtually. thank you so much for being here. now, please me in welcoming our first speaker for a frazier. thank you, director, and thank you very much director and all mount vernon for hosting me here it always such a pleasure to speak to the many distinguished
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guests who come from all over region and beyond. and i very much forward to answering any. you may have a later or just discussing martha washington which i love to do so. oh. let me just. see and. well all of a slide's are a background and what i really oh it may be a blank background owing to my technical income pittance, but when i first had
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the opportunity have viewing these this volume the papers of martha washington i felt like keats on looking into chapman's homer then felt i like some watcher of the skies when the new planet swims into his can. it really is a most remarkable addition to. 18th century and founding era scholarship. this this volume. and i have to congratulate everyone. catherine and all her team who worked on it and i believe have supplied a very worthy companion to the papers of george washington. and now.
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martha's first marriage to daniel custis was, all important in her story. and indeed, in washington's the daughter, a virginia court clerk, she persuaded this irascible. but prominent virginia council member john custis to let her be daniel's. and in she made such a success she persuaded him this irascible man who hated her uncle, a fellow member of the ruling council, that daniel's father said he'd rather daniel marry her than than any woman in in virginia. those that's the sort of woman
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that martha was. she was redoubtable. she was persistent. and throughout the papers of of martha washington, you see these powers of persuasion when she's a first wife living close to her own family on the poor monkey river and then when she's the wife of george washington here, mount vernon, and bringing up two children, jackie and patsy, her children she had with daniel and. you see it when she's lady washington can going effectively into battle for the republican cause or you could say she is
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coming to come and give solace to washington the general and commander in chief in his wintering campaigns. so this is young martha and the first section of the papers martha washington shows her. in total control as a young widow. how martha's father husband and two of her infant children have died. but in the space to have. i think it's three years and bear that in mind because she has a well you could say she does death very badly all her life and we'll see that later but this in her twenties she is
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a act as her first husband executor as the administrative two of her young sons infant sons estate until. he can assume a control of them on his majority and she does it with almost perfect composure and authority. 80 in august 1757, the papers is open with this. this is the first communication we have from martha washington that that extent she writes to a merchant in london to whom she's consigning the years tobacco. i shall yearly ship a considerable part of the tobacco i make to you. and i hope you will your in
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endeavors to get me a good price. she's a very, very businesswoman. and that's what you see all the way through. and as the as the. papers show and as the editors note had a good grasp of loans which were an important part of the tobacco economy and in in virginia at that time and but you could say that with two small children, with with these these are the largest states to that. and two very small children to manage the advent of a certain george washington coming down to
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to bear her and the children of north was not unwelcome and and you could say also that the wealth that martha brought washington was not unwelcome. and indeed mount vernon was in banished in advance of their marriage. but it continued a while washington had the use of of martha's money for his life to certainly a very a very. important part. and as we know john john adams
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in a sour mode said would washington george washington ever become commander in chief and president had it not been for his marriage to the rich. mrs. custis. as i say, john was in a silo mood that day well, this is a copy the earlier one, but i think the copy shows how dear this portrait of the children and was, and how very dear these two children were to both george and martha washington and who were not to have children together and through. i particularly like the the cardinal, but the symbol of virginia. i hope it is a cardinal. a modern jack is hand, but but. this is a different phase of martha's life.
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and the section in the papers that dwells on this on this period of a happy a happy married life a happy, educative experience for jackie at home and here he is as he grows and a and i'm afraid martha him which is perfectly plain both from the papers of george washington and and if you look at martha's correspondence with sister nancy plain there to and here is paul patsy this heiress and i'm not sure if you can see but she is first wound with expensed jewelry from london but that perhaps doesn't doesn't entitle
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early detract or if you like it can't do away with that very pale and frail appearance which has washington and martha seeking everywhere for remedies or cures for these fit and in her teens these fit what historical postmortems the difficult did for our. daisy but epileptic fits is a fair of i guess and without without. and so when she would the age of 16 and 17 being courted by every young young man in search of a rich bride in the region. she stayed at home dancing on
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the terrace when when wheshe was wn was up to it. and but this apparently bucolic and peacefulxist, as we know, inhe 1770 his gave gave way to deep, dissatisfied action with. the not least with t tobacco merchants in london on the part of those virginia farmers who were really quite sick of being taken to the cleaners time they sent over some tobacco and asked for the best goods possible back and got you know last year frocks if they were lucky and carriages which didn't roll and
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so on. i mean i've always thought that was part of you know there are niggles as well as the great. affairs of state that trigger a final. of a final decision to throw off those traces and washington as we know, it was late to declare himself ready to go to war for his principles. but when he went, martha went him. as i say, she she became this if you like this battle ax of the republic and lady washington, they would cry when she came into and that actually does have
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in the at least one of the original all in print i think it's the one in yale the the the a contemporary print. and it has lady underneath and. so there was the general and then there was lady washington and she came to the first winter d caught us to cambridge massachusetts and of course it wasn't just th w one of the martha came to cheermartha washington's life, where she was tually within a hearing of a battle field. if you lth the the of of
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boston and. she writes a like a rather like washington himself wrote saying it was wonderful to hear the the bullet bullets singing around my my my my my head in the in an earlier war. well she caused splendid with her sister nancy, who still was married and lived so down on the poor monkey. and nancy martha's correspondence with nancy comes singing out that this book that nancy was her favorite sister is the person in all martha's life that i think she unburdened herself to whether it was about her children, whether it was about politics. and you see and in in her
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charisma, on her letters to nancy, we don't have nancy's to her that. every woman in war was political and martha was, well, very conservative in other ways. and in in fact, of want in the the american cause to succeed she was ferocious and i think in it would be very interesting to see what what other the pay what papers of other women of this period emerge which in one part of her letter they're talking about their children or the sewing or the cooking and then they'll have a paragraph of absolute you know the news as it's being made. well, course it wasn't only
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other american who martha met, but her circle broad dinners as the papers show, and those lafayette first coming as a volunteer who she meet in the winter at valley forge and then there the young women betsy schuyler and of course we know about that courtship and marriage, but there were many others, many other of these women and many of them much younger than martha lucy flack and knox, a remarkable woman. and we do her correspondence with her husband, henry, in the gilda lamb and institute. but there was a kitty, catherine littlefield, green. and so but martha would gather these women at in these in encampments and provide a of
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atmosphere of normality as as was possible. and then of course, she was not involved in the in the in the summer campaigns and went back to mount vernon. but i'm sorry, but the war too was a time of terrible loss again for martha and she lost not only her sister, nancy, and she did write to her. brother in law a verbal basset and say, i'm after nancy's death and say i must own that she the greatest favorite i had in the world. and i think this was this idea
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of, friendship and friendships comes really startlingly. the papers many the papers here are to be found elsewhere, but it's when they're together and the focus is on martha that you really see how they they gel together. and, of course, forth of her children. jackie dies in the hour of victory. he's not an officer, but he's in attendance at yorktown and dies of camp fever. and and martha is at the lowest ebb. washington couldn't have been more more, more keen to console
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her and. but jackie is left out. a wife who's sweet but a bit of a and four children, thankfully for the park custis estates there's a son and but there are three daughters and so we find when inevitably after a period at mount vernon, when the washingtons have time to take stock and see what being away for eight years has done, despite martha's efforts, despite the efforts of land, washington washington george's cousin, as to keep the estates going there is not wrack and ruin but but they martha feels
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strongly that they have earned the right that washington has earned the right to enjoy retirement. but as we know, he is called to new york to be the first president of t states. and with them go oleft martha's grounds and washington, orge washington park is known as wash or, wash or indeed tub. i leave you to work out and eleanor or nellie and sthey have to make a republican court which must both satisfy americans as being democrat not monarchical but also sisfy visiting envoys, ambassadors from theous of europe. so andnd this is something they are doing over the next
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seven or seven years as washington's serves two terms at the same time the bringing up in effect and educating a new generation and of course as children and they'll not they're not spring chickens and i'm glad to say that with nellie, they succeed and washes very much. his father's son and spoiled rotten by by martha washington despairs of him but he can't despair all over again. and i'm saying he washes his hands of him but it's but they leave new york that's a later house. but on this side, cherry street in new york and in in philadelphia. oh, here, martha, really does have some she she makes some
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very interesting friendships, as does as does washington and not always with those in government, many of whom were with them in the in the war. but with the philadelphians and mrs. powell and samuel powell, that interesting couple. and samantha snyder here is at work on a book, a biography of elizabeth will willing polled so looking forward to that and so many more of these mercantile professional families and so martha again expands her circle as does george but but she she does it always quite natural really.
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and she has a gift for whether she's in the cramped revolutionary sort of pot house in in in valley forge entertaining or at a at one of these drawing rooms. as her reception are called, even liston, the british ambassador or envoy extraordinary wife who comes not to well, anyway, possibly with a critical a gives us not only gives us a very detailed analysis of the republican court, but makes quite clear that that martha's receptions and martha as the first first lady is is doing an exceptional job. it is not, however, a job that
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martha. and it is undoubtedly with relief that and washington himself says when they leave he finishes his second term they return to mount vernon and he says sweetly that they are more or less painting mount vernon and being like the young married couple because they're just so happy to be back and looking forward to years of sort of renovating this this estate which has again gone to not and ruin, but the it certainly needs the watchful eye of washington but unfortunately it's that watchful eye which is
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washington's undoing and in december. 1799, as i'm sure you are aware better than i it carol fine. caroline branham, an enslaved maid who has been at mount vernon for. since birth, i think, or know she's a mary thompson. any of those who worked on that magnified and extraordinary the mount vernon slavery date database of which the which the papers draws on and builds, will tell me whether she, caroline is a diverse custis slave, but caroline is called early in the morning by martha when she comes in to make up the fire in the
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washington's bedroom to call washington secretary and, to call the doctor and. he washington have gone out ridden round the estate and and and an inflamed throat was there was nothing to be done and martha here in this miniature which in which she had done for to show her every day face for her grandeur children so that it was the the informal martha and she turns her face to the wall. she no more to to be in a world without washington because she
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was since her marriage to washington although am still young and pretty when she married him from that moment to honor a one man woman and all those who visit her and. meri thornton, the architecture of the capitals wife abigail adams, mrs. list and all that she is undone. she talks only of going to to meet washington and she has a no one. martha no one of those who've who were with her at the start of her journey. she has the the lovely nellie who the toast of washington of philadelphia and then in fact, the toast of the federal city when she went in to visit her,
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her her sisters, you could say she threw herself away on her husband, but nellie was t but martha retreated and is very old, very sure of negative. i think it is of the bedroom roe is it was imagine and not as it is now. consider erupted does it was that this just gives me the feel of martha having turned her face to the wall and the papers a give of such an extruding record no logical tour. doris on of martha dandridge custis washington's a life that i can only say as as in another
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republic concord in england in the 17th century. oliver cromwell all told mr. lilly, a court painter, to remark all these rough roughness is when you paint my picture pimples, warts and everything as you see me. otherwise will never pay you a farthing for in the papers of martha washington. i guarantee you we have a picture truly like her roughness, if not warts and all. this is a remarkable addition to the scholarship of the founding era. i repeat. and those universities, public libraries and other that acquire copy will spend. they will spend their farthing wisely and well thank you.
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one moment, please. okay okay. so that. all right. hello. thank you very much for coming. thank you very much for your kind introduction. i am going to repeat you for a moment and next. thank you to of our generous
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donors who made papers of martha washington possible it would not exist without the support of mount vernon, without our donors, without the mount vernon ladies association. so i just want to thank once again all of those folks. i also want to make sure. next, please. i am a representative of the team of family papers, editors that put together this volume. so i wanted to make sure that we thank all of the people who worked on this. this is a team of incredibly hardworking people who, put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the volume. so thank you very much to all of my wonderful colleagues who were not able to make it tonight. next, please. i'll talk a little bit about book. i don't i floors are given us a wonderful introduction to martha washington in and beautiful details about her life. i'm going to focus on what i did, which is edit the volume of her papers. next, please.
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so first of all, this is not biography of martha washington. this is an edited, edited collection of martha washington's letters. we include letters to, to and from martha, her financial and legal documents. our goal was to create the definitive scholarly edition of martha washington's papers. however we wanted this tool to be both. we wanted this book to be a tool for historians, but also something that was accessible to a general audience. so we included things, essays and timelines and directories to make it so that. even if you're just curious about martha, you can pick up this volume and read it and, learn something about her. so it's not just a dry collection of her letters. there's other stuff there as well. so what, i mean, when i say that we edited her letters, actually got an angry email from someone talking about, how dare we edit the papers of george washington? but it's quite the opposite. next, please. the job of a documentary editor to try to recreate the manuscript page of someone's
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writings as close as to that page. so our job was to collect as many of martha washington's papers possible to collect images of those documents, transcribe them them, and eventually publish them all together in one volume. we don't keep all of the the papers sometimes when i say i work for the papers of george washington, people assume we have all of them. that's the job. an archivist. it's a different feel. our job is to transcribe, put them together. so we take a page that looks like this. next, please. and we turn it into something that looks like this next. please, so you can see it. we do include when there's rips and tears in the paper. we put that in. we mention where it's mutilated and things are ripped because we are so close to document and we're able to tell basically what's in there. that's that's how we this usable for historians and people looking at these letters.
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you'll notice we have footnotes. we identify people. we identify with their rips and tears, and we try to provide a clear transcription. so next, please, i thought i would address some frequently asked questions that i get when people find out that i work for this project. next, please didn't washington burn all of her letters? kind. martha washington did. after during her last illness. we he account from gerard sparks, who's one of the first people to try publish all of george washington's letters, where two of martha washington's granddaughters informed him that on her deathbed during her last illnes she req that all of her papers with washington be burned, which is a huge loss to history. but it's not unusual. thomas jefferson also burned all h correspdee with his wife. i think the thinking behind it was people who were big public they knew that their papers were going to be important to people
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and that people would want to read them. and for a side of their life that was so deeply personal and private too like letters between husband and wife, they wanted to keep them for themselves. so martha took that route, decided keep those papers private. now the quote that i have up here says that two letters seem to escape by accident that were und in a drawer orn desk. but we are actually to publish four letters betwe george and martha washington. one of them isui short. it's a brief little note, but i think it's interesting that in all of the surviving correspondence, not very much. they refer to one another as my dearest or my love. so what did we publish if she burned all of her letters with george washington? she wrote other people to martha washington, had a largextended family. so flora already brought off. she had brought up a close relationship with her sister nancy and afr nancy'seath, martha picks up right away with her daughter, frances bess at
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washington. so thiss washington's niece, who martha was very close with. we have aumber of letters between them that tell you a lot about mount vernon. and she's also wring sort of a who's who of early american women. mercy otis warren, who s a poet and a historian, the american revolution. martha was i correspondence with her also, elizabethilling powell, a philadelphia social aid. we'veot letters between them. we do have quite a few letters from martha washington, just unfortunately, it's a sad losshat we don't have her pape with george. but we were able to see with the letters that do survive, sort a side of martha, apart from george martha'own personal that it's very revealing. next slide, please. another letter that i get is having papers already been published. and again, the answer is yes, kind of. this is a actually edition that was put together in the nineties by joseph fields, who just on his own is a labor of love.
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he's not a professional doctor. mary ed hearst, historian. he put together a really solid collection of martha washington's papers, and it's actually what's been used by historians for years. and even the people at the papers of george washington have been using this collection, but it has issues. some of the letters printed out of order. there are typographical errors. sometimes he doesn't cite source which nothing so egregious as like this letter came to me in a dream but sometimes he doesn't tell you where the letter comes. so it was do we were due for another collection. and so we that was part of what we were trying to address when we worked in this project. so next slide, please. this is a sort of quick numerical comparison of the volume fields published about 80 financial and legal documents, and we were able to find 180, which we don't publish in full. we summarize them just for space reasons, but we point out where you can take a look at them. also, fields published 300
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letters. we were able to add 80 more letters to publish in this volume, which considering that only that's a pretty sizable chunk of letters and fields chose to publish about six additional documents. we publish about 37, sometimes fleshing out areas where there are silences and just adding a little bit more detail to the volume. so there's quite a lot of information in there. and next slide, please. so voluminudes thorough annotation, biographical directories. so you know who she's writing in a lot of these cases? timelines. seven editorial essays and lengthy appendices, which a lot of really valuable information about martha's estate after she dies, including the enslaved people who were separated after her death from the dower slaves. we're able to add a lot of information about them in the appendices. so next, please. challenges that we faced in putting the volume together. this is an example of how people would save space in writing letters. sometimes they would just turn it sideways and just keep going.
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so we didn't deal with a lot of that, but sometimes that turns up. next slide, please. so the documents search people have been looking for, george washington's letters for a very long time. i mentioned earlier jared sparks putting together a collection of his letters. that's the 1820s. it's been a long time historical interest in martha has been a little bit more recent. so we didn't we wanted to make sure we did a very thorough search to find letters. so we ended up contacting over thousand archives. we really dug through historical newspapers, auction houses, private collectors. we tried to comb for as many papers as possible, put together this volume, and that was fairly time consuming. next slide, please. we also had to deal with the problem of silences in letters. if you have using the papers of george washington, there are so many washington papers that survive that. usually a 650 page volume might cover a and a half of his life with martha. we have whole years.
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there's maybe three letters so that there's a lot of very important, significant things that aren't covered. so we have to cover those in another way, which either is too editorial essays or something like that. but so that that was an we had to face as we're putting the volume together and we're trying to make it something, you know, cohesive. next slide, please. the cast of characters, the people who martha is writing are a littleit obscure. you're working on a president's papers or you're working on a politician's papers. politicians left a huge paper trail that it's easy to identify people for somody like some of martha, more obscu nieces and nephews, not the case. it's a little bit harder to find an example that i have of somebody who isarticularly difficult was martha washington actually had a niece who was named washington dandridge? so you're trying to find martha dandridge. washington's martha washington dandridge. things can be a little bit tricky. so. so next slide, please for the next bit. i just thought i would talk
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about some of the things that we worked with with, the importance of accurate transcription, which is a lot of what i did with the project with editing. next, this is i know the writing's very small. you don't ha to worry about reading all of that, but this is appears in theolctionster as and private memoirs of washington by george washington park custis edited 1861 b bentsen,osin it's a letter from james power, who's a lawyer for new kent county martha washi' first husband, daniel custis. so i underlined the line. it says, i stath h all t d presented jack with my little jacks, horse, bridle and saddle. next slide, please. so this is what the man script says. it says, i stayed with him a good part of last night. so that's already slightly different. and. something crossed out. something crossed out. jack with my little jack's horse, bridle and saddle. so what's out there? part of our editorial method is if something's crossed out, if it's something, we try to read
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it through the out. and if it's something significant, which is to say something that's not just repeated later in the same sentence, we try to include it in footnotes. so if you take a look next slide, please. i zoomed. i know it's going to be hard to read, even though it's a pretty big. but this actually isn't a very, very detailed cross out. and if you really look at it, you can see the first. you can see that sort of of the y that first letter. and it's definitely a capital b is the first letter of the second word. so if you really look at it and you're able to really blow it up and pay attention to it, the way we are, it's actually the words your brother. so why is this significant? next slide, please because jack, in that letter is daniel parker. justice's mixed race. half brother daniel park custis. his father, john custis, had a child, an enslaved woman who he acknowledged as his son, which was unusual at that time. he left him property. he wanted to leave from the house. he freed him. he management at him. and the fact that a lawyer at
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this time is writing to daniel park custis and acknowledging him as your brother is very historically significant. even if it's crossed out and whether it was crossed out by him or later is not quite as clear. but you can see why. accurate transcription can make a difference. next slide, please. this is an example from martha's handwriting. it says, i have had a very dull time. i had a very dark time. is field's transcription of this. and if you take a close look. next slide, please. it's blurry. i'm sorry. i know it's so big, but if you take look at the end of where that key is, if that's the word dark. compare that to the k in another part of the letter with i think those look different. and if you looked, we have to look at every single letter trying to see it. it's possible that she just sort of blurred together the a and the r for dark. but if you think of it as a u
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and those as two l's, then that's just the word dull. you can see dull there as well. so we transcribe this as dull time. and next slide, please. so and i also want to, if you can see it up here. it's a since i come home, i believe it was oing so she spells oh i n g classic washington. so next slide, please. so we trscbe this as i've had a very dull since i come me. i believe it was owing to the severe weather we have had. it's it's a slight change. it's changing one word, but it changes the meaning of the sentence. if you're saying i've had dark time owing to the severe weather, that almost sounds like she haseonal depression or someing like that. but i've had a dull time since. coming home is the weather was bad. people couldn't come visit or she couldn't go outside. so it's a slight change, but it changes the signifi next slide, please. so i wanted to talk a little bit about what this collection, martha, in her own words, what
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you can learn about martha by looking at her own words. so next, please. you can learn that she's a very competent businesswoman. flora already mentioned this a bit, but this is one of my favorite quotes. she's writing to her lawyers, or she's writing merchants in england who have informed her that she just lost a legal case. anshe ss, i'm advised my lawyers here that if thereas no mismanagement, custis was verynfortunate in losing so good a cause. i make no doubt the matter will turn out in favor. so she'sang, you better make it turns out in my favor. next slide, please. i also think that she has a very strong sense of humor that comes in her letters that you don't always hear about martha washington. i like the way she teases grandchildren. so i hope when nellie has a little more gravity, she will be a good girl at present. she is, i fear, half crazy. on a darker note martha washington. not in a way that is different from george washington.
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she writes more bluntly slavery and her feelings about slavery. so this quote, the next quote, the blacks are so bad in their nature that they have not the least gratitude for kindness that we have showed to them. this helps to demystify attitudes about slavery at mount vernon and of slaveholders at this time and. the fact that she's so blunt about it in the volume is valuable. historical context and knowledge. next, please. this is a famous martha washington quote, but i give you an example. i think what you can learn sort of on a personal level about martha during the president's, she was very lonely during the presidency as she was wasn't able to see the people she wanted to see. and this fairly famous quote, she says, there are certain bounds set f me which i must not depart fro and i cannot do as i like, i am obstinate and stay a great deal. so she says she feels ke state prisoner. and in response, she's a little bit stubborn about it, which is from my work with the papers of
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martha washington. it seems very fitting with her character. so next slide, please i just wanted to finish with martha washington's papers. give us a different, distinctly feminine perspective of the early american republic. and i hope that by presenting her words exactly as she wrote them, we can learn more about this time period, more about martha washington as a person. you very much for coming. now to continue our conversation and to also take questions from you momentarily. let me introduce our professor, kate hallman, an associate professor of history at american university, the author of the politics of fashion in 18th century america. she's working on a new book on monumental motherhood, mary washington and the founding pastor in the 19th century, which investigates long afterlife of mary ball. washington, george's mother in american commemoration. kate worked on this important new project, a fellow at our library in the most recent class
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of fellows. so, kate let me hands over to you. thank you very. oh, there we go. hot mike. thank you. thank you, kevin. i thank you all for being here. and thank you for this invitation to be here. part of this great opportunity, this occasion. and thank you both for these incredibly insightful presentations. and what a special what a special occasion it is. doug bradburn earlier said, we're here for martha. and i think that that captures the spirit the night. flora, your presentation so beautifully linked the themes in your book, the washingtons to the the the new work or some of the discoveries the papers. and i, i guess i first want to say congratulations because i know brown because it is such a.
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truly i mean, what can i say than buy this book? it is tonight. and it truly just a signal accomplishment of documentary editing of scholarship. and it really it is incredibly transform it. so i would definitely say congratulations and get yourself a copy and then the martha's words alone are worth it. but the introductory essays and the editorial apparatus are just truly remarkable. so i know i'm going to save plenty of time for questions. i know there are many inquiring minds in this room as well as our virtual audience, but i do have some questions of my own that i would like to begin with and i want to pluck a line actually from from the introduction. and maybe these were your own words of the of the papers. and that is i think it's i think it's there's that there is not one martha washington or one martha washington does not exist
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when martha washington does not exist. so you kind of gave us a little bit of a of a taste of that in your talk. and i wanted to know if you would if you could explain that a little bit or unpack it little bit for us. it's not one martha washington. i, i believe that that quote came from my colleague robin robin. oh, sure. i think that quote came from my colleague, lynn robins is a fabulous historian. i get the. but what do we mean by there's no one. martha washington is in some ways martha washington become so much of a symbol that she is more than just a person she is many things to many different people over different time and even in her own life she starts out as a young plantation mistress. she first lady of the united states. she changes so much that it's
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difficult to pinpoint who exactly martha washington is. she's many things over many different years. is this you know, you talked about her character. and so that that kind of evokes a certain continuity or stability of flora. does that resonate with you? there is not one martha washington or one martha washington does not exist. i i think it's a very it's a very shrewd remark. i just want to check. can you hear me? i think that's a very shrewd remark. i think there are certain elements of martha that. you cut the papers or have different had a different identities, and you have the same resolute, almost. but sometimes almost pugnacious. you know, she's she's she's feisty and. and people respond to that.
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they like it, whether it's incompetence at mount vernon or. so i think that there's that. but think that i think she inhabits different worlds and that's what is so extraordinary the way she appears to me to be adaptable or as you pointed out she says, i don't like this role being first lady. i'm just to sit here all the in philadelphia. she she definitely starts to party. but but i that's right. that she these a very it's a very, very fast moving those decades she lived through in in america and in virginia. and she has she adapts and adapts and doesn't adapt in in ways that we we saw with her
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words about the enslaved community at mt. vernon. in her view, a particularly the custis dower community, the those she feels it's her sacred trust to pass this community on her. i thought about that a lot to her as an enslaver and a slave in the different ways that comes out in in the papers, is treated. can katie kidd like feisty and party the parting martha in philadelphia can you is there another example of that that strikes you from from the papers? well, one of my i wish my sorry i when martha and george were just a young married couple in virginia, they to one ball where, they didn't serve enough food and they referred to it as
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the bread and butter ball. it's not a polite way, but they said as a married couple, they had tickets to the bowls and they would go to these events and she was a very sociable person. you see. she's as you in philadelphia. she's she's definitely visiting with the upper crust of philadelphia. but do you get the sense that she feels that as initially is an obligation and is then kind of cottons to it more? or is that what have is there a transformation there that's these decades of incredible transformation transformation? i, i don't know what you think, but i think she she sees there a job to be done in new york, in philadelphia. and she she does it to as she does everything really to it to the utmost of her abilities.
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but at the same time, you see in her letters with with fanny, her niece, who as you, nancy, her sister's daughter, becomes immediately her correspondent. but fanny, is this younger woman and oh, martha gets off to her. will you get caroline to take down the curtains and put them away? and, you know, she knows it's not being done right. and she's in philadelphia and and so there's this longing to be home and and she's getting older. and i think it's it's in a way, very touching in the papers of martha washington because you see her and george genuinely growing, but an aging through
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and feeling in a were they too old to go to to be this the figurehead power couple the power coupled. but then you know as we know abigail adams on becoming just about to become first lady gave this you know abigail spoke as she felt and and i don't think that it was an ideal complement when she said you know no one could have done this as well. and they established that role those roles for all time. you can see it's so interesting that the humor that comes through. but then this very exacting nature when it came to things such as we talked a little bit about something that comes through her, is that sensibility, her orders. you're talking about some of and some of those financial papers, receipts. yes.
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one of my favorite letters with martha is ordering right into merchants demanding better quality goods that she said she could have in philadelphia for half the cost and, twice the quality. so she she says what she thinks and there's that wonderful. is it a letter when she writes or perhaps it's george who one of them writes to? is it tilbury, the the the dressmaker and says, i had five ladies from alexandria here. and we looked at this place and we all agreed that it was quite inferior. i imagine this sort of sewing bee looking, i think it was for patsy, wasn't it? it was for patsy. and, you know, i would like i mean, she could be a tough immigrant in her business dealings. and i'm sure with with with
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those who worked in the house, whether they were hired or or enslaved. not fun being martha's employee. that exacting, demanding nature. yeah. through in many of our interactions, i wondered if there was anything in particular that surprised either you about her and your research new discoveries or something this totally unexpected that you ran across. i guess, i don't know if it's surprising, but one of my favorite martha washington moments is, um, she's being little bit reluctant to go up to new york after george washington becomes president and tobias lear, who's george washington secretary, writes a letter trying to lure martha washington up, and he says, i know she likes seafood. tell her how good the lobster
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is, new york and maybe that'll get her to go a little faster. i like that. do you think it worked? yes. it's just really delicious. but i couldn't get love that. that's right. the the. i think. that there were two to two very rich veins. i felt in the well are many but in in the papers. one is a just how much martha controls washington's painted image and and indeed sculpted image and she used come from a very artistic family her uncle bartholomew dandridge was a famous quote painter in london and painted the image both for prince of wales and her father,
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whose of virginia county court clerk has a portrait of at her richer uncle house. but it's very unusual portraits at that. i mean, it's it's it's they're only just coming into into fashion. the idea that you have your portrait done. and so she's aware the power of portraits and throughout the papers she's having those miniatures we saw of her children she's having them put as in bracelets like a like a watch, a sort of the miniature set into a bracelet she's approving. one image of washington. another, she says, isn't like
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him. she orders prince of the washington family. we saw the savage of the for the washington and martha with the two grandchildren, with the enslaved servant. so that's so we become very aware of of her taste and i think the papers are wonderful in that way. they build on the work. many here at mount vernon and others have done. and you feel this is a woman with a tremendous esthetic sense, but who is also use can see using and washington come first you don't want to be painted but he comes to see that this is the way to the wants to see this is so interesting to this this power of portraiture and her sense since it's ability
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her eye. do you think that translate into that she had a sense. we think of washington self as having sense for his persona and his legacy in his own lifetime and sort of crafting that to some extent. would you say the same for her and that she had a for herself and as well for him that there is a public persona, a public face presence? yeah i think she approves of that that that represents portion of of her as in the washington in the presidential family that i think she approves, i'm not sure that she really approves the many of the other ones we see as it had to get and bigger until so had and. but but but used to. i think that a public persona
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when she's received at in new york and receiving in philadelphia her clothes or was it mrs. who said to her close the plane but always of the best to and you're right from beginning with that wallace portrait of the young mrs. custis you know that it's shimmering and we have her wedding shoes, the red sequined red shoes. so she both loves fashion and she's a she's a material girl. but but but then she and washington become public figures. yes. i think. i don't think she wants to put it portraits to herself forward. but but i think that's why that.
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right. yeah. well, katie had said earlier that you wore a print tonight in honor of marriage and you did to to write that and some her friends i don't see her represented in a lot of it but indeed she she did like a. oh yes. and some fun when when they're friends at the fairfax says is leave belvoir and go to london and george william and sally fairfax who've been on washington sort of those the tea that he copies to and with with with so i mean puts to such good so that when the english comes and she says how did he get so grand and he moves magnificently he has all the she practically saying he would do he could be a nobleman at a european court. well he learned it from the
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fairfax's over. they go to acquire all the bed hangings and the, you know, they i think both they come together, george and martha in so many ways. the they the order did the jack jacksboro could eat no fat his wife could eat. and i mean he's told you to all these she she gets large but but they love mount vernon with a pipe they love this place and when you come here, you feel everything in the house, in the outside. it it was a it was a true love, a very beloved place for them both. i think both here even though it is so such a place. and then also in the papers, you see them and then her in particular as very much part this of of a wider world. you see the networks see that
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sort of pulling back curtain which leads me and we're going to pivot to your in a moment here but i wanted to hear from each of you about about biography or how you think a biographical approach, the life of one person, any person this person enhances our historical understanding what is the power of biography, the one one life to them show something larger. i think particularly with someone like martha who was alive and lived through such a key, important era in american history, it makes it easier for us to understand. and bigger moments in history. when you see it through the perspective of one person. so i think seeing martha from growing in newton county, living through the american revolution, being at so many winter encampments and traveling and then being through the presidency and all of that, think it helps to humanize both
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george and martha and just sort of give a strong perspective of that time period. i think it might be especially important in or differently important in women's women's histories. i mentioned it's at a feminine perspective of the revolution. so she's there at the winter captains where they're doing things like having balls and dances. she's there during the warfare except for certain other moments, but so you get to see things from an interesting different. yeah, i think the. what when i read it historical books history books i'm looking at it it might be a micro history book but but it's still looking at a sweep of events and this a biography, a biographical
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approach and just great biography you'll, seeing the unfolding of a mind and that mind is sometimes by events reacting and it's the mind of one person that you'll following from cradle to and it's a it's real privilege to to follow that mind and i love writing biography and i love reading it to it. it's a it's it's quite extraordinary feeling to be in someone's mind for and i know there's another biography next for you ed before so quickly
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before before we do pivot. what's next for flora? what's next for you? and then what's next for you? and papers. so i'm publishing in. my next biography a pretty young rebel the life of a flora macdonald and she is another 18th century woman. she actually a rebel in the rebellion in scotland. of 1745. and we separate not that. she was a loyalist. 30 years later. but i think she had a touch. the rebel, a nice, pretty young rebel. right? right. rebel. so forthcoming. yeah. and then i'm working on an edited digital edition, the papers of bush at washington. so that'll be george washington's nephew who inherited mount vernon and was a
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supreme court justice. so that we're we're working on that project next more great family stuff and scott's stuff turned to north carolinian. scott's again come so i believe in the back samantha and front stephen here there might be microphone somewhere floating around so if you want to find stephen here if you have any questions. first of all thank you. a very enlightening and enjoyable i was struck by the quote from her regarding the slaves. is there anything in her writings that shows an abhorrence the institution of slavery or even a questioning of the morality? slavery that unfortunately does not turn up? it seems that martha washington grew up in slave society.
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she surrounded by slavery her entire life, and it does not seem like she ever questioned it, that she she was in charge and as i mentioned, she sort of saw this as a financial transaction between herself and her heirs. so while george washington he did free his slaves he he did a lot of thinking about the morality it and decided to free the people that he could free but the slaves who were completely under martha's control she she her her goal was to pass this what she saw as a financial asset onto her children. so as far as the actual harm that was being done to other human beings, she doesn't seem to question that at least from her writing. we have a. we have question from our online audience. judy anderson asks, was it possible for you to determine how many letters that were signed by martha had actually been written or by george.
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yes. so that is a big part of. editing a volume is trying determine sometimes who is behind different letters, who's writing it. a lot of the letters that we transcribed were actually in george washington handwriting. so sometimes a letter was a team effort between them where she would write a draft and then he would clean it up. you could tell it from her handwriting examples that i had that her spelling was not always accurate. there's a lot of it. she had creative spelling you could tell, which meant phonetically, but so if she writing somebody that she wanted to she wanted to really impress sometimes you'd have george go over it. there's a great example, though, of george washington drafting out a letter and then martha writing and, adding, because he had just mentioned the family as well. and martha in her draft of it, adding in, yes, my sister's had two children. they're doing great. they're going at it. so he didn't go into the amount
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of detail and bragging that she wanted to. and she added that in so it is included in the source notes to the letters what whose handwriting it then whether we think that this was somebody writing on other somebody else's behalf. and there's also certain george washington that are in my handwriting because was helping him out during the american revolution when he was making so many copies. these letters so. i really look as you mention, her father was a chronicler several times is a job of substance. is she brought is she in a society of substance where she formed her taste and style. as a country county cork, the county courthouse was his place of work he was also a verger a colonel in the militia.
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he was definitely part of the local new kent county society. and indeed, he was the best removed with martha's first husband, daniel so but the the i would say where she saw. what she might aspire to when she or at least was in her mind during her childhood was her uncle william's mansion. elston green also the bank and there was a picture gallery. it was a much grander way of life he admired an heiress and so i think the. a very solid childhood with the
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seven siblings and her and but but it was the uncle william who had the if you like that they were. that they had a house where where she could really see. a sort of elegant elegant way live. i had a question question i didn't know lot more about her life with daniel custis, how she how she met him, how their marriage was was there. many writings about or there weren't that much before george's writings. i while i was researching i was able to come up with her. her father was in the same vestry daniel park pestis and we do have accounts and some i
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believe william byrd's diary mentions that daniel custis and john dandridge work together so it seems as though they were so we don't have the exact account of their courtship, but they were in the same sort of circles and that's probably how they met. there's we don't have any letters from this time. we have letters from daniel park custis, other people, and from then professes to him, but not between him and i think it might sense from the letters is that it was a it was a happy marriage. and she certainly married she she married very well. he was very wealthy man. but we just don't have a lot of detail. but where i think there is detail which has been elucidated the invoices that that that in the papers are so beautifully annotated give you a picture of what want what they want their
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life to be like what they order from london from in this consignment trade. it's really a silver there's a marvelous farouk wig for for mark with false curls but but it's she's she's she's living at a much higher standard. you like her? she came from a third tier planter family. if daniel's first is definitely second tier. so so i think those influences give us and we have them all of the married life. yeah so that that's in a way a wonderful resource and his his financial accounts it's in his handwriting up until he dies and then the handwriting switches
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and that's actually the earliest of her handwriting is from that account book building a fine life together in a way, we have another question from our online audience. so jamie arnold is about whether or not can tell the dollar amount of her wealth upon marriage. is there like a modern comparison we can make? and if not, how do we understand the value of goods historically. this is this is outside of my wheelhouse. i've got i wrote the number down of how much it was in her time, but i would feel confident saying i couldn't answer that question about her, but i would i would direct the. questioner to the to the internet because their point there are calculate right here you can say okay this many pound sterling you know in this year what would that be equivalent to pounds today and then so there are various ways to convert money then into money now and you used to be i would say 20
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years ago you could get 18th century multiply by 50. but you know but the the certainly in the papers of george washington, i think there is some which be found. i don't mean there's already right no but oh and and of course land cash and in the case of. the virginia and other states the enslaved community who also for a financial asset they were all three different kinds of wealth. thank you all for bringing forward this rich history for all of us to learn from. if either of you could sit down with the first two, first ladies and ask her a question, what would it be.
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go ahead. well, well, i. i would ask and this may seem a very basic question, jane, but i would ask. did and did you and your second husband, washington, ever consult a doctor about the fact that you didn't have children together, even though you, martha had had four children and i would just be i would be very to know that. i think i would say tell me what you really think about thomas jefferson jefferson.
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i. on that note. what a great concluding question. questions. thank you all for being here. thank you to katie and to flora and a round of applause to you. thank you. our conversation. our conversation can continue out in the reception area. i'm going to ask that for a phrase. you'll be allowed to walk up to the stairs because we do want to get her at a signing table before the crowd fills in for if you could start moving. thank you so much, professor and katie guerin. thank you for frasier. so wonderful that you could all be here
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