Precious Sister - Letters from Euphemia

When Gouverneur Morris finally returned home after ten years abroad, it was much to his sister Euphemia's (1754-1818) relief. Her husband (also her cousin), Samuel Ogden (1746-1810), had not been well and was very worried about his financial interests in the land speculation he was involved in with Gouverneur and Robert Morris (not related) and others.

Over the years, the brothers-in-law had frequently written to each other about business, but Euphemia had also stayed in touch on a regular basis via mail while Gouverneur was in Europe. Some of Morris's letters are recorded in his letterbooks in the Library of Congress, and a few of her letters have survived in the Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Writing Implements from the 19th Century
Euphemia wrote about the expansion of her family (they had at least twelve children), while Morris supplied her with some fashionable items from Europe. There is for example the letter written by Euphemia in December 1796, thanking him for the cloak and gloves he sent from London. A note of interest is the fact that Morris's wife, Nancy, after his death sarcastically wrote on this letter: "while He was in the Act of giving - They were in good humor."

Soon after Morris arrived in New York City in the last week of 1798, he became absorbed by the renovation of his ancestral home on the estate of Morrisania, which had been in disrepair for years. Much of his energy and money was poured into the extensive restoration of the mansion. However, seven weeks after his arrival, his sister, without her husband's knowledge, wrote Morris an urgent invitation to visit them in Newark, New Jersey. They needed help, that is: money.

"Pardon me my dear Brother for again entruding on your patience--my good husbands Situation obliges me to do what I hope you will forgive--it hath long been the Opinion of his physitions that his mind should be kept placid and Easy such hath been and still is his great anxiety to see you that his mind is continually on the Rush--the Consequence is his attacks are much more frequent and Violent--the last week he looked for you every day. I cannot express to you his disappointment--[...]"
In bold letters Nancy wrote on the last page of this letter: "precious Sister and Friend she wanted to shew her love by using his money."

Morris, apparently, was not too worried about Samuel's health because he did not drop everything he was working on to visit Newark. He stopped by a few months later, in April of 1799, on his way further south to Philadelphia, where his old friend and business partner Robert Morris was in debtor's prison.He stayed with the Ogdens from April 16-22 and then again on his return in May, from the 5th till the 13th. There was a lot to discuss with Samuel, whose business had taken a bad turn. In his diary Morris recorded that he encouraged Samuel to pay back his debts and employ David Ford to manage his affairs. During that same week, Samuel wrote his will with Morris's assistance. 

A week after this visit, on May 21, Morris noted in his diary that he had received a letter from Ogden asking for money (although this letter has not been located). He  promptly advanced Ogden a thousand dollars. Half a year later, in November 1799, Euphemia sent a letter, delivered by her son David Bayard Ogden, to ask for help in settling the affairs with Robert Morris. And again, Nancy wrote a remark on the letter: "what a tender sister,"... implying, of course, she only was interested in her brother's money.  

If we compile the data from Morris's diary, we can see that there were regular visits back and forth between Morris and his sister. Typically, Morris visited the Ogdens in Newark on his way to or from Washington (where he served as Senator from 1800 to 1803), and in later years he combined visits to Newark with business trips in New Jersey. The Ogdens visited Morrisania every November for a few days. After Samuel died in 1810, Euphemia moved to New York City. For the next few years, the frequency of the visits increased: he visited her in town and she visited him and his young bride Nancy almost monthly. 

It all came to a sudden stop after November 1814. There had been a falling out between the two siblings because of a publicized letter by John Randolph of Roanoke to Nancy. A letter in which John accused her of murdering his brother, and of committing infanticide some twenty years ago in Virginia. It looks like John Randolph had been consumed with rage and bitterness and was out to break Nancy's reputation. Many ladies of New York City's 'society,' including Euphemia, started shunning Nancy. 

There is no more mention of Euphemia in the diary at all after that, and we do not know of any correspondence between them. What we do know is that nephew David B. Ogden had been inciting Randolph to blame Nancy and that he, at the same time, had defrauded Morris out of a fortune, bringing him to the verge of bankruptcy. 

The last two years of Morris's life were clouded not only by declining health, an ostracized social position for his wife, but with financial worries as well. His sister Euphemia had chosen to side with her son David and was blind to his unfortunate behavior. 

Nancy had good reason for her snide remarks on Euphemia's earlier letters, jotted down when she sorted through her late husband's papers. 

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