Revolution 250 Podcast

First Family: George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America with Cassandra Good

August 29, 2023 Cassandra A. Good Season 4 Episode 35
Revolution 250 Podcast
First Family: George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America with Cassandra Good
Show Notes Transcript

George and Martha Washington did not have children together, but they raised Martha's children from her first marriage and her grandchildren.  Cassandra A. Good, award-winning scholar and writer,  joins us to talk about this extended family, and the lives they led in the period after the Revolution.  She tells their stories in her book First Family:  George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America. 

Professor Good's first book, Founding Friendships,received the Organization of American Historians Mary Jurich Nickliss Prize in Women and Gender History, as an original exploration of the friendship relationships between men and women in the early Republic.   Her ten-part series,   "America's Founding Women,"  is available on Audible.

WEBVTT
 
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 Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Revolution 250 podcast.
 
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 Revolution 250 is a consortium of about 70 groups in Massachusetts looking at ways to commemorate the beginnings of the American Revolution.
 
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 I'm Bob Allison.
 
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 I am the co-chair of the Rev 250 Advisory Group.
 
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 And our guest today is Cassandra Good.
 
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 Welcome, Cassandra.
 
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 Thanks so much for having me.
 
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 And Cassandra Good is an historian and a writer.
 
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 She's right now an associate professor of history at Marymount University in Washington.
 
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 She's also taught at George Washington University and at the University of Mary Washington, which is actually from the Washington, D.C.
 
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 area.
 
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 And at Mary Washington, she also was an associate editor of the papers of James Monroe.
 
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 After getting her doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania, she worked at the Smithsonian.
 
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 She was the director of or manager of public affairs.
 
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 programs and scholarly publications and public programs, I think was the title.
 
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 Anyway, I have more things I could say about you, but let's get to you and your books.
 
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 Your first book is Founding Friendships, which really is a novel, innovative way of looking at relationships among people in the founding era.
 
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 And your new book is First Family, George Washington's heirs in the making of America.
 
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 So this is a fascinating book.
 
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 You're looking at, we know Washington, father of his country, his wife, Martha.
 
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 I hate to use the word icons, but they are iconic in American history.
 
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 And then we know much less about the family that they had around them because they didn't have children of their own.
 
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 But Martha brought with her two children from her first marriage or others that died in infancy.
 
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 And those become Washington's surrogate children and then the grandchildren they also raised.
 
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 Right.
 
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 And, you know, most people, when they think about George Washington, they think he had no children.
 
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 And he's portrayed as, and even in some of the famous lines about him from eulogies, you know, that he had no children.
 
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 And so Americans, you were all Washington's children.
 
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 And that's really a narrow definition of having children.
 
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 That's, you know, having biological children.
 
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 which he did not have, but he raised a lot of children.
 
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 In addition to these two stepchildren from Martha and the grandchildren, there are nieces and nephews coming out of his house all the time.
 
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 But he's really the key father figure, first for Jackie and Patty, the children of Martha from her first marriage, and then for Jackie's children, especially the younger two, Nellie and Wash, who...
 
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 were basically adopted by the Washingtons.
 
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 There was no legal form of adoption, but they were raised at Mount Vernon and then in the president's house with George and Martha as their parents, essentially.
 
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 So what was childhood like then for, first for Jackie and his sister, and then for, you know, the two grandchildren, Nellie and Wash, who come, and by the way, his name was George Washington Park Custis.
 
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 Yes, and that's why I say Wash, because it's a mouthful to say the full name there.
 
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 And they all have Park in their middle name as part of a long family tradition.
 
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 But for Jackie and Patty moving there, they were young children at the point that they moved to Mount Vernon.
 
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 The house was much smaller when they moved there.
 
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 They're living.
 
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 in some sense, the life of fairly upper crust Virginia planters because of Martha's money, not because of George's money.
 
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 And as they're growing up, of course,
 
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 George is involved in some political and some military action.
 
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 So he's not always there.
 
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 Martha is clearly the primary parent here until Jackie goes to school.
 
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 And that's fairly normal at this period that the mother is going to do the primary parenting until the kid goes to school.
 
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 And then you see these struggles.
 
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 Jackie was not a great student and is not able to finish college despite his stepfather's great efforts to get him to finish college.
 
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 And he ultimately drops out to get married very young and quickly have a bunch of children.
 
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 Yeah, he has a lot of children.
 
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 He does.
 
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 And then his widow goes on to have... They have seven.
 
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 And then she goes on to have 14 more with her second husband.
 
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 Right.
 
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 And not all these children survive.
 
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 Right, right.
 
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 But yeah.
 
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 And this is probably part of why she died fairly young, is just having that many children.
 
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 There was a sense that her body had sort of worn down at a certain point.
 
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 But yeah, she was very young when she got married.
 
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 And so...
 
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 She was having children and grandchildren basically at the same time because of the span and ages.
 
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 And we don't know that much about her children with her second husband.
 
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 Some of their letters survive.
 
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 They sometimes show up with the Custis grandchildren.
 
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 They clearly do have a relationship, but they're not publicly known the way the Custis grandchildren are.
 
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 Because the Custis grandchildren are around when George Washington is president.
 
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 Right.
 
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 And even the elder two, so I said Nellie and Wash are basically adopted by George and Martha.
 
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 The elder two, Eliza and Patty, spend time in the president's house in Philadelphia.
 
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 They come to visit.
 
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 People know who they are.
 
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 They are also famous.
 
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 And, you know, so because of this time in the 1790s and the presidency, they are really the nation's first family.
 
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 And do they get a lot of attention then as they're growing up as the first family?
 
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 Absolutely.
 
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 Nellie and Wash more so.
 
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 I mean, they're participating even, you know, in New York when they first get there, there's this huge welcoming parade.
 
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 They're participating in public events.
 
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 So just like we expect now when the president goes to a big ceremonial event, often his family comes with him.
 
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 That was happening at this point.
 
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 We know that Wash dressed in like some kids army regimentals to be in a parade.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 Nelly constantly had people asking her to play music, asking to see examples of her art.
 
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 She's famous enough that at the end of the presidency, we know there are wax figures of George Washington.
 
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 There's also Martha, but there's a place that has Nelly too.
 
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 She's famous enough, she gets a wax figure.
 
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 So I think that gives you some sense of her celebrity.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 And then as adults, they all buy or they marry and they purchase land around what becomes the city of Washington, usually on hills in Georgetown and Alexandria and Arlington.
 
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 I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what they're doing then as adults in this new nation, which is really the focus of your book.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 So actually two of them inherit the land.
 
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 So Nellie marries George Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, who interestingly is the one who was supposed to look the most like George.
 
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 read into that what you will, but George gave them, he basically had five farms in Mount Vernon.
 
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 He gave them one of the farms and they turned that into woodlawn plantation and built a house there.
 
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 And then Wash inherited land of his father's that his father had bought along the Potomac River in what is now Arlington.
 
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 And Arlington was part of Washington, D.C.
 
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 at this point, which has implications in several ways for him that we can talk about in terms of the laws and whether he can vote and how enslaved people are treated.
 
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 So he gets a plot of land there and he also inherits a huge amount of land in the Tidewater, Virginia.
 
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 And that is actually the main source of his income.
 
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 And then we have Patty who marries Thomas Peter.
 
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 And yes, they buy a plot of land in Georgetown that is pretty much the highest point in Georgetown.
 
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 And supposedly you could see across from their house that they built there to Arlington House, Walsh's house.
 
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 They supposedly could flag to each other between these houses.
 
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 You can't, because of the trees now, see between the two, but they're fairly close to each other.
 
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 And then Eliza, the eldest, marries this man, Thomas Law, and he's basically a real estate developer in D.C.
 
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 So they moved to a bunch of different houses.
 
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 One of them
 
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 that is often called the honeymoon house that they lived in right after they got married is still standing and is on the Southwest waterfront in DC has recently been restored by a private owner.
 
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 But after her separation from her husband, she also bought a farm of her own that she called Mount Washington, not on as big of a Hill, but in Alexandria.
 
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 And it is now part of the campus of the Episcopal school.
 
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 So that building is still there.
 
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 But then after that, she's basically,
 
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 Peripatetic does not have her own home.
 
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 Well, it's very unusual to divorce in that period, too.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 Well, and interestingly, they initially separate versus divorcing, in part because there's ways that it's better for a woman at that time.
 
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 First of all, with the custody arrangement, they had a child.
 
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 Men automatically got custody in a divorce at that point.
 
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 The other thing is that there's less public notoriety and she can.
 
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 So they have a separation agreement, a legal agreement that male family members sign on her behalf.
 
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 And actually, when she buys that farm, she has to show, yes, I'm married to Thomas Law, but this has nothing to do with him.
 
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 I'm separated from him.
 
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 She lives there a few years.
 
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 And then Thomas Law, at a certain point, decides he wants a divorce, perhaps because he's thinking of marrying again.
 
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 And she is not happy.
 
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 It does bring additional notoriety.
 
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 It was bad enough with the gossip when they separated.
 
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 But then when they get divorced, she says everybody in Washington has heard that the divorce has gone through before she even finds out.
 
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 And she starts going by her maiden name again, but Mrs. So she's Mrs. Custis.
 
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 and is kind of notorious because of this.
 
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 She has a number of interesting relationships later on with these various unscrupulous foreigners who show up.
 
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 Not to cast aspersions on unscrupulous foreigners, but kind of adventures.
 
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 Right.
 
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 There are these adventures coming through D.C.
 
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 especially, although some, one of them actually had started out in Boston around the time of the War of 1812, doing things like trying to sell intelligence to the U.S.
 
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 government that is faulty.
 
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 Right.
 
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 or trying to secretly foment a rebellion in some territory, or trying to escape going to jail in their home country.
 
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 She's got several people that she meets and befriends where that's the situation, including this guy, this French guy, Francois Denis de Greffe, who had gotten in trouble for gambling in the French military and gets kicked out and comes over to the U.S.
 
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 everybody else seems to know that he's a fake, except Eliza is, you know, convinced he's a real deal.
 
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 She also loves the French to the point that, you know, she thinks Napoleon is okay, which is a pretty extreme position.
 
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 And her siblings disagree about that.
 
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 Oh, absolutely.
 
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 Well, and she's the only one who's a Democratic Republican.
 
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 The siblings are all Federalists.
 
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 And so they definitely don't agree on politics.
 
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 She'd also been friendly with Aaron Burr.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 She was good friends with Aaron Burr.
 
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 And, you know, in the letter he wrote to his daughter before the duel with Hamilton, the last thing he says in there is, you know, tell Mrs. Custis hello.
 
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 So, you know, clearly they were close friends.
 
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 And I don't think she was ever particularly close with Jefferson, but she does become close with the Madisons.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 And de Greff, she compares to her grandfather.
 
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 Yes.
 
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 Right.
 
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 That, that,
 
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 know to try and legitimize things but also he for some reason i've never been able to figure out he goes back to france and supposedly needs to get approval from the military he's trying to get his commission back and he needs to get approval to get married and he says you know i'm marrying george washington's granddaughter
 
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 as a sort of, he's not given permission, and he ends up dying by suicide, which Eliza blames on all the stories spreading about terrible things he has done, including by a French-American friend of hers, whose house she will later show up at and die.
 
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 So she's got a very dramatic life.
 
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 Yeah, it really is.
 
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 It's really fun.
 
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 We're talking with Cassandra Good, who is in a story and author of
 
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 First Family, well, then these research for this book, you did a tremendous amount, but it was supported by grants from Mount Vernon, as well as the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
 
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 And phenomenal research, I mean, untangling this, getting, you know, tracing these people through generations and actually getting these extraordinary stories.
 
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 And
 
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 Yeah, I mean, it took a dozen years of research.
 
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 I first started working on this that long ago.
 
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 And that's part of why it took fellowship funding to do this.
 
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 But a lot of the material is at Mount Vernon.
 
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 While they don't have that much original George Washington material,
 
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 correspondence, they have all the Custis family stuff or a lot of it.
 
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 The other biggest collection is at the Virginia Museum of History and Culture, much of which is in this collection that had been in these trunks that were in a bank vault until about 20 years ago.
 
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 And they were not
 
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 made available until the last 10 or so years, I think.
 
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 So there's a lot of material in there.
 
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 Wow.
 
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 The other thing that took a long time to piece together was the slavery aspect of this because, you know, these are some of the largest enslavers in Virginia and the bulk of the people enslaved at Mount Vernon end up with the Custises still in slavery.
 
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 And so tracing them hadn't really done before.
 
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 Yeah.
 
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 And that's phenomenal, too, because there are family relationships among the enslaved people as well as among the enslaved people and the Custises.
 
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 Yes.
 
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 With George and Martha's death, George sets free his enslaved people.
 
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 He can't free the Custis slaves.
 
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 And then they're divided up.
 
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 Right.
 
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 Not according to family, but according to who gets whom.
 
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 Yeah, I mean, some of the families are kept together.
 
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 But then you can see that the Custises are dividing the dower slaves, we call them, four ways.
 
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 And there's plenty of families that get split up.
 
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 And they don't seem to be very concerned about that.
 
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 They show no interest in emancipating all of the enslaved people.
 
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 Now, both Wash and Eliza do emancipate some people.
 
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 From what I can tell, they're mostly emancipating people they're related to.
 
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 Because Eliza and her husband, Thomas, emancipate a man named William Costin and his extended family.
 
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 There's pretty good evidence that William Costin was the Custis' half-brother.
 
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 that Jackie had a child by an enslaved woman named Anne or Nancy Holmes.
 
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 And it's a complicated story.
 
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 There's been a lot of sort of misinformation or misunderstanding about who exactly this woman was that I think we still haven't fully untangled.
 
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 But William Costin becomes a very prominent Black citizen in Washington, becomes a property owner, owns multiple homes, stays in touch with the Custises.
 
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 He works for the bank and is very well respected in the city.
 
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 And it seems, you know, he was born into slavery and freed and probably the half-sibling.
 
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 So he would have been then Jackie's son.
 
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 Yes.
 
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 Yes.
 
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 Yes.
 
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 And then he marries a woman named Philadelphia Judge.
 
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 Yes.
 
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 And it's her sister Ona Judge, if you've read Never Caught, this story about the enslaved woman who freed herself from the president's house in Philadelphia and makes it up to New Hampshire.
 
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 And really remarkable story.
 
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 And Philadelphia, or Delphi,
 
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 was also a dower slave.
 
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 And so it, you know, maybe that Koston actually met her in Eliza Custis's household.
 
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 We don't really know, but they have children and those children are freed also a little bit after Koston gets freed.
 
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 Okay.
 
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 It's fascinating.
 
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 These fascinating connections that you're able then to piece out and give us a much fuller picture of who these people are and what life was like.
 
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 And we, you know, sometimes you have a famous family, but they give us really a window into what life was like for people who weren't related to George Washington.
 
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 But for them, you know, that's the one thing they keep having, even though it doesn't really bring them that much in the new Republic, I think.
 
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 I mean, it brings them at least the white family celebrity, right?
 
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 I think in terms of, you know, for Costin, for instance, if people knew he was related to the Custises in his lifetime, nobody recorded it in a way I never found.
 
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 But soon after, there's a record in writing.
 
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 But for the white family members,
 
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 You know, they can't necessarily get political power directly from this because, A, three out of four of them are women.
 
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 So they can't get elected political power.
 
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 I would argue they get other kinds of political power and influence.
 
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 They know the presidents.
 
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 They know the people in power.
 
 18:10.296 --> 18:16.962
 They can sort of represent their positions as the Washington legacy and be taken seriously in that sense.
 
 18:17.663 --> 18:21.645
 Wash Custis is the only one who, as a male, could have run for office or vote.
 
 18:22.045 --> 18:25.906
 But he's living in Washington, D.C., which means he can't do either of those things.
 
 18:26.607 --> 18:27.567
 He cannot vote for president.
 
 18:27.627 --> 18:30.888
 It's national news when he votes for president for the first time in 1848.
 
 18:32.089 --> 18:36.190
 Because Arlington County has been retroceded from D.C.
 
 18:36.290 --> 18:37.031
 into Virginia.
 
 18:37.531 --> 18:38.951
 So he can now vote for president.
 
 18:39.812 --> 18:41.572
 Residents of Washington, D.C.
 
 18:41.592 --> 18:43.373
 couldn't vote for president until the 20th century.
 
 18:43.977 --> 18:46.201
 So, yeah, it becomes national news.
 
 18:46.521 --> 18:49.425
 He's a big Zachary Taylor fan, as is Nellie.
 
 18:49.586 --> 18:55.214
 They think Zachary Taylor is the second coming of George Washington because he's a military hero, basically.
 
 18:55.615 --> 18:57.838
 Some of them thought Andrew Jackson was the second coming.
 
 18:58.482 --> 19:06.224
 Yes, they also loved Andrew Jackson, which the fact that these people are formerly high Federalists doesn't really make sense.
 
 19:07.144 --> 19:17.947
 But in the sense that Jackson is a military hero and one of Jackson's sort of Ward's adopted children marries Nellie's daughter.
 
 19:18.287 --> 19:20.368
 And so they have that family connection too.
 
 19:20.508 --> 19:21.128
 Right, right.
 
 19:21.863 --> 19:31.006
 And then Patty Custis Peter has a daughter born in 1815 with a great name of Bertagno Wellington Peter.
 
 19:31.946 --> 19:32.386
 Yes.
 
 19:33.426 --> 19:37.747
 And I mean, this is telling because that Wellington is not, neither of those names are random.
 
 19:37.827 --> 19:39.848
 I mean, this is several months after Custis.
 
 19:40.492 --> 19:51.677
 The British, with Wellington's troops, have burned Washington, D.C., which Patty watched happen from the hill in Georgetown, comes down and meets the soldiers several days later.
 
 19:51.777 --> 19:53.357
 It's like, oh, they're such gentlemen.
 
 19:54.178 --> 19:56.579
 And then names her daughter Britannia Wellington.
 
 19:56.599 --> 20:00.160
 She had earlier had two daughters, one named Columbia and one named America.
 
 20:00.200 --> 20:01.141
 So she's right.
 
 20:01.501 --> 20:03.842
 These aren't just random names she's choosing.
 
 20:04.449 --> 20:04.629
 Right.
 
 20:04.669 --> 20:08.051
 Although, interestingly, with her son's name, she doesn't do this.
 
 20:08.552 --> 20:11.133
 She has typical boys' names for them.
 
 20:11.634 --> 20:15.536
 But for the daughters, yes, she has these unusual names.
 
 20:16.056 --> 20:23.441
 And she is definitely very pro-English, even when the English are burning Washington.
 
 20:23.721 --> 20:24.622
 Yeah.
 
 20:24.702 --> 20:27.384
 Because they see the French as also the enemy.
 
 20:28.504 --> 20:32.647
 And then Britannia lives until the 20th century, which is an amazing thing.
 
 20:33.072 --> 20:38.036
 Yeah, Britannia lives a really long time and she stays at Tudor Place during that time.
 
 20:38.076 --> 20:39.677
 That house actually stays in the family,
 
 20:40.487 --> 20:43.549
 until late in the 20th century before it becomes a museum.
 
 20:43.910 --> 20:53.376
 And so she has a lot of family stories and reminiscences that she and her grandchildren end up recording.
 
 20:53.717 --> 21:01.502
 And there's a published version of that by Grant Quatermas that came out soon enough before my book that I was able to cite it, fortunately.
 
 21:02.063 --> 21:08.888
 So she has a lot of good stories that she either heard from her mother or experienced herself with meeting these people.
 
 21:09.804 --> 21:10.324
 It's amazing.
 
 21:10.824 --> 21:18.046
 And George Washington leaves Mount Vernon to a Washington nephew, Bushrod Washington, Justice of the Supreme Court.
 
 21:18.066 --> 21:21.687
 And there does seem to be a schism between the Custises and the Washingtons.
 
 21:21.707 --> 21:30.590
 You might note that at the dedication of the Washington Monument, only Washington, people named Washington are invited, none of the Custises, even though they're the ones who had the closer connection.
 
 21:31.410 --> 21:31.710
 Right.
 
 21:31.830 --> 21:33.551
 Well, so there's a couple of things happening there.
 
 21:33.811 --> 21:37.752
 So during, when Bushrod inherits Mount Vernon,
 
 21:39.266 --> 21:42.128
 The Custis siblings basically have to leave their home.
 
 21:42.368 --> 21:48.992
 Wash and Nellie are still living in that house at the point that Martha dies in 1802 and Bushrod shows up.
 
 21:49.132 --> 21:51.754
 And they are apparently not very polite to him when he shows up.
 
 21:52.294 --> 21:58.699
 I will say though that after he actually moves in and he's living fairly close to Nellie, they do have a friendly relationship.
 
 21:58.739 --> 22:00.560
 They have dinner with each other sometimes.
 
 22:01.781 --> 22:05.203
 They do keep in touch with some of the Washington cousins.
 
 22:06.761 --> 22:14.084
 Now, the Washingtons, you'd think having that last name would also be famous and could be claiming Washington's legacy, but they choose not to.
 
 22:14.604 --> 22:18.125
 Bushrod does not seem, he seems to want to be known on his own terms.
 
 22:19.165 --> 22:22.907
 And in his obituary, it doesn't even mention that he was related to George Washington.
 
 22:23.907 --> 22:27.888
 So that's partially a choice by the Washingtons.
 
 22:28.829 --> 22:31.409
 By the time we get to the dedication of the Washington Monument in the 1880s,
 
 22:33.539 --> 22:40.429
 I don't think that's necessarily about a schism between the Washingtons and Custises as much as it is about the public has forgotten who the Custises are.
 
 22:41.731 --> 22:47.540
 And the obvious thing if you're finding Washington's family members is to look for people with the same last name.
 
 22:49.269 --> 22:55.753
 I think the reason for that forgetting has a lot to do with the Civil War.
 
 22:56.633 --> 23:01.916
 That is because Wash's only white daughter marries Robert E. Lee.
 
 23:02.217 --> 23:11.282
 Robert E. Lee makes the decision, which other Southern West Point officers did not make, to side with the Confederacy.
 
 23:13.530 --> 23:21.057
 To the extent that the North is controlling memory of the Civil War, that is a treasonous act that severs.
 
 23:21.117 --> 23:24.621
 He had been tied to George Washington through his marriage to the Custises.
 
 23:25.321 --> 23:31.647
 That sort of severs the Custises from Washington's legacy, at least for people in the North.
 
 23:31.767 --> 23:34.450
 And that memory seems to sort of predominate.
 
 23:35.720 --> 23:39.947
 And so I think that's part of how the family sort of falls out of favor.
 
 23:40.428 --> 23:47.780
 Also, you know, the four siblings had all died by then and their children do not seem as interested in carrying this on.
 
 23:47.800 --> 23:49.022
 They don't have...
 
 23:50.501 --> 23:52.442
 as much of the objects necessarily.
 
 23:53.722 --> 23:58.463
 Some of that stuff has been, some of it was taken from Arlington House by the government.
 
 23:58.823 --> 24:00.324
 Some of it was sold to the Smithsonian.
 
 24:00.344 --> 24:03.064
 At Tudor Place, they still had this stuff.
 
 24:03.204 --> 24:08.966
 Britannia is probably the only one who's still sort of famous as a Washington relative at this point.
 
 24:09.386 --> 24:09.726
 Interesting.
 
 24:10.147 --> 24:26.683
 We're talking with Cassandra Good, historian, author of First Family, George Washington's Heirs and the Making of America, which looks at these extraordinary grandchildren of Martha Washington, adopted children of George Washington and their legacy in the early Republican era.
 
 24:27.429 --> 24:47.970
 wash also when mount vernon then is taken over by bushrod washington they do try to buy up a lot of the washington memorabilia and then keep it and become curators and wash custis really does seem to become the public face of this the wanting to present george washington he's um
 
 24:49.093 --> 24:59.448
 really doing a lot to perpetuate a legacy, which it doesn't seem like the Washington legacy would need perpetuating, but having some person with a direct tie to Washington, it's very important in the early republic.
 
 25:00.379 --> 25:00.599
 Right.
 
 25:00.639 --> 25:07.065
 And this idea of these relics that are almost like sacred relics because George Washington has touched them.
 
 25:07.406 --> 25:08.667
 You didn't go to Mount Vernon for those.
 
 25:08.707 --> 25:11.489
 Mount Vernon is basically empty when Bushrod inherits it.
 
 25:11.970 --> 25:22.079
 Because by the terms of Martha's will, she had said all the contents of the house would be sold at auction and the proceeds would pay for some nephew's education.
 
 25:22.668 --> 25:24.949
 And Wash buys the most stuff.
 
 25:26.350 --> 25:28.631
 Partially, they're buying stuff to furnish their new homes.
 
 25:29.151 --> 25:31.212
 But he's clearly buying more than he needs.
 
 25:31.292 --> 25:32.753
 And he doesn't even have a house yet.
 
 25:32.793 --> 25:36.934
 He has basically a cabin at this point that this stuff is crammed into.
 
 25:37.875 --> 25:41.677
 And he's not going to have a finished house to display it in until 1818.
 
 25:42.997 --> 25:46.899
 But that is Arlington House, once it's done, is where people are coming to see it.
 
 25:47.642 --> 25:53.008
 the actual Washington relics to hear stories from his so-called adopted son.
 
 25:53.409 --> 26:01.838
 Everybody knows this is not his biological son, but they see him as the person that was so close, like probably the closest contact to George Washington.
 
 26:03.410 --> 26:10.076
 And then you also note some of the connections with, you know, Billy Lee, who you say is the most famous enslaved person of the Revolution.
 
 26:10.116 --> 26:15.901
 He was Washington's valet manservant, and he's in a lot of the paintings of the time.
 
 26:15.941 --> 26:21.686
 And then two of his nephews, one of them runs off with the British in 1814 when they're coming up the Potomac.
 
 26:21.726 --> 26:25.610
 And the other one, Philip, is there when Lafayette returns for a visit.
 
 26:25.650 --> 26:29.113
 Lafayette spends time with each of these Custis' grandchildren in 1824 and 1825.
 
 26:31.360 --> 26:40.030
 Yeah, Lafayette's visit becomes a chance for them to sort of raise their star power again through association, because there's so much media coverage of that visit.
 
 26:40.441 --> 26:48.003
 And yeah, when Lafayette sees Philip Lee, he recognizes him, even though he's never met him, because he looks like his uncle, William or Billy Lee.
 
 26:48.503 --> 26:55.525
 And Philip is serving as sort of, it sounds like a butler at Arlington House.
 
 26:55.725 --> 27:02.507
 His mother, brother and sister had been separated from him and gone to Woodlawn.
 
 27:03.528 --> 27:06.772
 when that separation happened in 1802 of all the enslaved people.
 
 27:07.052 --> 27:14.240
 And then, yes, you're right, his brother Michael managed to make it to a British ship in 1814 and get to Nova Scotia.
 
 27:14.921 --> 27:19.166
 Philip probably gets emancipated at some point, but we're not sure.
 
 27:19.186 --> 27:20.007
 There's letters
 
 27:21.371 --> 27:48.763
 suggesting that you know discussing from molly wash's wife to wash when are you going to free him you said you would free him and so that may happen philip is also the one who whenever george washington sends oh whenever wash sends george washington's camp tent this famous revolutionary camp tent uh for display somewhere philip is the one who takes it and gets it set up
 
 27:49.684 --> 27:50.705
 And knows how to do that.
 
 27:51.106 --> 27:54.130
 So Philip shows up in the news at various points because of that.
 
 27:54.791 --> 27:55.773
 Yeah, he was watching.
 
 27:55.813 --> 27:56.013
 Yeah.
 
 27:56.594 --> 28:00.420
 And that tent is now in the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
 
 28:00.480 --> 28:02.303
 It's their kind of central artifact.
 
 28:03.146 --> 28:03.906
 Right, a part of it.
 
 28:03.946 --> 28:05.427
 There's actually multiple tents.
 
 28:06.068 --> 28:10.150
 And so the Smithsonian has other parts of it, and Yorktown has another part.
 
 28:10.410 --> 28:13.372
 But the best place to see it, yeah, is in Philadelphia.
 
 28:13.592 --> 28:17.514
 Yeah, and then you have it, well, they set it up in Yorktown for Lafayette to visit.
 
 28:17.614 --> 28:19.815
 They have a collation inside it.
 
 28:20.555 --> 28:23.557
 And there's so much great stuff in the book.
 
 28:23.577 --> 28:30.981
 We're talking with Cassandra Good, author of First Family, about George Washington's descendants and what they do in the early Republican
 
 28:31.380 --> 28:38.968
 Now, in 1857, when Walsh dies, he does free his enslaved people.
 
 28:39.128 --> 28:43.633
 But then his executor is Robert E. Lee, who kind of drags his feet on doing anything about this.
 
 28:44.574 --> 28:53.884
 Yeah, the terms of the will are that Walsh's debts need to be paid off and the money needs to be distributed to his grandchildren before
 
 28:55.165 --> 28:59.726
 the enslaved people are freed and his finances are a mess.
 
 28:59.966 --> 29:09.589
 And so Lee, you know, partly is not that interested in emancipating people and partly wants to make sure his kids get all this money.
 
 29:09.609 --> 29:10.889
 He doesn't want his kids getting hurt.
 
 29:11.150 --> 29:13.050
 So he actually goes to court to try and delay this.
 
 29:13.910 --> 29:16.111
 And basically they're,
 
 29:17.250 --> 29:19.831
 They say, you know, the will said within five years.
 
 29:20.651 --> 29:24.532
 Interestingly, five years falls at the Emancipation Proclamation.
 
 29:25.313 --> 29:29.914
 So there's sort of some disagreement among scholars who've looked at this.
 
 29:29.994 --> 29:31.454
 What has actually freed them?
 
 29:31.514 --> 29:37.436
 I mean, Lee writes the orders to free these people a couple of days before the Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect.
 
 29:37.876 --> 29:42.598
 Who knows if they even got that before the Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect?
 
 29:43.218 --> 29:48.541
 The Emancipation Proclamation doesn't appear to be applied evenly in Arlington County either.
 
 29:49.022 --> 29:53.404
 But yes, that's messy and it makes the news, it makes Lee look really bad.
 
 29:54.165 --> 29:58.868
 The other thing Lee does, it's not just that he says, okay, I'm going to drag my feet on this.
 
 29:59.428 --> 30:02.490
 He wants to make as much money as possible off of these enslaved people.
 
 30:02.970 --> 30:19.174
 so he hires them out he separates every family but one on the estate and before those families had been kept together and even recorded with last names so there was an awareness of family groups lee doesn't care about that well when people try there's a couple of people that try to
 
 30:20.740 --> 30:26.407
 leave for freedom and are caught and Lee has them whipped and have brine poured on their back.
 
 30:27.208 --> 30:28.990
 This also makes the news.
 
 30:29.010 --> 30:36.819
 So, you know, he, he denies that he's doing anything wrong here, but this again is not making the Custis family look great in the North.
 
 30:37.320 --> 30:37.380
 No.
 
 30:38.666 --> 30:38.906
 Wow.
 
 30:39.447 --> 30:42.289
 And so the Civil War, great.
 
 30:42.369 --> 30:48.153
 I mean, you have these two big nation-splitting cataclysms in their lifetime, the War of 1812, Civil War.
 
 30:48.773 --> 30:55.358
 And in the War of 1812, you have Walsh going to visit, see Dolly Madison just before the British are invading Washington.
 
 30:55.398 --> 31:00.021
 All of them have things to say about the British burning of the capital city.
 
 31:00.562 --> 31:06.726
 But he goes there to tell her to make sure she gets the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington out of the
 
 31:07.614 --> 31:10.715
 Yeah, supposedly this is what happens here.
 
 31:10.776 --> 31:17.859
 And it's interesting because Montpelier has an article on their website about all the different versions of the story of who is really the one who saved this.
 
 31:18.759 --> 31:21.380
 I think it's quite likely that Wash did ride over there.
 
 31:21.400 --> 31:25.442
 It was not far for him to go in and say, yeah, make sure you save this portrait.
 
 31:27.429 --> 31:32.412
 He's not the one physically rolling it up, but it is interesting that he's part of... Yeah, you think if he really wanted to save it, he could have done that.
 
 31:33.153 --> 31:37.196
 Well, but it does make him part of this famous story, which he usually isn't.
 
 31:37.716 --> 31:40.037
 He's also manning a cannon at Bladensburg.
 
 31:41.819 --> 31:51.865
 None of these children, grandchildren, do have military service, which is the thing that brings George Washington, of course, to our attention.
 
 31:52.206 --> 31:56.068
 Jackie is kept out of the army, and then he tragically dies in Yorktown in 1781.
 
 31:57.730 --> 32:06.686
 of a fever, and then Walsh shows up at Bladensburg and wants to serve, but he has rheumatism, so he can't actually hold a musket or rifle.
 
 32:07.438 --> 32:19.947
 Well, he did technically have a commission that George Washington got for him in 1799 when the Quasi-War looked like it was going to break out.
 
 32:19.968 --> 32:22.489
 So he did a little bit of drilling.
 
 32:22.509 --> 32:25.592
 And, you know, he had a uniform.
 
 32:25.672 --> 32:27.173
 He was very excited about the uniform.
 
 32:27.673 --> 32:32.137
 He had a sword that George Washington gave him, which he later gave to Robert E. Lee.
 
 32:32.157 --> 32:32.217
 Wow.
 
 32:32.657 --> 32:40.747
 But he never actually, the only action he sees, right, is at Bladensburg where he goes, but he's not actually officially enlisted.
 
 32:42.312 --> 32:43.413
 It's a fascinating story.
 
 32:43.433 --> 32:52.439
 We're talking with Cassandra Good, historian, writer, author of First Family about the Washington descendants and their lives in the early Republican.
 
 32:52.979 --> 32:54.840
 A lot of terrific stories in this.
 
 32:55.000 --> 32:56.762
 We've given you a chance to tell a lot of them.
 
 32:56.822 --> 33:00.964
 Any others we should tease people with or to get them?
 
 33:01.445 --> 33:06.068
 And we don't want to give everything away that's in the book because it's such a great book filled with great stories.
 
 33:07.262 --> 33:14.425
 I think that there's some good stories about George Washington's courtship advice to his granddaughters that humanize him.
 
 33:14.525 --> 33:24.770
 And, you know, people can read that in the book and even see a picture of one of those letters because he actually gives individualized courtship advice to his granddaughters.
 
 33:24.810 --> 33:27.051
 He recognizes there's particular traits.
 
 33:27.111 --> 33:29.772
 And Nellie is the one who's saying she's determined to be a spinster.
 
 33:30.413 --> 33:31.153
 is what she says.
 
 33:31.414 --> 33:32.675
 And he's like, not so fast.
 
 33:32.715 --> 33:34.276
 You can't control whether you fall in love.
 
 33:34.296 --> 33:35.458
 That's right.
 
 33:35.478 --> 33:37.880
 And so that correspondence is really great.
 
 33:38.260 --> 33:38.421
 Yeah.
 
 33:38.861 --> 33:43.466
 And she marries a man who's a surprise to them that he is, Lawrence is the one she falls in love with.
 
 33:44.607 --> 33:45.087
 Yeah.
 
 33:45.428 --> 33:48.431
 And it's a little hard to understand because
 
 33:50.649 --> 33:53.613
 frankly, she could have, she had a lot of options.
 
 33:54.815 --> 34:01.804
 And I do think part of it with Lawrence came down to the fact that he was related to the family and that she'd be able to stay close to Mount Vernon.
 
 34:02.686 --> 34:02.766
 Um,
 
 34:04.045 --> 34:07.566
 The other thing that happens, she had been sort of turning him down repeatedly.
 
 34:08.106 --> 34:11.468
 And then he gets a commission in the army and she thinks he's going to leave.
 
 34:11.728 --> 34:13.768
 And that's the point at which she's like, oh, wait.
 
 34:14.529 --> 34:21.011
 So, you know, I think from what I can tell later, it's not necessarily a happy marriage.
 
 34:21.951 --> 34:23.672
 He is not the kind of person.
 
 34:23.852 --> 34:26.375
 She has not had the kind of education that she had.
 
 34:26.435 --> 34:27.777
 He's not an intellectual.
 
 34:27.877 --> 34:29.018
 She wants to live in the city.
 
 34:29.038 --> 34:29.759
 He doesn't.
 
 34:30.680 --> 34:35.306
 So and after he dies, there's never I never see a mention of him again in her papers.
 
 34:35.787 --> 34:36.447
 Wow.
 
 34:36.668 --> 34:38.550
 How much longer does she live after he passes?
 
 34:39.431 --> 34:41.413
 She lives more than a decade afterwards.
 
 34:41.473 --> 34:41.574
 Wow.
 
 34:42.352 --> 34:49.297
 And you have an interesting story when Lafayette visits, that she strikes and renews her relationship, her friendship with George Washington Lafayette.
 
 34:49.797 --> 35:05.688
 Lafayette is another of these adopted sons of Washington, and George Washington Lafayette had lived in Mount Vernon in the 1790s and then comes back in the 1820s, and she's writing these letters to and about him, saying, no one's ever looked at me with those eyes except my grandmother.
 
 35:05.708 --> 35:06.869
 We're thinking back on...
 
 35:08.392 --> 35:12.076
 Yeah, I mean, these letters, they are long and they're emotional.
 
 35:12.416 --> 35:16.200
 And there are times where she says, don't worry, nobody else is seeing this letter.
 
 35:16.220 --> 35:19.643
 I mean, I wrote a whole book on friendships between men and women.
 
 35:19.663 --> 35:25.368
 And so, you know, I'm not going to jump to say that there's a physical relationship here.
 
 35:25.508 --> 35:30.373
 But I do think she, at the very least, had a crush on him at this stage.
 
 35:30.633 --> 35:30.793
 Yeah.
 
 35:32.054 --> 35:39.538
 You know, she's in an unhappy marriage and here's this guy who apparently is treating her differently.
 
 35:39.958 --> 35:41.599
 And, you know, he's married.
 
 35:41.639 --> 35:42.619
 He's going back to France.
 
 35:42.860 --> 35:44.641
 There's nothing that's going to come of this.
 
 35:44.801 --> 35:48.743
 But she keeps up these long letters to him for a few years.
 
 35:48.903 --> 35:49.203
 Wow.
 
 35:49.343 --> 35:53.085
 And they're both middle-aged people at this time with families and all sorts of things.
 
 35:53.527 --> 35:56.128
 I mean, that doesn't mean that nothing happened.
 
 35:56.188 --> 35:57.709
 It's still possible, but.
 
 35:58.409 --> 36:08.373
 Well, again, in your book on founding friendships, you talk a lot about these relationships that people have that I think we jump to a lot of conclusions today from this.
 
 36:09.867 --> 36:18.150
 I should also mention that Cassandra Goode also has produced the great course on America's founding women, which is well worth watching.
 
 36:19.611 --> 36:30.434
 So tremendous way of looking at this period and finding out things about people we thought we knew, these human relationships between and among these various individuals in this period.
 
 36:31.895 --> 36:33.916
 So anything else we should talk?
 
 36:33.956 --> 36:37.117
 I mean, we could go on all day, but I know you have a life to get to.
 
 36:38.868 --> 36:40.709
 Yeah, no, I really appreciated the conversation.
 
 36:40.849 --> 36:50.877
 And I hope people will think more about historical figures in the context of their families and not just in isolation.
 
 36:50.897 --> 36:51.817
 That's true.
 
 36:51.857 --> 36:53.158
 That's where we all live.
 
 36:53.178 --> 37:02.545
 So I want to thank Cassandra Good for joining us, author of First Family, as well as Founding Friendships and the Great Courses series, America's Founding Women.
 
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 And I want to thank Jonathan Lane, who is our producer, and our many friends and listeners around the world.
 
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 You know, we thought we'd have a handful of folks around Massachusetts listening in, but we have listeners in Brisbane, Australia, and both Plymouth in Montserrat, and Plymouth in Massachusetts, and then Sudbury, Massachusetts, Nuremberg, Delhi, India, and Escanaba, Michigan, and places between and beyond.
 
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 If you're one of these places, send Jonathan Lane an email, jlane at revolution250.org.
 
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 We'll send you one of our Revolution 250 tchotchkes.
 
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 And I want to thank Cassandra again, Professor Good, I should say.
 
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 And now we will be piped out on the road to Boston.