Letters of Introduction

"...god grant that the Husband and father may soon be restored to those domestic comforts he so much wishes to enjoy, and share with you the care and labour of educating your dear Children..."

  Letter from Sarah Hallowell Vaughan to Sarah Manning Vaughan, 22 August 1795


Portrait of Sarah Manning Vaughan



It is hard to imagine just how distraught Sarah Manning Vaughan must have been at her husband's disappearance, left with seven children, the youngest of whom were infants and the eldest frequently ill. Letters in the APS collection show how the Vaughan and Manning families and their closest friends, such as the Marquess of Lansdowne, rallied to her support. Upon hearing of her husband's disappearance, Lansdowne wrote to Sarah: 

...you may rest perfectly assured, that I shall always consider your family like my own, and that it would give the most heart-felt satisfaction, if I knew how to alleviate your distress of mind. It requires all your firmness, and you must be sensible of the good you are doing your family, whose future welfare depend upon your health and resolution...

The Juvenile Magazine; or, an Instructive and Entertaining Miscellany for Youth of Both Sexes.

Detail from map of 1788 in Juvenile Magazine shows the trip Sarah and her family took to New York and on to Boston in 1795. To the South was Charleston, where the Manning family had close acquaintances, and, even further south, lay the West Indies, where Benjamin's brother Samuel, Jr., continued to maintain the family's sugar plantations.

When Benjamin finally made contact with Sarah in 1795, they agreed that she should travel on to America with the children and await his arrival there. On August 7, 1795, she set sail for New York with all seven children, four maids, her sister-in-law Sarah (or Sally), and the tutor of her eldest children, a Dissenting minister by the name of John Merrick. 

In a letter from Sir Samuel Romilly (1757-1818), legal reformer and family friend, dated 31 December 1795, we get an inkling of what this voyage must have been like:

You speak of having encountered a tremendous storm, of having had loaded guns fired at your ship and of arriving at a town where the yellow fever prevailed with a degree of calmness and philosophy which I cannot flatter myself that I should be master of under similar circumstances.

Initially, the plan included some of the party going to Charleston, where Sarah's family had contacts and where the warmer weather might improve the eldest daughter Harriet's health. Remarkably, however, the sea air during the voyage actually did seem to improve Harriet's prospects, so they all went straight to Little Cambridge (now the Boston suburb of Brighton) to stay with Benjamin's brother Charles and his wife, Frances Apthorp Vaughan. 

Letter from Sarah Hallowell Vaughan to Martha Washington

Letter of July, 1795, from Sarah Hallowell Vaughan to Martha Washington.

The Vaughans were certainly not without friends, who were willing to assist them in their transition to life in America. James Monroe, who succeeded Thomas Jefferson as plenipotentiary to France, indicated in a letter to James Madison in January, 1797, his willingness to intercede on Benjamin Vaughan's behalf so he could be reunited with his family.