Worthy Partner: The Papers of Martha Washington

By Joseph E. Fields; Martha Washington | Go to book overview
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Attention to him would be to me a lasting Source of Affliction; 3 and God knows, I need not voluntarily add to the List of Sorrows. My Life has been sufficiently embittered to make me now very little anxious about protracting or prerserving it. Death has robbed me of many Friends, and Time has abated the Ardor of others, so that life in my latter Years has been little more than a Sieve to let thro some Joy or some Blessing. Mr. Powel, who is highly sensible of your Friendship to us, desires to unite in every good Wish to you and yours.

That God may preserve and bless you both, and that you may safely return in a short Time, is the unfeigned Prayers of your

sincere affectionate
Eliza Powel

Mr Powel would have done himself the Pleasure of waiting upon you before your Departure, had he not apprehended that a Visit in the Moment of Preparation for a Journey would have been ill timed.

Monday August 9th, 1793
The President and Mrs Washington
(Docketed by G.W.)
Mrs. Eliza Powel
9th Sep (sic) 1793


Yellow fever struck Philadelphia early in July, 1793, apparently introduced by infected French refugees from San Domingo, fleeing to escape the slave revolution. Sickness and death gradually increased, and by mid-August it became clear a major epidemic was present. By the end of the month approximately one-third of the population had fled the city. The death toll was set at about 5000. The mass exodus from the city brought the federal government to a standstill. Colonel and Mrs. Alexander Hamilton were both stricken, but recovered. The Secretary of State ( Jefferson), Secretary of War ( Knox), and the Attorney- general ( Randolph) left the city. The President was one of the last to leave. For an account of the epidemic, see C. F. Jenkins Washington in Germantown, ( Philadelphia, 1904).
In order to escape the epidemic it was decided Mrs. Washington and the children should return to Mount Vernon. They suggested Mrs. Powel would be welcome to accompany them. However, Mrs. Washington was reluctant to leave the President alone in the midst of the epidemic. Neither did he wish to leave the city until about September 20th. However, he was reluctant to expose her and the children to the disease. He acquiesced and they left Philadelphia on September 10th and arrived at Mount Vernon on the 14th. The President remained at Mount Vernon until October 28th, when he set out for Germantown. Mrs. Washington joined the President at Baltimore and they arrived at Germantown on November 1st. Jenkins, Germantown, p. 99.
It was most fortunate Mrs. Powel forsook the trip to Virginia. She left the city to visit her brother, Richard Willing. Mr. Powel visited her there. On his return to Philadelphia he stopped at his farm, Powelton, was taken ill, and died of yellow-fever several days later, September 29th. Jenkins Germantown, p. 13.


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Worthy Partner: The Papers of Martha Washington
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