James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Perez Morton, 30 December 1805 (Abstract)

From Perez Morton, 30 December 1805 (Abstract)

§ From Perez Morton.1 30 December 1805, Boston. “I have taken the Liberty to introduce to your acquaintance & Civility, my friend Jas. Temple Bowdoin Esqr:2 the Nephew & adopted heir of our Ambassador to Spain. The high respectability of his Connections are well known to you, & you will find him on acquaintance not less deserving in his personal Qualifications; he sustains the highest Character as a Man of honor & Principle, is interesting in conversation, & completely the Gentleman in his manners & deportment. Mrs. Morton desires her best regards may be presented to Mrs. Madison.”

RC (PHi: Dreer Collection, American Lawyers). 1 p.; cover marked “honored by Jas T Bowdoin Eqr.”

1Republican lawyer Perez Morton (1750–1837) was a member of the Boston Committee of Correspondence and held various other public positions during the Revolution. In the late 1700s he invested in real estate and was a founder of the Union Bank. From 1794 to 1796 and again from 1800 to 1811 he was a member of the general court, and in 1806, 1807, 1810, and 1811 he was elected speaker; he resigned when he was named state attorney general in 1811, a post he held until 1832. Sarah Apthorp Morton (1759–1846) was a renowned beauty who was painted three times by Gilbert Stuart, and a prolific poet known as “the American Sappho.” Connected socially with many of the most prominent Bostonians, the Mortons were the center of a notorious scandal in 1788, when Mrs. Morton’s younger sister, Frances Apthorp, who was living with them, gave birth to a daughter supposedly fathered by Perez Morton. Morton denied this; James Apthorp, the father of the two sisters, demanded a family council so the truth could be ascertained, and Frances Apthorp, distraught, committed suicide at the age of twenty-two. A coroner’s inquest produced a verdict of deliberate suicide and implicated Morton, but John Adams and James Bowdoin made a public declaration that they had investigated the matter and the accusations were not supported. The incident was discussed at length in contemporary newspapers and fiction (Emily Pendleton and Milton Ellis, Philenia: The Life and Works of Sarah Wentworth Morton, 1759–1846, University of Maine Studies, 2d ser., vol. 34, no. 20 [Orono, Maine, 1931], 19, 21, 22, 24–26, 29, 32–35, 41–50, 52, 53–59, 60, 77, 80, 82, 86, 92–95, 102).

2James Temple Bowdoin (ca. 1776–1842) was the second son of James Bowdoin’s sister Elizabeth and her husband Sir John Temple. Born James Bowdoin Temple, he was a British army officer when he legally changed his name in June 1805 in order to become his childless uncle’s heir. He moved from England to the United States in 1808 but by 1810 had returned to England where he died (Conrad Edick Wright, Revolutionary Generation: Harvard Men and the Consequences of independence [Amherst, Mass., 2005], 184–86; Looney et al., Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series, description begins J. Jefferson Looney et al., eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Retirement Series (6 vols. to date; Prince ton, N.J., 2004–). description ends 7:67 n.; Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle 80, pt. 2 [1810]: 590; Rhode Island Newport Mercury, 26 Nov. 1842).

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