Martha Washington to Frances “Fanny” Bassett, 29 Sept. 1794

After the death of her husband George Augustine Washington, a nephew of George Washington, in 1793, Fanny Bassett subsequently married George Washington’s secretary and close friend Tobias Lear. Before she accepted Lear’s proposal, Fanny sought the advice of George and Martha Washington. Although Fanny’s letter of 24 Sept. 1794 has not been found, Martha’s answer written five days later echoes the sentiments expressed by her husband in his letter to Burwell Bassett in 1785.  This letter is part of a series; more information can be found on the “Washington’s Advice on Love and Marriage” page. Please also see related documents below.

My dear Fanny, I wish I could give you unerring advise in regard to the request contained in your last letter; I really dont know what to say to you on the subject; you must be governed by your own judgement, and I trust providence will derect you for the best; it is a matter more interesting to yourself than any other[.] The person contemplated is a worthy man, esteemed by every one that is aquainted with him; he has, it is concieved, fair prospects before him;–is, I belive, very industri[ous] and will, I have not a doubt, make sumthing handsome for himself.–as to the President, he never has, nor never will, as you have often heard him say, inter meddle in matrimonial concerns. he joins with me however in wishing you every happyness this world can give.–you have had a long acquaintance with Mr Lear, and must know him as well as I do.–he always appeared very attentive to his wife and child, as farr as ever I have seen; he is I believe, a man of strict honor and probity; and one with whom you would have as good a prospect of happyness as with any one I know; but beg you will not let anything I say influence you either way. The President has a very high opinion of and friendship for Mr. Lear; and has not the least objection to your forming the connection but, no more than myself, would wish to influence your judgement, either way–yours and the childrens good being among the first wishes of my heart.

Fanny’s marriage to Lear was short-lived, for Fanny died in March 1796, probably from tuberculosis, the same disease which had claimed her first husband three years earlier. This letter is printed in “Worthy Partner”: The Papers of Martha Washington, edited by Joseph E. Fields, Westport, CT, 1994: 276-77.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *