Memoirs of an American Lady*

Anne Mc Vickar Grant's Memoirs of an American Lady recalled a portion of her childhood days during the 1760s when she was the guest and protege of Madame Margarita Schuyler - the "friend" she introduced to her readers as the "American Lady."

Her memoir first took the form of a letter sent in 1808 to Sir William Grant. It stated: "The Principal object of this work is to record the few incidents, and the many virtues, which diversified and distinguished the life of a most valued friend." She was referring to Madame Schuyler - her host and mentor from the 1760s!

Anne Grant was one of a number of visitors whose memories and perspectives constitute an important part of the community's historical record.

Although Anne Grant's reminiscent reporting contains many errors of fact, it is nonetheless fascinating reading and has been used extensively by historians and antiquarians for almost two hundred years. With the special effort of intern Juandrea Bates during the summer of 2004, we now present the first thirty chapters of Anne Grant's published memoir on this website. The final six chapters, including substantial material on Dominie Theodorus Frelinghuysen, Jr. await inclusion on this website.

Chapters 21-30


[264] ChapterXXXI: "Hospitality - Achievements by the Negroes."

The hospitalities of this family were so far

[271] ChapterXXXII: "Resources of Madame - Provincial Customs"

It may appear extraordinary, with so moderate an income, as could in those days be derived even from a considerable estate in that country, how Madame found means to support that liberal hospitality, which they constantly exercised.

[278] ChapterXXXI: "Followers of the Army - Resulting Inconveniences"

To return to the legion of commissaries, etc. These em-ployments were at first given to very inferior people;

[285] ChapterXXXIV: "Arrival of a New Regiment - Domine Frielinghuysen"

A Regiment came to town about this time, the superiour officers of which were younger, more gay, and less amenable to good counsel than those who used to command the troops, which had formerly been placed on this station. They paid their visits at the Flats, and were received; but not as usual, cordially; neither their manners nor morals being calculated for that meridian. Part of the Royal Americans, or independent companies, had at this time possession of the fort; some of these had families: and they were in general persons of decent morals, and a moderate and judicious way of thinking, who, though they did not court the society of the natives, expressed no contempt for their manners or opinions. The regiment I speak of, on the contrary turned those plain burghers into the highest ridicule, yet used every artifice to get acquainted with them.


[p.288] In this state of matters, one guardian genius watched over the community with unremitting vigilance. From the original settlement of the place there had been a succession of good quiet clergymen, who came from Holland to take the command of this expatriated colony. These good men found an easy charge, among a people whith whom the external duties of religion were settled habits, which no one thought of dispensing with; and where the primative state of manners, and the constant occupation of the mind in planting and defending a territory where everything was, as it were, to be new created, was a preservation to the morals. Religion being never branded with the reproach of imputed hypocricy, or darkened by the frown of austere [289] bigotry, was venerated even by those who were content to glide thoughtless down the stream of time, without seriously considering whither it was conveying them till sorrow or sickness reminded them of the great purpose for which they were indulged with te privilege of existence.

The domines, as these people called their ministers, contented themselves with preaching in a sober and moderate strain to the people; and, living quietly in the retirement of their families, were little heard of but in the pulpit; and they consider a studious privacy as one of their chief duties. Domine Frielinghuysen, however, was not contented with this quietude, which he seemed to consider as tending to languish into indifference. Ardent in his disposition, eloquent in his preaching, animated and zealous in his conversation, and frank   [290]   and popular in his manners, he thought it his duty to awaken in every breast that slumbering spirit of devotion, which he considered as lulled by security, or drooping in the meridian of prosperity, like tender plants in the blaze of sunshine. These he endeavored to refresh by daily exhortation, as well as by the exercise of his public duties. Though rigid in some of his notions, hi slife was spotless, and his concern for his people warm and affectionate; his endeavors to amend and inspire them with happier desires and aims, were considered as the labor of love,

*Theodorus Frielinghuysen was the eldest son of Rev. Jacobus Theodorus Frielinghuysen, a native of West Friesland, who came over in 1720 and settled in New Jersey. His five sons became pastors of churches, and his two daughters married pastors. Domine Feielinghuysen came to Albany in 1746; he published a catechism in the Dutch tongue, the second edition of which was issued by Weyman in New York in 1748. His lot was cast in the midst of a violent controversy among the clergy on the subject of ordination, the older clergy insisting upon the rite being performed in Holland. A bitter dispute was carried on fifteen years, disturbing the peace of neighborhoods, dividing families, and rending the churches into factions. Houses of worship were locked up, ministers were assaulted in the discharge of their functions, and Sunday profaned by scenes of violence and mobs. The party which opposed separation were called conderentie, the other coetus. The dispute was not settled till 1772. Of course the domine was an actor in the scene.

[293] ChapterXXXV: "Plays Acted - Displeasure of the Domine"

Now the very ultimatum of degeneracy, in the opinion of these simple good people was approaching; for now the officers encouraged by the success of all their former projects for amusement, resolved to new fashion and enlighten those amiable novices whom their former schemes had attracted . . .

[300] ChapterXXXVI: "Domine Frielinghuysen Leaves His People"

Madame now returned to town with the colonel; and finding this general disorder and division of sentiments with regard to the pastor, as well as to the adoption of new modes, endeavored, with her usual good sense, to moderate and heal. She was always of opinion that the increase of wealth should be accompanied with a proportionate progress in refinement and intelligence; but she had a particular dislike to people's forsaking a respectable plainness of dress and manners for mere imperfect imitation, and inelegant finery. She knew too well the progress of society to expect, that, as it grew wealthy and numberous, it would retain its pristine purity; but then she preferred


. . . At length he took the resolution of leaving those people so dear to him, to visit his friends in Holland, promising to return in a short time, whenever his health was restored, and his spirits more composed. A Dutch ship happened about this time to touch at New York, on board of which the domine embarked; but as the vessel belonging to Holland was not expected to return


[307]  tresspass on decorum. Her own proteges were instances of this; who, having their minds early stored with sentiments, such as would enable them truly to estimate their own value, and to judge of the characters and pretensions of those who conversed with them; all conducted themselves with the utmost propriety. though daily mixing with strangers, and were solicited in marriage by the first people in the province, who thought themselves happy to select companions from such a school of intelligence and politeness, where they found beauty of the first order, informed by mind, and graced by the most pleasing manners.


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From Memoirs of an American Lady: with Sketches of Manners and Scenery in America, as they existed previous to the Revolution written by Anne Grant. First published by Strahan and Preston, Printers-Street, London, in 1808. Republished by London Research Reprints Inc. in New York in 1970.

Two volumes, consecutive pagination; edition pages for each chapter shown in [brackets]. The original punctuation is variable and has been retained!


Transformed by DB

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