“Much more promising than many of the Virginia gentlemen.”

February 7th, 2013

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching thoughts are turning to love, courtship, and those cute candy hearts with the phrases on them. But love can also be serious business – especially if you are trying to marry the niece of the President.

That was the situation that Andrew Parks found himself in while he was wooing Harriot Washington, niece of then President George Washington, in 1796. With no biological children of his own, Washington was known to be a doting uncle. Because of this, and because of the prominence of his family, Washington was hesitant about Parks and wanted to learn more about the young man’s character before supporting the relationship.

This could be a difficult task for some, but being the President has its privileges. Washington had Secretary of War James McHenry investigate the young man’s past. McHenry contacted the Baltimore merchant Thomas McElderry who had taken Parks on as a business partner. In his response to McHenry’s inquiry McElderry assured him that Parks was a man of upstanding character. He also spoke of his skills as a businessman, having started his own “business for himself before he was nineteen years of age.” Because of this McElderry assured “with much propriety and reputation, [I] believe he will make a good husband, much more promising than many of the Virginia gentlemen.”

Harriot Washington and Andrew Parks were married on July 4, 1796.

Interested in reading McElderry’s response? View the original document here: http://wardepartmentpapers.org/document.php?id=17205.