Marriage and the American Nation

American Revolution Primary Source Readings


Newspaper desertion notices and responses:

  • John & Eunice Davis, New Hampshire Gazette, August 29, 1760; July 30, August 6, 1762.

New Hampshire Gazette August 29, 1760, page 1, margin
WHEREAS Eustace my Wife, threatens to leave me, which I apprehend is by the Advice of some evil minded People: This is to forbid any Person harbouring or trusting her on my Account, for I will not pay any Debts she may contract from this Day. John Davis. Portsmouth, Aug. 29, 1760

New Hampshire Gazette July 30, 1762, page 3, column 2

[Transcription] WHERAS Eunice Davis, Wife of me John Davis of Portsmouth, Taylor, has absented herself from me, without just Cause, and refuses to live with me, tho’ often requested, and has left three small Children in a very unnatural Manner:
THIS is therefore to forbid any Person entertaining or harbouring her on my Account, or giving her Credit for Money or any Thing whatsoever. And yet notwithstanding this Conduct, I promise, in Case she will soon return to her Duty, and the Care of her Children, as a Mother ought to do, she shall be kindly received, provided her future conduct is agreeable to Reason.
John + Davis

New Hampshire Gazette August 6, 1762, page 3, column 3

[Transcription] To Mr. John Davis, Taylor:
WHEREAS You have been pleased in your great Wisdom, to represent me in the public Prints, as an absconding Wife, without any just cause for so doing, and still refuse to live with you, tho’ often requested: And as an additional Aggravation, to compleat my Character, you say, I have left three small Children in a very unnatural Manner:
This is therefore to give NOTICE, that your Charge is unjust as I can easily prove. I challenge you to produce one instance where I have misbehaved towards you. If I am your Wife, I am not your Slave, and little thought when I acknowledg’d you as my Husband, that you would pretend to assume an unreasonable POWER to tyrannize and insult over me; and that without any just Cause. What is become of your pretended Love and Affection? The Consequence of your Conduct, and the Childrens Misfortune, is a great Trouble that lays upon my Mind, as they ought not to suffer for the Iniquities of their Father. I always was, and still am willing to do my Duty, provided you put it in my Power, and behave as you ought to do. Tho’ for six Years past you have had the Power over me, you shall not any longer, if Justice can be obtain’d, unless something Extraordinary should happen in your conduct. My Proposals of Reconciliation you shall know at a proper Season. In the mean Time, the first Step you have to take, is to make an Acknowledgement, in a public Manner, and retrieve my Character, which you have unjustly aspersed.
Your Injur’d Wife, EUNICE DAVIS.

  • George Livingston, Virginia Gazette (Rind), April 6, 1769.

GLOUCESTER, April 6, 1769
WHEREAS my wife Sarah Livingston under pretence [sic] of visiting her father and mother, who live in Worcester county, Maryland, has eloped from me and taken her children with her, whom I am informed she intends to bind out as soon as she gets over the bay: This is therefore to forewarn all persons from receiving indentures of her for the said children, and from crediting her on my account from the date hereof. GEORGE LIVINGSTON.

  • Samuel Smith, Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), October 3, 1767 and December 13, 1770.

PITTSYLVANIA, Dec. 1, 1770.
THIS is to give notice that my wife, Anne Smith, has eloped from me, and will not be ruled by me. This is the second time she has left me and tried to ruin me, and I am determined it shall be the last. I therefore forwarn all persons from dealing with her on my account, as I will pay no debts that she may contract; for as we are parted in affections we will be parted in interest. Certified per me,

  • Anne Slaughter, Virginia Gazette (Rind), December 9, 1773.

I HEREBY desire all persons to take notice that the following slaves, viz. Phillip and James (men) Sarah, and her five children, William, Andrew, Kate, Jude, and Henny, Amy and her two children, Bob and an infant at the breast, now in possession of my husband, Mr. Thomas Slaughter, of the county of Culpeper, or late of the said county, are my property, by virtue of a bond entered into by Mr. Slaughter to my father, Mr. William Clifton, of Fairfax county, deceased, before our marriage, securing the property of the said Negroes, Sarah, Philip, Amy and James, and their encrease, to me, for my sole and separate use, benefit, and advantage; also that Jack, a Negro man, now in his possession, is my property, by virtue of a devise of trustees, for my benefit, contained in the last will and testament of my mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Clifton, deceased.

August 10, 1785
The Pennsylvania Gazette

Salem county, West New Jersey, August 4, 1785.
WHEREAS Sarah Huggins, the wife of the subscriber, hath left his house without any just cause, and taken a considerable quantity of his property; these are to forewarn any person trusting her on his account, as he is determined to pay no debts of her contracting.

August 10, 1785
The Pennsylvania Gazette

Salem county, West New Jersey, August 4, 1785.FORTY DOLLARS Reward.ABSCONDED from his bail and creditors, a certain JOHN EWENS, by trade a taylor, about 5 feet 6 or 7 inches high, somewhat round shouldered and full breasted, dark brown eyes and hair, very well dressed, a likely, smart, active fellow; his cloaths cannot be particularly described, as he took a quantity of cloth of different kinds with him, that he was intrusted with to make; he left a distressed wife and family of small children, and took with him the wife and female child, about 8 months old, of the subscriber; she has brown hair and eyes, sandy complexion, has lost some of her teeth before, has a hair mole on her face: Her sister went off with them --- black hair and eyes, dark complexion, smiling countenance. The above woman took from the subscriber a considerable quantity of public money, the sum as yet unknown. Whoever takes up and secures the said Ewens and Woman, so that they may be brought to justice, shall receive the above reward, and reasonable charges, paid by SAMUEL HUGGINS.

October 26, 1791
The Pennsylvania Gazette

SIX DOLLARS Reward.STOLEN last night out of the pasture of the subscriber, living in the township of Pilesgrove, county of Salem, and state of New Jersey, a brown HORSE, about 14 years old, between 14 and 15 hands high, a natural pacer, is low behind, both his hind feet white, has some white in his forehead, has two sores behind his ears, occasioned by the yoke, and his hoofs worn away by being foundered. Whoever secures the said horse and thief, so that the owner may get his horse again, and the thief brought to justice, shall receive the above reward, or FOUR DOLLARS for the Horse, and reasonable charges, paid by
October 9, 1791. << SAMUEL HUGGINS>> .
N.B. The thief is unknown, but supposed to be one James Robertson, a ditcher, an Irishman, appears to be upwards of 40 years of age.

August 20, 1794
The Pennsylvania Gazette

Ten Pounds Reward.RAN AWAY, on the 4th day of this month, a certain JOHN EWING, a taylor by trade, about 5 feet 8 or 9 inches high, 40 or 45 years of age, slender made, and dark complexion, hair and eyes; went off in a new riding waggon, painted yellow, and a span of dark grey horses, and took him my wife Sarah, who, through his persuasion, has eloped from my bed and board, and, without any just cause, has left me, with seven small children, and has left a good living to go with a villain to suffer. This is the second time he has taken away my wife; the first time, several years ago, they took a considerable sum of money from me, and on their pretended repentance and promise reformation, I forgave her, and have lived with, and used her well ever since; but, by the best information, proved by their present conduct, they have kept up a criminal correspondence ever since. How much of my money they have now got, I cannot tell, but as the plan has been pre-meditated, and she had every opportunity, I expect they have taken considerable. This is therefore to forewarn all mankind to be aware of said Ewing, as he has ruined several families before by the same conduct, and it is likely will turn her off, and ruin some other family. This is also t forewarn all persons against trusting the said Sarah on my account, as I am determined never to pay any debts of her contracting, not receive or support her again. Any person taking up the said John Ewing, and bringing him back to this county, and delivering him up, that he may be brought to justice for his savage conduct, shall receive the above reward, paid by SAMUEL HUGGANS.
Salem County, New Jersey. August 8, 1794.
N.B. It will much oblige the subscriber, if the Publishers of Newspapers on the continent will insert the above Advertisement for a few weeks.

October 1, 1794
The Pennsylvania Gazette

Notice is hereby Given,THAT I, SAMUEL HUGGINS, intend to make application to the Legislature of the state of New Jersey, on the second Tuesday of their next sitting, at Trenton, for an Act to divorce me from Sarah Huggins my wife. SAMUEL HUGGINS,
Salem County, West New Jersey.
22d Sept. 1794.


November 12, 1794
The Pennsylvania Gazette

Notice is hereby Given,THAT I, SAMUEL HUGGINS, intend to make application to the Legislature of the state of New Jersey, on the second Tuesday of their next sitting, at Trenton, for an Act to divorce me from Sarah Huggins my wife.
Salem County, West New Jersey,
22d Sept. 1794.


November 12, 1794
The Pennsylvania Gazette

House of Assembly, November 4, 1794.
A Petition from Samuel Huggins, praying for reasons therein contained, that an Act may be passed to divorce him from Sarah, his wife, was read,
Ordered, That the petitioner have leave to present a bill, to answer the prayer of his petition, on the fourth Tuesday in this month, previously advertising the substance of the bill he means to present, with a copy of this order, for two weeks in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
Extract from the minutes,


November 19, 1794
The Pennsylvania Gazette

Notice is hereby given,THAT I, SAMUEL HUGGINS, agreeable to an order of the Legislature of the state of New Jersey, mean to present a Bill to divorce me from SARAH, my wife, on the South Tuesday in November.
November 4, 1794.


October 25, 1797
The Pennsylvania Gazette

A valuable plantation for sale.
To be sold, at Private Sale,
ALL that valuable PLANTATION and tract of LAND, which is situate in the township of Pilesgrove, in the county of Salem, and western division of New Jersey, late the property of SAMUEL HUGGINS, deceased. Said plantation contains about three hundred and sixty acres of land, one hundred of which is woodland, of a superior quality, and about seventy or eighty acres excellent bottom meadow, the cleared lands or fields are excellent for farming, which are most conveniently laid out and well enclosed with good fence; there are on said tract two convenient dwelling-houses, one of them is a two story frame building, partly new, adjoining to which is a good barn and convenient out-houses, with a young orchard consisting of variety of fruit. The excellency of the soil and the eligible situation of this tract is equal to any in the county of Salem, being situated about one half mile from the thriving village of Woodstown, wherein is a regular and well frequented Friends meeting-house, and lies on the main post road leading from Salem to Cooper's ferry, and is about three quarters of a mile from one of the best grist-mills in the county of Salem, and about three miles from navigable water or public landing. Said plantation will be sold in one or two separate tracts, as may best suit the purchaser or purchasers, and possession of the whole (excepting fifty acres) may be given immediately. The above plantation will be sold agreeably to the last will and testament of the said Samuel Huggins, who has fully empowered his executors to sell and make a title for the same. For terms, and a view of the premises, apply to the subscribers, living in Woodstown, Salem county aforesaid.
October 25th, 1797.

Newspaper commentary:

  • "The GOOD WIFE. & The GOOD HUSBAND," Virginia Gazette (Purdie), January 21, 1773.

THE good Wife is one who, ever mindful of the solemn Contract which she has entered into, is strictly and conscientiously virtuous, constant, and faithful to her Husband; chaste, pure, and umblemished in every Thought, Word, and Deed. She is humble and modest from Reason and Conviction, submissive from Choice, and obedient from Inclination. What she acquires by Love and Tenderness she preserves by Prudence and Discretion; she maketh it her Business to serve, and her Pleasure to oblige, her Husband, being conscious that every Thing which promotes his Happiness must in the End contribute to her own. Her Tenderness relieves his Cares, her Affections softens his Distress; her good Humour and Complaisance lessen and subdue his Afflictions. “She opened her Mouth (as Solomon says) with Wisdom, and in Tongue is the Law of Kindness. She looked well the Ways of her House, and she eateth not the Bread of Idleness. Her Children rise up, and call her blessed; her Husband also, and he praiseth her.” Lastly as a good and pious Christian, she looketh up with an Eye of Gratitude to the great Dispenser and Disposer of all Things, to the Husband of the Widow, and Father of the Fatherless, entreating his divine Favour and Assistance in this and every other moral Duty, well satisfied that if she duly and punctually discharges her several Offices in this Life she shall be rewarded for it afterward.
The most generally important Qualification in a good Wife is Sweetness of Temper. Formed to obey a being imperfect as Man, she ought to learn betimes even to suffer Injustice, and bear it without Complaint. It is not for his Sake, but for her own, that she should be of a mild Disposition. The Perverseness and ill Nature of Women only serve to aggravate their own Misfortunes, and the Misconduct of their Husbands; they might plainly perceive that these are not the Arms by which they gain the Superiority. Heaven did not bestow on them the Powers of Insinuation and Persuasion to make them perverse and morose; it did not constitute them feeble to make them imperious; it did not give them so soft and agreeable a Voice to vent Abuse, nor Features so delicate and lovely to be disfigured with Anger. When they give Way therefore to Rage, they forget themselves; for, though they may have often Reason to complain, they are always in the wrong to scold. Each Sex should preserve its peculiar Tone and manner; a meek Husband may make a Wife impertinent; but Mildness of Disposition on the Woman’s Side will always bring a Man back to Reason at last, if he be not a Brute, and will sooner or later triumph over him.
THE good Husband is one who wedded not by Interest but by Choice, is constant as well from Inclination as from Principle. He treats his Wife with Delicacy as a Woman, with Tenderness as a Friend; he attributes her Folly to her Weakness, her Imprudence to her Inadvertancy, and he therefore passes them over with good Nature and pardons them with Indulgence. All his Care and Industry are employed for her Welfare, all his Strength and Power are exerted for her Support and Protection. He is the more anxious to preserve his own Character and Reputation, because hers is blended with it. Lastly, the good Husband is pious and religious, that he may animate her Faith by his Practice; and that, as the join to promote each other’s Happiness in this World, they may unite to ensure their Felicity in that which is to come.

  • Timothy Foresight, "Mr. Crier…," The Independent Chronicle, Boston, June 15, 1786.

*** From the Bristol Journal of March 18
I have been informed by a friend of mine, lately arrived from America, and on whose veracity I can safely rely, that the New-States have among other alterations and reformations of the church-service, ordered the formidable word obey to be struck out of the marriage ceremony, giving as a reason that in a free country there should be neither male or female slaves! I am not competent to decide upon the expediency of this measure with respect to that country, I am only apprehensive of what effect it may produce in our own, and want your opinion whether the British Legislature would not be wisely employed in adopting the above mentioned alteration, or in framing a bill to prevent the emigration of our fair country-women, which will certainly be the case if they are not put on equality with the damsels on the other side of the Atlantic.––––For my part (who am a batchelor and of course obliged to submit to double taxation) I confess myself seriously alarmed, for should the ladies take themselves off in a huff, I and my rusty brethren may go whistle for their bed fellows!–––– Can it be politic to suffer better terms to the ladies than our own? Every school boy who chops logic can tell us, that if we want women, we shall want wives we shall want children–––and in that case shall we not put Dr. Price to the trouble of giving us a new edition of his history of the decrease of population? For Heaven sake Mr. Crier, speak a word of comfort on this subject to
Your disconsolate humble servant,

  • "Essential rights and duties which belong to women," Weekly Museum, New York, March 16 1793.

As I am a real friend to the fair sex, as well as to good, strong, energetic family government, it has given me some concern to see the papers so generally silent about the RIGHTS OF WOMEN. Permit me, Mr. Printer, through the Museum, to state some few of the many essential rights and duties which belong to Women.

  1. WOMEN by entering upon the marriage state, renounce some of their natural rights, (as men do, when they enter into the civil society) to secure the remainder. In the one instance, men obey the laws of their own making, so should women, cheerfully submit to the government of their own chusing.
  2. While women are under the care of their parents it is their duty, and so should it be their wishes, to shew all filial respect to them—a desire for dress should not exceed their share of that income of the family which can be spared from the necessary domestic wants.
  3. When a woman arrives to an age suitable to make a choice of a companion for life, she has an undoubted right to choose a husband: But this election should be cautiously made, and not without consulting those under whose care she may be at the time.
  4. A single woman, who is the entire mistress of her own time, has a right of acquiring and possessing property–she also has an unquestionable right to invest the fruits of her earnings in gauzes, flounces, ribbons, and other baubles; But she would do wise to lay up savings, that she may exercise the right of bestowing them towards family support, when she alters her condition.
  5. A married woman has a right, in common with her husband, to instruct her children in piety religion and morality, and to instill in them the duties they owe to society, as well as what is due to the parent.
  6. As it is a right, so it is a duty of every woman to be neat and decent in her person and family.
  7. She has a right to promote frugality, industry and economy; but there is noting in matrimonial contract to warrant her in the waste of time and property.
  8. In family broils, the wife has a right to expostulate with temper: But when entreaty is unavailing, it is her duty to submit to the controul of that government which she has voluntarily chosen.
  9. The wife has a right to manage the female department of the family, as long as her prudence and good sense are adequate to the task; and when her talents are superior (which is frequently the case) to those of the husband, she has a right to make use of female persuasion to engross the sole government of the home department into her hands.
  10. As the men, living under a free constitution of their own framing, are entitled to the protection of the laws–so likewise has a woman a right to be protected by the man of her own choice.
  11. If rebellion, insurrection, or any other opposition to a just, mild, and free political government is odious, it is not less so to oppose good family administration.
  12. Good government in families creates domestic happiness, and tends to promote the prosperity of the state.

A friend to the rights and duties of Men and Women.


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