Saturday, March 21, 2015

1819: "If She Is Willing to Continue the Connection"

On February 28, 1819, Daniel wrote in his journal of his decision to return to Vermont. Faced with the choice made by so many men of his era, he could not follow through on his original intention:

"to place her into the hands of some good honest Man, with whom she can pass the remainder of her Days in this Country much more agreeably, than it would be possible for her to do, were she to be taken down into the civilized world, where she would be a stranger to the people, their manners, customs & Language."

It was her choice to make, and they would face the strangers together as man and wife.

"...I design to make her regularly my wife by a formal marriage...Having lived with this woman as my wife...and having children by her, I consider that I am under a moral obligation not to dissolve the connexion, if she is willing to continue it. The union which has been formed between us, in the providence of God, has not only been cemented by a long and mutual performance of kind offices, but also by a more sacred consideration...

"We have wept together over the departure of several children, and especially over the death of our beloved son George. We have children still living who are equally dear to both of us. How could I spend my days in the civilized world and leave my beloved children in the wilderness? How could I tear them from a mother's love and leave her to mourn over their absence to the day of her death? How could I think of her in such circumstances without anguish?"

Lisette and Daniel achieved Harmon's stated ideal of a relationship (1800), to "live in harmony together." Their partnership was lifelong, devoted, and based on mutual respect. Their relationship was a practice of cross-cultural exchange. Each gained entry into the other's milieu, as well as a dynastic union which satisfied both Harmon's deep need for family connection, and the custom (which he often observed among Indian women) of cheerfully choosing large families. Harmon wrote "I cannot conceive it right for a man and woman to cohabit when they do not agree," and clearly they did agree. Lisette was evidently "willing to continue the connexion," for his lifetime and for the remaining 29 years of hers.

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