Friday, November 8, 2013

Edward Church -IV

Anna Church Strobel (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr.),
with son George, ca 1799
by John Vanderlyn, American, 1775-1852,
crayon on white paper, 8 3/16 by 6 1/4", Collections,
Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Anna Church Strobel (Mrs. Daniel Strobel, Jr.,
ca 1830, watercolor on ivory, 2 3/4 by 2",
by her daughter, Louis Catherine Strobel,
1803-1883, Collections,
Metropolitan Museum of Art.

   Edward Church remained as US Consul at Lisbon, Portugal until 1796 or 1797 since his successor was appointed on July 10,1797. He then moved to Paris and over the next eighteen years or so, divided his time between Paris, London and Liverpool. He continued in business as a merchant and sometime at the end of the eighteenth or, more likely, the beginning of the nineteenth century, he entered into partnership with Daniel Strobel, Jr, as the firm of Strobel and Church, in Liverpool, England.

Daniel Strobel, Jr. ca 1799, by John Vanderlyn,
Collections, Metropolitan Museum of Art
   Daniel Strobel, Jr. was the son of Daniel Strobel, who was born in 1735 in Prussia and emigrated to Charleston, S.C. in 1752 where he became a merchant and owned a tannery. Prospering as a prominent member of the German-American community in Charleston, he had twelve children, of which Daniel, Jr. was the oldest, born in 1758 in Charleston. Precisely when Daniel, Jr. met Edward Church or where or what the precise nature of their business relationship was, is unknown. We do know that Daniel, Jr. married Edward's daughter Anna (Ann) in Charleston. About 1800, Daniel, Jr., and Anna moved to France, in order to link up with  Edward Church and his family. Presumably, the firm of Strobel and Church prospered, at first, but the outbreak of  the Napoleonic Wars created hardships for trade and the firm had financial difficulties. Since Daniel Strobel, Jr., later became partners in the firm of Strobel and Martini in Bordeaux, France, one must assume that the firm of Strobel and Church was either completely taken over by Edward Church or dissolved. Strobel late became U.S. Consul at Bordeaux and died in New Haven, CT at the age of 72. Edward Church remained in the mercantile trade and, seems to have done rather well for himself.
    Little is known about Edward Church after 1800, until his son, Edward Church, Jr. wrote to Secretary of State James Monroe requesting appointment as US Consul to Ostend. Edward Church, Jr. was in the United States purchasing land in Kentucky and had traveled northward through Washington, D.C., where he met Secretary Monroe on his way to Philadelphia.
   Philadelphia, 30th August 1815
          ...I have lately received an additional excitement; my Father has had an attack of apoplexy and subsequently a paralytic stroke, which has deprived him of the use of one side, he is in London and expresses in a few words, which he wrote with the utmost difficulty, his extreme anxiety to see me before he goes hence....
   In a subsequent letter to Monroe, dated 29 July 1816, and written from Jessamine County, Kentucky, Edward Church Jr., informed him:

           ...By a letter received from Mr. Strobel, I am informed of the melancholy event of  my Father's death in London...I am now preparing to move thither with my Family.
   But Edward Church's story does not end with his death; for, on April 18, 1816, his will, dated February 3, 1815 was filed for probate in London. There is no record of the family's reaction to it, but one can only speculate, for Edward Church named one Mrs. Sarah May of Adam Street, London, his mistress, with whom he is presumed to have been living, as the executrix and a primary beneficiary of his estate. Adam Street is located in the Adelphi area of London and in 1815 was a prosperous area.
In the name of God Amen. I Edward Church of Adam Street, in the Adelphi London...I give and bequeath to my worthy friend Mrs. Sarah May of Adam Street, above mentioned, the sum of Five Hundred Pounds sterling, in consideration of the many obligations which I am under to her, and as a token of my esteem and regard I likewise give to the said Mrs. May, such articles of furniture and wearing apparel as are now with me, or maybe at the time of my decease. I further give and bequeath all my Property in the Funds to the said Mrs. Sarah May, in trust to pay my debts, and funeral expenses, and after that, she should divide, and apportion Four Thousand Pounds three per cent annuities being part of the same or what it may produce when sold in equal shares among my four daughters and Son. ...It is my further will that if any Property should remain after the above dispositions, it should be equally divided between my Wife and my friend Mr. Taylor...and having the utmost confidence in my good friend Mrs. May it is my desire that she shall not be molested or impeded in the execution of the above trusts; Under my hand the Third Day of February, in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and fifteen...Edw Church
          Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of us, who at his request, have witnessed the 
           same. Thos. Adcock Grindall ...James Miller Church...

           A Codicil to be added to and be part of the within Will and Testament of Mr. Edward Church, as made yesterday. hereby revoke so much of the within Will as gives the residue of my Estate, after payment of the Legatees mentioned in my Will between my Wife and Mrs. Sarah May equally share and share alike; and I do further appoint the said Sarah May sole Executrix of my said Will...(this 4th day of February 1815) Edw Church.
           Witnessed by Thos Adcock Grindall, James Miller Church and Jno. Worthlin. 

     Wow! You have the same questions that I have. Unfortunately, I have no answers. There is nothing in the various family histories that shed any light as to what prompted the apparently very bitter break between Edward and his wife Hannah; nor do I have any information as to what other financial resources Hannah may have had access to. Her son was in America but her daughter and son-in-law may have been in England. Edward could have appointed his son or son-in -law as executor but he was sending a very strong message in appointing Mrs. May.

   Thomas Adcock Grindall was a London distiller who merited an Esquire after his name and died, childless, in his eighties in 1828, living an estate valued over L100,000 that was subsequently fought over in the courts. One of the contesting heirs was a nephew who was on half pay as an officer in the London Militia.

The Adam Brothers' Adelphi (1768-72) was London's first neo-classical building. Eleven large houses fronted a vaulted terrace, with wharves beneath.

A Prospect of London seen from the Earl of Cassili's privy garden with Waterloo Bridge beyond. Alexander Nasmyth, 1826. The Adelphi can be seen to the left of Waterloo Bridge.

  The other witness to Edward's will was his nephew, James Miller Church, son of his brother Dr. Benjamin, Church, Jr. In 1815, James Miller Church was serving as a surgeon in the West Middlesex Regiment, a London militia regiment, and thus could have been acquainted with Mr. Grindall and his nephew. And his uncle Edward could have named him Executor of his estate.
   The Church family -  interesting and fascinating.
   One last thing before I end this post. Louisa Catherine Strobel, Edward Church's granddaughter, was a rather talented, amateur miniaturist whose work is in several museums in the United States. Below is a miniature, water color on ivory, 2 3/8 by 1 3/4'' she did of her father circa 1830. It is now in the Gibbe Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Edward Church -III

   It is not easy to trace Edward Church's movements after he rowed his brother Benjamin out to Boston Harbor to board the sloop Welcome and exile in 1778. There are records of him selling off his property in Massachusetts, presumably to raise capital. In November 1778, he sold his land on Newbury Street in Boston for L2500 and in September, 1778, he sold his approximately 80 acre farm in Braintree for L1000. An entry in the Suffolk County Deeds Records show an entry dated March 2, 1785:
Whereas Leonard Jarvis and Joseph Russell of Boston, Merchants, hold a judgment against Edward Church, of Boston, Merchant, in the sum of L606, 7 1/4 shillings which has not been paid, his goods are to be sold and himself committed to gaol until he pay the debt.
   Appraisers were appointed and on March 19, 1785, listed his property on Green Street as having a value of L225. The creditors accepted this and the property was transferred to them. Chances of actually going to prison for debt in Boston in 1785 were rather slim and even those few who did were released after a day.

Portion of William Price's 1743 map of Boston showing the location of the Boston jail on Queen Street.

  In 1787, Edward Church was in Austrian Flanders trying to raise capital and where he was involved in a project to "propagate the culture of cotton upon a large scale." He sailed from Ostend with several potential investors and arrived in Savannah, Georgia sometime late in the year. But, in Georgia, the potential investors "thought proper, upon experiment, to decline the undertaking."  Edward's plan to raise cotton in Georgia proved to be a little premature since Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, revolutionizing the cotton industry in the United States  and leading to a growth in a slavery that his peers believed was dying out.

  Although the family believes that Edward then moved to New York, he most probably was back in Boston. The recently ratified US Constitution provided for the election of the First President of the United States who would assume office on April 30, 1789; but the election was held between December 15, 1788 and January 10, 1779. Washington's election as the First President was a forgone conclusion, so the real race was for the office of Vice-President, for which there were nine candidates, John Adams being one of them. But since the Constitution forbade the electors from distinguishing their votes for President or Vice-President, all votes were cast for President. After Washington's election, Edward Church traveled to New York where the first government under the Constitution was located and he petitioned President Washington for a job in a letter dated May 11, 1789.

I was an wholesale merchant in Boston before the late war, and since the peace have made various attempts in several foreign countries to repair a ruined fortune, but I find it too late for me to begin the world anew with any probable prospect of success.*... Since the meeting of the present Congress, I have been induced from exigence to come forward to offer myself a candidate for the office of Collector of Imposts for the Port of Savannah. I have a wife and five children, and at present without means for their support. I have sustained some very heavy losses in that State...If, notwithstanding there should be found one more eligible I would then most humbly entreat your Excellency to nominate me to the appointment of Consul in Holland. I am not alone in the opinion that the appointment of a person competent to the office might be very beneficial to the commerce of America, as also that defenceless class of men, the American Seamen, whom I have known frequently to suffer great injuries and impositions in foreign countries...If therefore, it should be my lot to be rejected, I will never cease to venerate your name and to revere your justice. But if the consideration of my former eligible situation in life, my character, the sacrifices which I have made, my experience in business foreign and domestic, a most sincere wish to serve my country, the importance of my request, not to myself alone, but a most amiable wife and five children., and to two venerable and aged relations whom the fortunes of war have reduced from affluence to a state of needy would restore happiness to a family threatened with speedy distress.

   Samuel Adams, who had just been elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts  (John Hancock was elected Governor), hearing of this application, sent in an unsolicited letter of recommendation to Washington, writing:

I take him to have been a steady friend to the liberties of our country, and a man of sense and integrity; if  it will not weary you with application, I will beg your notice of him; and after your own inquiries, afford him your influence, if you shall think it proper in promoting him to a suitable employment under Congress in the State of Georgia. This I mention without his solicitation or knowledge.

   When no immediate action was taken on this petition and a similar application to Secretary of War Henry Knox, Church wrote a long satirical poem attacking John Adams. It was published in a sixteen page pamphlet, printed in Boston, and distributed in Boston and New York. A copy of this pamphlet is in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress and,after looking at, it must say that it was not cheaply published and must have been of considerable expense to a man of very little means. The pamphlet is titled:

                 Dangerous Vice --------- A Fragment,
                 Addressed to all whom it may concern.
                 By a Gentleman, formerly of Boston.

   Having read through the entire sixteen page poem, I will not subject you to much of it since,even by the standards of late eighteenth century poetry, it is bad poetry. There is very fulsome and lavish praise of Washington and there is no mistaking the viciousness of the attack on John Adams. By addressing the poem to "Dangerous Vice", Church was not being subtle as to whom he was attacking.

            All are not like old Cincinnatus now,
            To take up their old trades, or dirty plough
John Adams, 1783, John Singleton Copley
            John! __ bid the coachman drive up to the door,
            Let's hand the Ladies in __ and say no more.
            These are the blessings of our halcyon days,
            Let ev'ry happy favorite toast their praise,
            Be grateful, then - be prudent, modest wife,
            Nor with your tow'ring crests assail the skies;
            Lest the offended Deity show'd frown;
            And on your native dunghills set you down...
            Resist the Vice ___ and that contagious pride
            To that o'erweening vice ___ so near ally'd.
            Within your sacred walls let virtue reign'
            With unlick'd lordlings fully not your fame,
            Nor daub our Patriot with a lacker'd name...

   The poem concludes:
             Freedom! which these firm Patriots deify'd
             Who in Rome's Senate stab'd the Patricide.
             Freedom! For fair Columbia bravely won
             By the long toils of virtuous Washington,
             Ne'er basely barter for a paltry crown.
             "But piously transmit the blessing down."


   John Adams said that he was bewildered that "Ned Church" would libel him in such a manner and speculated that it was because he had done nothing to assist Edward in his efforts to aid his brother Benjamin. Although, I can find no documentation indicating precisely what dealings Edward Church had with John Adams over his brother Benjamin, I find Adams' surprise at Edward's reactions as somewhat disingenuous. Adams cannot be wholly trusted in matters like these and it's my deep impression that there were a number of instances, undocumented, in which Edward, and his father, tried to solicit Adams' support in efforts to release their brother and son from a very harsh prison regime but received no help from Adams. Adams, of course, was rather disingenuous when commenting on Benjamin's arrest and tried to give an impression of very little acquaintance with Church, which, of course, is false.
    A more plausible explanation for Edward's publication of this poem was that he, most likely,  blamed John Adams' influence as being instrumental in Washington's refusal to appoint him to a position that he desperately needed to support his wife and five children. Combine that with Edward's conviction that Adams had failed to support him in 1776 and the fact that while Edward, an ardent Patriot and Whig, had been ruined by the War, John Adams prospered and, I think, you have Edward's motivation.
   Henry Knox assured John Adams that the poem "was universally despised by all parties and descriptions of men." and that Edward Church's character was "well known." In spite of Henry Knox's assertions as to Edward Church's character, President Washington, in June, 1790, appointed Church consul at Bilbao, Spain, at that time a very prosperous Spanish port which was located in the Basque region of Spain. Edward did not like this post so he remained at home and campaigned for a better job. In May 1792, President Washington appointed him consul at Lisbon, Portugal. In December 1793, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward to warn him that he would lose the post at Lisbon if he did not get there soon. But, in fact, Edward Church was already in Lisbon for in August, 1793, an American visiting Lisbon had found a "A board well furnished with viands and liquors," and "new incitement to indulgence, from the unceremonious hospitality of both Mr. and Mrs. Church."
   To be continued
   * Edward was 49 years old at the time.