Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Archival Treasures: Wedding Remarks

I was scanning through some old research files and was thrilled to come across the transcript of a document written by Margaret Beekman Livingston in 1798. I have been researching "Peggy" for a talk in March and have found precious little written by this driving force of Clermont life.

The remarks were written for Margaret Maria when she married her cousin Robert L. Livingston in 1798, and they speak to both Margaret Beekman Livingston's pride of proprietership in Clermont and her earnest pride as a grandmother.

Instead of over-analizing it, I will instead let Margaret speak for herself, as I'm sure she usually did:

What a truly wonderous day! All of us Livingstons and our guests are foregoing the pleasures of political wrangling which so often usurps our Clermont hours and which I, too, I must confess--adore. For today is dedicated to the blessed happiness of one of my comely grandchildren, 15 year-old Margaret Maria. my dear, you were named for me, Margaret Beekman Livingston, and I have always called you Peggy but I shall never change. Now that you are a married lady the name is even dearer. And I welcome all of your wedding guests to my renounded home, my lovely Clermont. I have received, I have honored and I have entertained here at Clermont many notables before today--notables who, with your father, my don the Chancellor, brought independence and freedom to this great land. George Washington has walked my gardens deep in thought. Martha, his helpmate you knw, has visited me for weeks at a time, and the Marquis de Lafayette has hunted quail in my woods. But never, never have I been filled with more pride than on this day.

Mrs. Cornelia Livingston, my distant cousin and mother of the groom, you, along with my son, the Chancellor, and I have arranged a perfect match, with the blessing of the Almighty, I am certain and we have assured by this marriage that the Livingston name shall forevermore be an inseparable part of Clermont.

Moreover, lovely bride, if my hope and negotiations prove true, your sister Betsy, will follow you into matrimony within the next year directly here at Clermont and with yet another stalwart Livingston cousin. Dear margaret Maria, it is my fervent prayer that both of you lovely granddaughters will have as happy and blessed a marriage as your grandfather, Judge Robert R. Livingston and I had. (It is sad, such a pity you never knew him!) Your own devoted groom bears my beloved Judge's distinguished name. It is as though I am reliving my own cherished wedding. You do know that my father, Col. Henry Beekman of Rhinebeck and your great-grandfather, the Judge's father, also a Robert, Robert the Builder of Clermont, arranged my joyous union. May yours be as fortunate.

And, distant cousin Cornelia, 56 yeras ago when I entered into wedded bliss, I prayed that many grandchildren would someday bless my life. My 10 wonderful children--9 are rejoicing with us today--have honoured me with 21 grandchildren. Margaret Maria, you are the first to bring home a spouse. Bless you.

Remember that when the British destroyed my home during that dreadful War for Independence, I had to rebuild it. Today, I know that nothing but your ancestral home, my Clermont, could have graced your wedding so beautifully.

Dear children, these old eyes behold your true love and this weary heart is strengthened. You shall always have my eternal good wishes.

Cornelia, our family fued which has been waning for years, is finally, finally dissolved. Come, let us celebrate together. Welcome, welcome to all.

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