John Lambert Esq. to Thomas Dennis1
I am going to backtrack a couple years from the first letter that Lambert wrote to his granddaughter Susan Hoppock in 1807.
Thomas Dennis was John Lambert’s son-in-law, the son of his second wife Hannah Little and her first husband Benjamin Dennis. At the time, Lambert was in his first term as a U. S. Representative, having just been elected. Previous to this he had served in the New Jersey legislative council, or state senate.2
It is clear that he left the care of his homestead in the hands of Thomas Dennis during his absence in Washington, and the instructions he includes show some of his anxiety about that, with special concern that things be properly prepared for the coming winter.
Lambert wrote in a sort of stream of consciousness fashion, jumping back and forth between farm matters, family matters and business in Washington, so I have divided the letter into paragraphs to make it easier to follow.
Mr. Thomas Dennis
Near Coryell’s Ferry, New Jersey
To Post Office at Trenton, Mr. Wilson’s care
Washington, Dec. 26, 1805
I received yours of the 13th inst. and I am obliged to you for it, you give a good account of the work, if you will continue during my absence to manage well, it will be a very pleasing thing to me. I am sorry for Elijah’s troubles and for his wife, but he should be resigned, tell him that although I do not write him a letter I have not forgot him, and I hope he will do the best he can for me in my absence.
I want my sweet grape vines laid down and covered with straw, be sure you stop the windows of the cellar well with horse dung, to save the potatoes, if we should get cold weather this winter. The time past hath been very warm here and but little rain.
I have been to Alexandria last Saturday, George Coryell was well but his wife much amis with s’anthony fire. I came back the same day. I dined with the President on the 25th. That likeness at home is pretty good.
I have wrote to you about the young cattle to be fed at the Hay Barracks at the river last week. I suppose you must have it by this time.
I shall continue to send papers to New Hope which Mr. Rap will send to Uncle Jo’ Lambert. I am sorry I have no picture to send my little Achsah, tell her I don’t forget her, and suppose you must remember me to Amelia Hannah and Betsey.
If they will want more hay, you must hall it from the river, and put it up safe for them.
I am well my love to Achsah and yourself and you will please to tell John Lambert and his wife I think of them and Tho’ and Achsah. Dennis and little Achsah.
[signed] Jno. Lambert
John Lambert received an invitation to dine at the White House written in Jefferson’s hand. The event was probably designed for all the new members of Congress, especially since this event took place on Christmas day. It is very interesting to know that Lambert had a portrait of Jefferson in his home, and that he thought it a good likeness. Since this was long before the age of photocopying or other forms of duplication, I cannot help but wonder how he came by this portrait. Since it was obviously taken before 1805, I have chosen to show the one by Rembrandt Peale in 1800.
Lambert was one of six at-large members elected to the Ninth Congress, which began its first session on December 2, 1805. All six were Democratic Republicans, the party of Jefferson, and the majority party in New Jersey.
Cast of Characters
Elijah. The wording in this letter suggests to me that Elijah may well have been a black farm servant, who might also have been a freed slave. In 1780 and 1786, John Lambert was not taxed on a slave, but in 1790 he did own one. This was probably Prime Lambert who was manumitted by John Lambert’s executors in 1829. There is no manumission record for an Elijah owned by John Lambert. Prime Lambert acquired property at Brookville, had a wife Lydia and at least 8 children, and died about 1868 in Delaware Township.
George Coryell. I cannot identify which George Coryell would have been living in Alexandria, Virginia in 1805. It might have been the Revolutionary War veteran who was chosen to be one of George Washington’s pall bearers, but I cannot be certain of that.
Uncle Jo’ Lambert. This was Joseph Lambert (1749-1821) who was married to Elizabeth Wilson, daughter of George and Eleanor Wilson. Joseph Lambert was a miller, merchant and ferryman, who owned considerable property at Lambertville. His son John, nephew of Sen. John Lambert, would run the Lambertville tavern, inn, hotel when the post office was established there in 1814.
Little Achsah. Thomas Dennis married Achsah Lambert, daughter of John and Susannah Barber Lambert. Thomas and Achsah had as their first child, a daughter Achsah L., born about 1795. She was still single in 1825, when she and others petitioned for a division of her grandfather’s real estate.
Amelia, Hannah and Betsey. These were the other daughters of Thomas and Achsah Dennis.
John Lambert. This was probably John Lambert’s nephew John, son of Joseph Lambert and Mary (Polly) Johnes. He was born in 1777, so would be about 28 years old in 1805.
- This letter was published in The Lamberts of Amwell by Henrietta Van Syckle and Emily Abbott Nordfeldt, published for the Lambertville Historical Society in 1979. ↩
- I’ve had a little trouble with dates. Carl E. Prince in his book, New Jersey’s Jeffersonian Republicans, describes the Republican convention held on September 17, 1806 at Trenton at which Lambert is supposed to have been nominated. But the election for the Ninth Congress took place on November 7, 1804, and the session began on March 4, 1805. ↩