The long-held model of all-powerful husband and submissive wife came to be seen—much like the monarch’s oppressive rule over his subjects—as an obstacle to personal happiness.More appropriate for a young republic, the thinking went, was the relatively novel idea of “companionate marriage.” In a loving partnership governed by affection rather than fear, men would learn to balance their own desires with those of their mate.At a time when the nation’s fate was closely linked to the virtue of its citizens, female influence was considered a powerful force, especially during courtship. 1790 – 95, Paul Revere II (British American, Boston, Massachusetts, 1735 – 1818), silver; wood handle, 6.25 x 11.75 x 3.625 (teapot) in./1 x 7.375 x 5.25 (stand) in. Few could afford exquisite vessels such as the neoclassical teapot, created by Paul Revere II, that you see here.(15.88 x 29.85 x 9.21 [teapot] cm./2.54 x 18.73 x 13.34 [stand] cm.). Still, many middle- and upper-class Americans shared the familiar ritual of preparing and drinking this hot, fragrant beverage. Careless tea drinkers, much like courting couples, could be easily burned.The loss of a husband or wife—a common occurrence in this era—brought an opportunity to form additional familial links through remarriage.Benjamin Harrison’s three marriages united him with some of the most notable names in the colony.Although the Harrisons were childless at the time, the rose blossoms secured to Betsy’s dress—including a small unopened bud—suggest that she was expecting a child.The gentry’s influence in the colony increased through intermarriage with other elite families.
Peale’s 1775 portrait hints at the beginning of the next generation.
Bonds of blood and matrimony created a network of shared social, political, and financial interests that was a powerful force in Virginia before and after the Revolution.
These connections could also be strengthened through death.
While he could participate in the public world of commerce and politics, she had only the home she created with him from which to draw happiness.
Discovering the personality of a potential spouse could be a delightful adventure—conducted through breathless dances, nighttime walks and, of course, intimate cups of tea—but it was also a serious matter that demanded careful consideration.