Archives Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 1221, Annis Boudinot Stockton (1736-1801), Poet
Copybook, 1753-1791, 0.2 linear feet / 1 volume
Call Number: MG 1221
Manuscript verse written in several hands, but predominantly in the hand of Annis Boudinot Stockton, poet and wife of Richard Stockton, one of New Jersey's signers of the Declaration of Independence. This volume includes odes to George Washington, elegies on the deaths of Warren and Montgomery, copies of letters to and from George Washington and several lengthy pastorals.
Gift of Captain and Mrs. G. H. Cairnes, 1985.
The Boudinot family were French Huguenots who came to New York from England in 1687. Annis Boudinot was born on July 1, 1736 in Darby, Pennsylvania to Catherine Williams and Elias Boudinot, III (1706-1770), a silversmith and merchant. She was their eldest daughter and the second of ten children, though the first to be born in North America (her parents having just returned from Antigua where her father had run a plantation).
The family settled in the Princeton area of New Jersey around 1755, and it was there that Annis was exposed to the intellectual and social circles of the area. Little is actually known of Annis Boudinotís early life. She was from a well-to-do family and her parents found it proper to give her an education. She learned to read and to write and became particularly interested in poetry, an unusual pastime for a woman in her time period.
It was in Princeton that she became acquainted with the Stockton family. She married Richard Stockton (1730-1781) in late 1757 or early 1758 and became mistress of the Stockton estate. The young couple built up the house and gardens on their property, and Annis gave the estate the poetic name of Morven, after the ancient Scottish King Fingalís home. Annis and Richard were very happily married and close confidants. They had six children together: Julia (b. 1759), Mary and Susan (b. 1761, twins), Richard (b. 1764), Lucius Horatio (b. 1768), and Abigail (b. 1773).
In 1766, Richard Stockton left for a sixteen-month stay in England and Scotland, acting as a representative for both the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University) and for the American colonies in general. He argued the coloniesí viewpoint on the taxation issue, but to no avail, and left England convinced that the matter would not be easily resolved. Stockton returned to New Jersey in September of 1767, rejoined his wife at Morven and resumed his law practice.
Although Richard urged moderation until the start of the war, he publicly sided with the patriots in June of 1776 and was soon elected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. He signed the Declaration of Independence and became one of the rebel leaders in New Jersey (along with his brothers, the Reverend Philip Stockton and the Honorable Samuel Witham Stockton, his brother-in-law, Elias Boudinot, and his son-in-law, Dr. Benjamin Rush).
The Stocktons did not fare well during the Revolutionary War. In November 1776, Washington retreated across New Jersey and the Stocktons left Morven for a safer location. Annis fled the estate with her children after she buried the family silver and the papers of the American Whig Society, a secret society that many of the Princeton patriots were active in. (After the war, she was elected the only female member of the Society in recognition of her efforts.) She left behind her household belongings, along with her beloved books, poetry, and letters.
The family relocated to Monmouth County and it was there that Richard was captured by loyalists and imprisoned. Being a signer of the Declaration of Independence, he was treated harshly by his captors until, under pressure, he was traded and released in January of 1777. One of the requirements of his release was an oath of non-participation in the Revolution. Stockton kept his word and withdrew himself from Congress and from active politics. He soon became ill, getting cancer in 1778 and dying on February 28, 1781.
To make matters worse, when the war passed through New Jersey in 1777, Cornwallisí troops marched through Princeton and set up headquarters at Morven. The British army ransacked the Stockton estate, burned the furniture and library, and trashed the house and lands. The Stockton family suffered great financial losses, but Annis soon returned to Morven, rescuing what she could from the house and library. Most of the family papers, including Annis and Richardís correspondence during his trip to England, were lost in the library fire.
After her husbandís death, Annis continued on as the mistress of Morven, raising her children and retaining a high social standing. Her two brothers, Elisha Boudinot (1749-1819) and Elias Boudinot (1740-1821), were both active in politics. Elisha was a lawyer and New Jersey Supreme Court Justice from 1798-1804. Elias was a lawyer, Congressman, and later, the Director of the Mint. He married Richard Stocktonís sister Hannah, bonding the two families closer together. Elias Boudinot became President of the Continental Congress in 1782, and when Congress moved to Princeton in 1783, he resided with his sister at Morven. She thus became acquainted with important personages of the time, developing a close friendship with the Washingtons. When the war brought General Washington to the area, he stayed at Morven.
Although she missed her husband until her own death, Annis remained active throughout her lifetime. Like so many in her family, she supported the rebels and served on a committee of New Jersey women who supported the patriot soldiers. She was a member of high society and, as mistress of Morven, often acted as hostess. With her husbandís death, she became the manager of the estate, and supervised the servants, slaves, and daily household matters. She was also well educated and an avid reader and writer. It was during the period after the Revolution that Annis had a number of her poems, especially odes to George Washington, published. Over the years, Stockton published a total of twenty-one poems in contemporary newspapers and magazines.
Although Annisís son Richard had inherited Morven upon his fatherís death, Annis remained mistress of the estate until 1795. At that time, she moved into a private house in Princeton. She stayed there for two years at which time she moved to White Hill in Burlington County, New Jersey to live with her youngest daughter Abigail Field. She remained there until her death on February 6, 1801.
The Annis Boudinot Stockton copybook was donated by Christine Carolyn McMillan Cairnes and her husband, Captain George H. Cairnes, in 1985. Mrs. Cairnes is a direct descendant of Annis Boudinot and Richard Stockton.
Annis Boudinot Stocktonís copybook is not only important as the largest collection of her work, but as documentation of an early American female writer. The copybook contains poems written by Stockton throughout her lifetime. The dates in the book range from 1753-1791, however, the poems were probably copied sometime during the 1780s and 1790s. It is unclear whether the included dates refer to the writing, editing, or copying. Some dates conflict with other known copies of the poems and therefore might be inaccurate. A large number of poems are not dated at all.
The poems included are in the neoclassical style and cover both private and public topics. There are odes, epistles, addresses, elegies, sonnets, hymns and others. They cover such topics as George Washington, Congress, the Revolutionary War, and on a more personal level, the death of her husband, marriages of friends, and friendship. The inscription in the book reads, "Mrs. Stocktons book of Manuscripts only for the eye of a Friend," and was probably intended as a gift for her close friend and fellow writer, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson. Stocktonís pen name of Emelia is used occasionally in the book.
The first third of the book is not in Annis Stocktonís hand, but probably that of one of her daughters, either Mary Stockton Hunter or Abigail Stockton Field. There are corrections in Annis Stocktonís hand in the early section, and the final two-thirds of the poems are copied in her hand. The poems are not arranged by date or subject matter, though most of the included published poems are located in the first third of the volume. Poems located further back went largely unpublished, though some were published anonymously.
The copybook is in fairly good condition although it is missing a number of pages.
In 1995, all known poems of Annis Boudinot Stockton were published together in one volume. The accession by The New Jersey Historical Society of Stocktonís copybook provided the motivation for the project. In this published edition, all poems are transcribed and fully annotated. The citation is:
* Annis Boudinot Stockton, edited by Carla Mulford. Only for the Eye of a Friend: The Poems of Annis Boudinot Stockton. (University Press of Virginia: Charlottesville, 1995).
Index to the Poems in this copybook (in alphabetical order):
Processed by Kim Charlton, October 1999 as part of the "Farm to City" project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
The New Jersey Historical Society