Mount Vernon Ladies' Association
Learn more about the first national historic preservation organization who have worked to preserve Washington's home for over 150 years.
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FOR THE MERCURY.
To the Ladies of the South.
A descendant of Virginia, and now a daughter of Carolina, moved by feelings of reverence for departed greatness and goodness, by patriotism and a sense of national, and above all, of Southern honor, ventures to appeal to you in behalf of the "home and grave" of WASHINGTON.
Ladies of the South, a region of warm, generous, enthusiastic hearts, where there still lingers some unselfish love of country and country's honor, some chivalric feelings yet untouched by that "national spirit," so rapidly overshading the moral of our beloved land- a moral blight, fatal to man's noblest attributes, which love of money and speculation alone seems to survive,- to you we turn, you, who retain some reverence for the noble dead, some admiration and remembrance of exalted worth and service even where they are no more ! Of you we ask: Will you, can you, look on passively and behold the home and grave of the matchless Patriot, who is so completely identified with your land, sold as a possession to speculative machinists without such a feeling of indignation firing your souls as shall cause you to rush with one heart and spirit to the rescue?
Ladies of the South, can you be still with closed souls and purses, while the world cries "Shame upon America," and suffer Mount Vernon, with all its sacred associations, to become, as is spoken of and probable, the seat of manufacturerers and manufactories; noise and smoke, and the "busy hum of men," destroying all sanctity and repose around the tomb of your own "world's wonder?" Oh, it cannot be possible!
What, such sacrilege, such desecration, while you have the hearts to feel the shame, and the power to prevent it? Never! Forbid it, shades of the dead, that the Pilgrims of the shrine of true patriotism should find thee forgotten, and surrounded by blackening smoke and deafening machinery, where money, money, only money ever enters the thought, and gold, only gold, moves the heart or moves the arm!
Once our Congressional Halls were the resort of wisdom, integrity and patriotism; where enlightened heads and upright minds sought to fulfil their official obligations by comprehending and faithfully executing into the "glorious code of laws" which bound us into one common country, and also by vieing with each other, who should add most to that country's weal at home, and glory abroad. But all seems changed. WASHINGTON, and his principles and his spirit, appear no longer to influence the City which bears his name. Oh ! who that have a spark of patriotism, but must mourn such early degeneracy, when they see who fill our Legislative halls, and crowd our political Metropolis ! Who can restrain a pang of shame, when they behold the annual rush thither of johbers and bounty-seekers, of office aspirants and trucklers, of party corrupters and corrupted- all collecting like a flock of vultures to their prey- prowling and polluting the grave and high purposes of legislation.
Ladies of the South ! should we appeal to such as these to protect the grave of WASHINGTON from the grasp of the speculator and worldling! And should we appeal either to or through your Senators and Representatives? What thave they done, or would or could do, in that mephitic air!
No: it is to you, mothers and daughters of the South, that appeal can be made with a hopeful confidence. It is woman's office to be a vestal; and even the "fire of liberty" may need the care of her devotion, and the purity of her guardianship. Your hearts are fresh, reverential, and animated by lively sensibilities and elevating purposes. With you, therefore, patriotism has not yet become a name. And should there ever be again "times to try men's souls," there will be found among and of you, as of old, heroine, superior to fear and selfish consideration, acting for country and its honor.
Believing this, one of your countrywomen feels emboldened to appeal in the name of the Mother of WASHINGTON, and of Southern feeling and honor, to all that is sympathetic and generous in your nature, to exert itself, and by your combined effort now, in village and country, town and city, the means may be raised from the mites of thousands of gentle hearts, upon whom his name has yet a magic spell, which will suffice to secure and retain his home and grave as a SACRED SPOT for all coming time.
A spontaneous work like this would be such a monument of love and gratitude, as has never yet been reared to the purest patriot or mortal man; and while it would save American honor from a blot in the eyes of a gazing word, it would furnish a shrine where at least the mothers of the land and their indignant children, might make their offerings in the cause of the greatness, goodness, and prosperity of their country.
It is known to your that Congress has virtually declined to purchase and preserve Mount Vernon in behalf of the nation. Yet there is now necessity for immediate action, as schemes are on foot for its purchase by the Northern capital, and its devotion to money-making purposes. It is, therefore, respectfully and earnestly suggested to you, and by one who, in her descent, inherited the sympathies and reverence of those who were one in the social relations of life with "Father of his Country," that the South, by general contribution, each a mite, furnish the amount sufficient for the purchase of Mount Vernon. That the property be conveyed in trust to the President of the United States, and the Governor of Virginia, to be preserved and improved in your name as a hallowed resort for all people. That for its continued preservation and improvement, a trifle be charged each visiter. And that your contributions to effect these noble ends may be gathered into the hands of the Governors of your States respectively, to be remitted to the Governor of Virginia, with authority and direction to make the purchase.
A SOUTHERN MATRON.
In 1853, Louisa Bird Cunningham was traveling on the Potomac River and passed by Mount Vernon in the moonlight. Struck by its appearance, and fearing that it would soon be lost to the nation for lack of upkeep, Cunningham wrote a letter to her daughter Ann Pamela Cunningham.
In the letter, Cunningham commented that if the men of the United States would not save the home of its greatest citizen, perhaps it should be the responsibility of the women. These words galvanized her daughter into action. Initially writing under the nom de plume, "A Southern Matron," Ann Pamela Cunningham challenged first the women of the South, and later the women of the entire country to save the home of George Washington.