Journal describing the Listons' tour of Virginia and a trip to the Natural Bridge, 1800

'all American Inn-Keepers are Politicians'

Quill and handwritten journal page

This journey could be thought of as the Listons' 'Virginia Dynasty' tour. They met three future Presidents — Jefferson, Madison and Monroe — and visited the home of the first President, the late George Washington.

Before embarking on the journey Mrs Liston read Thomas Jefferson's 'Notes on the State of Virginia'. Indeed, the Listons carried a copy of the book with them on the trip, Robert leaving it with an inn landlord so that he 'would be enabled to give the most perfect account' of the Natural Bridge to those he guided there.

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The account that Henrietta gives of Virginia is full of wonderment at the beauty of the landscape and astonishment at the different varieties of proprietor and tavern keeper met on the road. Henrietta’s anecdotes of tavern life bring humour to the journal.

During their journey the Listons saw the Shenandoah River, the Rockfish Gap, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the famed Natural Bridge, before calling on Jefferson at Monticello, James and Dolley Madison at Montpelier, and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon.

Monticello and Mount Vernon

Of Monticello Henrietta writes an all too brief, but fascinating description: 'I had never before seen fine Pictures & Mirrors placed upon bare brick walls; but Mr Jefferson changed so often the Ceiling, the floors, or partitions, that it cannot be otherwise.' Jefferson, with his 'married daughter — a pretty Woman' hosted a dinner for the Listons, James Madison, James Monroe, and a 'group of Ladies'.

At Jefferson's and Madison's the Listons declined, though 'most earnestly pressed' by their hosts, to spend the night, as they were hurried. Robert had an appointment in Washington, DC, to see John Marshall, US Secretary of State, and, on their return to Philadelphia, they had 'still a journey to make & immediately' — this time to Lower Canada.

At Mount Vernon however, the Listons, finding Martha Washington with a 'sorrow which she said was truly breaking her heart', stayed all night and 'took leave with much regret next morning'.

Manuscript page with quill pen and ink pot

States visited in this journal

Pennsylvania; Maryland; West Virginia; Virginia; Washington, DC.

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Notes on using the interactive map

Selected people named in this journal

Names in brackets are how Henrietta Liston refers to that person or spells their name in her journal.

William Wyndham Grenville, Baron Grenville, 1759-1834 ('Lord Grenville')

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs 1791-1801, Prime Minister 1806-1807.

Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826

Lawyer and political thinker. Born in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and American Ninister to France between 1785-1789. He became the first U.S. Secretary of State in 1790, Vice-President in 1797, and the third President of the United States in 1801. He served two terms.

Sir Robert Liston, 1742-1836 ('Mr Liston')

Robert Liston was born in Kirkliston, Scotland. Influential diplomat and British Minister to the United States, 1796-1801. Robert's service coincided with a highly significant period in British-American relations. Married to Henrietta Marchant Liston.

James Madison, 1751-1836 ('Mr Maddison')

Lawyer and statesman. Educated at Princeton, James served in the Confederation Congress and the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1801 he was Secretary of State in Thomas Jefferson's presidency, and in 1809 he became the fourth President of the United States. Retiring in 1817, he returned to Montpelier his Virginia estate, where he died in 1836.

Dolley Payne Todd Madison, 1768-1849 ('Mrs Maddison')

Third First Lady and wife of the fourth President of the United States. Dolley was born in North Carolina to Quaker parents. In 1790 she married John Todd, a Quaker lawyer and had two children. After the death of John Todd in 1794, she married James Madison that year, and they lived in Philadelphia until 1797 when they moved to Montpelier, the Madison plantation in Virginia, where Robert and Henrietta Liston visited them. First Lady from 1809-1817, she was known for her social events.

John Marshall, 1755-1835 ('Secretary of State')

Lawyer, politician, diplomat. Born in Virginia, John was appointed Secretary of State by President John Adams in 1800, and served in the role until March 1801. He was fourth Chief Justice of the United States between 1801 and 1835.

James Monroe, 1758-1831 ('Mr Munro')

Lawyer, politician, diplomat. Born in Virginia, John was appointed Secretary of State by President John Adams in 1800, and served in the role until March 1801. He was fourth Chief Justice of the United States between 1801 and 1835.

Lord Henry Stuart, 1777-1809 ('Secretary')

Henry Stuart was the fifth son of the politician and diplomat the 1st Marquess of Bute, John Stuart, who Robert Liston was secretary for in Italy. Henry's mother was the wealthy heiress Charlotte Jane Hickman Windsor (1746-1800) who died suddenly on 28 January 1800. From the summer of 1796 to December 1800, Henry was secretary to Robert Liston, British Minister to the United States in Philadelphia. In 1802 he married the wealthy Irish heiress Lady Gertrude Amelia Villiers. They had three sons and a daughter. Henry died aged 32 and was buried in the Bute Mausoleum in St Margaret's Church, Roath, Wales.

Sir Edward Thornton, 1766-1852 ('Mr Thornton')

Edward Thornton, like Robert Liston, was a self-made diplomat who entered the service through connections he made while he was tutor to the sons of a well-connected political family. Having served as secretary for George Hammond, Minister to the United States in 1791, he became secretary to Robert Liston in 1796 when he took over from Hammond. When Robert returned to Britain in 1800, Edward was Chargé d'Affaires until 1804. In 1812 he married Wilhelmina Koph and had seven children. After working on diplomatic missions in Sweden, he was appointed Minister to Portugal in 1817 and took up the position at the Portuguese Court in Brazil. In 1823 he went to Portugal as Envoy-Extraordinary and Minister-Plenipotentiary. He was made Count of Cassilhas by the King of Portugal and retired in a pension in 1824.

George Washington, 1732-1799 ('General Washington')

Virginia soldier, politician, surveyor, planter. From 1754-1758 he served as a Virginian officer alongside British forces during the French and Indian War. Commander-in-Chief of American Continental Army during War of Independence, 1775-83. Presided over debates resulting in US Constitution, 1787 and became first President of the United States, 1789-1797. In 1789 he was unanimously elected President by the Electoral College. He was elected for a second term in 1793. After two terms in office, President Washington gave his farewell address 'to the people of the United States' and retired to his beloved Virginia estate, Mount Vernon. He died suddenly in December 1799.

Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, 1731-1802 ('Mrs Washington')

Born at Chestnut Grove plantation in New Kent County, Virginia, Martha married Daniel Parke Custis in 1750. She had four children with him, all of whom she outlived. Custis was 20 years older than Martha and died in 1757. Martha married George Washington in 1759.

[Library reference for this journal: MS.5702]

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