Columbia Library columns (v.32(1982Nov-1983May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.32,no.3(1983:May): Page 14  

The District Attorney and His Family

The Harisons of New York in
the Eighteenth Century


K If ^ HE life style of a prosperous urban family, a literate
I      woman's role in the family, a prominent lawyer's involve-

J_L ment in political and legal affairs, and a warm and loving
relationship between husband and wife are revealed in a charming
set of letters between Frances Duncan Ludlow Harison (1766-
97) and Richard Elarison (i747-1829), a King's College alumnus
(A.B., 1764; A.M., 1767) and trustee (i788-1829), loyalist during
the Revolution, and an important figure in American law in the
new republic. The thirty-nine letters presented to the Libraries
by Harison's great-great-great-grandson Richard Harison of Au¬
rora, Ontario, date from the 1780s and 1790s. Frances's nineteen
letters (.six undated) were written during 1784-90, three in early
i784,onein 1790, and fifteen in 1788 when Richard was a delegate
to the eleventh session of the New York State Assembly held at
Poughkeepsie. Richard's twenty letters to Frances were written
during 1791-94, when he served as federal District Attorney of
New York State and was engaged in private law practice. Alas,
this correspondence is not complete for the period, but the letters
that have survived reveal family life in New York City during the
last decade of eighteentli century and the first decade of the new

The Harisons had linglish ancestors who settled in America in
the seventeenth century, becoming prominent as wealthy mer¬
chants, landowners, political officeholders, and churchmen. Rich¬
ard's descent on his maternal side is from Colonel Richard Nicholls,
who, among others, under a commission from the Duke of York
in 1664, supplanted the Dutch and established English rule in New

  v.32,no.3(1983:May): Page 14