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Samuel L. Gouverneur

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Title: Samuel L. Gouverneur  
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Subject: James Monroe, Elizabeth Monroe, List of children of the Presidents of the United States, Virginia dynasty, James Monroe Tomb
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Samuel L. Gouverneur

Samuel Laurence Gouverneur (1799–1865) was a lawyer and civil servant who was both nephew and son-in-law to James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States.


  • Life 1
  • Relationship to Monroe family 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Gouverneur was born in 1799 in New York City. His father was Nicholas Gouverneur and mother was Hester Kortright, sister of the First Lady Elizabeth Kortright Monroe.[1] He graduated from Columbia University (then known as Columbia College) in 1817. Gouverneur served as private secretary to President James Monroe, who was married to his mother's sister Elizabeth Kortright Monroe.[2]

Gouverneur married Monroe's daughter (his first cousin), Maria Hester Monroe, on March 9, 1820. The wedding was officiated by the Rev. William Dickinson Hawley.[3] It was the first wedding held in the White House for a child of a president. However, the first documented wedding ceremony held in the White House was when Dolley Madison, wife of President James Madison, arranged the wedding of her youngest sister, Lucy Payne Washington, to Supreme Court Justice Thomas Todd in 1812.[4] There might have also been a private wedding of Abigail Adams' maid Betsy Howard in 1801.[5]

General Thomas Jesup was groomsman at the Gouverneur-Monroe wedding. There were only 42 guests; not even the cabinet was invited.[2] After the couple returned from a week's honeymoon, Commodore and Mrs. Stephen Decatur gave them a reception at the Decatur House on May 20, 1820. Another ball had to be cancelled because Decatur died two days later in a duel.[3]

Gouverneur was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1825. He was Postmaster of New York City from 1828 to 1836. While in New York he invested in racehorses, and the Bowery Theatre along with James Alexander Hamilton, son of Alexander Hamilton, and Prosper M. Wetmore.[2]

Gouverneur helped former president Monroe to press his claims to Congress to repay mounting debts. After Elizabeth Monroe's death in 1830, Monroe came to live at the Gouverneurs' home, and died there in 1831.[6] Gouverneur was executor of Monroe's estate, which had to be sold off to pay the debts.[7] Monroe was buried in the Gouverneur family vault at the New York City Marble Cemetery, until descendants had the remains moved to the James Monroe Tomb in the Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. A ceremony was held at the Gouverneur vault 175 years later, on July 8, 2006.[8]

Monroe's personal papers were left to Gouverneur, who also was asked to support his wife's sister Eliza Monroe Hay (also his cousin, then a widow). Gouverneur started work on publishing the papers or a book on Monroe, but it was never finished. After Mrs. Hay died in 1840, the Gouverneurs moved to Washington, DC. Gouverneur worked in the consular bureau of the US Department of State from 1844 to 1849. After congress agreed to buy the papers of Madison, Gouverneur proposed a similar arrangement, which was finally concluded in 1850. Some personal papers would be retained for a few generations.[7]

Samuel and Maria had three children: James Monroe Gouverneur (1822–1885), a deaf-mute who died at the Spring Grove Asylum in Baltimore, Maryland;[9] Elizabeth Kortright Gouverneur (1824–1868) who married Henry Lee Heiskell; and Samuel Laurence Gouverneur, Jr. (1826–1880), who married Mariah Campbell (1821–1914), and became the first U.S. consul in Fuzhou, China (then spelled Foo Chow). On June 20, 1850, Maria Monroe Gouverneur died at the Oak Hill estate, which was finally sold in 1852. In September 1851 Samuel Gouverneur married Mary Digges Lee (1810–1898), granddaughter of Thomas Sim Lee (1745–1819), and retired to the Lee estate called "Needwood", near Frederick, Maryland.[10] This stressed family relations during the American Civil War, with Gouverneur associated with the Union government, while his in-laws had deep roots in the Confederate states.[2]

Obituaries state he died on September 29, 1865.[11] He left his estate to his second wife.[7] Other sources say he lived until 1867.[12]

His granddaughter Rose de Chine Gouverneur, born in China in 1860, married Roswell Randall Hoes (1850–1921) and died on May 26, 1933. Their sons Gouverneur Hoes (1889–1943) and Laurence Gouverneur Hoes (1900–1978) established the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library in the Fredericksburg, Virginia building that housed the James Monroe Law Office, administered by the University of Mary Washington.[13]

The Gouverneur home, at 63 and 65 Prince Street at Lafayette Street in New York, was sold in 1832 to Miles R. Burke. After three years it was owned by John Ferguson and then was sold to Charles H. Contoit in 1873, and then Daniel Mahoney in 1900.[14] On April 28, 1905, a historical plaque was placed on the building in a ceremony with several Monroe descendants in attendance. A crowd of "thousands" included General Frederick Dent Grant and an army attachment.[15] However, by the 1920s the once-elegant pair of houses had fallen into disrepair and were covered in advertisements.[14][16] A group tried to save one of the houses in the 1920s, but it suffered damage when a move was attempted.[17]

Relationship to Monroe family


  1. ^ George Morgan (1921). The life of James Monroe. Small, Maynard & Company. pp. 416–418. 
  2. ^ a b c d Marian Campbell Gouverneur (1911). As I remember: recollections of American society during the nineteenth century. D. Appleton and Company. pp. 256–259, 314–315.  (Author is daughter-in-law)
  3. ^ a b  
  4. ^ "How many wedding ceremonies have been held at the White House?". While House History web site. The White House Historical Association. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ "White House Brides and Envisioned Flowers: Two Nineteenth-Century White House Weddings" (PDF). White House History (23): 54. 
  6. ^ Jon Meacham (April 30, 2009). American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Random House. p. 181.  
  7. ^ a b c Dorothy S. Eaton (1963). "James Monroe papers, 1758-1839". History of the Collection. US Library of Congress. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  8. ^ Jefferson Siegel (August 8, 2006). "Monroe’s gone, but not forgotten, on E. Second St.". he Villager. Retrieved March 14, 2011. 
  9. ^ Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd (1975). Burke's presidential families of the United States of America. Burke's Peerage. pp. 155–156.  
  10. ^ Edmund Jennings Lee (ed.). Lee of Virginia, 1642-1892: Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of the Descendants of Colonel Richard Lee. p. 392.  
  11. ^ "General News".  
  12. ^ "Samuel L. Gouverneur correspondence, 1822-1851". New York Public Library. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  13. ^ "History of the James Monroe Museum".  
  14. ^ a b "Monroe House to Be Retrieved From the Use of Ragpickers; Home Where Framer of Famous Doctrine Died Has Fallen Upon Bad Days--Interior Ruined, Only a Mantelpiece Remaining to Arrest Its Former Elegance" (PDF).  
  15. ^ "Tablet to Mark House in which Monroe Died; Unveiled Yesterday in Prince St. with Impressive Ceremonies, Several Descendants There; Patriotic Societies Attend and Gen. Grant Commands Body of Infantry from Governors Island" (PDF).  
  16. ^ New-York Historical Society (1973). Mary Black, ed. Old New York in early photographs, 1853-1901: 196 prints from the collection. Courier Dover Publications. p. 77.  
  17. ^ Michael Pollak (September 23, 2007). "Subway Sightseeing: Monroe’s Final Rest".  

External links

  • Nicholas Jenkins. "Samuel Laurence Gouverneur". W. H. Auden Family Ghosts. Stanford University. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  • Samuel Laurence Gouverneur, Sr at Find a Grave
  • Mrs Mary Digges Lee Gouverneur at Find a Grave
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