Assuming Adult Responsibilities
Digital History ID 4214
In this letter to Miss Bartlett, Eliza Lucas talks about studying enough law to draft legal wills for area residents.
...I am engaged with the rudiments of the Law, to which I am yet but a stranger, and what adds to my mortification I soon discovered that Doctor Wood [a law book] wants the consideration of your good Uncle, who with a graceful ease and good nature peculiar to himself, is always ready to instruct the ignorant. But this rustic seems by no means to court my acquaintance for he often treats me with such cramp phrases, I am unable to understand him.
However I hope in a short time with the help of Dictionary's French and English, we shall be better friends; nor shall I grudge a little pains and application, if that will make me useful to any of my poor neighbours, we have some in this neighbourhood, who have a little land a few slaves and cattle to give their children, that never think of making a will 'till they come upon a sick bed, and find it too expensive to send to town for a lawyer.
If you will not laugh too immoderately at me I'll trust you with a secret. I have made two wills already! I know I have done no harm, for I learned my lesson very perfect, and know how to convey by will, Estates, Real and Personal, and never forget in its proper place, him and his heirs forever, nor that 'tis to be signed by three witnesses in presence of one another; but the most comfortable remembrance of all is that Doctor Wood says, the Law makes great allowance for Las Wills and Testaments, presuming the testator could not have council learned in the law. But after all what can I do if a poor creature lies a-dying, and their family takes it into their head that I can serve them. I can't refuse; but when they are well, and able to employ a lawyer, I always shall.
A widow hereabouts with a pretty little fortune, teased me intolerable to draw her a marriage settlement, but it was out of my depth and I absolutely refused it, so she got an abler hand to do it, indeed she could afford it, but I could not get off from being of the Trustees to her Settlement, and an old gentleman the other.
I shall begin to think myself an old woman before I am well a young one, having these weighty affairs upon my hands.
Source: The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney (1972). Edited by Elise Pinckney, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
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