Courtship and dating in the 1800s

And romantic love—based on mutual affection and companionship—became the ideal. A string of broken engagements could cast the woman as a flirt—a “coquette” in the language of the day—or, worse, prompt speculation about her virtue.

Putting love at the center of courtship also raised the stakes. A marriage entered into too hastily held its own dangers.

Although more common in New England, bundling was practiced in many of the other colonies.

"A very extraordinary method of courtship, which is sometimes practised amongst the lower people of this province, and is called Tarrying, has given occasion to this reflection.

In generations past, parents had played a decisive role in these negotiations.

But over the course of the 18th century, young people gained more independence in their choices.

As voters and office holders, men like William Smith were the major players in this new political landscape.

As the mistress of Brandon, a large plantation south of the James River, Elizabeth Page Harrison—both in person and in her portrait—reflected the wealth and social standing of her husband, Benjamin. Of course, this promise extended only to native-born or naturalized white males who owned land—men such as William Smith. Pictured at his country estate alongside his grandson, Smith is cast as a worthy contender for public office: a man who has cultivated his mind and his family as well as his property. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation and the Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund 75.11 After the American Revolution, the newly established United States offered exciting possibilities for individual freedom and political participation.With her arm resting gracefully upon a monumental stone column—an imaginary feature—Betsy’s pose recalls images of British aristocracy.Traditionally, a portrait like this would hang alongside pictures of illustrious ancestors and the household’s young children—an imposing display that demonstrated the family’s past roots and future promise.

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