Julia Ward Howe: 1819-1910
Maud Howe Elliott
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Our mother was once present at a meeting where there was talk of ancestry and heredity. One of the speakers dwelt largely upon the sins of the fathers. He drew stern pictures of the vice, the barbarism, the heathenism of the "good old times," and ended by saying with emphasis that he felt himself "bowed down beneath the burden of the sins of his ancestors."
Our mother was on her feet in a flash.
"Mr. So-and-So," she said, "is bowed down by the sins of his ancestors. I wish to say that all my life I have been buoyed up and lifted on by the remembrance of the virtues of mine!"
These words are so characteristic of her, that in beginning the story of her life it seems proper to dwell at some length on the ancestors whose memory she cherished with such reverence.
The name of Ward occurs first on the roll of Battle Abbey: "Seven hundred and ten distinguished persons" accompanied William of Normandy to England, among them "Ward, one of the noble captains."
Her first known ancestor, John Ward, of Gloucester, England, sometime cavalry officer in Cromwell's army, came to this country after the Restoration and settled at Newport in Rhode Island. His son Thomas married Amy Smith, a granddaughter of Roger Williams. Thomas's son Richard became Governor of Rhode Island and had fourteen children, among them Samuel, who in turn became Governor of the Colony, and a member of the Continental Congress. He was the only Colonial governor who refused to take the oath to enforce the Stamp Act. In 1775, in the Continental Congress, he was made Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, which from 1774 to 1776 sat daily, working without intermission in the cause of independence. But though one of the framers of the "Declaration," he was not destined to be a "signer." John Adams says of him, "When he was seized with the smallpox he said that if his vote and voice were necessary to support the cause of his country, he should live; if not, he should die. He died, and the cause of his country was supported, but it lost one of its most sincere and punctual advocates."