Sunday, June 15, 2014

Motherless Fathers of Motherless Daughters

Today is Father's Day, and as usual I will recommend to your reading two articles about famous fathers.The first is Aaron Burr:

The second is Jean Laffite.

This morning, it occurred to me that Aaron Burr and Jean Laffite had more in common as fathers than one might suppose: they were both brought up motherless, and they both became fathers to motherless children.

Aaron Burr remembered his mother to some extent, and what he did not remember was available for him to learn from the journal she left behind. 

Jean Laffite did not remember his mother at all, according the Journal of Jean Laffite. But he was lucky that he had his grandmother to raise him in his mother's stead. Jean Laffite said that he owed all his ingenuity to his grandmother.

Inscription on one of Laffite family Bibles
p. 220 of Stanley Clisby Arthur's book, Jean Laffite, Gentleman Rover
Although Jean Laffite and Aaron Burr had no mothers to  raise them, they each came from strong families with a sense of  duty and a desire to raise children. Neither of them was abandoned, and each received a good education, according to the means and the understanding of the family.

In those days, there were no debtors' prisons for fathers who failed to pay child support. There were only debtors' prisons for people who failed to pay the debts that they owed to others which they had promised to pay. If a man did not support his children or wanted nothing to do with them, he was free to abandon them. The loss, society felt, was his own.

As a result, fathers who took care of their children did so out of a strong internal urge to support their families and to nurture their children. Both Jean Laffite and Aaron Burr were absentee fathers, in the sense that their work kept them away from their children for many months and years. But they were both involved in their children's lives, supporting them financially and in more personal ways.

In my two Theodosia and the Pirates books, I focus on the parallel relationships between Aaron Burr and Theodosia and Jean Laffite and Denise. Both Theodosia and Denise grew up without a mother, and both had a close relationship with their famous father.

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