Catharine Macaulay 1731 - 1791

Catharine Macaulay was a woman of some substance who lived the life she wanted and not the one society wanted for her. She loved the study of history and embraced principles of liberty and democracy. She corresponded with John Adams and not long after the American Revolution she was a guest of George Washington.

Highly criticized in her day, she was one of the persons who inspired Mary Wollstonecraft. Wollstonecraft refers to Maccaulay's work in The Vindication of the Rights of woman

Catharine Macaulay, full name is Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay Graham


1731 - Catharine Macaulay was born on April 2, in Kent, England to Elizabeth Wanley Sawbridge and John Sawbridge. Catharine's maternal grandfather was a well known London banker, George Wanley, who died in 1733 leaving her mother to be his heiress.

Catharine was baptized in Wye, Kent on April 18th.

Her father wanted her early education to be private and so she did not attend school. Her education emphasized Roman history and as a result this young woman became imbued with ideas of Liberty.

1760 At the age of 29 she married a physician, George Macaulay, of Scotland. He was both physician and treasurer of the Brownlow Street Lying in Hospital of London. The couple had one daughter.

1763 Just 3 years later The first volume of her History of England was published.

1766 Catharine Macaulay became a widow after only 6 years of marriage.

1774 She moved to Bath in Somerset. She met Dr. Thomas Wilson a rector in London who turned over his residence in on Alfred Street in Bath with its extensive library to her. Catharine became part of the social scene and was the center of an admiring public well as an object of criticism.

1775 She visited Paris where she was greeted with honor. She became infatuated with fashion and many in England, including Dr. Johnson, criticized her for this.

1777 On another trip to Paris she met a number of well known liberals including Benjamin Franklin, Turgot, Marmontel and Madame Dubocage. It is said that Dr. Johnson, who was no fan of either her ideas or her lifestyle said: 'You are to recollect, madam, that there is a monarchy in heaven;' to which she replied, 'If I thought so, sir, I should never wish to go there.'

1778 In this year she married William Graham of Scotland, who was younger than she was. (Graham is best known as the younger brother of a 'quack doctor') Again, Catharine was widely criticized for the marriage and lost many 'friends' who had been in her circle. She left Bath and went to Leicestershire and then to Berkshire.

1784 She traveled to North America with her husband.

1785 While visiting American she spent 10 days at George Washington's hone Mount Vernon. Upon her return to England she settled in Bindield, Berkshire.

1791 Catharine Macaulay died on June 22 of this year.


1763 - 1783. History of England from the Accession of James I to that of the Bruswick Line - 8 vols. a well known and popular work in its time.

Like many politically active thinkers of her day, Catharine Macauley published many pamphlets. The covered politics, metaphysics and morals.

1767 Loose Remarks on Certain Positions to be found in Mr. Hobbes’ Philosophical Rudiments of Government and Society with A Short Sketch of a Democratical Form of Government in a Letter to Signor Paoli

1770 Observations on a Pamphlet, Entitled, 'Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents'

1775 The Address to the People of England, Scotland, and Ireland, on the Present Important Crisis of Affairs

1783 Treatise on the Immutability of Moral Truth

1790 Observations on the Reflections of the Right Hon. Edmund Burke, On the Revolution in France, in a Letter to the Right Hon. The Earl of Stanhope

1790 Letters on Education with Observations on Religious and Metaphysical Subjects

Catharine Sawbridge Macaulay Graham was a strong correspondent and some of her letters are available on line.

Catharine Macaulay correspondence with John Adams

Letters from Mercy Warren, an early historian of the United States, can be found at:

Letter #2

Letter 3

Letter 4

Letter 5

Letters from Macaulay to Mercy Warren

Letter 6

Letter 7

Letter from James Otis to Catharine Macaulay

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