“I have executed your commission,” Mr. Selby writes Reverend Boyer, and “I think [Eliza] fully justifies your partiality to her.” Selby tells Boyer that Eliza is very lovely, but he senses “coquetry” in her airs. When Selby arrived at General Richman’s for dinner, Major Sanford was there as well as a Mr. Laurence and his family. Sanford, it appears to Selby, is “a man of show and fashion.”
Selby’s remark that Sanford is a “man of show and fashion” is a reference to his class and wealth, which makes Boyer even more insecure. Selby’s instant assessment that Eliza is a coquette again reflects their sexist society. Eliza can’t be friendly with a man without others assuming that it is inappropriate.
The dinner conversation soon turned to politics. Mrs. Richman and Eliza readily joined in, but Mrs. Laurence claimed she “never meddled with politics; she thought they did not belong to ladies.” Miss Wharton and Mrs. Richman disagreed. They live in America too, Mrs. Richman said, and while they may not serve on the senate of the nation or “defend its rights,” they are surely allowed to comment on it. “Why should government, which involves the peace and order of the society, of which we are a part, be wholly excluded from our observation?” Mrs. Richman asked. The men “applauded Mrs. Richman’s sentiments as truly Roman; and what was more, they said, truly republican.”
This passage reflects both Eliza and Mrs. Richman’s desire to be seen as equal to men. Popular eighteenth-century opinion dictated that women are incapable of serious conversation, especially about something as important as the new nation, but Mrs. Richman disagrees. Women aren’t allowed to vote or serve in the government, and they certainly can’t serve in the military, but she wants to at least be able to voice an opinion about the country in which she lives.