To George Washington
AL (draft): Library of Congress
Passy, near Paris, Sept. 3 1777
M. Gontier de Biran, who will have the honour of delivering this into your hands,3 is strongly recommended to me by Persons of Merit and Distinction at this Court, as a Gentleman of Family, and of excellent Character for his Morals, Prudence, and Attention to the Duties of his Profession as a Soldier. He is desirous of improving himself in that Profession, under a General, who with all conversant in military Affairs, enjoys here the highest Reputation imaginable. The Certificates Mr. de Biran has to produce, will show the State of his Service hitherto. The Respect I have for those who interest themselves in his Behalf, makes me wish that he may meet with what will render our Service agreable to him, and with Occasions of distinguishing himself so as to merit your Approbation. I beg leave therefore to recommend him warmly to your favourable Notice; and have the Honour to be Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant
3. His identity is a puzzle. The whole tone of the letter suggests that he was a man of consequence; BF was too well aware of the difficulties such letters caused to give one to a nobody. It is tempting to think that he misspelled the name and was writing for Louis-Armand Gontaut de Biron (1747–93), better known as the duc de Lauzun, with whom he had supposedly been in contact the previous June; the two had negotiated unsuccessfully, according to Stormont, for recruiting French officers: Stevens, Facsimiles, XVI, no. 1545, p. 4. But the Duke always seems to have been called Lauzun, and he first arrived in America with Rochambeau in 1780. As for Gontier de Biran, there was such a family in Bergerac, neither noble nor otherwise distinguished, with three members of the right age in the garde du corps, and one more senior officer who had been in the Condé dragoons: Bodinier. None of these seems a likely candidate, however, or as far as we know ever crossed the Atlantic.