Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Marquis de Lafayette, 10 February 1801

From Marquis de Lafayette

La Grange 20th Nivose febr. the 10th 1801

My dear Hamilton

I Have not, Since my Return to france,1 Received a Line from you—yet I am Sure you are affectionately interested in every Account Which Concerns me. The departure of Mr pichon2 for the United States affords me a Good Opportunity to write. He Has much pleased me by His eager wishes and Useful Exertions for a Reconciliation Between Both Countries. He Speaks of America and Americans in terms gratifying to my feelings and Has Expressed Himself particularly desirous to Come to you with a Letter from your old and Constant friend. You Have no doubt Received the News of the Negociation Between the United States and france,3 and the intelligence must Have Been personally given By one of the Ministers who Have Been Employed in it. A Continental peace, in Europe, is the Result of a Series of french victories. The Rhine Shall Be our frontier. The New italian Republics will probably be otherwise disposed of.4 There is Hope of a British Negociation.5 this Governement does Earnestly wish to put Every where an end to the war. the Late attempt Against the life of Bonaparte6 By threatening the tranquillity of the Citizens at Large, Has Made Him More popular; it is Evident, in the Moral State of the Nation, that None But the two Extreme parties Could Have Improved the Event which Being prepared By the terrorists would have, at least for Some time, given them a tremendous chance of power—unless it Had Been taken By the Garrison. You May Conceive How Every Honest Man Has Been Affected on Hearing of a plot the object and the Circumstances of which were Equally detestable. oh, my dear friend, preserve your Liberties—do not let party spirit and personal Hatreds Be Carried farther than the proper Balance in a wise, virtuous Commonwealth! that you May Have Nothing to do with the deceases, nor Even with the Medicines—my whole Heart is in the wishes I form for the Continuation of your political, social personal freedom, dignity, and Happiness!

The Opinion of Several American friends, particularly Gnl Washington and You, the Situation of My french companions who Had Not, as I Had, another Country they Could Call their Own, did, as You know, keep me in Europe Untill the Revolution of Brumaire.7 The professions of Liberty and justice which Accompaynied it made it decent and of Course proper for me to Return to france. My Companions Have Been Erased from the fatal List.8 My friends Have Reentered the Carrier of public places—and in the Mixture which Bonaparte Has thought political to Make, He Has Given a Majority to Honest Men. As to Myself I was on the day of My Arrival and Am More and More Every day determined for a Life of perfect Retirement. It Has Been Said I was going to America as an Ambassador.9 My feelings and My Habits in the United States I could Not Well Reconcile to the Acting a foreign Character, However friendly, nor Could I with Ease to Myself, Either within or without put off my American Regimentals. I may Be a Happy Visitor, and So I shall one day or another, But Am Not fitt to Be An Ambassador of One Country to the other. I feel it Better than it Can Be Expressed which joined to the Bad Health of My wife and Her Inability to Cross the Seas, puts the Matter on the footing of Impossibility. It Has Been Also Reported I was intended for, and several friends Had wished me in the public places of this Constitutional Establishment.10 I was totally a Stranger to the framing of it. I Have Earned My Right to a Life of tranquillity, and Am determined not to let myself be decoyed or persuaded out of it. As to the Command of Armies, there are now in france so many good generals, Bonaparte and Moreau11 Have Been Endowed with military Abilities So prodigious and So Successful, that it were out of the question for me to think, at this late Hour of the war, of Reassuming the staff. it was not the Case with Georges.12 He serves in the Army of italy as an Officer of Huzzards, and Has Been lately Engaged in the Actions of the passages of Rivers which you will find in the papers.13

I am therefore and shall remain a farmer. My wife, my two daughters, son in law, and a little grand daughter are with me in a Solitary country place, upwards of forty miles from Paris, where I am visited by Some of my friends, and where I Live very Happy amidst rural Employments and Rural Studies of which I am very fond. My visits to the Capital are Rare, and Short. I am on good terms with the first consul My deliverer from Olmutz who Has Recalled My Companions, and Behaves very Obligingly By me—But I do not in Any degree nor Any Way Meddle with public Affairs. I wish Bonaparte May Seek and find in the Establishement of true freedom the Complement of His Glory as well as the security of His person and of a legal power—it were for Liberty the Safest and the Nearest Chance. As to foreign politics, the Military Superiority of france is Unrivalled, Her Resources are immense, the intentions of Her governement are Sincere and generous, and, I think, particularly well disposed towards the United States—an Opinion of Mine the Less to Be prejudiced as I Have No participation in their Councils.

My Abode is An inheritance of my unfortunate Mother in law.14 What Remained of My property when I left france Has Been for the greatest part Sold and dilapidated. I Have Many debts to pay—Yet will I in the End Have Enough for my family and myself to live upon—Not Enough However to manage my farm in the Elegant Style Which would Suit my Agricultural taste. But whatever Be My private Circumstances I shall Stick to the plough and to a Life of Retirement.

Now, my dear friend, may I Hope that you will, in Return, give me Minuted details of every think that Concerns you. Be pleased to Remind me to Our Brother Soldiers who Have not for gotten their Long Absent Comrade—to my Ancient friends about you—present My Affectionate Respects to Mrs Hamilton, and Her Sister.15 I trust this letter which I Send By post to L’orient will Arrive Safely with Mr pichon. Governement Has great confidence in Him and I Have Been much pleased with His Acquaintance. May the Connection Between the two countries Be improved, as it is Natural and easy to do it, for the Mutual interest, Honeur, and Happiness of Both!

With all the Sentiments which Have for So long a time Attached me to you I am,

My dear Hamilton   Your friend


M Pichon Has Lately married a Young and Amiable Lady16 who Accompaynies Him. I Have foretold Her she would Be very well Liked in America, and I do not fear to Be mistaken in my prediction.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Lafayette returned to France in December, 1800, after the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, an VIII (November 9–10, 1799).

2Louis André Pichon was appointed by Napoleon in January, 1801, as consul general and chargé d’affaires to the United States to replace Joseph Philippe Létombe, who had been consul general. Pichon arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, on March 11, 1801, and on March 18 Thomas Jefferson received him in Washington. On March 19 Jefferson formally recognized Pichon as commissary general of commercial relations for the French Republic in addition to his other official roles. See the [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, March 27, 1801.

3For the Convention of 1800 (Treaty of Môrtefontaine), see Harrison Gray Otis to H, December 17, 1800, note 5.

4By the terms of the Treaty of Lunéville, which France and Austria signed on February 9, 1801, the eastern border of France was extended to the Rhine River and France reestablished its control over the Cisalpine and Ligurian Republics in Italy, which Napoleon had created in 1797. Napoleon’s control of Italy became complete when France and Naples signed a treaty on March 29, 1801, which put Naples under French military occupation.

5Negotiations for peace between Great Britain and France began on March 21, 1801, and resulted in the Treaty of Amiens, signed on March 27, 1802.

6The Opera Plot or the Plot of Rue Nicaise on December 24, 1800, was instigated by three Royalists who planted a bomb which exploded in the street near Napoleon’s carriage. The First Consul escaped injury, but nearly one hundred bystanders were killed or wounded. Napoleon, convinced that the terrorists were Jacobins, arrested one hundred and thirty-two prominent Republicans and deported them to the Seychelle Islands. Subsequently, the three Royalists were arrested and confessed, but Napoleon refused to reinstate the Republicans.

7Napoleon, with the assistance of the directors Abbé Emmanuel Sieyès and Joseph Roger Ducos, led the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire, an VIII (November 9–10, 1799), which overthrew the Directory and established the Consulate with Napoleon as First Consul. On December 24, 1799, the Constitution du 22 Frimaire, an VIII (December 13, 1799), which established Napoleon as dictator, was approved by popular vote. The Constitution is printed in Duvergier, Lois description begins J. B. Duvergier, Collection Complète des Lois, Décrets, Ordonnances, Réglemens, et Avis du Conseil-d’Etat, Publiée sur les Editions Officielles du Louvre; de L’Impremerie Nationale, Par Baudouin; et Du Bulletin des Lois (Paris, 1824–1825). description ends , XII, 23–32.

8Lafayette was referring to lists of banished émigrés kept by municipalities and departments in France from 1792 to 1800. See, for example, Rufus King to H, September 9, 1797, note 3; Francisco de Miranda to H, February 7, 1798, note 4. On March 3, 1800, Napoleon, by consular decree, suspended the addition of names to the lists, and on October 20, 1800, he granted partial amnesty to approximately fifty-two thousand exiles by allowing them to return to France if they took an oath of allegiance to the Constitution.

9See H to Lafayette, January 6, 1799, note 4; National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, December 24, 1800; [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, March 21, 1801.

10Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, Napoleon’s private secretary, wrote in his memoirs: “Peu de temps après, dans les premiers jours de septembre 1800, M. de Lafayette fut invité par Joseph [Bonaparte] à assister à la fete donnée aux Américains à l’occasion du traité de commerce et d’amitié qui venait d’être conclu avec eux. Le Premier Consul, auquel tout réussissait alors, et qui n’avait que des motifs de satisfaction, offrit à M. de Lafayette de le faire entrer dans le Sénat. M. de Lafayette n’accepta pas cette offre, mais continua cependant à voir le Premier Consul et à rester avec lui dans les rapports d’une estime réciproque. L’époque où Bonaparte voulut se faire nommer Consul à vie mit fin à ces relations. M. de Lafayette ne voulait du Consulat à vie, qu’á condition que la liberté politique serait suffisamment garantic…” (Désiré Lacroix, Mémoires de M. De Bourrienne Ministre D’État sur Napoléon: Le Directoire, Le Consulat, L’Empire et La Restauration [Paris: Garnier Frères, Libraires-Êditeurs, 6, Rue des Saints-Pères, 6, n.d.], II, 487–88). After reading a letter from Lafayette, dated May 21, 1802, Napoleon said to Bourrienne: “Je vous l’avais bien dit, M. de Lafayette est un monomane politique, un entèté; il ne me comprend pas: j’en suis fâché, car c’est un honnète homme. J’ai voulu le faire sénateur, il a refusé. Ma foi, tant pis pour lui; je me passerai bien de son vote” (Lacroix, Mémoires de Bourrienne, II, 488–89).

11General Jean Victor Moreau commanded the Army of the Rhine and Moselle under the Directory in 1796 and he led the Army of Italy from 1799 to 1800. In 1800 he was again in command of the Army of the Rhine.

12George Washington Motier Lafayette, Lafayette’s only son.

13For Napoleon’s campaign in northern Italy and Germany during the winter of 1800–1801, see Gouverneur Morris to H, January 16, 1801, note 10. See also The [New York] Spectator, March 4, 25, 1801; [Philadelphia] Aurora. General Advertiser, March 28, 1801.

14Henriette d’Agusseau de Fresnes, duchesse d’Ayen, the mother of Marie Adrienne Françoise de Noailles de Lafayette, was guillotined on 4 Thermidor, an II (July 22, 1794).

15Angelica Schuyler Church, the wife of John B. Church.

16A. Emilie Brongniart Pichon.

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