Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 8 February 1786

To James Madison

Paris Feb. 8. 1786.

Dear Sir

My last letters have been of the 1st. and 20th. of Sep. and the 28th. of Oct. Yours unacknoleged are of Aug. 20. Oct. 3. and Nov. 15. I take this the first safe opportunity of inclosing you the bills of lading for your books, and two others for your name sake of Williamsburgh and for the attorney which I will pray you to forward. I thank you for the communication of the remonstrance against the assessment. Mazzei who is now in Holland promised me to have it published in the Leyden gazette. It will do us great honour. I wish it may be as much approved by our assembly as by the wisest part of Europe. I have heard with great pleasure that our assembly have come to the resolution of giving the regulation of their commerce to the federal head. I will venture to assert that there is not one of it’s opposers who, placed on this ground, would not see the wisdom of this measure. The politics of Europe render it indispensably necessary that with respect to every thing external we be one nation only, firmly hooped together. Interior government is what each state should keep to itself. If it could be seen in Europe that all our states could be brought to concur in what the Virginia assembly has done, it would produce a total revolution in their opinion of us, and respect for us. And it should ever be held in mind that insult and war are the consequences of a want of respectability in the national character. As long as the states exercise separately those acts of power which respect foreign nations, so long will there continue to be irregularities committing by some one or other of them which will constantly keep us on an ill footing with foreign nations.

I thank you for your information as to my Notes. The copies I have remaining shall be sent over to be given to some of my friends and to select subjects in the college. I have been unfortunate here with this trifle. I gave out a few copies only, and to confidential persons, writing in every copy a restraint against it’s publication. Among others I gave a copy to a Mr. Williamos. He died. I immediately took every precaution I could to recover this copy. But by some means or other a book seller had got hold of it. He had employed a hireling translator and was about publishing it in the most injurious form possible. An Abbé Morellet, a man of letters here to whom I had given a copy, got notice of this. He had translated some passages for a particular purpose: and he compounded with the bookseller to translate and give him the whole, on his declining the first publication. I found it necessary to confirm this, and it will be published in French, still mutilated however in it’s freest parts. I am now at a loss what to do as to England. Every thing, good or bad, is thought worth publishing there; and I apprehend a translation back from the French and publication there. I rather believe it will be most eligible to let the original come out in that country: but am not yet decided.

I have purchased little for you in the book way since I sent the catalogue of my former purchases. I wish first to have your answer to that, and your information what parts of those purchases went out of your plan. You can easily say buy more of this kind, less of that &c. My wish is to conform myself to yours. I can get for you the original Paris edition in folio of the Encyclopedie for 620 livres, 35. vols: a good edition in 39. vols 4to, for 380livre tournois and a good one in 39. vols. 8vo. for 280livre tournois. The new one will be superior in far the greater number of articles: but not in all. And the possession of the ancient one has more over the advantage of supplying present use. I have bought one for myself, but wait your orders as to you. I remember your purchase of a watch in Philadelphia. If she should not have proved good, you can probably sell her. In that case I can get for you here, one made as perfect as human art can make it for about 24. louis. I have had such a one made by the best and most faithful hand in Paris. She has a second hand, but no repeating, no day of the month, nor other useless thing to impede and injure the movements which are necessary. For 12. louis more you can have in the same cover, but on the backside, and absolutely unconnected with the movements of the watch, a pedometer which shall render you an exact account of the distances you walk. Your pleasure hereon shall be awaited.

Houdon is returned. He called on me the other day to remonstrate against the inscription proposed for Genl. W’s statue. He says it is too long to be put on the pedestal. I told him I was not at liberty to permit any alteration, but I would represent his objection to a friend who could judge of it’s validity, and whether a change could be authorized. This has been the subject of conversations here, and various devices and inscriptions have been suggested. The one which has appeared best to me may be translated as follows: ‘Behold, Reader, the form of George Washington. For his worth, ask History: that will tell it, when this stone shall have yeilded to the decays of time. His country erects this monument: Houdon makes it.’ This for one side. On the 2d. represent the evacuation of Boston with the motto ‘hostibus primum fugatis.’ On the 3d. the capture of the Hessians with ‘hostibus iterum devictis.’ On the 4th. the surrender of York, with ‘hostibus ultimum debellatis.’ This is seising the three most brilliant actions of his military life. By giving out here a wish of receiving mottos for this statue, we might have thousands offered, of which still better might be chosen. The artist made the same objection of length to the inscription for the bust of the M. de la fayette. An alteration of that might come in time still, if an alteration was wished. However I am not certain that it is desireable in either case. The state of Georgia has given 20,000 acres of land to the Count d’Estaing. This gift is considered here as very honourable to him, and it has gratified him much. I am persuaded that a gift of lands by the state of Virginia to the Marquis de la fayette would give a good opinion here of our character, and would reflect honour on the Marquis. Nor am I sure that the day will not come when it might be an useful asylum to him. The time of life at which he visited America was too well adapted to receive good and lasting impressions to permit him ever to accommodate himself to the principles of monarchical government; and it will need all his own prudence and that of his friends to make this country a safe residence for him. How glorious, how comfortable in reflection will it be to have prepared a refuge for him in case of a reverse. In the mean time he could settle it with tenants from the freest part of this country, Bretagny. I have never suggested the smallest idea of this kind to him: because the execution of it should convey the first notice. If the state has not a right to give him lands with their own officers, they could buy up at cheap prices the shares of others.—I am not certain however whether in the public or private opinion, a similar gift to Count Rochambeau could be dispensed with. If the state could give to both, it would be better: but in any event I think they should to the Marquis. C. Rochambeau too has really deserved more attention than he has received. Why not set up his bust, that of Gates, Greene, Franklin in your new Capitol? à propos of the Capitol, do my dear friend exert yourself to get the plan begun or set aside, and that adopted which was drawn here. It was taken from a model which has been the admiration of 16. centuries, which has been the object of as many pilgrimages as the tomb of Mahomet; which will give unrivalled honour to our state, and furnish a model whereon to form the taste of our young men. It will cost much less too than the one begun, because it does not cover one half the Area. Ask if you please, a sight of my letter of Jan. 26. to Messrs. Buchanan and Hay, which will spare me the repeating it’s substance here.

Every thing is quiet in Europe. I recollect but one new invention in the arts which is worth mentioning. It is a mixture of the arts of engraving and printing, rendering both cheaper. Write or draw any thing on a plate of brass with the ink of the inventor, and in half an hour he gives you copies of it so perfectly like the original that they could not be suspected to be copies. His types for printing a whole page are all in one solid peice. An author therefore only prints a few copies of his work from time to time as they are called for. This saves the loss of printing more copies than may possibly be sold, and prevents an edition from being ever exhausted.

I am with a lively esteem Dear Sir your sincere friend & servant,

Th: Jefferson

P.S. Could you procure and send me an hundred or two nuts of the Paccan? They would enable me to oblige some characters here whom I should be much gratified to oblige. They should come packed in sand. The seeds of the sugar maple too would be a great present.

RC (DLC: Madison Papers). PrC (DLC). Noted in SJL as sent “by Mr. Barrett in the Packet.” The enclosed bills of lading have not been found.

By some means or other a book seller had got hold of it: Barrois was the bookseller, and the means by which he obtained possession of the copy of Notes on Virginia that TJ gave to Charles Williamos becomes more apparent with the discovery of Williamos’ will among the notarial archives of Paris (for a sketch of Williamos and his relations with TJ, see TJ to Williamos, 7 July 1785). Even before Williamos’ death TJ had feared that the numerous copies he had been obliged to give to friends and public acquaintances in Europe would result in publication, despite the carefully worded injunction that he placed in each copy (TJ to Madison, 1 Sep. 1785; see inscription in presentation copy to Richard Price, Vol. 8: 246, for the injunction against publication, an almost invariable form). It is generally supposed that Abbé Morellet’s translation resulted from his learning about Barrois’ possession of Williamos’ copy, and indeed TJ himself in the present letter gives the impression that Morellet, at the time he learned of the intent to bring out a surreptitious edition, had only translated some passages (Malone, Jefferson, ii, 104; Marie Kimball, Jefferson, ii, 259–305—the best account of Notes of Virginia- and especially p. 297; TJ’s letter to Bancroft, 26 Feb. 1786, doubtless contributed to the view). But Morellet’s undated letter, printed above at the end of Dec. 1785 and probably written late that month or early in January, shows that he had already translated, during his illness in November and December, “la plus grande partie” of the Notes; it further reveals the fact that Morellet, Chastellux, and St. Lambert were acting in a concerted effort to persuade TJ to consent to publication; finally, it makes no mention of a surreptitious publication, a fact which proves that it was written before Morellet learned of Barrois’ possession of the Williamos copy. Morellet no doubt acted promptly on learning of Barrois’ intention, made an agreement with him, confronted TJ with the resultant proposal, and the latter felt obliged to confirm their understanding. All of this must have taken place in January, perhaps early in the month (see TJ to Dumas, 2 Feb. 1786, in which he said that he had been threatened with the appearance of the surreptitious edition “very soon”).

On 7 June 1785 Charles Williamos drew up a holographic will, in French, in which he described himself as a citizen of the state of New York. The entire will, except for the declaration of citizenship, reads as follows:

“Je Soubsignê … désirant doner les preuves les plus efficaces de mon attachement, et faire un sort Independant à la demoiselle Zacharie Ladevêze, fille du Sieur Gregoire Ladevêze, Maitre en Chirurgie à Lyon, et de feu demoiselle Pierrette Favre, de St. Cyr près de Lyon, Declare et reconais par les presentes que ma volonté et bon plaisir est que la susdite demoiselle Zacharie Ladevêze Jouira, partagera, recevra et possedera la moitié de toutes les possessions reelles et personelles, meubles et imeubles, et de tous les effets de quelle Nature quelconqu[e] qu’ils puissent etre, dont Je serai en possession à ma mort soit en France, en Angleterre, à la Jamaique, dans les Etats Unis de l’Amerique ou dans aucune partie du Monde que ce soit, et Je declare en outre que c’est mon desir et ma Volonté absolue que la Susdite Moitié de toutes Mes possessions ou effets quelconques deviendront la Jouissance et seront bien et valablement acquîses en partage et possession absolue, et en toute propriété dès le moment de mon deçès, sans qu’aucune persone quelconque puisse sous aucun pretexte quelconque, autre que dettes Justes et legitimes, Mettre la Moindre opposition ou reclamation à ce que la Susdite demoiselle Zacharie Ladevêze Jouisse, possêde, et dispose à perpetuité de la susdite moitié de tous mes effets, meubles et Imeubles, après ma Mort. Fait et signè à Paris ce Septiéme Juin 1785. C. Williamos.” The date at which the will was drawn up (only a month before TJ’s cold termination of his relationship with Williamos on 7 July 1785)? the emphatic, unequivocal language? the fact that only one disposition was made of his effects—all point to the conclusion that Williamos was sorely beset, a conclusion borne out by the sequel, which showed that Zacharie Ladevêze interpreted quite literally the words “possession absolue … dès le moment de mon deçès.” Williamos died on Saturday, 12 Nov. 1785, and on that day at three o’clock in the afternoon Mlle. Ladevêze left her residence at “Rue du Petit Reposoir, hotel des anglois” and appeared before Marie Joseph Chénon, “avocat en parlement, conseiller du Roy, Commissaire au Chatelet de Paris,” bearing in hand Williamos’ will, unsealed, which she testified had been delivered to her by Williamos on the very day that that document had been drawn up. The will was then paraphed and signed by Chénon, signed by Mlle. Ladevêze, and, on the same day, placed in the hands of Laroche, notary in rue Neuve des Petits Champs. On 29 Nov., in a third-floor furnished apartment in the hotel of one Chabanetti, called “L’union,” rue St. Thomas du Louvre, where Williamos had died, the personal possessions that he had left behind were appraised and inventoried. Madame Chabanetti testified under oath that none of the effects had been taken away or held back. The possessions were in three trunks. The first contained clothing and other objects such as a half-pay officer, not yet reduced to the last extremity, might possess—three pairs of silk breeches, twelve pairs of stockings, seven of them white, gray, or black silk; gold epaulets; a waistcoat of black silk, one of embroidered white silk, another of blue satin embroidered with flowers, another of velvet; two hats for wearing on the head and one, with plume, “à metre sous le bras”; a sword in a white scabbard; a small writing-box with a drawer; eight pairs of cuffs, including one of lace and petit-point and one of “grande Valenciennes” lace; a leather case with three razors, two pairs of buckles, and a small bottle containing eight spoonsful and a pinch of “Sucre d’argent des Isles”; a gold ring with a carnelian stone; a coat and waistcoat of black silk; several surtouts; eleven shirts and seven mousseline cravats; a dress coat of blue broadcloth and another of mixed colors with white metal buttons; several redingotes, one of scarlet with similar buttons; a pair of breeches of old black satin; and—what must have interested TJ—a collection of plants and a register of its contents. The total appraised value of the contents of this trunk was only 228 livres.

The other two trunks contained business and personal papers, bundled into parcels by those making the inventory. The first of these parcels—there were thirty-four in all, of which the largest contained 122 pieces—consisted of five pawn-broker’s receipts for personal possessions “mis en gages au Mont de piété,” according to Madame Chabanetti. The numbers of the receipts (the pawn-broker evidently did a thriving business), their dates, the items pledged, and the amounts borrowed are sad but eloquent testimony to the fact that circumstances were closing in swiftly on Williamos at the very time that Zacharie Ladevêze obtained the will naming her as beneficiary. The contents of these receipts may be summarized as follows: (1) No. 15069, 18 Mch. 1785, for a loan of 75 livres on three pairs of buckles; a parcel of rings; and a spice-box, porringer, platter, and tea-pot, all of silver; (2) No. 16277, 3 May 1785, for a loan of 111 livres on a pair of brass pistols and a ring with “cheveux sous glace entourée de menus brillans”; (3) No. 28671, 30 May 1785, for a loan of 120 livres on a gold enamelled watch and two seals mounted in gold; (4) No. 31835, 14 June 1785, for a loan of 144 livres on an engraved gold repeating watch; (5) No. 34087, 23 June 1785, for a loan of 66 livres on a dozen pairs of silk stockings. This was not all. Pierre Sallard, notary acting as proxy for François Marsolet, Williamos’ servant, produced three other pawn tickets: (1) No. 34969, 30 June 1785, for a loan of 36 livres on a silver-hilted sword; (2) an unnumbered ticket dated 8 July 1785—the day Williamos replied to TJ’s letter—for a loan of 72 livres on a suit of ratteen, a suit of velvet, a coat and waistcoat of broadcloth, and a satin waistcoat; (3) No. 50945, 12 Sep. 1785, for a loan of 27 livres on two pairs of white silk stockings and five pairs of hose. Sallard also said that there was still another pawn ticket for a loan of 132 livres on a gold watch, but that this was in the hands of one André Portier who had advanced 72 livres to Marsolet for daily expenses during Williamos’ illness.

At this point in the taking of the inventory, the trunks were again placed under seal and the examination postponed to a future date. The copy of Notes on Virginia had not been found among Williamos’ effects. Since the trunks were only partially inventoried (but that part fully and precisely described) on 29 Nov. and were sealed up again, not to be reopened until 6 July 1787, it is obvious that Williamos’ copy of the book was on its way to Barrois before or soon after his death. The injunction inscribed on the fly-leaf against putting the Notes on Virginia “into the hands of any person on whose care and fidelity he cannot rely to guard them against publication” (or some variant of that expression) would only serve to put a stranger on notice that this was a book a publisher might wish to see. Williamos was driven to desperate lengths, as the pawn tickets show, but his servant—and, unknown to him, TJ also—stood by with aid in his last difficult days; the pawning of intimate personal belongings continued through his illness; and there is, therefore, no reason to suppose that he authorized the book to be turned over to Barrois. There is no documentary proof, but logic, the circumstances, and the absence of any better candidate point to Zacharie Ladevêze as the person responsible. Nevertheless, Madame Chabanetti and her husband, despite the former’s oath, cannot be exempted as possibilities.

The inventory of papers in the two trunks, as resumed in July 1787, reveals a few further facts of interest about Williamos. He held title to several thousand acres of land in Gloucester, Dutchess, and Ulster counties in New York, and also in the Champlain valley; on 29 June 1784, William Wall, a merchant of Providence, R.I., sold some land and a house in that city to him for ․6,000; he had accounts and correspondence about business with various persons in America; the largest bundle of papers in his effects concerned a glazier’s works in Montélimart in which he was interested; and the next largest bundle was 89 pieces comprising “les lettres de Demoiselle Zacarie Comintos à M. Vullyamoz, projets de lettres en reponse et autres lettres et notes relatives a ladite Demoiselle.” The papers themselves were ultimately turned over to Jean François de Viterne, notary in Paris who represented Williamos’ sister and ultimate heir, Louise Henriette, Baroness de Rottenbourg of Lausanne.

Finally, the power of attorney given by Williamos’ sister to De Viterne and especially the certificate issued by the burgomaster and council of Lausanne establish with certainty some facts about Williamos’ name and family. His parents were Abram and Marie Françoise Bory Vullyamoz. He had no brothers and two sisters, Marie Judith and Louise Henriette, who at his death were the sole surviving members of his family. And, according to the certificate issued by the burgomaster and council of Lausanne, to all of whom he was declared to be particularly known, his name was given as “Monsieur Charles Joseph Abram Vullyamoz … dit ordinairement Charles Vullyamoz.” He was also known, and will doubtless continue to be referred to (as in this edition), by the name under which he was registered in the British army and by which TJ and others addressed him—Charles Williamos. (The documents on which the foregoing account is based are to be found under 12 Nov. 1785 and 29 Nov. 1785 in the minutes of the notary Laroche, Archives Nationales, Minutier Central des Notaires de la Seine; the will was recorded on 10 Jan. 1786 in the registry of wills, Archives de la Seine, Paris; photostats of these documents are in TJ Editorial Files and were obtained through the kind permission of Maître Mennesson, 26 Avenue de la Grande Armée, Paris, successor to Laroche.)

The inscription proposed for Washington’s statue that Houdon objected to on account of length is that written by Madison and adopted by the General Assembly on 26 June 1784 (quoted in full, Vol. 7: 379). The conversations on this subject were evidently set going by Houdon’s arrival in late Jan.; some of the various devices and inscriptions … suggested were set down in a fair copy in TJ’s hand (DLC: TJ Papers, 234: 41943; undated) and reading as follows:

“[1] Hoc Cincinnati Brutique in marmore virtus

Spirat in hoc Fabi provida cum simul.

Exprimit Heroas tres Washingtonius unus.

Depulit hoc, elis Patria cive jugum.

Or [Civica for meritis serta, America, comis.]

Monsr. Marron, Aumonier de l’Ambassade d’Hollande

[2] Arma capit vindex, patria incolumi, exuit arma

Nilque ducis retinet, comitum nisi, liber, amorem

At decus invitum sequitur, celebratque latentem

Monsr. de Marmontel

[3] Te Belluosus qui remotis

Obstrepuit oceanus Britannis

Te non paventis funera Galliea

Compositis venerantur armis.

Hor. Carm. L. 4 od. 14. M. de Marmontel

[4] Ecce parens verus patria, dignissimus aris

Roma tius, per quem nunquam jurare pudebit.

Lus Pharsalia. L. 9.

[5] Huic ingenium sic pariter ad omnia fuit, ut natum ad

id unum diceres, quodumque ageret. Liv. L. 39. c. 40 [Cato]

[6] Il existat pour sa patrie, et sa patrie par lui.

[7] George Washington

Pro decore Nomen. or Sit decus Nomen.

[8] George Washington!

[9] Boston. Hostibus primum fugatis.

Trenton. Hostibus iterum victis

York. Hostibus demum domitus

‘Creditis tot gentes eadem practia domitas esse quo victae sunt.’ Q. Cust. pa. 123. L. 6. c. 3.”

The first inscription in this list, in Marron’s hand, is in DLC: TJ Papers, 234: 41944, undated, and with slight variations in spelling. The second and third inscriptions are those quoted in Lafayette’s letter to TJ, preceding; the one taken from Horace (No. 3) may be Lafayette’s suggestion, but TJ here attributes it as well as No. 2 to Marmontel. Inscription No. 9 is the one that TJ preferred. For an excellent discussion of this subject, see Brant, Madison, II, 321–2, where it is suggested that the inscription that TJ preferred was in reality his own composition. This is plausible and no doubt correct. The use of his country to indicate Virginia was not only a characteristic Jeffersonian touch, but TJ’s enormous admiration of Houdon would very likely have blinded him momentarily to the bathetic and anti-climactic ending. Madison’s—and the General Assembly’s—inscription was eminently fitting in its simplicity, directness, and nobility, and, whatever Houdon may have thought of its length, it properly and ultimately triumphed over the suggestions that circulated in Paris salons early in 1786. Nevertheless, it is proper to recall that on 1 July 1784 when the Virginia Executive Council transmitted the General Assembly’s resolution to TJ, it authorized him, in consultation with Franklin, “to have a statue finished agreeable thereto, to commit the workmanship to be executed by one of the best artists in Europe—to ornament it with proper and fit Devices and Emblems—and to do in all other things respecting the same what shall appear to them necessary” (MS. Va. Council Jour., Vi).

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