Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, 12 June 1809

From Lafayette

Paris 12th June 1809

My dear friend

While I was indulging the Hope to See Mr Coles at La Grange, to possess Him Some days in our family, to go with Him to Aulnay where Mr et Mde de tessé, expected the pleasure to Receive Him, I Have Been Yesterday informed of His Sudden departure—I immediately Came to town, But am much Vexed at My disappointment—The impression Mr Coles Has made Upon me Makes me Heartily Regret Not to Have improved the time of His Stay in france—So Many things also I Had to tell Him of You, of me of public and private Concerns which Had Been Ajourned to the Uninterrupted Hours of a Country Life: But it Cannot Be Helped.

How Happy I would Be, My dear friend, to Accompany Him to Monticello, in those days of Retirement when Your Heart Cannot fail to be Blessed with the Remembrances which the Lovers of freedom and Your personal friends So fully Enjoy! Among those who Have Not the Advantage of personal intimacy there is none More Attached to You than M. de tracy—He Has intrusted me with a Secret, and a wish, Both of Which I Have Encouraged Him to Communicate to You.

He Has Made Some observations on Montesquieu’s Esprit des Loix—will not Be known to be the Author of them—and thinks that, if You Approve them, which I am Sure will be the Case, they Had Better Be translated in English, and published from An American press as Being the Work of a Citizen of the U.S.—Then Copies Might Be Sent to Europe and translated in french, for public Use, as Coming from the other, and Now the only Republican shore—the propriety of keeping the Secret is obvious—that of translating and publishing the Work is Left to Your Judgement.

Mr Coles Will Give You the present State of public Affairs—What Has Been Attempted, and the only Way in Which it Can Be done, Respecting My pecuniary Business Will also By Him Be laid Before You, and More fully Expatiated Upon in My Next Letter.

Receive the Best Thanks, Wishes, Regard, and Love of Your Affectionate friend


RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 3 Aug. 1809 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in James Madison to TJ, 3 Aug. 1809.

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), soldier and statesman, was a lifelong supporter of liberty in America, beginning in 1777 when he was a volunteer in the Continental army under George Washington. He led an assault by American light infantry during the seige of Yorktown in 1781 and continued to support American interests in France while TJ was minister there. Lafayette was head of the Paris National Guard, 1789–91, and imprisoned from 1792–97 in Austria for his support of a constitutional monarchy in France. He spent most of the remainder of his life at Château La Grange forty miles east of Paris, where he provided a haven for European revolutionaries. Having lost his fortune during the Revolution, Lafayette declined TJ’s offer of the governorship of the Louisiana Territory but did solicit his aid in securing 11,520 acres of Louisiana land promised him by the United States Congress as recompense for his service during the American Revolution. His correspondence with TJ after 1804 frequently related to his desire to sell this land to repay his debts. At the invitation of President James Monroe, Lafayette toured widely in America in 1824–25. During this trip he was hailed as a hero, visited Monticello and, partly at TJ’s urging, received a gift of $200,000 and an additional land grant from Congress (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Gilbert Chinard, The Letters of Lafayette and Jefferson [1929]; Stanley J. Idzerda and others, eds., Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 5 vols. [1977–83]; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States . . . 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:236–7, 306, 4:320 [3 Mar. 1803, 27 Mar. 1804, 28 Dec. 1824]; Paul V. Lutz, “Lafayette’s Louisiana Estate: The Unusual Dealings between the Marquis and Three Wealthy Englishmen,” Louisiana Studies 6 [1967]: 333–60).

Index Entries

  • Coles, Isaac A.; agent to Europe search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); preparation of search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; translates Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; and Destutt de Tracy search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; and I. A. Coles search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; identified search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; land of, in La. search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; letters from search
  • La Grange (Lafayette’s French estate) search
  • Orleans Territory; Lafayette’s land in search
  • Tessé, Adrienne Catherine de Noailles de; and I. A. Coles search