Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, 18 November 1809

From Lafayette

La Grange 18h November 1809

My dear friend

I Have Been for a Long time in daily and disappointed Expectations of a Letter from You, Nor do I know when I may obtain the Comfort of Your Correspondence—in the Mean while Much Havock Has Been Made in Europe—I don’t Speack of the British Expedition Under Lord Chatam—it is But justice to Say that, whatever Be their intention, they did as Litle Harm as possible Considering their Numbers and the State of the Coast—But in Spain there is a Scene of Energetic Resistance, Mutual Barbarities, Horrid and Hitherto Unavailing destruction—the Emperor of Austria Has thought Himself obliged to Sign a peace, not So Bad indeed as the threats prophesied Against Him, But Such as Greatly diminishes His influence, His territory, and Leaves His friends at the Mercy of the Conqueror—the two only people who Have Spiritedly Opposed our Armies, Spaniards and tyrolians, were Unencumbered with Monarchs and princes—You will Hear, altho’ it Has not Been in the Gazettes, How a young man of Eighteen, impressed with the persuasion of a public Service, went from Erfurt to Vienna to Kill Bonaparte, and Being prevented in the Act, freely Stated his Motives, and quietly Encountered death. the Concerns of the Roman church you don’t much mind—the only effect of a Mitigated But Real Excommunication of the Emperor Has Hitherto Been to Have the pope driven about as a prisoner and to drive the affrighted Cardinals into Volontary Attendance at the Imperial Chapel—the Roads to paris are Covered with Kings and princes who Come to pay their Court and Receive orders for the Confederacy of the Rhine and other dependances on the Superior Throne. I Had Rather they were popular deputies to a General federation of Liberty and Equality—But I Cannot Help observing what Has Been the prodigious influence of that Revolutionary Movement, altho’ Misguided on the way, and of the Enthusiasm and talents of which an Aristocratical Monarchy Should Ever Have prevented the display—it is Now Said Among the most thinking part of Germany and elsewhere that their only way to Reestablish a political Equilibrium is to discard the Ancient institutions and to Recur to what they Call an Equilibrium of principles, or An Equilibre de lumières, all Expressions which, to Be Sure, do not apply to Our Retrogade Oscillation towards absolute monarchy and Hereditary privileges.

of American Affairs with Respect to Europe what Shall I Say? the Conduct of Great Britain Has Been and Continues to Be insolent, Spiteful, and Uncandid—there the United States Have to Encounter not only a General principle of Maritime Ambition and despotism, But a particular Remembering, Anticipating National Jealousy—in france where the people at large and even the members of Government would Like to improve the Circumstance into a Vindication of Neutral Rights, and a more intimate intercourse with America, the Mistaken, Unaccountable, and fixed policy of the Emperor Has an effect quite the Reverse of what Common Justice, National interest, and His own Hatred to England ought to dictate—I am So Sensible of that plain truth that I Every day Hope His great powers of Sagacity and Calculation will at Last discover that in his plan to Bring about Great Britain He Has taken the wrong End.

I Have No News from Louïsiana—No titles or documents Have Come to Hand which Has Hitherto Baffled Every Attempt to Liberate my fortune—the greater part of My debt is increasing in a Ruinous Manner By Additional interest—the Exigible part is dreadfully pressing, and Nothing But personal Benevolence Can Have Hitherto Parried the ill Consequences of delay—I would More Severely Blame Myself for Hopes too Sanguine Had I Not Some Excuse in the Recollection of Letters Received and writen at Very Ancient and Successive dates which show that Unfortunate chances only, independant of My friends and myself, Could Have Left me in this state of disappointment and danger—Since their Early and incessant kindness, and the Bounty of Congress, Have, in the Most Moderate of their Expectations, Given me Superabundant Relief.

When I See the immense weight which Has Been Accumulating upon me I feel Uneasy about Your own opinion, However partial I know it to Be, with Respect to My pecuniary Conduct—this Encourages me to Have Copied for You, altho’ it is interwoven with Some Complimentary Expressions, the observations on My Monney’d Vicissitudes which I now inclose—there You will See that, altho’ I May Be not Exempt of Blame, my Situation is not So far past Apology as Might Be Supposed—there, while You are pleased to think to whom I owe it is Not past Recovery, You will also See the Necessity to Urge the Compliment of an Enterprise So friendly and So Momentous.

The Vessel Being Ready for Sea I will not this time write to the president, Mr Gallatin, nor Mr duplantier whom I Have By the Last Op portunity adressed on the Same Subject—to You, My dear friend, I Refer Myself for doing, Saying, and writing What You think fit—M. LaBouchere of Amsterdam Has kindly Undertaken a New Attempt to Consolidate into a General Loan the totality of the Sum I owe—the absence of titles, want of documents, and the increasing inconveniences of Unexplained delays Cannot fail to influence the Conditions and May, as on former Occasions, totally defeat the plan of A Relief the Last part of it Has Become indispensably Urging—I Can Hardly trust Myself to think, and am Ashamed to write, Even to You, that Such an Enormous Sum as that Capital and those Accumulated interests Have Been once more forced into my pecuniary Calculations—But When My fortune is Cleared I am only to follow the Œconomical Line in which I Have now and forever Confined Myself.


After What I Have Said, and knowing what I feel, it would Be Superfluous to Mention My Confidence in You—yet altho’ there is Nothing New I find a great pleasure in the Expression of the Affection and regard Which forever devote to You

Your friend


M. et mde de tessé are in pretty Good Health—My children Beg their Best Respects Being offered to You—present me most Respectfully to Mrs Randolph, and Mention me to our friends not forgetting mr Coles.

RC (DLC); addressed: “to Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 17 June 1810 and so recorded in SJL. FC (DLC: Lafayette Papers, La Grange microfilm). Tr (DLC). Enclosed in James Madison to TJ, 15 June 1810.

John Pitt, 2d Earl of Chatham, commanded the unsuccessful british expedition to Walcheren (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; Lafayette to TJ, 16 Sept. 1809). The emperor of austria ceded various Alpine, Tyrolean, and Illyrian lands to France and its tributaries under the 14 Oct. 1809 Treaty of Schönbrunn (Connelly, Napoleonic France description begins Owen Connelly and others, eds., Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1985 description ends , 437). Frederick Staps was the young man of eighteen who tried to assassinate Napoleon on 23 Oct. 1809 (Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon description begins David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, 1966 description ends , 736; Felix Markham, Napoleon [1963], 183–4). Pope Pius VII’s excommunication of Napoleon, prompted by the latter’s annexation of the Italian Papal States in May 1809, was mitigated in that it did not mention the French emperor by name. This prudence did not save the pontiff from house arrest at Savona on the Riviera soon thereafter (Markham, Napoleon, 151–2). equilibre de lumières: equilibrium of understanding, or enlightenment. Lafayette wrote Madison about his pecuniary situation on 26 Oct. 1809 (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 29 vols.: Congress. Ser., 17 vols.; Pres. Ser., 5 vols.; Sec. of State Ser., 7 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 2:38–9).

Index Entries

  • Austria; war with Napoleon search
  • Berlin and Milan decrees; criticized search
  • Chatham, John Pitt, 2d Earl of search
  • Coles, Isaac A.; greetings to search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Duplantier, Gabriel Armand Allard; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • France; Berlin and Milan decrees search
  • Francis I, emperor of Austria; makes peace with France search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Germany; desire for reform in search
  • Great Britain; Orders in Council (1807) search
  • Labouchere, Peter Caesar search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; financial situation of 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
  • Madison, James; and Lafayette search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Austria search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Pope Pius VII search
  • Pius VII, pope; and Napoleon search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); greetings to search
  • Schönbrunn, Treaty of (1809) search
  • Spain; resists Napoleonic rule search
  • Staps, Frederick search
  • Tessé, Adrienne Catherine de Noailles de; health of search
  • Tessé, René Mans Froulay, comte de; health of search
  • Tyrol; resistance to Napoleonic rule in search
  • Walcheren Island; British invasion of search