Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, 20 February 1810

From Lafayette

Paris 20h february 1810

My dear friend

The Opportunity of an American frigate would at all times Have Been precious—it is still more So untill the Absurd Crime of water and Land piracies on the Neutrals is Renounced By Both Belligerents—I am in Hopes of a favorable Change. But as it must Be pretty well Ascertained Before the John Adams Sails I Refer You to What Gal Armstrong will on the Last day Communicate.

Amidst the Joint Operations, in the Same power, of Revolutionary Greatness and Counter-Revolutionary degradation, You will Have Heard of New triumphs over foreign Ennemies, of New dominions out of our proper Limits, of New Measures Against public Liberty— the objects of the day are, a Great progress in the South of Spain where our Armies are Very Numerous, the invasion of Holland which, while it Scatters away Capitals and Capitalists, the Emperor Hopes to improve into Some Sort of Negociation with England,1 a quarell with the pope that involves Bonaparte into the dificulties to be Expected from disputes of that kind in Countries where Religious Equality is not Complete, and a marriage with the Austrian princess daughter to Emperor francis By His Bourbon wife, which Connecting Bonaparte By the Most intimate ties of Consanguinity with the House of Austria and Every Branch of the House of Bourbon is Generally Relished By the people of the Ancien Regime and displeases those who Have Acted in the Revolution.

as to my private Concerns, my dear friend, I Have Hitherto presented wants so Exhorbitant, Expectations So High that I feel a Strong desire to Be justified in Both—Nothing But the first Consideration Could Have induced me to Send You a memorial on my pecuniary affairs which if it does not totally Rescue me from Blame Gives However a tolerable Explanation of their Situation—a Copy of it Has, I Believe, Been Arrested on the High Seas By the British—I Hope the dispatches Have Been Respected—permit me to Send a duplicate for which I Cannot Any other way Apologise Than By its Confidential Nature and my Anxiety to Be Cleared of imputations More Severe than what I Really deserve—for altho’ my Expences Were of a nature pleasing to Recollection, I know the Same things might Equally well, in many Respects, Have Been done with more Œconomy—it Gives You the Triple Satisfaction to Have Refunded those Expences, Repaired the Misfortunes, and palliated my faults.

My Expectations You know to Have Been formed Not from Any pretension of Mine But from the Most Respectable intelligence Successively Encouraged—it first prevented our giving Up at once this Mode of Life which, owing to Habits and Education is Commonly Called2 decent, altho’ there would Have Been More decency in a total change on that point than in Any deviation from Consistency of principles—the Earliest News of the Munificent Grant to Be Located Any where in Louïsiana and You the Executor of it, was Accompanied with a washington Gazette which Actually Valued it at Hundred thousand dollars a Sum that the Common Rise of Lands in that Country would Now Have more than doubled—But I Received from Some friends, Namely Victor dupont Estimations Amounting to three Hundred thousand dollars—the Opinion of gal Armstrong just Come from America did Not disagree with Such Expectations—They were in a Measure Countenanced By Your own kind Hopes, and By the Letter informing me that the Value of the tract Near the City was immense, and that the Rest of the Location would probably Be Equal to the Same Quantity of Sugar Lands in the west indias—those friendly Accounts I might Have thought too Sanguine Had Not Mr Pitot Late mayor of New orleans Been introduced to me By Governor Claiborne—as the most Respectable And Accurate informer I might Speak with on the Subject—His Opinion Was Given in writing, November 1806, that the Location near the City, including the whole Ground (as He Had No Opinion of the town claim) amounted to a million and a Half of francs, and that the Remainder of the Acres alloted to me, where He Saw in all probability they should Be placed, Had a Value of five Hundred thousand francs.

it is upon that intelligence, with Grateful Wonder, that I Communicated to You, Mr Madison, Mr duplantier a plan of my total Liberation, a Revenue for me, a Large future fortune for my children the Expectations of whom, and of My friends in Europe I took Care Not to Raise, Guarding Against disappointment which However I did not fear—Nor did I Consider as Such the measures You Have thought proper to take with Respect to the Limits of the Commons—with Great Sincerity I wrote to Mr duplantier who Appeared kindly Chagrined at it, that the Grant Had Exceeded My wishes, and that after an Arrangement which I Cordially Approved, I was Confident the Remaining property Would Exceed my wants—in fact, I Had Received, Since the Reduction, from You and Mr Madison, No objection to my projects, However Extensive they Had Seemed to me— I was Confirmed in that Belief By Mr Coles when He Apprised me that an act Had passed and monney was Appropriated for the Canal Carondelet, and When I knew He Had in Charge only to tell me Not to Sell, But to Borrow, let it Be at 20 P%, as my property would Rapidly Become immence.

Now I See my unshaken Confidence was Right—Here are Captain fenwick an aid de Camp to gal wilkinson who Carried the despatches By the John Adams, and Mr le Bourgeois a Louïsiana planter, who Has inhabited it 28 Years, and Left Neworleans in october—Both Say that the Canal will Be Navigable in 8 months work, divided Between Last winter and the Next—Then it is their opinion the Value of Lots will make the Acre worth more than Six Hundred dollars—as to the Lands at pointe Coupee Captain fenwick Had a Vague Estimation of twelve, Mr le Bourgeois a Better informed one of 8 to 9 dollars an Acre, Encreasing Yearly from 15 to 18 P%—a Great progress Since M. duplantier Estimated it 6 dollars—You See the point Coupee Lands Could Alone in a Short time Represent Hundred Thousand dollars, while in the tract Near the City there is much more than Necessary to Mortgage a total Liberation of my fortune, a Revenue &c &c. much more indeed than I Had for my thirteen Children and Grand Children, and those Yet to Come, Expectation or Ambition to possess.

Let me Here once more Express my Respectful Affectionate Gratitude to the people of the United States, to their Representatives, to my friends, and above all to You, my dear Jefferson, who Have Been the inventor, the Author, the Manager, And Now are By Your Kind injunctions the Guardian of the fortune which after You Have delivered me from Ruin is to insure wealth to my posterity—Never was I more Convinced that untill the City lands Have Come to the Value Expected from the Navigation of the Canal, Loans are preferable to Sales, and that Even then, no Sales must take place But what will Clear of Mortgages this precious property or give the little addition of Revenue absolutely wanting—Let the Remainder, as well as pointe Coupee, Except the lot Engaged to M. de Grammont unless I Can Refund it, Be preserved as objects of Grateful Surprise to my Children, and Happy portions to the Next Generation.

But while I write thus, I am under the pressure of pecuniary Circumstances So urging and So Alarming that I ought Not to Say, at Such a distance, to Such a feeling friend as You are, How Near I am to the Ruin it was Your intention to prevent—But it Becomes a duty to that Very friendship as well as to myself Not to palliate the inconveniences I Suffer from the want of positive documents and titles—in Vain Have I made use of Your Name, that of Mr Madison, Mr Gallatin, Governor Claiborne, Stating the writen Assertion of the Late and Actual president, that the property Both at pointe Coupée and, what is more important, Near the town was as perfectly Secured as if the warrants were in my Hands, I Have Been Every where Answered that Altho’ the Moral Certainty was unquestionable No Business Could Be done Before a title was Completed—Nay, the Late disappointments, in Not being able to show these long Announced papers, Have much Encreased the difficulty—I would not wonder if they Soon were, in Some Minds, to Create doubts—So that, whatever Happens to me, it is Highly important and Very Urgent, that these deeds Be Sent triplicate With all the Complement of documents which the most Minute Lawyer may desire—Not to Sell, I Repeat it, But to obtain Confidence in the Mortgage— Yet will it Be then difficult Enough to find Lenders—Mr parker Had with His usual Affectionate, Generous, and indefatigable friendship to me Set on foot a Negociation in Holland through M. La Bouchere a partner of Mon.3 Hope and Baring and worthy member in Every Respect of that House—But the invasion of that Country Has Scattered the Capitals and the Capitalists—M. La Bouchere Himself is gone to London with the Assent of Government to Ask whether this New Crisis should dispose the British Cabinet to Negociate—in the mean while my affair Has Been Ajourned Sine die—Nor Could it Have Come to an issue before I Have Received the official patents and documents—Sell, I will not, But Borrow I Must, and untill the title is Complete I Have an insurmontable difficulty to Combat. This letter Being destined to4 go with a later one I shall Here Conclude it, Employing the little Remaining Space Only to offer You the Expression of a most grateful and affectionate friendship


RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 27 May 1810 and so recorded in SJL. Tr (DLC). A Dupl was recorded in SJL as received 17 June 1810. Enclosure: Lafayette’s Description of his Finances, [ca. 18 Nov. 1809]. Enclosed in James Madison to TJ, 25 May, 15 June 1810.

Shortly after the conclusion of Britain’s disastrous invasion of Walcheren, Napoleon offered through diplomatic channels to preserve the kingdom of holland intact if England would make peace with him (Owen Connelly, Napoleon’s Satellite Kingdoms [1965], 172). The French emperor ended his marriage to the Empress Josephine in December 1809 because she had not provided him with an heir. By proxy in Vienna on 11 Mar. and in person in Paris on 2 Apr. 1810, he wed the austrian princess Marie Louise, eldest daughter of Francis I and his bourbon wife, Maria Theresa of Naples (Connelly, Napoleonic France description begins Owen Connelly and others, eds., Historical Dictionary of Napoleonic France, 1985 description ends , 325). On 10 Feb. 1809 Congress appropriated $25,000 to extend the existing canal carondelet to the Mississippi River (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 , 2:516–17).

1Reworked from “Holland.”

2RC: “Call.” Tr: “called.”

3Tr here adds the initial “T.”

4Remainder of RC written perpendicularly in left margin.

Index Entries

  • Armstrong, John; and Lafayette’s La. lands search
  • Armstrong, John; dispatches mentioned search
  • Baring, Francis; and Lafayette search
  • canals; at New Orleans search
  • Carondelet canal search
  • Claiborne, William Charles Coles; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Coles, Isaac A.; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Congress, U.S.; and public works search
  • Duplantier, Gabriel Armand Allard; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • du Pont, Victor Marie; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Fenwick, John Roger; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • France; and Great Britain search
  • France; and Holland search
  • France; military operations in Spain and Portugal search
  • Francis I, emperor of Austria; daughter of marries Napoleon search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and Lafayette’s La. land search
  • Grammont, Théodule, marquis de; and Lafayette’s La. lands search
  • Great Britain; and France search
  • Hope, Thomas (European banker) search
  • John Adams (ship); carries letters to and from Europe search
  • Josephine, empress of France 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
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; on neutral powers search
  • Le Bourgeois, Mr. search
  • Madison, James; and Lafayette search
  • Maria Theresa, archduchess of Austria and queen of Hungary and Bohemia; daughter’s marriage search
  • Marie Louise, empress of France search
  • marriage; of Napoleon search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Great Britain search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Pope Pius VII search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; marriage of search
  • New Orleans; canals at search
  • Parker, Daniel (of Paris); and Lafayette search
  • Pitot, James search
  • Pius VII, pope; and Napoleon search
  • Pointe Coupee, La.; Lafayette’s land at search
  • Spain; resists Napoleonic rule search
  • The Netherlands; annexed to France search
  • United States; public works search
  • Walcheren Island; British invasion of search
  • Wilkinson, James; aide to search