Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, 25 April 1817

From Lafayette

La grange April 25h 1817

My dear friend

I Was a few days Ago in paris when Mr G. Ticknor Left a Card and a Letter from You which I Hastened, with Affectionate Eagerness, to peruse. not a little perplexed Was I to Understand Some parts of it, when I perceived that Since it Had been writen two Revolutions and two dynasties Had Successively Reigned in france. mr Ticknor whom I Had the pleasure to See the Next day Confirmed by His own Account the date of the Letter the General Contents of which, However, are fit for Any time And afforded me much Gratification.

You Justly did observe the Situation in which the patriots, at the first Restoration, found themselves Entangled. an Arrant despot and Conqueror, after Having Spent out abroad all Material and Moral Means of Resistance, was Subdued, and dethroned, the Bourbons Had Been Replaced, Before an opportunity was Given, or wished for By Either of the Belligerent parties, Bonaparte less than Any of them, to Call out the Exertions of National liberality and patriotism. at the Second period an oppening Had Been left. an insurrection, the produce of discontent of the Bourbons more than Attachment to Bonaparte Had Restored Him to the tuileries, But Under a Necessity to acknowledge, and with a possibility for us to Reassume our old doctrines. I was one of those who would Have Rid the Country of all pretentions Both Royal and imperial, and trusted for it’s defense to a Revolution wholly National, a System which Bonaparte Himself Has Since Confessed was the only one Equal to our dangers. But the Majority of the patriots, and their Representatives Had Rather leave our fate to the Heroïsm Of two Hundred thousand Regulars Headed By an Emperor, the greatest Captain living. this was Better than Submission, Conquest, and Counter Revolution—Better than a division of the defensive forces. we Joined them and Gave Unreserved Support. taking Care to Exact Every Concession, to Reinstate ourselves into Every institution of freedom, to watch Every bad trick and to provide Against Every bad intention of despotism, Untill the desertion of the Emperor, after the Battle of waterloo, and His attempt to dissolve the National Representation and Usurp a dictatorship, United all the patriots in the defensive measures which produced His abdication.

our affairs were then very Low. our time very short. twelve Hundred thousand Enraged Ennemies were near at Hand. Yet a national movement might Have Saved Us, when a fatal but too Common Mistake prompted the Assembly to Seek a Guarantee more in the1 interests than in the Sentiments of their Elective Executive. the next morning fouché Sent An Emissary to Lewis the 18 and Wellington, and persuaded the best intentionned people of the Great Services I Could Render in an Embassy to the foreign powers. when we Returned, my Companions and myself, the Capitulation of paris Had been Signed, and the Army were on their Way to the Loire.

How the wishes of an Ultimate Stand on that River Have been defeated it would be too long to Explain. nor shall I this time Enter into particulars of our Situation Since the Second Restoration to this day. The Royal party are divided into Ultras and Ministeriels the former Adhering to the princes, the Second to the king. these ones are chiefly Conducted By a Committee of place men Educated at the Bonapartian School, and Having learned from their abjured master more Art and prudence than the violent Ultras Can Ever possess. in the Last Session the Ultras Have affected a liberality which very Akwardly Sits Upon them. their ministerial adversaries did oppose to them a System of Election, which altho it Admits only Hundred and twenty thousand Electors for the whole kingdom, viz2 those who pay 300 francs of taxes, Seems already popular Enough to Excite not only the fears of the Ultra, but also the Repentance of the ministerials,—they are Masters of the press, individual liberty is at their disposal, the means of the police, of the administrations, of the Civil list, of the foreign Courts are immense. Yet they are afraid Lest the Next Returns, for the 5h to be elected this Year, may add Some more decided patriots to the few independents who, in the last Session, Have Been neither Ultra, or ministerial, but Merely National.

This Letter is Entrusted to my friend mr descaves, a Gallo American merchant, whom I Beg leave to present to you if it is His Happy lot to Call at monticello. our friend mde de Staël Has been very ill—now she is in A State of Languor which Gives me still great fears of Her Health. Her charming daughter is married to A young peer, Victor Broglie, step Son to mr d’argenson, both my intimate friends, and Among the Best patriots of france. I Have Communicated your Letter to m. de tracy, but Have no time to Receive His Answer. He most gratefully feels your friendship3 and approbation. His blindness is almost Complete, but He Hopes from the Operation of the Cataracts Which will be made this Summer.

I wish I Had Some weecks before me to Answer Your demand Respecting the Campaign of 81. but Have Got the Copy of a precis made by a french officer in my family which may in a great measure answer your purpose. I Send it With a few notes. I think mr Marshall Has in His possession a map of virginia, with all the marches and Encampements of that Campaign which I Have Some years ago Sent to him. Those documents, with your official, and your friendly Remembrances may assist the author of the work, as far as I Have been Concerned in the transactions of that Happy Epoch of my life.

Adieu, my Excellent friend, you well know my Cordial Respect and Grateful affection


RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 22 July 1817 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure not found. Enclosed in Mark L. Descaves to TJ, 15 July 1817.

The letter from you was TJ to Lafayette, 14 Feb. 1815. The 5h to be elected this year: under article 37 of Louis XVIII’s constitutional charter of 1814, one-fifth of the French Chamber of Deputies was to be renewed each year (Henry C. Lockwood, Constitutional History of France [1890], 365). The author of the work was Louis H. Girardin.

1Thus in manuscript, but “their” may have been intended.

2Manuscript: “wiz.”

3Manuscript: “frienship.”

Index Entries

  • American Revolution; and Lafayette search
  • Broglie, Albertine Ida Gustavine de Staël Holstein, duchesse de; marriage of search
  • Broglie, Victor François, duc de; family of search
  • Burk, John Daly; The History of Virginia search
  • Descaves, Mark L.; introduced to TJ search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; and Lafayette search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; health of search
  • Fouché, Joseph, duc d’Otrante search
  • France; Bourbon dynasty restored search
  • France; Chambre des Députés search
  • France; Louis XVIII’s constitutional charter for search
  • Girardin, Louis Hue; and J. D. Burk’sHistory of Virginia search
  • health; cataracts search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; and American Revolution 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; G. Ticknor carries letter to search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; introduces M. L. Descaves 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 events in France search
  • Louis XVIII, king of France; constitutional charter of search
  • Louis XVIII, king of France; restoration of search
  • Marshall, John; and American Revolution search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; abdicates search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; defeated at Battle of Waterloo search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; returns to power search
  • Staël Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de; family of search
  • Staël Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de; health of search
  • The History of Virginia (J. D. Burk, S. Jones, and L. H. Girardin); sources for search
  • Ticknor, George; carries TJ’s letters to Europe search
  • Virginia; maps of search
  • Voyer de Paulmy, Marc René Marie de, marquis d’Argenson; family of search
  • Waterloo, Battle of (1815) search
  • Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of (formerly Viscount); and Louis XVIII search