James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Charles Valérie de Perron, 22 June 1817

From Charles Valérie de Perron

New-york Pearl Street No. 84
the 22d: of June 1817.


It being nearly impossible for me to do my self the honour of presenting the inclosed letter,1 I take the liberty to forward it to you, desiring to be permitted to expose the reasons and motives of my proceeding.

Circumstances having obliged me to delay my departure from France, after my last interview with the marquis de la Fayette I could not reach this place before november last year. I became immediately Sensible of the absolute necessity of acquiring a Sufficient knowledge of the English language and I chose for that purpose a country retirement in Connecticut where I resided Six months. On my return, about a month ago, with the intention of repairing to Washington, I heard general Scott,2 for whom the marquis had also kindly given me a letter of recommendation, had just arrived in this City, and that the President of the United States was incessantly expected. This with the advice of the General decided me to wait the arrival of the President, to whom Mr: Scott has actually done me the favour to present me & giving him the letter I was charged with, and the perfect assurance that I had by no means any design of obtaining any commission or emolument, but that my absolute intention was to acquire instruction in my profession, at so excellent a School as the American Navy is known to be; requesting in consequence the favour of being authorised to embark, as a passenger or volunteer, on board the Franklin during the cruise that Ship is about to perform in the mediterranean; to which the President has been pleased to let me know that he will willingly grant me this authorisation whenever Captain Steward3 requests it.

Nothing then remains for me to desire but a proper recommendation to this commander, to be permitted to embark on board his Ship, and be admitted amongst his officers, it being understood I Shall contribute my Share in the table expenses.

I imagine Sir that a letter from you on the Subject, to Captain Steward, would be a powerful motive to influence his decision in my behalf, and I am emboldened to Solicit this favour from you in the certitude in which I am that any thing within the line of propriety, may be obtained of you when asked in the name and under the auspices of the marquis de la Fayette. I am with the most profound respect Sir your most humble and most obedient Servant

Charles de Perron4

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1JM placed an asterisk here and in the bottom left margin wrote: “*from Genl. Lafayette.”

2Winfield Scott (1786–1866) entered the U.S. Army in 1808 as a captain and fought with such distinction in the War of 1812 that he was promoted to major general. In 1815 he went to Europe to study military methods, returning to New York City in 1816. His subsequent career included command of the U.S. Army, the successful conduct of the war with Mexico, and the Whig nomination for the presidency in 1852. He retired in October 1861.

3Charles Stewart (1778–1869) joined the U.S. Navy in 1798 as a lieutenant and commanded ships in the Quasi-War with France, the war with Tripoli, and the War of 1812. In the latter, he was captain of the Constitution. In 1816 he was given command of the Franklin, a ship of the line, and was commodore of a squadron in the Mediterranean until 1820, and in the Pacific Ocean until 1824. Stewart retired in 1862 with the rank of rear admiral.

4Charles Marie Raphäel Valérie de Perron (b. 1783) was born in Turin, Italy, the son of Countess de Perron, lady-in-waiting to Empress Marie Louise. He began his career in the Italian navy then transferred to the French navy in 1807. Under the command of Captain Pierre Henri François Étienne Bouvet de Maisonneuve, Perron took part in capturing the British frigate Africaine in September 1810 as a lieutenant on the French frigate Astrée. He was inducted into the French Legion of Honor for his part in the battle between the French and British frigates Aréthuse and Amelia in February 1813, again under Bouvet’s command. Loyal to Napoleon, Perron resigned from the French navy and renounced his French citizenship in the spring of 1814. The following year he requested to be reintegrated into the French navy, but his request does not appear to have been granted (Service Historique de la Marine, France, CC7 alpha 1954, De Perron dossier).

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