George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lafayette, 10 January 1784

From Lafayette

Paris january the 10th 1784

My dear General

The departure of the Washington Has Been So Sudden that I Could not get in time on Board the Particular letter which you ought to Have Received—So that My Correspondance Has Been Confined to an official Cincinnati letter, and a Bill of plated wares, which was not By Any means my intention1—inclosed I Send you a duplicate of the letter Respecting our Assossiation 2—Major L’enfant tells me a tolerable Number of Eagles will Be made on thursday,3 when After Having Called together the American officers Now Here, and Examined their Claims to the Marks of the Institution, We shall in a Body, and with ⟨our⟩ American Regimentals wait Upon Count de Rochambeau, and the Admirals of the french troops, and present them with the Badges they are to wear—You will Receive many Applications On that Subject, and I Need Not telling you old Rochambeau wants to Be as Conspicuous as He Can in that, as You Know He does in Every other Affair 4—But as Nothing Can Be decided Before the Month of May I will timely write, and I Hope I will myself tell you my opinions in the Several instances that will Be Submitted to You—in Case the Badge is Multiplied, it will loose its price in Europe—and yet, there are some instances who are Entitled to Regard.5

By our last Accounts from America, my dear General, We Hear that Newyork is Evacuated, and that our Army, our Virtous and Brave Army Now are disbanded 6—its dissolution, However Expected and proper it is, Has not Been Heard of By me Without a Sigh—How Happy I Have Been at the Head quarters of that Army! How Affectionately Received in Every tent I Had a Mind to Visit! My Most fortunate days Have Been Spent With that Army—and Now that it is ⟨no⟩ more, my Heart shall Ever Reverence and Cherish its Memory—God Grant our Brother officers May Be treated as they deserve! Will not the Country Remember what Evils that Army Have guarded Her Against, What Blessings they Have insured to them? I am told there is a peace Establishement of 800 Men—and My dear general Now is at Mount Vernon where He Enjoys those titles Every Heart Gives Him, As the Saviour of His Country, the Benefactor of Mankind, the Protecting Angel of liberty, the pride of America, and the Admiration of the two Hemispheres—and Among all those Enjoyements I know He Will Most tenderly feel the pleasure of Embracing His Best His Bosom friend, His Adopted Son, who Early in the Spring Will Be Blessed With a direct Course to the Beloved landing that leads to the House at Mount Vernon.

There are no Great News in France, But it is Not the Case in England Whose people Seem as it Were distracted—Pitt’s party Have for the Moment Got in place, But the Majority in the Commons are So much Against them that it is Impossible for them to Remain in the Ministry—it is probable we will In a few days See Mr Fox and Lord North Restored to their former power, when they will Undo Every thing the others Have Done 7—M[ess]rs Jay, Adams, and Laurens are Either at London or Bath, Mr Barklay is in England, and our old friend Doctor Franklin is Confined to His House By the Gravel 8—Under those Circumstances I thought it My duty not to Neglect the Affairs of America—But as I Have no Instructions, Nor Any public Authority, I Can only Advise and influence Such Preparatory Measures, as I thing May Be Agreable to the United States—Some time Ago I presented a Memorial, Which, together With Some letters from the Ministers I Have on the 26th of last Month Enclosed to Mr Moriss 9—in Consequence of those, and of Several Conferences I Had with the Ministers, they Have determined to put a final Hand to the Affair of L’Orient, which I Had long Ago taken Upon Myself to Begin, and which Wanted a definitive Conclusion—By a letter of this day to Mr Moriss I Send Him some further Parts of a Correspondance With the Ministry, Wherein it is officially Announced that Dunkirk, L’Orient, Bayonne, and Marseilles are the four free ports Given to the trade of America 10—this Evening I Return to Versailles, where there is to Be a Conference Betwen the foreign affairs, Naval, and finances Ministers and Myself—As I Am little Acquainted With those Matters, I Consult upon them with Wadsworth 11—in all this America Neither promises Nor Asks for Any thing, So that she Cannot Be Committed—and Her Ministers Being either Sick or Abroad, do not, Betwen Us, So much as to Mention an earnest Word of the Mercantile interest of America in France. European Affairs are about the Same as when I wrote You last—There is No probability of an impending War—at least for Next Year—The Emperor is in Italy as a traveller—Unless I Am Honoured With Some Particular Commands from Congress, I intend embarking for America Early in the Spring, and I Hope to Arrive in time for the Grand Cincinnati Meeting—Mde de Lafayette, Your Son George, and my daughters join in the Most Respectfull Compliments to You, and Mrs Washington 12—I Give Her joy upon Your Peacefull Retirement into Private life—I Beg, My dear general, You will Remember me to George, Mead, Mr and Mrs Lund Washington, to all your friends and Relations 13—Adieu, My dear general, Your Most Respectfull and affec⟨mutilated⟩ friend


ALS, PEL. The editor has adopted the reading of Lafayette’s capricious capitalization that appears in Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends 5:191–93.

Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834), who left America for France in December 1781, did not land in New York on his return visit until August 1784.

1The packet boat Washington arrived in Le Havre from New York on 8 Dec. 1783 with L’Enfant (see note 3) aboard. L’Enfant had two letters from GW for Lafayette, one dated 20 Oct. 1783 dealing with the Society of the Cincinnati and one dated 30 Oct. 1783 asking Lafayette to buy a large number of silver items, including trays, a coffeepot and a teapot, an urn, goblets, and candlesticks. Enclosed in GW’s letter of 20 Oct. 1783 was a copy of the Institution of the Society of the Cincinnati. In Lafayette’s response to GW on 25 Dec.1783, he reported that the king had indicated he would allow Rochambeau’s generals and colonels as well as the French admirals to wear the insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati. Lafayette promised to supervise the admission to the society of the men in Europe who, like himself, had served for at least three years as officers in the Continental army. For GW’s unsuccessful effort to withdraw his order for plate, see GW to Lafayette, 4 Dec. 1783 and 1 Feb. and 4 April 1784.

2This is Lafayette’s letter of 25 Dec. 1783. See note 1.

3Pierre-Charles L’Enfant (1754–1825) was trained in Paris by his father, Pierre L’Enfant, who was a painter. Upon his arrival in America early in 1777, Congress made him a lieutenant in the corps of engineers. L’Enfant remained with GW’s army until he went south in 1779 to participate in the siege of Savannah. After being wounded in the siege, he went to Charleston, South Carolina. He was captured there in 1780 and remained a prisoner of the British until January 1782. In May 1783 Congress promoted L’Enfant to brevet major in the engineers. GW on 16 Oct. 1783 gave L’Enfant permission to return to France to attend to his personal affairs. As president of the Society of the Cincinnati, GW commissioned L’Enfant to oversee while in France the making of the society’s order, or badge, which L’Enfant designed in the shape of an eagle. After consulting with L’Enfant, Henry Knox on 29 Oct. 1783 wrote to GW: “In addition to the medal, which was finally determined to be silver, instead of gold, it was resolved that there should be a diploma, which, with the silver medal should be given to each member. The bald eagle of gold,The Order of the Society to be procured at the private expence of each member.

The diploma and silver medal to be given at the expence of the Society. . . . Major L’Enfant has it in charge to get the diploma engraved, and the Die for the medals executed in the most masterly manner. He also will get the order for the subscribers” (DSoC). On 30 Oct. GW instructed L’Enfant to have eight eagles made for him. For reference to the diamond eagle presented to GW, see d’Estaing to GW, 26 Feb. 1784.

4In addition to the letter to Lafayette about the Society of the Cincinnati (see note 1), GW sent by L’Enfant a letter to Rochambeau, dated 29 Oct. 1783. Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau (1725–1807), was commander of the French army that reached Rhode Island on 11 July 1780. A little over a year later, he and his army joined forces with GW for the siege at Yorktown, which culminated in the surrender of Lord Cornwallis on 19 Oct. 1781.

5Lafayette was saying that nothing could be decided about disputed eligibility for election to the Society of the Cincinnati until the general meeting of the society in Philadelphia in May. For the decision reached at the meeting with respect to admitting French naval officers to membership in the society, see d’Estaing to GW, 8 Jan. 1784, n.1.

7William Pitt the Younger (1759–1806) succeeded Charles James Fox and Lord North after they were dismissed on 17 Dec. 1783. Pitt remained prime minister from the general election in 1784 until 1801.

8John Jay (1745–1829), John Adams (1735–1826), and Henry Laurens (1724–1792), along with Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790), were the United States commissioners who negotiated the treaty of peace with Britain signed 3 Sept. 1783. Jay and Laurens were in England in January 1784, but Adams had sailed on 5 Dec. 1783 from Harwich for Holland. Thomas Barclay (1728–1793), a Philadelphia merchant, was the United States consul general in France. Franklin lived at the hôtel de Valentinois at Passy; gravel was a sort of kidney or bladder infection or kidney stones.

9Lafayette’s letter to Robert Morris, 26 Dec. 1783, enclosing Lafayette’s “Observations on Commerce between France and the United States” as well as letters from Calonne (Charles-Alexandre de Calonne; 1734–1802), 25 Dec.1783, and Vergennes (Charles Gravier, comte de Vergennes; 1717–1787), 29 June 1783, are all printed in Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends vol. 5.

10Lafayette enclosed in his letter to Robert Morris, 10 Jan. 1784, a letter from Calonne, the French comptroller general of finances, in which Calonne wrote that he was “authorized to notify you that it is His Majesty’s intention to grant the United States the ports of Lorient and Bayonne as open and free ports in addition to those of Dunkirk and Marseilles.” Calonne went on to say that he had “given orders to the Farmers General to offer preferential treatment and reasonable prices in purchasing tobacco from North America, and in addition the United States will be as favored in their trade in France as any other nation” (ibid., 189–90).

11Jeremiah Wadsworth (1743–1804), who had been a sea captain and merchant in Connecticut before the war, acted as commissary to Rochambeau’s army and in 1783 went to Paris to settle his accounts. He was there at this time.

12The members of Lafayette’s immediate family included Marie-Adrienne-François de Noailles, marquise de Lafayette (1759–1807), who was called Adrienne; Anastasie-Louise-Pauline (1777–1863), called Anastasie; George-Washington-Louis-Gilbert (1779–1849); and Marie-Antoinette-Virginie (1782–1849), called Virginie.

13George Augustine Washington (c.1758–1793) was the son of Charles Washington, GW’s brother, and of Mildred Thornton Washington. Lund Washington, GW’s cousin, managed GW’s estate during the war. As for “Mead,” Lafayette may have been referring to GW’s former aide-de-camp, Richard Kidder Meade (1746–1805), who, according to his son, received upon leaving GW’s service these words of admonition: “Friend Dick, you must go to a plantation in Virginia; you will make a good farmer and an honest foreman of the grand jury of the County where you live” (Meade, Churches of Virginia, description begins [William] Meade. Old Churches, Ministers and Families of Virginia. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1857. description ends 1:295). Before the war, Meade lived in Prince George County, Va.; after the war, he settled on a plantation in Frederick County, Virginia.

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