George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Rochambeau, 19 January 1784

From Rochambeau

Paris 19th January 1784th

Dear Sir,

I have received the letter which your Excellency honoured me with, dated the 29th of last October Which Major L’Enfant delivered me.1I can not better answer to the honourable invitation that you are willing to make me as well as to the general officers and colonels of the french army auxiliary in America, than by Sending you.

1e. The answer of the marshal De Segur minister of war giving the Leave of our Sovereign to Join to this respectable association.2

2e. The list of the generals, Brigadiers, and colonels whom I have admitted following laterally the powers with which I was invested by the general Society.3

3e. a List of Several Petitionors who entreated me to lay their Claim before your Excellency, which Seems to me in the more or less favourable case, according to my observations joined to their Several articles, and for whom I ask a more explicit explanation to the general Society.4

4e. A List of the Sums willingly and unanimously Subscribed to concur to the benevolent views of this Establishment, and given to the disposal of the general Society.5

It is now my Duty to assure your Excellency in my name and in the name of all the Cincinnati of the army under my command that this Institution may perpetuate, but will certainly add nothing to the Warmth of the tender Sentiments of fraternity and friendship that we entertain for our Brothers of your Army, and for the celebrated Chief whom we will respect and Love till our last. it is in this profession of Sentiments that I have the honour to be for all my Life of your Excellency The most humble and obedient Servant

le cte de Rochambeau

LS, in English, DLC:GW; LS, in French, DSoC; LS, translation, DSoC; copy, DSoC. The two signed letters in DSoC, both the one in French and the one in English, were endorsed at the general meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati in 1784, probably by the secretary pro tern George Turner; and the English version of these was read at the meeting on 6 May. There is a translation of each of the four enclosures both in DLC:GW and in DSoC, and all eight of these are initialed by Rochambeau. The original French version of enclosures

2 and 4, signed by Rochambeau, are in DSoC. All of the documents in English, except the unsigned copy of Rochambeau’s letter in DSoC, are in the same hand. The documents in French are in a different hand.

1The letter to Rochambeau of 29 Oct. 1783, going out under GW’s signature to inform Rochambeau that “the Society have done themselves the honor to consider you and the Generals and Colonels of the Army you commanded in America as Members” (DLC: Rochambeau Papers), is a variation of GW’s circular letter of the same date sent to the eligible French officers in the Continental army. For L’Enfant’s mission to France, see Lafayette to GW, 10 Jan.1784, nn.1 and 3.

2Philippe-Henri, marquis de Ségur (1724–1801), a hero of France’s mid-century wars, was made marshal of France and secretary of war in 1781. The translation of his letter dated 18 Oct. 1783 at Versailles reads in part: “I gave the King a full account of the letter that his excellency general Washington has written to you, and of the proposal he has made you in the name of the american army as well as to the general officers and colonels who have been in america under your command, to join to the association which has been just now framed under the title of Cincinnatus. . . . His most Christian Majesty charged me with the direction of informing you that he gives you leave to yield to Such an honourable invitation: he desires you to acquaint his Excellency general Washington with his Seeing allways with the greatest Satisfaction every things which may have any tendency to maintain and Strengthen the Connections formed between france and the United States. . . . you are then intitled, Sir, to acquaint the general officers and Colonels who have been in the army under your command, that the King gives them the leave to join to the association of the honourable by the motive of its Institution, as by the virtues and talents of the renown’d general who has been elected the president Thereof” (DLC:GW).

3In addition to Rochambeau himself, the list includes five major generals, five brigadiers who became major generals on their return to France, three brigadier generals in America, and eighteen who “have acted all in america in the rank of colonel in the french army or in the detachme⟨nts⟩ coming from San Domingo to the Siege of york and gloucester” (DLC:GW).

4The third enclosure is headed: “List of the officers whom may be the most intitled to pretend to the association of Cincinnatus whom the Count De Rochambeau could not admit following latterally the deliberation of the army, but for whom he takes the liberty to begg a more explicit explanation to the general Society.” Ten are named in this list, all but one of whom was promoted from lieutenant colonel to colonel or brigadier general upon his return to France from America. The first two named, with an account of their service given, are L’Estrade and Lameth (see Lameth to GW, 6 Jan. 1784, and Rochambeau to GW, 1 Mar. 1784); Rochambeau inserted after these entries:“Those two seems to be in the most favourable ease to obtain this favour—le cte de Rochambeau” (DLC:GW). On 1 Mar. 1784 Rochambeau wrote GW that because of the king’s opposition to enlarging the French society he was recommending that an exception be made only in these two cases.

5The two English versions of enclosure 4 list the contributors in the same order, and both show 42,000 livres having been given by twenty-five officers. Each version also lists eight other men who were expected to contribute a total of an additional 10,000 livres. Inserted at the bottom of both lists is the note initialed by Rochambeau: “The Sums which are not Settled are those of the officers who were not present at the assembly but who probably will accede to the ⟨same⟩ resolution.” The French version, which does not have the notation and lists the contributors in a different order, shows a contribution of 44,000 livres from twenty-six officers instead of 42,000 from twenty-five. It also shows 7,500 livres expected from seven men instead of 10,000 from eight men. Rochambeau contributed 6,000 livres; Lieutenant General Vioménil, 3,000; the major generals, 2,000 each; brigadier generals, 1,500 each; and the colonels, 1,000 each. The American Society of the Cincinnati at its meeting in May 1784 voted not to accept gifts from foreigners.

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