George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Mary, 18 August 1788

From John Mary

New york August 18. 1788.


your Excellency will hardly remember of me, but when i will mention to you that i was secretary to the Consulate general of France under Mr Gerard’s orders during the late war, & that i had the honour of dining there with you & your lady several times, then likely you will recollect me.1

however give me leave to wish you a very good health, your lady & all that belongs to you.

I have lately delivered a speech which relates very much with the present circumstances. It has met with the approbation of the most respectable & learned gentlemen of this place. i take the liberty of inserting a copy of the same in this letter.2

I have met honourable Sir, with great misfortunes since i had the happiness of seeing you in Philadelphia & in New port, so that i am obliged to teach both languages to live with as much decency as possible as there is an university that goes by your name, i would be much obliged to your Excellency if you would speak in my favor or to some Gentlemen who would have some body to instruct in their family. I would teach french, English writing & arithmetick.

I have compiled an english & french grammar, which has been approved of.

My loss during the late war is at least 4000. dollars for which i have authentical certificates.3

If it is not too much trouble i will beg of your Excellency to honor me with an answer.4 I am with great respect sir your most obedient & humble servant

John Mary
late Secretary to the consulate general of France, & now teaching both languages in this City, at M. de Montaudevert merchant.


1Conrad-Alexandre Gérard (1729–1790) arrived in America in 1778 with d’Estaing’s flotilla, as the French minister to the United States. In ill health, he was replaced by La Luzerne in August 1779.

2A Speech on the Government of Good Morals was enclosed.

3In 1785 he advertised “A NEW French and English Grammer. By JOHN MARY” which was “Just Published, at Boston.” Mary identified himself as “French Instructer a[t] the University at Cambridge” (United States Chronicle [Providence], 29 Sept. 1785).

4GW’s reply from Mount Vernon on 29 Aug. was unusually brusque: “Sir, Agreeably to your desire I am sitting down to acknowledge the receipt of the letter, which you was pleased to address to me on the 18th of this Month. In the multitude of persons, public and private, of whom I may have had some knowledge, it will not be thought strange, that I should retain no recollection of you. I am only sorry for the losses which you say you have sustained, without being able to remedy them.

“You are doubtless informed, Sir, that I lead altogether a private life. It would hardly be expected then that I should go abroad in search of employment for a gentleman, with whose talents and character, I have not the honor of being acquainted. Not having any agency with the College that bears my name, or knowledge of any family that, at present, wants an Instructor in the French language: you will excuse me for giving this laconic reply, with my wishes for your success. I am &ca Go. Washington” (LB, DLC:GW).

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