George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Moustier, 5 October 1788

From Moustier

Boston 5th Octr 1788


The objects which were contained in the letter which your Excellency did me the honor to write to me on the 17th of Augt last, appear to me to be so important in their consequences that I am very desirous of obtaining your opinion more particularly, and this has induced me to hasten my intentions of offering my respects to you at Mount Vernon.1 In my leisure time, induced by the season & other circumstances, I have, in part, executed the project which I had formed of making myself acquainted with the Surface & situation of the United States, beginning with the Eastern States which are in the neighbourhood of the residence of Congress.

I would not let the year expire without procuring the satisfaction which I had promised myself. Calculating upon the experience which I have had of traveling in this Country, I intend to return to N. York on the 13 or 14 of this month. I cannot say with certainty how long my stay2 will be there, but I shall make it as short as possible, that I may go on, as soon as I can to Virginia and shall endeavour to be at Mount Vernon on the last day of this month—unless something which I do not foresee should intervene, or the approach of winter should oblige me to defer the visit which I am so desireous of making to the Farmer of Mount Vernon somewhat longer.

I must ask your permission, Sir, to have the honor of presenting to you a Lady of our old world, who is very desireous of accompanying me, and who has the curiosity to desire to visit the Savages who inhabit the interior parts of America from the Western Country to the Eastern Ocean.3

My Nephew is a young man just entering into the world, & who is no less desireous of conducting himself well, than he is of admiring & following those who have had great experience in life & who enjoy the glory which they have so justly acquired. The favourable recommendations which I have had of Monsr Dupont, the son of a worthy man in France, his zeal to be instructed, and his personal character have engaged me to procure for him all occasions of being useful & agreeable. I have the honor to beg of you, upon this consideration, that I may take him to Mount Vernon with my Nephew.

If you see no obsticle to the execution of my project, Sir, I cannot terminate the year more to my satisfaction then by rendering homage to the talents, to the Virtues which adorn your character & giving you a proof of the high consideration & respectful attachment with which I have the honor to be Sir, Yr Excellency’s Most Hbe & Obedt Servt

Le Cte de Moustier4

Translation, DLC:GW; ALS, in French, DLC:GW. The text of this document is taken from a translation prepared for GW. The original letter is printed in note 4.

After an extensive diplomatic career in Europe, Eléanor-François-Elie, comte de Moustier (1751–1817), arrived in New York in January 1788 to assume the post of French minister to the United States. He was described by an American observer as “distant, haughty, penurious, and entirely governed by the caprices of a little singular, whimsical, hysterical old woman, whose delight is in playing with a negro child, and caressing a monkey” (Griswold, Republican Court, description begins Rufus Wilmot Griswold. The Republican Court or American Society in the Days of Washington. New York, 1855. description ends 93). The “old woman” was Anne Flore Millet, marquise de Bréhan (1749-1826), variously described as Moustier’s sister or sister-in-law. A friend of Jefferson and a skilled miniaturist, she accompanied Moustier to the United States. John Jay’s view of the pair was more charitable: “The Count de Moustier found in this Country the best Dispositions to make it agreable to him, but it seems he expected more particular and flattering Marks of minute Respect than our People in general entertain Ideas of, or are either accustomed or inclined to pay to anybody. This added as I suspect and believe to Insinuations from persons who have no Desire that he should be very agreable to us, or we to him, have led him into Errors relative to men and things which naturally dispose him to give and receive Disgust” (Jay to Jefferson, 25 Nov. 1788, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 14:290–92). Moustier and the marquise lived in the Macomb house on Broadway, which became GW’s official residence in New York City after he became president.

1Moustier sent a letter to GW by James Madison in March 1788 apparently enclosing a series of queries on Franco-American commerce similar to those he had addressed to Madison on 2 Mar. (Rutland, Madison Papers, description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends 10:551–52; GW to Moustier, 26 Mar. 1788). Regarding his reply to Moustier, 17 Aug. 1788, GW wrote Jefferson: “on the subject of our Commerce with France, I have received several quæries from the Count de Moustiers—besides the information he desired relative to Articles of importation from & exportation to France—he wished to know my opinion of the advantage or detriment of the Contract between Mr Morris & the Farm; as also what emoluments we had to give in return for the favors we solicited in our intercourse with the Islands. As I knew that these topics were also in agitation in France, I gave him the most faithful & satisfactory advice I could: but in such a cautious manner as might not be likely to contradict your assertions or impede your negotiations in Europe” (GW to Jefferson, 31 Aug. 1788).

2In MS this word reads “saty.”

3The marquise de Bréhan was by now disabused of her illusions concerning the rustic paradise she had hoped to find in America. Jefferson had heard in Paris that she was “furiously displeased with America. Her love of simplicity, and her wish to find it had made her fancy she was going to Arcadia, in spite of all my warnings to the contrary” (Jefferson to Maria Cosway, 14 Jan. 1789, in Boyd, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 14:445–46). For GW’s invitation to visit Mount Vernon, see GW to Moustier, 18 Oct. 1788. Moustier and the marquise arrived at Mount Vernon “a little before Sun setting” on 2 Nov. 1788 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 5:417). Accompanying them were the marquise’s son, Armand-Louis-Fidèle de Bréhan (1770–1828), whom his mother hoped to expose to a more rigorous and masculine education in the United States than he would receive in France, and his friend Victor-Marie du Pont (1767–1827). Young Du Pont was the eldest son of the economist and diplomat Pierre-Samuel du Pont de Nemours (1739–1817). The marquise apparently began a miniature portrait of GW during the visit (ibid., 5:452). The party remained at Mount Vernon until 6 Nov. when they returned to New York, giving up their plans for an extended tour of Virginia because of the approaching cold weather (ibid., 5:419)

4The French original of this document reads: “Les objets qui sont compris dans la lettre dont Votre Excellence m’a honoré le 17 Août dernier, m’ont paru d’une si grande importance pour la suite, que le desir d’obtenir plus particulierement vos avis, a augmenté encore mon empressement d’aller vous offrir mes homages à Mount Vernon. En me laissant un peu guider par la saison et d’autres circonstances, j’ai executé en partie le projet que j’ai de prendre par moi-même quelque connoissance de la surface et de la situation des Etats Unis, en commencant par les Etats de l’Est ou dans le voisinage de ma residence auprés du Congrés. Mes sentimens les plus vifs m’auroient apellé ailleurs dés le commencement de mon arrivée en Amerique. Je ne veux pas laisser ecouler l’année sans me procurer la satisfaction que j’ai tant souhaitée. En calculant ma marche d’aprés l’experience que j’ai acquise en parcourant ce Continent, je compte etre de retour à Newyork le 13 ou le 14 de ce mois. Je ne puis savoir au juste combien durera le sejour passager que j’y ferai, mais je l’abregerai autant que je pourrai, afin de pouvoir m’acheminer le plutot possible vers la Virginie et tacher d’etre rendu à Mount Vernon dans les derniers jours de ce mois, à moins que vous ne previssiez, Monsieur, de ne pas vous y trouver à cette epoque et que vous ne me fissiez part de ce contretems qui, vû l’aproche de l’hiver, m’obligeroit à differer beaucoup plus que je ne voudrois la visite que je desire de rendre au Cultivateur de Mount Vernon.

“Je vous demande, Monsieur, la permission d’avoir l’honneur de vous presenter une Dame de notre vieux monde, qui a bien voulu m’accompagner dans celui-ci et qui a porté l’interêt qu’elle y a pris, jusqu’ à visiter les Sauvages habitans des vastes forêts, qui ne retiennent pas plus à l’Ouest les Americaing que l’Ocean ne les arrête à l’Est. Mon neveu est un jeune homme qui debute dans le monde et qui ne peut etre mieux excité à se porter au bien, qu’en admirant de prés ceux qui font le plus pratiqué et qui jouissent de la gloire la mieux acquise. Les recommandations qu’on m’a faites en faveur de Mr Dupont fils d’un homme de merite en France, son zêle à s’instruire et son caractere personel, m’ont engagé à lui procurer toutes les occasions de lui etre utile et agreable. J’ai l’honneur de vous prier que, par cette consideration, je l’amene avec moi à Mount Vernon ainsi que mon neveu. Si vous ne trouvez, Monsieur, aucun obstacle à l’execution de mon projet, je ne pourrai pas terminer mon année d’une maniere plus satisfaisante qu’en rendant homage aux talens, aux vertus, aux lumieres qui font l’ornement de votre caractere et en vous offrant les temoignages de la haute consideration et du respectueux attachement avec lesquels j’ai l’honneur d’etre, Monsieur De Votre Excellence, Le trés humble et trés obeissant Serviteur.”

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