George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gouverneur Morris, 23 February 1789

From Gouverneur Morris

Paris 23 Feby 1789

Dear General

Upon my Arrival at this Place I spoke to Mr Jefferson on the Subject of your Watch. He told me that the Man who had made Maddison’s was a Rogue and recommended me to another—Romilly—But as it might happen that this also was a Rogue I enquired at a very honest Man’s Shop, not a Watch Maker, and he recommended Gregson.1 A Gentleman with me assured me that Gregson was a Rogue and both of them agreed that Romilly is of the old School, and he and his Watches out of fashion. And to say that of a Man in Paris is like saying he is an ordinary Man among the friends of Philadelphia. I found at last that Mr L’Epine is at the Head of his Profession here; and in Consequence asks more for his Work than any Body else; I therefore waited on Mr L’Epine and agreed with him for two Watches exactly alike one of which will be for you and the other for me.2 This is the best Excuse I can make for putting you to a greater Expence than was necessary. To alleviate it in some Degree I have disposed of your Bill at the best Exchange and am in Consequence your Debtor 657.7s.10d.3 being better than twenty seven Louis for your twenty five Guineas.

I will not have the Presumption to say any Thing about the Politics of this Country. Mr Jefferson will doubtless convey the best information on that Subject and you will I hope and beleive be (by the time this Letter arrives) officially possest of his Communications.4 I say, I hope so and more (if possible) since I am here than before I left America Our new Constitution has greatly raised our Reputation in Europe. But your appointment and Acceptance would go far to fix the general opinion. I shall not in this Place, discuss the Question whether Mankind is right or wrong in that universal Idea: but you who have so long been devoted to your Country ought not to be ignorant of the fact. By the Bye, in the melancholy Situation to which the poor King of England has been reduced there were, I am told, in Relation to you some whimsical Circumstances His first Outset was to seize Mr Pitt by the Collar and, with outrageous Language addressed to the Rebel General, had nearly strangled him before he could get Help. Afterwards the Defender of the faith, in one of his Capricios, conceived himself to be no less a Personage than George Washington at the Head of the american Army. This shews that you have done Something or other which sticks most terribly in his Stomach And the Prince of Wales, I am told, intends (no Doubt from filial Piety and Respect) to be very good freinds with the Country and the Man who have turned his fathers Head.

Adieu my dear Sir. That you may long be alike hated by the Enemies and beloved by the freinds of America is the sincere Wish of your most obedt humble Servant

Gouvr. Morris

ALS (marked “Duplicate,” and enclosed in Morris to GW, 3 Mar. 1789), DLC:GW; LB, DLC: Gouverneur Morris Papers. Another ALS, also marked duplicate, was sold by Stan V. Henkels in 1918 (catalog no. 1222) and again by Sotheby Parke-Bernet in April 1981 (sale no. 4588E, item 109, collection of Joseph M. Roebling). This copy was endorsed on the back by GW “From Gouvr. Morris Esqr. 23d Feb. 1789.” Apparently it was removed from GW’s papers by Jared Sparks, who noted on the back of the letter that “As this is a strictly private letter, it ought not, in any event, to be published” (Henkels catalog no. 1222).

1Morris was referring to Jean Romilly (1714-1796) and Pierre Gregson. For Morris’s trip to Europe, see Samuel Powel to GW, 6 Jan. 1789. In his letter to Morris, 28 Nov. 1788, GW had expressed his “wish to have a gold watch procured for my own use.”

2In an entry in his diary for 23 April 1789, Morris noted that he went “to the Place des Victoires and get the Watches I had bespoke from Monsr. L’Epine. Give a Draft for the Amount on Messrs. Grand & Co: and deliver one of them to Mr. Jefferson to carry with him to Genl. Washington” (Morris, Diary of the French Revolution, description begins Beatrix Cary Davenport, ed. A Diary of the French Revolution by Gouverneur Morris. 2 vols. Boston, 1939. description ends 1:50). Jean-Antoine Lépine (1720-1814) was watchmaker for King Louis XV. The watch is now (1986) in possession of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. For its provenance, see Nicholas Wainwright’s comments in the society’s Pennsylvania Correspondent, 3 (1982): 2.

3I.e., 657 livres, 7 sous, 10 deniers.

4Jefferson requested a leave of absence from John Jay, secretary for foreign affairs, on 19 Nov. 1788 and hoped to leave Paris by April 1789. However, uncertainties in the Confederation government, now in a state of transition, postponed Jay’s reply until 9 Mar. 1789. Jay’s letter did not reach Jefferson until late July. Official leave was granted in June, but Jefferson did not receive the notice until August. He sailed for the United States in October and landed in Norfolk, Va., 23 Nov. 1789 (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 14:214–15,628–29, 15:202; Malone, Jefferson, description begins Dumas Malone. Jefferson and His Time. 6 vols. Boston, 1948–81. description ends 2:204–5, 243).

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