To Leonard de Neufville
New York June 29th 1789
Your letter of the present month and the papers accompanying it have been handed to me since my late indisposition.1 As all public2 accompts and matters of a pecuniary nature will come properly under the inspection of the Treasury Department of the United States, I shall, when that department is organized & established, have those papers laid before the Secretary thereof3—and so far as my official agency may be necessary in the business it will meet with no delay. I am, Sir, Yr Mos[t] Obdt Servt
Df, in the writing of Tobias Lear, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DLC:GW.
Leonard de Neufville was the son and business partner of Jean de Neufville (1729–1796), an Amsterdam banker who had furnished money and supplies to the United States during the Revolution and who with William Lee negotiated an abortive treaty between the United States and the Netherlands in 1778. The document, which fell into British hands when Henry Laurens was captured on his way to Holland in August 1780, was one of the factors in the declaration of war by England against Holland. Opinions varied as to the Neufville house’s contributions to the American war. Franklin complained to John Jay in October 1779 that Neufville was a “vain Promiser, extreamly self-interested, and aiming chiefly to make an Appearance without Solidity.” Some years after the war, however, Elkanah Watson noted that Neufville had “commenced business with an hereditary capital of half a million sterling, and lived in Amsterdam and at his country-seat in the highest affluence and splendor. He sacrificed his fortune by his attachment to the cause of American Independence, and in his efforts to sustain it” (Franklin to Jay, 4–28 Oct. 1779, DNA:PCC, item 82, vol. 1, 154; Watson, Men and Times of the Revolution, description begins Winslow C. Watson, ed. Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, Including His Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from the year 1777 to 1842, and His Correspondence with Public Men, and Reminiscences and Incidents of the American Revolution. New York, 1856. description ends 267–68). During the 1780s Neufville & Fils made a concerted effort to collect payment from the United States and the state of South Carolina for the firm’s Revolutionary War services and expenditures. In 1782 Jean de Neufville turned the control of the firm over to his son and in August 1783 Leonard left Amsterdam for the United States. The younger Neufville carried a letter from his father, 19 Aug. 1783, to GW, expressing the banker’s hope “that my son may have so much justice done him, as to have his claims on Congress and the State of South Carolina discharged without delay.” See also GW to Neufville, 6 Jan. 1784, and notes. In June 1785 Leonard de Neufville visited Mount Vernon (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 4:151). By this time Jean de Neufville also had come to the United States, “to assist my son, not only to collect the monies due us” but also to pay the firm’s debts (broadside, Boston, 5 Sept. 1785). Father and son settled first at Boston and then in Albany, where Jean de Neufville opened a glass factory. Visiting the elder Neufville in 1788, Watson found “this gentleman, born to affluence, in a solitary seclusion, occupying a miserable log cabin furnished with a single deal table and two common chairs—destitute of the ordinary comforts of life” (Watson, Men and Times of the Revolution, description begins Winslow C. Watson, ed. Men and Times of the Revolution; or, Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, Including His Journals of Travels in Europe and America, from the year 1777 to 1842, and His Correspondence with Public Men, and Reminiscences and Incidents of the American Revolution. New York, 1856. description ends 268). The Neufvilles continued to pursue their claims in the 1790s. See Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 551; Jefferson to Neufville, 22 June 1792, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters, and correspondence in the Jean de Neufville Papers, DLC. In March 1797 Congress voted to pay Neufville’s widow and his son and daughter $3,000 in partial compensation for the sums owed by the United States to the firm, but final settlement was not made until 1851 (6 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 29 [2 Mar. 1797]; 9 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 814 [3 Mar. 1851]). Leonard de Neufville apparently had become insane by the mid–1790s. Theophile Cazenove’s custody petition to the Philadelphia court of common pleas in 1798 states that Neufville had not been competent to manage his own affairs “for two years last past and upwards” (DNA: RG 217, Records of the General Accounting Office, accounts no. 8721 and 9658).
2. This word has been inserted above the line in what appears to be GW’s writing in substitution for “matters of” which is crossed out.
3. On 21 Sept. 1789 Tobias Lear sent Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton “by the command of the President . . . one [letter] from Mr Leonard De Neufville dated June 1789 relating sundry transactions between himself . . . and Partners and the State of South Carolina, together with several papers refered to in the Letter” (DLC:GW).