George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lafayette, 7 March 1791

From Lafayette

Paris March the 7th 1791

My dear General

Whatever Expectations I Had Conceived of a Speedy termination to our Revolutionary trouble, I Still am tossed about in the Ocean of factions and Commotions of Every Kind—for it is My fate to Be on Each Side, With Equal Animosity Attacked, Both By The Aristocratic, Slavish, Parliamentary, Clerical, in a Word By all Ennemies to my free and levelling doctrine, and on the other Side By the orleanoise, factious, Anti Royal, licentious, and Pillaging Parties of Every Kind, So that My Personal Escape from Amidst so Many Hostile Bands is Rather dubious, Altho’ our Gr[e]at and Good Revolution is, Thank Heaven, Not only Insured in France, But on the Point of Visiting other Parts of the World, provided the Restoration of Public order is Soon obtained in this Country, where the good People Have Been Better taught How to Overthrow despotism than they Can Understand How to Submit to the Law—to You, My Beloved General, the Patriarch and Generalissimo of Universal liberty, I Shall Render Exact Accounts of the Conduct of Your deputy and Aid in this Great Cause.

You Will Hear that the National Assembly Have Permitted the Cultivation of tobacco throughout the Kingdom, as it Was Already established in the frontier Provinces—to Which they Have Been Induced in those Accounts, 1stly Because they thought a Prohibition Inconsistent With the Principles of the Bill of Rights 2dly Because the Removal of the excise Barriers to the Extremities of the Empire Made it Necessary to Have one General Rule—3dly Because the departements formerly Called Alsace and Flanders Being Greatly Contamined By a foreign and Aristocratic Influence, there Was No doubt of the Impending Attack of the Rebel princes Condi and Artois taking place, and Being Countenanced Even By the Country farming people, Had We Cut them of from that Branch of Cultivation, all of a Sudden.

But What is Greatly Exceptionable is a duty fixed on the Introduction of American tobacco, with a premium in favour of the french vessels, and a duty Much too High, altho’ it Was lately lessened, on American Whale oil1—But I Beg You, and all citizens of the United States Not to be discouraged By that Hasty, and ill Combined Measure, Which I Hope Before long to be Rectified in Consequence of a Report of the diplomatic Committee, including the Whole at once, and for Which My friends and Myself Have Kept our Arguments—I shall send You the Report, the debate, and the Resolve—Should we obtain An Easy introduction of American tobacco, No Cultivation of Any importance Can take place in france, and it Will Be the Better for Both Countries.

M. de ternant Has Been Named Plenipotentiary Minister to the United States2—I Have Warmly Wished for it Because I Know His Abilities, His love for liberty, His early, steady, and Active Attachement to the United States, His Veneration and love for you—the More I Have Known ternant, the More I Have found Him a Man of Great Parts, a Steady, Virtuous, and faithfull friend—He Has deserved a Great share in the Confidence of the National Assembly, the Patriotic Side I Mean, The King Has a true Regard for Him, in a Word I Hope He will on Every Account Answer Your purposes, and Serve America as zealously in the diplomatic line, as He did when in the Army.

Adieu, My Beloved General, My Best Respects Wait on Mrs Washington—Remember me Most Affectionately to Hamilton, jefferson, Knox, jay and all friends—Mde de Lafayette And children Beg their tender Respects Being joined to Mine for You and the family—Most Respectfully and tenderly I am My dear General Your filial friend


Inclosed is letter which ternant Has Requested I would join to Mine.3

You Have Made Mr Poirey the Happiest Man in the World for which Mde de Lafayette and Myself are Very thankfull.4


1William Short, American chargé d’affaires in Paris, wrote Jefferson from Amsterdam on 11 Mar. 1791 describing changes in policy by the National Assembly regarding importation of whale oil and tobacco from the United States. “A letter which I received by the last post from my Secretary in Paris informs me that the national assembly have changed their decree with respect to the American oils imported into France. On the representation of the committees they have reduced the duty from 12.ll to 6.ll the quintal. I do not find this circumstance mentioned in the journals of the assembly, but he gives it to me as having that moment received it from the member of the diplomatic committee who was most instrumental in obtaining the reduction. . . . the 6tt being in lieu of all other duties is considered as giving greater facilities to the importation of the American oils than they would have had under the former Government. I received also by the last post an account of some alterations made by the assembly in their decree concerning the importation of tobacco. It is confined to French vessels and those of the country where it is made. . . . With respect to that made in the United States it must be brought immediately from thence to France. The difference of duty on the article imported in French or foreign vessels remains as when I wrote to you viz. 6.ll5s. the quintal. The ports at which foreign tobacco is allowed to be entered are very numerous as well in the Atlantic as the Mediterranean and indeed are all where any American vessel would wish to go” (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 19:532–34). For the decree of 2 Mar. 1791 reducing the duty on American oil from twelve livres per quintal to six, see Archives parlementaires, description begins J. Mavidal et al., eds. Archives Parlementaires de 1787 a 1860. 1st ser., 101 vols. to date. Paris, 1868—. description ends 23:611. The decree concerning the importation of tobacco, 1 Mar. 1791, is ibid, 23:595.

2For the background to Jean Baptiste de Ternant’s appointment as French minister to the United States, see Gouverneur Morris to GW, 22 Jan. 1790 (second letter) and notes.

4For Joseph-Léonard Poirey’s efforts to acquire the rank of brevet captain, see Marquise de Lafayette to GW, 14 Jan. 1790 and notes.

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