George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Moustier, 5 September 1791

To Moustier

Philadelphia September 5. 1791.

Dear Sir,

I have had the pleasure to receive the letter which you were so good as to write to me from Berlin on the 26 of April.1

The favorable sentiments which you express of our country and its councils are very agreeable to me—The kind interest which you take in my personal happiness excites a grateful sensibility.

You will learn with pleasure that events have realised the most sanguine hopes of our national prosperity—The influence of the general government has extended to every relation of political improvement, and to the promotion of our social happiness.

The interesting state of affairs in France excites the sympathy, and engages the good wishes of our citizens, who will rejoice to hear that the public deliberations have resulted in the permanent dignity and happiness of your nation. In the joy, which that event will diffuse, no one will participate more sincerely than he who is, with great regard, Dear Sir, Your most obedient Servant

G. Washington


1The translation in Tobias Lear’s hand of the letter of 26 April of French minister at Berlin Eléanor-François-Elie, comte de Moustier, to GW reads: “I received but yesterday the letter with which you honored me on the 6th of November last. Its date recalled to my mind the place where I had the satisfaction of paying my first homage to you. That interesting period of my life will always be recollected with the same sensibility. The Country life, which you know, Sir, how to render as useful to your Citizens by your examples, as agreeable to yourself, is well worthy of engaging as much of your time as you can give it. I have learnt with very great satisfaction the influence which it has had on your health. It is there that the relaxation of the mind & the exercise of the Body dispell those evils which are occasioned by the restraint of living in a City, and which is peculiarly unfavorable to those who are constantly occupied in the painful cares of Government. The success which attends your cares, Sir, in the administration of the United States, is a flattering recompence for those labours which you have so long devoted to your Country. So well am I convinced of the wisdom & virtue of the American Congress that I never fail to present it as a model for my fellow-Citizens. If you have ever read the preface, placed at the beginning of a translation which I solicited, of the American Laws digested by order of Congress in 1789, you would there have seen my opinion. I am the Author of these reflections which I have developed on more than one occasion. The Wits who rase themselves to extremes in my country are not yet disposed to receive them. Instead of the energy which results from a public force well organized, we see that violence reign which results from a force plac’d without its centre. The end has been missed, I however, love to flatter myself that it will return. They have exaggerated the evils which they suffered & have employed, in consequence thereof, remedies excessively violent and in no manner suited to the disorder which they had to handle. I hope those who are firm have a desir⟨e⟩ to return upon their own steps, which requires more courage & talents than to go straight forward. Any sacrifice, even that of self love, ought not to be accounted as any thing by a good Citizen, and if they pretend that Kings make an avowal of their errors—why should simple Citizens pretend to persevere in theirs? I did not attach myself to any party during my stay in France, I flattered no idol of the moment because I had never flattered any heretofore. I love my Country with Ardor. For a long time I have devoted myself to her. I lamented the abuse of the former Government—I lament that they have not made the one which follows it better. I wait until they renounce those Chimeras, & descend from the regions of perfection which do not belong to human space. I confine myself to filling in my sphere the duties which are alotted me. Our nation deserves to be happy. The crime of leading her from happiness is great in proportion as it is easy to conduct her to it. The tissue of a false glory—the enthusiasm of the perfection of Government—Cupidity—vengence & hatred are not good ingredients for forming the chief of a Revolution. It was good perhaps to demolish—but it is rare that a demolition is suitable when the passions dispell the Judgement. I have seen you, Sir, grieve as a Henry. How many Henrys have we in France? In whatever situation I may be I shall not cease to prove the lively Interest which I take in the prosperity of the United States, and I shall always regard it as a mark of good fortune to have been in a situation to admire you & to give testimonies of the veneration which is due to your virtues & to your eminent qualities” (DLC:GW). The original receiver’s copy (in French, DLC:GW) appears in CD-ROM:GW.

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