George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Two Frenchmen, 6 March 1792

From Two Frenchmen

[6 March 1792]1

Two frenchmen who came to America to establish themselves upon the lands which they purchased of the Scioto Company, and who have remained there one year, not being able to obtain possession of their purchase, and having consumed their funds, implore the bounty of your Excellency to put them in a situation to return to their own Country.

One of the Supplicants is he whom M. Le Marquis de lafayette has deigned to recommend to his Excellency.2 He hopes that such a respectable recommendation will be serviceable to him, and he will retain in his heart a grateful recollection of his Excellency who will releive him from the distress in which he is now involved.3

Translation, in Tobias Lear’s hand, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; AL, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The French text of the original receiver’s copy appears in CD-ROM:GW.

One writer of this letter was probably either M. de Tavernol or M. de Rocher, who arrived together in America in November 1790 (see William Short to Thomas Jefferson, 22 Aug. 1790, in 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 17:410–13). For the background to the Scioto Company and its unsuccessful French settlement in the Ohio Country, see Louis Le Bègue de Presle Duportail to GW, 10 Feb. 1790, source note. The collapse of William Duer’s speculations sealed the fate of the Scioto Company, which no longer could send provisions to its settlers. The French minister to the United States wrote to his new superior from Philadelphia in mid-March 1792 that only 100 of the original 1,000 French emigrants remained at the settlement, and they awaited only the return of good weather to leave. The daily arrival of these destitute countrymen at Philadelphia distressed him because he did not have the means to assist them. In consequence, he requested permission to allow free passage home for the most deserving of them (see Ternant to Claude-Antoine de Valdec de Lessart, 13 Mar., in Turner, Correspondence of the French Ministers, description begins Frederick J. Turner, ed. Correspondence of the French Ministers to the United States, 1791–1797. Washington, D.C., 1904. In Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, vol. 2. description ends 94–97).

1Tobias Lear docketed the receiver’s copy: “From The two frenchmen who applied to the President to assist them in returning to france—March 6th 1792.”

2In his letter to GW of 23 Aug. 1790, Lafayette recommended its bearers, “two Gentlemen, one of them an Artillery officer [Tavernol], who are Going to Settle on the Banks of the famed Scioto” as “Entitled to Regard.”

3The correspondents wrote to GW again on 8 Mar. 1792, apparently after meeting with him. Lear’s translation of this letter reads: “The two french men to whom his Excellency has already had the goodness to render an essential service & to draw them from the distress in which they were involved, take the liberty of signifying their gratitude to him, and presenting their humble thanks. As his Excellency had the goodness to have them informed that he would contribute towards facilitating their return to france; they think it proper to inform his Excellency that in a few days the french ship Le jeune Eole will sail for Havre de Grace, and that the price of each passenger is 192 livres tournois. The supplicants beseech his Excellency to assist them in obtaining a passage—Assuring they shall never cease to remember that it is to his Excellency they owe the happiness of seeing their native Country again & living in the midst of their families” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; the French text of the original receiver’s copy appears in CD-ROM:GW). The Jeune Eole, master J. B. Freehon, which had been waiting at Russell’s wharf for the opening of the Delaware River, cleared Philadelphia by 13 Mar. (see Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser [Philadelphia], 8, 10, 13 Mar. 1792).

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