George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Lebrun, 8 November 1792

From Lebrun

Translation, Paris the 8⟨th⟩ November 1792.

The first year of the Republic.

P. Le Brun, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of France, to George Washington, President of the United States of America. Health, Peace and Liberty.1

The return of Colo. Smith to the free Country of North America,2 furnishes me with an opportunity of presenting to George Washington the homage of my esteem, and my veneration for his civic virtues. I thank Heaven for it.

When the French helped to free your happy Country from the yoke which threatened to oppress it, they were themselves slaves; but the principles of liberty were in their hearts: they have since developped themselves; and the French are free—they are Republicans. These new Relations cannot but draw closer the bands which have for a long time united them with the American People. Let me be permitted to renew the assurances of the friendship & fraternity of the French. These sentiments will undoubtedly become more durable. May they extend themselves to all the people of both hemisphers! May the sacred principles of liberty & equality become the happy lot of all the world, as it is already of the people of America & France!

Colo. Smith is charged to communicate to George Washington plans worthy of his great Love.3 The Government of the Republic of France will be pleased that the Colonel should be charged with our Report as well as with your answer, your approbation—and the means of execution which you shall judge in your wisdom to be more convenient.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Brun

Translation, DLC:GW; LS, in French, DNA: RG 59, Communications from Heads of Foreign States, Ceremonial Letters; Df, in French, Arch. Aff. Etr. The original receiver’s copy, in French, appears in CD-ROM:GW.

1Pierre-Henri-Hélène-Marie Lebrun (c.1753–1793), known previously as the abbé Tondu, abandoned his early ecclesiastical career for the French army, from which he deserted after two years of service to become a printer and journalist in Liège (Belgium), where he founded the Journal Général de l’Europe in 1785. Lebrun’s political philosophy led him to return to revolutionary France where he received an appointment as the French foreign minister on 10 Aug. 1792. Arrested on 2 June 1793 under suspicion of monarchist sympathies, he was guillotined on 27 Dec. 1793.

2Col. William Stephens Smith, the son-in-law of Vice-President John Adams, had resigned as supervisor of the revenue for the District of New York effective 1 Mar. 1792 and had traveled to London and Paris in pursuit of a private business venture (see GW to Smith, 10 Feb. 1792, and note 1). Smith sailed for the United States on 23 Dec. and arrived in New York City on 7 Feb. 1793 (see Smith to Thomas Jefferson, 8 Feb. 1793, 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 25:161–62).

3In early November 1792, shortly before Smith left Paris, the French Provisional Executive Council authorized Smith to “procure to the republic not only the reimbursement of what remains due from the United States, although not yet payable, but for the application of it, either for supplies for the army, or wheat, flour, and salted provisions, in augmentation of our internal supplies.” The Washington administration, however, refused to negotiate with Smith (see the second report on the American debt, from Gaspard Monge, comte de Péluse, to Lebrun, 4 Jan. 1793, in ASP, Foreign Relations, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:144–46; Jefferson’s Conversations with George Washington and William Stephens Smith, 20 Feb. 1793, 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 25:243–45; the Cabinet to GW, 2 Mar. 1793).

The translation of the French word âme should be spirit or soul and not “Love.”

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