Mount Vernon 24th June 1797
Through the medium of General Pinckney, I was honoured with your letter of the 24th of January, accompanying your Pamphlet on the Military and Political situation of France.1 For both, I pray you to accept my best acknowledgments & thanks. That you should have given me a place in your remembrance, is equally flattering & grateful to my feelings; as I could but esteem you while I had an opportunity of being acquainted with your merits, in our Revolutionary War.
For want of a competent knowledge of the French language I cannot, in reading your treatise on the above subjects, do complete justice to the sentiments it contains; but I know enough to be persuaded of its merits, and to wish that they may contribute to the restoration of that Peace & harmony—whatever the motives may be for carrying on the war, which is so congenial to the feelings of humanity.
That it may (if not sooner accomplished) be the means of restoring our mutual friend Fayette, and his family to their liberty, health & the confidence of their country, is my ardent wish; as it also is that all his friends would exert themselves to effect it: the first if no more. His son (with a Mr Frestal, who appears to have been his Mentor) are, and have been residents in my family since their arrival in this country, except in the first moments of it, and a modest, sensible, & well disposed youth he is.2
I am very glad to hear that my old friend & acquaintance Genl Rochambeau is alive, & in the enjoyment of tolerable good health. It is some years since I had the honor to receive a letter from him; but if it should fall in your way, at any time, to recall me to his remembrance by the presentation of my best regards for him, and which I pray you to accept also yourself, it would oblige me.3
This letter will be presented to you by Genl Marshall, one of our compatriots in the American war, & now a joint Envoy with General Pinckney & Mr Dana 4 (all of whom I beg leave to introduce to your acquaintance as men of honour & worth) appointed for the purpose of adjusting the differences which exist—unfortunately—between our two Nations; & which no man more sincerely regrets than I do; or who more devoutly wishes to have them accomodated upon principles of equity & justice. I have the honour to be Sir Your most Obedt Servant
ALS, Rigsarkivet, Copenhagen; LB, DLC:GW.
Gabriel-Mathieu (Guillaume-Mathieu), Comte Dumas (1753–1837), who served with Rochambeau in America in 1781–82, was one of the members of the Council of Elders who was arrested in the Directory’s coup d’état of 18 Fructidor (4 Sept. 1797). Dumas replied to GW’s letter on 27 Feb. 1798 from exile in Holstein. See also Marshall to GW, 22 June 1798.
1. The translation for GW of the letter that Dumas wrote to GW from Paris on 24 Jan. reads: “My general[,] General Pinkney to whom I am obliged for information on your excellency’s health will be so kind as to forward to you with this packet the hommage of my respect and of my grateful remembrance. I beg of you to accept of this short pamphlet on our military and political situation as a witness of my sentiments. Your excellency will acknowledge in it the effect of your lessons and perhaps also the caracter of the true public opinion in France. I beg of you to preserve for the true friends of the common cause of the Liberty of both nations your particular esteem of which they will always endeavour to be worthy. the last news we have received from general Lafayette and his unfortunate companions are not more satisfactory than those we had before his health is very much impaired as well as that of his virtuous and respectable wife. we are in hope that peace unavoidable even on account of the exhausted state of the belligerent powers will give us both in and out of our own country means to serve effectually our friend. General Rochambeau is still at his country seat near Vendome. he enjoys there a tolerable good health considering his great age, and reckons as well as his military family amongst his most dear and glorious remembrances that of the time we had the honor to serve under your command” (DLC:GW; the original letter, in French, is in the Gratz Collection, PHi). On 25 Jan. 1797 Charles Cotesworth Pinckney wrote: “Genl Dumas requested that I would forward to you, the pacquet contained in this enclosure. It shews his sentiments on the last Campaign & on the present situation of this Country with regard to Peace. He was in Count Rochambeau’s army in America, & was the particular friend of Fayette, he had also the honour of being known to you”(DLC:GW). Dumas wrote and published his mémoires a number of years later.
2. George Washington Motier Lafayette (1779–1849) and his tutor, Felix Frestel, who had been with the Washingtons since April 1796, accompanied them from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon in March 1797. The Frenchmen remained at Mount Vernon until October when they left for New York and set sail for Europe.
3. The last letter that GW had received from his friend Rochambeau (Jean-Bap tiste-Donatien, comte de Rochambeau; 1725–1807) was dated 11 April 1790. On 10 Oct. 1797 Paul Ferdinand Fevot enclosed a (missing) letter from Rochambeau to GW and told GW of a visit he had made to the old soldier.
4. Francis Dana (1743–1811), chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, was nominated by President John Adams on 31 May along with John Marshall and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney to be a member of the new mission to France. Upon Dana’s declining the appointment, Elbridge Gerry replaced him.