George Washington Papers

To George Washington from François Alexandre Frédéric, Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, 25 July 1796

Phil. 25 July 1796


I should ought apologise for My Liberty for writing to you, when I am deprived from the advantage to be known of you, and when political considerations have made you this way, I should not to be introduced to you, at my arrival in this Country. but my apology for that liberty, shall be found in the motive of this Letter.

La fayette’s friends & relations send to me these two enclosed Letters, which he wished should be Communicated to me, & which I receive only now at my returning from the Southern States. those friends are wishing; I should present them to you; they wish I could converse with you about the ways to make end to the long and cruel captivity of that honest man. I know some persons, & namely generous—Dr Bofman, have discoursed with you on that subject. I know also, that, should La fayette’s name have not been pronounced to you by any, invariable Constance of your friendship to him, should never Let you forgetting his dreadful situation, and without thinking for the most proper way of being serviceable to the friend, whom you appreciate the merits, & whose you know the misery. However, so superflous it may be, I call your attention upon him, you will judge, that [date] being prescribed to be, it should be a fault to me if I was to not [accuse] my self of it. and if my particular [   ] affection to La fayette, makes me looking on that duty as [as a more important] one, you’ll excuse me for it. besides my Letter to you being yet unknown at every one, its inconveniency is limited to the trouble youll have in reading of it. by Mrs Lafayettes Letter to 9th fevrary , youll see how barbarous is the rigor of the treatement she records, yet [   ] she received in robespierres prisons, during sixteen months, seems mild to her remembrance. you are, certainly acquainted, with the audience granted by the Emperor to Mrs de lafayette on her passage in Vienna. & you know, when she implored of him her husbands liberation Emperor answered to her, his own hands were tied up on that Subject, and Mr De Lafs. liberation being out of his own power. you know Emperors ministers, less reserved a little, than their master had been, did pronounce to her that, if His Imp. Maj. should be to grant Mr delaf.’ liberation even if the watch upon him to prevent his escape were Less rigourous, Emperor should then became object of difference to his own ally, the King of England: and you have, Sir, unquestionably concluded, with all of those who are acquainted with those [authenticated] answers, that, the part of Lafy. conduct by which his fetters have been forged, & are now daily rivetted, is not, his participation to the french revolution, but only his participation to the American revolution, his unbounded devotion to the Cause of Liberty & independency of the United States. that is the very real crime never to be forgotten, by the King of England, and on account of which only la fayette is plunged in a dungeon.

youll read, sir in Laf’. Letter to Mr bolman & huger how, Confident as he is in your friendship and in the kindness of american nation, he relys upon his title of american Citizen. youll read how, being by the Circumstances deprived as he is from the [   ] country he depends [firmly] upon his right to be claimed by that to the Cause of which he [had devoted] his youth, and which he has served with all his heart & means, and youll observe, Sir Laf. being ignorant, when he wrote that Letter, that a so honorable employment of his first years, is the [only motive] of his [actual Capasity], by which; if longer, his Life even shall be Lost. youll find, also, by that Letter how Confident he is in Dr bolman’s active mind, & courageous generosity proper, as he thinks, to help usefully your good [sentiment] to him, and the interest of his fellow citizens.

I should look at myself; as acting improperly, [   ] your feellings, if I was to urge you, Sir, either in the name of Lafes. friends & relations, and as in his own to employ all the means you can, for [   ] his liberty and Life. the man, whom you have seen, embracing with a so compleat devotion, as your [   ] the [case] which places you among the greatest men, the man who should had expose his life, to make your safe, & to contribute to your glory, the man, whom you have judged deserving the title of your friends and to whom that honorable title Seems the more [precious] ornament; the man whose the Son receive from you the proofs of a paternal affection, such man can not be unfortunate[,] and you without employing youself very [   ] for making his misery to be terminated. and if political considerations, (which deepness I can not be judge of,) are to stop you, in the proceedings, you & american nation who has adopted La fayette, could do with a so great ability in his favor, [   ] so miserable, as he is himself. I will [permit] [   ] only to repeat once more, that Lafes. life, shall not resist to his captivity, if it is to be Longer and also that, if his cherissed wife, & childrens’ Company, are of great comfort to him in his jaol, the [Wiser] of [which] treatement they received for their devotion to him, is a testiment [   ] and [   ] to your [   ] Some words I have exchanged with Mr bolman on the berckly County I read, Let me Suspecting that two [Letters] could have been presented to you already: but I am [   ] sure enough of it, to [   ] not to send you them once more.

you should have yet read in the public paper, Mrs Laf. Letter printed. I should [blame disposition], by which I should [   ] be [prevented] to [   ] you, I did myself make that Letter published. in all part[s] of america, where I have travelled and I have been almost in all State[s] of the Union, I heard Mr de Laf. name pronounced every where almost with so much of [   ] frindship & interest, as I heard your own pronounced with respect, admiration confidence & affection. that Letter’s publication seemed to me proper to keep alive the deserved disposition. and I did not see any inconveniency in it. very [strange] [   ] both by my situation and mental disposition, [   ] political Circumstance, I am & never shall be so, strange to the duties of friendship. and should I be [Less] friend of Laf. than I am, I should look at me as obliged only by the duties of Humanity to [assemble] all means in my power to alleviate his misery.

Sollicited [   ] those Letters, I send them to his direction, without letting him know have the honor to write to you. I am Sir with the greatest respect [   ] your most humble & most obt [servant]


DLC: Papers of George Washington.


June 1795

Note written by Mr Laf. with his own blood, upon an Hand Resolvd to Mr bolman & Hugeé—june 1795

My heart needs, before every thing else, to express to the two messrs the homage of my unbounded gratitude. their generous Hearts can judge how my own is feelling to them I would explain to them some of the accident by which I have been prevented. my motive to have hoped they had escaped, is my conviction till my return to Olmutz—that all of them ware Safe. and even till the [half] part of my interrogatory, that Mr Hugar only had been taken, my [cruel] distress about them, distress which are pleasing for my examinator to increase. I am obliged to delay all those particulars, till the moment, (if ever Such one is to be Came) where I shall be able to meet with them—it was more difficult yet to know some things about our families. we received only since 13 months the [massiah’s] short note, & the letter in date of 26 January, which maubourg has communicated to me, in spite of the expressed defence made to him, to see me known my wife & Children are allways alive. that Condition is dreadful one, indeed—I beg of all my friends to employ their endeavours for alleviating all our enxiety about the objects of our affection. So tormented as I am all long winter with fever, and constant pains in my breast, I am better now. and able yet of enjoying, when my delivrance, if it happens soon. it is necessary to inform about us, our three families, general Washington Mr Pinckney, Jay, Jefferson, Short—bolman, huger, Mr [   ] & church, [Ramond] who as I hope is in England: [Lully] & fitzpatrick [Codignat, boinville, LaColombe], & my other aides de Camp—my note from [Ruff] ought to have been Communicated, to my before mentioned friends. & I have but very little to add now. I doubt, ([   ] my [prayers] have been on that subject) my long interrogatory have reached to Mr [geay]. I have, in spite of my own feellings, submitted to that examination. only in the intention of not being, with my refusal, obnoxious to my [Massiah], and to make cause commune with them; & I am to be contented in protesting very softly, against a power, I should have denyed in any other country, & circumstance. it may be useful to See, that when I have been Easked, for my tittle—my answer was—Citysen of america where my intention was to settle. When Called, upon my motives in my attempt for escaping, my answer was because my detention is injust, & my Situation dreadful. I have been questioned also, upon all which I could have to see about my self, and I was assured, my answers should to be put on the paper, provided I would speack only of my Self, & not at all of the [Massias]—then my answer was, as it is to be supposed I had nothing at all to say on my Self—but I depend upon the American ambassador to see, that after three years of captivity, it is to me enough to liberate a Citizen of united State whom the only wish is to embark him Self to America.

Again a trifling particular—if the Combined powers are [in quarrel], as they See, should it be possible, that my abhorrence against the treaty of vienna when, I suppose it was an obstacle to the Secours I sollicited from france to america, being known that, after the Civilities I received from the late King of prussia, my intimacy with his brother, my letter from [russel] in which I repeatd my disposition for seeing france united with prussia[,] should it be possible, that austrian Cabinet [   ] to [unite] a political motive particular to him self, with the general hatred, I am honoured, by all arbitrary governments? it should be, indeed ridiculous too much, if any person could suppose me to be friend with the King of prussia chiefly after [   ] has been taken and delivered up to the Emperor, by his orders. & what the intrigue of all Europe [Courts] may be for a man, who has but the wish to abandon europe for ever. but there is an essential article on which I insist with all my means. besides all the proceedings from United State and his ambassadors, proceedings which are the [great] fundadmental basis, and on which I rely with security, and which after having operated the most essential business (bolmans & huger delivrance), can be now successfully turned towards our own; it is a very essential march to be followed, and of which great & speadily success is to be obtained. that bolman will propose to my friends, he know all of it. I beg of all my friends to have a full confidence in him. & I authorise [them ] [   ] with all my power. so soon as our delivrance shall be obtained & [   ], I hope my friends will See me acquainted with it. and will neglect any thing to attend steadily at its speedy execution—but if my own Liberty should be too difficult matter to obtain. my friends must [   ] direct all efforts to my two fellows Delivrance—for, so great as may be my Esteem & tender affection to them, I permit me to say, they are not hated so deeply, as I am my Self. they having took part at only one revolution, in which, I had even some duties to fill, particular to my own position. that hope is very dear to my heart. & it shall be a great part of the whole business done.

I beg presidents’ pardon for so incorrect a translation, but, if I should have made done by some more [clere] person I should not been so sure of the secrecy.


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