Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Antoine-Félix Wuibert, 5 December 1785

From Antoine-Félix Wuibert

Cape Français, Santo Domingo, 5 Dec. 1785. Though unknown to TJ, he appeals to him, as a loyal citizen of the United States, concerning his rights.

Born at “Mézières-sur-Meuse en Champagne,” he left his large family many years ago and lived some time in Santo Domingo with “un parent fort-Respectable, M. Du Portal, Lieutenant général des armées du Roy.” After this relative’s untimely death, Wuibert was left without resources and went to America, where he took part in the Revolution. While chief engineer with the rank of lieutenant-colonel, to which he was appointed in 1776 at Washington’s request, he was captured. What he suffered at the hands of the enemy “n’est rien au prix de la gloire qu’on acquierre en defendant les droits de L’Humanité.” Such persons as Lafayette, John Adams, Du Portail (his commanding officer), and Wuibert’s father would all attest and add to what he tells TJ. Though the enemy inflicted many hardships on him to induce him to abandon the American cause, “Je le lui pardonne … en faveur des grands et généreux procédés qu’il a eu pour moi par la Suite et Cela Seul doit me Suffire pour avouer que la Nation Anglaise est unique et Respectable.” During his intervals of liberty in the war years, Wuibert served under John Paul Jones on the Bonhomme Richard as “Commandant-en-chef des Volontaires.” He submits the roll of the crew but refers TJ for details of their cruises to the Mercure de France of December 1779. Because of subsequent military service as governor-general of the British prisoners at Texel and later as chief engineer at Fort Pitt, two periods of captivity, an illness during the last year, and the “négligence ou la fausse amitié de quelques français qui m’avaient promis de faire Cette reclamation de mes parts-de-prises,” he never has been able to obtain his share. In 1783 he had sent to M. Du Moussy in Paris a power of attorney, but has heard nothing since, with the result that his affairs are completely neglected. Wuibert is deeply wounded by the cruelty of those who would deprive him of every means to obtain “une petite Retraite Sur Ses Vieux Jours” from his numerous troubles and afflictions; appeals to TJ, for he has nowhere else to turn. In the spring of 1785 Wuibert returned to Santo Domingo for his health and to escape complete financial wreckage. Thanks to the kindness of his friend Odelucq, who is highly esteemed in Santo Domingo, he expects that he will soon be well again. “Quoi qu’elle ne puisse pas me payer encore les Interets de mon Certificat Continental” (which cannot be redeemed soon according to a recent letter from Gov. Dickinson of Pennsylvania), Wuibert loves America and would prefer to spend his last days there, for he was treated well and even admitted to the Society of the Cincinnati. But if misfortune continues to plague him and to deprive him of friends, he must stay here, because he has been totally abandoned by his mother country, “qui devrait Cependant regarder tous ses enfants avec une Egale bonté.

He therefore asks TJ to dismiss all his agents now holding powers of attorney, to represent him in the distribution of the shares of the prizes, to speak and act for him, and to take charge of whatever sums shall be paid. Wuibert, asking only to be informed, will nullify all measures he has taken thus far and will support TJ in whatever he does. If the French court does not intend to pay him his share of the prizes, he hopes TJ can procure him some small recompense; there are many French persons less deserving than he who have been well compensated and often decorated. “Je desire bien Sincerement meriter Votre Justice, Craignant, Repugnant meme de me reclamer de Celle d’un pays, où tout ne Vat que par bons ou mauvais Caprices.

RC (DLC); 6 p.; in French; endorsed. Recorded in SJL as received 16 Feb. 1786. Also in DLC are duplicates of this letter dated 12 and 26 Dec. 1785. Enclosures (duplicate sets of copies in Wuibert’s hand in DLC: TJ Papers, 16: 2814–16 and 2847–9, the second of which is more complete and appears to be more accurate): (1) Copies of certifications of Wuibert’s service and conduct in the American army by John Adams (6 Jan. 1779), Robert Magaw (8 Nov. 1781), William Irvine (14 Nov. 1783 and 28 Feb. 1783), Thomas Mifflin (18 Nov. 1783), and George Washington (10 Dec. 1783). (2) John Paul Jones’ commission and instructions to Wuibert as governor-general of the prisoners at Texel, 1 Nov. 1779. (3) Jones’ letter to Wuibert, 14 Nov. 1779. (4) Congress’ commission to Wuibert from 14 July 1776, as lieutenant-colonel in the Continental corps of engineers, 1 Nov. 1783. (5) Certification of his membership in the Society of the Cincinnati by Arthur St. Clair, 1 Mch. 1785 (a postscript by Wuibert appended to the copy in DLC: TJ Papers, 16: 2847–9, observes that while there are many members of the Society in France, there is not a single “Croix de Saint-Louis” in the United States; that this is unfortunate for some worthy French citizens who now live in America and are members of the Cincinnati, but ought not to be forgotten; and that if Wuibert’s services and capacities were better known, it would be evident that he merits reward from his country).

For a biographical sketch of Wuibert (or Wuibert de Mézières), see Lasseray, Les Français sous les treize étoiles, p. 485–7.

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