Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, 11 July 179[6]

From La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt

Frederick town 11th Juillet 1792 [i.e. 1796]

Je ne veux pas m’eloigner de la Virginie, Monsieur, Sans vous remercier encor de votre obligeante reception. Les deux Lettres que vous avés eu la bonté de me donner ne m’ont ete malheureusement d’aucun usage. Mr. Steward etoit parti de Stanton avec Mr. de Volney. Et Mr. Hofman maitre du cabaret de Strasbourg m’a dit que le Clel. Hite n’etoit pas a Sa campagne, mais a une autre habitation beaucoup plus distante, et Sans famille. Quelque contrariete que j’aye eprouvé de ne pas voir un homme instruit a fond de cette partie du pays j’ay cru devoir de pas l’aller troubler dans Ses affaires. Je vous aurois renvoye vos deux Lettres Si le papier n’eut pas ete trop gros, et comme je pense qu’elles ne contenoient que des choses Obligeantes pour moi, Je les ay brulé. Les papiers publics vous auront apris le Succès des armées francoises en italie. Puissent elles en avoir de pareils dans Les West Indies. Permettes moy de presenter mon respectueux homage a Mrs. Randolph et Miss Maria et de me dire avec l’estime et la consideration qui vous sont dues Votre tres humble et tres obeissant serviteur


RC (MoSHi: Jefferson Papers); endorsed by TJ as received 29 July 1796 and so recorded in SJL.

François Alexandre Frédéric, Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt (1747–1827), was a French philanthropist, author, and political figure who combined practical interests in technology and agriculture with an impulse for social reform. He was known as the Duc de Liancourt until 1792, when on the death of his cousin, the Duc de La Roche-Guyon et de La Rochefoucauld d’Enville, he became the seventh Duc de La Rochefoucauld. Liancourt traveled in England and Switzerland studying industry and agriculture and established a model farm on his estate to implement techniques he had observed abroad. He also built innovative cotton-spinning shops and founded a school of practical arts and crafts for the children of impoverished soldiers, which subsequently became a government institution, the École des Arts et Métiers. Liancourt held an honorary position at the court of Louis XVI. As a member of the Estates General he supported both popular liberty and the authority of the crown. Days before the fall of the Bastille, when the king characterized the situation in Paris as “une révolte,” Liancourt reputedly answered, “Non, Sire, c’est une révolution.” Immediately thereafter, he became the president of the National Assembly, where he proposed the abolition of the death penalty and championed other liberal causes. He fled to England in 1792 after plotting unsuccessfully to transport the king out of Paris to safety. From Britain, where he knew Arthur Young, La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt traveled to Philadelphia in 1794. During the next three years he journeyed from Canada to Georgia. He and TJ had not known one another well in France, and TJ approached the duc’s visit to Monticello with caution (see TJ to James Madison, 3 Dec. 1795). The traveler found his host “somewhat cold and reserved” but possessing in general “a mild, easy and obliging temper.” They talked of common acquaintances in France and La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt showed considerable interest in TJ’s farming operations. Their subsequent correspondence was friendly though not copious. The duc’s observations of America appeared in French and English editions in 1799 (Travels through the United States of North America, the Country of the Iroquois, and Upper Canada … with an Authentic Account of Lower Canada, 2 vols. [London, 1799], ii, 79; La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Voyage description begins François Alexandre Frédéric, Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancout, Voyage dans les États Unis d’Amérique, fait en 1795, 1796 et 1797, Paris, 1799, 8 vols. description ends ). See Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends No. 4016. La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt left the United States late in 1797 to reside in Hamburg. In 1799 he returned to France, where under Napoleon he was restored to his privileges as a nobleman and took a seat in the Chamber of Peers. He played a prominent role in government councils on vaccination, prisons, hospitals, agriculture, and manufactures and held advisory positions with the Académie des Sciences and the Académie de Médecine (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale description begins J. C. F. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’a nos jours, Paris, 1855–66, 46 vols. description ends , xxix, 650–4; Jean Dominique de La Rochefoucauld, Claudine Wolikow, and Guy Ikni, Le Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, 1747–1827: de Louis XV à Charles X, un Grand seigneur patriote et le mouvement populaire [Paris, 1980], 41–2, 149, 211–16).

Votre obligeante reception: La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, in the company of the Englishman John Guillemard, had arrived at Monticello on 22 June 1796 and departed on the 29th (La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, Voyage, description begins François Alexandre Frédéric, Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancout, Voyage dans les États Unis d’Amérique, fait en 1795, 1796 et 1797, Paris, 1799, 8 vols. description ends v, 12–13, 38). Deux lettres: TJ to Archibald Stuart and to ——Hite, both 29 June 1796.

Les West Indies: news reached the United States in June that reinforcements for French troops in Saint-Domingue, comprising 2,000 soldiers and two battleships, had sailed from Brest in April (Philadelphia Aurora, 25 June 1796; Sir John W. Fortescue, A History of the British Army, 13 vols. in 14 [London, 1899–1930], iv, pt. 1, p. 471).

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