From Julian Ursin Niemcewicz
Fœderal City le 27 Mai 1798.
Au milieu de l’Inquietude et de l’Anxiété que vous eprouvez Monsieur sur le sort de vôtre Ami, exposé à plus d’un Naufrage, peut étre ne serez vous pas fâché de savoir ce qu’est devenu Celui qui depuis tant d’années a été son Compagnon d’Infortunes et de Voyage: je m’empresse â vous satisfaire ladessus. Selon les Intentions du G.K. j’ai pris (comme pour le suivre) le chemin du Sud, j’étois à Baltimore et me voila depuis quinze jours à Federal City dans la maison de Mr. Law. Partout j’ai été accablé de questions, je ne sais comment je m’en suis tiré, tout ce que je sais c’est que le métier de Menteur (pour qui n’y est pas accoutumé) est aussi difficile qu’il est humiliant. Soyez cependant sur que le Secret est réligieusement gardé, personne ne se doute de la verité: les uns le croyent vraiment sur les chemins des Eaux, d’autres imaginent que nous sommes brouillés et separés; enfin on a ecrit ici de Philadelphie que Vous l’aves enlevé et caché à Monti Celli. Vous voila donc accusé de rapt et de Viol, tachez de vous en laver comme vous pourrez. Le Gl: Washington et son Epouse ont été dans la Citée pour voir leurs petites filles Mrs. Peeters et Mrs Law, je lui ai été presenté, il m’a reçu très honetement, s’est informé de la Santé du Gl: K. avec Interet, mais en général il a été très reservé, et beaucoup moins curieux et inquisitive que je ne le croyois. Malgré la bonté et l’hospitalité de mes hôtes, je ne puis sans indiscretion rester trop longtems chez Eux, mais ou aller et Comment je n’en sais rien, je ne voudrois pas passer par Philad: ni demeurer (comme je l’avois projetté tout auprès) tant que le Congrès y siegera, et je crains qu’il n’y siege longtems, mon sejour la, occasioneroit des Caquèts et des Soupçons sans fin; je suis en verité dans une Situation bien à pleindre, mon Coeur est blessé jusqu’au Vif, mon esprit est agité et inquiet, je ne puis ni rester encore moins m’etablir ici, ni m’en retourner chez moi, pour me livrer entre les mains de mes Geoliers, (les Despotes sont si soupçoneux) Parti de l’Europe sans avoir arrangé mes affaires, uniquement pour accompagner et soigner un ami malade, mes parents mes Amis ne pourroient jamais s’imaginer que je me trouverois dans la Situation ou je suis.
Je voudrois perdre jusqu’au souvenir le traitement que j’ai eprouvé, mais helas! il n’est pas aussi facile d’oublier que de se taire. Pardonnez Monsieur ces plaintes involontaires, vous Etes le seul devant qui Elles m’ont echapé, vous êtes le seul devant qui j’ose parler de ma Situation, et de mes projets. En attendant que je réçoive des nouvelles et des Secours de chez moi, j’ai pris le parti, tant pour me distraire, que pour ne pas perdre mon tems inutilement, j’ai pris le parti dis-je, de voir un peu l’Amérique, je voudrois aller jusqu’au Boston: pourriez vous avoir la bonté de me preter pour cet Effet 150, ou 200 Doll: je promets de vous les rendre en Automne, je serois même très heureux de pouvoir vous rapporter ma dête moi-même. Excusez Monsieur la hardiesse de ma demarche, des raisons que vous ne desaprouveriez pas m’ont empeché de demender ce service à d’autres, il m’en Couteroit de m’ouvrir la dessus à qui que ce soit, mais Vous qui inspirez de l’Attachement et du respect à tous Ceux qui ont le bonheur de vous connoître, ne vous étonnez pas si vous leur inspirez aussi de la Confiance. Agréez les Sentiments respectueux de Celui qui a l’honneur d’être
Monsieur Vôtre très humble et très obeissant Serviteur
Si vous avez la bonté de me repondre adressez vôtre lettre to the Care of Thomas Law Federal City. N’oubliez pas surtout de me donner des nouvelles du G.K aussitot que vous en sauréz quelque chose, il doit être près du but de son voyage. II est très probable qu’au bureau de Poste de Philadelphie, il y aura quelques paquets de lettres adressées au Gl: Kos: ayez la bonté de les ouvrir, car il y aura certainem[ent] sous son Envellope des lettres pour moi, et dans ce Cas je vous supplie de vouloir bien me les envoyer.
Federal City, 27 May, 1798
In the midst of the disquiet and anxiety that you feel Sir over the fate of your friend, exposed to more than one shipwreck, perhaps you will not be annoyed to learn what has happened to the one who for so many years has been his companion in misfortunes and travels. I am hastening to satisfy you on that account. According to the intentions of G.K. I set out (as though following him) on the road south, I was in Baltimore and now I have been for two weeks in the Federal City in the house of Mr. Law. Everywhere I have been overwhelmed with questions, I don’t know how I made out, all that I know is that the role of liar (to which I am not accustomed) is as difficult as it is humiliating. Rest assured, however, that the secret has been religiously kept: no one suspects the truth: some believe him truly on the paths of the waters, others have imagined that we have quarreled and are separated; finally, someone wrote here from Philadelphia that you carried him off and hid him at Monticello. So there you are, accused of kidnaping and ravishing, try to wash yourself clean however you can. Gl: Washington and his wife have been in the city to see their granddaughters, Mrs. Peter and Mrs. Law, I was presented to him, he received me in a very gentlemanly way, inquired about the health of G1: K. with interest, but in general was very formal and much less curious and inquisitive than I had believed. Despite all the kindness and hospitality of my hosts, I cannot, without indiscretion, remain too long with them, but where to go and how I have no idea, I would not like to go by Philad: nor remain (as I had planned) nearby as long as Congress is in session, and I fear that it may stay there for a long time, my stay there would give rise to wagging tongues and endless suspicions; I am truly in a very pitiable condition, my heart is wounded to the quick, my mind is agitated and restless, I can neither remain even less settle here, nor return home, to give myself over to my jailers, (despots are so suspicious) having left Europe without settling my affairs, solely to accompany and care for a sick friend, my family, my friends could never imagine that I would be in my present situation.
I should like to erase even the memory of the treatment I have undergone, but alas! it is not so easy to forget as it is to be silent. Pardon Sir these involuntary complaints, you are the only one before whom they have escaped me, you are the only one before whom I dare to speak of my situation and my plans. While waiting to receive news and help from home, I have made the decision, as much to distract myself as not to lose my time uselessly, I have made the decision, I say, to see a bit of America, I should like to go as far as Boston: would you have the kindness to lend me 150 or 200 dollars for that project: I promise to pay them back to you in autumn, I should even be very happy to return this debt to you in person. Excuse Sir the boldness of my procedure, reasons of which you would not disapprove have prevented me from asking this service of others, it would cost me to speak freely about it to others, but you who inspire affection and respect in all those who have the good fortune to know you, do not be surprised if you also inspire confidence in them. Accept the respectful sentiments of the one who has the honor of being
Sir Your very humble and very obedient Servant
If you have the kindness to answer me address your letter to the care of Thomas Law Federal City. Above all, remember to give me information about G.K. as soon as you know something, he must be near the end of his travel. It is very likely that at the Post Office of Philadelphia there are some packets of letters addressed to Gl: Kos: have the kindness to open them, for in his envelope there are certainly some letters for me, and in that case I beg you to kindly send them to me.
RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 31 May 1798 and so recorded in SJL.
TJ first became acquainted with Julian Ursin Niemcewicz (1758–1841) in Paris in 1787. A member of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility, as a young man Niemcewicz came under the patronage of Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski, who made Niemcewicz part of his household, sponsored his travel to other European capitals, and encouraged his early writing. In the Four Years’ Diet that first met in Warsaw in 1788 Niemcewicz joined with the reformist “Patriot” element and became one of the most vocal advocates of expanded political rights, speaking ardently and penning a variety of works, including a popular stage comedy, to promote the cause of constitutional reform. He fled Poland upon the Russian occupation in 1792, returning from Italy two years later to join Kosciuszko’s insurgency movement. Like Kosciuszko, who named him adjutant and secretary of state, Niemcewicz was wounded at Maciejowice in 1794 and made a Russian prisoner. Held in solitary confinement under harsh conditions for two years, he was released upon Kosciuszko’s entreaties and in 1797 accompanied the general to the United States. Elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society on 20 Apr. 1798, he returned from the society’s meeting on the evening of 4 May to learn, “as a bolt from the blue,” of Kosciuszko’s secret plans to leave Philadelphia before daybreak. They would meet again only once, briefly, before Kosciuszko’s death. Niemcewicz settled in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and in 1800 married Susan Livingston Kean, the widow of John Kean, cashier of the Bank of the United States and an acquaintance of Kosciuszko from the American Revolution. Niemcewicz, who upon his marriage renounced any claim to his wife’s property, visited Poland, 1802–04, to settle his father’s estate. Never entirely comfortable in the United States, he parted amicably with his wife and her son in 1807, after the formation of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, and returned to Europe for good. He again entered politics, but is remembered chiefly as a prolific author of poetry, novels, plays, and history (Niemcewicz, Under their Vine description begins Julian Ursin Niemcewicz, Under their Vine and Fig Tree: Travels through America in 1797–1799, 1805, with some Further Account of Life in New Jersey, Elizabeth, N.J., 1965 description ends , xix-xxxii, lii, 65; Palmer, Democratic Revolution description begins R. R. Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760–1800, Princeton, 1959–64, 2 vols. description ends , 1:423–6, 2:90–2; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 , 270; Vol. 12:387, 460).
Writing in French early in his correspondence with TJ, Niemcewicz most often signed his name “Julien Niemcewicz,” as in the letter above. He subsequently adopted the spelling “Julian” and made increased use of his middle name, which he wrote as “Ursin” but is frequently given as “Ursyn” (see his letter of 4 Sep. 1810).
G.K.: General Kosciuszko. le secret est réligieusement gardé: on leaving Philadelphia, Kosciuszko instructed Niemcewicz to wait three days and then begin traveling southward, giving out that he was following Kosciuszko sur les chemins des eaux, to the springs of western Virginia. de me preter pour cet effet 150, ou 200 doll: Kosciuszko had dismissed his servant, Stanislas Dombrowski, with $100 and left his former adjutant $200. When the manservant complained of being cut off so abruptly, Niemcewicz, offended at what he interpreted to be his own exclusion from the general’s confidence, gave his $200 to Dombrowski. The terms of his release from imprisonment having precluded a return to Russian-occupied Polish territory, Niemcewicz was without ready means of support in the U.S. (Niemcewicz, Under their Vine description begins Julian Ursin Niemcewicz, Under their Vine and Fig Tree: Travels through America in 1797–1799, 1805, with some Further Account of Life in New Jersey, Elizabeth, N.J., 1965 description ends , xxvii, 65–6).