Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Madame de Chastellux, 5 June 1803

From Madame de Chastellux

Paris June the 5th. 1803.

Dear Sir

The remembrance of your friendship for the father of my Child, and the very kind letter you was so good as to write to me some years past at a moment I addressed you in favo’r of my dr. Boy emboldens me to claim your protection again, if you are of opinion that I can apply to the States of Maryland for an indemnification as being the direct & legal descendant of Lord Baltimore: my right which I readily & joyfully make up to my Son can be sufficiently ascertained, but I shall not go to that trouble & expence untill you have approved of my laying down before the States, those claims, which acquire I think more strength from resting upon the Child of one who was so entirely devoted to America; & to you I can say My dr. Sir that my poor Boy is to the full as unfortunate as Monsieur de Grasse’s family, as he must lose very nearly the whole of the small property he had to expect, it being in the hands of his cousin who is an Emigrant: this circumstance makes me wish still more ardently that attention should be paid to the application I am inclined to make, if countenanced by Monsieur de Chastellux friends, & Should it be attended to by the States of Maryland how satisfactory & flattering it would be to think, that the provision of my child, should be granted in consideration of his Father’s services, to that country which after his own was dearest to him!

general la fayette who is the best of relations and warmest of friends wishes eagerly we may succeed, and as he writes upon the same subject, I shall only add that I beg as a favo’r My dr. Sir you will allow Monsieur Petry prime secretary to the french Legacy to consult you upon this head: he was entirely devoted to my husband, & sincerely wishes to serve his son.

Believe me I entreat you with unfeigned affection and profound esteem

My dr. Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

Plunkett Chastellux

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 24 Aug. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in Lafayette to TJ, 4 June.

so good as to write to me: in 1795, when her son was six years old, Madame de Chastellux wrote to TJ about prospects of receiving compensation from the United States. At her request TJ involved George Washington in the question, and he also consulted Madison. They all agreed that Madame de Chastellux’s deceased husband’s service in the French army during the American Revolution did not merit a financial award from Congress. TJ and the Marquis de Chastellux had become acquainted in Virginia—Chastellux visited Monticello in April 1782—and continued the friendship when TJ became minister to France. In a letter to Madame de Chastellux of 10 July 1796, TJ reported that there was no likelihood of aid from the U.S. government. He acknowledged the “very sincere esteem” he had felt for her husband, whose death in 1788 “was one of the events which the most sensibly afflicted” TJ during his time in Paris (Howard C. Rice, ed. and trans., Travels in North America in the Years 1780, 1781 and 1782 by the Marquis de Chastellux, 2 vols. [Chapel Hill, 1963], 2:390–6; Vol. 6:190–1; Vol. 28:343–4, 463–4, 498, 542, 613; Vol. 29:7, 144–5, 312–13).

An act of Congress in 1795 granted $4,000 to the Comte de grasse’s daughters. TJ, Washington, and Madison rued the precedent established by that appropriation. Congress increased the award in 1798, adding an annuity of $400 for each of the four daughters for five years. To Madame de Chastellux, TJ explained that the payment to the French admiral’s heirs was based “on circumstances peculiar to the case, and excluding the general principle” (Vol. 28:498, 500n, 613; Vol. 29:7, 144–5; Vol. 33:519n).

Jean Baptiste petry, who had previously held consular positions in South Carolina and Philadelphia, had been appointed secretary of the French legation in the United States (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, J. C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, Chicago and Charlottesville, 1962- , 35 vols., Sec. of State Ser., 1986- , 9 vols., Pres. Ser., 1984- , 7 vols., Ret. Ser., 2009- , 2 vols. description ends , Sec. of State Ser., 4:502, 521, 539; 8:382; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , 15:609n; 18:236; Vol. 28:27).

i entreat you: writing to Lafayette about various subjects on 31 Jan. 1804 and declaring that he did not have time to write to Madame de Chastellux, TJ advised that if the British government made a mistake in its indemnification of Lord Baltimore’s heirs, she should seek redress from Britain, not Maryland. Madame de Chastellux’s son Alfred, the Comte de Chastellux, pursued a career in government and military service (Rice, ed., Travels in North America, 1:22, 23).

Index Entries