Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lafayette to Thomas Jefferson, 16 September 1816

From Lafayette

La Grange 7ber 16h 1816

My dear friend

I Cannot Let gal Bernard Embark with His Amiable Lady and family for America without a line to You. that Eminent officer Has Been Honour’d with the only Exception to the determination of Government Not to Employ foreigners in the Army of the U.S. I think He deserves the Confered distinction, Not only on Account of His Great talents, and deep knowledge in His Line, But also Because I Never Saw a disposition of mind more Unassuming, disinterested, and Conciliatory. Emperor Napoleon Struck with the Abilities and Economy He display’d in fortifying Antwerpt Surprised Him with an Invitation to Become His aid de Camp, in which Capacity He Remained a Stranger to the intrigues, Rewards, and principles of the Court. an avowed patriot, He is Confessed by all parties to Be the Excellent man whom I pourtray to You. I Believe He may Render great Services as An Engineer, and am also persuaded, from the intentions He Has Expressed in His visit to me, that His Companions will Love Him for His Eagerness to adjust matters in the way the Most Agreable to them. I Shall only add that we are all well, children, grandchildren, and myself. this Short letter is posting after gal Bernard to the Havre. You know the Sentiments of Your Affectionate friend


RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 27 Feb. 1817 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Jethro Wood, 23 Mar. 1817, on verso; addressed: “Thomas Jefferson Esq. Monticelo Virginia favour’d By gal Bernard.” Enclosed in Simon Bernard to TJ, 21 Feb. 1817.

Simon Bernard (1779–1839), military engineer, was a native of Dole, France, and graduate of the École Polytechnique in Paris. He entered the French army as a lieutenant of engineers in 1797 and was promoted to captain three years later. Bernard helped to fortify Antwerp, 1810–12, and he became one of Napoleon’s aides-de-camp in 1813. He served the emperor faithfully until the latter’s downfall the following year. Although Bernard accepted a military appointment under the restored Bourbons, he rejoined Napoleon during the Hundred Days and fought with him at the Battle of Waterloo. Following his arrival in the United States, on 16 Nov. 1816 Bernard became an assistant engineer in the United States Army with the pay of a brigadier general, and he sat on the War Department’s board for improving border and coastal defenses, 1816–31. During the 1820s he also labored on the government’s internal improvements board, where he helped to plan roads and canals. After Louis Philippe ascended the French throne in 1830, Bernard resigned his post on 10 Aug. 1831 and returned to his native land. There he was promoted to lieutenant general, raised to the peerage, made inspector general of engineers, and employed as minister of war, 1834 and 1836–39 (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; DBF description begins Dictionnaire de biographie française, 1933– , 19 vols. description ends ; Charles Mullié, Biographie des Célébrités Militaires des Armées de Terre et de Mer de 1789 a 1850 [1851], 62; Heitman, U.S. Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, 1903, 2 vols. description ends , 1:214; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 9 Dec. 1839; gravestone inscription in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris).

Index Entries

  • Antwerp; fortification of search
  • Army, U.S.; employment of foreigners in search
  • Bernard, Simon; as U.S. Army engineer search
  • Bernard, Simon; family of search
  • Bernard, Simon; identified search
  • Bernard, Simon; introduced to TJ search
  • Bernard, Simon; serves under Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; family of search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; health of search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; introduces S. Bernard search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; letters from search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; S. Bernard’s service under search