George Washington Papers

[Diary entry: 31 March 1798]

31. Morning—Hazy & a little cloudy. Wind pretty fresh from South. Mer. 58. Clear afterwards—Wd. same place. Mer. 65 at Night 68 at highest. A Mr. Fevot—a French Gentleman recomd. by Count de Rochambeau dined here & a Mr. Freeman Member in Congress from N. Hamps. came in the afternoon & returned.

Paul Ferdinand Fevot (b. 1756) was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, the son of Jean Samuel Fevot. Lausanne was at this time ruled by the Canton of Berne, and Fevot was “Lawyer at the Soverign Council of Berne.” He was, however, in ill favor with the French whose influence was strong in his country at this time and had come to the United States with a cautious, unsigned letter of introduction from Rochambeau, whose own position in France was extremely precarious. Fevot wrote GW a long, rambling letter a few days after this visit expressing disillusionment in general with people and conditions in America, and particularly dissatisfaction with GW’s reception and entertainment at Mount Vernon. “I was not surprised in beholding your reserved Countenance at first meeting, but I entertained a chearfull hope that it would clear up when I should have made myself better Known. I respectfully presented to You my note of recomandation, & Your Excellency told me You did not read French; upon which I took the Liberty to Express my hope that You Knew the hand writing; & Your answer was You rather thought it was! If I am still acquainted with the English language this expression is to carry with it if not a thourough doubt of an allegation at least a strong shade of it injurious in this instance to any honest man, and very ungenerous, very cruel indeed to a Stranger of a genteel appearance & behaviour; 1200 leagues distant from his native Country, who having exposed himself to run 400 more at a grievous expence for him, relying on a recomandation, does not get by it the least token of interest or protection but not even a Kind word!” He continued, “If to obtain in life a high Situation, if the worship of the Multitude is to be captivated by divesting oneself of humanity & generosity there is much more comfort in my [lowly] position than I thought.” Fevot added, however, that he found Mrs. Washington a civil and polite lady. GW was nonplussed by Fevot’s letter and replied on 15 April: “Not perceiving what has been your object in addressing such sentiments as your letter of the 4th inst. contained—and not being conscious of having merited the reprehension you have judged it expedient to inflict on me, I shall not give you the trouble of reading an answer in detail. I can not forbear observing however that as it is not usual with me, to treat any Gentleman with incivility or even with indifference (especially under my own Roof) I am unable to recollect any part of my behaviour which could give rise to such misconception of my motives” (Fevot to GW, 16 Oct. 1797 and 4 April 1798, and GW to Fevot, 15 April 1798, DLC:GW; Fevot’s certificate from the magistrate of Lausanne, 14 April 1797, MHi: Adams Papers: Adams Family Papers).

Jonathan Freeman (1745–1808) lived in Hanover, N.H., where he farmed and served as treasurer of Dartmouth College for over 40 years. After holding a number of local and state offices he was twice elected as a Federalist to the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1797 to 1801.

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