George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Barras, 23 January 1784

From Barras

Paris Jany 23d 1784


I receivd the Letter which you did me the honor to write me, as well as the institution of the Cincinnatus Society formd by the American Army, I am much flatterd to be comprisd in a military Society the members of which have with So much glory concurrd under the Orders of your Excellency to establish American Liberty, but it gives me great pain to See, that all the General Officers of the Sea, as well as the Captains of Ships of War, who have Cruisd and fought on the Coast of North America and particularly those who were employed under my Command do not partake with me the honor to be admitted in the Society.1

I will not here Call to your mind the distinguishd Services renderd to America by the Naval Officers under the Command of Count d’Estaing and of Monsr de Grasse, I will confine myself to what regards the particular Squadron which I commanded, the frequent & honorable combats under the orders of Monr d’Estouches 2 the frequent Cruisings & bloody battles of the Frigates, for the protection of the American Commerce, the very dangerous junction formed with Count de Grasse in Chesapeak Bay, which insured the Success of the enterprise against York, are pretensions which may give to the Captains of this Squadron a right to the distinctions conferred on the Colonels of the Land forces, with whom they Cooperated. Persuaded, however, that to repair this ommission, the Members of the Society of Cincinnatus have only to Know the names of the General Officers and Captains of ships who Served on the American Coast—I have the honor to Send to your Excellency a list of those who were employed under my orders,3 and I woud not myself accept the decoration of the Society, but that I look on it as Certain that it will be very Shortly in Common with my Ancient Companions in Arms.4 I am with respect and esteem, Sir &a


P.S. the Count de la Bretonniere has Communicated to me the Letter which he has the honor to write to your Excellency, in which he Setts forth the Services renderd by him, to the United States by Convoying American Fleets, he requests to be comprisd in the Society 5—his request is well founded and I with pleasure join with this Officer and we pray that he may be Comprehended 6 with the other Officers—for whom I have made application.7

Translation, DSoC; ALS, DSoC. For the French text, see CD-ROM:GW. The English version was read at the general meeting on 11 May 1784. See Winthrop Sargent’s Journal, doc. II in General Meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, 4–18 May 1784. The handwriting of the translation indicates that it was not one of those done by David Stuart in April (see Stuart to GW, 25 April 1784).

Jacques-Melchior, comte de Barras-Saint-Laurent, commanded the Zélé under the comte d’Estaing in Rhode Island waters in 1778 and at Savannah in 1779. He became commander of the French expeditionary squadron at Newport, R.I., in May 1781 and reinforced Admiral de Grasse off Yorktown in September 1781.

1GW wrote Barras on 17 May that the general meeting had altered the institution of the society to make the French navy captains eligible for election to the Society of the Cincinnati. See note 7.

2Charles-René-Dominique Sochet Destouches (des Touches; 1727–1794), commanded the French expeditionary forces after the death of Ternay (Charles-Henri d’Arsac, chevalier de Ternay; 1723–1780) on 15 Dec. 1780 until he was succeeded by Barras in May 1781. After suffering heavy damage in an engagement on 16 Mar. 1781 with a squadron commanded by the British admiral Marriot Arbuthnot, Admiral Destouches and his squadron sailed to Newport, R.I., for repairs.

3The naval officers listed by Barras in the enclosure were: Destouches; Charles-Marie, comte de La Grandiére; Arnaud Le Gardeur de Tilly; Louis-Andre-Joseph, chevalier de Lombard; Isaac-Jean-Timothée Chadeau de La Clocheterie; Charles-Isamabart, comte de Médine; Augustin-Etienne-Gaspard Bernard de Marigny; Jacques-Aimé La Saige, chevalier La Villésbrunne; Louis-Marie, chevalier de La Tanouarn; Maurice-Jean-Marie, chevalier de Launay de Tromelin; Louis-Josué Janvre, chevalier de La Bouchetiére; Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse; Louis-René-Magdelain Le Vassor, comte de La Touche-Tréville; Guillaume-Jacques-Constant Liberge de Granchain de Sémerville; Théobald-René, comte de Kergariou-Locmaria; and Jean-Marie, chevalier de Gillart de Villeneuve (Villeneuve-Gillart).

4In the French text it is, “quelle me sera bientot commune avec mes anciens compagnons darmes.”

5“Comprised” in the French is “compris,” here meaning “included.” La Bretonnière’s letter is dated 1 Feb. 1784.

6“And we pray that he may be comprehended” is “et nous prie de le comprendre,” translated “and ask you to include him.”

7The response from Philadelphia of the Society of the Cincinnati went out under GW’s signature: “It was intended to comprehend in the original Institution of the Cincinnati, many Officers, who, through want of better Information, and a peculiarity of Circumstances, were omitted. The Institution as now amended and published, will fully include in the Society all the Generals & Captains of Ships of War, for whom you have applied to the President.

“The Count de la Bretonnière, having had the Command of a Royal Ship and rendered Services in America, is included without Doubt” (17 May 1784, DSoC).

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