From Charles-Louis de Montesquieu
Paris 25th April—1785
I recieved at Paris, the letter Your Excellency did me the honor of addressing to me, in behalf of Mr Ridout 1—I regret much, I was not at Bourdeaux, at the time he arrived there—But, if he passes any time there, I shall still have the pleasure of seeing him; and making him acquainted with my friends—I have written to my Father, to make amends for my absence from Boudeaux, by being as useful as possible to Mr Ridout—But I have to lament, from his great age, and unhappy loss of sight, he cannot be so serviceable to him, as I would wish him to be; and, as he will himself wish to be, on the reciept of my letter 2—Your Excellency’s remembrance of me, flatters me much—I shall never forget the kindnesses with which I have been loaded by you. It will ever be a new source of pleasure to me, to call to mind, the time I have spent, near the greatest, and, most virtuous man of his Age.3 I beg you will not consider this as flattery—it is the real sentiment of my heart; and, I have not renounced the hope of again seeing America, and admiring the Author of her liberties.
I shall depart for Metz, about May, to my Regiment; where, I shall often with my Officers, drink to your Excellency’s health—All who have been under your orders in America, would get drunk with pleasure to this toast. We all love, and respect you—Such is the effect of Virtue. She maintains her empire over all men, notwithstanding their profligacy, and corruption.
It will not be in my power to be at Bourdeaux, ’till October; when I shall have the pleasure of conversing with Mr Ridout about you—But, I percieve, my letter is already too long; and that I ought not to trespass so much, even on your leasure.4 I beseech you to be persuaded of the respect, and unalterable attachment, with which, I am General, Your very Humble & Ob[edie]nt servant
Translation, in David Stuart’s hand, DLC:GW; translation, DLC:GW; ALS, DLC:GW. A transcription of the French ALS is in CD-ROM:GW. The second translation is in the same hand as the translation of the letter of 2 May from Montesquieu père, both probably made in France.
1. The text of the letter that GW wrote from Annapolis on 23 Dec. 1784 to Montesquieu on behalf of Thomas Ridout is: “It has been requested of me, to introduce Mr Ridout who will present this letter to you, to your acquaintance, & to those civilities which I know you are happy whenever it is in your power, to bestow on any Gentlemen.
“Mr Ridout is a stranger to me, but is said to be a Merchant of good character. He is about to embark for France & has some thoughts I am informed of settling at Bourdeaux, which makes him desirous of the honor of being known to you, & will be my best apology for this liberty” (LB, DLC:GW). Thomas Ridout (1754–1829), formerly of Annapolis, was at this time a commission merchant in Bordeaux. For several years he regularly sent his brig to Alexandria. See his letter to GW, 1 May.
2. Montesquieu wrote to Ridout at Bordeaux on this day and presumably also to his own father at Rouen. See Ridout to GW, 1 May, and the letter of 2 May to GW from Montesquieu’s father.
3. Montesquieu, who served as Chastellux’s aide in America, wrote here: “je me rappelerai toujours avec un nouveau plaisir le terns que jai passé aupres de l’homme plus grand, et le plus vertueux de Son Siecle.”
4. GW’s letter-book copy of his acknowledgment of Montesquieu’s letter, dated 20 Aug. 1785 from Mount Vernon, reads: “The receiving a letter from you is pleasing—the expression of it is flattering; & for the valuable testimony of your recollection of me, I pray you to accept my warmest acknowledgements.
“The bare intimation of your once more making a visit to the Land, to the liberties of which your sword has contributed, is flattering, & should you realize it, I hope you will consider my seat as your head quarters whilst you remain in the United States. I can assure you, you would no where meet with a more cordial reception, or give more pleasure, as I have ever had a high esteem & regard for you: but whether in this tour, or any other to which you may be called by duty or inclination—my warmest wishes shall always attend you.”