George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Thomas Jefferson, 7 January 1786

From Thomas Jefferson

Paris Jan. 7. 178[6]

Dear Sir

A conversation with the Count de Rochambeau yesterday obliges me to write a supplementary letter to that of the 4th instant. he informs me that he has had applications for paiment from the person who furnished the badges for the Cincinnati, as well the Americans as French. that this person informed him they were not paid for, that he had furnished them indeed on the application of major L’Enfant, but that he did not do it in reliance on his credit, for that he should not have trusted so much to Major l’Enfant of whose means of paiment he knew nothing, but that he considered himself as working for a society who had delivered their orders thro’ Major l’Enfant, and always expected the Society would see him paid. Count Rochambeau has written to Major l’Enfant, and the answer is that he has never received the whole, nor expects to be able to collect it, & that being without resources he is obliged, as fast as he collects it, to apply it to his own sustenance. Count Rochambeau told the workman he would pay for the badges delivered him for the French officers (I think he said about 40 in number) but that for the others he must apply to the Marquis de la fayette and Count d’Estaing. as L’Enfant’s letter gives room to suppose a misapplication of these monies, and in the mean time the honour of the American officers stands committed, and in danger of being spoken of publicly, I thought it my duty to apprise you of this, that you might take such measures herein as you think best.1 I have the honour to be with sentiments of the most perfect esteem Dear Sir your most obedient and most humble servt

Th: Jefferson

ALS, DLC:GW; copy, DSoC. The copy has been endorsed: “Copy recd for Genl Washington from Paris 7th Jany 1786.”

1When L’Enfant left for France in the fall of 1783, he took with him authorization from GW to have a medal designed for the Society of the Cincinnati and orders from individual members of the society, including GW, to have a total of about forty of them made. L’Enfant took it upon himself to have medals made for presentation to French officers on behalf of the American society, and he also had about one hundred extra medals made in expectation of selling them to American officers. L’Enfant returned to America in April 1784 shortly before the society’s General Meeting in Philadelphia in May with the medals made of gold in the shape of an eagle. He succeeded in getting the delegates to the General Meeting to approve the purchase of medals for the Frenchmen, but he had less luck in disposing of the extra medals. After GW received Jefferson’s complaint about L’Enfant, he sent, on 1 June, a copy of Jefferson’s letter to Henry Knox with a request that Knox provide him with information and advice. Knox’s reply of 13 June is a full and sympathetic account of L’Enfant’s actions regarding the Cincinnati medals, and GW replied to Jefferson on 1 August. L’Enfant wrote GW on 6 Dec. 1786, enclosing a long memorial justifying his actions with regard to the golden eagles. The Cincinnati’s General Meeting held in May 1787 at the same time as the Constitutional Convention voted to provide L’Enfant with the money to pay what he owed for the golden eagles, but he still had not received the money a year later. In addition to GW’s letter to Knox of 1 June 1786, Knox’s to GW of 13 June 1786, and L’Enfant’s to GW of 6 Dec. 1786, see Lafayette to GW, 10 Jan. 1784, n.3, L’Enfant to GW, 29 April 1784, 15 April 1788, General Meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, 4–18 May 1784, GW to Jefferson, 1 Aug. 1786, and GW to L’Enfant, 1 Jan. 1787.

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