From Comtesse d’Anterroches
18th Septr 1786
Fame has informed me that you are the friend of humanity—that your generous heart delights in doing good. I take the liberty to claim your protection for the Chevalier D’Anterroches my son, who is settled in Elizabeth Town, near New York. Altho’ I have no right to make a request of this nature, which is altogether an idea of my own; yet whoever dares to accuse me of imprudence, has never experienced, as you have General, the force of sensibility. If, from the feelings of a heart alive to the misfortunes of others, you deign to give my Son access to you, he will himself have the honor to relate his history to you—a history painful & affecting to a Soul so delicate as your’s—You must have the goodness to desire him to come to you, because he is ignorant of my resolution to write to you; & that you may take an interest in him, I dare to assure you General that you will find him an engaging man, a comely man, & a man who can render himself beloved & esteemed; You will be touched with his misfortunes & distresses, and the more, I dare say, as his birth is distinguished in this kingdom, as having descended from a family of military men who have borne high Command—he bears a name well known both in church & State—the D’anterroches have from time immemorial held an elevated rank. For these 12 years my Son has groaned under the weight of Misfortunes, & has thereby given me great pain—the time has appeared long to us both, & we have no prospect of terminating our sufferings unless you lend your aid—It requires an Arm powerful as your’s, General, to succour us—I trust in you who are as good as you are great—all the world admires you, & you have only to say the word to change our Condition; I wait for that with the most lively impatience; I already perceive General that the hours of Affliction glide off more gently—but to pass them as those of prosperity, nature will not permit—Alass! who can feel the sufferings of a Child as poignantly as a Mother—my soul, deeply wounded, knows no repose! Restore it to that tranquility which it has lost, & which I perceive is so necessary for it—you will make it compleatly happy if you comply with my earnest prayers—I will not enter into a detail of what concerns my son, he will do it himself if you will permit him; permit him & give him an opportunity, & you shall be informed of every thing.
Mr Otto Charge des Affaires de France in New-York has passed the highest encomiums upon his good behaviour—he can give you, General, the same favourable account of him; all the people of distinction who have seen him in your country speak of him in the same manner—I beseech you to interest yourself so far in him as to give him an existance, whether in America or in France—you can easily do it in either. What would I not do myself to effect what I ask of you—if nothing would procure it but my life I would give that—Altho’ my Husband, Good man, loves his son dearly, yet he is so oppressed by Age that he is incapable of doing as he would—he tells me that he wishes him all happiness, & if he could obtain it he should partake of it with him—You have too much penetration not to see all the uneasiness which so long an absence & at so great a distance must have given his friends1—You, General, can do what he would have you—you are powerful in your own Country, & there is nothing at our Court that would be refused you—Your own Genius furnishes resources—your penetrating Eye discovers all—you will not suffer my son & his family to suffer longer in your latitude—being once informed of their situation. By applying to the Court of France you may obtain for him a lucrative employment which will make him & his family easy—he will then be induced to return & you will give a son to his Mother, a Citizen to his Country, & enable a man to give aid & succour to his Parents who have much need of it; all this is worthy of you—Take the trouble of conferring with him—I entreat you to compleat my wishes, (if the time is not yet arrived in which I shall have the sweet satisfaction of seeing my son) by succouring & supporting him—&, when he may come to you, by shewing him this letter which is no equivocal proof of my tender sollicitude for him—& may your benefactions cause the tears of Joy & Gratitude to flow instead of those of sorrow which we have shed for 12 years past.2 I have the Honor to be with respect, General, Yr very humble & obedient Servt.
De chauni Comtisse D’anterroches.
My Address is the Comtisse de Chauni D’Anterroches at her house at Puydarnac near—3
If you do me the honor of Answering this, I request you to address to Mr Van Berchem of Nantes in Brittany—a City of France—he is an eminent Merchant, a man of merit & will take care of it for me.
Translation, DLC:GW; LS, in French, DLC:GW; copy, in French, DLC:GW. The signed letter in French is included in CD-ROM:GW. The copy, marked “Dupa,” is in another hand, and varies somewhat in spelling of names and some words from the LS.
1. From time to time, the translator takes the liberty of abbreviating what the comtesse wrote. For instance: “You have too much penetration not to see all the uneasiness which so long an absence & at so great a distance must have given his friends” is a translation of: “vous avés trop de pénétration pour ne pas imaginèr tout ce qu’une longue absience et un grand èloignement fait pèrdre dans lésprit dès autres parens, lés absiens ont tor. ha. il nen cera pas ainsi d’une mère. pourait-èlle oublier le fruit de cès entrailles, hé, que puis je seule retirée depuis lage de vingt ans dans une campagne, d’ou je nay pas bougé, à sens lieux de la capitale, sens secours, menant une vie privée.”
2. Jeanne-Françoise Teyssier (Tessier) de Chaunay, comtesse d’Anterroches, wife of Jean-Pierre, comte d’Anterroches, renewed her plea to GW on 16 Nov. in these terms: “General, I have already done myself the honor of writing to you in behalf of an unfortunate Son, who resides at Elizabeth Town near N. York—I ardently beg your protection for him General. Suffer a Child to be recommended to you by a distressed mother—For pity, grant him your Countenance. His family, out of their good will towards him, have thought of granting him a small establishment in America, or if he will return to France, a pension—provided that he can come I do not know but it will be best—the objects here may excite his powers. they (his family) will think better of him, & I beleive he will gain much by being in his Country; with your recommendations he would be received by them with open Arms, & if you will take the trouble to recommend him to our Court he will be very happy. You have a soul so sensible that I do not despair of your granting my request—A great man, as you are, loves, & seeks occasions to do good. To give a Son to his mother, a citizen to his Country is an action worthy of you—But how shall I be reunited to this Son? that embarrasses & disturbes me—lighten this weight—reunite him with his Wife & Children. I address myself to heaven for you with eyes bathed in tears of gratitude & with the most ardent & tender vows—change, change my days of tribulation & anguish into days of calmness & serenity—I have no hope but in you, & I do not doubt but you will do every thing to gratify my desires. I imagine that the sending him a sum of money to buy Goods will lead him to think of himself—I have the Honor to be with respect—General—Yr most Hbe & Obedt Servt de chaunae comptess d’anterroches.
”P.S. I would not however take upon myself to bring my son over here unless it is perfectly agreeable to him. I ask your protection for him General—You can do every thing in America, in France & every where“ (DLC:GW; a transcription of the ALS CSmH, is in CD-ROM:GW). She wrote similar pleas for help to Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Her son Joseph-Louis, chevalier d’Anterroches (1753–1814), came to America in 1777. In 1780 he married Mary Vanderpoel, daughter of David Vanderpoel of Elizabethtown, N.J. (Emeline G. Pierson, ”Some Records of the French in Elizabeth town,“ Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society, 2d ser., 13 ,163–70).
3. In the original this is: ”mon adrèsse èst la comtèsse de chaunae d’anterroches; a son chateau du puydarnac prè tulle bas limousin, par paris et limoges.“