George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Mandrillon, 24 January 1787

From Mandrillon

[Amsterdam, 24 January 1787]


The 24th of last October I had the honor of sending to your Excellency a memorial containing my submission to the resolution of the approaching General Meeting of the Cincinnati. I am impressed with the most sanguine hopes, that, as it is under the Auspices of your Excellency that the proposition will be made, I shall be admitted. The Marquis de la Fayette wrote to me that I could not have a more powerful advocate than you, Sir, as you are the President. Be that as it may, if the Statutes of the Society absolutely oppose my election as an honorary member, I beg your Excellency to be persuaded that I shall have no less zeal & desire to inform myself of the interest of the 13 united States, & no less assiduous, on that account, to publish the triumph, the Glory & the examples of wisdom which America offers to Europe.1

Your Excellency knows that a writer is always unsatisfied when he wants information respecting any subject upon which he wishes to treat. This, without doubt, will plead a pardon for the request which I make of an exact list of the Members of the Society, and all which relates to its constitution & Laws. I have already many interesting objects, but they will not suffice, and I only wait for this suppliment to compleat a new work which I am about to publish.

Europe is actually engaged in errecting new monuments of Glory, in justice, to you, by adorning your happy Country with the Statue of your Excellency: permit me to give you a Copy of an interesting letter inserted lately in the Parisian Journal; I am employed in answering it, to pay publickly to your Excellency a new tribute of my respect & admiration.2

When the subject is well understood, I will venture to say that no one is more capable of writing a good inscription than I am; but the subject here requires superior talents, & I, unfortunatly possess but too much Zeal, receive therefore, Sir, this peice of verse & this inscription, with candour & indulgence.

I would remind your Excellency that I have the image of my Hero continually impressed upon me, & that I should be happy to have it in my power to be interesting to him for a moment. I have the Honor to be, with the most perfect admiration of your Excellency, Sir Yr very Hble & Obedt Servt

Jh de Mandrillon

fellow of the Academies of Science at Holland, Bresse & Philadelphia

Translation, DLC:GW; ALS, DSoC. For the transcriptions of the letter and enclosure in the original French, see CD-ROM:GW.

2A contemporary translation of the enclosed “Extract of a Letter inserted in the Journal of Paris[,] 1786. No. 350” of Mandrillon’s response and comments, addressed “To the Authors of the Journal,” reads: “I have been, Gentlemen, to see the Bust of General Washington, made by Mr Houdon. I viewed it with all that interesting attention which the figure of a great man, executed by the hand of an eminent Artist, naturally inspires. It is a fine employment of the talents to transmit to posterity the portraits of those who have honored humanity by their Genius & Virtue. And who better deserves this homage than the man, who, patriotic without fanaticism, humane in the field of battle, calm in the bosom of faction, modest in the career of victory, mantained the liberty of his Country with unlooked-for success, and resigned, after his triumph, without ostentation or regreat, that authority which he received from the confidence of the publick, unblemished with any deed which even envy itself can darken, & who voluntarily mixed with the body of his Citizens with the same dignified simplicity which he carried with him in the command of their Armies.

“But, Gentlemen, this bust is about to be sent to America. Shall it return without an inscription which may immortalize the Object? What man of letters is there in France who would not wish to partake of the honor which a french Artist has acquired by executing so celebrated a w⟨ork⟩ A Frenchman, whose virtues, eminence, & administration render ⟨him⟩ immortal⟨,⟩ has composed, for the portrait of Doctr Franklin, a latin inscription of such precission, elegance & energy that all Europe seems to have adopted it. The Portrait of General Washington is no less worthy of ⟨ex⟩ercising the talents of our Poets. America finally owes to the A⟨rms⟩ of France✻ that liberty which she had so nobly defended by her courage. She would, without doubt, be likewise willing to owe to the abilities of our Artists & Writers those monuments which will ⟨per⟩petuate the memory of this great revolution. I have the Honor to be &c.

“In answer to those Gentlemen⟨,⟩ I sent the following

Respectable aux héros & cher aux immortels

Washington ent tous lieux, mérite des autels.

To him whom Heaven approves, & men revere,

To Washington, let all their Alters rear.

But as it is the taste of the day to have a short, expressive latin inscript⟨ion⟩ I have offered this


Supremis illius resonat virtutibus orbis.

The World resounds with his exalted Virtues.

I wish for some one better performed, & more adapted to the publick idea & the Grandeur of the subject.

Your Excellency reminds me of this latin passage upon Cincinnatus.

Et gaudebat tellus vomere laureato.

And the Earth will smile under the laureled plowshire. ✻Altho this assertion may be general in France; I would never adopt it; it suffices th⟨at it is⟩ true & well known that the advantages were reciprocal—& the Americans think differe⟨ntly⟩.”

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