George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Philippe-André-Joseph de Létombe, 5 October 1788

From Philippe-André-Joseph de Létombe

Boston 5th Octr 1788

Sir,

I have the honor to send you two Volumes which M. le Comte de Buar, the Author of them, has forwarded to me, beging that I would offer them, in his Name, to your Excellency.1

Hydraulicks is not a new science; able men have illustrated it some time since, and, at this moment, one of the greatest men of the age is still increasing his glory by perfecting the Navigation of James & Potomack Rivers; but Sir, M. Le Comte de Buar has deeply examined into the theory of them, has reduced them to experiment, and submits their utility to the wisdom of your Excellency whose approbation would do him infinite honor.

I will transmit to M. le Comte de Buar the answer with which you may please to honor him, and shall likewise be highly flattered in being the conveyer of your opinion of his work.

This occasion of writing to you is the more precious as it may recall me to the remembrance of your Excellency. I have the honor to be known to you, and the acknowledgement of your goodness is equal to the devotion, admiration & all those great & good sentiments with which you have inspired me.

I beg your Excellency to accept the assurances of respect with which I am Yr Excellency’s Most Obedt & very Hble Servt

De la Tombe 2

Translation, DLC:GW; ALS, in French, DLC:GW. The text of this document is taken from a translation prepared for GW. The original letter is printed in note 2.

Philippe-André-Joseph de Létombe (b. 1733), a native of Condé, France, served on the Supreme Council at Port-au-Prince in 1770 and was appointed French consul for New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut in 1779, although he was not officially recognized by the Continental Congress until 1781. In that year he was made consul general, a post he held until he was recalled in 1792. Reinstated as consul general in 1795, Létombe was named French minister plenipotentiary to the United States in May 1797.

1The two volumes written by Pierre-Louis-Georges Du Buat (1734–1809), well known in France for his civil and military engineering work, were titled Principes d’hydraulique, vérifiés par un grand nombre d’expériences faites par ordre du gouvernement. Ouvrage dans lequel on traite du mouvement uniforme & varié de l’eaus dans les rivières, les canaux, & les tuyaux de conduite; de l’origin des fleuves, & de l’établissement de leur lit; de l’effet des écluses, des ponts & des reservoirs; des jets-d’eau; de la navigation tant sur les rivières que dans les canaux étroits; de la résistance des fluides en général; et de celle de I’air & de l’eau en particulier, new ed., revised and considerably enlarged (Paris, 1786). The volumes were in GW’s library at the time of his death (Griffin, Boston Athenceum Collection, description begins Appleton P.C. Griffin, comp. A Catalogue of the Washington Collection in the Boston Athenæum. Cambridge, Mass., 1897. description ends 69). The translator of this letter misread Du Buat’s name.

2The original French version of this letter reads: “J’ai l’honneur de Vous envoyer deux volumes que M. Le Comte du Buat, leur Auteur, m’a fait passer avec priére de Les offrir de sa part à votre Excellence.

“L’hydraulique n’est point une science nouvelle; des hommes habiles ont illustré cette Matière depuis Longtemps Et, dans ce moment, un des plus grands hommes de ce Siécle augmente encore sa Gloire en perfectionnant la Navigation des Fleuves James et Potawmack; Mais, Monsieur, M. Le Comt⟨e⟩ du Buat croit en avoir approfondi les Théories aggrandi les Pratiques par des Expèriences, et il en soumêt les Résultats à la Sagacité de votre Excellence dont le Suffrage l’honoreroi infiniment.

“Principibus placuisse Viris non ultima Laus est. Je ferois, Monsieur, passer à M. Le Comte du Bua⟨t⟩ la Réponse dont vous voudriez bien l’honorer et Je Serois trés flatté d’être ainsi l’organe de votre opinion Sur Ses Travaux.

“Cette occasion, Monsieur, m’est d’autant plus precieuse qu’Elle me rappelle au Souvenir de votre Excellence; J’ai l’honneur d’etre connu d’Elle, Et ma Reconnoissance pour ses Bontés déja anciennes égale le dévouement, l’admiration, tous les Sentimens qu’Elle inspire et Si généralement et Si bien.

“Je Supplie votre Excellence de vouloir bien agréer les hommages du Respect avec lequel Je Suis, Monsieur, de votre Excellence, Le très-humble et trés obéissant Serviteur.”

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