George Washington Papers

To George Washington from John Mary, 21 October 1788

From John Mary

Philadelphia October 21st 1788.


I took the liberty to write some time ago to your honour to beg of you to recommend me as a french instructor to the University, which goes by your name.1 My terms would be as reasonable as possible 50. guineas per annum & my lodging in the College.

I have compiled a grammar, which by its simplicity will render the language easy to learn.

If said University should not chuse to maintain a french instructor, as there are many persons of abilities in the part your honour inhabits, if you would be Kind enough to speak for me to some of them, i should be forever very thankful.

I can teach english, french, writing & arithmetick.

Your honour will surely recollect the time i was at New Windsor, where you Kept your quarters, about flour for the french navy i had undertaken to provide with a certain quantity.2 I lost by this 4000. dollars, the british having taken from me two boats loaded with part of said flour, so that i have no other resource to get an honest living, but to profit of the education my father has given me, & as i Know how much your honour is inclined to be useful to the french, i made bold to make application to you. You are sensible, Sir, that the more the french language will be introduced in the Continent, the more advantageous it will be for both nations.

I beseech your honour to give me an answer & to direct it at the Coffeehouse. I am with great respect Sir Of your honour’s Most obedient & humble servant

John Mary
late secretary to the Consul general
of France under M. Gerard’s orders.3


Mary wrote to GW on 18 Aug. 1788, reminding him that he had served as secretary to the French consulate in the United States during the Revolution and “had the honour of dining there with you & your lady several times.” In a printed copy of a speech enclosed in his August letter, Mary styled himself “Late French Instructor to the University of Cambridge.” At that time he was teaching French and English in New York City and requested a recommendation from GW as an instructor. GW replied, 29 Aug., that in “the multitude of persons, public and private, of whom I may have had some knowledge, it will not be thought strange, that I should retain no recollection of you.” Since he had withdrawn from public life, GW wrote, “it would hardly be expected then that I should go abroad in search of employment for a gentleman, with whose talents and character, I have not the honor of being acquainted. Not having any agency with the College that bears my name, or knowledge of any family that, at present, wants an Instructor in the French language: you will excuse me for giving this laconic reply.”

1Mary is referring to Washington College at Chestertown, Md., incorporated by the Maryland legislature in April 1782. GW had been one of its visitors and governors since 1784. In his letter to GW, 18 Aug., Mary mentioned the college and requested GW to “spe⟨ak⟩ in my favor.”

2GW’s headquarters were at New Windsor, Conn., at various times in 1779, 1780, and 1781.

3Conrad-Alexandre Gérard (1729–1790) was minister from France to the United States from July 1778 to October 1779.

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