From Augustin-Gabriel des Hayes de La Radière
Orbec in Normandy 26. April 1789.
Colonel Brillent de la Radiere, my Brother, died in 1779, in the service of the United Colonies—Congress was then indebted to him a depreciation, for which they are bound to me, his Heir, by a contract in the sum of 14800 and odd livres, bearing interest at the rate of 6cent payable in Paris at the House of Mr Grand, Banker.1
Mr Grand, when I have called upon him, has always answered that he had no funds for this object—The interest added to the principal makes at this day an amount of more then 20,000 livres. I will say nothing of the importance which such a succour would be to my moderate fortune: but, Sir, my country is in want of corn: The People are suffering, and they suffer much—The scarcity of this article has occasioned an excessive rise in the price—It abounds in the United Provinces, so that it would be very easy for Congress to acquit itself towards me, by ordering, for that purpose, a cargo of corn to be shipped for me to Havre to the address of Messrs Le Prevost, La Coudraie, Baudry & Co. Factors at Havre. This acquittance would be an act of beneficence, a solace to my district, an homage to the memory of the brave and generous Colonel la Radiere,2 and a slight consolation for his loss.
I would then remit agreeably to your orders the claim which I have—and it would be for me a real enjoyment to offer to Congress the tribute of my gratitude and that of my country—together with the profound respect with which I shall always be, Sir, their admirer, and the most humble, and most obedient of your Servants
Copy, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The endorsement on this letter reads “Original sent to Col. Hamilton.” This copy is probably a translation of the original.
1. Augustin-Gabriel des Hayes de La Radière (born c.1751) served in the Gendarmes de la Garde du Roi and later fought against the French Revolution in the Army of the Princes and emigrated to Great Britain. La Radiere was writing on behalf of the estate of his brother, Louis de La Radiere of the corps of engineers who was killed at West Point in 1779. On 13 Feb. 1777 Benjamin Franklin signed a contract in Paris with a number of French officers enlisting them for service in the American army. “The pay of these Gentlemen shall be such as is given to officers of their Rank in the Service of the States of America, and shall commence from the date of this agreement.” Radiere was not specifically mentioned in the contract, but a note attached to it states that “M. la Radiere was afterwards agreed with on the same terms with the within officers and is to be a Lieut. Colonel” (DNA:PCC, item 82). The contract was apparently renewed by Congress on an annual basis. When the question of renewal came up again in January 1780, GW wrote to the president of Congress that “it is to be lamented that Colonel De La Radiere is no longer among the number. Congress have no doubt heard of his death, which happened in [October] last, and was regretted as the loss of a very valuable officer” (DNA:PCC, item 152). At the time La Radiere’s letter was written, accounts with the French officers who served with the American armies during the Revolution had not been settled. La Radiere’s problems concerned not only the collection of his brother’s back pay but the effect on it of wartime depreciation. On 10 April 1780, the Continental Congress resolved “That when Congress shall be furnished with proper documents to liquidate the depreciation of the continental bills of credit, they will, as soon thereafter as the state of the public finances will admit, make good to the line of the army, and the independent corps thereof, the deficiency of their original pay, occasioned by such depreciation. . . . it being the determination of Congress, that all the troops serving in the continental army shall be placed on an equal footing; provided that no persons shall have any benefit of this resolution, except such as were engaged during the war, or for three years, and are now in service, or shall hereafter engage during the war” (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 16:344–45). On 7 Dec. 1784, François Barbé de Marbois, French chargé d’affaires in the United States, presented to Congress “the demands of the Heirs of three French Officers who died in the service of the United States during the late War. The first relates to the late M. de la Radiere Colonel in the Corps of Engineers.” La Radiere’s accounts had already been settled, the chargé noted, and at the time of his death “there was due to him a balance of 2657 30/90 dollars specie. His brother who is his sole heir expects that balance should be paid to him in Certificates & ready money as has been done to the Officers of the Corps of Engineers who have quitted the service. But to this is opposed a Resolution of Congress of 10 April 1780 which excludes all Officers &c: who were not in service on that day from any benefit arising from depreciation on pay &c.” Barbé de Marbois urged Congress “to consider that M. de la Radiere did not quit the service, but died in it; and he is desirous to transmit to the heir of this Officer a favorable resolution touching the demand made” (DNA:PCC, item 96). In August 1785, upon recommendation of Paymaster General John Pierce, Congress passed a resolution extending the resolution of 10 April to La Radiere (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 29:540–41, 610). La Radiere’s claims were thus placed on an equal footing with those of other foreign officers. The claims were handled in Paris by Ferdinand Grand, the banker of the United States in that city. Few funds were available to pay the principal of the claims, but a resolution of Congress, 3 Feb. 1784, directed that Robert Morris, superintendent of finance, remit annually “as far as may be consistent with the finances of the United States” the interest on the sums still owed to them (JCC, description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends 26:65–66). Interest was paid to the claimants to 31 Dec. 1788 by Grand at his Paris office, but no funds existed for further payment of either interest or principal (Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Estimates of Receipts and Expenditures for 1791–1792,” 23 Jan. 1792, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 10:547–48).
2. In the MS this word reads “Vadiere,” undoubtedly a copyist’s error. The original was sent to Hamilton in September 1789, together with several other letters pertaining to the foreign debt. In Lear’s covering letter La Radiere’s name is also spelled “Vadiere” (Tobias Lear to Hamilton, DLC:GW).