George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Jorre, 29 July 1789

From Jorre

Belfast in Ireland 29th July 1789.

My Lord,

Madame Maury with whom I have the honor to be acquainted, and with whom I had the pleasure to pass some months at Liverpool, will not refuse me, I am sure, her support in confirming to you what I am now to have the honor of communicating.1

I am a frenchman born at Rouen of an honest family—I have been bred to the bar, and I was six years ago admitted an advocate of the Parlement of Paris. Since that time some family disagreements, perhaps a spirit of independence, and a desire to travel, determined me to pass over into England during the Embassy of the Count d’Adhemar with whom I was aquainted.2

I continued there three years, after which I came to this place where I have very good acquaintances.

I will say nothing of my talents or my manners, except that agreeably to the recommendations and certificates of several Lords and Persons of distinction, among whom I have been very well received, I flatter myself that you would honor me with your benevolence and protection.

I am morally unhappy, which is the claim I set up—There is no field for me in this quarter—I am young (31) I am a Boy,3 and have zeal.

It is not that I am in want of any thing in this country: but that I cannot find here that kind of employment which is agreeable to me.

To be concise I shall have the honor to tell you that the subject of my letter is to supplicate that you would permit me to repair to you, and to solicit that service which it is in your power to render me, and which you would not refuse to an honest person of whose probity you could be assured.

I feel the insufficiency of my title at present, and I request that you would not decide upon that, but wait until the manner in which I should present myself to you should answer, in all points to what you might expect of me.

Permit me then to request your permission to present to you the homage of those sentiments which are due to you, to pay that tribute which every sensible man reserves for your virtues—to convince you of the exact truth of what I now announce to you—to deserve the honor, of which I am ambitious, to become acquainted with you—to prove to you that I am not unworthy that you should be interested in my behalf—and to testify to you my gratitude.

My first intentions were to go to Canada, whence I could have procured respectable introductions: but since I became acquainted with Madame Maury, and am assured of her evidence in my favor, and as I know the possibility and the disposition which you have to oblige, I do not hesitate to beseech you on the conditions which I propose, and which I solemnly impose on myself.

I have formerly been in France in the Office of a Chief Prothonotary before I was admitted into the number of Advocates.

Allow me, Sir, to solicit an answer in your name—I will regard that favor as a precious pledge of your kindness, and as the happy presage of my good fortune. I will then immediately set out to convince you of the distinguished, respectful, and extended sentiments with which I am Your Excellencys &ca4

Jorre Advocate of the Parlement of Paris.5

Translation, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The text is taken from a translation prepared for GW.

1Madame Maury is Mary Walker Maury (1724–1793), the daughter of James Walker, a King and Queen County, Va., physician, and Ann Hill Walker. In 1743 she married James Maury (1746–1840), a Fredericksburg merchant and frequent correspondent of James Madison. The Maurys were now living in Liverpool. Evidently James Maury, who wrote from Liverpool one of Jorre’s letters of introduction, did not share his wife’s enthusiasm for the new immigrant. “I note what you say of Mr Jorre,” he wrote Madison in early 1792. “I wished to have diverted him from his purpose of going to America; but could not—at length he extorted from me the cold Letter he delivered you—what I said of him I believe is true—but as to his Capacities for high Departments in Office, I concieved he over-rated them” (Maury to Madison, 3 Feb. 1792, in Rutland, Madison Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 14:215–16).

2Jorre is undoubtedly referring to Jean-Balthazar d’Azémar de Montfalcon, comte d’Adhémar, who served as the French ambassador to Great Britain from 1783 to 1787. Adhémar, who had served several years in the military early in life, assumed the title of comte in 1772, and was subsequently appointed to various diplomatic positions, including minister to Brussels in 1778, and governor of Dieppe in 1783.

3The translator should have chosen the alternate meaning of “bachelor” rather than “boy” for the word “garçon.”

4On 20 June 1790 Jorre wrote to GW a second letter from Belfast. “I had the honor, a year ago, to write to your Excellency, and I doubt not you received my letter; but I suppose Madam Maury has not yet returned to America, since the representation, which I flatter myself she would have made of me, would, without doubt, have decided you to honor me with an answer. . . . My intention is to prove to you that I am not an adventurer without moral or social qualities, and I reiterate the offer of convincing you, if you permit me to go, under your auspices, to the place where you live. With some talents, conduct, honor, probity, and your protection, if you deign to grant it to me, I cannot but attain my wish, which is an honest mediocrity, above want, and below pride” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). On 16 May 1791, still in Belfast, Jorre wrote GW a third obsequious letter: “In view of the confidence which I have in the liberality of your sentiments, the certitude which I have that the principle which motivates me cannot make me a burden to anyone & still less to your Excellency. . . . I made up my mind, I have equipped myself with a certificate such as I had announced to Your Excellency, signed by all who are respectable in this country, & who all expressed a great satisfaction in learning that it was to be presented to you, this was done in front of Monsieur [Thomas] Digges, from whom I truly receive testimonies of esteem & zeal, & who has permitted me to use his name to present myself to you under a title other than that of stranger. . . . I only await news of the time of departure of a vessel from Liverpool to go and enjoy, under your auspices, the advantages of living where really honest people can freely meet & cooperate in the public felicity, pushing all together the wheel which moves the great spring of the machine” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters [translation]). By early November 1791 Jorre had reached the United States and obtained what he considered an unsatisfactory interview with GW. “His Excellency received me very politely, & said that his situation did not allow him to do much for me, for many reasons” (Jorre to Madison, 5 Nov. 1791, in Rutland, Madison Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds. The Papers of James Madison, Congressional Series. 17 vols. Chicago and Charlottesville, Va., 1962–91. description ends , 14:95–96). On 12 Nov. he wrote GW from Philadelphia of his disappointment. “I had the pleasure of seeing your Excellency, that is indeed a gratification to me. I did all I could to accomplish my design upon which I had made my moral existence depend, but found myself checked. . . . I would have philosophy enough to console myself, had I not bent all my views, settled, declined, & abandoned every thing to come to my point. Philosophy does not teach me how a person always accustomed to a middling but genteel condition, can cheerfully submit to want. . . . Without trespassing any longer upon Your excellency’s time, I beg you not to look upon me as troublesome or forward, & allow me to tell you that my being frustrated proceeds from a mistake nobody in Europe could even foresee” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters).

A few days later Tobias Lear replied to Jorre on behalf of GW: “The president of the United States has received the letter which you addressed to him on the 12th instant, and in obedience to his command I have the honor to observe to you that the President is very sorry that circumstances and propriety do not admit of gratifying, so far as might depend on him, the views and expectations with which you appear to have come to this country. It is perhaps a fact too well known to make it necessary to mention it here, that numerous applications are made for every office created under this government—and it always happens where an office is desirable either for its respectability or emolument that it is sought for by those who have rendered services to their country in the course of the revolution either in the cabinet or the field—and so far from wanting men of respectable talents to fill places which require them that it is frequently a nice point to determine who among the applicants of this character have the best claims to public notice on account of services rendered—Upon this view of the matter the President is convinced, Sir, that your own good sense must approve of this conduct which he uniformly pursues in making nomination of appointments to office, which is to unite in the applicant fitness of character and abilities with services rendered to the public in the time of common danger—and sure the President is that you must see the imputation which would certainly follow the appointment of a foreigner to an office whatever may be his abilities in preference to those who have fought and bled for their country and are fully equal to the discharge of the duties of its several offices. The President conceives it unnecessary to point out to you the advantages which are held out to foreigners by this government—It grants them equal protection with its own citizens, and leaves them in the full exercise of all their rights civil and religious—but for the reasons before mentioned he is persuaded you will see the justice as well as propriety of giving a preference to our own citizens in all appointments to offices” (Lear to Jorre, 15 Nov. 1791, DLC:GW). Jorre replied “probably for the last time” on 16 Nov., explaining that he had been impelled to persist in his pursuit of office by the needs of his family in France (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). By Nov. 21, however, he was again writing to GW, requesting a personal interview, “especially as what I have to request does not appear to me inconsistent with the principles which actuate you. . . . Would you be so Kind as to entrust me with a letter from you to the Marquis De la Fayette, only to avoid me the recital of what brought me here, which perhaps he would not believe from me. . . . I promise to your Excellency most Solemnly to Keep that favour to myself, without mentioning it to any body, as I know the contrary would be giving new openings to your being tormented with applications repugnant to your feelings. . . . There is a vessel sailing for France in a few days, in which I intend to go” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). GW complied with this request. For his reserved comments on Jorre, see his letter to Lafayette, 21 Nov. 1791.

5The original version of this letter reads: “Madame Maury que j’ai l’honneur de connoître, et avec qui j’ai eû le plaisir de passer quelques mois à Liverpool, ne me refusera pas, j’en suis sûr, son appui auprès de vous, en confirmant ce que je vais avoir l’honneur de vous communiquer.

“Je suis Français, né à Rouen d’une famille honnête; j’ai été élevé dans le barreau, & je fus reçu il y a six ans avocat au parlement de Paris. Depuis ce temps, des désagrémens de famille, peut-être un esprit d’indépendance, & l’envie de voyager, m’ont déterminé à passer en Angleterre dans le temps de l’ambassade de M. le Comte d’Adhémar que je connoissois; j’y suis resté trois ans, après quoi je suis venu ici où jai de très bonnes connoissances. Je ne vous dirai rien de mes talens ni de mes moeurs, sinon que, d’après les recommandations et les certificats de plusieurs Lords & personnes de distinction parmi lesquels je suis bien-venu, je me flatte que vous m’honoreriez de votre bienveillance & de votre protection. Je suis moralement malheureux, voilà le droit que j’y ai. Aucun champ ne m’est ouvert ici pour me faire un état; je suis jeune (31 an) je suis garçon, & ai du zèle. Ce n’est pas que je manque de rien dans ce pays-ci, mais je n’y pourrois trouver d’emploi dans le genre qui me conviendroit. Pour être concis, j’aurai l’honneur de vous dire que le sujet de ma lettre est de vous supplier de me permettre de me rendre auprès de vous, de vous offrir mes services, & de réclamer un service que vous pouvez rendre, et que vous ne refuseriez pas à une personne honnête dont vous seriez sûr de la probité. Je sens l’insuffisance de ma réclamation actuelle, aussi je ne demande que vous y défériez qu’autant que je me présenterois d’une manière qui répondît en tous points à ce que vous pouvez attendre de moi. Permettez moi donc de vous demander la permission d’aller vous présenter l’hommage des sentimens qui vous sont dus, de vous payer le tribut que tout homme sensible réserve à vos vertus, vous convaincre de l’éxacte vérité de ce que je vous annonce, mériter l’honneur que j’ambitionne de vous connoître, vous prouver que je ne suis pas indigne que vous vous intéressiez à moi, & vous en témoigner ma reconnoissance. Mes premières vues étoient d’aller au Canada, où j’aurois pû me procurer des introductions respectables; Mais depuis que je connois Madame Maury, que je suis certain de son témoignage en ma faveur, & que je sais la possibilité & la disposition où vous êtes d’obliger, je n’hésite pas à vous réclamer sous les conditions que je vous propose, & que je m’impose solemnellement. J’ai été pourvû en France d’un office de Greffier en chef dans un tribunal, avant que je fusse admis au nombre des avocats.

“Permettez moi, Monseigneur, de solliciter une réponse en votre nom; Je regarderai cette faveur comme un gage précieux de votre aménité, et comme l’heureux présage de mon bonheur. Je partirois aussitôt pour vous convaincre des sentimens distingués, respectueux, & étendus avec lesquels Je suis de votre Excellence, Monseigneur, Le très-humble, très-fidèle & très soumis serviteur.”

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