George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Gabriel Dupare de Bellegard, 15 January 1790

To Gabriel Dupare de Bellegard

New York January 15th 1790


I have received your letter dated the 18th of September 1789; and in reply to it, must inform you, that so far from living upon terms of intimacy and friendship with the late General Oglethorpe, (as it appears by your letter you have understood that I did) I never was so happy as to have any personal acquaintance with that Gentleman, nor any other knowledge of him but from his general character. The distance of our places of residence from each other, which is near 1,000 Miles, and the different periods in which we have lived are circumstances which preclude the probability of our having been upon an intimate footing.

I have, however, directed enquiries to be made among the Gentlemen from the State of Georgia, who are now attending Congress in this place, respecting the affairs of the late General Oglethorpe, and am informed by them that they know of no lands belonging to him. One of the Gentlemen, a Senator from the State of Georgia, mentions his having been written to, some time since, by Mr Jefferson our Minister at the Court of Versailles, upon the same subject, and in consequence thereof he made every enquirey in his power relative to the matter; but there were no lands in Georgia belonging to General Oglethorpe;1 and he further adds, that if there had been property of that Gentleman’s in Georgia in the time of the late War with Great Britain, so far from its having been confiscated, it would have met with singular protection, in consequence of the high estimation in which the character of General Oglethorpe stood in that State. I should have been happy, Sir, to have had it in my power to give you more pleasing information upon this subject. I am, Sir, Your Most Obt Servt

Geo: Washington.

LB, DLC:GW; Df, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

Gabriel Dupare de Bellegard (1717–1789) was a prominent theologian, born near Narbonne, Languedoc. He studied at Toulouse and later at the Sorbonne. In 1757 he went to Holland and settled in Utrecht. Bellegard wrote and edited numerous works, among them the Collection Général des Oeuvres d’Antoine Arnauld, Docteur de Sorbonne, and Supplementum ad Varias Collectiones Operum Zegem Bernard Van Espen. In 1765 he wrote a history of the Catholic church in Utrecht. In 1771 he was named canon of a church in Lyon and acted as director of the Provincial Utrecht Society of Arts. Bellegard had died in December 1789.

1Georgia senator William Few was referring to correspondence with Thomas Jefferson in 1785 and 1786. On 22 Dec. 1785 Jefferson wrote to the Georgia delegates in the Continental Congress, stating “that the claims of the Chevalier de Mezières, nephew to the late General Oglethorpe, to his possessions within your state have attracted the attention of the ministry here; and that considering them as protected by their treaty with us, they have viewed as derogatory of that the doubts which have been expressed on the subject. . . . It is difficult to make foreigners understand those legal distinctions between the effects of forfeiture, of escheat, and of conveiance . . . . They can see only the outlines of the case, to wit, the death of a possessor of lands lying within the U.S. leaving an heir in France, and the state claiming those lands in opposition to the heir.” Jefferson then submitted “to your wisdom the motives which present themselves in favor of a grant to the Chevalier . . . and the expediency of urging them on your state as far as you may think proper.” Few co-wrote a reply to Jefferson with his fellow delegate, William Houstoun, on 21 Aug. 1786. The two men stated, “We have in consequence made every enquiry respecting this matter, and can inform you with certainty that no land or any other property has been sold in that State as belonging to the late Genl. Oglethorp, nor can we hear of any Estate he had there” (Boyd, Jefferson Papers description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 41 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends , 9:121-22, 10:280-81).

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