George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Comtesse de Rochambeau, 18 November 1790

From the Comtesse de Rochambeau

Paris, the 18th November, 1790th


I hope that your excellency will give me the leave to beg a favor of your Justice. I think it just & intercede for the Baron closen who was an aid-de-camp to Mr Rochambeau during the American War.1 He longs with the desire to be a member of the Association of the Cincinnati. The officers who were employed in the French army & younger than him in the military service have been decorated with this emblem of Liberty, & such a reward given by your Excellency’s hand shall increase its value.

I flatter myself that you will receive the assurances of the respect & veneration I have for your talents & your virtue, well known in the whole world.2 I have the honor to be of your Excellency the most humble & obedient Servt

la Comtesse de Nochambeau

Copy, in Tobias Lear’s hand, DLC:GW; LS, printed extract, Thomas Birch’s Sons, Collection of Washington Relics, catalog no. 663, item 219, 1891.

Jeanne-Thérèse Tellès d’Acosta (1730–1824), whose father was a wealthy French merchant of Portuguese descent, brought a dowry of 300,000 livres when she married Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, in 1749 (see Rochambeau, Mémoires, description begins Jean-Baptiste-Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau. Mémoires, Militaires, Historiques, et Politiques. 2 vols. Paris, 1809. description ends 1:63–64).

1Capt. Hans Christoph Friedrich Ignatz Ludwig, Baron von Closen-Haydenburg (c.1755–1830), of the Royal Deux-Ponts regiment served in America from 1780 to 1783 as an aide-de-camp to Rochambeau (Bodinier, Dictionnaire des offtciers de l’armée royale, description begins Gilbert Bodinier. Dictionnaire des officiers de l’armée royale qui ont combattu aux Etats-Unis pendant la guerre d’Indépendance, 1776–1783. Vincennes, France, 1982. description ends 102–3, 480; Evelyn M. Acomb, The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig von Closen, 1780–1783 [Chapel Hill, N.C., 1958], xxii-xxvii).

2GW’s 20 July 1791 reply from Philadelphia reads: “It is but a short time since I had the honor to receive your letter of the 18 of November, in which you interest yourself in behalf of the Baron Closen, that he may be admitted a member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

“You must be sensible, Madam, of the great pleasure it would give me to comply with any request which might come from the Countess de Rochambeau, if it was in my power to do it—But I regret that in this instance I cannot please myself by gratifying you—for, at a general meeting of the Society of the Cincinnati, it was resolved to refer all claims and applications from Gentlemen of the French Nation, for admission into the Society to the Counts Rochambeau and D’Estaing, and the Marquis de la Fayette, as it was justly presumed that they were better acquainted with the claims and merits of their Countrymen than the Americans could be—and, since that resolution all applications of this description which have been made to the Society here, have been referred to these Gentlemen—This being the case I flatter myself you will be persuaded Madam that my declining an interference in this instance will not be imputed to a disinclination to oblige you, but to a necessary adherence to impartiality and propriety” (LB, DLC:GW).

Original membership in the French branch of the Society of the Cincinnati was restricted to veterans of the American Revolution who had held the rank of colonel or higher. Rochambeau informed Closen on 8 Feb. 1792 that Louis XVI had approved his honorary membership and that of thirty-six other officers otherwise ineligible (Asa Bird Gardiner, The Order of the Cincinnati in France[Newport, R.I., 1905], 204n.).

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