From Pierre Huet de La Valinière
Lake Champlain 6th July—1791—2 O’clock P.M.
To the Great General, the Preserver & Protector of the most admirable Country in the world—Safety!
I do not know enough of the English language to write it in one quarter of an hour as it is necessary for me to do. I have just learnt that you charity, joined to your justice, leads you to wish to be informed of those who have not been rewarded according to your good intentions. I beleive I am one of that number. In October 1784 I returned from the prisons of Europe, where the cause of America had been my ruin. I ventured to present a memorial to Congress, at least to the President & secretary of it, and receiving no answer I presented one to Genl Knox, who, assured of my suff⟨mutilated⟩gs, gave me a living as a Refugee for 6 months.1 I then sought to obtain a living for 3 years in the cause of America in the Illinois Country, where I in vain sought to make the Tories return to their duty, who deceived & deceiving, as I think, Genl Harmer. I was not able to bring it about, on the contrary the goodness & integrity of his heart made him give faith to all their deceptions accompanid with their liquor.2 I then returned by sea, after having passed though a thousand dangers—losses & afflictions. I am at present with the Canadian Refugees; but more than ever suspected by the English, who will not suffer me to put my foot in Canada about my own affairs. Time will not permit me to develop my misfortunes—But waiting ’till it will, I take the liberty to assure you of the humble respects with which I have the honor to be Your Excellency’s most Obed. & Hbe Sert
Translation, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS, in French, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The text is taken from a translation prepared for GW by Tobias Lear; the receiver’s copy, in French, appears in CD-ROM:GW.
Pierre Huet de La Valinière (Valliniere; 1732–1806) was born at Varades, France, to Charles Huet de La Valinière and Olive Arnaud. After studying at Nantes and Paris, he was ordained in Montreal in 1755 and served five parishes in and around Quebec until 1779. Suspected by the British colonial administration during the American invasion of Canada, he was deported and imprisoned in England before being allowed to return to France. La Valinière later served in the French West Indies and ministered to French-Canadian refugees in New York. After becoming vicar-general to the Illinois Country in April 1786, the disputatious priest left for New Orleans between 1787 and 1789 and then returned east. In October 1790 he was again at Montreal but shortly thereafter settled at Split Rock, N.Y., on Lake Champlain, and wrote an autobiographical poem, published in Albany in 1792. Soon afterwards, La Valinière’s church and presbytery burned down, and he returned to Canada, where he remained until his death (Alvord, Kaskaskia Records, 1778–90, description begins Clarence Walworth Alvord, ed. Kaskaskia Records, 1778–1790. Springfield, Ill., 1909. In Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 5, Virginia Series, vol. 2. description ends xxxvii–xlix; “Father Peter Huet de la Valiniere,” American Catholic Historical Researches, n.s., 2 [July 1906], 203–39; Evans, American Bibliography, 8:309).
1. On 17 Oct. 1785 the Confederation Congress referred to the Board of Treasury La Valinière’s petition “stating his losses and sufferings & offering his services & praying for an answer. 1 concerning some succour, 2d concerning the recovery of his baggage which he left last spring at Newbury & 3dly concerning his being employd at Ilinois or some other place.” No report on the petition has been found (DNA:PCC, item 180, 9; see also 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 29:837). La Valinière’s memorial to Henry Knox might be the MS account of his conduct in the Illinois Country in MHi, a copy of which is in the Public Archives of Canada. La Valinière wrote from Kaskaskia to Charles Thomson, secretary to Congress, on 3 Feb. 1787: “After having presented a memorial to his Excellency the President of Congress on the 8th October 1785. (on which you had the goodness to tell me to address myself to Mr [David] Howell at that time a member of Congress for the State of Rhode Island) seeing it would take up too much time to wait for an answer I left New York in May 1786 to come hither—I have received from Congress but very little provisions on account of the excessive persecutions which I have endured in Canada and in Europe for the American cause—However I am come here to continue to render you all the service in my power.” He also described the Illinois Country, recommended building a fort there, and mentioned that he sent Knox “a piece in french & English which you might have printed” (NNGL: Knox Papers).
2. On 25 Aug. 1787 La Valinière notified Congress through Thomson of the difficulties that the French inhabitants of Kaskaskia had faced since their last petition of 2 June 1786 and James Monroe’s committee report of 23 Aug. 1786 (see 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 , 31:563) and described Josiah Harmar’s 16–27 Aug. 1787 visit to Kaskaskia: John Dodge “deceived him in their way as he was deceived himself he made him stay, live, drink, and dwell only in the houses of the friends of Dodge, he [Barthélemi Tardiveau] accompanied him every where like his interpreter, but he could not shew him the truth being himself very ignorant of it, and he gave allways an evil idea to every word proceeding from those whom Dodge thought be his enemies. . . . The Colonel prefered to drink day and night with the said Dodge himself” (Alvord, Kaskaskia Records, 1778–90, description begins Clarence Walworth Alvord, ed. Kaskaskia Records, 1778–1790. Springfield, Ill., 1909. In Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library, vol. 5, Virginia Series, vol. 2. description ends 381–83, 424–29). Harmar’s own report to Knox of 24 Nov. 1787 is in Smith, St. Clair Papers, description begins William Henry Smith, ed. The St. Clair Papers. The Life and Public Services of Arthur St. Clair: Soldier of the Revolutionary War; President of the Continental Congress; and Governor of the North-Western Territory with his Correspondence and other Papers. 2 vols. Cincinnati, 1882. description ends 2:30–35.
3. The signature on the original receiver’s copy reads, “P. Huet dela Valinière prêtre.”