George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Armand, 5 September 1791

To Armand

Philadelphia, September 5th 1791.

Dear Sir,

I have had the pleasure to receive your letter of the 22nd of march last.1

Being indisposed on the day when Monsieur de Combourg called to deliver your letter I did not see him—and I understood that he set off for Niagara on the next day.2

The interesting state of affairs in France has excited the sympathy and engaged the good wishes of our citizens, who will learn with great pleasure that the public deliberations have eventuated in the permanent happiness of your Nation—and no one will more sincerely rejoice in that event than Dear Sir, Your most obedient servant

G. Washington


1The letter from Armand-Charles Tuffin, marquis de La Rouërie, of 22 Mar. 1791, reads: “Mr le chevalier de Combourg a noble man of the State of Britany & a neighbourg of mine, is going over to north america. the purpose of that Journey, I presume, is to inrich his mind by the active Contemplation of such a moving & happy country, and to satisfy his soul By seeing the extraordinary man & thoses respectable Citizens who, led By the hand of virtue through the most difficult contest, have made their chief Counsellor of her in establishing & enjoying their liberty—his relations, for whom I have a very great regard, desire me to recommand him to the notice of your Excellency; I do it with pleasure, Because that gentleman has allways appeared to me to have a good right to the Commendable reputation which he does enjoy—he is a man of wit, and much of his time has Been taken up By the Cultivation of that natural gift. our political af⟨f⟩airs in this part of the world, are in the most deplorable situation, loyalté, good sense, firmness, seems to be Banished from our unhappy & perhaps more guilty, country—the Compassion of god almighty is the only resource which remain to us; But I am sure he is Just, and of Course I fear his mercy will be only felt long after his severity. may france, By her present Condition, be now and in all future times a tremendous instance for all peoples on earth, of the great risk and destruction which threaten nations, when without any regard to their moral & physical circumstances, instead of wisely & slowly reforming abuses and repairing breachs made to their constitution; they confide the over setting of the whole into the hands & at the discretion, of ambition, avarice, ignorance, caprices, and of all the private interest which follow of Course—may your dear Général follow, while this world will last, the impulsion given her by your great heart your incomparable wisdom, & By that Candour which so well characterize the present génération of north america—I have been honöred in January last with your letter of the 13th of October 1789—Mr du moustier is not the speedyest nor the most faithfull messenger in europe—but at this time, it appears ⟨essential⟩ to thoses men to Counterpoise with all their hability, the conveniency and inconveniency of all their steps; even that of delivering up a letter directed from a free Country to a lover of that Country who reside in our—I Beg leave to offer here to lady Washington the best homages of my respect” (DLC:GW). GW’s letter to Armand of 13 Oct. 1789 has not been found. Eléanor-François-Elie, comte de Moustier, the former French minister to the United States, left America in October 1789.

2For GW’s illness of July 1791, see A. Hammond to GW, 8 July, n.3. French author François-Auguste-René, chevalier and later vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768–1848), who after the Bourbon Restoration served as French minister to Great Britain and minister of foreign affairs, was born at the castle of Combourg and served as a sublieutenant in the French army before the French Revolution. The excesses of the Parisian mobs convinced him in January 1791 to leave France and pursue an earlier plan to search for the Northwest Passage in North America. After visiting Armand he embarked from Saint-Malo, Normandy, on 8 April and landed at Baltimore on 10 July. He took a carriage to Philadelphia and claimed to have visited GW at home: “When I went to carry my letter of recommendation to him, I found once more the simplicity of the ancient Roman. . . . After a few minutes, the general entered the room: tall in stature, of a calm and cold rather than noble bearing, he resembled his engraved portraits. I handed him my letter in silence; he opened it and glanced at the signature which he read aloud. . . . We sat down. I explained to him as best I could the object of my journey. He replied in monosyllables in English and French, and listened to me with a sort of astonishment. I remarked this and said to him, with some little animation: ‘But it is less difficult to discover the North-West Passage than to create a people, as you have done.’ ‘Well, well, young man!’ he exclaimed, giving me his hand. He invited me to dinner for the next day, and we parted. I took care to keep the appointment. We were only five or six guests at the table. The conversation turned upon the French Revolution. The general showed us a key from the Bastille. ... I left my host at ten o’clock in the evening, and never saw him again” (Memoirs of Chateaubriand, 1:136, 158, 161–62, 179–83, 207, 210–11). Chateaubriand may have misremembered the period of his visit with GW, but no mention of it is made by GW in his surviving diaries. For the key to the Bastille that Lafayette had sent GW, see Lafayette to GW, 17 Mar. 1790, n.3. Chateaubriand received no encouragement in Philadelphia for his explorations and traveled to New York, Boston, and Albany before setting out west. He broke his arm at Niagara Falls and spent twelve days recuperating with the Indians before accompanying a party of traders to Pittsburgh and into the interior. Chateaubriand abandoned his romantic trip when he read in a newspaper of the flight of Louis XVI and his arrest at Varennes, and he returned to Philadelphia and embarked for Le Havre on 10 Dec. to join the counterrevolutionary armies (Memoirs of Chateaubriand, 1:216–30, 236–37, 246–47, 259).

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