George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Lafayette, 21 November 1791

To Lafayette

Philadelphia, Novr 21st 1791.

My dear Sir,

At the earnest request of Mr Jorre I make known to you, that he came over to this Country with an idea of obtaining some appointment under our Government;1 but he now finds that idea to have been false; for propriety, as you, my dear Sir, well know, would not admit of a foreigners being prefered to Office before one of our own Countrymen, who suffered so much to effect the revolution, and who certainly ought now to enjoy the official benefits arising from it; especially too, as there is not an Office created for which there are not many applicants, and always among them some who claim attention from their public services.

From the recommendation which Mr Jorre brought to me, he appears to be a man of good character and abilities; and he seems to have given up every other pursuit for the sake of coming here.2 But finding that he can not accomplish his wishes by obtaining a public appointment, he is about to return to france and, as I before observed, has earnestly requested I would make known the foregoing circumstances to you, in order that, if he should make any application for an appointment under your Government, he might have some unquestionable proof to produce of the views with which he came to this Country, and of the cause of his disappointment.

But, my dear Sir, you must not conceive from this letter that I mean in any degree to interfere with appointments in France. It is written only for the purpose before mentioned. But at the same time it affords me the pleasure of telling you how much and how sincerely I am, My dear sir, Your affte friend,

Go: Washington.


1For an identification of Jorre (born c.1758), a native of Rouen who practiced law in Paris before family troubles compelled him to travel to England, and his request to GW of 21 Nov. for a letter of introduction to Lafayette, see Jorre to GW, 29 July 1789, n.4. Jorre also had written to GW on 16 Nov. from Philadelphia. Tobias Lear’s translation of that letter reads: “Without seeking to intrude upon the complaisance or the time of your Excellency, it will be permitted me to yield, probably for the last time, to the impulse which agitates me in the moment when I see myself frustrated in all that formed my greatest hope. Among other reasons which induced me to come here, I beleived myself certain of a favorable reception founded on a natural axiom, that the concurrence or the oppositions in the principles and the actions of men form the sympathies or antipathies which exist among them. In consequence, I was persuaded, that by presenting myself not as an adventurer, but supported by the recommendation & attestation of honor from the most respectable quarters, I could not fail of my end. Chance has decided it otherwise, and I should not have been astonished if the object of my pursuits had not been founded on precautions which ought to have rendered it infalible, independent of the moderation of my ambition absolutely limited to act in society the part which nature seemed to have fitted me for. This argument seems to me not as yet to have acquired sufficient force in this Country; but I am far from my own, I have in some measure abandoned my resources to come & settle here, and the only thing that now remains, is for me to go & cast myself as a charge upon my father, borne down with age & infirmities, who has but a moderate income, near the confines of the grave, having by his side a languishing daughter, whom perhaps he will have the mortification to see die before him, and to succour an ancient & faithful domestic in the same state, whom humanity induces him to keep in remembrance of his services. Behold the house which it remains for me to visit, because America is not sufficiently large to contain me, not having the good fortune to be either a labourer or a tradesmen. Excuse, I beseech you this sketch of my situation, which I never would have given for the sake of exciting personal pity. O unhappy wretch, with but one hope!!” (DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Tobias Lear did not translate the Italian quotation, apparently from Guido Bentivoglio’s Raccolta di lettere scritte dal cardinal Bentivoglio in tempo delle sue nuntiature di Fiandra e di Francia (Paris, 1631), with which Jorre headed this letter: “E per eccellenza di merito, e per grandezza d’animo portaste con voi in questo paese il Grandato anche prima d’acquistarlo” (“And by excellence of merit and greatness of mind you brought into this country preeminence even before you acquired it”).

2GW might have been referring to letters written him two months earlier by James McHenry and Thomas Lee Shippen (see Shippen to GW, 20 Sept. and note 1).

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