George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gimat, 18 May 1792

From Gimat

Sainte Lucie [1]81 May 1792


The remembrance of the kindness which your Excellency shewed me when I had the honor of serving under your orders, gives me great hope that one of my friends, a man of rare and distinguished merit, will obtain your good will & deserve Your esteem, during the stay which he proposes to make in North America, whether he goes for the re-establishment of his health, which cannot support the warm climate of the Antilles—the temperate climate of the north will re-establish it without a doubt. Permit me, Sir, likewise to beg your attention for a young man, Mr de Courville, whose parents are my particular friends in this Colony.

I pray your Excellency to pardon the liberty which I have taken in recommending to you M.[,] Made Raphel2 and M. de Courville, to whom I am very much attached. Their intention is to fix themselves in the State of Maryland where the rigour of the climate during the winter is more supportable to an inhabitant of the Antilles, than it would be more to the North.3

I perceive that I shall myself shortly have need of the same Climate. It is in that happy country where I have passed the most pleasant days of my life that I hope to restore my health which has been much injured in the scorching county which I inhabit.

If I should be so happy as to be able to render any service to your Excellency, whether in my own Government, or in the other french Antilles, you ought to be persuaded of the lively pleasure which I should take in convincing you of my zeal in doing whatever might be agreeable to you, and of the respectful sentiments with which I have the honour to be Your Excellency’s Most humble & most Obedt Servt


Translation, in Tobias Lear’s hand, DLC:GW; ALS, DLC:GW. The French text of the ALS appears in CD-ROM:GW.

Jean-Joseph, chevalier de Gimat (1747–1793), who served as an aide-de-camp to Lafayette during the Revolutionary War, was appointed a lieutenant colonel in February 1778 and was promoted to colonel in November of that year. After being wounded at the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781, Gimat returned to France, where in the spring of 1782 he was named colonel of the regiment of Martinique in the French Antilles. He also served as governor of the island of Saint Lucia, a post which he held from 1789 until he was displaced for his royalist sympathies in early June 1792. Almost exactly one year later, while commanding a corps of 1,000 émigrés invading Martinique under the protection of a squadron of English warships, Gimat was mortally wounded.

1In his translation Tobias Lear mistakenly dates Gimat’s letter the “8th” of May. The ALS gives the correct date: “18 May 1792.”

2The ALS, which reads “M, Mad[am]e raphel,” indicates that both Raphels intended to immigrate to the United States.

3Etienne Raphel (1754–1811), who had been serving as procurator general on the island of Martinique, and his wife, Jeanne Elizabeth Fressenjat Raphel (b. 1771), immigrated to Maryland in 1792 and settled at Frenchman’s Bay at the mouth of the Gunpowder River. Whether or not Courville immigrated to the United States at this time has not been determined.

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