From Madame Bobin des Orolles
Philadelphia 22d May 1792.
At a moment when the French are accomplishing a Revolution which has raised a flame in their Colonies, insomuch that part of the Inhabitants of St Domingo are obliged to abandon their possessions,1 I find myself one of the most unhappy among them. My husband & [son]2 having been disappointed in embarking in the Vessel with me, the affliction into which I am thrown, and the sickness which I experience do not permit me, Sir, to go out and make my respects to you. I find myself obliged to wait the arrival of my husband & [son]3 in your States before I can acquit myself of that duty. We are Inhabitants of Cul du Sac, A Quarter of Port au Prince, and we consider ourselves peculiarly4 happy, amidst these unfortunate circumstances, to have been able to land in a country where peace & true liberty reign. The French ⟨a⟩re too precipitate in their movements—they substitu[t]e words for actions—It is not possible in a Country such as St Domingo to adopt the new Government—The Society & Climate are totally different from those of France. We are afflicted at the prospect of the ancient Colony if such tutelary men as You, Sir, do not extend their ⟨h⟩and to it, without which all is lost.5 I have with me my sister Madme Dérulney6 who is also an inhabitant of Cul du Sac, and who waits too for her husband, and laments as well as myself her misfortunes & dispairs of being able to render her respects to you.7 With the most respectful Sentiment I am Sir Your most Obed. & humble Se[rvan]t
Translation, in Tobias Lear’s hand, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters. The French text of the LS appears in CD-ROM:GW.
1. For the background to the slave uprising of August-September 1791 on the island of Saint Domingue and the resulting exodus of members of the French planter class from that Caribbean colony, see Samuel Wall to GW, 16 Sept., note 1, Charles Pinckney to GW, 20 Sept., note 1, and Ternant to GW, 22, 24 Sept. 1791.
2. Tobias Lear mistranslated the French word fils as “daughter.”
3. Lear again mistranslated the French word fils as “daughter.”
4. In the French version, this word translates as “very.”
5. Lear did not accurately reflect the meaning of the French version, which translates “we were approaching the moment of seeing the colony utterly destroyed, if tutelary men such as yourself, Sir, did not bring their genius, without which all is lost.”
6. Lear incorrectly read the French text, which reads “D’aulnay.”
7. Lear translated this phrase incorrectly; following the word “husband,” the phrase translates as follows: “she bemoans, as do I, our misfortunes, and would like to be able to pay her respects to you.”