George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Aiguillon, 24 September 1792

From Aiguillon

Zurich—[24 7bre 1792]1
the 4th year of french liberty


Permit a Frenchman, who loves liberty, and is forced to quit his Country—a prey to factions, to offer his homage to the respectable man who has given a free Constitution to America. Perhaps my name may have reached you. Perhaps you have sometimes heard me spoken of as the friend of Lafayette—faithful, like him, to the cause which he cherished2—and like him prosecuted by those who would substitute for despotism the horrors of Anarchy. I thought it my duty to quit my Country when all the oaths which attached me to it were violated. See the motives which decided me. You will find them with this which I have the honor to address to you. It will be sweet for me to obtain your suffrage—and to know that my conduct is approved by you. the esteem of Washington will console me in my retreat, under the prosecutions which I have suffered & the misfortunes which surround me. I pray you accept the homage of my veneration & attachment

Richelieu [d]’Aiguillon

P.S. I set out for London. Perhaps circumstances may conduct me to the land of liberty where you dwell. If you do me the honor to answer this, will you have the goodness to address your letter to London—to be left in the Post Office.3

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

Armand-Désirée Duplessis-Richelieu d’Agenois, duc d’Aiguillon (1761–1800), a French army officer and member of an influential and wealthy French aristocratic family, led the movement in the National Assembly of 4 Aug. 1789 to remove the traditional dues and services that a French peasant owed his manorial lord, and he challenged the tax exemptions that various corporations, towns, and individuals enjoyed. After the storming of the Tuileries on 10 Aug. 1792, Aiguillon fled to London. He eventually settled in Hamburg, where he remained until his death. For background on the events that led both Aiguillon and Lafayette to leave France in 1792, see Gouverneur Morris to GW, 23 Oct. 1792, and source note.

1The date is taken from the original French manuscript. Lear mistakenly transcribed the date as “24 January [1]793.” The original French manuscript also bears the notation in Lear’s writing, “recd ⟨2⟩6 May 1793.”

2Lear made a loose translation from this place in the text to the end of the sentence. A more accurate translation would be: “and like him persecuted by those who tear apart France, and who will return her to despotism through the horrors of Anarchy.” Here, as later in the letter, Lear erroneously translated the French word persécution as prosecution instead of persecution.

3No reply from GW to Aiguillon has been found.

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