George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Charles Laure MacMahon, 20 November 1794

From Charles Laure MacMahon

Norwich in Norfolk England
the 20th November 1794.


I venture to take the liberty to address your Excellency after the Goodness & the Kindness you show’d me on every occasion during my continuance in America.

When I had the honor to be introduced to you as Aid de Camp of M[arqu]is La Fayette by the late unhappy Duke de Lauzun, you then permitted me to serve in the French Army & to remain with the Duke for the arrival of the Mis La Fayette, who at last did not come, but was sent to Gibraltar.1 Nevertheless I hope Your Excellency will recollect me, and that the last time I had the honor to pay my respects to you, was in your baracked Camp on the banks of the North river when I was sent to Boston & Portsmouth by General Rochambeau purposely to hinder the Sailing of the French fleet to pensacola, in order to effectuate a Junction with the Spanish fleet &ca.2

Happier in my Escape from France than the poor Mis. La Fayette I came directly to England, in the County of Norfolk, where the Farmers are reckoned the most Skillful and the most industrious of all England: I thought that I could not employ better the time of my Exile, and more according to the principles of the Order of Ciincinnatus, till the worthy Mis la Fayette Should be relaxed from his odious prison: but seeing the unsucesful proceedings for that purpose by the Ambassador of the Congress; and the little money that I brougth with me diminushing every day: I dare to apply my self directly to you General and ask the great Favour of putting my interests entirely in your hands; do you Judge that there is any probabillity that I could now obtain of the Congress any portion of Grownd? as you know in concert with my Brother Colonels and the General Officers when your Excellency was so good as to sind to us the Order of Cincinnatus, we refused and pay’d our thanks to the Congress for the Concesssion of Grownd which was offered to us; and desired that an application of it Should be made in favor of the orphans and Widows of those of the Americans who were Killed during the war: at that time the considerable property that we enjoy’d in France did not let us think that we should ever go back to America.3 but now, General, that between my brother4 and my self, we have lost our Estates in Burgundy Worth more than seven thousand a year, and that we have nothing at all in any other part of the World, we are disposed to become good Cultivators in America, if there is any possibility of it through your good services. I shall not teaze you any longer with our Misfortunes, but I am full of confidence in your well Known Humanity, in your Friendship for the good Mis La Fayette, and in your goodness for every one who was attached to him, and I may Say more for whom he had a Friendship. I rely therfore entirely on what you judge proper for us: and I shall receive as a great Favour any Answer with which you will honour me; directed to Charles MacMahon at the post office Norwich.5 as I live in a farm a few miles from that town and as my present circumstances do not permit me to take my own title, nor any from my Military Employment which was four years ago General Major. ⟨I a⟩m with the Greatest regard and Respect General Your Excellency’s Most devoted and obedient humble servant

Formerly Marquis MacMahon D’Eguilly

ALS (duplicate), DLC:GW.

Charles Laure MacMahon, marquis de Vianges et d’Eguilly (1752–1830), left France for America in May 1782 with permission to serve as aide-de-camp for Lafayette. At that time, however, Lafayette was in France, having been sent to foster co-operation between France and America, and he did not return to America until 1784, after MacMahon’s departure. While in America, MacMahon did serve as an aide to the Duc de Lauzun. After fleeing France, he served for a time in the counterrevolutionary Army of the Princes before moving to England. MacMahon returned to France in 1800 and resumed his military career.

1It does not appear that Lafayette was involved with the siege of Gibraltar. Rather, in October 1782 he accepted a position as quartermaster general for a proposed French and Spanish expedition to the West Indies (Lafayette Papers description begins Stanley J. Idzerda et al., eds. Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790. 5 vols. Ithaca, N.Y., 1977-83. description ends , 5:xlii).

2MacMahon appears to have been confused, as he met with GW at least once after Rochambeau’s departure from America. In early 1783 MacMahon, who was sent by Lauzun with a message to the French fleet, carried a letter to GW at Newburgh en route (Lauzun to GW, 4 Feb. 1783, and GW to Lauzun, 10 Feb. 1783, DLC:GW). This probably is the event to which MacMahon was referring in this letter.

3MacMahon probably was referring to GW’s letter to Rochambeau of 29 Oct. 1783, announcing that the generals and colonels of Rochambeau’s army were considered as members of the Society of the Cincinnati (DLC: Rochambeau Papers). For the French response to the society, see Rochambeau to GW, 19 Jan. 1784, and d’Estaing to GW, 26 Feb. 1784 (Papers, Confederation Series description begins W. W. Abbot et al., eds. The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1992–97. description ends , 1:59–61, 158–60).

4Maurice François MacMahon, comte de Charney (1754–1831), served as an officer in the French cavalry. During the French Revolution he emigrated and fought against the revolutionary armies. He was the father of Marie Edmé Patrice de MacMahon, who served as president of France in the 1870s.

5No reply has been found.

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