George Washington Papers

To George Washington from George Washington Motier Lafayette, 28 March 1796

From George Washington Motier Lafayette

28. March 1796.


At the moment in which my Friend and I were making arrangements to go to Philadelphia at your desire and invitation, I received a resolution of the House of Representatives, extremely honorable for my father; it was accompanied by a letter from Mr Livingston, equally obliging for myself.1

Penetrated with gratitude for this public mark of bounty, as little expected as merited on my part, I answered it in the best manner in my power. Encouraged by the interest which you are pleased to take in what regards me, I hasten to forward to you a copy of the resolution and of the letter which I received, together with my answer.2

The first desire of my heart being to submit to you every act of mine and to merit your approbation, I venture to request you to point out to me the conduct I should pursue on this occasion, in order to do that which may be most agreeable to you. I have the honor to be, with the most profound respect, sir, your most humble & most obedient servant

(signed) G. W. M. Lafayette

Translation, DLC:GW; ALS (in French), DLC:GW. The translation is in the writing of George Taylor, Jr.

1On 18 March the U.S. House of Representatives, having received information that George Washington Motier Lafayette was in the United States, resolved “That a committee be appointed to enquire into the truth of the said information, and report thereon; and what measures it will be proper to take, if the same be true, to evince the grateful sense entertained by this country, for the services of his father” (Journal of the House, description begins The Journal of the House of Representatives: George Washington Administration 1789–1797. Edited by Martin P. Claussen. 9 vols. Wilmington, Del., 1977. description ends 8:267). Edward Livingston was one of three members appointed to the committee.

2The enclosed copies of the House resolution, Livingston’s undated letter to Lafayette, and Lafayette’s letter to Livingston of 28 March (with translation) are in DLC:GW.

Livingston wrote: “actuated by motives of gratitude to your Father and eager to Seize every opportunity of shewing their Sense of his important Services, the House of Representatives of the United States have passed the resolution which I have the pleasure to communicate.

“the committee being directed to inquire into the fact of your arrival within the United States, permit me to advice your immediate appearance at this place, that the legislature of America may no longer be in doubt wether the Son of la Fayette is under their protection and within the reach of their gratitude.

“I Presume to give this advice as an individual personally attached to your Father and very sollicitous to be useful to any person in whose happiness he is interested—If I should have that good fortune on this occasion it will afford me the greatest Satisfaction.”

The translation of Lafayette’s reply reads: “I have this moment received the honorable resolution which my father’s merit has acquired me. Deign, in the House of Representatives of the American people to be the organ of his Gratitude. I am as yet too young to venture to speak of mine. Every day brings fresh to my memory what he taught me in all the Epochs of his life so checkered with vicissitudes and which he repeats in one of his letters written in the depth of his prison: I am convinced, says he, that the bounty of the United States, and the tenderness of my parental friend, do not require to be excited.

“I arrived in America several months ago, and live in the Country, in Jersey, and am occupied in the completion of my Education. I am not in want of pecuniary aids: If I had been I should have complied with the paternal solicitude of the President of the United States, by confiding them to him, or by accepting of his offers. I now conceive it my duty to make them known to the house of Representatives, who deign to inform themselves of my situation.

“As far as my continual anxiety concerning the object of my first affections, permits me, I am perfectly well: all persons to whom I am known, have discovered a benevolence towards me: I have often had the pleasure of hearing those who knew not to whom I belonged, speakg of their constant interest for my father, testify their admiration of, and participate in my gratitude for the generous Doctor Bollmann, who performed so much in order to break his chains.

“It is Amidst all these motives to emulation, that I continue my Studies, being daily more and more penetrated with the duties which the bounties of Congress, and the names I have the honor of bearing, impose on me.”

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