George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Louis La Colombe, 21 November 1797

From Louis La Colombe

Philada 21st Novemr 1797.


I take the liberty of presenting you with a short abstract of a letter that may afford you a proof that the man for whose wellfare you have allways had the warmest interest in, General De Lafayette has at last obtained his liberty—as is ascertained by an official note from his Imperial Majesty’s minister, M. ⟨Biro⟩ resident at Hambourg, to a friend of mine Mr Masson formerly his aid du Camp.1

“Hambourg 19th Septemr—I have the honor to let you know Sir, that I have received at this moment the official note—an order has been sent from Vienna to Olmutz to set at liberty instantly M. De Lafayette & the other Prisoners.” Several other letters that I have received from Hambourg, and from a particular Correspondent at Olmutz leave me no reason of doubt on this subject—I’m also particularly inform’d that the General & the other gentlemen that were in confinement with him were on the road to Dre[s]den and in all probability would arrive there about the 18th Septemr last, and from thence they were to proceed to Hambourg—notwithstanding the event that took place on the 4th Septemr last at Paris & expected to reach Vienna—in the issue of it have not in the least retarded the liberation of our friend, and it has only been delay’d on account of some trivial pretexts of his Imperial Majesty’s Ministers, who have since been convinced, were acting against their own interests—If as I presume he may come over to this Country it will be very pleasing for him still to find in you Sir, all the paternal Sentiments which a long captivity may have now render’d to him necessary as life, It may also be an inducemt for him to come & visit a Country and a People with whome he has fought with in the cause [of] freedom—I have the honor to be with the highest sentiments of Respect sir, Your most obedt hume servant

L. Lacolombe

N.B. Mr Lacolombe has the honor to present his most respectful compts to the Ladys.2


Louis-Saint-Ange Morel, chevalier de La Colombe (1755–c.1800), Lafayette’s aide-de-camp in 1777 who also served with him in France in 1792, escaped from a French prison in 1794 and fled to the United States.

1According to Edwin Swift Balch, Masson (c.1756–c.1853) came as a volunteer to America and served during most of the Revolution, part of the time under Lafayette, and he was at the battle of Saratoga and at the sieges of Savannah and Yorktown (Balch, The French in America description begins Thomas Balch. The French in America during the War of Independence of the United States, 1777–1783. Translated by Thomas Willing Balch, Edwin Swift Balch, and Elise Willing Balch. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1891–95. description ends , 2:176).

2La Colombe visited Mount Vernon in October 1797 (Diaries description begins Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville, Va., 1976–79. description ends , 6:260–61).

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