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NOTES AND DOCUMENTS
The ^Autobiography of "Peter Stephen T)u Ponceau
It is probable that Peter Stephen Du Ponceau, native of the Isle of
Re, would have attained a larger space in the history of the United
States had he not desired to live quietly and unobtrusively. His life
and achievements, in the usual sense of the word, are far from spectacular, but his contributions to the cultural and literary life of this
country, when more widely known, should guarantee him a permanent position among the great. At present, very few people are acquainted with his career, and there are scarcely any published sources
from which information can be gained.1
Du Ponceau is an interesting figure, not only because of his role as
a brilliant lawyer, as a learned scholar of the arts and sciences, and as
an eminent philologist, but also as one of the many Frenchmen who,
during the early years of the American republic, added to the distinction of Philadelphia and the whole nation. There is no necessity for
reviewing his early life 5 that is too well done in his own words. But it
is well to take particular notice of the fact that he was born of a rather
distinguished French family and had the opportunities of a competent
education in French and classical culture, as well as his much-loved
English literature. His real place in American life cannot be adequately determined without this background in mind. Although in
many ways more American than the Americans, he could not leave behind him his French antecedents and training. He was undoubtedly
one of the most effective agents for the diffusion both of French culture in the United States and of American culture in France.
Du Ponceau's long span of life covered the period from 1760 to
1

Among the articles on Du Ponceau are the following: "A Public Discourse in Commemoration of Peter S. Du Ponceau" by Robley Dunglison delivered before the American
Philosophical Society, October 25, 1844, an( * printed by that body in that same year (also
appears in American Law Magazine, April, 1845) > a n obituary notice in the Journal of
the American Oriental Society, I (1849) \ a brief description in Life and Letters of Joseph
Story (Boston, 1851) ; A Eulogium on Chief Justice Tilghman by Du Ponceau himself
which contains much on his own life; and a brief but excellent article by Richard H.
Heindel, "Some Letters of Peter Stephen Du Ponceau," Pennsylvania History, July, 1936.
189

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1844. His autobiography printed here and in the following issues of
this magazine extends only to 1783. A brief review of his accomplishments, therefore, from 1783 to 1844 will be useful in placing the autobiography in its proper perspective.
After his short career from I 7 8 i t o i 7 8 3 a s a public servant under
Robert Livingston, Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Du Ponceau began
the study of law under William Lewis, a prominent Philadelphia
lawyer. Admitted to the bar in 1785 he rapidly became one of the
nation's most respected lawyers. In view of the fact that he was one
of the few lawyers in the country at that time who knew anything of
foreign and international law his services before the Supreme Court
of the United States were in frequent demand. The legal problems
created by the embargo, non-intercourse, British orders-in-council,
and the various decrees of Napoleon opened up a field in which he
played a very learned and capable role. His foreign clients were many
and distinguished, and he made every effort through correspondence
and exchange of books to increase the knowledge of legal practice and
theory on both sides of the Atlantic.2 Not the least of his achievements
as a lawyer was his important part in establishing in 1821 the Law
Academy of Philadelphia.
His flourishing practice as a lawyer did not prevent Du Ponceau
from spending much of his time in the study of languages, a subject
which had fascinated him since childhood. He read and spoke fluently
a number of European languages, but his outstanding philological
studies were in the American Indian, the Berber, and the Chinese
languages. He corresponded frequently with Albert Gallatin, James
Madison, Baron William von Humboldt, and others in regard to the
languages of Mexican as well as more northerly Indian nations. In
1835 he received the Volney prize of the French Institute for his
memoir on the grammatical character of certain Indian languages of
North America. Over a period of five or six years he corresponded
with William Shaler and W. B. Hodgson in Algeria, editing and publishing in 1824 a series of letters from Shaler on the language, manners, and customs of the Berbers. In 1838 appeared his Dissertation
on the Stature and Character of the Chinese System of Writing . . . ,
a book which aroused considerable controversy among international
2
See the articles by Heindel and Dunglison for more detailed discussions of his importance as an international lawyer.

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scholars and won the distinction of a forty-three page review in the
Journal zAsiatique.
The literary efforts of Du Ponceau, however, were not wholly confined to philological studies. He found time to write many articles
and pamphlets on American history, constitutional law, and scientific
subjects, and to translate foreign works on international and French
law.3 His interests were so widespread and his prominence in the
scholarly world so great that by the time of his death he had been
granted membership in twenty-three American and nineteen foreign
learned societies. Those he valued most, probably, were the American
3
An excellent list of his writings can be found in the work by Dunglison. Among the
more important ones are:
A Treatise on the Law of War, translated front the Latin of Cornelius Van Bynkershoek,
being the First Book of his Quaestiones Jurispublici, with Notes. Philadelphia, 1810.
"The Penal Code of the French Empire," in The American Review of History and
Politics, II (1811), no. 1, appendix, 1—69.
"The Commercial Code of the French Empire," ibid., II. no. 2, appendix, 91-203.
A Discourse on the Early History of Pennsylvania; . . . delivered before the American
Philosophical Society . . . (Philadelphia, 1821).
"On the Language, Manners, and Customs of the Berbers of Africa; in a Series
of Letters from W. Shaler to P. S. Du Ponceau, with an Introduction and Additions by the
latter." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. II. New Series (1824).
A Dissertation on the Nature and Extent of the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United
States . . . (Philadelphia, 1824).
"On the Reciprocal Rights of Belligerents and Neutrals, written in Italian by the Abbe
Ferdinando Galiani. Translated from the German Translation of Professor Caesar."
MS. in 2 octavo volumes.
"A Free Translation, with Additions, of M. Rayneval's Works on the same subject."
MS. in 2 octavo volumes.
A Brief View of the Constitution of the United States . . . (Philadelphia, 1834).
Memoire a Veffet de determiner le caractcre grammaticale des langues de VAmerique
Septentrionale, connues sous les noms Lenni Lenape, Mohegan Chippeway, qui a obtenu le
prix de linguistique a Vlnstitut de France, fonde par M. de Volney (Paris, 1836).
A Dissertation on the Nature and Character of the Chinese System of Writing, in a
Letter to John Vaughan, Esq. By Peter S. Du Ponceau, &c. &c; to which are subjoined, a
Vocabulary of the Cochin-Chinese Language, By Father Joseph Morrone, &c. &c, with
references to Plates containing the Characters belonging to each Word, and with Notes,
showing the degree of affinity existing between the Chinese and Cochin-Chinese Languages, and the use they respectively make of their common system of Writing, by
M. de la Palun, late Consul of France at Richmond, in Virginia; and a Cochin-Chinese and
Latin Dictionary in use among the R. C. Missions in Cochin-China. Published by the Historical and Literary Committee, by order of the American Philosophical Society (Philadelphia, 1838).
"An Historical Account of the Origin and Formation of the American Philosophical
Society, held at Philadelphia, for the Promotion of Useful Knowledge. Read before the
Society on the 19th of June, 1840." MS.

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Philosophical Society and The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He
was President of the former from 1827 and of the latter from 1837
to his death.
It was always a great satisfaction to Du Ponceau that his adopted
country had seen fit to honor him so well and so often. Almost as soon
as he arrived in this country, he considered himself not French but
American, and to the end of his life he was jealous for the cultural
advancement of the United States. Such was his enthusiasm for America that he often questioned whether an American should seek fame
outside his own country. He was half-apologetic for the honors heaped
on him by foreign nations and was never so proud of them as of the
slightest recognition by his fellow citizens. Yet he never sought political office and very seldom wrote of politics. His greatest single ambition seemed to be to force Europe to recognize the worth of American literature, science, and scholarship. He grasped every opportunity
to call attention to such matters in letters to his European correspondents and did what he could to have American books reviewed in foreign publications. His anger at English condescension towards American literature was especially great. He accused England of desiring
to hold America in a state of mental dependence4 and scoffed at the
contention that America had no literature. In a letter to John Pickering,5 May 27, 1834, he wrote, "Let the Walloon provinces of the
Netherlands and the Roman Cantons of Switzerland be contented
with being Satellites to French literature, and follow servilely that
overwhelming planet; it is well for them and they cannot help it; but
a Country like this, without which . . . the English language would
hardly be known in Europe! It is our ascendancy that has made it and
English literature spread as it has done. I can assure you that in 1776 I
was considered in Paris as a prodigy; & why, you will ask? Why; why
for no other reason, I tell you for no other reason than because / knew
the English language—'II salt PzAnglais; il salt VJtnglais? flew from
4
See his A Discourse on the Necessity and Means of Making our National Literature
independent of that of Great Britain. Delivered before the Foreign Library Society,
Philadelphia, 1834.
5
Eminent philologist and lawyer whose friendship Du Ponceau valued highly. His
principal works are Comprehensive Lexicon of the Greek Language and Vocabulary or
Collection of Words Which Have Been Supposed to be Peculiar to the United States of
America. The former was long the official Greek-English dictionary, and the latter was
the first book of Americanisms.

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mouth to mouth, and on that account, and that alone, I was thought
to be a promising lad. . . . The American Revolution alone
brought the English language into vogue, not the merit of the English writers,..."
In addition to his efforts on behalf of literature Du Ponceau gave
much time and money to the advancement of American science and
industry. His most elaborate undertaking was his attempt in the early
1830's to introduce, by act of Congress, the proper methods of raising and manufacturing silk.6 It was one of the greatest disappointments of his life that his plan was defeated.
Du Ponceau was too modest ever to admit that he had done services
to his country which justified the many honors he received. He repeated time and again his amazement that anybody should be interested in his calm and scholarly life. He saw no reason why John Pickering and Robert Walsh7 should urge him so insistently to write his
autobiography. He refused to write such a work for publication but
consented in 1836 to write an informal one for Mr. Walsh in a series
of letters. These are the letters which are printed here. The first seven
are addressed to Mr. Walsh, but after that gentleman lost interest (no
doubt because of his moving to Paris in 1837), Du Ponceau suspended
his task until a year later, and then resumed it only in answer to the
pleading of his granddaughter, Anne L. Garesche. The letters were
written over a period of several years, often with great difficulty because of Du Ponceau's advanced age. The later ones were dictated to
his granddaughter.
It is unfortunate that the letters do not progress logically and
chronologically. They are divided into two parts. The first contains
brief sketches of Du Ponceau's early life in France and a rather
detailed story of the American period from 1777 to 1783; the second
part returns to his childhood, evidently to satisfy the wish of his
granddaughter for a more detailed story of his life in France.
Copies of these letters are all to be found in the Manuscripts Depart6

See Essays on American Silk (Philadelphia, 1830), by John D'Homergue and P. S.
Du Ponceau.
7
Distinguished Philadelphia journalist and litterateur who contributed biographical
sketches to the Encyclopaedia Americana (1829-33), and the National Portrait Gallery of
Distinguished Americans (1834-39). He was editor at various times of such learned
journals as American Register, The American Review of History and Politics, and
American Quarterly Review.

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ment of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.8 A few of them have
been published before,9 but it was considered unwise to omit them
from this publication. For the sake of clarity they are printed here
complete.
The autobiography is valuable, not only because it contains the
most nearly complete and the most charming picture we have of an
important man, but also because of its keen comments on society, public figures, and problems of the day. No complete discourse on any
one subject can be found in these letters; they were not intended to
be exhaustive and are always delightfully informal. This does not detract, however, from their value. Du Ponceau, from the time he
landed in America to his death, was the friend and associate of prominent men. He observed carefully everything that went on around him
and was able, years later, to write on numerous subjects with great
wit and vigor.
The letters probably will cause no great changes in the interpretation of the events or persons mentioned, but many valuable additions
can most certainly be gained from them. His discussion of the controversial Beaumarchais affair is of note, and his description of the organization and business of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is most
valuable. It is a pity that this part was not done with more detail.
Among the most delightful sections of his letters are those which
concern such figures as Washington, Steuben, Samuel Adams, and
other Revolutionary leaders, the campaigns of the Revolution, the
8
Two copies, one of which lacks several pages, are in the Du Ponceau Papers. Neither
is the original manuscript, and one is annotated in such a way as to suggest that it was
being prepared for publication. Inasmuch as some of the notes are in the handwriting
of Edward Armstrong, the Recording Secretary of the H. S. P. in the mid-nineteenth
century, it is possible that the Society had proposed to publish these memoirs some eighty
or ninety years ago. Another copy is in the possession of Mr. Edward T. Stuart of St.
Davids, Pennsylvania. The letters composing it were found by Mr. Stuart among the
papers of the late Neville D. Tyson, Esq., whose uncle Job Roberts Tyson had collected
them with the intention of editing and publishing a life of Du Ponceau. Possibly Tyson
assembled the letters while preparing his memoir of Du Ponceau read before the Historical Society in April, 1855. The text of all three copies of Du Ponceau's autobiography
varies in minor points only, and in all probability all stem from the same source. Apparently the Tyson copy is the earliest, however, and it is entirely possible that the two
copies in the Historical Society were made from it. Mr. Stuart has very graciously given
the Society permission to have this volume copied for publication in the Pennsylvania
Magazine of History and Biography, and the memoirs as printed in this and succeeding
issues of the magazine have been transcribed verbatim et literatim from this copy.
9
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, X L (1916), 172-86.

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winter at Valley Forge, and the polished society of Philadelphia. All
these may be read with interest and profit. But according to the present writer, the most valuable addition to historical knowledge to be
found in the letters is the evidence of the advance of French culture
in the United States. Du Ponceau, without being self-conscious at all,
makes it quite evident that the romantic friendship between France and
America during these years was not without effect. French books were
read, French manufactured articles were bought, and French gentlemen were received into society. English habits of life were not displaced, but society and culture took on, certainly for a few years, a
decidedly French flavor. Some of it disappeared in later years when
France was less well-loved, but the customs and fashions taken up
during the period when all things French were seen "couleur de rose"
could not completely disappear. Du Ponceau himself, with all his
Americanism, could not have made them vanish if he had wished it.
A great deal of study would be necessary to estimate the exact influence of this French culture on America, but these letters undoubtedly form one of the important sources for the solution of such a
problem.
University of "Pennsylvania
JAMES L. W H I T E HEAD
TO R. W. ESQ.

Philadelphia 12th. May 1836.
My dear Sir.
I have received your favour of yesterday. I feel very awkward,
indeed, at complying with your request, as I see nothing in my simple
history worth your notice, and I shudder at the idea of being thought
vain enough to think otherwise. I shall, however, endeavour to satisfy you.
I was born on the 3rd of June 1760 at the town of S\ Martin's in
the Isle of Re (some write it Rhe) on the western coast of France
where my father held a military command. I do not remember learning to read; all my recollection of my studies before the age of six
years is having learned almost entirely by heart a Latin and French
vocabulary, which I found of great use in the sequel. At six years, I
was put to an excellent grammer school, and was aided at home by
private teachers.
At six years my fondness for languages began to develope itself.
I studied the Latin with great diligence. One day, I met accidently an

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English Grammer at a neighbour's house. Child-like, I was delighted
with the letters K and W, which my my [sic] eyes had not been accustomed to see. I took the book home and began to study the English
language. My progress was rapid. There were English and Irish families in the town, and the Irish regiment of Clare and afterwards that
of Walsh were quartered there. I had a good ear and flexible organs.
I soon spoke good English, and became a perfect Jtnglomaine. I devoured Milton, Thomson, Young, Pope, Shakspeare [sic], and so
neglected the French poets that I must acknowledge that to this day,
I have read but few of the Tragedies of Corneille, Racine and Voltaire.
The English haut gout had spoiled me from them. I also wrote English correctly. I have English verses (bad enough to be sure) but
which were addressed to me from Rochelle by a young Englishman
when I was but twelve years of age. I learned a great deal of English
poetry by heart, much of which I retain to this day. About this time
I learned Italian in the same manner from the officers of an Italian
regiment quartered in our town.
At 13 I was sent to a college of Benedictine Monks at S\ Jean
d'Angely. I had so profited by my studies at home, that I was immediately placed in a class of Philosophy, and when the theses were publicly maintained at the end of the classical year, I obtained all the
premiums. The fact is that I studied my lessons very little; I could
not bear arguments given to me cut and dry. I argued exabundantia;
and that was the cause of my success, while the other students, like
parrots, repeated what they had committed to memory. But I still
pursued my English studies, I never was without an English Classic
in my pocket, and I was nicknamed VJtnglois.
I staid but 18 months at that College, I got tired of it and went
home. I did not like all the Scholastic Philosophy that was taught
there. In the interval my father had died, my mother wanted me to
be a Catholic Priest, which went very much against the grain, as I had
imbibed in my Island (the population of which is half protestant) the
principles of the Reformation, I was, however, forced to submit. I
took the tonsure and became Monsieur L'Abbe. The Bishop of La
Rochelle who was a friend to our family, sent me as a Regent to his
Episcopal College at Bressuire in Poitu, where at the age of 15 I had
a class of scholars whom I instructed in the rudiments of the Latin

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tongue. M r . Andrew Rodrigue, a respectable inhabitant and merchant
of this city,10 was then a student at that College and well remembers
me there. This was about November 1775 ; but the other Regents who
were men 24 or 25 years old, and miserable Pedants, as I remember,
were jealous of me, because, in consequence of my being of a good
family and patronized by the Bishop, I was treated by the principal
with greater attention than they were; they called me Qentil hommey
Has "Breton: they excited their boys to pelt me with apples, and to
worry me in every manner that they could; until at last life became to
me intolerable and I determined to break the J^illiputian ties. On the
25th December (being Christmas day) leaving all my baggage behind, I sallied out at day break, with the Paradise lost [sic] in one
pocket, and a clean shirt in the other, and bravely took my way on foot
towards the great Capital where I arrived in the beginning of January following with the firm resolution of depending from that
moment on my own exertions alone for subsistence and for whatever
fortune might await me.
I stop here for the present, my subsequent adventures will be the
subject of another letter.
I am very sincerely
yours.
Philadelphia 13th. May 1836
My dear Sir.
Behold me now in Paris at the age of fifteen with a light heart, and
a still lighter purse, but I was full of hope, I had buoyant spirits and
saw every thing couleur de rose.
My father something less than two years before had died at Versailles where he was soliciting a place of Lieutenant Governor which
had been promised to him, and which, when he died, he was on the
point of obtaining. I knew he had there many respectable friends.
To Versailles, then, I went, and was very well received by my
father's acquaintances. Among others I found the Baron de Montmorency, who was then Governor of my province and knew my family.
He treated me very kindly tho' he did not approve of my escapade. I
10
Listed in the Philadelphia Directories from 1813-1829 as merchant, "N. W. Cor. 7th
& Walnut"; after 1830 as "gent. 316 Chestnut."

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found several patrons, disposed to serve me 5 I wished to obtain a
Clerkship in one of the departments and should have succeeded, but
for my impatience, and utter ignorance of the world. I wrote a most
foolish letter to Mons. de Sartine the secretary of the navy, complaining in no measured terms of the delay of my appointment and throwing the fault upon his secretary, who was very much incensed so that,
instead of the place I expected, I received a threat of the Bastile which
brought me to my senses, but unfortunately too late. I had myself
closed the door which was opening for my reception.
Disappointed and disgusted, I left Versailles and returned to Paris,
well provided with letters from my father's friends. Among other
persons to whom I was introduced was the Count de Genlis, the husband of the celebrated writer.11 He had been at the Isle of Rhe and
knew my family. He received me like a true Courtier. He was the
intimate friend of the Duke of Orleans and lodged in his palace. One
day he told me that the prince wished to have an English and French
vocabulary of the words and phrases of the Chace [sic], with dialogues, &c. The subject was new to me, but what will not necessity and
industry do? I undertook, and with great labour produced, the work
which the prince was so much pleased with, that I had the pleasure to
see my manuscript in his library, elangtly [sic] bound in red Morocco,
with gilt edges. I had been promised a handsome reward; but when
afterwards I modestly hinted to Mons Genlis something about a compensation, his answer was: J^es princes ne donnent rien. Had I been
asking for an alms I could not have been answered otherwise. He was
guillotined in 1793 with Brissot12 and others of his colleagues. I did
not wish him so severe a punishment.
It is said of him that when he went to the scaffold, he bowed to
every body that he saw and that his looks seemed to say: "If where
Pm going, I could serve you, Sir!" This is a true picture of his character.
I had enough of ministers and courtiers. I returned to men of letters
who after all shewed themselves my best friends. My knowledge of
the English language was of great use to me. Very few Frenchmen
n
M m e . Stephanie-Felicite de Genlis (1746-1830), tutor of the children of the Duke
of Orleans.
12
Jean-Pierre Brissot de Warville (1754-1793), a member of the Girond; known
chiefly in the United States for his account of travels in America.

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at that time were familiar with this language. I had become acquainted
with M. Capperonnier, the chief librarian of the Bibliotheque Royale,
rue Richelieu. His wife was an English woman who was well pleased
to converse with me; to [with? ] M le Tourneur the French Translator of Young's Night Thoughts and of Shakspeare, I was surprised to
find that he could not speak a single word of English, nor understood
one word of it when spoken. He immediately gave me employment
for which I was reasonably compensated. Thus I made a decent living
by my pen, which was all I wanted. This lasted, however, only a few
months, I became acquainted with the celebrated Philologist Count
[Court] de Gebelin whose reputation stood very high in Europe.
He offered to take me as his secretary, which I joyfully accepted, I
remained with him until my departure for this country, the occasion
of which I am going to relate.
Among the houses which I frequented at Paris was that of the well
known Mons Beaumarchais, there I became acquainted with Baron
Steuben,13 who was preparing to come to America. He wanted a secretary who could speak and write the English language. He found
that I suited him. Our arrangements were soon made. We sailed together from Marseilles, and landed at Portsmouth in New Hampshire on the Ist. of December 1777. so that on the first of December of
next year I shall have resided full sixty years in the United States.
Being now safely landed I take leave of you for the present and
remain very sincerely
your friend and humble servant.
My dear Sir.
I have received your favour of the 15th. I am much flattered by the
interest you take in my insignificant adventures. Since you encourage
me to proceed I shall satisfy you as well as I can, and endeavour to
make up by occasional anecdotes for the dullness of the narrative.
Baron Steuben had been told while in France that the colours of the
British uniform had been adopted by the American Army, so that both
he and I arrived here in Scarlet Regimentals turned up with blue, and
were at first taken for enemies, but we soon shewed we were friends.
I was in such spirits when I landed in my fine red coat, that I laid a
13

Steuben made the house of the dramatist Beaumarchais his headquarters while in
Paris. See J. McA. Palmer, General Von Steuben (New Haven, 1937), 89.

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wager with one of the passengers that I would kiss the first female
that I should meet on the shore. It was a handsome young girl clad
in a scarlet cloak: I marched up to her politely, told her the wager I
had laid, expressing a hope that she would not suffer me to lose it.
To my great astonishment she yielded with a good grace, and I triumphantly pocketed the money I had so agreeably won. Thus I was
first wedded to this country. I learned afterwards at Boston that
saluting the ladies, as it was called, was not then considered in the
same light that it is at present, and that not many years before it was
the custom to salute a lady, old or young, on being introduced to her.
That fashion, however, was then much on the decline, yet I well remember that in the following year, on taking leave of a lady in New
Jersey at whose house I had been kindly entertained, and where I was
in a manner domesticated, she told me at parting, "Sir, you forget the
custom of this country." "And pray, madam, what is it?" "Sir" said
she, pointing to two handsome girls, her nieces, "our custom is to
salute the young ladies on taking leave of them." I did not wait for a
second invitation. Not many years ago, I met at a friend's house in N.
York one of those identical nieces (now an old lady) and tried to remind her of the circumstance, but she had entirely forgotten it.
These blessed times are no more. Well might M r . Hamilton say
that the nation has degenerated since the period of the revolution.
I hope you will excuse this trifling. I am not writing for the public, I am only trying to make my little history agreeable to you. Besides
I love to remember those times, suffer me then to live them, for a
moment, over again.
I can say with great truth that I felt myself at home from the first
moment I landed in America. The language was familiar to me, I
was only astonished to find the milkmaids as learned in it as I was.
My astonishment would hardly have been greater if they had spoken
Greek or Latin. As the Baron could not speak one word of English,
I accompanied him every where, and thus I was thrown at once into
the first company in the land. I was pleased with every thing around
me. We ate our first dinner at Governor Langdon's,14 and there we
heard for the first time of the capture of General Burgoyne and his
whole army. We hailed it as an omen of future success.
14

John Langdon, president of New Hampshire, 1785 and 1788; governor, 1805—1809,
1810.

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We staid about ten days at Portsmouth, and then went to Boston,
where we staid one month. There I became acquainted with John
Hancock, Samuel Adams, and other worthies of the revolution, who
are known to you only from history. I was then a stern Republican;
I had been so from the first moment when I began to reflect. I shall
never forget the compliment paid me by Samuel Adams on his discovering my Republican principles. "Where," said he to me, "did you
learn all that?" "In France," replied I. "In France! that is impossible." Then, recovering himself, he added, "Well, because a man was
born in a stable, it is no reason why he should be a horse." I thought
to myself, that in matters of compliment they ordered these things
better in France.
Speaking of Samuel Adams I remember something of him that
let me into the little jealousies that then existed between some of the
great men of the day. I sat next to him at a dinner given by Govr.
Hancock to Baron Steuben, and happened, by mistake, to call him
M r . John Adams. "Sir," said he, looking sternly at me, "I would
have you know that there is a very great difference between M r .
Samuel Adams (striking his breast and laying a strong emphasis on the
word Samuel) and M r . John Adams." I was afterwards on my guard
addressing people by their Christian names.
Here end my recollections of Boston, and here also my third page
is nearly ended. I shall mount my horse and proceed farther in my
next letter. I am very sincerely
your friend and humble servant
Philadelphia 23rd. May 1836.
My dear Sir.
I find I am growing diffuse, but I cannot help it j recollections crowd
upon me, and they are the recollections of youthful days.
We left Boston on the 14th January 1778 on our way to York
Town,15 where then sat the Congress of the U. States. Our party consisted of Baron Steuben and his servant Carl a young lad, whom he
had brought from Germany, M r . De Francy, an agent of Beaumarchais, and myself. We travelled on horseback, I must not forget
the Baron's dog Azor, the only pedestrian among us. He was a beautiful Italian grey hound who had an excellent ear for music. Bad singing
15

York, Pennsylvania.

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set him howling and barking, while he listened with apparent pleasure
to a good song. He was particularly averse to the gammut, which Captain Landais,16 the Commander of the vessel in which we came over
from France, executed every day, by way of musical exercise, in horrid
taste. The dog compelled him at last to put a stop to his practising.
Notwithstanding the recent capture of Gtn\ Burgoyne, the situation of the United States at that time was extremely critical. The
enemy was in possession of Rhode Island, New York and Philadelphia, with well organized and disciplined troops, far superior in number to our own. Our army (if army it might be called) were encamped
at Valley Forge, in the depth of a severe winter, without provisions,
without clothes, without regular discipline, destitute, in short, of every
thing but courage and patriotism, and what was worse than all disaffection was spreading through the land. In this dismal state of things
the Baron was advised to keep as far from the coast as possible, lest
he should be surprised by parties of the enemy or by the tories, who
made frequent incursions into the country between ^New York and
Philadelphia. We, therefore, shaped our course westwardly, and
crossing the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, N. York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania we employed three weeks in a journey which,
at present, would hardly require as many days. In the course of that
journey we met with few adventures. I shall relate one or two to show
the spirit and the manners of the times.
We had been cautioned against putting up at a certain tavern in
Worcester county Massachusetts, not far from the frontier of Connecticut. We were told that the landlord was a bitter Tory, and that
he would refuse to receive us, or at least treat us very ill. We determined to avoid that place if possible. Unfortunately when we were
at some distance from it, we were surprized by a violent snow storm;
it was in the evening, and we were compelled to take shelter in the
very house we wished to avoid. We had not been misinformed. The
land-lord at once said that he could not accomodate us. He had no
beds, no bread, no meat, no drink, no milk, no eggs; all that he could
offer us was the bare walls. In vain we remonstrated arid prayed, he
16
Landais was the captain of the frigate UHeureux, masquerading on this voyage as
Le Flamand, a merchantman bound for the West Indies. He was experienced in the navigation of American waters and had been a member of the expedition which circumnavigated
the globe under the leadership of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville in 1766-1769.

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remained inflexible: at last, Steuben grew impatient and flew into a
violent passion. After exhausting all his store of German oaths he
called in that language to his servant to bring his pistols, which he did.
Then the Baron, presenting the deadly weapons at the affrighted
land-lord, repeated the questions that he had in vain asked before,
"Have you any bread, meat, drink, beds &c?" The answers were such
now as we desired; we were accomodated with good beds and a good
supper, and our horses were properly taken care of. In the morning
after breakfast, we politely took leave of our host, who, though a Tory,
did not refuse the Continental money in which we liberally paid him.
Another anecdote, which I now recollect, is strongly characteristic
of the patriarchal manners of those times. As we passed through the
state of Connecticut, we put up one night at a house, where, for some
reason that I do not remember, we were all obliged to sleep on the
floor in the same room with the family, some on feather beds, and some
on blankets 5 men, women and children had all to bundle together, as
it was called. The bedding was spread all around the room, and every
one took his place, and went very composedly to sleep. The utmost
decency was observed, though no fuss was made about it. There was so
much innocence and simplicity in the manner in which these arrangements were prepared and made, that the idea of indelicacy did not
even occur to us, and if in the morning we indulged in a smile at manners to which we were so little accustomed, nothing was said or thought
to the prejudice of the morality of the good people who had entertained us in the best manner that they were able.
I doubt whether our manners are now more pure at present than
they were at the time when it was the fashion to salute the young
ladies, or when families bundled together with strangers in the same
room. The customs of nations are not always a safe criterion by which
to judge of their morality. This reminds me of an anecdote which I
think will not be, here, inappropriate. One evening at an Inn in Virginia, a Frenchman and a Virginian were discussing about the manners of their respective countries. The American exclaimed violently
against the horrid custom of the French of kissing one another at
meeting and parting. The Frenchman made no answer, but as it was
late, he took his candle and went up to bed. He was soon followed by
the Virginian who after undressing came to take his place in the same

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bed with his companion "Stop, Sir," said the Frenchman, "that won't
do—I shall kiss you as much as you please, but by Jupiter, I'll not
sleep with you."
I have done with my anecdotes. We arrived at York Town on the
5th of February, where I shall rest for the present.
Sincerely yours
Philadelphia 3rd. June 1836
My dear Sir,
This day I complete my seventy-sixth year. At the rate I am going
on, I have but little time to finish what I have begun, but I shall, by
and bye, quicken my pace. The times I am speaking of are too interesting to go over them cursorily. Leaving the future to provide for
itself, I shall, in my own way, proceed with my narrative.
On my arrival at York Town, I learned that General Ducoudray,
whom, I had known at Paris, had been drowned in attempting to cross
the river Schuylkill. I learned also that General Conway, whom I
had known at the Isle of Re, where he was major of the regiment of
Clare, had gone to Albany, to meet General Lafayette, on an intended
expedition against Canada. This was the friend of my infancy; with
him I first lisped my imperfect English accents. I heard since to my
sorrow, that he was deeply engaged in a conspiracy to deprive Washington of his command. The plot was fortunately discovered and successfully counteracted in consequence of which he never since that
time (at least, to my knowledge) made his appearance at head quarters. He afterwards returned to France without my having had an opportunity to see him.
If I was disappointed in not meeting my former acquaintances, it
was my good fortune to make new ones which, in the course of my
life, proved most valuable to me. Among those I am proud to name
Henry Laurens, then President of Congress, who was to me as a
father, by the excellent advice he gave to me, as well verbally as by
letters, after we separated, and the venerable Bishop White, now the
only surviving witness of my proficiency in the English language at
the time of my arrival.17 I cannot forbear naming also M r . Thomas
M'Kean, since Governor of Pennsylvania, M r . Richard Peters, our
late lamented district Judge, then a member of the Board of War, and
17

Bishop William White died July 17, 1836.

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M r . James Lovell,18 a delegate from Massachusetts, a man of great
erudition and profound learning. To the patronage of these three
gentlemen I am indebted for my advancement in life at a subsequent
period, and the obligations I owe to them shall never be erased from
my memory.
The Congress of the United States were not, at that time, the illustrious body, whose eloquence and wisdom, whose stern virtues and
unflinching patriotism had astonished the world. Their number was
reduced to about one half of what it was when Independence was Declared ; all but a few of the men of superior minds had disappeared
from it. Their measures were feeble and vacillating, and their party
feuds seemed to forebode some impending calamity. The enemy were
in possession of our capital city ; the army we had to oppose to them
were hungry, naked and destitute of every thing. No foreign government had yet acknowledged our Independence; every thing around us
was dark and gloomy; the only ray of light which appeared amidst the
darkness, was the capture of Burgoyne,19 which cheered the spirit of
those who might otherwise have despaired of the Commonwealth.
But that brilliant victory had like to have produced most fatal consequences, General Gates became the hero of the day. Saratoga was
then, what New Orleans has been since, the watch-word of the discontented. A party was formed even in Congress, to raise the conqueror of Burgoyne to the supreme command of our armies. But the
great figure of Washington stood calm and serene at his camp at Valley
Forge, and struck the conspirators with awe. With the exception of a
few factious chiefs, he was idolized by the army and by the nation at
large; the plot was discovered and the plan frustrated without a
struggle. Without any effort or management on his part, and by the
mere force of his character, Washington stood firm and undaunted in
the midst of his enemies, and, I might almost say, looked them into
silence.
Such was the state of things when I arrived at York Town. Parties
were then at their height; but as Congress sat with closed doors the
country at large was not agitated as it would otherwise have been.
There were not wanting out of doors disaffected persons, who railed
at King Cong and the Bunch of Kings (such was the slang of the day
18
19

See Dictionary of American Biography, XI. 438.
Burgoyne surrendered October 17, 1777.

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among the Tories) but the great mass of the people were still in favour
of the Revolution, and the press did not dare to utter a sentiment
inimical to it.
I did not make these reflections at the time; I was then too young to
reflect j but I heard and saw a great deal, and my memory coming in
aid of my more mature judgment, has enabled me to draw a picture
which, I believe, is not far distant from the truth.
The fame of Baron Steuben had preceded him to York Town. He
was welcomed and courted by all; and I well remember that General
Gates in particular paid him the most assiduous court, and even invited him to make his house his home which he prudently declined.
Congress appointed a Committee to confer with him on the subject
of his pretensions, and were not a little surprised when he told them
that all his ambition was to serve as a volunteer in their army.20 All
the favour he asked was that his two attendants, Depontiere21 and
myself should have the rank of Captain which was immediately
granted. On the 18th of February I was appointed a Captain by brevet
in the army of the United States, and the next day we departed from
York Town for the camp at Valley Forge.
I am, very sincerely
Yours &c
Philadelphia 13th June 1836
My dear Sir.
On our journey to Valley Forge we passed through Lancaster then
considered the largest inland town in the United States. Having arrived there early in the afternoon the Baron was waited upon by
Colonel Gibson22 and other gentlemen who invited him and his
family to a subscription ball to take place that evening. The Baron ac20
Because of the animosity current against the foreign adventurers w h o w e r e serving
in the Continental Army it h a d been decided, possibly in Paris, that Steuben should avoid
the appearance of being a fortune hunter interested only in the monetary r e w a r d the sale
of his services might produce, but on the contrary he should demand neither honors nor
emoluments until his sponsors considered a time favorable for the advancement of such
requests had arrived.
21
Louis de Pontiere.
22
Possibly George Gibson (1747-1791) a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. H e served
with Lee and Washington in N e w York and N e w Jersey in 1777-78 with the rank of
colonel. In 1779 he w a s placed in charge of the American prison camp at York. See
Dictionary of American Biography, VII. 253.

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cepted and we accordingly went. There we saw assembled all the
fashion and beauty of Lancaster and its vicinity. The Baron was delighted to converse with the German girls in his native tongue. There
was a handsome supper, and the company did not separate until two
o'clock the next morning.
From Lancaster we proceeded directly to Valley Forge, where we
arrived on the 23rd. of February. On the next day I had the honour
of being presented to General Washington and to dine with him that
day and the next. He received the Baron with great cordiality, and
to me he showed much condescending attention. I cannot describe
the impression that the first sight of that great man made upon me. I
could not keep my eyes from that imposing countenance, grave yet
not severe: affable without familiarity. Its predominant expression
was calm dignity through which you could trace the strong feelings
of the patriot and discern the father, as well as, the commander of his
soldiers. I have never seen a picture that represents him to me as I
saw him at Valley Forge, and during the campaigns in_ which I had
the honour to follow him. Perhaps that expression was beyond the
skill of the painter, but while I live it will remain impressed on my
memory. I had frequent opportunities of seeing him as it was my duty
to accompany the Baron when he dined with him, which was sometimes twice or thrice in the same week. We visited him also in the evening when Mrs. Washington was at Head-Quarters. We were in a
manner domesticated in the family.
General Washington had three aids 5 Tench Tilghman, John Laurens, and Alexander Hamilton; Robert Hanson Harrison was his
secretary. I soon formed a friendship with Laurens, and Hamilton,23
as well as with Major Monroe then Aid-de-Camp to Lord Sterling
[sic], and since President of the United States. With Harrison and
Tilghman I had but a common acquaintance. Laurens was master of
several languages. I have a letter from him in Latin, Greek, English
French and Spanish. With Monroe I corresponded almost daily, although our quarters were little distant from each other. After his
elevation to the Presidency he wrote me a long letter expressive of
his remembrance of our former friendship. Had I been ambitious of
23
John Laurens and Alexander Hamilton, both of whom spoke French, were designated
by Washington to assist Steuben.

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places here was a fine opportunity afforded me to obtain that end, but
I preferred my Independence, and suffered that opportunity to pass
unimproved.
The situation of our army during the dismal winter that we spent
at Valley Forge has been so oftened [sic] described, and by none in
more vivid colours than by Washington himself in his letters written
at that time, and which may be seen in M r . Spark's collection,24 that
I shall forbear to expatiate upon the subject. Suffice it to say that we
were in want of provisions, of clothes, of fodder for our horses, in
short of every thing. I remember seeing the soldiers popping their
heads out of their miserable huts, and calling out in an under tone
"No bread, no soldier." Their condition was truly pitiful and their
courage and perseverance beyond all praise.
We who lived in good quarters did not feel the misery of the times
so much as the common soldiers and the subaltern officers, yet we had
more than once to share our rations with the sentry at our door. We put
the best face we could upon the matter. Once with the Baron's permission, his aids invited a number of young officers to dine at our quarters,
on condition that none should be admitted that had on a whole pair
of breeches. This was understood of course, as pars pro toto} but torn
clothes were an indispensable requisite for admission and in this the
guests were very sure not to fail. The dinner took place; the guests
clubbed their rations, and we feasted sumptuously on tough beef steaks
and potatoes with hickory nuts for our dessert. In lieu of wine, we had
some kind of spirits with which we made Salamanders; that is to say,
after filling our glasses, we set the liquor on fire, and drank it up flame
and all. Such a set of ragged and, at the same time, merry fellows were
never before brought together. The Baron loved to speak of that
dinner, and of his sans culottes as he called us. Thus the denomination
was first invented in America, and applied to the brave officers and
soldiers of our revolutionary army, at a time when, it could not be
foreseen, that the name which honoured the followers of Washington
would afterwards be assumed by the satellites of a Marat and a Robespierre.
In the midst of all our distress there were some bright sides to the
24
The Writings of George Washington; Being His Correspondence, Addresses, Messages, and other Papers . . . edited by Jared Sparks (Boston, 1834-1838).

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picture which Valley Forge exhibited at that time. Mra. Washington
had the courage to follow her husband in that dismal abode; other
ladies also graced the scene. Among them was the lady of General
Greene, a handsome, elegant and accomplished woman. Her dwelling
was the resort of the foreign officers because she understood and spoke
the French language and was well versed in French literature. There
were also Lady Stirling, the wife of Major General Lord Stirling,
her daughter Lady Kitty Alexander who afterwards married M r .
William Duer of New York, and her companion Miss Nancy Brown
then a distinguished belle; there was Mrs. Biddle the wife of Colonel
Clement Biddle, who was at the head of the forage department, and
some other ladies whose names I do not at present recollect. They
often met at each other's quarters and sometimes at General Washington's where the evening was spent in conversation over a dish of tea
or coffee. There were no levees or formal soirees: no dancing, cardplaying or amusements of any kind except singing. Every gentleman
or lady who could sing was called upon in turn for a song. As I had a
tolerable voice, and some knowledge of music, I found myself of
consequence in those reunions. I soon learned the favourite English
songs, and contributed my share to the pleasures of the company.
Thus the time passed until the beginning of May, when the news of
the French alliance burst suddenly upon us.25 Then the public distress
was forgotten amidst the universal joy, I shall never forget that
glorious time; I was not yet an American; I was proud of being a
Frenchman. Rejoicings took place throughout the army, dinners,
toasts, songs, feux de joie> and what not. I thought I should be devoured by the caresses which the American officers lavished upon me
as one of their new allies. Wherever a French officer appeared he was
met with congratulations and with smiles. O that was a delightful
time! It bound me for ever to the country of my adoption.
The six weeks that elapsed after the reception of this news, passed
amidst the dreams and the hopes of future triumphs. The British
evacuated Philadelphia on the 18 th of June, and I entered it on the
same day.
While we were at Valley Forge Baron Steuben was appointed a
25
The official confirmation of this alliance was received at Washington's headquarters
on May 5, 1778.

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Major General and Inspector General of the armies of the United
States. To the Post of his secretary, which I then held, he was pleased
to add that of his aid-de-camp, which gave me by courtesy the rank
of major, which I preserved until I quitted the military service.
I remain very sincerely
your friend and humble servant
Philadelphia 24th June 1836
My dear Sir.
I forgot to mention in my last letter that it was at Valley Forge
that I became acquainted with General Lafayette on his return from
Albany, the intended expedition against Canada not having taken
place. He shewed from the first much partiality to me, which afterwards ripened into a friendship that ceased but with his life.
I ought also to have mentioned that before we left Valley Forge
the Baron took another aid-de-camp into his family. It was Captain
Benjamin Walker, who afterwards was aid to General Washington.
He was an Englishman by birth, and had been brought up for the
Counting house. He had not received a brilliant but a solid education;
he was master of the French language and was gifted by nature with
a clear head and a sound judgment. He was brave, intelligent, honest
and true. I enjoyed his friendship to the time of his death. The Baron
was very much attached to him, and left him heir to one half of his
property. He died at Utica some years afterwards, beloved and respected by all who knew him.
While I am on the subject of this gentleman, I must relate an anecdote which happened while he was in the family of General Washington, and which is strongly descriptive of his honest heart. He had long
been engaged to a Quaker young lady who resided in the state of New
York and whom he afterwards married. He once asked the General to
give him leave of absence for a few days to go and see her. The General told him that he could not at that time dispense with his services.
Walker insisted, begged, entreated; but all in vain. "If I don't go,"
said he, "she will die." "Oh! no," said Washington, "women do not
die for such trifles." "But General, what shall I do? what would you
do?" "Why, write to her to add another leaf to the book of sufferings."
This was related to me by Walker himself. General Washington had

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a great deal of that dry humour which he knew how to make use of on
proper occasions. But I must return to my narrative.
On my way from Valley Forge to Philadelphia I met with two little
adventures which are of no other importance than as they shew the
feelings which prevailed at that time among the different classes of
society. It may not be out of place to relate them.
Baron Steuben and the rest of his family had preceded me into the
city, leaving a direction with me where to find them. As I was riding
along, I was met by an old Quaker who was travelling the opposite
way, and who, as he passed me, asked whether I was going into Philadelphia? I answered him affirmatively. "Ah!" said he, "if uncle Howe
was still there, thee would not be going so fast." I made no reply and
proceeded on my way.
The Quakers were at that time strongly opposed to the Revolution, as they are to every thing that is to be effected by violence j They
were as much opposed to fighting the French in 1756 as the English in
1778. That arose from the predominancy in their minds of religious
principles, and they were not on that account the less attached to their
country.
Very different was the greeting I received from a farmer's wife,
at whose house I stopped a few miles farther [on], to refresh myself,
the weather being excessively warm. She no sooner discovered that
I was a native of France than she and her family broke out into the
warmest expressions of kindness and gratitude. "And is it possible"
said she "that you have come all this way to fight our battles?" Every
thing they had to give was offered to me, and no compensation was
even thought of. Too much could not be done, she said, for our good
friends and allies. I left the house with the blessings and the kind
wishes of that excellent family.
The first observation I made on entering Philadelphia, was that the
city had been left by the British and Hessians in the most filthy condition. I joined Baron Steuben at the State House in Second St, the
celebrated boarding house so much spoken of in Graydon's memoirs.26
Such was the filth of the city that it was impossible for us to drink a
comfortable dish of tea that evening. As fast as our cups were filled
26

Memoirs of a Life Chiefly Passed in Pennsylvania within the Last Sixty Years. . . .

B y Alexander Graydon (Harrisburgh, 1811).

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myriads of flies took possession of them, and served us as the harpies
did the poor Trojans in the Eneid [sic]. Some said they were Hessian
flies, and various other jokes were cracked on the occasion, for the
evacuation of the city had put us all in good spirits and we enjoyed
ourselves very well, the filth notwithstanding.
The next day a house was provided for us in New Street where we
staid but a few days, being anxious to join the army. That quarter of
the city was then inhabited almost entirely by Germans; hardly any
other language than the German was heard in the streets or seen on
the signs in front of the shops so that Baron Steuben fancied himself
again in his native country.
A great number of the inns in town and country bore the sign of
the King of Prussia who was still very popular among the Germans.
I remember that at Manheim, a town in the interior of this state
through which we passed on our way from Boston to York Town the
Baron with a significant look pointed out to me at the tavern where
we dined, a paltry engraving, hung up on the wall, on which was represented a Prussian knocking down a Frenchman in great style Underneath was the following appropriate motto:
Franz mann zu Preuser wie eine miicke
A Frenchman to a Prussian is no more than a moscheto

The good Baron appeared to enjoy that picture exceedingly, and [so]
no doubt did the German landlord to whom it belonged. We were not,
however, captivated with the delights of Capua. We bade adieu to
Philadelphia and all its German attractions and joined General Washington's army in New Jersey, a few days before the battle of Monmouth, which, owing to well known circumstances, turned out to us
a fruitless victory. We followed the army to Paramus and the White
Plains. In the month of August I accompanied the Baron to Philadelphia where he came to solicit the command of a division of the army
which could not be granted to him;27 but Congress to soothe his feelings ordered him to repair to Rhode Island to aid with his advice General Sullivan who, in concert with the French fleet under the command
27
Von Steuben had become dissatisfied with the rather anomalous position of Inspector
General and the conflicting jurisdictions arising therefrom. As a result he was anxious to
obtain a regular command.

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of Count d'Estaing, was besieging Newport then in the possession of
the enemy. We proceeded accordingly to the Northward, but did not
stay long there, having heard by the way, that, owing to a misunderstanding between the allied chiefs, the siege of Rhode Island had been
raised.28 After a short stay, therefore, we returned to the main army
where we remained until the winter, when we came again to Philadelphia, for reasons which will be explained in my next letter.
During that campaign I wrote a great many letters to my correspondents in France. Some of them fell into the hands of the enemy
who published them with notes at New York in Rivingston [sic] Royal
Gazette.29 In one of those letters I gave General Washington the
28
Actually Washington ordered his return, considering the sending of advice to Sullivan his business not that of Congress.
29
The extract from Rivington's Royal Gazette, New York, 28 t h October 1778, referred
to above follows:
The Printer is favoured with the following extract translated from the original left in
his possession. The letter is directed to Madame Du Ponceau, at S1. Martin Isle of Rhe,
and dated Philadelphia, the 23 d . of August 1778.
"You cannot be ignorant that the enemy have evacuated this City ever since the 18 t h
June, after having had it in possession near nine months. You must also know, I imagine,
of the arrival of Mons. Gerard, Minister Plenipotentiary of the King, and of that of the
fleet, under Mons. Le Comte D'Estaing, upon this coast. These are old, but I am now
going to give you some fresh advices, which I have not heard till this day, though I am
in the capital of the American Empire. T h e English having abandoned Philadelphia,
there remains with them no other part in the united states than the city, and the islands
of New-York, and Rhode-Island. Our principal army consists of 20, to 25,000 men, encamped ten leagues from New-York, at a place called the White-Plains, where General
Gates's army have been encamped ever since the capture of Gen. Burgoyne. It is now
joined to that of M r . Washington. T h e arrival of the French fleet suggested an idea
of an enterprize against Rhode-Island, defended only by 3000 English. General Sullivan
was detached at the head of some thousand men, to whom the militia of the northern
provinces being joined, there were 11000 without reckoning a number of volunteers, among
whom were M r . Hancock, formerly president of the Congress, and the Marquis de la
Fayette. T h e 9 t h . of this month w a s fixed upon for the descent of our troops, and the
French troops which are in the fleet, to the number of 5000 men, were to support them in
the morning of the 10 th . M r . Sullivan made good his landing on the 9 th , but on the morrow
morning, as Monsieur d' Estaing was going to disembark his troops, the English fleet appeared before ours, who were ranged in a line of battle, which Admiral Howe perceiving
pushed off to sea and Mons. d'Estaing pursued him. This news alarmed us much. It was imagined that the English would amuse our fleet until a superior English fleet came to join
them and make our enterprize fail. W e have been in suspense until this day, when Mons.
Gerard informed us, that the English fleet have been entirely defeated by ours, and that
Mons. D'Estaing has taken a ship of the line of 74 guns & six others of a lesser size. Besides,
M r . Sullivan writes that he is within gun-shot of the English, and that he reckons speedily

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praise he deserved, and that letter came under his notice. The Baron
told me that the General was very angry with me for presuming to
write on the affairs of this country; but I saw nothing in his conduct
to me that denoted anger; he always shewed me the same affability
and the same kindness.
The Baron watched over me with a father's care. He well knew
the dangers to which an inexperienced young man was exposed in this
land of liberty, and took pains to guard me against them. "If," said
he once to me, not long after our arrival in this country "if you write
in the news-papers or get married I will renounce you." This fatherly
advice made a strong impression on my mind, and was a salutary
check to me on more than one occasion.
I am very sincerely
Yours, &c.
TO MISS ANNE L. GARESCHE

Philadelphia 27th August 1837
My dear Anna.
You are pressing me every day to continue my letters to M r . W.
which have been discontinued for more than a twelve-month. On the
other hand my friend Pickering at Boston and some other friends in
this city, are urging me to write my Autobiography. Autobiography,
indeed! who will care for it, except yourself, and a few intimate
friends? I am not vain enough to think that my memory will last
longer than a few years after me. I have known men much my supeto make their whole army* (which consists of 6000 men) prisoners like that of General
Burgoyne.
We are in expectation of news every instant from Rhode Island, which we expect at
this time has changed its master. You must undoubtedly know that the English have sent
out Commissioners to make peace with America. The Congress in answer to the first letter
of the Commissioners, have rejected every proposition, at least until England has withdrawn her fleets and armies. The Commissioners have wrote a second letter, to which the
Congress have given no answer. You may be under some uneasiness about me on account
of the last battle, where you know, we gave the English a genteel beating.f I luckily escaped unhurt.
Your very humble servant, and son
(Signed) Du Ponceau.
* And at one Sup he eat them up, as one would eat an Apple. Vide Harry Carey's Dragon
of Wantley.
f Ecce General Lee's account of this genteel beating.

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riors, who were thought much of while they lived, they have died,
and are forgotten. I doubt whether their Autobiographies would have
saved them from oblivion, unless, indeed, they were connected with
the history of their own times, and then, the historian and not the man
would be remembered. That is well enough, to be sure, but I have
not the talents of an historian, so that I should fail in every way. When
I wrote my seven letters to M r . W. I thought he felt a friendly interest in the events of my life, but he has been a twelve months in Europe,
and I have not had a single line from him, nor any sign whatever of
kind remembrance. Therefore I feel myself entirely released from
my engagement to him if engagement it can be called. In that respect
I am again free and independent.
I do not know how it is, but I find myself to day entirely disengaged
from every kind of business, and not knowing what to do, my thoughts
have run this whole morning on past events, and I feel a strong inclination to continue my little narrative, at least, until my admission to the
bar in 1785, at which period my life becomes that of an ordinary man
of business, engaged from morning till night either in his study or in
Courts of Justice, acquiring a literary style by writing legal instruments and improving his mind by the study of the elegant works of
Cokes and Crokes,30 a fine preparation for an historian of his own
times! But to please you, and also to please myself who delight in
those recollections, I shall try to live over again the days of my youth,
and draw a brief sketch of it for your perusal, and that of the few
friends who may feel an interest in it.
When I left off my correspondence with M r . W. I was with Baron
Steuben for the third time in Philadelphia, whither we had returned
to take our winter quarters at the close of the campaign of 1778. The
Baron had been desired by General Washington to prepare a system
of discipline and military exercises for the armies of the United States
which being approved by him, was to be submitted to Congress. Philadelphia was the place which he chose to execute that task in. He was
assisted by Colonel Fleury who afterwards distinguished himself at
the taking of Stoney-Point, Major L'enfant, who had the charge of
the drawings, and his two aids, Major Walker and myself. For my
30
A play on the words "cooks" and "crooks" and the surnames of the distinguished judge
Sir Edward Coke (i552-1634), and, in all probability, that of Sir Alexander Croke
(1758-1842).

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part who had no experience in the military art, I could do little more
than translate and copy: however, I did my part to the Baron's satisfaction and in the next Spring, I was rewarded by Congress for it with
the sum of $400 in addition to my pay.
This business did not take up the whole of my time, I must tell you
how I spent the remainder most successfully for others, and most
laboriously and fruitlessly for myself.
Among the passengers on board the ship that brought me to this
country, was an agent of the famous Beaumarchais, of the name of
De Francy he was a handsome man, and what was called a beau in
those days. He spoke English tolerably well, and was a man of good
address; in other respects he was singularly deficient. He had at most
the capacity of writing a common letter of business, but his literary
talents did not extend farther. He had pretensions to wit, but they
were very slight. One day, on board of the ship, he asked me the following strange question. "Why," said he "are you called T>ufonceau
and not Duponcy it seems to me to sound much better?" I lost no time
in answering him: "And you, Sir, why are you called Francy and not
Franceau {franc sot, in English a downright fool) ? "He stood abashed,
affected to laugh, and never again tried his wit upon me.
M r . Beaumarchais under the assumed Spanish name of Rodrigue
Hortalez & C0., had fitted out and sent to the United States, previous
to our Treaty of alliance with France, several ships laden with arms,
ammunitions, and clothing for the use of our army, among those was
the ship that brought Baron Steuben and myself to the United States
Whether in this he acted as the secret agent of the French Government, or whether he had purchased those articles with his own funds
or those of his associates, it is not my business to consider, all that I
know is that M r . De Francy was sent to this country by M r . Beaumarchais to claim payment for the whole, in the name of the pretended Spanish firm. For that purpose he was to prepare a statement
of his employer's claims, in the form of a memorial to Congress. He
was himself incapable of drawing such a document. He applied to
me to assist him, and promised me the most magnificent reward on the
part of M r . Beaumarchais, the least of which was to be a copy of the
edition of Voltaire's works, which that gentleman was then printing
at Kehl on the Rhine, opposite to Strasburg [sic]. I accepted his pro-

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posal and immediately went to work. Not only all my leisure moments
were employed in that business during the whole winter, but I had to
spend many a night at work in his bed-room where he kept me closely
confined and constantly employed. During that time I drew up (for
he did not himself write a single line of it) a Memorial to Congress
which with the translation of the Documents annexed contained to the
best of my recollection eighty folio pages. The way I went to work
was this; he related the facts and put the documents in my hands, and
I had to indict from the whole a Memorial to Congress in the best
English style I could master, and when it is considered that I was
then only 18 years old, it may be easily conceived that it was not the
style of an Addison or a Bolingbroke, but it was the best I could do,
and M r . Francy appeared perfectly satisfied with my labour. He had
reason to be so, for in consequence of it, Congress paid him large sums
of money, the amount of which I do not remember, but it may be seen
in the secret journals of Congress. The Memorial, I presume, is still
existing, among the Archives of the Nation.31
I remember I was not only struck, but much disgusted with the
Bombastic style of Beaumarchais' letters to Congress, I wanted to
soften it, but M r . Francy would not let me, and he often complained
that my style in the Memorial was too plain and too natural, and that
there was not enough of figures of Rhetorick in it: how it was, I cannot
now remember, all I can say is that I found it very difficult to satisfy
at the same time his literary taste and mine.
After the work was done, I received many thanks, but the promised
reward never came, I have good reason to believe that M r . Francy in
his letters to M r Beaumarchais, attributed the whole labour as well
as its success to himself, for I never received a word of thanks from
that quarter. I should be unjust, however, if I did not say that after
I had returned to Camp, M r . Francy sent to me as a present, a military
blue cloak of the coarest cloth: this was, I suppose, the magnificent
reward I had been made to expect, certain it is, that I found it very
comfortable 5 with Continental soldiers at that time, delicacy in these
31
The following entry dated Monday, May 10, 1779, is found in The Journals of the
Continental Congress, 1774-178Q (Library of Congress edition, Washington, 1904-1937),
XIV. 569: "A letter of M. de Francy was read, accompanied with a memorial respecting
M. de Beaumarchais' affairs, which was in part read." A footnote to this states that
Francy's letter is in Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 78, IX. folio 257.

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matters was out of the question. This is all I ever received for my
Herculean labours.
. . Long after this when the claim of Beaumarchais for the unaccounted
for million, came for the first time before Congress, his agent M r .
Chevallier offered to engage me as Counsel in that cause, and, of
course, I was to be well rewarded. I had full confidence in my excellent friend Chevallier, but I had none in Monsieur Figaro, I had had
enough of him, and refused to have any thing to do with his affairs
any more. Considering the various aspects that the business since assumed I see no reason to regret the resolution that I took on that occasion.
The Baron's system of discipline being now completely prepared,
he returned to the army with his family—I staid some time behind
him to see the work through the press32 and to forward copies of it
according to his direction; after which I rejoined him at Head Quarters. What followed afterwards, will be the subject of another letter.
Adieu
Philadlephia 31 st . August 1837
My dear Anna.
We are now in the spring of 1779. The business for which I was
left in Philadelphia, kept me here longer than I expected. I joined
the army at West Point. I was delighted with the place, I would often
sit there in a retired spot, not far from the Baron's quarters, by a lovely
spring of limpid water, musing and picking the odorous balm, which
grows there in abundance, or reading in a volume of Bell's British
Poets, which I used to carry about me. I always remember those scenes
with pleasure.
The army, during this bloodless campaign, frequently shifted their
quarters, and we, of course, followed. My labour, during that time,
was any thing but pleasant. The reports of the different corps and
departments of the army which were called returnsy containing the
number of men, the quantity of provisions, clothing, arms, ammunition &c. were all sent to Baron Steuben, who was Inspector general
of the army. From those documents we had to make extracts, and to
frame out of them general returns to be laid before the Commander32
Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. Part i.
Philadelphia, Printed by Styner and Cist, 1779.

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in-Chief. That was a tedious business and I was glad when I could
retire to my beloved spring, to muse and read at my ease.
A more agreeable duty was that of attending the Baron on horseback when he went to inspect the troops. He was much beloved by the
soldiers, thou'gh he was a strict disciplinarian, and passionate withal.
But there was in him a fund of goodness which displayed itself on
many occasions, and which could even be read in his severe countenance, so that he was extremely popular. He never did an act of
injustice but he repaired it as soon as discovered by the most public
acknowledgment; of this I have seen several instances. The Marquis
and the "Baron (Lafayette and Steuben) were great favourites with
the army, and were called by no other names. A woman went once
to the latter to ask him permission to call her child after him. "How
will you call him?" said Steuben. "Why, to be sure," replied she, "I'll
call him Baron."
His fits of passion were comical and rather amused than offended
the soldiers. When some movement or manoeuvre was not performed
to his mind, he began to swear in German, then in French and then in
both languages together. When he had exhausted his artillery of
foreign oaths, he would call to his aids "My dear Walker, and my
dear Duponceau, come and swear for me in English, these fellows
won't do what I bid them." A good natured smile then went through
the ranks, and at last the manoeuvre or the movement was properly
performed.
This campaign was very dull \ I have very little recollection of it,
except that we shifted our quarters from place to place where we
went through the same routine of business. I only remember an unlucky excursion to New Rochelle which was very near to cost me my
liberty if not my life.
We were somewhere on or near the North River, I cannot even
recollect the place, when I heard that Major Lee, who commanded
a troop of light-horse, had been ordered on a reconnoitering expedition towards the enemy's lines. He was to advance as far as New
Rochelle, which was at that time a kind of middle ground, sometimes
occupied by our troops, sometimes by those of the enemy. New Rochelle is a village in the state of New York, which was founded by
fugitive Hugenots from la Rochelle in France and the neighbouring

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islands. I had heard that the French language was still spoken there,
and I knew several names of families, whose relations I had known
in the Old Country. This fired my imagination and brought to my
mind a thousand fond recollections. The Isle of Re, where I was born
is distant only a few miles from La Rochelle which is to me what
Philadelphia is to a native of Germantown.
My curiosity being thus strongly excited I begged of Baron Steuben
the permission to accompany Major Lee in his expedition which the
Baron freely granted. We set out from Head Quarters with a few
horsemen, and slept the first night at an inn not far distant from New
Rochelle, the next morning after an hour's ride we entered that village. As we were advancing in the main street close by the church, I
met an old man whom I addressed in the French language, we were
not allowed, for fear of surprise, to alight from our horses, and so I
remained on horseback. The old man answered me in the same language in which I had addressed him, and began to give me an account
of his village, of its foundation and of its inhabitants, to which I listened with greedy ears. But, behold! while we were in the midst of
this to me most interesting conversation, our Vidette came to tell us
that a British troop of horse was seen coming down from a neighbouring hill. Orders were immediately given to turn back at full speed;
and you may be sure they were quickly obeyed, for we were not in
force to resist the numbers that were said to be coming down upon
us: I think we were five or six at most. It was thought, therefore, necessary to retreat, but my horse was none of the best, and absent as I always am, I had forgotten to provide myself with a whip, a twig which
I held in my hand soon broke, and my horse would not obey the spur,
I was obliged to dismount and to cut another twig with a dull knife
which I had fortunately in my pocket, that took some minutes and
the enemy were advancing. However, I again bestrided my horse,
galloped double tides, and was fortunate enough to join my companions, who did not spare their jokes and their felicitations at my providential escape. But that did not cure me of my absence; for I forgot
my whip, and other things many a time afterwards. I shall never forget my leaving at an inn in France the beautiful sword which Baron
Steuben had presented me with at Paris. He took it from his side telling me a my dear Duponceau, please to accept this sword, I shall teach

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you how to make use of it." The sword was silver hiked, damasked
with gold. On my way to Marseilles to embark for this country, I left
it at the inn at Magon in Burgundy, and never perceived it until it
was too late to retrace my steps. Eighteen months afterwards it was
brought to me in this city, while I was at work with M r . De Francy by
a gentleman just arrived from France who knew the Baron, and who
also knew the sword, had seen it at the inn and claimed it. The landlord, a conscientious man, had left it in the very place where I had
deposited it. You may suppose I was very glad to recover it; I kept
it several years: at last, after the peace, it was stolen, during my absence from the boarding-house where I lodged. All my efforts to
recover it were vain. To return to New Rochelle. I have had several
opportunities to visit it since the adventure I have spoken of} but
something always intervened that prevented me from doing it. I have
heard that the French language is no longer spoken there, and that
the English language has entirely superseded it. It was not so before
the Revolution, that town supplied the city of New York with female
teachers of the French language: I have heard of Miss Blanche Bayou
a native of that place, who kept a fashionable school for young ladies
about the time of the Stamp Act; but times change, and we change
with them.
Another anecdote now strikes my mind, which relates to the first
Indian that I saw in the United States, and is also connected with my
early recollections of my native country which were very fresh and
vivid at that time. It was at Valley Forge, in the spring of 1778, sometime before the evacuation of Philadelphia by the British. I was walking one morning before breakfast, in a wood, not far from our quarters, when I heard at a distance a French fashionable opera song, sung
by a most powerful voice, which the echoes reverberated. I feel
tempted to give you the whole song, and here it is:
Ce que je dis est la verite meme
Tous les tresors de Tunivers
N'ont de valeur que par l'objet qu' on aime
Que par la main dont ils nous sont offerts.
Un bouquet qu 'unit un brin d 'herbes
Donne par toi flatterait plus mon coeur
II serait un don plus superbe
II ferait tout mon bonheur.

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I cannot describe to you how my feelings were affected by hearing
those strains so pleasing and so familiar to me, sung by what seemed
to me a supernatural voice, such as I had never heard before, and yet
melodious and in perfect good taste. I thought myself for a moment
at the Comedie Italienne, and was lost in astonishment, when suddenly I saw appear before me a tall Indian figure in American regimentals and two large epaulettes on his shoulders, my surprise was
extreme. I advanced towards him and told him in French vous chantez
parfaitement bien} Monsieury on this he also appeared astonished,
he extended his hand towards me saying Jthl mon perey tu es Fran-

gais; je suis bien content de te voir; C>est iue noUs ^es aimons les
Frangaisy pourquoi nous ont Us abandonne? I was struck with this

salutation and particularly with his calling me his father. Qyest VOUS}
said I} qui etes mon perey je ne suis qu'un jeune homme. <Jlh\ replied
he, tous le Frangais sont nos feres} Q'est ainsi que nous les appellonsy
les autres ne sont que nos freres. Then he began to explain to me that
the English wanted them also to call them fathersy but that the Indians would not consent 5 the French alone were their fathers. He next
asked me a number of questions about the King, the Queen, the royal
family and whether they did not mean to reconquer Canada. I thought
he never would have done.
The conversation, however, took another turn, and he began to
tell me who he was. Je suis} said he, un sauvage de la nation des zAbenakis; je m?appelle ${ia-man—rigounanty ce qui veut dire en Frangais Voiseau pi vele. This word pi vele is not in the dictionary, but I
presume it is Canadian for variagated. He then told me that he had
served the United States in the ill-fated invasion of Canada under
Montgomery and that when our army retreated he had followed
them, and had obtained here the rank of Colonel, "on myappelle iciyy
said he, "Qolonel J^ouis; cyest le nom que jyai recu au baptemey caryy
added he "je suis bon Chretien et bon Qatholique" While this conversation was going on we reached the Baron's quarters, who received
him very cordially and invited him to breakfast. After the repast was
over, I had again a long conversation with him, in which he told me
that he had been educated by the Jesuits of whom he spoke with great
respect. They had taught him reading and writing and many other
things which he enumerated. He had some knowledge of vocal music
and I am convinced that with a little more teaching, he would have

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been a valuable acquisition to the French Opera, where I had never
heard a voice of such extraordinary power, and at the same time
susceptible of modulation. I heard he was in the service of the United
States, and had the rank of Colonel. In what manner he was employed,
or what became of him afterwards I never knew. All I can say is that
I parted with him with much regret, and I never saw him since.
Thus I have filled this letter with anecdotes having nothing better
to say. This campaign brings to my mind no recollections except at
the end of it, we again took our winter quarters at Philadelphia,
where you will find me in my next letter.
Adieu
Philadelphia 6th. Sep 1837
My dear Anna.
As I told you in my last at the close of the campaign of 1779, we
took our winter quarters in this city. We lodged at a boarding house
kept by a Mrs. Clark, who was said to have been the mistress of Sir
William Howe. It was my singular fortune, afterwards, when at
New York in 1784 to board at the house of Mrs. Loring who had been
immortalized in the humerous little poem of the battle of the Kegs.33
I found nothing remarkable in those ladies, except that they kept
good houses, and were very attentive to their guests. We had not been
long in this city before I was attacked with a severe cold, which I
neglected because I was told that it would thaw in the spring. But
instead of thawing it grew worse and worse until on the 21st of March
(as I find from some notes which I took at that time) at everyfitof
coughing, and they were frequent, I began to bring up blood and to
feel considerable pain in my breast. My friends were alarmed; I was
bled profusely, and other remedies were applied, but nothing did
succeed. It was at last decided that I was in a consumption; the country air and a milk diet were prescribed.
In obedience to that prescription, I set out on the 15th of April
for Valley Forge which I chose for my country residence. I was kindly
received by Colonel Anderson, the father of the late Comptroller of
the Treasury34 who offered me his house which I accepted; but at the
end of three weeks, being afraid of giving trouble to that respectable
33
34

B y Francis Hopkinson.
Joseph Anderson had this office in 1833.

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family, and there being no other house in the neighborhood that could
suit me, I determined on changing my place of abode. I did not find
during those three weeks that my health did improve, thought [sic] I
kept strictly to the prescribed diet of mush and milk.
Youth is not so much attached to life as men at a more advanced
age. I knew, or at least I believed, that I was suffering under a complaint that never forgives and from which I never was to recover, and
yet my spirits were as high, and perhaps higher than they ever were.
My time was employed in corresponding with my Philadelphia
friends, and my letters shewed nothing but gaiety and humour. I
styled myself the %ing of the Yellow Springs (a place at some small
distance) I received petitions from my subjects. I remember one
signed Quax, Quax from the frogs in the neighboring ponds praying
that I should not leave Valley Forge and abandon them. My friends
thus humoured me and I kept up my correspondence in the same lively
and humerous style. O benedetta gioventio!
During my stay there, I was once taken for a British spy. Baron
Steuben had been told in France that the American troops were, like
the British, dressed in scarlet, so he and all his family dressed themselves in scarlet uniforms turned up with blue. I put on that uniform
when I went to Valley Forge. One morning Colonel Anderson came
into my room and told me that the people had been assembling, that
I was believed to be a British officer and there was some talk of arresting me. I laughed and told him he well knew who I was and I
hoped he would explain the matter to his fellow citizens. He did so, I
suppose, for I heard no more of it.
This reminds me of an adventure which happened to me in the
year 178 3, before we received the news of the definitive treaty of peace.
I was returning from Albany where I had accompanied Chancellor
Livingston (then Secretary of the United States for foreign affairs)
who had gone there to hold his court of Chancery. I had left him at
Livingston's manor where I had staid some time with his family and
preceded to Philadelphia. Having stopped to dine at a tavern, not
far from this city (I cannot recollect the name of the place) the landlord took it into his head to ask me for my passport, which, he said,
he was bound to require of every traveller by a law of this Commonwealth. I had not provided myself with any such document, but I had

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despatches for Congress from Chancellor Livingston, and I had also
about me my Certificate of naturalization. But nothing would do; I
must produce a passport or remain in custody, until the matter should
be inquired into. He was a magistrate as well as an Innkeeper; some
neighbours or customers who were in the room took part with him,
and I began to find myself in an embarassing situation. I did not,
however, lose courage. I suspected that this detention was a trick of
Squire Boniface to detain me at his inn with my servant and horses,
and, therefore, I assumed a high tone, and said I was determined to
proceed on my journey. Some altercation ensued, in the course of
which something being said about a constable and detaining me by
force, I fell into a violent passion and called upon my servant to bring
my pistols which put an end to the discussion and I was suffered to
depart in peace. I was no lawyer at that time; but I doubt whether the
law would have served me better than the course I adopted. But let
us return to Valley Forge.
While I was there the Continental money was depreciating at a
great rate. I find from my notes that during those three weeks I spent
$5.65s5 for various raticles which I sent my servant to the city to purchase.
As this servant was my faithful companion during the whole of the
war, I feel inclined to say to you something more about him. His name
was James Champneys. He was an honest Englishman of the true
Cockney breed, he never put the letter h nor the v or the w in their
proper places; but he was faithful and attentive to his duty. He was
a good barber and hair dresser and something of a cook, and he well
understood taking care of horses. He was a soldier in the army, and
had been permitted to attach himself to my person. When the war
was over he married, and set up a barber's shop in this city. After some
years I lost sight of him and his family.
Nothing more occurs to me worth relating during my short stay at
Valley Forge. On leaving that place I returned to Philadelphia where
I staid only one week while my friends were looking out for other
lodgings for me in the country. My health had by no means improved
on the contrary. I had fallen away to such a degree that I excited the
general pity. I remember that one day I was walking in the streets of
35
The manuscript reads $5.65. Possibly this was a copyist's error, since $565.00 would
seem a more likely sum.

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Philadelphia, a Quaker, as he passed by me, said "Poor fellow! thee
has not long to live." This was not very comforting, and what was
still less so, was that the same evening being at a friend's house, where
I indulged in gaiety, as I always did, a maiden lady who was there very
gravely told me, "you had better spare your jokes and be reading your
bible, for you are not long for this world." I made her some sharp
answer which I afterwards regretted, as she did not long survive her
well meant rebuke, which however, shewed that though she might be
a saint, she was no prophet.
My friends having procured for me an excellent lodging at Nice
Town36 in the neighborhood of this city. I removed thither according
to my notes on the 13th of May, and remained there during the remainder of the season. I had not been there a long time when I received a letter from my physician D r . Jones which astonished me exceedingly and was by no means calculated to raise my spirits. He made
an apology for not riding four miles to visit me occasionally, on the
ground that it would be of no use as my disorder was incurable "You
are a philosopher" said he, "therefore, I have no doubt that you will
bear this intimation as a philosopher ought to do." He then went on
with the usual common place topics which need not be repeated; in
the letter was enclosed an impression on sealing wax of the goddess
Hygeia and referring to it he observed, that amulets some time had
the effect of restoring health and that if that did me no good, it would
at least do me no harm. He concluded by recommending me to sleep
in a stable and inhale the breath of cows, that, he said, had sometimes
been effectual. I kept that letter long in my possession, but have unfortunately lost it. I perfectly well, however, remember its contents;
they made too strong an impression on my mind to be forgotten.
That letter had an effect upon me quite different from what might
have been expected. It excited my indignation. I reflected that I was
a poor officer, and it seemed to me that the Doctor wanted to get rid
of a troublesome patient from whom he could not expect much profit.
D r . Jones was an eminent physician and had a most extensive practice.
His character moreover was excellent, therefore, I must presume that
my suspicions were unfounded, nevertheless they operated on me to
a charm. I had no longer any confidence in him, and my spirits, instead of being sunk by his prediction, were so raised, that on the eve36

One of the northern sections of Philadelphia.

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1939

NOTES AND D O C U M E N T S

21J

ning of the day when I received that letter, some of my friends, having
come to see me, I let off some fire works, which I had purchased some
days before, and entertained them in great style. I read the letter to
them, and we all joined in turning the physician and his prediction into
what I thought deserved ridicule.
I had not, however, lost all confidence in medicine. Having tried
an American physician without success, I had recourse to a French
one whose name was D r . Noel. He was attached to the family of the
French minister, and was, therefore, thought to be skillful in his profession. But alas! he also condemned me. From that moment I gave
up Esculapius [sic] and his disciples and determined to be my own
physician. I kept to the milk diet, because I had faith in it 3 I did not
seek the company of cows, because there was other company that I
liked better, I strove above all things to keep up my spirits. I wrote
satirical verses on the consumption, and determined that it should not
consume me. My friends from the city often came to see me, and thus
I passed my time as agreeably as I could. In my solitary moments, I
read history and compiled chronological tables, which I am sorry to
have lost. I made them to assist my memory, which never was very
retentive of dates.
Thus I continued till the month of November when it seemed to
me I was much better. My cough had considerably abated, and the
spitting of blood had become less frequent. I felt ashamed to receive
the pay of Congress and to be idling my time without rendering any
service. I was in this disposition of mind when I heard that Baron
Steuben had been ordered to attend General Greene, who had been
appointed to the command of the Southern army. The Baron having
come to this city to make his preparations, I begged him to permit me
to accompany him. He at first refused; but I told him that I had tried
every remedy without much success; that I had heard that the exercise
of riding had often cured consumptive patients and that after all if
I was to die, it was better and more honourable that it should be on
the field of battle, than by the slow and painful process of an incurable
disease. The Baron was touched by this last argument. "Very well,"
said he, "you shall follow me, and I hope you will either recover your
health or die an honourable death." I immediately made preparations
for my departure of which you shall hear in my next letter.
Adieu