Unpublished letter: He expresses "satisfaction to have fulfilled this important and pressing engagement".
As the French Revolution continued apace, Prussian troops attempted to march on Paris in 1792 to reinstall the monarchy. In September of that year, at the battle of Valmy, the Prussians were defeated in what was the first major victory for France following the Revolution. In the wake of this success, the...
As the French Revolution continued apace, Prussian troops attempted to march on Paris in 1792 to reinstall the monarchy. In September of that year, at the battle of Valmy, the Prussians were defeated in what was the first major victory for France following the Revolution. In the wake of this success, the Jacobin Revolution in France took place in May 1793, and with it that nation's most radical elements came into power. Led by Robespierre, they instituted the Reign of Terror, and moderates like Lafayette were considered enemies of the people. They also built a huge army to drive the Prussians out of the country. Wrongly assuming that Lafayette still held some symbolic value for French revolutionaries, Prussian authorities seized him and imprisoned him in the dungeon of the fortress at Magdeburg, 300 miles from the French border. German guards kept constant watch on him from above, as only a hint of light pierced the thick wall of the fortress through a tiny, narrow slit. (This imprisonment may have saved Lafayette from the guillotine, however.) Meanwhile, in France, the Jacobins had confiscated Lafayette's family's assets, and they had no money to live on nor to send to the prison to pay for Lafayette's food. So Lafayette's sister went to Robert Morris, asking for help. Morris acted swiftly, placing 100,000 livres of his own money in a Dutch account, out of the jurisdiction of the Jacobins, to pay for Lafayette's upkeep and his family's relief.
The year 1803 saw the situations of both Lafayette and Morris altogether changed. In April the United States allocated 11,500 acres on the banks of the Ohio River as a thank you for Lafayette's services during the Revolutionary war. Using those lands as collateral, and with the assistance of James Monroe, and of Monroe's agent in Paris, Daniel Parker, Lafayette secured a sizable loan against the property at low interest from Baring Brothers Bank in London. But it was Morris who was now in dire financial straits, as he had just been released from debtor's prison and was living in retirement without funds. Lafayette yearned to repay Morris and thus assist the friend who had aided him in his hour of need.
Daniel Parker was more than just Monroe's agent in Paris, he was a prominent New York merchant and partner of William Duer, contractors who had supplied the Continental Army with provisions during the Revolutionary War. He was also Commissioner to carry out the articles of the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and Commissioner to superintend British debarkation from New York in 1783. Parker had worked closely with Robert Morris during the Revolution, and after the war had been Morris's partner in various ventures (one of which was engaging in the China trade). Parker and Lafayette were friends, so in dealing with Monroe and Parker, Lafayette was on comfortable ground. Harlow Unger, in his book "Lafayette", states that the loan negotiated by Monroe and Parker "allowed the Lafayettes to wipe out all their debts…They were solvent for the first time since the Jacobin Revolution." Foremost amongst these debts was the one to Morris.
"Whatever may be my personal embarrassments, be assured, my dear partner, that I feel more uneasiness for yours to which I have so much contributed."
This is the letter in which Lafayette expresses his gratitude for Parker's assistance in repaying Morris. It indicates that Parker had laid out the funds to repay Morris, that Lafayette then received a legal notice that the endebtedness had been paid, and that Parker was to be reimbursed with funds being sent from the United States on Lafayette's behalf. Autograph Letter Signed, La Grange, "21 Frimaire an 12" (the French Revolutionary calendar's equivalent of December 11, 1803), to Parker. "With lively gratitude I receive the law bill by which I was found in the debt to Mr. Morris. We are happy to think that to your friendship we have the satisfaction to have fulfilled this important and pressing engagement. Included you will find my receipt. Whatever may be my personal embarrassments, be assured, my dear partner, that I feel more uneasiness for yours to which I have so much contributed. Your relief from America is, I hope, on the way between both continents. The moment you hear of it, be pleased to write to me. But above all take care of your health, and don't let momentary disappointments have any influence upon it. My wife and family join in affectionate expressions of their attachment and regard." The address leaf to Parker is still present.
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