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Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de (1757-1834) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.04105 Author/Creator: Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de (1757-1834) Place Written: Paris, France Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 4 February 1788 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 21.8 x 17.5 cm.

Summary of Content: Lafayette anxiously awaits ratification results of the U.S. Constitution, discusses debates between himself, Mr. [Thomas] Jefferson and "Common Sense" [Thomas Paine] regarding the need for Constitutional amendments, and stresses the importance of "the General's" [George Washington's] acceptance of the presidency. He begins by updating Knox on European affairs, saying that they are "too much Entangled together for me to give you an Exact description." He mentions that the Ottoman Empire, with the assistance of Great Britain, is attacking both the Russians and Austrians, and that Britain fears an alliance of "the Imperial Court, france and Spain…." France wants peace because of "Her deranged finances" and "the spirit of popular Opposition." Lafayette adds that it will be hard to back away from war after what occurred in Holland "Because perfidy in other Nations is not a sufficient apology, and those who cheat in politics Have a Right to laugh at those who Have been cheated untill they are able to take a Revenge…." He also discusses an edict giving a civil estate to non-Catholic subjects. Regarding the U.S. Constitution, he writes that it "is an admirable work, altho' I take the liberty to wish for some Amendments - but the point is to have it first adopted by nine States - and then you may get the dissenters by means of some improvements which Mr Jefferson, Common Sense, and myself are debating in a Convention of our own as Earnestly as if we were to decide upon it." He has no doubt that Washington will be selected as the first president, and stresses that he must accept "as it is the best way to Carry to perfection a Work Nearer to it than Any of the Kind that Ever was framed." He closes by asking Knox to show this letter to "our friend [Alexander] Hamilton" and asks after the family of the late General Nathanael Greene.

Full Transcript: [draft]
My dear friend

You Certainly Expect Much from me in the present political period - But I Must Candidly tell you that European Affairs are still too Much Entangled ...together for me to give you an Exact description of them - The ottoman Empire, Under the influence of Great Britain Have Madly Ran their Heads Against the two imperial powers who are preparing forces sufficient to Expel them from Europe in One Campaign - Russia will send probably a fleet into the Mediterranean a Circumstance [struck: to] Which Neither france or England will think proper to Oppose - The King of prussia seems to Repent for His late Conduct, and Endeavors to strengthen the Confederacy of the German princes, some of whom Have Been taken into British pay - But it is Not thought He Will Make War - England is a little [illegible] for the prospect of An alliance Between the Imperial Court, france and Spain, which, However [2] slowly it Works, Appears to [strikeout] [inserted: have] a tolerable degree of probability - the Horrid Conduct of the [state Holderians] Has kept up a fermentation in Holland - france Wants peace above Every thing - Her Deranged finances - the spirit of popular opposition that is prevailing, are to Many Reasons for Her ministers to keep Clear of a War, and of Any Measure leading that Way - But should she Be obliged to fight, Her immense resources, and the Readiness of Her citizens should soon place Her Much Above the idea Which Her Rivals Now Entertain - and in Case she Chose to take a High tone, England would [soon] [illegible] Her [illegible], [struck: and] those [Cabinet] Being Equally averse to Come to Blows - But the late Affair in Holland is a [Blot] Which it will Be difficult to Work out - Because perfidy in other Nations is Not a Sufficient apology, and those Who Cheat in politics Have a Right to laugh at those Who Have Been Cheated Untill they are able to take a Revenge such is, My dear sir, the Account I can [get] for you of the Affairs in the old World
The Edic giving a Civil Estate to the Non Catholic subject Has Been Registered - it is only a Beginning of Relligious tollerance - More May Be done as the time of a National Assembly, an [Count] Which is promised Before 1782, But Will, I Hope, take place sooner - I Have sent to [3] you a letter from Mr de Bouille Who Has Been Much pleased With His Admission in the Society
We are Anxiously Waiting for the Results of the State Conventions - the New Constitution is An Admirable Work, altho' I take the liberty to wish for some Amendments - But the point is to Have it first adopted By nine states - and then you May give the dissenters By Means of some improvement Which Mr jefferson, Common sense, and Myself are debating in a Convention of our own as Earnestly as if we were to decide upon it - I Have No doubt of the General's Been chosen the first president - and He Must By all Means Accept, as it is the Best Way to Carry to perfection a Work Nearer to it than Any of the kind that Ever Was framed, altho' it is Not in My opinion free of a few objections that Have been perhaps By this time Removed
My Most affectionate Respect Wait on Mrs knox and family - Remember me to our friend Hamilton and show Him this letter - My Best Compliments Wait on Your Brother and all friends - pray let me know What is genl greene's son and family doing - Adieu, My dear friend, Most Affectionately
Paris 4 February 1789
The Marquis de la Fayette
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People: Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: FranceUS ConstitutionFrench RevolutionReligionRevolutionary War GeneralRatificationGovernment and CivicsFederalistsGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyPoliticsPresidentLiterature and Language ArtsUS Constitutional AmendmentBill of RightsElectionMilitary HistoryFinancePeaceCatholicismReligionCivil Rights

Sub Era: Creating a New Government

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