Special thanks to the following donors, who aided in the acquisition of this letter:
The Life Guard Society of Historic Mount Vernon
Ambassador and Mrs. Nicholas F. Taubman
Mr. and Mrs. James C. Meade
The interior of the Mansion is closed for restoration but we're still open and there's a lot to see and do!
Washington and Chastellux corresponded regularly after the end of the American War of Independence often expressing their mutual wish for peace and stability in the world. Both men believed they had seen enough of war.
Mount Vernon 5th Septr 1785.
I am your debtor for two letters—one of the 12th of December—the other of the 8th of April. Since the receipt of the first, I have paid my respects to you in a line by Major Swan; but as it was introductory only of him, it requires an apology, rather than entitles me to a credit in our epistolary correspondence.
If I had as good a nack my dear Marquis, as you have at saying handsome things, I would endeavor to pay you in kind for the many flattering expressions of your letters, having an ample field to work in; but as I am a clumsy laborer in the manufactory of compliments, I must first profess my unworthiness of those which you have bestowed on me, and then, conscious of my inability of meeting you on that ground confess that it is better for me not to enter the list, than to be beat from it in disgrace.
It gives me great pleasure to find by my last letters from France, that the dark clouds which over spread you[r] hemisphere, are yielding to the Sunshine of Peace. My first wish is to see the blessings of it diffused through all Countries, & among all ranks in every Country; & that we should consider ourselves as the children of a common parent, and be disposed to acts of brotherly kindness towards one another. In that case restrictions of trade would vanish; we should take your Wines, your fruits & surplusage of such articles: as our necessities or convenience might require -- and in return give you our Fish, our Oil, Tobacco, Naval stores &ca; And in like manner should exchange produce with other Countries, to the reciprocal advantage of each: And as the Globe is large, why need we wrangle for a small spot of it? If one Country cannot contain us, another should open its arms to us. But these halcyon days (if they ever did exist) are now no more; a wise Providence, I presume, has decreed it otherwise, & we shall be obliged to go in the old way, disputing and now & then fighting, until "the great Globe itself dissolves."
I rarely go from home; but my friends in & out of Congress sometimes inform me what is on the Carpet; to hand it to you afterwards would be circuitous & altogether idle, as I am persuaded you have correspondents at New York who give them to you at first hand, & can relate them with more clearness & precision. I give the chief of my time to rural amusements; but I have lately been active in instituting a plan which, if success attends it & of which I have no doubt, may be productive of great political as well as commercial advantages to the States on the Atlantic, especially the middle ones: it is the improving & extending the inland navigations of the rivers Potomac & James, and communicating them with the Western Waters by the shortest & easiest Portages & good roads. Acts have passed the Assemblies of Virginia & Maryland authorising private Adventurers to undertake the work; Companies in consequence are incorporated. And that on this River is begun But when we come to the difficult parts of it we shall require an Engineer of skill & practical knowledge in this branch of business; And from that Country where these kind of improvements have been conducted with the greatest success.
With very great esteem & regard
I am My dear Sir
Yr. Most Obed. Serv