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[AUTOGRAPH LETTER, SIGNED, FROM THOMAS JEFFERSON TO FRANÇOIS-JEAN DE CHASTELLUX, PRAISING HIM FOR HIS PUBLISHED ACCOUNTS OF HIS TRAVELS IN THE UNITED STATES, AND SUGGESTING TEXT EDITS TO CHASTELLUX'S AMERICAN TRAVEL ACCOUNTS]
Paris, 1784. [3]pp. with integral address leaf addressed in Jefferson's hand. Original mailing folds, a few minor marginal tears, including minor marginal paper loss from opening of the wax seal, repaired. Blind stamp of the Chastellux Archives in upper margin of first leaf. Very good. Wax seal still present. In a half morocco box. An outstanding letter from Thomas Jefferson to Chastellux, praising the author for "The most flattering account of America that had ever been written." Jefferson was living in Paris at the time, succeeding Benjamin Franklin as minister to France. His main task was the negotiation of trade agreements with France for the Congress of the Confederation. Chastellux served as a Major General in the French army under Rochambeau, and travelled widely in America from 1780 to 1783. Howes calls the narrative of Chastellux's time in America, which he eventually published in its complete form in 1786, "The first trustworthy record of life in the United States." After the war, he remained in friendly communication with many vital figures of the Revolution and the early United States, including Jefferson and George Washington. As Jefferson writes this letter to him, Chastellux is again living in Paris, at the Hotel Quai d'Orsay. The thrust of Jefferson's letter is a tactful confrontation of the troublesome nature of certain passages in Chastellux's privately printed VOYAGE…DE NEWPORT A PHILADELPHIE: "When I was in Philadelphia in the winter of 1782-1783 a gentleman [probably James Madison]...told me with much concern that you had written a book of journals & had a few copies printed, which had not only given great offence, but had very much lessened the public opinion of your talents. I think I need not tell you how deeply I felt this. He repeated to me perhaps half a dozen passages from your...Voiage de Newport a Philadelphie, and contained strictures on some of the ladies whom you had seen.... The circumstances noted, the not intending they should be public, the conversations I had with you at Monticello...furnished me just ground enough to make my friend suppose that the passages...must not undo the public opinion of you. I heard much afterwards of these same passages.... A twelvemonth after this...in the last winter 1783-1784 Mr. Marbois shewed me the book itself. I never was so astonished. I found it the most flattering account of America that had ever been written. I found indeed the passages which had been quoted; & what was remarkable was that there were in the whole book but about eight of these which could give offence to any body, and that the malice and curiosity of the world had immediately fished out these from those who were possessed of the book...knew not one word else of what was in it, but formed a general opinion that the whole was...a collection of personal strictures and satyre." Jefferson helpfully suggests outright removal of certain portions of text in Chastellux's work that will smooth over some of the perceived slights of America, especially the passages containing unflattering observations on American women, and then proposes translating the work for exposure to American readers: "I observed to Monsr. Marbois that it was much to be wished that you would let us strike out these passages, and translate and publish the work. He thought with me that it would be very pleasing to the Americans and valuable to yourself.... He said he would write to you on the subject...but my appointment to come here prevented my doing it. I do not know that you have any occasion to set any value on the opinions of my countrymen. But you must allow myself to do it.... It is irksome to us to have your worth mistaken; and it is much our wish to set it in its just point of view. This would be done effectually by translating and publishing the book, having first struck out the passages which gave offence and which were of the least importance of any in it. A preface might admit the former existence of such passages, justify their insertion in what was intended for the eye of a dozen friends only, & equally justify their omission when the work is offered to the public. Perhaps you would permit to be added a translation of your letter to Mr. [Madison] on the probable influence of the revolution on our manners and laws, a work which I have read with great pleasure and wish it could be given to my countrymen. Be so good as to reflect on these things and let them be the subject of our next conversation...." When Chastellux published the full edition of his travels in 1786 as VOYAGE DE M. LE MARQUIS DE CHASTELLUX DANS L'AMÉRIQUE SEPTENTRIOALE DANS LES ANNÉES 1780, 1781 & 1782, at Jefferson's suggestion the author greatly softened the tone of (or deleted) the offending passages, most of which concerned his observations of women, including a passage describing Philip Schuyler's wife, Catherine Van Rensselaer. Chastellux's account of his travels in America, considered his most popular and enduring work, is prized among historians for his observations of American society and culture at the close of the American Revolution. An important correspondence from a leading Founding Father to the most prominent foreign traveler in Revolutionary America. PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 7, pp.580-582. FOUNDERS ONLINE, "From Thomas Jefferson to Chastellux, 24 December 1784." http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/01-07-02- 0425.
      [Bookseller: William Reese Company - Americana]
Last Found On: 2017-03-20           Check availability:      Biblio    

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