Chapter 23 – French Impressions of America | France in the Revolution


    About the author

    James Breck Perkins headshot.
    James Breck Perkins

    James Breck Perkins (1847–1910) was an American historian notable for his works on French history. Educated at the University of Rochester, he initially practiced law before shifting to writing and public service. Perkins is best known for his comprehensive studies on the French Regency period, particularly in “France Under the Regency,” which examined Philippe d’Orléans’ governance post-Louis XIV. His other significant works include “France Under Louis XV” and “France in the American Revolution.”



      At the beginning of the Revolution the colonists knew little of the French, and what they did know was not reckoned in their favor. French Canadians had been objects of immemorial dislike, strengthened during occasional periods of acute apprehension. To the American colonist a Frenchman was a papist, which was bad, and much given to using Indian allies in war, which was worse; he had neither political traditions nor political rights, and his views on questions of government were not worthy of consideration.

      In social and domestic life he was still less to be copied. The American colonists shared the belief of their English cousins, that the French, for the most part, starved on bad food, that they believed in a bad religion, and were addicted to bad morals. A Frenchman did not eat roast beef, nor read the Scriptures, nor keep the Sabbath, nor regard other men’s wives with puritanical rigor.

      By French literature the colonists were unaffected, because, with few exceptions, they knew nothing about it. The number who could read French was small, the number who did read French to any extent was smaller. The teachings of the physiocrats had no effect upon American economic thought, except as some trace of them may have been distilled through English writers; the political theories of Montesquieu and of Rousseau, the wit of Voltaire, the infidelity of the encyclopaedists, had no influence upon men, the most of whom did not know these writers even by name. Our ancestors’ modes of thought were essentially English; the political traditions which they inherited, the political institutions which they founded, were unaffected by French thought.

      These conditions were not largely modified in the years during which French and American soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder in the War of Independence. The influence upon the French soldiers, and especially upon the officers, of what they saw in the country they came to assist, was very considerable. But their own modes of thought had little effect on American society or American politics. In the sentiments of our ancestors towards the French people a very great change was, indeed, produced by the war. This was natural; however much the French had interfered with the comfort and happiness of the American colonists in the past, they now came as their friends and benefactors. The value of the French alliance was recognized by all intelligent Americans.

      Furthermore, the French soldiers made themselves personally popular. The first arrivals were indeed little relished. For the most part they consisted of adventurers who came here with exaggerated views of their own importance, who offended their associates by their overbearing manners, and wearied them by their incapacity. But this was no longer the case after the French government espoused the American cause, and sent over officers and soldiers from the regular army to cooperate with their American allies. Considering the character of the average Frenchman, especially when campaigning in foreign lands, and how strange to them seemed many of the customs of the colonists, the uniform propriety of their conduct is deserving of all praise. During the four years that French soldiers were on our soil, there was a universal chorus of laudation over their conduct. It seemed the more meritorious when contrasted with the brutalities of the Hessians. The Hessians came, indeed, as enemies of the American government, but they were nominally the friends of the large body of Tories whose sympathies were still with England. Yet the Hessian soldiers, and indeed the English soldiers, plundered friend and foe with impartiality. The loyalist found that his crops were stolen, his house pillaged, and his family maltreated, quite as much as if he were the most ardent of patriots.

      But the French soldiers were models of propriety. They paid for what they got, they respected the chicken roosts, they were polite to the women. In the latter years of the war, most of the gold in circulation was French gold, sent over by the French government, and paid out by the French army. The farmer and the storekeeper who substituted louis d’or for American Continental currency naturally entertained a kindly feeling for France. When the Marquis de Chastellux was travelling in Virginia in 1782, he recorded his satisfaction at observing that most of the money staked at the cock-fights was French gold. It was found in equal abundance in other channels of trade, and our ancestors viewed it with quite as much satisfaction as the marquis.

      Rochambeau says that when the Indians visited his camp at Newport, they manifested no emotion as they gazed at the cannon, or watched the French troops at their exercises, but they could not overcome their astonishment when they saw ripe apples hanging upon the trees under which the soldiers had long been camped. In all his three campaigns, the count says, there was never a disturbance between a soldier of the French and of the American army (Memoires de Rochambeau, i, 254,314.)

      The credit for such a result was largely given to Rochambeau by an officer who seems to have doubted whether the allies were really as fond of each other as they professed to be. He was, says Count Fersen, “the only man capable of commanding us here, and of maintaining that perfect harmony which has reigned between two nations so different in manners, morals, and language, and who, at heart, do not like each other.” Such a statement was perhaps modified by the writer’s own feelings, for he adds: ” Our allies have not always behaved well to us, and the time that we have spent among them has not taught us to like or esteem them.” (Fersen, Diary, etc. (translated by Miss Wormeley), 63.)

      The good order maintained by the French soldiers was chiefly due to the discipline enforced by the French officers. It is perhaps more surprising that the officers themselves,who were brought in contact with American society, should have conducted themselves in a manner in which even our Puritan ancestors found nothing to criticize. Some of the officers appreciated the delicacy of the situation and were surprised, as well as pleased, at the result. One of them writes his father: “You know Frenchmen, and what are called courtiers, enough to judge of the despair of our young men of that class who find themselves obliged to pass the winter tranquilly in Newport . . . No suppers, no theatres, no balls. Yet they acquit themselves creditably amid such privations.” (lbid., 26.) Another praises the good example set by Vaudreuil, the commander of the squadron at Boston, and says that such conduct, “followed beyond all hope and belief by the officers of his squadron,” captivated the hearts of a people which had not hitherto been friendly to the French. “The officers of our navy,” he adds, “were everywhere received, not only as allies, but brothers; and though they were admitted by the ladies of Boston to the greatest familiarity, not a single indiscretion, not even the most distant attempt at impertinence ever disturbed the confidence or innocent harmony of this pleasing intercourse.” (Chastellux, Travels, etc., ii, 291, 292.) Their record at Newport and Philadelphia, and wherever they went, was equally blameless.

      To-day the Frenchman of the better class finds many of our social usages strange to him, and the difference was even more marked at the time of the Revolution. French customs have changed somewhat, and American customs, with the growth of wealth and fashion, have changed still more. But in the days of 1776 the simplicity of life to which our colonial fathers were bred had been little modified.

      The widespread well-being, the rarity of poverty, made its impression upon our allies. It was, indeed, a favorable time for French gentlemen to investigate the ways of a simpler and more wholesome society. The artificiality of life in the upper circles had begun to pall on those who mingled in it. The Queen sought to gratify her desire for change by playing dairy-maid at her miniature farm at the Trianon; philosophers praised the primitive man; courtiers and fine ladies babbled of green fields and running brooks. Somewhat of this was artificial, but much was genuine. There was also a more active interest in the condition of the masses of the people than France had before witnessed. Both officers and men came from many a sad sight of poverty and distress, from peasants living in huts, on black bread, pinched by hunger because so great a share of their scanty crops was absorbed by the tax-gatherer.

      It is from the officers that we must take our record, but the privates were quite as much impressed by a country where every man had his fowl in the pot, where hunger was rare, and extreme poverty unknown.

      ” In America,” wrote La Fayette, “there are no poor, nor even what we call peasantry. Each individual has his own honest property,” “Such is the present happiness,” writes another, ” that the country has no poor, and every man enjoys a certain ease and independence.” “This little establishment,” writes the Marquis de Chastellux, of the house of an American colonel, where he visited, “in which comfort and simplicity reign, gave an idea of that sweet and serene state of happiness which appears to have taken refuge in the new world.” Speaking again of a gathering of ladies that he attended, be says: “This assembly recalled to my mind in every respect those of Holland and Geneva, where one meets gayety without indecency and the wish to please without coquetry.” (Chastellux, Trawls, etc., i, 286.)

      Gayety without indecency can still be found in American society, but with the growth of wealth it is doubtful whether any one would now find close resemblance between social life at New York and Geneva. Change has been more rapid in the great republic than in the small republic. Even Fersen, who did not love us, found the inhabitants of the country prosperous without luxury or display. “They content themselves,” he writes, “with mere necessaries . . . Their clothes are simple but good, and their morals have not yet been spoiled by the luxury of Europeans. It is a country which surely will be very happy if it can enjoy a long peace, and if the two political parties which now divide it, do not make it suffer the fate of Poland and so many other republics.” (Fersen, Diary, etc., 26.)

      In the residence of the wealthy simplicity was still found. A party of officers visited the country house of Mr. Tracy, the most considerable merchant at Newbury, which was then an important port. They found a terraced garden, a hothouse, the residence handsome and well furnished, and, says the narrator, “everything breathes that air of magnificence, accompanied with simplicity, which is only to be found among merchants.” Here indeed the guests, after an excellent supper, drank good wine, and continued drinking Madeira until bearers of the names of Talleyrand and Montesquieu became intoxicated. It should be said that this was attributed to the fact that the host offered them pipes to smoke, and they were overcome by the tobacco. A similar result has been attributed to the same cause by others besides French officers (Chastellux, Travels, etc., ii, 245.)

      While our allies found our modes of life simple, they pronounced our drinks both good and potent. At General Heath’s, the guest says the dinner was plain but good, and adds, “It was true that there was not a drop of wine, but with excellent cider and toddy one may very well dispense with it.” (Ibid., i, 82.) As they got farther south they found both wine and whiskey were to be had, and usually both were acceptable. One, indeed, writes from Virginia: “The whiskey or corn spirits we had in the evening, mixed with water, was very bad.” But this may have been owing to the mixture.

      On the whole, the meals were satisfactory. The French became accustomed to the American custom of drinking coffee with meat and vegetables, and learned to appreciate an American breakfast. Prairie chicken they found to their taste, and declared its black meat was more delicate and higher flavored than that of the heath-cock.

      At some places trials were experienced. In Virginia, wrote an officer, the people ate nothing but cakes made of Indian corn and baked before a fire. The outside was hard, and the inside was dough, and the only drink was rum mixed with water, and called grog, which the officers did not like. But as they themselves on this excursion were well provided with pates, hams, wine, and bread, this, says the writer, “prevented our feeling the misery that reigns in inns where nothing is found but salt pork and no bread.” (Fersen, Diary, etc., 54.)

      Some customs were distasteful to the visitors. The Marquis de Chastellux lamented the feather-beds, from lack of which many of them suffered greatly. A usage equally disagreeable sometimes prevailed at dinner. The practice of asking a friend at table to drink a glass of wine with one, our ancestors were charged with carrying to excess. “I find it an absurd and truly barbarous practice,” writes one of the victims . . . “They call to you from one end of the table to the other, ‘Sir, will you permit me to drink a glass of wine with you ?’ . . . The bottle is then passed to you, and you must look your enemy in the face . . . You wait till he likewise has poured out his wine and taken his glass. You then drink mournfully with him, as a recruit imitates the corporal in his exercise.” (Chastellux, Travels, etc., 185-186.)

      Meat, when paid for in French gold, was cheap; but the foreign officers who were in the American service and were paid in Continental currency found a very different condition of affairs. Kalb, who was a major-general in our army, was full of just laments. His pay as a general was nominally two thousand dollars, but he tells us that this represented little more than fifty dollars in gold. “My journey,” he writes a friend in 1780, “costs me immense sums. I cannot have my equipage follow me, I have to live in the taverns, or in private houses, where I pay at the same rate. My pay for six months is hardly enough for the necessary expenses of one day . . . I was once directed to take up quarters in a private house for the night. They gave me some bad soup and grog for drink. Yet the next morning, without breakfast, my account for four men and three servants was eight hundred and fifty dollars. The mistress of the house told me politely that she had put in nothing for lodging and left it to my discretion, but three or four hundred dollars would not be too much for the trouble she had had with my servants.” It is not strange that the baron adds: “These people pretend that they are sacrificing everything for . . . liberty . . . An ordinary horse costs twenty thousand dollars; I say twenty thousand dollars “; and he sighs. “Would that I were at my own home, and had never embarked in this galere.”2 (Kalb to Baron Holtzendorff, from Petersburg in Virginia, May 29,1780; Kapp, Life of Kalb, 325.

      The character and conduct of our women were of great interest to the young beaux and dandies who came over from France, and who, at home, showed as much recklessness in making love as they displayed on the field of battle. Their judgments were almost uniformly favorable, and were creditable to their intelligence. They were surprised at the freedom with which women met them, yet they had sense enough to realize that the women were not in love with them, but that such were the usages of a society in which intrigues were unknown. The contrast between the freedom of our young girls and the strictness with which the French jeune fille is guarded constantly impressed our visitors. One of them was a little shocked when he found even so staid a personage as Samuel Adams tete-a-tete with a young girl of fifteen, who was preparing his tea. “But,” he adds, “we should not be scandalized at this, considering that he is at least sixty.” The strictness of the married women surprised them as much as the freedom of the unmarried. “I went to see Mrs. Bingham,” writes one, “a young and handsome woman only seventeen. Her husband was there, according to American custom.” When the young women discovered that a man was married, lamented Rochambeau, forthwith they regarded him as a person possessing no possible interest, and would have nothing to say to him.

      Either the women were graver than their descendants or they appeared sedate to those accustomed to French vivacity. In one place Chastellux speaks of meeting Mrs. Spencer, and says she was gay and even given to laughter, a rare thing among American women (Chastellux, Travels, etc, ii, 130.) Another criticism made by our allies in the Revolution is still made by foreigners, for it was declared that all American children were spoiled.

      In some respects the women of the Revolution seemed less attractive than would their descendants of to-day. In dress, indeed, they were reasonably satisfactory. Be assured,” writes a French officer in a formal letter to the father of James Madison, “that during a three years’ residence in America the progress in women’s dress has not escaped me.” But in music, drawing, and indeed in all the arts, they were found sadly lacking. Musical taste was undoubtedly little developed. Yet though there was little of musical education, it was not unknown. In Philadelphia one of our guests made the round of the churches, and at last found satisfaction at the English church. It appeared to him a sort of opera. A handsome minister in the pulpit, reading, speaking, and singing with a grace entirely theatrical; a number of young women answering melodiously from the galleries; a soft and agreeable vocal music well accompanied on the organ; “all this,” he adds, “compared to the Quakers, the Anabaptists, Presbyterians, etc., appeared to me rather like a little paradise itself than as the road to it.” (Chastellux, Travels, etc., i, 289.)

      On the whole, American women, if we may believe our visitors, had not yet attained to that degree of social charm which is now accorded to them even by foreigners who criticize the manners of our men. One of the officers wrote that they were little accustomed to giving themselves trouble either of body or mind. “Making tea and seeing that the house is kept clean,” he complains, “constitute the whole of their domestic province.” This did not apply to all; he found many of them agreeable, but still, when compared with their French sisters, lacking in accomplishments. This was undoubtedly true. Men who moved in the best society in Paris could find in the ladies of their acquaintance a familiarity with art in all its forms, and a degree of skill in many of them, a knowledge of literature, a brilliancy of conversation, which to say the least was much less common among the women of the Revolution.

      In other respects the French also asserted their superiority. When the Marquis de Chastellux went to a ball in Boston with his acquaintance Mr. Breck, the agent of the French navy, he speaks of various French gentlemen who danced the minuet and did honor to the French nation by their noble and easy manner. But I am sorry to say that the contrast was considerable between them and the Americans, “who are in general very awkward, particularly in the minuet . . . The ladies,” he adds, “were all well dressed, but with less elegance and refinement than in Philadelphia.” But when he dined at Mr. Breck’s he reports: “There reigned in this society a tone of ease and freedom which is pretty general at Boston, and cannot fail of being pleasing to the French.” (Chastellux, Travels, etc., ii, 259, 262.)

      The dancing of the Boston ladies seems to have been decidedly unsatisfactory. Another officer tells us that before leaving that city he wished to make acquaintance with the fair sex. “Twice a week,” he writes, “there is a ladies’ hall or school where the young ladies meet to dance, from noon until two o’clock. I spent some moments there . . . I found nearly all the women extremely handsome, at the same time extremely awkward. It would be impossible to dance with less grace, or to be worse dressed, although with a certain extravagance.” (Dubourg’s Journal, June 14,1781; Magazine of American History, iv, 214.)

      At this time social life in Philadelphia was probably more agreeable than in any other American city, and the Prince de Broglie is one of many who bear witness to its charms. He speaks first of his visit to a small town of which the social requirements were apparently simple. “I only knew a few English words,” be writes, “but I knew enough to drink excellent tea made with the best of cream, and to say to a young lady that she was pretty . . . As a result I had the necessary elements for success.” It is doubtful if at Philadelphia compliments so direct in their form would have been relished, though they might have been excused on account of the prince’s scanty knowledge of English. He writes of his journey to that city: “It was very warm, but the beauty of the roads, the attractiveness of the country, the imposing majesty of the forests, the air of abundance that everywhere appeared, the fairness and courtesy of the women, all contributed to atone for any sensations of fatigue.” (Narrative of the Prince de Broglie, in Balch’s Les Francais en Amerique, tr. by E. S. Balch, vol. i.) In Philadelphia he took tea with Mrs. Morris. He found the furniture elegant, the table handsomely arranged, the mistress of the house fair and pleasing; everything was charming. The tea was still excellent, and the prince seems to have rivalled Dr. Johnson in his fondness for it, for the French minister checked him at his twelfth cup. Even at Philadelphia the dancing did not correspond to the high ideals of the French. “The ladies of Philadelphia,” writes the prince, “though sufficiently magnificent in their clothes, are not generally dressed with much taste; alike in their headdress and their heads, they have less of vivacity and charm than our Frenchwomen. Although they are well shaped, they are lacking in grace, they do not curtsy well, nor do they excel in dancing. But,” he adds, “they know how to make tea well, they educate their children with care, they are scrupulously faithful to their husbands, and many of them have natural wit.” (Journal du Prince de Broglie, 46, 47.)

      Lack of grace in dancing was excusable in a country where this amusement was sometimes forbidden by law. Gerard, the French minister, speaks of the complications in which he was involved in this respect. He desired to acknowledge the civilities which he had received by a banquet, which was to be followed by a ball. To this some objected, and Gerard says: “They allege a law of Congress which forbids public entertainments. This law originated with the northern Presbyterians at the time when Congress fervently besought the aid of Heaven. Things have taken another turn, and now quite a number of senators dance every week.” With diplomatic reserve Gerard expressed no opinion as to whether the senators danced well or ill. (Correspondence of Gerard; in Durand, New Materials, etc., 166.)

      Social differences were observed, not only between Boston and Philadelphia, but between the North and the South. Of the southern women our marquis speaks less favorably, though it was in Virginia that he made his observations. He found them poorly educated and indolent, as a result of being served by slaves. “The consequence of this is,” he writes … that they are often pert and coquettish before, and sorrowful helpmates after marriage.” (Chastellux, Travels, etc., ii, 203.)

      The young nobles who went to America were in fit condition to be affected by what they saw; they came well prepared to absorb the teachings of American life and American institutions, and the simplicity that was found among some of the American women produced a strong impression upon them. A certain weariness of elaborate dress and conventional modes of life had already manifested itself in Paris. The ardent youths of the period were ready to be favorably affected by different ideals. It was not only the natural ardor of youth for a pretty woman, but a reaction from the life to which he had been accustomed, that excited the Prince do Broglie’s enthusiasm when he met Polly Leiton, the Quakeress. “The simplicity of her dress gave to Polly,” he tells us, “the air of a Holy Virgin, and to this the modesty of her speech and the grace of her bearing corresponded. I confess,” he adds, “this beguiling Polly seemed to be the chef-d’oeuvre of nature, and whenever her image presents itself to me, I form the plan of writing a large book against the attire . . . the coquetry, and factitious charms of various women that are admired in the world.” (Journal du Prince de Broglie, 68.)

      The charming Polly excited equal admiration in the Comte de Segur. He says: “So much beauty, so much simplicity, so much elegance, so much modesty, were perhaps never before combined in the same person”; and adds: “Had I not been married and happy, I should, while coming to defend the liberty of Americans, have lost my own at the feet of Polly Leiton.” (Mem. de Segur (1825 ed.), i, 396.) He also expresses his admiration of the country in much the same terms as de Broglie. He was charmed alike by the beauties of virgin forests, and fields that had not yet known the plough, and by the spectacle of prosperity and thrift where civilization had already found its way. Wherever he stopped, he tells us, he was received with simplicity of manner, courtesy, and urbanity. He met neither poverty nor vice, but everywhere ease and contentment, with neither the prejudices nor the servility of European society. To such blessings, he added, that if the fare was simple, it was everywhere abundant; that if the rum was too strong and the coffee too weak, the tea was excellent (lbid., 569.)

      The French officers were equally ready to criticize their American allies. This insolent conduct, one of them wrote, deserved to be severely reprimanded, but how could one punish those in office in a country where the people were governed by caprice rather than by reason. “The Americans,” be adds a little later, “are easy to deceive, indolent by nature, suspicious; they always think they see what they fear; they won’t take the trouble to examine the reasons for their belief.” They were so indolent, he declared, that they allowed the English to destroy Bedford without even sending notice of what was going on (Extrait du Journal d’un officier de la marine de l’escadre de M. Ie comte d’Estaing (1782), 39, 41.)

      That the Americans should have appeared to the French reserved or even phlegmatic, is not strange, but often they are accused of indolence and lack of business habits. It is hard to believe that the energy so noticeable in their descendants could have been lacking in any large proportion of our ancestors. Yet the Prince de Broglie, who, for the most part, judged us favorably, declared that our people were irresolute, as well as phlegmatic and greedy for money (Journal du Prince de Broglie, 48.)

      The Abbe Robin, who was an intelligent observer, makes somewhat similar criticisms. Their character,” he says, writing of our ancestors, is cold, slow, and mild. They are not very industrious . . . Their softness of character is due to the climate as much as to their customs; one finds it even in domestic animals. The horses are docile, one does not meet with those that are restive or high-strung; even the dogs are caressing and timid; strangers have nothing to fear from their violence.” (Robin, Nouveau Voyage, etc., 41, 42.)

      The cultivators of the soil seemed to him more simple than French peasants, though without their rusticity or their roughness; more intelligent, with less dissimulation, but less industrious. In this judgment perhaps the abbe was not altogether wrong; the French peasant then and now is willing to undergo continuous labor to an extent distasteful to the American farmer. The distinction between the two classes was the same as it is now; the abbe found our farmers less attached to ancient usages and more ready for improved methods of cultivation (lbid., 43.)

      He thought that the American women regarded church as a paradise, though not always from the highest motives. “Piety is not the only thing,” he says, “that brings American women in crowds to church. Without theatres, without public promenades, it is there they go in the desire to show their increasing luxury. They appear dressed in silks and shadowed sometimes by superb feathers. Their head-dresses imitate those which our French ladies wore a few years ago. They do not use powder, but the most fashionable begin to adopt European customs.” (Robin, Nouveau Voyage, etc., 14.)

      An associate of the Prince de Broglie, the Comte de Segur, one of the young aristocrats who was especially fascinated by the hopes of a better future for humanity that seemed opening to the world, writes, when leaving Boston in December, 1782: “I leave a country where one follows a simple code of simple laws, and respecting good morals, one is happy and tranquil. It is in outraging morals that one becomes the fashion in Paris. I was treated as a brother everywhere in America. I saw only public confidence, hospitality, and cordiality. The girls are coquettes in order to find husbands, the women are discreet in order to hold them. I know that this country cannot long preserve morals as pure as this, but if it keeps them for only a century, is a century of happiness nothing?” (Mem. de Segur (1825 ed.), i, 423.)

      All were not arrayed with the simplicity of Broglie’s Polly Leiton. “I was surprised,” writes another, “to find the traces of French fashions in the forests of America. The head-dresses of all the women except the Quakers are high and complicated. One is lost in reflection, when he finds in the province of Connecticut so strong a taste for dress and so much luxury, combined with customs that are so simple and pure that they resemble those of the ancient patriarchs.” (Robin, Nouveau Voyage, etc., 38.)

      Another writer described the women as tall and well proportioned, generally with regular features, with a pale complexion and little color. They have less charm and less ease, he writes, than Frenchwomen, but more nobility of bearing. The men, he said, were usually well made, and few were fat, but they also, for the most part, had pale complexions.

      Another comment was truer then than it would be now, for on the whole life was then harder, and the progressive ease of civilization, amid many other beneficial effects, tends to preserve the good looks of women to a greater age. “At twenty-five years,” writes the abbe, “the women have no longer the freshness of youth, at thirty-five or forty they are wrinkled and decrepit.” (Robin, Nouveau Voyage, etc., 14, 15. See also Granite Monthly, iv, 424.)

      The immoderate use of tea is constantly criticized. “They take a great deal of tea, the use of this insipid drink is their chief pleasure. There is not an inhabitant who does not take it, and the greatest mark of politeness they can show is to offer it to you.” To the tea, he adds, the loss of their teeth was attributed. The women were ordinarily pretty, but at eighteen or twenty they had often lost this precious ornament. But he himself attributed this rather to hot bread, because the English and Dutch preserved their teeth, though they also were tea-drinkers (Robin, Nouveau Voyage, etc., 39.)

      La Fayette viewed everything in this country with the eyes of youthful enthusiasm. He found the women of the South pretty in appearance, simple in manners, and neat in dress, and he was no less pleased in the North. When travelling from Washington’s camp to Albany, to take command of the army which was to conquer Canada, but which never started on the expedition, he was greatly charmed by his journey of four hundred miles. Travelling leisurely on horseback, so he writes, he had the opportunity of observing the customs of the people and their patriarchal life. The women were devoted to their own homes; there they found happiness and there they gave happiness. It was only to unmarried girls one talked of love, and coquetry of this sort was amiable and decent. La Fayette goes on to complain of his own country, though certainly his own marriage was an exception to those of which he speaks. “In the marriages of chance one makes in Paris, the faithfulness of the women is often contrary to nature, to reason, and, one could almost say, to justice. In America one marries her lover. To accept another would be to break a valid treaty, because both parties know to what they are engaging themselves.” (Lafayette, Memoires, etc., 40.)

      The Comte de Deux-Ponts was among the officers who came over with Rochambeau, and he noted down his impressions of our people. They were always complimentary. “The Anglo-American,” he says, “is fleshier than the Frenchman, without being taller.” Then he adds: “He is quite strong, of a robust constitution, his phlegmatic temperament renders him patient, deliberate, and consistent in all his undertakings.” He gave the preference to those who lived north of the Delaware. They possessed, so he wrote, more courage and energy, and a rigid Presbyterianism had strengthened their character, while the people south were less energetic and less capable of enduring the fatigues of war.

      Naturally enough, American manners seemed cold to those accustomed to French exuberance. One of the followers of Rochambeau complains of the reserve of the Americans, and the coldness with which they received those who came to their assistance (Comte de Deux-Ponts, My Campaigns in America [translated by S. A. Green], 91.) “We did not meet with that reception on landing which we expected, and which we ought to have had. A coldness and a reserve appear to me to be characteristic of the American nation. They seem to have little of that enthusiasm which one supposes would belong to a people fighting for its liberties, and to be little suited to inspire it in others.”

      The gloom of the New England Sabbath also impressed itself upon our visitors. “What a gloomy silence reigns in all your towns on Sunday,” writes one. “A stranger would imagine that some epidemic or plague had obliged every one to confine himself at home.” The women are at a loss what to do with their fine dresses that have shone only at the meeting, and can only divert themselves by scandal, while the men, wearied with reading the Bible to their children, assemble round the bowl. “Make happy days then of Sundays,” he continues, ” and you will confer on them an inestimable present.” (Chastellux, Travels, etc., ii, 383-387.)

      This advice was sent to Mr. Madison. It is quite certain that if it had been sent to John Adams it would have strengthened the poor opinion be entertained of the French.

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