LENGTHY MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE LETTER IN ENGLISH
TO JOHN NEAL, THE AMERICAN WRITER WHO ADVOCATED FOR WOMAN’S RIGHTS, ADVOCATED THE END OF SLAVERY AND RACIAL PREJUDICE — STAYING AT ENGLISH PHILOSOPHER, JURIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER JEREMY BENTHAM’S HOME, WHOM IS REGARDED AS THE FOUNDER OF MODERN UTILITARIANISM.
LAFAYETTE, GILBERT DU MOTIER [MARQUIS DE]. (1757-1834). French military leader and statesman, who fought on the side of the colonists during the American Revolution and later took a prominent part in the French Revolution. Scarce Autograph Letter Signed, “Lafayette”, in English. Two pages, quarto. “La Grange” [his home], June 6, 1826. Fine condition. Addressed on integral address leaf to “John Neal, Esq. at Jeremy Bentham’s, Esq., Queen Square Place, Westminster, London”, with postal cancellations. [See end of description for Neal and Bentham bios]. Lafayette writes:
“Dear Sir, I much regret to have been hitherto deprived of the pleasure to see you, and thank you for your good intention to visit La Grange on your intended journey to France. I have lately received a letter from our friend William Lee who was in good health at Washington. While I am to apologize for the delay of my answer, I request you to do justice to my motive which was the hope to give you fuller information on the subject of your kind and very obliging communication. But I will not any more differ my acknowledgment.
Mr. J. having announced himself to me as the great-grandson of my intimate friend and brother in Arms General Lincoln, his mother being the General’s granddaughter, I eagerly seeked a personal acquaintance with both of them, was pleased with the young man’s partiality to his own Country, and introduced my family to them at the next of our evening weekly parties, where, altho’ most of the Americans in town weren’t there, it so happened that none of our friends, were acquainted with them. A few days after Mr. J. informed me they had removed to Versailles, that being a cheaper place. His health was impaired. He has since contemplated to return home, a notion which on the receipt of your letter, and a further knowledge of their Situation I thought is my duty to encourage, and as Mr. Welles, a very respectable Banker and Merchant in Paris, himself a Bostonian, informed me of a vessel going to Boston, and kindly offered to converse on the subject with Mr. J. I gave none of it to them, advising Mr. J. to visit his Massachusetts Countryman as soon as possible. I am surprised not to have since heard from them, but hope they will give up their traveling plan until it is more compatible to their pecuniary tolerance. These confidential communications I thought I must give you in return for yours, and altho’ they are incomplete cannot delay them any longer.
I beg you to present Mr. Jeremy Bentham with my affectionate regards, and those of my family who have been highly gratified by the honor and pleasure of his kind visit to La Grange. I am much obliged to the good care of my respected friend about the Florida pamphlets. Tell him the last time I heard from our Beloved Young friends they were in good health, on their new purchase, near Memphis West Tennessee. With thankful and sincere regard I have the honor to be, My Dear Sir, Your Lafayette”.
JOHN NEAL. (1793–1876) was an American writer, critic, editor, lecturer, and activist. Considered both eccentric and influential, he delivered speeches and published essays, novels, poems, and short stories between the 1810s and 1870s in the United States and Great Britain, championing American literary nationalism and regionalism in their earliest stages. Neal advanced the development of American art, fought for women’s rights, advocated the end of slavery and racial prejudice, and helped establish the American gymnastics movement.
The first American author to use natural diction and a pioneer of colloquialism, John Neal is the first to use the phrase’ son-of-a-bitch’ in a work of fiction. He attained his greatest literary achievements between 1817 and 1835, during which time he was the first American published in British literary journals, author of the first history of American literature, America’s first art critic, a children’s literature pioneer, and a forerunner of the American Renaissance. As one of the first men to advocate women’s rights in the US and the first American lecturer on the issue, for over fifty years he supported female writers and organizers, affirmed intellectual equality between men and women, fought coverture laws against women’s economic rights, and demanded suffrage, equal pay, and better education for women. [Encyclopedia Britannia].
JEREMY BENTHAM. (1747-1832). English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism. Bentham defined as the “fundamental axiom” of his philosophy the principle that “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedoms, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and (in an unpublished essay) the decriminalizing of homosexual acts. He called for the abolition of slavery, capital punishment and physical punishment, including that of children. He has also become known as an early advocate of animal rights.