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The Chevalier D'Annemours
THE CHEVALIER D'ANNEMOURS.
The greater part of the following biographical sketch is taken
from a " Notice sur le Chevalier Charles Franpois Adrien Le
Paulmier d'Annemours, Consul G6n6ral de France a Baltimore,"
furnished by the French Embassy at Washington, to Mr. William
Peynaud, for the Maryland Historical Society in the year 1896.
The information in this " Notice " is derived from documents
on file in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Paris, and the rest
of this sketch is derived from newspapers of the time during which
M. d'Annemours was in Baltimore, Journals of Congress, and the
Autobiography of Charles Biddle.
Charles Franpois Adrien Le Paulmier d'Annemours was born
in Normandy about 1742. His father was a noble, but poor, and
when Charles reached the age of twelve years, he was sent off, on
a merchant ship bound to Martinique, with a venture valued at
600 francs for his whole fortune.
It would seem that he succeeded fairly well in making his way
in the world, for in about ten years he returned to France and
went to see his family in Normandy ; but he was not well received
by them, or at least not well enough to induce him to stay long
with them, for he went to England and spent two years in studying
the English language, which he learned to speak and write
fluently and correctly.
He returned to the West Indies in the year 1768, and during
the next four years lived part of the time in the English Colonies,
where he had many friends among the most influential inhabitants.
The years 1772-3 he passed in the Colonies of England in North
America, and in that time became well acquainted with their condition,
and the ideas and feelings of the inhabitants.
In 1774 he returned to France, and this time, as will be seen,
he was well received by some of bis family, if not by all.
He was now about thirty-three years old, a man of ability, a
shrewd observer, and well qualified to speak about the causes of
the trouble which was brewing between England and her Colonies.
As is well known, the Government of France was much interested
in the state of affairs on this Continent, and was quite willing
to see England embarrassed by a struggle with her American
In 1776, a relative of M. d'Annemours, the Chevalier de la
Luzerne, afterwards Minister to the United States, spoke to M.
"Vergennes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, of the knowledge of
the Colonies possessed by M. d'Annemours, and of the assistance
he would be to M. Vergennes in acquiring a proper view of the
condition of affairs in America. M. de Vergennes requested that
M. d'Annemours should draw up a memorandum on the American
question and submit the same to him.
It is supposed that this memoir is the one in Memoirs and
Documents, United States, entitled " Memoir on the English Colonies,
by the Chevalier d'Annemours." It was written in 1776
and in it M. d'Annemours set forth the resources of the Colonies,
predicted " the interesting part they were destined to play in the
world," pointed out the advantage that France had in sustaining
the Revolution, and set forth the practical methods of conducting
It would seem that at this time the Minister of Foreign Affairs
had no intention of sending an envoy to Philadelphia, and only
wanted to gain all the information possible in regard to the position
and prospects of the Colonies, but M. d'Annemours wished to
be sent out to the Colonies in some way as an agent of the French
In October, the Chevalier de la Luzerne sent to M. Vergennes
a new minute of d'Annemours entitled "An examination of some
reasons which should determine France to make an alliance with
the new American Republic," and said " I should be very glad if
you could judge for yourself of his capacity and of the correctness
of his views," and at the end of the letter " If you should find the
minute which I sent you was important and required any fuller
explanations, it would be a great pleasure to him to give them to
you. He is absolutely ignorant that you have read his writings."
The decision of the Minister is shown by a memorandum at the
bottom of a new memoir presented a little later to M. Vergennes,
entitled " The scheme of conduct which the Chevalier d'Annemours
proposes for himself during his sojourn in Philadelphia."
In it he asks to be sent to Philadelphia where he would present
himself as a French officer travelling through the country attracted
by the spectacle of the Revolution. He offered to keep the
Government informed as to the inclinations of the Americans
towards the European Powers, France especially, as to the secret
representation of the European Governments near the American
Government, on military operations, and on the general situation
of the country. But he asked, as he had no resources except a
sum of 4,000 livres which M. de la Luzerne was to send him from
some unknown source, that the Minister would advance him some
assistance. On the margin of this memoir is written, " The King
not giving mission or commission to the Chevalier d'Annemonrs,
his Minister cannot in any way take cognizance of the proposed
journey except to oppose or forbid it."
Before the end of the year the Minister began to think diiferently
of the matter, and sent for M. d'Annemonrs that he might learn
more of his ideas and of his capacity for the position of Envoy.
According to M. d'Annemonrs a proposition was made to him
that he should go to America as a secret agent of the French
Government. At first he refused, but finally agreed to depart on
his mission on condition that he should be permitted to take into
his confidence General Washington and such members of the Congress
as he should judge worthy to be intrusted with his secret.
He arrived at Boston in the beginning of the year 1777, whence
he went at once to the headquarters of the American Army in
order to confide his mission to General Washington. Later he
confided it to Richard Henry Lee, then a member of the Congress
He then went to join the Congress at Philadelphia, and followed
it in 1777 and 1778 wherever the movements of the armies forced
it to go.
During this time he kept up a correspondence with the Ministry,
and endeavored to enlighten the French cabinet on the situation,
in order to prevent any Anglo-American alliance.
"There is no choice," he wrote. " It is a question of consent or
opposition to allowing England to put barriers and shackles on the
commerce of Europe in all the seas of the globe; and of this be
sure, that her reunion with her colonies on this continent will
assure the success of an undertaking that her ambition keeping
pace with her avarice cannot fail to suggest."
He had the satisfaction of seeing his views adopted by his
Government, and in February, 1778, a " treaty of alliance was concluded
between his Most Christian Majesty the King of France
and the United States of America."
M. Gerard was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary by the
French Government and brought with him authority to appoint
provisional consuls to reside in the Colonies.
The number of French vessels which arrived at the port of
Baltimore made it important that a Consular Agent should be
established there, and accordingly that port was chosen as the place
of residence of one of the first French consuls in the Colonies.
M. Gerard chose the Chevalier d'Annemours for this position,
and in writing to the Minister of Marine (1st October, 1778) he
said: " He (d'Annemours) is a man of ability, well informed,
understands perfectly the English language, and has gained the
esteem of very many of the most influential persons in this country.
I venture to hope that his correspondence with you will
convince you of the propriety of this choice."
The jurisdiction of this Consulate was shortly afterwards extended
over Virginia and North Carolina in addition to Maryland,
and in October, 1779, M. d'Annemours was appointed Consul
General at Baltimore for the two Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland
and Georgia. In writing to M. d'Annemours the Minister of
Marine says: " The knowledge of the country which you have
acquired, the proofs of zeal which you have given, and the good
conduct which you have held during your residence in America,
have determined his Majesty to make choice of you for this
In December, 1782, the Chevalier d'Annemours married Miss
Julia de Recour, from the West Indies. Of her Capt. Biddle
says in his memoirs : "I had as passengers in the St. Patrick from
Cape Francis two French ladies, mother and daughter, the mother
a swarthy dame of about 40, and the daughter, a sprightly brown
girl of 16, who came to join some relations in Baltimore. Soon
after their arrival the daughter had the good fortune to attract the
notice of the French Consul, who married her a few weeks later.
She was a lively girl, who, when it was cold, would put on any of
my clothes, dance on the quarter deck in them and perform some
other monkey tricks which I suppose she thought there was no
The sprightly young girl, who became Madame d'Annemours,
appears no more in this sketch, and when or where she died we
know not, although we have good reason to believe that she was
not living in 1792.
In 1784 the French Government changed its consular establishment
in the United States, and ordered that for the future there
should be one Consul General residing in Philadelphia, four consuls
in different ports and five vice-consuls.
The Chevelier d'Annemours was continued as Consul at Baltimore,
with jurisdiction over Maryland and Virginia, and having a
Vice-Consul at Richmond.
When the French Revolution broke out, d'Annemours took the
oath required by the French Assembly, and remained quietly at
his post, until January, 1793, when M. Genet was sent out by the
French Republic, charged with the direction of all the consular
affairs in the United States, and among others, he suppressed the Consulate
at Baltimore. Thus after fourteen years' service M. d'Annemours
was left without any position or hope of preferment from
France. He did not return to France. There was little to attract
him in a country which he had left so young and seen so little of
since his departure, even had it been the France which he knew in
He retired to his country seat, on the Harford Road, and there
lived for some years quietly and peacefully, one of the pepole
among whom he had so long lived, whose manners and customs
were familiar to him, whose language he spoke and wrote with
ease, and where he was the object of neither observation nor
It was here that he built the monument to the memory of
Christopher Columbus, which can be seen from North Avenue
near the Harford Road, and which is well cared for by the authorities
of the Samuel Ready Orphan Asylum, the present owner of
the ground on which the monument is built.
"The Corner Stone of an obelisk to honour the memory of that
immortal man—Christopher Columbus—was laid in a grove in
one of the gardens of a villa (Belmont, the country seat of the
Chevalier d'Annemours near this town) on the 3rd of August, 1792,
the anniversary of the sailing of Columbus from Spain," says a
letter from Baltimore to Claypole's Daily Advertiser, a paper published
He left Baltimore about 1796, as in March of that year he sold
his country seat in Baltimore county to Archibald Campbell.
The latter part of his life was spent in New Orleans, where he
made a will in April, 1807, bequeathing his estate, which was
quite large, to Madame Pitot, the wife of a Judge in New Orleans.
In 1821, a suit was begun (in France) between the Pitot heirs
and a brother of the Chevalier d'Annemours, his legal heir—Denis
Hector Le Paulmier d'Annemours—concerning property in France,
owned at the time of his death by the Chevalier.
The exact date of his death is not known; but it was probably
in 1809, as the records of the District Court of New Orleans
(Wills, Vol. I) show that the succession was opened in that year.