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Louis Philippe In America
The future French king asked Washington for directions and got an arduous tour of a new nation’s wilderness
April 1969 | Volume 20, Issue 3
Louis Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, destined to be king of the French from 1830 to 1848, spent more than three years in American exile, from 1796 to 1800. Greedily curious, he and his two younger brothers travelled many thousands of miles in the United States, from Maine to New Orleans. The original record of their journey, long vainly sought, was discovered in 1955, when Mme. Marguerite Castillan du Perron gained access to the Orléans family papers in the strong room of Coutts’s Bank, London. She found locked in that grim prison an autograph travel journal of the future king. The substance of the record she reported in her Louis-Philippe et la Révolution Française (1963). The information she provides, added to our previous knowledge and many local memories, permits us to reconstitute the noble gentlemen’s adventures. —M. B.
The dukes of Orléans, Princes of the Blood, were cousins of the Bourbon kings. For a century and a half they stood, impatient, on the lower steps of the throne, as the Bourbons produced many daughters and few .sons, and those sickly, early to quit the world. By 1790 Louis Philippe Joseph, Due d’Orléans, counted only five male Bourbons between him and the royal seat. In the Revolution he proclaimed himself a liberal, courted popularity, and, rechristened Citoyen Egalité, voted in the Convention, in January, 1793, for the execution of King Louis XVI. But liberalism could not save him; he too was guillotined in the same year, hated alike by the radicals as a rich patrician and by the world’s gentlefolk as a regicide and fratricide. All his accessible property was confiscated.
Philippe Egalité had displayed his advanced views in the education of his three sons. They were put in the charge of a remarkable woman, Mme. de Genlis, poet, novelist, musician, and theorist of education according to the doctrines of Rousseau. The boys learned by doing, by games and dramatizations. At lunch they talked only English, at dinner, Italian. They absorbed botany and German by tending their own garden plots under the eye of a monoglot German gardener. They were toughened by sports, by wearing lead-soled shoes on long walks, by sleeping on the floor with a single blanket, by carrying their own washing water to the top lloor of their château. They worked with the peasants in vintage time and practiced manual trades. Louis Philippe, the eldest, was an excellent cabinetmaker, and proudly constructed an armoire and a table with sweetly sliding drawers. He learned the elements of medicine from a surgeon and served for a time as a hospital orderly. This was an education not only for the life of privilege; it was an education for adversity, an education of foreboding. The governess “l)rought us up with ferocity,” remembered Louis Philippe; and she: “He was a prince and I made him a man, slow and 1 made him clever, a coward and I made him brave; but I could not make him generous.”
Louis-Philippe, sixteen at the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789, joined the left-wing jacobin Club and the freethinking Masons. He entered the army as a colonel, and as lieutenant general fought well in battles against the coalition of European powers. But the excesses of the Paris terrorists and the guillotining of King Louis XVI revolted him; in April, 1793, he Hed to the Austrian lines. He was universally distrusted, by the republicans as a renegade, by the royalists as an ex-Jacobin and son of the infamous Philippe Egalité. He was in danger. Hc was also nearly penniless, though the son of once the richest man in France. He took refuge in Switzerland under an assumed name, and with a loyal manservant, Baudoin, made a walking tour, sleeping often in barns and eating what country food the two could afford. He found a post teaching French and mathematics in a Catholic school at Reichenau. He also busied himself getting the cook with child and was discharged, not so much for his ollense against morality as for causing the breakdown of the school kitchen.
He had to wander on. Collecting some of his father’s funds from London, in 1795 he made with the devoted Baudoin a journey to Lapland and the North Cape, a very unusual tourist trip in his time. He was sheltered briefly by a missionary and left his host’s sister-in-law with a royal souvenir, male.
He spent the winter in Germany, under various aliases, while his mother negotiated a deal with the French Directory. His younger brothers, the Duc de Montpensier and the Duc de Beaujolais, were imprisoned in Marseilles. The Directory wanted them out of the way, but not necessarily dead; the vogue of the guillotine had passed. The Directory engaged to release the brothers if they would intern themselves, with Louis Philippe, in America. The arrangement was made, though there was a little money difficulty. Gouverneur Morris, who had been American minister to France, came to the rescue with an advance of $4,000 to Louis Philippe, and later increased his loan to $13,000. (The debts were repaid with interest in 1816 and 1818, when the Orleans fortunes had turned.)
Passing as a German merchant, Louis Philippe and the faithful Baudoin—the two younger brothers were to follow later—sailed from Hamburg on the America and arrived in Philadelphia on October 23, 1796). The shipowner, David Conyngham, learned the passenger’s identity and offered him temporary hospitality. He did not lose a moment in informing Philadelphia society of his distinguished guest. Hearing the report, Miss Lucy Breck informed her diary that a real prince had arrived in the republican city! She immediately commanded a new dress. And on the twenty-eighth she wrote: “ I have seen him and yet I live! He is rather tall, and pretty well formed: but none of that commanding dignity, or even ease of manner, which is generally looked for. … There was, however, a degree of modesty, united to the appearance of a good understanding, discovered in his Countenance.” A most amiable character, she summed up; but evidently he was not quite a Prince Charming.
On the other hand, his easy, friendly manners commended him to the merchant aristocracy of Philadelphia. Lucy’s father, Samuel Breck, said: “Amiable and unpretending in conversation and general conduct, ever cheerful and apparently forgetful of his lost rank, he conformed his demeanor to that of our own manners in our best-bred Circles, and was everywhere treated with distinguished regard.” John Pickcring called him a “plain but intelligent man of good person and deportment.” Others spoke of his maturity, good sense, good nature, modesty, and simplicity of manners. He lodged in a single room. Baudoin did the shopping; his hard bargains were remembered for years by the market women. Louis Philippe was unabashed. He gave a dinner for some distinguished guests, among them John Singleton Copley, Jr., son of the painter and the future Lord Chancellor of England. He sat half his guests on the bed, remarking that he had himself occupied less comfortable places without the consolation of such an agreeable company. In short, he put on the democratic character of his companions, as he could put on the character of a schoolmaster or a frontiersman. This adaptability was to serve him later, when he became le roi bourgeois , going shopping with his queen in the Paris stores and taking his purchases home in the omnibus, and carrying an umbrella instead of a sword.
There was one quality the Philadelphia merchants could read- ily appreciate. He was extremely close, if not stingy, and had been so from childhood despite Mme. de Genlis’ correction. The Comte de Neuilly, who knew him as a boy, recalled that he would ask the price of everything, meditate, and end by saying: “C’est cher! C’est trop cher!” His parsimoniousness had developed in his years of near-destitution in Switzerland and Lapland. During his American travels he kept close account of all his expenditures. The habit persisted when he sat on the French throne. It is said that he checked grocer’s bills, sold his candle ends, had the royal table supplied by a restaurateur at four francs a plate. The leftovers were served in a cheap eating house in the Palais-Royal.
In Philadelphia, of course, he was entertained by all the great families: the Binghams, the Robert Morrises, the Willings, the Cadwaladers, the Chews. He painted a miniature of Miss Abby Willing, and is said to have offered her his hand; and her father is said to have pronounced sententiously: “As an exile, destitute of means, you are not a suitable match for my daughter. Should you recover your rights, she will not be a suitable match for you.” He attended the inauguration of President Adams. He watched Gilbert Stuart at work on a portrait of Washington. And ever he awaited the promised arrival of his two brothers.
They came at length on February 8, 1797, after a long crossing on a dirty Swedish ship, the Jupiter , chartered by the American government to bring home eighty Americans redeemed from slavery in Algiers. The reunion, Louis Philippe said later, was the happiest day of his life. The Duc de Montpensier, now twenty-one, was thin, wispy, and melancholy, yellowhaired, dark-eyed, with a sensitive face. He was delicate and fastidious; he detested wine and, much more, American whiskey. His great love and solace was art. He was an excellent painter by any reckoning, and would have some standing in art history today had he not been a prince and had not most of his works been destroyed in the sack of the royal palaces in 1848. The second brother, the Duc de Beaujolais, was only seventeen. He was undersized, “almost a dwarf,” said one scornful observer. But after all, he had just spent in prison four years proper for growth. Others thought him strongly built, bright, witty, very good-natured, and even “a beautiful youth.” The brothers brought their faithful dog, companion of their prison life. His race and name have not been recorded.
Though Louis Philippe took for the brothers a house at the northwest corner of Fourth and Prune streets, they did not linger long in Philadelphia. Louis Philippe, that earnest tourist, was eager to explore the backwoods of America, to confront the virtuous uncorrupted savages, to inspect such natural wonders as Niagara Falls. He may also have thought that a little toughening, àla Mme. de Genlis, was just what his brothers needed. He may even have wished to demonstrate to Miss Abby Willing, by a plunge into the wilderness, the romantic consequence of a broken heart.
The brothers rode away late in March, 1797, accompanied by good Baudoin and the nameless dog. Louis Philippe noted that the four horses cost $130, the gear $70. Samuel Breck (and Miss Lucy?) saw them off, and observed that they had adopted the style and dress of western traders, that is, deerskin breeches and long, loose frocks of linsey-woolsey or deerskin, belted to make a pouch at the breast for provisions. But in their saddlebags they carried white satin suits with lace ruffles, in which to appear, at need, with decency.
They took the Baltimore road through “a swampy and dreary country.” They stopped at roadside inns, registering as Mr. Orleans, Mr. Montpensier, and Mr. Beaujolais. In Baltimore they broke out their satin suits to dine with Richard Caton, General Samuel Smith, and the rich merchant Robert Gilmor, who kindly presented them with a letter of credit.
On April 3 the party reached Washington, “a city laid out on paper, staked out in swamp-land.” One wing of the new Capitol rose in the midst of desolation. Louis Philippe was not impressed. He found the President’s House (only the shell of the present White House) mean and heavy, with a ridiculously small entrance. (This defect was in fact corrected after the British burned the building in 1814.)
Two days later the travellers, delayed by the necessity of having their laundry done, presented themselves at Mount Vernon. The flustered Negro doorman reported to General Washington: “Your Excellency, there are three Equalities at the door!” The General received them with his usual courtly grace. They talked late that evening, chiefly about the institution of slavery, a subject that fascinated Louis Philippe. He was inclined to foresee a bloody slave rebellion, like that of Santo Domingo. Mount Vernon, to be sure, presented an example of a model plantation, with the slaves apparently contented. But Baudoin, who gained the confidence of the house servants, reported that they longed for freedom, even without contentment, and envied fugitives to the North.
The following morning the brothers rose at six thirty and, looking out the window, perceived their host returning from an inspection of his lands. “Do you get along without sleep?” Louis Philippe asked at breakfast. “I always sleep well,” he replied, “for I never wrote a word in my life which I had afterwards cause to regret.”
They announced to the General their purpose of exploring the mysterious interior of America. He was much interested; he took a copy of Abraham Bradley’s recent map of the United States and on it traced in red ink a recommended itinerary. Years later King Louis Philippe liked to impress American visitors by unfolding his map and pointing to the red line drawn by the hand of the great Washington.
After four happy days at Mount Vernon, the party set out to follow Washington’s guideline. At Leesburg they were interrupted at dinner by Colonel Burgess Ball, Washington’s cousin, who insisted on carrying them off to his plantation and boring them through a long evening. “Boredom and wasted time,” Louis Philippe noted in his journal. “The only thing I am interested in is the aspect of the country, the state of agriculture and that of the houses and inhabitants.”
The travellers entered the rich valley of the Shanadore, or Shenandoah. At Winchester they stopped at the inn of Mr. Bush, originally from Mannheim. Louis Philippe conversed familiarly with him in German, then requested that they be served in their room, since one of the brothers was indisposed. But Mr. Bush exclaimed in outrage: “If you are too good to eat at the same table with my other guests, you are too good to eat in my house! Begone!” And, indeed, they were driven forth in a storm of rain and hail, to push on eighteen miles to Strasburg and to meditate on the peculiarities of democracy.
The brothers followed the “Great Indian Warpath,” now placid Route 11, through Harrisonburg, Staunton, Lexington, Salem, and so southwest into Tennessee. The well-travelled road was tolerable enough, the food—salt pork and hoecake—revolting, the inns frightful. But they apparently succeeded in dodging Mrs. Tease’s tavern, near Staunton, which the Marquis de Chastellux ten years before had described as “one of the worst in all America. … A solitary tin vessel was the only bowl for the family, the servants, and ourselves. I dare not say for what other use it was proposed to us on our going to bed.” On this theme, Louis Philippe asked one evening for a chamber pot; the hostess pointed expressively to a glassless window.
To Louis Philippe most of the land seemed monotonous, endless forests wherein even the birds were mute. But wild turkeys, partridges, blue pigeons, and deer abounded. Although the travellers were well received in the rare homes of gentry, they found most of the human inhabitants unwelcoming.
Nothing can equal the shiftlessness and disobligingness of the workers here. When a horse needs shoeing one must sometimes travel twenty-five miles before getting aid, and one must call on five or six farriers before finding one who is willing to work. If anything happens to a saddle, a coat, or a boot, one finds no one to repair it. The other day a cobbler said to us: “Yes, I’m a cobbler. I work sometimes, but now I don’t feel like it.”
The brothers crossed into the new state of Tennessee and arrived on April 30 at its capital, Knoxville, consisting of about a hundred houses. Though their inn was a good five years old, the bedroom walls still gaped where the builders had withdrawn the beams support- ing the scaffolding. Modern research identifies their stopping place as Chisholm’s Tavern, still standing, and records a tradition that Louis Philippe, assailed by bedbugs, greased himself vainly with hog’s lard and finally ran out screaming to plunge into the Tennessee River.
Here the travellers made a digression to visit the Cherokee reserve in the Great Smokies, around TeIlico Plains, sixty miles south of Knoxville. The Indian agents and a small garrison occupied a fort, or blockhouse, which commonly stood wide open. Indians strolled in, picked up pipes lying about, squatted, and smoked. The fort contained a store where white men’s goods—but no whiskey—were for sale at nominal prices. Indian produce was similarly cheap. Louis Philippe, always delighted with a bargain, bought a pig, a wild turkey, and a gallon of strawberries for a quarter-dollar. The commander, Major John Strother, was proud of his peaceable kingdom. He explained that the famous Indian atrocities were usually reprisals for the atrocities of aggressive whites trying to provoke government intervention and the confiscation of Indian hunting grounds.
The princes visited the Indian village, of which the chief feature was the maison de ville , town hall, a large hexagonal structure, log-framed, roofed with cornstalks, and resembling an enormous haystack. It was used for meetings and for ritual dance. Three pillars supported tribal totems—snake, tortoise, lizard…painted in black on white panels and reminiscent of coats of arms.
Louis Philippe, ever curious, inquired into the Indians’ religion (they seemed to do without), legal system (they made laws readily and as readily forgot them), division of labor between the sexes, status of women, sexual morality (it barely existed). He noted that the promiscuity of the women deprived them of male respect. He drew a lesson for France: the new laws permitting freedom of divorce will bring in something like Indian concubinage. Women, he wrote, can rise out of their present dependence “only by the sentiments they inspire in men, not at all by the pleasures they may offer. To avoid debasement these pleasures should be reserved, as a means of augmenting the emotions of the lover who thinks himself beloved. But if the pleasures are lavished on many, the magic of emotion disappears, and women fall into debasement and thence into dependence.”
With the commandant’s permission, Louis Philippe offered a prize of two kegs of whiskey to induce the Indians to stage a ball game, beside what is still known as Ball Play Creek. The contestants, their bodies oiled, tried to drive a deerskin ball between the opponents’ goal posts. All means of propulsion were permissible: feet, hands, and short lacrosse sticks. The spectators admired the players’ agility and ferocity.
The next day, disregarding an Indian deputation that presented the empty whiskey kegs and asked for a refill, the travellers returned north and headed west for Nashville. They now entered a difficult, debatable land, where the Indians were still unpacified. They were adjured by white settlers to join an armed party, but they were too impatient and reckless to delay. The road was a mere track through the wilderness. There was not a settler for a hundred miles; and when at length the wayfarers found one, he had no food for sale except a little smoked bear’s grease and corn. The track is followed by modern Route 70 and 7oN, across Crab Orchard Gap, through the present Crossville and Cookeville to Carthage on the Cumberland River. The river was then bordered by nearly impenetrable canebrakes. Cabins and tilled fields began to appear. At Major Dickson’s in Castalian Springs the Frenchmen had their first coffee in many a day.
On May 10 they arrived in Nashville, a town of some eighty houses, with pretensions toward elegance. An English visitor in this year was astonished to see there two coaches “fitted up in all the style of Philadelphia or New York.” The princes stopped at Captain Jesse Maxwell’s house, now the Maxwell House Hotel. They had envisioned relative comfort, after their nights under the stars or the rain. But court was in session and the inn crowded; they were forced to sleep three in a bed. (Later King Louis Philippe liked to ask Americans: “Do they still sleep three in a bed at Nashville?”) They met some of the town’s celebrities, including Captain Timothée de Montbrun, a former French officer turned Indian trader, who on meeting the princes was “excited like one affected with St. Vitus’s dance; he could not keep his hands, his feet or his tongue still.”
Now the party turned north, on a track or “trace” that has become Route 31E, through Gallatin and Glasgow. They passed through the “Barrens,” a wild, hungry, treeless land, almost empty of settlers. They stopped one night at a Captain Chapman’s; he greeted them with suspicion, presuming their purpose to be the rousing of the Indians against the Americans. The Captain was an angry man; he asserted that all the West hated the American government, the worst conceivable. Night fell; the Captain and his wife took a “puncheon” bed of trimmed timber at one side of the room; “that seemed to us very natural.” The Frenchmen disposed themselves on the floor, with their feet toward the fire. Another bed stood beyond them.
A rather pretty girl, whom we knew to be unmarried, got into it; that also seemed very natural. A stalwart young man of twenty or twenty-two arrived soon afterward, as we were rolling up in our blankets, and without ceremony got into the girl’s bed. Although this was certainly very natural, it caused us some surprise. It had no such effect on the captain, who, to repose himself from his day’s labors, began a conversation of which we were the subject. He thought we were very queer folk, to leave our home and endure all the fatigues of a hard journey in order to see wildernesses, savages and a thousand other things which he had good reason to find unworthy of such efforts. The familiar behavior of the young man with the girl did not seem to upset him. His other daughter blew out the candle and got into the young people’s bed, so that the youth was between the two girls. That seemed fairly extraordinary to us, but the matrimonial conversation went on without a pause.
Riding through pouring rain, fording swollen rivers, suffering often from hunger, the princes reached Hodgenville, Kentucky, and according to local tradition were well entertained by the proprietor, Mr. Hodgen. (In a cabin a few miles away Abraham Lincoln would be born twelve years later.)
Thus they came to Bardstown, a metropolis of a hundred and fifty houses. Louis Philippe was ill; he asked the landlady for some special attentions. These were refused, for an Irishman in a clown costume was parading the town and announcing a puppet show. There had never before been any public amusement in Bardstown, and the entire staff of the inn would attend the show. The hostess took all her children, “so that when they are old they will be able to say they have seen it.”
The Bardstown Catholic church, once a cathedral, still proudly displays a collection of paintings, allegedly by Murillo, Rubens, van Eyck, Van Dyck, etc., said to have been given later by King Louis Philippe in gratitude for his warm reception in the village. It is hardly necessary to remark that Louis Philippe would not have given anyone a million dollars’ worth of art, and least of all would he have bestowed it on Bardstown. There is, however, some reason to suppose that the church clock was his gift.
It was in Bardstown that he wrote (on May 21) the last entry in his journal, summing up his impression of the Kentuckians:
What makes a journey in this region absolutely unendurable is the character of the new settlers. They are the lowest sort of men I have ever seen. In general they are the scum of Ireland and the United States. They are coarse, idle, and inhospitable to the utmost degree. Nothing is more disgusting than to see such people continually. I must admit that, despite my prejudice against the Irish settlers, I have always found them more hospitable and less disagreeable than the American settlers. Altogether, I don’t think that in any corner of Europe one could find such a degraded lot.
This opinion is supported by the Englishman Thomas Ashe, who visited Bardstown in 1806. “Of the inhabitants I have already said enough to make humanity shudder. They trample on all the advantages spread before them by nature, and live in a brutal ignorance of the charms and luxuries which surround them.” Poor Mr. Ashe was particularly revolted by the Kentuckians’ diet. “They eat salt meat three times a day, seldom or never have any vegetable, and drink ardent spirits from morning till night. They have not only an aversion to fresh meat, but a vulgar prejudice that it is unwholesome. The truth is, their stomachs are depraved by burning liquors, and they have no appetite for anything but what is highly flavored and strongly impregnated with salt.”
(In our glorification of the bold pioneers we forget that they were commonly regarded as outcasts of civilization, too indolent and incompetent to survive in the settled country. O pioneers! There were heroes among you; there were also derelicts and outlaws.)
Now the road turned east, to Lexington, the trading center of the Kentucky country. Somewhere on the way Louis Philippe must have paused to tend his illness, for the stage of the journey from Bardstown to Pittsburgh, something over three hundred miles, occupied a month. The road was the main access to the Kentucky country from the northeastern states and was relatively good. The princes crossed the Ohio River at Maysville. In Chillicothe, Ohio, Louis Philippe intervened in a barroom brawl and rescued the landlord. His role was always to be that of a peacemaker. In Zanesville he lodged in the cabin of John Mclntire, who is remembered in Muskingum County as “of a pleasant disposition except when insulted, when he would instantly knock the offender down, and go off about his business.” Thence the travellers headed east, through Wheeling, and arrived in Pittsburgh on June 20.
Here they rested for several days. They were cordially received by the great men of Pittsburgh, including General John Neville and Hugh Henry Brackenridge, author of Modern Chivalry . Neville’s son was impressed by the brothers’ familiar, democratic manners, and by Beaujolais’s playfulness. He remembered Louis Philippe as rather taciturn, melancholy, and subject to fits of abstraction. Of course, he may have been suffering from the sequels of illness. The visitors made friends with the picturesque émigré the Chevalier Dubac, who was described as “the most popular citizen of the village.” Though once an attaché of the French legation in Constantinople, he was not at all cast down by ill fortune. He opened a confiserie , making a specialty of burnt maple sugar, peach-flavored, with hazelnuts and walnuts. He had a pet monkey, Sultan, who he insisted could tell counterfeit money from genuine. “Allons, Sultan,” he would say, “tell dese good ladie de good money from de counterfeit.” After some byplay, Sultan would scrape all the money into the cash drawer. “Madame, he is like de Pope; he is infallible.”
From Pittsburgh the course led north to Erie, Pennsylvania, then east along the shore of Lake Erie. Ever curious about the natives, Louis Philippe paused at the Cattaraugus Reservation of the Seneca Indians. Here, apparently, occurred an incident that always amused the younger brothers. The chief was ill; Louis Philippe prescribed and performed a bleeding. Much relieved, the chief granted the medicine man his highest mark of esteem; he installed the visitor for the night in the place of honor, between the chief’s grandmother and his great-aunt. It is true that in the morning the chief tried to impound, by a legal quibble, the brothers’ faithful, far-travelled dog.
Thus they came to Buffalo Creek, no more than an Indian trading post. They crossed to the Canadian side of the Niagara River and spent a day regarding Niagara Falls. Montpensier made of the famous view a sketch, from which he later developed an oil painting (see page 44).
East of Buffalo, the track led through swamplands inhabited only by mosquitoes. Floundering through the wet woods, the Frenchmen met a party bound for Niagara, and recognized Alexander Baring, an Englishman who was engaged to the daughter of the great William Bingham of Philadelphia; she was the cousin of sweet Abby Willing. He found the princes wearing ragged clothes and gaping boots, and nearly penniless. He asked if the sight of Niagara was really worth all the toil and pains, and was assured that indeed it was. (Later, as Lord Ashburton, Baring was to reappear in American history as signer of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty.)
The princes emerged from the sloughs. Montpensier wrote to his sister: “We have spent fourteen nights in the woods, devoured by all kinds of insects, soaked to the bone, unable to get dry, eating pork and sometimes a little salt beef and corn-bread.” They crossed the Genesee at Avon Springs by Widow Berry’s rope ferry and reached an outpost of civilization in Dr. Timothy Hosmer’s sanitarium beside healing springs. Here they found excellent fare, and incredibly a bathhouse, and just as incredibly a well-chosen library. Their courtly host, a former surgeon in the Revolutionary army, was in local remembrance “a gentleman of the old school, scrupulously clean and neat, with a portly frame and erect military carriage. His hair was ribbon-tied, and carefully powdered by his black servant, Boston. His breeches of soft and nicely-dressed deerskin were fastened at the knees by silver buckles.” It seemed to the princes that they were re-entering a lost world.
The impression was reinforced, a day’s journey farther on, in Canandaigua. Here the bedraggled travellers were greeted in perfect French by Thomas Morris, son of the financier Robert Morris and agent for the newly opened lands of the Genesee country. He had been educated in France and had brought with him to these backwoods an accomplished French chef. He put up the visitors in his comfortable house, supplied all their wants, took them on fishing trips on beautiful Canandaigua Lake. They made friends with a young Scottish clerk in the land office, John Greig, and all, wearing moccasins, went hunting deer and wild duck.
Years later Greig, a lawyer and bank president, revisited Europe. Timidly he sent up his card to the French king: “John Greig, late of Canandaigua, America.” As an awe-struck Canandaiguan had it from Greig, “the recollections of early scenes rushed vividly upon the mind of the monarch; and, laying aside his royal state, he went quickly to the door, threw it open, and, expanding his arms, fervently clasped John Greig to his bosom.” During a whole month, “John must sit by his side at dinner, play at chess and cribbage with him in his library, and ride by his side. … When he left the court of St. Cloud, it was, as John Greig afterward said, like tearing himself from the home of his youth, and the embrace of a father.”
At Thomas Morris’ urging, and under his guidance, the party visited the falls of the Genesee, stopping for the night at the log house of Orringh Stone, in the present Brighton, Rochester’s suburb. The two-story frame tavern that succeeded the cabin a year or two later is now jealously guarded by the Society for the Preservation of Landmarks in Western New York. The falls themselves, though a disappointment after Niagara, tempted Beaujolais to make a sketch, and later a painting (see page 45).
The city of Rochester was no more than a deserted shanty in a swamp. Sometime in the 1840’s King Louis Philippe inspected in a Paris exhibition a giant plateglass window; he was told that it was ordered by a dry-goods store in Rochester. “What! Can it be that that mud-hole is calling for anything of the sort?”
Back in Canandaigua, the party met Captain Charles Williamson, the “Baron of the Backwoods,” agent for the vast Pulteney estate extending from the Genesee country to the Finger Lakes, and builder of wilderness cities complete with theatre and racecourse. At his suggestion the horses, nearly foundered after their long journey, were sent overland by easy stages to meet their riders at Northumberland, Pennsylvania, while the travellers proceeded to Geneva. Here, on July 13, they stopped, certainly at Captain Williamson’s magnificent three-story hotel, erected in 1796 and still today sheltering guests in diminished splendor. Thence they paddled, or sailed, the length of Seneca Lake, and then, on foot, carried their packs twenty miles to Newtown, now Elmira. Here they bought a boat of some sort, no doubt a Durham boat, or flat-bottomed scow, and on it floated down the Chemung and the Susquehanna.
A few miles below Towanda they came to Azilum, that remarkable colony established by a group of French émigrés to offer a refuge to Marie Antoinette and her family. The princes are said to have stopped here. This is possible but unlikely, for Azilum was fiercely legitimist, and the sons of Philippe-Egalité would hardly have been welcome.
They continued down the Susquehanna to WilkesBarre. They seem not to have met their horses, but to have made the last stage of their journey on hired steeds and in public conveyances. They arrived in Philadelphia on or about July 27. They had been four months on the way and had covered well over two thousand difficult miles. They settled, with great relief, into their own house.
But yellow fever raged in sultry Philadelphia, and the gentry had fled the city. Early in October the princes set forth again on their travels. They stopped in New York to cash a !3,000 letter of credit from Gouverneur Morris, then continued by sloop to Providence and by stagecoach to Boston. They lodged at the Hancock House, in Corn Court, just south of Faneuil Hall. Louis Philippe often cited the hostess, the future Mrs. William Brazier, as a model housekeeper. The travellers were received by Boston’s great: Harrison Gray Otis, John Amory, and others. They pushed on to Portsmouth, and were welcomed in the pleasant mansion of Senator John Langdon. They spent a week at the home of Mrs. Martine, on nearby Sagamore Creek. Then onward to visit General Henry Knox in Thomaston, Maine, and General Henry Dearborn (whose name is still sacred in Chicago) at Pittston, near Gardiner on the Kennebec River.
This was the travellers’ farthest north. They turned back to Boston, and put up with a French tailor, James Amblard, at the corner of Marshall and Union streets. The Union Oyster House, on the same site, claims to remember the royal visitor, but the Union Oyster House has been in business a mere 142 years. (Do not believe its story that Louis Philippe set up as a teacher of French; he was well in funds, and anyway he was not in Boston for more than a week.)
Back in Philadelphia at November’s end, the brothers learned that the French Directory had deported their mother to Spain. They immediately determined to join her there, declaring: “She shall not remain sonless while we are alive!” But there was a difficulty: England and Spain were at war, and communications between America and Spain were cut off. The princes saw only one possibility—to make their way to New Orleans, then held by the Spanish, and embark on a Spanish blockade-runner. The prospect of a 2,000-mile journey in winter weather could not discourage them.
They set forth, riding westward, on December 10, with good Baudoin; but we hear no more of the globetrotting dog. On the way Beaujolais fell ill. Unwilling to delay, the brothers bought a cart for their transport. In Carlisle, Pennsylvania, their horses took fright and ran away, crashing their cart into a tree and throwing out the occupants. Louis Philippe, though briefly knocked insensible, applied first aid and spectacularly bled himself before an admiring group of citizens. The next day a committee waited upon him and proposed that he should remain in Carlisle as the town physician. After he had become France’s monarch, Louis Philippe loved to tell this story, concluding: “Perhaps I should have lived happier as the Doctor of Carlisle than as King of the French!”
When the princes arrived in familiar Pittsburgh, ice was already forming in the Ohio River, threatening to cut off navigation. They bought a keelboat, a raftlike craft guided by men with poles and a steersman with a sweep-oar. They were in constant danger from floating ice, from the menace of shoals and snags, from thievish Indians and even more thievish rivermen. They grounded once for twenty-four hours, while crewmen and princes worked together to set the vessel free. They arrived at last in New Orleans on February 17, 1798, after two months on the river.
Five weeks later they sailed in an American brig for Havana. On the way they were boarded by a British frigate; its captain proposed to impress the passengers to serve as British seamen, but Louis Philippe assumed his most regal air, revealed himself as the Duc d’Orléans, and successfully threatened the captain with vague governmental reprisals.
Havana proved to be no steppingstone to Spain. After long delay the government ordered the brothers back to New Orleans. They dodged the order, slipped away to the Bahamas, and thence made their way to Halifax, where they were warmly received by the Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria. Failing to find a passage abroad, they returned to New York and at last sailed for England, arriving there in February, 1800. Unable to join their mother in Spain, in England they remained. Montpensier died in 1807 of tuberculosis. Beaujolais suffered from the same disease; Louis Philippe bore him off to sunny Malta in 1808, but the young man died on his arrival there. And Louis Philippe went on to his great destiny.
The Bourbon Charles X was driven from the French throne in the revolution of 1830. Louis Philippe modestly accepted the title of King of the French in a constitutional, bourgeois monarchy. He wrote to the historian François Guizot in 1839: “My three years’ residence in America have had a great influence on my political opinions and on my judgment of the course of human affairs.” Clearly his experience of democracy in action, his contacts with men of every sort, wise and simple, gentle and brutal, served him well. He gave France eighteen years of peace and prosperity, but in the end his people wearied of peace and prosperity. In 1848 the mob attacked the Tuileries; King and Queen simply hailed a cab and drove off to their final exile in England.
Historians of following regimes have treated him hardly, scorning his concern with money, his unconcern with glory, even the comical pear-shape he eventually assumed. Louis Philippe was unkingly in his subjects’ eyes, as he had seemed unprincely to Miss Lucy Breck in Philadelphia. But there have been many worse rulers of France, both before and after.
As for Miss Abby Willing, she married Richard Peters, a substantial Philadelphia burgher. Probably she was much happier in the environs of Rittenhouse Square than she would have been in the Tuileries.