1795 de la Rochefoucault

Francois-Alexandre-Frederic le Rochefoucault-Liancourt (1747-1827) was President of the French National Assembly in 1789, the time of the French Revolution. He befriended King Louis XVI and as a result took refuge in England in 1792. In 1794 he traveled to America making a "journey for philosophical and commercial observation." He traveled in America until 1797. He returned to France in 1799 where he was actively engaged in many causes and wrote works on taxation, pauperism, public instruction, savings banks, prison discipline, etc.


...Fort Detroit, and several other forts, which the English still hold in their possession, but which are to be given up to the Americans, are garrisoned by the twenty-fifth regiment. Fort Detroit stands at the end of Lake Erie, on the strait or river, which separates it from Lake St. Clair. It was erected about the year 1740. The inhabitants are mostly French, and consist of about three hundred families. It is said to be in a very flourishing condition. About one hundred artillerymen are distributed in Detroit, Fort Niagara, and some other places, which I shall have occasion to mention. The troops generally remain seven years in Canada, during which time the garrisons relieve each other every year. But the war in Europe, and the fear of a rupture with America, have occasioned various alterations in these ordinary arrangements. The regiments now remain three years in the same place; a change, with which they alone are pleased, to whose lot it falls to garrison the small forts. For the same reasons, the regiments at present have but half their complements.

A store-house, belonging to a private gentleman is also included within Fort Erie, but stands apart from the buildings, which appertain to government. In this magazine are warehoused all the goods, which come upwards, and are destined for Detroit, as well as those which go down the river to Niagara, Kingston, Montreal, Quebec, &c. They are forwarded to their places of destination, either in boats, when they go down the river, or in large vessels, when they are destined for Detroit. The trade on Lake Erie is carried on in four or five merchantmen, besides three or four armed yachts belonging to the king.

Peltry is the chief commodity exported from Detroit; but we also saw several casks of very fine maple sugar, made by the Indians. We were informed, that the quantity of this article, which passes yearly through this place, is very considerable; but were not able to learn its exact value in money. The owner of the store-house hires, at times, about twenty Canadians, for the shipping and unshipping of the goods, for carrying them into the magazine, and transporting the boats by land to the lower country. The Canadians no sooner learned, that we were Frenchmen, than they expressed to us a satisfaction, attachment, and respect, repeated demonstrations of which of which our peculiar situation obliged us to avoid.

The Chippaway, a king's yacht, commanded by Captain Hara, arrived here during our residence in the fort. He had been seven days passing the strait, which ships frequently clear in two days.

Hard cash or specie is extremely scarce in this corner of the world. It can come only from Lower Canada, but they like to keep it in Quebec and Montreal. Nay, the pay-master of the troops, on pretence that the conveyance is dangerous, sends no specie for the troops, though he receives their pay in hard cash. He could most certainly not refuse it to the paymasters of the regiments, if, for that purpose, they proceeded to Montreal or Quebec, where he resides. But to undertake this journey at the expence of the corps, would occasion too considerable a deduction from their money, which should reach its destination with the least diminution. He accordingly remits it in bills of exchange, which are paid in paper-money, that every one makes to any amount he chooses, and which nevertheless is universally received with a degree of confidence equal to that which obtained in France in the second year of the revolution. There are notes of this kind of only two pence in value. They are small slips of paper, either written or printed, frequently without any signature, and mostly effaced and torn.

During our dinner several Indians arrived in boats. They formed a small camp on the bank of the river, which we visited on our return. We experienced from them the most cordial reception, to which, perhaps, the state of our companions, not dissimilar to that in which most of these drinkers of rum have found themselves, contributed not a little.

Sunday, the 21st of June.

After a hearty breakfast on board the Chippaway frigate, where we learned, that this vessel, which is about four hundred tuns burthen, and pierced for sixteen guns, costs five thousand pounds sterling! - a proof of the enormous price of labour in this country - we embarked for Chippaway. Major Pratt insisted on our taking our passage in a vessel belonging to government, as he had particular orders to that effect. He manned it with six soldiers, who were excellent hands at rowing; and also directed Lieutenant Faulkner to attend us as far as Niagara. No denial, on our part, could prevail with him to withhold this act of civility, which, even during my prosperity, would have embarrassed me, and which now bore the appearance of scorn rather than politeness.

From: TRAVELS THROUGH THE UNITED STATES OF NORTH AMERICA, THE COUNTRY OF THE IROQUOIS, AND UPPER CANADA, IN THE YEARS 1795, 1796, AND 1797 BY THE DUKE DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULT- LIANCOURT. London: Printed for R. Phillips, 1799: 215-217.

See Also:

La Rochefoucault-Liancourts Travels in Canada, 1795. William R. Riddell, editor. Thirtheenth Report of the Bureau of Archives for the Province of Ontario. Toronto. 1917: 3 -13.