Skip navigation

1799 Bates

Frederick Bates (1777-1825) was appointed to the Quartermaster's department of the Army of the Northwest in 1797. He traveled on horseback from Virginia to Detroit. In 1805 he was appointed Receiver of the Public Monies and was made a Land Commissioner. He was one of the first three judge appointed in Michigan Territory. In 1807 he was appointed Secretary of Louisiana Territory by Jefferson and moved to St. Louis. He later became the Governor of Missouri.

Detroit May 5th 1799

My Dear Sister,

After closing my letter to Richard I recollected that I ought not to neglect writing to you, by the present favorable opportunity, as the Regimental Pay Master, Lt. Thompson, will give them a safe conveyance to Pittsburgh. - Still my dear Sally I have nothing to tell you, unless to repeat those vows of unalterable affection, which I have so often made. Can I never expect to hear from you, except at second hand. I sometimes see your name in the letters of my amiable and worthy little Correspondent. But there the whole family send their loves to me in a bundle. It has too much the appearance of a thing of course, - I should wish to hear from you individually. Indeed you do not consider my situation. It has been a length of time since I saw the human being, who has the smallest interest in my welfare. When I meet with those little rubs and cross accidents, from which I never ever expected an exemption I must submit to them in silence. What relief! had I a Friend to whom I might impart them, and who would assist me to support their burthen. Before I knew the value of a friend, I estimated too lightly that harmony & affection, which ought to subsist between persons deriving their existence from the same source. I experience a kind of gloomy happiness, when thinking on those Scenes of youthful pleasure, which nothing but fancy can enjoy. Every object which then surrounded me, appears now replete with beauties. Even the sandy road in which we trudged to School together, has something in [it] inexpressibly charming. Yet they shine with borrowed lustre; It is you - It is the Belmont family which bestows on them, their pleasing attractions. -

I make but little progress among the french Girls. They are not very apt to think favorably of the Americans. - They think them a rough unpolished, brutal set of people. The pleasure of walking on a sunday evening, is almost counterbalanced by the trouble attendant on that parade & ceremony with which the salutations of the French must be returned. - The Miss Grants daughters of the Commodore of the British Squadron on the upper Lakes, are the finest girls in this country. - Their mother is a Canadian, and they are Roman Catholics. Last Christmas I went early to the midnight mass, and seated myself in their Pew. - They came, and with the most obliging good nature, requested me to make room, - I rose - apologized for my intrusion - & seated myself in the Pew next them. - Determined to be diverted at my expence, they beckoned to me as many as three times, to move, as I was in the seat of a lady who was coming in. - After mass, I remonstrated with them on their cruelty in taking such pleasure in my embarasment. They thought it a cruelty, which they might very innocently exercise. - Their father altho' in the British service lives on this side of the Strait, about twelve miles above town on one of the best Farms in the Country. Their mother (which is a singular circumstance among French ladies) superintends the farm, the produce of which, supports the Family very decently. The old Gentleman's salaries as Commodore and privy Counsellor, are funded, as portions for the girls. -

A young fellow and myself once went into the Pew of Miss Navarre. - When we left it, she came in, and smeared her muslin, with a little Tobo. juice, which we had very impolitely left on the bench, on which she performed her genuflexions. She afterwards told an acquaintance of ours, that she thought Mr. Wallace and Mr. Ernest's brother, had more ill-manners & less decency than even the Yankees generally had. - On public occasions, at the Balls, the French Girls, will not be acquainted with you. Altho' they may understand English, they will speak to you in French. I cannot attribute it to modesty for I have known their conduct intirely incompatible, with that useless incumbrance.

Upon the whole I think favorably of them: Those in good circumstances are remarkably neat, both in their persons & houses. Their original organization is certainly different from other people. A country rustic who sells Potatoes has all the happy confidence, easy motions, and politeness of expression, which in other countries, distinguish the Gents. from the common.

Most of the labouring French wear a [handker]chief about their heads instead of a [hat]. It is not uncommon when meeting a mer[chant] in the Street, for them, to take off the H[andkerchief and] make a low bow. - In tying it on again they are a minute or two before they can please themselves. -

My Love to Father, & Mother & Aunt Ursula - Also all our brothers & sisters, & to all those whose enquiries after me, are dictated by friendship, and not curiosity. -

From: THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF FREDERICK BATES edited by Thomas Maitland Marshall. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society. 1926. 2 volumes. 1: 45 - 48.

See Also:

Dictionary of American Biography

Browman, David L. Thornhill: The Governor Frederick Bates Estate. Missouri Historical Society Bulletin 1974 30 (2): 89 - 100.

Marshall, Thomas Maitland. Introduction to The Life and Papers of Frederick Bates: 6-40.