Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Abbé Montesquiou Journal, c. 1798

Finding aid created by
Manuscripts Division Staff, January 1993

Summary Information
Title: Abbé Montesquiou journal
Creator: Montesquiou-Fezensac, Abbé François Xavier Marc Antoine, 1758-1832
Inclusive dates: ca. 1798
Extent: 102 pages
This travel account of Abbé Montesquiou was written in 1798 three years after his trip to American from 1758-1832. The journal covers Montesquiou's travels as well as his thoughts on America, Canada and the mid-Atlantic areas he visits.
Language: The material is in French
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1991. M-2612.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Abbé Montesquiou Journal, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


The Abbé Montesquiou was born into an aristocratic family at the Château de Marsau, Gascony, in 1756. He became enmeshed in the political turmoil of the French Revolution while still a young man, serving as a General Agent of the Clergy in the Estates General of 1789. Montesquiou was a consistent supporter of the Ancien Régime throughout the crisis, opposing the abolition of privileges and voting against the Civil Constitution of the clergy. In 1792, the increasingly radicalized political climate led Montesquiou to flee France and emigrate to America, where he spent three years traveling through the mid-Atlantic states and Québec.

Upon his return to France in 1795, the Abbé took part in the Royalist Committee, and as a result, was exiled to Menton. Rehabilitated under the Empire, he was appointed Minister of the Interior, and later was awarded for his loyalty to the Royalist cause with the titles comte (1817) and finally duc (1821).

Collection Scope and Content Note

Montesquiou's 'journal' is not a standard travel account: it goes beyond pure description to include discussions of the philosophy and the history, the people and government of the nation. The journal appears to have been written following the Abbé's return to France with internal evidence suggesting 1798 as the most likely date. Perhaps because of the time that had elapsed between his voyage and its writing, the journal includes as many opinions on his experiences in North America as it does actual description of what he has seen. Montesquiou is naturally analytical in his writing style, and he has a penchant for 'augmenting' his personal observations with views and opinions that appear to have been culled from written sources. Thus his discussion of the Philadelphia Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793 contains information that may have been derived from the opinions of contemporary scientists, and his discussions of the relative merits of monarchy and democracy are sufficiently generic that the American context seems almost incidental.

Montesquiou is generally an unsympathetic observer of the young United States; while he appreciates the scenery and the productivity of the nation he is strongly critical of the hypocrisy of 'Republican' slaveholders, of the nation's leaders -- particularly Washington and Jefferson. While he admires the Philadelphia prison system, he is repelled by what he considers the crass, ultra-capitalist sensibilities of Americans. Among the more interesting aspects of the 'journal' are his extended discussions of the prison system and a theory of crime and punishment, slavery, the American character, and democracy and monarchy.

Subject Terms

    • Canada--History.
    • Canada--Politics and government.
    • Democracy.
    • Fur trade--Canada.
    • Monarchy.
    • Montréal (Que.)--Description.
    • Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description.
    • Québec--Description and travel.
    • Slavery--Virginia.
    • Virginia--Description and travel.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Abbé Montesquiou journal,  ca. 1798 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    • 30
    Alexandria (Va.)--Description
    • 26
    Appalachian Mountains--Description and travel
    • 42-44
    Baltimore (Md.)--Description
    • 22,23
    Bethlehem (Pa.)--Description
    • 97,98
    Blue Mountains--Description and travel
    • 45,46
    Canada--History--to 1700
    • 61-63
    Canada --History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763
    • 64,76-84
    Canada --Politics and government
    • 99-102
    Capital punishment
    • 5,6
    • 15,16,44,45
    Detroit (Mich.)--Description
    • 95-97
    Dismal Swamp (Va.)--Description
    • 33,38
    Education--United States
    • 33,34
    Farmers--United States
    • 14
    Fur trade--Canada
    • 62,63,68-71
    Fur traders--Canada
    • 70-73
    Galley slaves
    • 8-11
    • 31,32
    Great Britain--Colonies--Canada
    • 58-61
    Hampton (Va.)--History
    • 36-39
    Indians of North America--Quebec
    • 61-64
    Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
    • 44,45
    Lake Champlain--Description and travel
    • 53-55
    Lake Ontario----Description and travel
    • 87,89
    Lancaster (Pa.)--Description
    • 31
    Madison Cave (Va.)--Description
    • 47
    • 15,16,44,45
    Montréal (Que.)--Description
    • 66-70
    • 97,98
    New York (City)--Description
    • 52,53
    Niagara Falls (N.Y. and Ont.)--Description
    • 90-93
    Northwest Passage
    • 72,73
    • 46,47
    Petersburg (Va.)--Description
    • 40
    Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description
    • 1,3,18-20
    Princeton (N.J.)--Description
    • 51
    • 3-8, 13, 16
    Québec--Description and travel
    • 53-87
    Richmond (Va.)--Description
    • 40,41
    • 22,31
    Slavery --Virginia
    • 26,27,34,44
    • 42
    Snakes --Canada
    • 94
    Trois Rivières (Que.)--Description
    • 74,85,86
    Washington (D.C.)--Description
    • 23-26
    Washington, George, 1732-1799
    • 24,26-28
    • 18
    • 22,27
    Québec Campaign, 1759
    • 81-84
    Québec City (Que.)--Description
    • 75,76,84,85
    Virginia--Description and travel
    • 32-36,50
    Williamsburg (Va.)--Description
    • 35
    Yellow fever--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
    • 1-3