William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Abbé Montesquiou Journal, c. 1798
Manuscripts Division Staff, January 1993
Abbé Montesquiou journal
Montesquiou-Fezensac, Abbé François Xavier Marc Antoine, 1758-1832
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.
The material is in French
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown.
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.
- Canada--Politics and government.
- Fur trade--Canada.
- Montréal (Que.)--Description.
- Philadelphia (Pa.)--Description.
- Québec--Description and travel.
- Virginia--Description and travel.
Additional Descriptive Data
Agriculture--PennsylvaniaAlexandria (Va.)--DescriptionAppalachian Mountains--Description and travelBaltimore (Md.)--DescriptionBethlehem (Pa.)--DescriptionBlue Mountains--Description and travelCanada--History--to 1700Canada --History--French and Indian War, 1755-1763Canada --Politics and governmentCapital punishmentDemocracyDetroit (Mich.)--DescriptionDismal Swamp (Va.)--DescriptionEducation--United StatesFarmers--United StatesFur trade--CanadaFur traders--CanadaGalley slavesGerman-AmericansGreat Britain--Colonies--CanadaHampton (Va.)--HistoryIndians of North America--QuebecJefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826Lake Champlain--Description and travelLake Ontario----Description and travelLancaster (Pa.)--DescriptionMadison Cave (Va.)--DescriptionMonarchyMontréal (Que.)--DescriptionMoravians--PennsylvaniaNew York (City)--DescriptionNiagara Falls (N.Y. and Ont.)--DescriptionNorthwest PassageOrogenyPetersburg (Va.)--DescriptionPhiladelphia (Pa.)--DescriptionPrinceton (N.J.)--DescriptionPrisons--Pennsylvania--PhiladelphiaQuébec--Description and travelRichmond (Va.)--DescriptionSlaverySlavery --VirginiaSnakes--VirginiaSnakes --CanadaTrois Rivières (Que.)--DescriptionWashington (D.C.)--DescriptionWashington, George, 1732-1799Women--Pennsylvania--PhiladelphiaQuakersQuébec Campaign, 1759Québec City (Que.)--DescriptionVirginia--Description and travelWilliamsburg (Va.)--DescriptionYellow fever--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia