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Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l'Amérique Septentrionale, par un Citoyen de Virginie: où l'on traite des établissemens des treize colonies, de leurs rapports & de leurs dissentions avec la Grande-Bretagne, de leurs gouvernemens avant & après la révolution, etc. Avec quatre lettres d'un Bourgeois de New-Heaven sur l'unité de la législation

Authors of source text

Filippo Mazzei


Un citoyen de Virginie (Filippo Mazzei)
Louis-Joseph Faure
Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet
Sophie de Grouchy, marquise de Condorcet
Jacques-François Froullé

Related resources

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Unknown 65 has translation
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Mémoire de Turgot sur la manière dont la France et l'Espagne doivent envisager les suites de la querelle entre la Grande-Bretagne & ses colonies
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Déclaration des droits qui nous appartiennent à nous & à nos descendans, & qui doivent être considérés comme la base fondamentale de notre gouvernement, rendue par les représentans du bon peuple de Virginie, complettement & librement assemblés à Williamsburg, le premier juin 1776 translation
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Lettres d'un bourgeois de New-Haven à un citoyen de Virginie, sur l'inutilité de partager le pouvoir législatif entre plusieurs corps


"A Colle, et se trouve a Paris chez Froullé". Colle was a reference to the name of his farm in Albermarle County, on land given to him by Thomas Jefferson in 1773.

Written in Italian between 1785 and 1787 during Mazzei's second stay in Paris, and translated as four volumes in 1788, the Recherches was originally intended as a refutation of abbé Mably's Observations sur le gouvernement et les loix des Etats-Unis d'Amérique (1784) and abbé Raynal's Histoire philosophique et politique des établissements et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes (1770). Mazzei had critiqued Mably's work in an earlier, unpublished essay attacking his lack of familiarity with American affairs (enclosed in a letter to James Madison of 14 August, 1786). Mazzei had trouble accepting that Mably – whom he described as "the worst pedant I have ever known" – who had never been to America, could write authoritatively about the nascent republic's history and constitutional laws.

Francis Cogliano in A Companion to Thomas Jefferson (2011, Wiley) suggests that Mazzei's attempt to set the record straight and provide European readers with a more accurate account of the history and politics of the United States may have been commissioned by Jefferson. Mazzei expanded his original polemic to include two further volumes tracing the history of colonial America to independence, and addressing the state of affairs in contemporary American society by discussing key issues, such as paper money, national debt, commerce, immigration, slavery and the new federal constitution. He also included four letters by Condorcet ('Un bourgeois de New-Heaven'), a letter from Turgot, and several annexes, including a translation of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Its publication helped to bring intellectuals closer together across the Atlantic, for example, by introducing Condorcet's ideas to Madison. It also led to Mazzei's acquiring a diplomatic post as the Polish agent in Paris for King Stanislaw II August from 1789-92. It was also one of the main sources for Carlo Botta’s influential Storia della gerra dell’ indipendenza degli Stati Uniti d’America (1809, translated into French in 1812 and English in 1821), which he wrote during his exile in Paris.

In his Memorie della vita etc. (1970, written 1810-13 and translated into English in 1946, pp.307-308), Mazzei recalls that Sophie de Grouchy (Condorcet) was not happy with Faure's translation and asked his permission to rework some chapters with her husband. While she reworked the chapter on the Society of Cincinnatus, Condorcet reworked the chapter on Washington and La Fayette. Gian Mario Cazzaniga,Les hommes éclairés de l'Europe et de l'Amérique (2002, Carrefour, XXIV, no.1), p.59.

Howard Marraro has described Mazzei's Recherches as, "superficial, badly planned, and poorly constructed, and, on the whole, having slight historical importance. Nevertheless, they were widely read at the time of their publication, and their influence was considerable. At the outbreak of the French Revolution, they helped to spread a knowledge of the American Revolution, and therefore indirectly to disseminate the American ideals, which were soon to play such a significant part in French history”. Marraro, Mazzei and his Polish friends (April 1944, Bulletin of the Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences in America, vol.2, no.3), p.761.

Francesca Genesio suggests that since Mazzei was more of an Americanist than a universalist, his efforts at propaganda were aimed principally at promoting the American cause rather than any more radical political agenda. Hence his preference for constitutional monarchy in Europe while embracing the republican stance of America. Genesio, Philip Mazzei, the Pragmatic Propagandist (HAL, 2018, halshs-01796549v2).

For more on the history behind this text, see Joyce Appleby, The Jefferson-Adams Rupture and the first French translation of John Adams' "Defence"' (1968, The American Historical Review, vol.73, no.4); Antonello Gerbi, The Dispute of the New World: The History of a Polemic, 1750-1900, transl. Jeremy Moyle (1973, University of Pittsburgh Press); and Patrick Leech, Cosmopolitanism, Dissent and Translation (2020, Bononia University Press), p.90.