Thursday, January 11

About Charles Monnier

Today's post written by Tony Gerard

So most recent we received some new hands, which we was sore in need of. Better yet these was actual sailors off a ship what had been decommissioned after a rough crossing, They said they had pumped almost the whole passage after her timbers had started to work during a blow. Among them was a  Royalist Frenhman and I though the old French surgeon’s mate we have aboard would weep with joy- so happy was he to have another frog aboard.

They was having a big gab in frog right after they discovered each other and who should come upon them from behind but our new hard horse Leftentant Lord Fitzroy.  Now we have plenty of hands whats not English aboard. You might hear three or four different languages spoke if you was to walk past the messes at supper, but Fitzroy is new and a tartar to boot. He makes them both jump like cats when he roars out in a Quarterdeck voice “You two men! I will not have THAT language spoken shipboard in my presence!”. The old Frenchman knuckles his forehead real quick and say “Aye, my Lord” but the new one just makes knuckle and says nothing. “I will have you make your obedience to me IN ENGLISH, sir” he says to the new one.

The new one knuckles his forehead again and says “ My apologies, my Lord. I was quite overcome at finding a fellow countryman aboard and forgot myself. It will not happen again.” Says it without a trace of a frog accent! I was close enough I heard it myself. If anything he sounded just like a Jonathan. Well Frizroy, the surgeon’s mate - and me to I am sure- just stand there with our mouth open for a second. Then Firzroy comes to hiself and says “Very well’ and stomps off.

Much later the Surgeon’s mate and the fellow hisself – his name is Monnier- told me more of his story. It seems his family was associates of the celebrated Lafayette. His father was one of his officers in the late war or some such. After the war they had lots of business dealings in America and he grew up mostly in America-which is how he come to speak English like a Jonathan. When the French started up that Republican madness and Lafayette had to flee the country his family did as well and went to America. They had been well off in the old country- but now had all their property took and lost most of everything. Most of their kin what did not flee was guillotined. 

Well Monnier could probably have been an officer in a Jonathan ship. But he is determined to “help regain his country” as he says it.  So he signs on as a common sailor in the Britain’s navy. He laughs, sings and cuts up with his mates like any common tar- and him educated and from a middling sort of family. It goes to show how common that leveling Republicanism streak is in all Frenchmen. Or maybe it was just nurtured by his time in America, cause the Jonathans is just as bad about that sort of thing.

-Robert Watson abord the HMS Acasta
in a letter to his wife, Feb. 1809

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