CHAUMONT ENTERS THE PICTURE
Some writers have lauded Chaumont as an idealist who joined the Americans' struggle because he believed in the justness of their fight and wanted to help free them from the shackles of tyranny. On a few occasions he did write of the virtues of the American cause, but these brief expostulations signify little. Virtually every Frenchman believed that the insurgents were right and Britain wrong.
With no sound evidence, one writer has claimed that Chaumont read Rousseau with sympathy and had a deep feeling for the dignity of the common man -- hence for the Americans.1 An inventory of the holdings at his Loire château done in 1791 mentions 647 books and 89 brochures, a sizable library for an eighteenth- century merchant or noble. Unfortunately, the inventory does not provide the names of the books and pamphlets or indicate the topics that they covered.2
Furthermore, the existence of a library does not prove that its proprietor actually read all or most of the works contained therein. Chaumont was not what one ordinarily would consider an intellectual. He was an astute businessman who appreciated the fine arts, but he did not participate actively in the fashionable salon circuit. In letters and memoranda he often referred to his ideas in a self-deprecating manner. Usually he wrote simply and directly, limiting himself to finding practical solutions to the business at hand. His spelling could be erratic -- he always wrote "unne" in place of "une," "bezoing" for "besoin," and "Passi" rather than "Passy." Of course, standards for spelling were less rigorous in the eighteenth century than today.