“When Mr. Vanbraam returned with the French proposals, we were obliged to take the sense of them from his mouth; it rained so heavy that he could not give us a written translation of them; we could scarcely keep the candle lighted to read them by; they were written in a bad hand, on wet and blotted paper, so that no person could read them but Vanbraam, who had heard them from the mouth of the French officer. Every officer there is ready to declare that there was no such word as assassination mentioned. The terms expressed were, the death of Jumonville. If it had been mentioned we would by all means have had it altered, as the French, during the course of the interview, seemed very condescending, and desirous to bring things to an issue.” He then gives several other points in which Vanbraam had misled them.
Dinwiddie, recounting the affair to Lord Albemarle, says that Washington, being ignorant of French, was deceived by the interpreter, who, through poltroonery, suppressed the word assassination.
Captain Mackay, writing to Washington in September, after a visit to Philadelphia, says: “I had several disputes about our capitulation; but I satisfied every person that mentioned the subject as to the articles in question, that they were owing to a bad interpreter, and contrary to the translation made to us when we signed them.”
At the next meeting of the burgesses they passed a vote of thanks for gallant conduct to Washington and all his officers by name, except Vanbraam and the major of the regiment, the latter being charged with cowardice, and the former with treacherous misinterpretation of the articles.
Sometime after, Washington wrote to a correspondent who had questioned him on the subject: “That we were wilfully or ignorantly deceived by our interpreter in regard to the word assassination I do aver, and will to my dying moment; so will every officer that was present. The interpreter was a Dutchman little acquainted with the English tongue, therefore might not advert to the tone and meaning of the word in English; but, whatever his motives for so doing, certain it is that he called it the death or the loss of the Sieur Jumonville. So we received and so we understood it, until, to our great surprise and mortification, we found it otherwise in a literal translation.” Sparks, Writings of Washington, II. 464, 465.
Chapter 7. Braddock
It has been said that Beaujeu, and not Contrecoeur, commanded at Fort Duquesne at the time of Braddock’s expedition. Some contemporaries, and notably the chaplain of the fort, do, in fact, speak of him as in this position; but their evidence is overborne by more numerous and conclusive authorities, among them Vaudreuil, governor of Canada, and Contrecoeur himself, in an official report. Vaudreuil says of him: “Ce commandant s’occupa le