Louis Littlepage

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Louis Littlepage or Lewis Littlepage (1762–1802) was an American diplomat, who most notably served in the royal court of the last Polish King, Stanisław August Poniatowski.



Littlepage was born on December 19, 1762, in Hanover County, Virginia or New Kent County, Virginia (accounts vary), the son of a plantation owner, Colonel James Littlepage.[1]

Lewis Littlepage's father, James Littlepage, was the first Clerk of Louisa County, and was elected to the House of Burgesses of Hanover in 1764. Lewis was the elder of two children of his father's second marriage, about 1760, to Elizabeth Lewis. After his father's death, his mother married Major Lewis Holladay, of Spotsylvania County.[2] This resulted in Littlepage having a half-brother, Waller Holladay (1776–1860), the father of U. S. Representative Alexander Holladay (1811–1877).[3]

After studying at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, Littlepage chose to travel to Europe.[1] First, he travelled to Spain, with the help of his relative, the American diplomat John Jay.[1] He witnessed the invasion of Minorca in 1781, acting as a volunteer aide to the Duc de Crillon, and the Great Siege of Gibraltar, during which he visited the Spanish fleet and made a sketch, well received at the Spanish court.[4] After a dispute with Jay over finances, Littlepage left for Paris, and from there, with the Prince of Nassau, he traveled to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where he visited the Sejm session that took place in Grodno in 1784.[1]

Service to the Polish king[edit]

He received an offer to join the royal court of the Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, and accepted it.[1] Littlepage travelled back to the United States, to ensure that the United States Congress would not revoke his United States citizenship for service to the government of another nation.[1][5] While in the United States, he met with George Washington.[5]

Littlepage subsequently returned to Poland, where he advanced quickly. He served as a royal secretary, and became one of the king's favorites, receiving the post of chamberlain in 1786.[5] In 1787 he headed a diplomatic mission to the Russian Empire in Kiev, and later that year, he headed an unsuccessful mission to France, with the goal of forging an alliance between Poland, France, Austria, and England.[5] In the aftermath of this mission, Poniatowski made Littlepage his representative in France, replacing the ailing count Monnet.[6] After about a year, Littlepage left France (where he met Thomas Jefferson), and observed the Russo-Turkish War.[7] By 1798 he returned to the Polish capital, Warsaw, and was sent to Italy and then Spain (Madrid).[7] In 1790 he received the Order of Saint Stanislaw.[5] In 1791, Littlepage was back in Warsaw, and carried out various diplomatic missions for the Patriotic Party (a group that supported the Constitution of May 3, 1791).[7]

Collaboration with the Russians[edit]

At the time of the Second Partition of Poland, in 1793, King Poniatowski wrote a letter to Littlepage, apologizing for being unable to pay him with a proper pension (at that time, Poniatowski and the Polish treasury were both in debt). Poniatowski promised him a sum of 2,000 ducats, with a note that Poniatowski was unable to pay them to him, but he authorized Littlepage to seek compensation even after Poniatowski's death.[7] At that point, Littlepage started working for the Russians; the Russian ambassador to Poland, Jacob Sievers, promised to compensate Littlepage in return for information from the royal court.[7]

For his service to the Russians, the Supreme National Council (central civil government of Poland, loyal to the Kościuszko Insurrection) declared him a traitor.[7] Littlepage protested that, exchanging correspondense with Tadeusz Kosciuszko, and finally making a public donation to the insurgent's treasury. This cooled his relations with the Russians.[8]

Final years[edit]

In 1795, the year of the third and final partition of Poland, Littlepage was to return to the United States, carrying a letter from King Poniatowski to George Washington.[8] Littlepage, however, remained in Poland until 1800, and in Europe until 1801.[9] According to his own account, he wanted to accompany Poniatowski on his exile into Russia, but was prevented from doing so by the order of the Russian Empress Catherine II. Littlepage then remained in Poland until the death of Poniatowski in 1798.[10][11] He later returned to the United States in late 1801, and died at Fredericksburg, Virginia on 19 July 1802.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Longin Pastusiak, Polacy w zaraniu Stanów Zjednoczonych, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa, 1977, p. 194
  2. ^ Dora C. Jett, Minor Sketches of Major Folk and Where They Sleep, p. 75 online
  3. ^ Sarah Travers Lewis, Scott Anderson, Lewises, Meriwethers, and their krhhbin (Genealogical Pub. Co., 1984)
  4. ^ Henry Howe, Adventures and Achievements of Americans, Geo. F. Tuttle, 1861, Google Print, p.632
  5. ^ a b c d e Longin Pastusiak, Polacy w zaraniu Stanów Zjednoczonych, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa, 1977, p. 195
  6. ^ Longin Pastusiak, Polacy w zaraniu Stanów Zjednoczonych, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa, 1977, p. 196
  7. ^ a b c d e f Longin Pastusiak, Polacy w zaraniu Stanów Zjednoczonych, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa, 1977, p. 197
  8. ^ a b c Longin Pastusiak, Polacy w zaraniu Stanów Zjednoczonych, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa, 1977, p. 198
  9. ^ Longin Pastusiak, Polacy w zaraniu Stanów Zjednoczonych, Wiedza Powszechna, Warszawa, 1977, p. 199
  10. ^ Elkanah Watson, Winslow Cossoul Watson, Men and times of the revolution, Dana and Company, 1856, Google Print, p.112
  11. ^ Raleigh Travers Green, Philip Slaughter, Genealogical and historical notes on Culpeper county, Virginia, R.T. Green, 1900, Google Print, p.48-50 (public domain)

Further reading[edit]

  • Nell Holladay Boand, Lewis Littlepage, Whittet & Shepperson, 1970
  • Curtis Carroll Davis, The king's chevalier: a biography of Lewis Littlepage, Bobbs-Merrill, 1961
  • Mieczyslaw Haiman, Polacy wsrod pionierow Ameryki...