Letter from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to
French President Raymond Poincaré
Benjamin Franklin at Court
Treaty of Versailles
Monsieur Raymond Poincaré,
de l’Académie Française
Président du Conseil des Ministres,
May, 3, 1924
My Dear Mr. President:
Returning to France last summer after an interval of seventeen years, I was impressed anew with the beauty of her art, magnificence of her architecture, and the splendor of her parks and gardens. Many examples of these are not only national but international treasures, for which France is trustee; their influence on the art of the world will always be full of inspiration.
That some of these great national monuments should be showing the devastating effects of time, because current repairs could not be kept up during the war, and that others should still bear silent witness to the ravages of war, stirred in me feelings of deep regret. I realize that this situation is only temporary and will eventually right itself as the people of France are able to turn from other and more pressing tasks and resume that scrupulous maintenance of the public monuments for which they have established so enviable a reputation. In the meantime, I should count it a privilege to be allowed to help toward that end, and shall be happy to contribute one million dollars, its expenditure to be entrusted to a small committee composed of Frenchmen and Americans.
It would be my thought that this money should be used for the reconstruction of the roof of Rheims Cathedral; for the reconditioning of the buildings, fountains and gardens of Versailles; and for the purpose of making repairs that are urgently needed in the palace and gardens of Fontainebleau.
I am moved to make this proposal, not only because of my admiration for these great outstanding products of art, the influence of which should be continued unimpaired through the centuries to the enrichment of the lives of succeeding generations, but also because of the admiration which I have for the people of France, their fine spirit, their high courage, and their devotion to home life.
With sentiments of high regards, I am, my dear Mr. President,
JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, JR.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. (on right in photo) was awarded France’s highest decoration, the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur, in 1936 for his benefaction.
After World War I, Versailles was not a priority of the French government, whose foremost focus was to help its citizens, especially orphans and widows. That is why, after visiting France in 1923, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. wrote to France’s president offering assistance.
It can be attributed to the American John D. Rockefeller Jr. that the world treasures should be an international responsibility to protect, restore, and preserve for mankind. It is in this spirit that the American Friends of Versailles moves forward, in support of international volunteerism and friendship.