A hypothesis - The Le Couteulx hounds
Editors note: see George Washington and Basset Hounds
In the book "The Sportsman's Vade Mecum", published in 1856 the author writes about Beagles in the States, and adds:
There is also another sort of beagles, wire-haired, flew-jawed, heavy hung, deep-mouthed. They are very true hunters, seldom leaving the trail till dead, or run to ground.
This might very well refer to the Griffon Basset, assuming either that the author used the term "Beagle", as was the custom at the time, to generally describe this type of hound, or that he did not understand that it was a seperate breed.
We have referred extensivly to the Le Couteulx kennels in Normandy as being one of the two main Basset kennels. The Le Couteulx family were international traders and financiers, with family branches throughout Europe, that would eventually evolve into the Rothschild empire.
In 1786, Louis Étienne Le Couteulx de Caumont (born Rouen, France on Aug. 24, 1756) having spent the previous six years in Spain, was sent to the United States by his family to settle outstanding debts owed by Robert Morris, the Financier of the Revolution.
Robert Morris (1734-1806) was the Financier of the Revolution, a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation. Additionally, he was the committee chairman in the Continental Congress, an important figure in Pennsylvania politics, and possibly the most prominent businessman of his era. However, probably in part due to the disgrace of bankruptcy, he is today the least known of the founding fathers.
Having completed his business with Robert Morris, Le Couteulx settled initially with his wife in Trenton, NJ, before buying an estate in Bucks County, just outside Philadelphia, neighboring Robert Morris and with whom he developed a close personal friendship.
Louis Le Couteulx was also a close relative of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, who served as a General under the American Revolutionary War. Additionally, the uncle of Le Couteulx’s wife, Colonel Touzard (or Tauzan) was an aide to General Lafayette.
We can also establish a connection between Louis le Couteulx and George Washington. In a letter from Washington to Robert Morris, dated December 19th, 1790, George Washinton writes:
Since writing to you on the 7 of July I have been favored with your several private letters of July the 6th. and 16th. 26. and 30 of August. All the letters, the dates of which are enumerated in that of the 6th. have come safe; and I pray you, though late, to accept my thanks for the seeds which you was so obliging as to send to me by Mr. le Couteulx. They were immediately forwarded to my Gardner at Mount Vernon with orders to pay particular attention to them.
Le Couteulx was also known for giving animals as gifts. In (probably) 1780 he gave a pair of Merino sheep to Robert Morris (some sources state Thomas Jefferson). At the time Merino sheep were so highly prized by the Spanish authorities that the export of Merino sheep was a crime punishable by death.
As Martha J.F. Murray states in her Memoir of Louis Le Couteulx de Caumont (Buffalo Historical Society, 1906):
Mr. Le Couteulx exported from Spain the first pair of Merino Sheep ever brought to the United States. This event, marking an epoch in the domestic economy of our country, was attended with grave dangers to those who shipped the animals for Mr. Le Couteulx, as the Spanish Government condemned to the galleys for life any persons engaged in such exportations.
In conclusion, it seems probable that a man of Le Couteulx stature would bring with him some hounds when he setteled in the USA. However, the whole subject requires more research before a conclusion can be drawn.
In closing, Louis Le Couteulx became a citizen of the United States in 1787. During his adventurous life he travelled the western parts of New York for two years, was adopted by the Seneca Indians and later imprisoned by the British in Canada. He eventually settled in Buffalo, NY (approx. 1803), where he ran several stores and acted as a land agent, whilst involving himself in local politics. He died in Buffalo on November 16th 1840.