Americans don’t like to admit it much, but the French intervened to help us win our independence. If they had not intervened, the entirety of British North America might have wound up like Ireland– constantly in rebellion and constantly being repressed.
When the French formally recognized America, they sent out trained soldiers to advise the rebels and to support their mission.
Among these officers were François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux and Charles Armand Tuffin, Marquis de la Rouërie. The Marquis de Chastellux was major general who served as the main liaison between General Washington and Comte de Rochambeau, the commander who was in command of French forces in North America. The Marquis de la Rouërie, referred to in American texts as “Colonel Armand,” was a French officer who came to North America in 1776 to assist in the rebellion. He would later return to France and as an ardent defender of the nobility, he became one of the leaders of an armed rebellion against the 1st French Republic in Brittany and Maine.
Colonel Armand spent enough time in North America to become fully acquainted with our wildlife and customs, and while in service of the rebellion, he managed to take in a black wolf.
The Marquis de Chastellux, who was a leading public intellectual in France and a good friend of Thomas Jefferson, would later write about Colonel Armand’s pet wolf. At the time, Chastellux was a renowned author, and he had been appointed to the Académie française in 1775. The Académie française is sort of the “guardian council” of the French language. It has final say about the correct usage of the French language. When Chastellux returned to France, he wrote a memoir of his experiences in North America, and it is in his recollections that he mentions Colonel Armand bringing a pet wolf to Monticello:
The only stranger who visited us during our stay at Monticello, was Colonel Armand whom I have mentioned in my first Journal; he had been in France the preceding year with Colonel Laurens, but returned soon enough to be present at the siege of York, where he marched as a volunteer at the attack of the redoubts. His object in going to France, was to purchase clothing and accoutrements compleat for a regiment he had already commanded, but which had been so roughly handled in the campaigns to the southward, that it was necessary to form it anew: he made the advance of the necessaries to Congress, who engaged to provide men and horses. Charlotteville [Charlottesville] a rising little town situated in a valley two leagues from Monticello, being the quarter assigned for assembling this legion, Colonel Armand invited me to dine with him the next day, where Mr. Jefferson and I went, and found the legion under arms. It is to be composed of 200 horse and 150 foot. The horse was almost compleat and very well amounted; the infantry was still feeble, but the whole were well clothed, well armed, and made a very good appearance. We dined with Colonel Armand, all the officers of his regiment, and a wolf he amuses himself in bringing up, which is now ten months old, and is as familiar, mild, and gay as a young dog; he never quits his master, and has constantly the privilege of sharing his bed. It is to be wished that he may always answer so good an education, and not resume his natural character as he advances to maturity. He is not quite of the same kind with ours, his skin is almost black, and very glossy; he has nothing fierce about the head, so that were it.not for his upright ears, and pendent tail, one might readily take him for a dog. Perhaps he owes the singular advantage of not exhaling a bad smell, to the care which is taken taken of his toilet; for I remarked that the dogs were not in the least afraid of him, and that when they crossed his trace, they paid no attention to it (pg 46-48).
—Travels in North-America, in the years 1780, 1781, and 1782, the Marquis de Chastellux (1786).
There is no mention of what happened to this black North American wolf that was as tame as any dog.
At ten months old, this wolf would still be less inclined to be testing its boundaries, so its behavior is not out of the ordinary.
There is no record that Colonel Armand brought his wolf back to France.
Maybe it ran off into the forest.
Maybe it became someone else’s pet.
Maybe it was bred to some farmer’s dogs.
We don’t know.
But humans have long been intrigued by wild dogs. One of the reasons why we have domestic dogs in the first place is because people were fascinated with wolves. It is this fascination that caused us to bring them into our societies in the first place.
And all over the world people have kept wolves. It is usually a poor decision.
But there always were wolves that don’t mind being dogs.
After all, a dog is a wolf that doesn’t mind being a dog, and those traits had to come from somewhere.