- Introduction to the Third Volume. With Historical Notes and Documents.
- I.: The Republican Proclamation.
- II.: To the Authors of Le RÉpublicain
- III.: To the AbbÉ
- IV.: To the Attorney General.
- V.: To Mr. Secretary Dundas.
- VI.: Letters to Onslow Cranley,
- VII.: To the Sheriff of the County of Sussex Or , the Gentleman Who Shall Preside At the Meeting to Be Held At Lewes, July 4.
- VIII.: To Mr. Secretary Dundas.
- IX.: Letter Addressed to the Addressers On the Late Proclamation.
- X.: Address to the People of France.
- XI.: Anti-monarchal Essay.
- XII.: To the Attorney General, On the Prosecution Against the Second Part of Rights of Man.
- XIII.: On the Propriety of Bringing Louis XVI. To Trial.
- XIV.: Reasons For Preserving the Life of Louis Capet,
- XV.: Shall Louis XVI. Have Respite?
- XVI.: Declaration of Rights.
- XVII.: Private Letters to Jefferson.
- XVIII.: Letter to Danton.
- XIX.: A Citizen of America to the Citizens of Europe.
- XX.: Appeal to the Convention.
- XXI.: The Memorial to Monroe.
- XXII.: Letter to George Washington.
- XXIII.: Observations.
- XXIV.: Dissertation On First Principles of Government. 1
- XXV.: The Constitution of 1795. Speech In the French National Convention, July 7, 1795.
- XXVI.: The Decline and Fall of the English System of Finance.
- XXVII.: Forgetfulness. 1 From ‘the Castle In the Air,’ to the ‘little Corner of the World.’
- XXVIII.: Agrarian Justice.
- XXIX.: The Eighteenth Fructidor. to the People of France and the French Armies.
- XXX.: The Recall of Monroe.
- XXXI.: Private Letter to Thomas Jefferson.
- XXXII.: Proposal That Louisiana Be Purchased. (sent to the President, Christmas Day, 1802.)
- XXXIII.: Thomas Paine to the Citizens of the United States, and Particularly to the Leaders of the Féderal Faction .
- Letter I.
- Letter II.
- Letter III.
- Letter IV.
- Letter V.
- Letter VI.
- Letter VII.
- XXXIV.: To the French Inhabitants of Louisiana.
THE MEMORIAL TO MONROE.
EDITOR’S HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION.
The Memorial is here printed from the manuscript of Paine now among the Morrison Papers, in the British Museum,—no doubt the identical document penned in Luxembourg prison. The paper in the United States State Department (vol. vii., Monroe Papers) is accompanied by a note by Monroe: “Mr. Paine, Luxembourg, on my arrival in France, 1794. My answer was after the receipt of his second letter. It is thought necessary to print only those parts of his that relate directly to his confinement, and to omit all between the parentheses in each.” The paper thus inscribed seems to have been a wrapper for all of Paine’s letters. An examination of the MS. at Washington does not show any such “parentheses,” indicating omissions, whereas that in the British Museum has such marks, and has evidently been prepared for the press,—being indeed accompanied by the long title of the French pamphlet. There are other indications that the British Museum MS. is the original Memorial from which was printed in Paris the pamphlet entitled:
“Mémoire de Thomas Payne, autographe et signé de sa main: addressé à M. Monroe, ministre des États-unis en france, pour réclamer sa mise en liberté comme citoyen Américain, 10 Sept. 1794. Robespierre avait fait arretêr Th. Payne, en 1793—il fut conduit au Luxembourg où le glaive fut longtemps suspendu sur sa tête. Après onze mois de captivité, il recouvra la liberté, sur la réclamation du ministre Américain—c’était après la chῦte de Robespierre—il reprit sa place à la convention, le 8 decembre 1794. (18 frimaire an iii.) Ce Mémoire contient des renseignemens curieux sur la conduite politique de Th. Payne en france, pendant la Révolution, et à l’époque du procès de Louis XVI. Ce n’est point, dit il, comme Quaker, qu’il ne vota pas La Mort du Roi mais par un sentiment d’humanité, qui ne tenait point à ses principes réligieux. Villenave.”
No date is given, but the pamphlet probably appeared early in 1795. Matthieu Gillaume Thérèse Villenave (b. 1762, d. 1846) was a journalist, and it will be noticed that he, or the translator, modifies Paine’s answer to Marat about his Quakerism. There are some loose translations in the cheap French pamphlet, but it is the only publication which has given Paine’s Memorial with any fulness. Nearly ten pages of the manuscript were omitted from the Memorial when it appeared as an Appendix to the pamphlet entitled “Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America, on Affairs public and private. By Thomas Paine, Author of the Works entitled, Common Sense, Rights of Man, Age of Reason, &c. Philadelphia: Printed by Benj. Franklin Bache, No. 112 Market Street. 1796. [Entered according to law.]” This much-abridged copy of the Memorial has been followed in all subsequent editions, so that the real document has not hitherto appeared.
In appending the Memorial to his “Letter to Washington,” Paine would naturally omit passages rendered unimportant by his release, but his friend Bache may have suppressed others that might have embarrassed American partisans of France, such as the scene at the king’s trial. This description, however, and a large proportion of the suppressed pages, are historically among the most interesting parts of the Memorial, and their restoration renders it necessary to transfer the document from its place as an appendix to that of a preliminary to the “Letter to Washington.”
Paine’s Letter to Washington burdens his reputation today more, probably, than any other production of his pen. The traditional judgment was formed in the absence of many materials necessary for a just verdict. The editor feels under the necessity of introducing at this point an historical episode; he cannot regard it as fair to the memory of either Paine or Washington that these two chapters should be printed without a full statement of the circumstances, the most important of which, but recently discovered, were unknown to either of those men. In the editor’s “Life of Thomas Paine” (ii., pp. 77–180) newly discovered facts and documents bearing on the subject are given, which may be referred to by those who desire to investigate critically such statements as may here appear insufficiently supported. Considerations of space require that the history in that work should be only summarized here, especially as important new details must be added.
Paine was imprisoned (December 28, 1793) through the hostility of Gouverneur Morris, the American Minister in Paris. The fact that the United States, after kindling revolution in France by its example, was then represented in that country by a Minister of vehement royalist opinions, and one who literally entered into the service of the King to defeat the Republic, has been shown by that Minister’s own biographers. Some light is cast on the events that led to this strange situation by a letter written to M. de Montmorin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, by a French Chargé d’Affaires, Louis Otto, dated Philadelphia, 10 March, 1792. Otto, a nobleman who married into the Livingston family, was an astute diplomatist, and enjoyed the intimacy of the Secretary of State, Jefferson, and of his friends. At the close of a long interview Jefferson tells him that “The secresy with which the Senate covers its deliberations serves to veil personal interest, which reigns therein in all its strength.” Otto explains this as referring to the speculative operations of Senators, and to the commercial connections some of them have with England, making them unfriendly to French interests.
“Among the latter the most remarkable is Mr. Robert Morris, of English birth, formerly Superintendent of Finance, a man of greatest talent, whose mercantile speculations are as unlimited as his ambition. He directs the Senate as he once did the American finances in making it keep step with his policy and his business.... About two years ago Mr. Robert Morris sent to France Mr. Gouverneur Morris to negotiate a loan in his name, and for different other personal matters.... During his sojourn in France, Mr. Rob. Morris thought he could make him more useful for his aims by inducing the President of the United States to entrust him with a negotiation with England relative to the Commerce of the two countries. M. Gouv. Morris acquitted himself in this as an adroit man, and with his customary zeal, but despite his address (insinuation) obtained only the vague hope of an advantageous commercial treaty on condition of an Alliance resembling that between France and the United States....[Mr. Robert Morris] is himself English, and interested in all the large speculations founded in this country for Great Britain.... His great services as Superintendent of Finance during the Revolution have assured him the esteem and consideration of General Washington, who, however, is far from adopting his views about France. The warmth with which Mr. Rob. Morris opposed in the Senate the exemption of French armateurs from tonnage, demanded by His Majesty, undoubtedly had for its object to induce the king, by this bad behavior, to break the treaty, in order to facilitate hereafter the negotiations begun with England to form an alliance. As for Mr. Gouv. Morris he is entirely devoted to his correspondent, with whom he has been constantly connected in business and opinion. His great talents are recognized, and his extreme quickness in conceiving new schemes and gaining others to them. He is perhaps the most eloquent and ingenious man of his country, but his countrymen themselves distrust his talents. They admire but fear him.”
The Commission given to Gouverneur Morris by Washington, to which Otto refers, was in his own handwriting, dated October 13, 1789, and authorized him
“in the capacity of private agent, and in the credit of this letter, to converse with His Britannic Majesty’s ministers on these points, viz. whether there be any, and what objection to performing those articles of the treaty which remained to be performed on his part; and whether they incline to a treaty of commerce on any and what terms. This communication ought regularly to be made to you by the Secretary of State; but, that office not being at present filled, my desire of avoiding delays induces me to make it under my own hand.”
The President could hardly have assumed the authority of secretly appointing a virtual ambassador had there not been a tremendous object in view: this, as he explains in an accompanying letter, was to secure the evacuation by Great Britain of the frontier posts. This all-absorbing purpose of Washington is the key to his administration. Gouverneur Morris paved the way for Jay’s treaty, and he was paid for it with the French mission. The Senate would not have tolerated his appointment to England, and only by a majority of four could the President secure his confirmation as Minister to France (January 12, 1792). The President wrote Gouverneur Morris (January 28th) a friendly lecture about the objections made to him, chiefly that he favored the aristocracy and was unfriendly to the revolution, and expressed “the fullest confidence” that, supposing the allegations founded, he would “effect a change.” But Gouverneur Morris remained the agent of Senator Robert Morris, and still held Washington’s mission to England, and he knew only as “conspirators” the rulers who succeeded Louis XVI. Even while utilizing them, he was an agent of Great Britain in its war against the country to which he was officially commissioned.
Lafayette wrote to Washington (“Paris, March 15, 1792”) the following appeal:
“Permit me, my dear General, to make an observation for yourself alone, on the recent selection of an American ambassador. Personally I am a friend of Gouverneur Morris, and have always been, in private, quite content with him; but the aristocratic and really contra-revolutionary principles which he has avowed render him little fit to represent the only government resembling ours.... I cannot repress the desire that American and French principles should be in the heart and on the lips of the ambassador of the United States in France.”
In addition to this, two successive Ministers from France, after the fall of the Monarchy, conveyed to the American Government the most earnest remonstrances against the continuance of Gouverneur Morris in their country, one of them reciting the particular offences of which he was guilty. The President’s disregard of all these protests and entreaties, unexampled perhaps in history, had the effect of giving Gouverneur Morris enormous power over the country against which he was intriguing. He was recognized as the Irremovable. He represented Washington’s fixed and unalterable determination, and this at a moment when the main purpose of the revolutionary leaders was to preserve the alliance with America. Robespierre at that time (1793) had special charge of diplomatic affairs, and it is shown by the French historian, Frédéric Masson, that he was very anxious to recover for the republic the initiative of the American alliance credited to the king; and “although their Minister, Gouverneur Morris, was justly suspected, and the American republic was at that time aiming only to utilize the condition of its ally, the French republic cleared it at a cheap rate of its debts contracted with the King.” Morris adroitly held this doubt, whether the alliance of his government with Louis XVI. would be continued to that King’s executioners, over the head of the revolutionists, as a suspended sword. Under that menace, and with the authentication of being Washington’s irremovable mouthpiece, this Minister had only to speak and it was done.
Meanwhile Gouverneur Morris was steadily working in France for the aim which he held in common with Robert Morris, namely to transfer the alliance from France to England. These two nations being at war, it was impossible for France to fulfil all the terms of the alliance; it could not permit English ships alone to seize American provisions on the seas, and it was compelled to prevent American vessels from leaving French ports with cargoes certain of capture by British cruisers. In this way a large number of American Captains with their ships were detained in France, to their distress, but to their Minister’s satisfaction. He did not fail to note and magnify all “infractions” of the treaty, with the hope that they might be the means of annulling it in favor of England, and he did nothing to mitigate sufferings which were counts in his indictment of the Treaty.
It was at this point that Paine came in the American Minister’s way. He had been on good terms with Gouverneur Morris, who in 1790 (May 29th) wrote from London to the President:
“On the 17th Mr. Paine called to tell me that he had conversed on the same subject [impressment of American seamen] with Mr. Burke, who had asked him if there was any minister, consul, or other agent of the United States who could properly make application to the Government: to which he had replied in the negative; but said that I was here, who had been a member of Congress, and was therefore the fittest person to step forward. In consequence of what passed thereupon between them he [Paine] urged me to take the matter up, which I promised to do. On the 18th I wrote to the Duke of Leeds requesting an interview.”
At that time (1790) Paine was as yet a lion in London, thus able to give Morris a lift. He told Morris, in 1792 that he considered his appointment to France a mistake. This was only on the ground of his anti-republican opinions; he never dreamed of the secret commissions to England. He could not have supposed that the Minister who had so promptly presented the case of impressed seamen in England would not equally attend to the distressed Captains in France; but these, neglected by their Minister, appealed to Paine. Paine went to see Morris, with whom he had an angry interview, during which he asked Morris “if he did not feel ashamed to take the money of the country and do nothing for it.” Paine thus incurred the personal enmity of Gouverneur Morris. By his next step he endangered this Minister’s scheme for increasing the friction between France and America; for Paine advised the Americans to appeal directly to the Convention, and introduced them to that body, which at once heeded their application, Morris being left out of the matter altogether. This was August 22d, and Morris was very angry. It is probable that the Americans in Paris felt from that time that Paine was in danger, for on September 13th a memorial, evidently concocted by them, was sent to the French government proposing that they should send Commissioners to the United States to forestall the intrigues of England, and that Paine should go with them, and set forth their case in the journals, as he “has great influence with the people.” This looks like a design to get Paine safely out of the country, but it probably sealed his fate. Had Paine gone to America and reported there Morris’s treacheries to France and to his own country, and his licentiousness, notorious in Paris, which his diary has recently revealed to the world, the career of the Minister would have swiftly terminated. Gouverneur Morris wrote to Robert Morris that Paine was intriguing for his removal, and intimates that he (Paine) was ambitious of taking his place in Paris. Paine’s return to America must be prevented.
Had the American Minister not been well known as an enemy of the republic it might have been easy to carry Paine from the Convention to the guillotine; but under the conditions the case required all of the ingenuity even of a diplomatist so adroit as Gouverneur Morris. But fate had played into his hand. It so happened that Louis Otto, whose letter from Philadelphia has been quoted, had become chief secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Paris, M. Deforgues. This Minister and his Secretary, apprehending the fate that presently overtook both, were anxious to be appointed to America. No one knew better than Otto the commanding influence of Gouverneur Morris, as Washington’s “irremovable” representative, both in France and America, and this desire of the two frightened officials to get out of France was confided to him. By hope of his aid, and by this compromising confidence, Deforgues came under the power of a giant who used it like a giant. Morris at once hinted that Paine was fomenting the troubles given by Genêt to Washington in America, and thus set in motion the procedure by which Paine was ultimately lodged in prison.
There being no charge against Paine in France, and no ill-will felt towards him by Robespierre, compliance with the supposed will of Washington was in this case difficult. Six months before, a law had been passed to imprison aliens of hostile nationality, which could not affect Paine, he being a member of the Convention and an American. But a decree was passed, evidently to reach Paine, “that no foreigner should be admitted to represent the French people”; by this he was excluded from the Convention, and the Committee of General Surety enabled to take the final step of assuming that he was an Englishman, and thus under the decree against aliens of hostile nations.
Paine was thus lodged in prison simply to please Washington, to whom it was left to decide whether he had been rightly represented by his Minister in the case. When the large number of Americans in Paris hastened in a body to the Convention to demand his release, the President (Vadier) extolled Paine, but said his birth in England brought him under the measures of safety, and referred them to the Committees. There they were told that “their reclamation was only the act of individuals, without any authority from the American Government.” Unfortunately the American petitioners, not understanding by this a reference to the President, unsuspiciously repaired to Morris, as also did Paine by letter. The Minister pretended compliance, thereby preventing their direct appeal to the President. Knowing, however, that America would never agree that nativity under the British flag made Paine any more than other Americans a citizen of England, the American Minister came from Sainport, where he resided, to Paris, and secured from the obedient Deforgues a certificate that he had reclaimed Paine as an American citizen, but that he was held as a French citizen. This ingeniously prepared certificate which was sent to the Secretary of State (Jefferson), and Morris’s pretended “reclamation,” which was never sent to America, are translated in my “Life of Paine,” and here given in the original.
À Paris le 14 fevrier 1794, 26 pluviose.
Le Ministre plenipotentiaire des États Unis de l’Amérique près la République française au Ministre des Affaires Étrangères.
Thomas Paine vient de s’adresser à moi pour que je le réclame comme Citoyen des États Unis. Voici (je crois) les Faits que le regardent. Il est né en Angleterre. Devenu ensuite Citoyen des États Unis il s’y est acquise une grande célébrite par des Écrits révolutionnaires. En consequence il fῦt adopté Citoyen français et ensuite élu membre de la Convention. Sa conduite depuis cette époque n’est pas de mon ressort. J’ignore la cause de sa Détention actuelle dans la prison du Luxembourg, mais je vous prie Monsieur (si des raisons que ne me sont pas connues s’opposent à sa liberation) de vouloir bien m’en instruire pour que je puisse les communiquer au Gouvernement des États Unis.
J’ai l’honneur d’être, Monsieur, Votre très humble Serviteur
- Paris, I Ventose l’An 2d. de la République une et indivisible.
Le Ministre des Affaires Étrangères au Ministre Plénipotentiaire des États Unis de l’ Amérique près la Rèpublique Française.
Par votre lettre du 26 du mois dernier, vous réclamez la liberté de Thomas Paine, comme Citoyen américain. Né en Angleterre, cet ex-deputé est devenu successivement Citoyen Américain et Citoyen français. En acceptant ce dernier titre et en remplissant une place dans le Corps Legislatif, il est soumis aux lois de la République et il a renoncé de fait à la protection que le droit des gens et les traités conclus avec les États Unis auraient pu lui assurer.
J’ignore les motifs de sa détention mais je dois présumer qúils bien fondés. Je vois neanmoins soumettre au Comité de Salut Public la démande que vous m’avez adressée et je m’empresserai de vous faire connaître sa décision.
It will be seen that Deforgues begins his letter with a falsehood: “You reclaim the liberty of Paine as an American citizen.” Morris’s letter had declared him a French citizen out of his (the American Minister’s) “jurisdiction.” Morris states for Deforgues his case, and it is obediently adopted, though quite discordant with the decree, which imprisoned Paine as a foreigner. Deforgues also makes Paine a member of a non-existent body, the “Corps Legislatif,” which might suggest in Philadelphia previous connection with the defunct Assembly. No such inquiries as Deforgues promised, nor any, were ever made, and of course none were intended. Morris had got from Deforgues the certificate he needed to show in Philadelphia and to Americans in Paris. His pretended “reclamation” was of course withheld: no copy of it ever reached America till brought from French archives by the present writer. Morris does not appear to have ventured even to keep a copy of it himself. The draft (presumably in English), found among his papers by Sparks, alters the fatal sentence which deprived Paine of his American citizenship and of protection. “Ressort”—jurisdiction—which has a definite technical meaning in the mouth of a Minister, is changed to “cognizance”; the sentence is made to read, “his conduct from that time has not come under my cognizance.” (Sparks’s “Life of Gouverneur Morris,” i., p. 401). Even as it stands in his book, Sparks says: “The application, it must be confessed, was neither pressing in its terms, nor cogent in its arguments.”
The American Minister, armed with this French missive, dictated by himself, enclosed it to the Secretary of State, whom he supposed to be still Jefferson, with a letter stating that he had reclaimed Paine as an American, that he (Paine) was held to answer for “crimes,” and that any further attempt to release him would probably be fatal to the prisoner. By these falsehoods, secured from detection by the profound secrecy of the Foreign Offices in both countries, Morris paralyzed all interference from America, as Washington could not of course intervene in behalf of an American charged with “crimes” committed in a foreign country, except to demand his trial. But it was important also to paralyze further action by Americans in Paris, and to them, too, was shown the French certificate of a reclamation never made. A copy was also sent to Paine, who returned to Morris an argument which he entreated him to embody in a further appeal to the French Minister. This document was of course buried away among the papers of Morris, who never again mentioned Paine in any communication to the French government, but contented himself with personal slanders of his victim in private letters to Washington’s friend, Robert Morris, and no doubt others. I quote Sparks’s summary of the argument unsuspectingly sent by Paine to Morris:
“He first proves himself to have been an American citizen, a character of which he affirms no subsequent act had deprived him. The title of French citizen was a mere nominal and honorary one, which the Convention chose to confer, when they asked him to help them in making a Constitution. But let the nature or honor of the title be what it might, the Convention had taken it away of their own accord. ’He was excluded from the Convention on the motion for excluding foreigners. Consequently he was no longer under the law of the Republic as a citizen, but under the protection of the Treaty of Alliance, as fully and effectually as any other citizen of America. It was therefore the duty of the American Minister to demand his release.’”
To this Sparks adds:
“Such is the drift of Paine’s argument, and it would seem indeed that he could not be a foreigner and a citizen at the same time. It was hard that his only privilege of citizenship should be that of imprisonment. But this logic was a little too refined for the revolutionary tribunals of the Jacobins in Paris, and Mr. Morris well knew it was not worth while to preach it to them. He did not believe there was any serious design at that time against the life of the prisoner, and he considered his best chance of safety to be in preserving silence for the present. Here the matter rested, and Paine was left undisturbed till the arrival of Mr. Monroe, who procured his discharge from confinement.” (“Life of Gouverneur Morris,” i., p. 417.)
Sparks takes the gracious view of the man whose Life he was writing, but the facts now known turn his words to sarcasm. The Terror by which Paine suffered was that of Morris, who warned him and his friends, both in Paris and America, that if his case was stirred the knife would fall on him. Paine declares (see xx.) that this danger kept him silent till after the fall of Robespierre. None knew so well as Morris that there were no charges against Paine for offences in France, and that Robespierre was awaiting that action by Washington which he (Morris) had rendered impossible. Having thus suspended the knife over Paine for six months, Robespierre interpreted the President’s silence, and that of Congress, as confirmation of Morris’s story, and resolved on the execution of Paine “in the interests of America as well as of France”; in other words to conciliate Washington to the endangered alliance with France.
Paine escaped the guillotine by the strange accident related in a further chapter. The fall of Robespierre did not of course end his imprisonment, for he was not Robespierre’s but Washington’s prisoner. Morris remained Minister in France nearly a month after Robespierre’s death, but the word needed to open Paine’s prison was not spoken. After his recall, had Monroe been able at once to liberate Paine, an investigation must have followed, and Morris would probably have taken his prisoner’s place in the Luxembourg. But Morris would not present his letters of recall, and refused to present his successor, thus keeping Monroe out of his office four weeks. In this he was aided by Bourdon de l’Oise (afterwards banished as a royalist conspirator, but now a commissioner to decide on prisoners); also by tools of Robespierre who had managed to continue on the Committee of Public Safety by laying their crimes on the dead scapegoat—Robespierre. Against Barère (who had signed Paine’s death-warrant), Billaud-Varennes, and Colloit d’Herbois, Paine, if liberated, would have been a terrible witness. The Committee ruled by them had suppressed Paine’s appeal to the Convention, as they presently suppressed Monroe’s first appeal. Paine, knowing that Monroe had arrived, but never dreaming that the manœuvres of Morris were keeping him out of office, wrote him from prison the following letters, hitherto unpublished.
August 17th, 1794.
MyDearSir: As I believe none of the public papers have announced your name right I am unable to address you by it, but a new minister from America is joy to me and will be so to every American in France.
Eight months I have been imprisoned, and I know not for what, except that the order says that I am a Foreigner. The Illness I have suffered in this place (and from which I am but just recovering) had nearly put an end to my existence. My life is but of little value to me in this situation tho’ I have borne it with a firmness of patience and fortitude.
I enclose you a copy of a letter, (as well the translation as the English)—which I sent to the Convention after the fall of the Monster Robespierre—for I was determined not to write a line during the time of his detestable influence. I sent also a copy to the Committee of public safety—but I have not heard any thing respecting it. I have now no expectation of delivery but by your means—Morris has been my inveterate enemy, and I think he has permitted something of the national Character of America to suffer by quietly letting a Citizen of that Country remain almost eight months in prison without making every official exertion to procure him justice,—for every act of violence offered to a foreigner is offered also to the Nation to which he belongs.
The gentleman, Mr. Beresford, who will present you this has been very friendly to me. Wishing you happiness in your appointment, I am your affectionate friend and humble servant.
August 18th, 1794.
DearSir: In addition to my letter of yesterday (sent to Mr. Beresford to be conveyed to you but which is delayed on account of his being at St. Germain) I send the following memoranda.
I was in London at the time I was elected a member of this Convention. I was elected a Deputé in four different departments without my knowing any thing of the matter, or having the least idea of it. The intention of electing the Convention before the time of the former Legislature expired, was for the purpose of reforming the Constitution or rather for forming a new one. As the former Legislature shewed a disposition that I should assist in this business of the new Constitution, they prepared the way by voting me a French Citoyen (they conferred the same title on General Washington and certainly I had no more idea than he had of vacating any part of my real Citizenship of America for a nominal one in france, especially at a time when she did not know whether she would be a Nation or not, and had it not even in her power to promise me protection). I was elected (the second person in number of Votes, the Abbé Sièyes being first) a member for forming the Constitution, and every American in Paris as well as my other acquaintance knew that it was my intention to return to America as soon as the Constitution should be established. The violence of Party soon began to shew itself in the Convention, but it was impossible for me to see upon what principle they differed— unless it was a contention for power. I acted however as I did in America, I connected myself with no Party, but considered myself altogether a National Man—but the case with Parties generally is that when you are not with one you are supposed to be with the other.
I was taken out of bed between three and four in the morning on the 28 of December last, and brought to the Luxembourg—without any other accusation inserted in the order than that I was a foreigner; a motion having been made two days before in the Convention to expel Foreigners therefrom. I certainly then remained, even upon their own tactics, what I was before, a Citizen of America.
About three weeks after my imprisonment the Americans that were in Paris went to the bar of the Convention to reclaim me, but contrary to my advice, they made their address into a Petition, and it miscarried. I then applied to G. Morris, to reclaim me as an official part of his duty, which he found it necessary to do, and here the matter stopt. I have not heard a single line or word from any American since, which is now seven months. I rested altogether on the hope that a new Minister would arrive from America. I have escaped with life from more dangers than one. Had it not been for the fall of Roberspierre and your timely arrival I know not what fate might have yet attended me. There seemed to be a determination to destroy all the Prisoners without regard to merit, character, or any thing else. During the time I laid at the height of my illness they took, in one night only, 169 persons out of this prison and executed all but eight. The distress that I have suffered at being obliged to exist in the midst of such horrors, exclusive of my own precarious situation, suspended as it were by the single thread of accident, is greater than it is possible you can conceive—but thank God times are at last changed, and I hope that your Authority will release me from this unjust imprisonment.
August 25, 1794.
MyDearSir: Having nothing to do but to sit and think, I will write to pass away time, and to say that I am still here. I have received two notes from Mr. Beresford which are encouraging (as the generality of notes and letters are that arrive to persons here) but they contain nothing explicit or decisive with respect to my liberation, and I shall be very glad to receive a line from yourself to inform me in what condition the matter stands. If I only glide out of prison by a sort of accident America gains no credit by my liberation, neither can my attachment to her be increased by such a circumstance. She has had the services of my best days, she has my allegiance, she receives my portion of Taxes for my house in Borden Town and my farm at New Rochelle, and she owes me protection both at home and thro’ her Ministers abroad, yet I remain in prison, in the face of her Minister, at the arbitrary will of a committee.
Excluded as I am from the knowledge of everything and left to a random of ideas, I know not what to think or how to act. Before there was any Minister here (for I consider Morris as none) and while the Robespierrian faction lasted, I had nothing to do but to keep my mind tranquil and expect the fate that was every day inflicted upon my comrades, not individually but by scores. Many a man whom I have passed an hour with in conversation I have seen marching to his destruction the next hour, or heard of it the next morning; for what rendered the scene more horrible was that they were generally taken away at midnight, so that every man went to bed with the apprehension of never seeing his friends or the world again.
I wish to impress upon you that all the changes that have taken place in Paris have been sudden. There is now a moment of calm, but if thro’ any over complaisance to the persons you converse with on the subject of my liberation, you omit procuring it for me now, you may have to lament the fate of your friend when its too late. The loss of a Battle to the Northward or other possible accident may happen to bring this about. I am not out of danger till I am out of Prison. Yours affectionately.
P. S.—I am now entirely without money. The Convention owes me 1800 livres salary which I know not how to get while I am here, nor do I know how to draw for money on the rent of my farm in America. It is under the care of my good friend General Lewis Morris. I have received no rent since I have been in Europe.
[Addressed] Minister Plenipotentiary from America, Maison des Étrangers, Rue de la Loi, Rue Richelieu.
Such was the sufficiently cruel situation when there reached Paine in prison, September 4th, the letter of Peter Whiteside which caused him to write his Memorial. Whiteside was a Philadelphian whose bankruptcy in London had swallowed up some of Paine’s means. His letter, reporting to Paine that he was not regarded by the American Government or people as an American citizen, and that no American Minister could interfere in his behalf, was evidently inspired by Morris who was still in Paris, the authorities being unwilling to give him a passport to Switzerland, as they knew he was going in that direction to join the conspirators against France. This Whiteside letter put Paine, and through him Monroe, on a false scent by suggesting that the difficulty of his case lay in a bona fide question of citizenship, whereas there never had been really any such question. The knot by which Morris had bound Paine was thus concealed, and Monroe was appealing to polite wolves in the interest of their victim. There were thus more delays, inexplicable alike to Monroe and to Paine, eliciting from the latter some heart-broken letters, not hitherto printed, which I add at the end of the Memorial. To add to the difficulties and dangers, Paris was beginning to be agitated by well-founded rumors of Jay’s injurious negotiations in England, and a coldness towards Monroe was setting in. Had Paine’s release been delayed much longer an American Minister’s friendship might even have proved fatal. Of all this nothing could be known to Paine, who suffered agonies he had not known during the Reign of Terror. The other prisoners of Robespierre’s time had departed; he alone paced the solitary corridors of the Luxembourg, chilled by the autumn winds, his cell fireless, unlit by any candle, insufficiently nourished, an abscess forming in his side; all this still less cruel than the feeling that he was abandoned, not only by Washington but by all America.
This is the man of whom Washington wrote to Madison nine years before: “Must the merits and services of ’Common Sense’ continue to glide down the stream of time unrewarded by this country?” This, then, is his reward. To his old comrade in the battle-fields of Liberty, George Washington, Paine owed his ten months of imprisonment, at the end of which Monroe found him a wreck, and took him (November 4) to his own house, where he and his wife nursed him back into life. But it was not for some months supposed that Paine could recover; it was only after several relapses; and it was under the shadow of death that he wrote the letter to Washington so much and so ignorantly condemned. Those who have followed the foregoing narrative will know that Paine’s grievances were genuine, that his infamous treatment stains American history; but they will also know that they lay chiefly at the door of a treacherous and unscrupulous American Minister.
Yet it is difficult to find an excuse for the retention of that Minister in France by Washington. On Monroe’s return to America in 1797, he wrote a pamphlet concerning the mission from which he had been curtly recalled, in which he said:
“I was persuaded from Mr. Morris’s known political character and principles, that his appointment, and especially at a period when the French nation was in a course of revolution from an arbitrary to a free government, would tend to discountenance the republican cause there and at home, and otherwise weaken, and greatly to our prejudice, the connexion subsisting between the two countries.”
In a copy of this pamphlet found at Mount Vernon, Washington wrote on the margin of this sentence:
“Mr. Morris was known to be a man of first rate abilities; and his integrity and honor had never been impeached. Besides, Mr. Morris was sent whilst the kingly government was in existence, ye end of 91 or beginning of 92.”
But this does not explain why Gouverneur Morris was persistently kept in France after monarchy was abolished (September 21, 1792), or even after Lafayette’s request for his removal, already quoted. To that letter of Lafayette no reply has been discovered. After the monarchy was abolished, Ternant and Genêt successively carried to America protests from their Foreign Office against the continuance of a Minister in France, who was known in Paris, and is now known to all acquainted with his published papers, to have all along made his office the headquarters of British intrigue against France, American interests being quite subordinated. Washington did not know this, but he might have known it, and his disregard of French complaints can hardly be ascribed to any other cause than his delusion that Morris was deeply occupied with the treaty negotiations confided to him. It must be remembered that Washington believed such a treaty with England to be the alternative of war. On that apprehension the British party in America, and British agents, played to the utmost, and under such influences Washington sacrificed many old friendships,—with Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Edmund Randolph, Paine,—and also the confidence of his own State, Virginia.
There is a traditional impression that Paine’s angry letter to Washington was caused by the President’s failure to interpose for his relief from prison. But Paine believed that the American Minister (Morris) had reclaimed him in some feeble fashion, as an American citizen, and he knew that the President had officially approved Monroe’s action in securing his release. His grievance was that Washington, whose letters of friendship he cherished, who had extolled his services to America, should have manifested no concern personally, made no use of his commanding influence to rescue him from daily impending death, sent to his prison no word of kindness or inquiry, and sent over their mutual friend Monroe without any instructions concerning him; and finally, that his private letter, asking explanation, remained unanswered. No doubt this silence of Washington concerning the fate of Paine, whom he acknowledged to be an American citizen, was mainly due to his fear of offending England, which had proclaimed Paine. The “outlaw’s” imprisonment in Paris caused jubilations among the English gentry, and went on simultaneously with Jay’s negotiations in London, when any expression by Washington of sympathy with Paine (certain of publication) might have imperilled the Treaty, regarded by the President as vital.
So anxious was the President about this, that what he supposed had been done for Paine by Morris, and what had really been done by Monroe, was kept in such profound secrecy, that even his Secretary of State, Pickering, knew nothing of it. This astounding fact I recently discovered in the manuscripts of that Secretary. Colonel Pickering, while flattering enough to the President in public, despised his intellect, and among his papers is a memorandum concluding as follows:
“But when the hazards of the Revolutionary War had ended, by the establishment of our Independence, why was the knowledge of General Washington’s comparatively defective mental powers not freely divulged? Why, even by the enemies of his civil administration were his abilities very tenderly glanced at?—Because there were few, if any men, who did not revere him for his distinguished virtues; his modesty—his unblemished integrity, his pure and disinterested patriotism. These virtues, of infinitely more value than exalted abilities without them, secured to him the veneration and love of his fellow citizens at large. Thus immensely popular, no man was willing to publish, under his hand, even the simple truth. The only exception, that I recollect, was the infamous Tom Paine; and this when in France, after he had escaped the guillotine of Robespierre; and in resentment, because, after he had participated in the French Revolution, President Washington seemed not to have thought him so very important a character in the world, as officially to interpose for his relief from the fangs of the French ephemeral Rulers. In a word, no man, however well informed, was willing to hazard his own popularity by exhibiting the real intellectual character of the immensely popular Washington.”
How can this ignorance of an astute man, Secretary of State under Washington and Adams, be explained? Had Washington hidden the letters showing on their face that he had “officially interposed” for Paine by two Ministers?
Madison, writing to Monroe, April 7, 1796, says that Pickering had spoken to him “in harsh terms” of a letter written by Paine to the President. This was a private letter of September 20, 1795, afterwards printed in Paine’s public Letter to Washington. The Secretary certainly read that letter on its arrival, January 18, 1796, and yet Washington does not appear to have told him of what had been officially done in Paine’s case! Such being the secrecy which Washington had carried from the camp to the cabinet, and the morbid extent of it while the British Treaty was in negotiation and discussion, one can hardly wonder at his silence under Paine’s private appeal and public reproach.
Much as Pickering hated Paine, he declares him the only man who ever told the simple truth about Washington. In the lapse of time historical research, while removing the sacred halo of Washington, has revealed beneath it a stronger brain than was then known to any one. Paine published what many whispered, while they were fawning on Washington for office, or utilizing his power for partisan ends. Washington, during his second administration, when his mental decline was remarked by himself, by Jefferson, and others, was regarded by many of his eminent contemporaries as fallen under the sway of small partisans. Not only was the influence of Jefferson, Madison, Randolph, Monroe, Livingston, alienated, but the counsels of Hamilton were neutralized by Wolcott and Pickering, who apparently agreed about the President’s “mental powers.” Had not Paine previously incurred the odium theologicum, his pamphlet concerning Washington would have been more damaging; even as it was, the verdict was by no means generally favorable to the President, especially as the replies to Paine assumed that Washington had indeed failed to try and rescue him from impending death. A pamphlet written by Bache, printed anonymously (1797), Remarks occasioned by the late conduct of Mr. Washington, indicates the belief of those who raised Washington to power, that both Randolph and Paine had been sacrificed to please Great Britain.
The Bien-informé (Paris, November 12, 1797) published a letter from Philadelphia, which may find translation here as part of the history of the pamphlet:
“The letter of Thomas Paine to General Washington is read here with avidity. We gather from the English papers that the Cabinet of St. James has been unable to stop the circulation of that pamphlet in England, since it is allowable to reprint there any English work already published elsewhere, however disagreeable to Messrs. Pitt and Dundas. We read in the letter to Washington that Robespierre had declared to the committee of Public Safety that it was desirable in the interests of both France and America that Thomas Paine, who, for seven or eight months had been kept a prisoner in the Luxembourg, should forthwith be brought up for judgment before the revolutionary tribunal. The proof of this fact is found in Robespierre’s papers, and gives ground for strange suspicions.”
The editor of the Bien-informé adds:
“It was long believed that Paine had returned to America with his friend James Monroe, and the lovers of freedom [there] congratulated themselves on being able to embrace that illustrious champion of the Rights of Man. Their hopes have been frustrated. We know positively that Thomas Paine is still living in France. The partizans of the late presidency [in America] also know it well, yet they have spread a rumor that after actually arriving he found his (really popular) principles no longer the order of the day, and thought best to re-embark.
The English journals, while repeating this idle rumor, observed that it was unfounded, and that Paine had not left France. Some French journals have copied these London paragraphs, but without comments; so that at the very moment when Thomas Paine’s Letter on the 18th. Fructidor is published, La Clef du Cabinet says that this citizen is suffering unpleasantness in America.”
Paine had intended to return with Monroe, in the spring of 1797, but, suspecting the Captain and a British cruiser in the distance, returned from Havre to Paris. The packet was indeed searched by the cruiser for Paine, and, had he been captured, England would have executed the sentence pronounced by Robespierre to please Washington.
ADDRESSED TO JAMES MONROE, MINISTER FROM THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE FRENCH REPUBLIC.
Sept. 10th, 1794.
I ADDRESS this memorial to you, in consequence of a letter I received from a friend, 18 Fructidor (September 4th,) in which he says, “Mr. Monroe has told me, that he has no orders [meaning from the American government] respecting you; but I am sure he will leave nothing undone to liberate you; but, from what I can learn, from all the late Americans, you are not considered either by the government, or by the individuals, as an American citizen. You have been made a french Citizen, which you have accepted, and you have further made yourself a servant of the french Republic; and, therefore, it would be out of character for an American Minister to interfere in their internal concerns. You must therefore either be liberated out of Compliment to America, or stand your trial, which you have a right to demand.”
This information was so unexpected by me, that I am at a loss how to answer it. I know not on what principle it originates; whether from an idea that I had voluntarily abandoned my Citizenship of America for that of France, or from any article of the American Constitution applied to me. The first is untrue with respect to any intention on my part; and the second is without foundation, as I shall shew in the course of this memorial.
The idea of conferring honor of Citizenship upon foreigners, who had distinguished themselves in propagating the principles of liberty and humanity, in opposition to despotism, war, and bloodshed, was first proposed by me to La Fayette, at the commencement of the french revolution, when his heart appeared to be warmed with those principles. My motive in making this proposal, was to render the people of different nations more fraternal than they had been, or then were. I observed that almost every branch of Science had possessed itself of the exercise of this right, so far as it regarded its own institution. Most of the Academies and Societies in Europe, and also those of America, conferred the rank of honorary member, upon foreigners eminent in knowledge, and made them, in fact, citizens of their literary or scientific republic, without affecting or anyways diminishing their rights of citizenship in their own country or in other societies: and why the Science of Government should not have the same advantage, or why the people of one nation should not, by their representatives, exercise the right of conferring the honor of Citizenship upon individuals eminent in another nation, without affecting their rights of citizenship, is a problem yet to be solved.
I now proceed to remark on that part of the letter, in which the writer says, that, from what he can learn from all the late Americans, I am not considered in America, either by the Government or by the individuals, as an American citizen.
In the first place I wish to ask, what is here meant by the Government of America? The members who compose the Government are only individuals, when in conversation, and who, most probably, hold very different opinions upon the subject. Have Congress as a body made any declaration respecting me, that they now no longer consider me as a citizen? If they have not, anything they otherwise say is no more than the opinion of individuals, and consequently is not legal authority, nor anyways sufficient authority to deprive any man of his Citizenship. Besides, whether a man has forfeited his rights of Citizenship, is a question not determinable by Congress, but by a Court of Judicature and a Jury; and must depend upon evidence, and the application of some law or article of the Constitution to the case. No such proceeding has yet been had, and consequently I remain a Citizen until it be had, be that decision what it may; for there can be no such thing as a suspension of rights in the interim.
I am very well aware, and always was, of the article of the Constitution which says, as nearly as I can recollect the words, that “any citizen of the United States, who shall accept any title, place, or office, from any foreign king, prince, or state, shall forfeit and lose his right of Citizenship of the United States.”
Had the Article said, that any citizen of the United States, who shall be a member of any foreign convention, for the purpose of forming a free constitution, shall forfeit and lose the right of citizenship of the United States, the article had been directly applicable to me; but the idea of such an article never could have entered the mind of the American Convention, and the present article is altogether foreign to the case with respect to me. It supposes a Government in active existence, and not a Government dissolved; and it supposes a citizen of America accepting titles and offices under that Government, and not a citizen of America who gives his assistance in a Convention chosen by the people, for the purpose of forming a Government de nouveau founded on their authority.
The late Constitution and Government of France was dissolved the 10th of August, 1792. The National legislative Assembly then in being, supposed itself without sufficient authority to continue its sittings, and it proposed to the departments to elect not another legislative Assembly, but a Convention for the express purpose of forming a new Constitution. When the Assembly were discoursing on this matter, some of the members said, that they wished to gain all the assistance possible upon the subject of free constitutions; and expressed a wish to elect and invite foreigners of any Nation of the Convention, who had distinguished themselves in defending, explaining, and propagating the principles of liberty. It was on this occasion that my name was mentioned in the Assembly. (I was then in England.) After this, a deputation from a body of the french people, in order to remove any objection that might be made against my assisting at the proposed Convention, requested the Assembly, as their representatives, to give me the title of French Citizen; after which, I was elected a member of the Convention, in four different departments, as is already known.
The case, therefore, is, that I accepted nothing from any king, prince, or state, nor from any Government: for France was without any Government, except what arose from common consent, and the necessity of the case. Neither did I make myself a servant of the french Republic, as the letter alluded to expresses; for at that time France was not a republic, not even in name. She was altogether a people in a state of revolution.
It was not until the Convention met that France was declared a republic, and monarchy abolished; soon after which a committee was elected, of which I was a member, to form a Constitution, which was presented to the Convention [and read by Condorcet, who was also a member] the 15th and 16th of February following, but was not to be taken into consideration till after the expiration of two months, and if approved of by the Convention, was then to be referred to the people for their acceptance, with such additions or amendments as the Convention should make.
In thus employing myself upon the formation of a Constitution, I certainly did nothing inconsistent with the American Constitution. I took no oath of allegiance to France, or any other oath whatever. I considered the Citizenship they had presented me with as an honorary mark of respect paid to me not only as a friend to liberty, but as an American Citizen. My acceptance of that, or of the deputyship, not conferred on me by any king, prince, or state, but by a people in a state of revolution and contending for liberty, required no transfer of my allegiance or of my citizenship from America to France. There I was a real citizen, paying Taxes; here, I was a voluntary friend, employing myself on a temporary service. Every American in Paris knew that it was my constant intention to return to America, as soon as a constitution should be established, and that I anxiously waited for that event.
I know not what opinions have been circulated in America. It may have been supposed there that I had voluntarily and intentionally abandoned America, and that my citizenship had ceased by my own choice. I can easily [believe] there are those in that country who would take such a proceeding on my part somewhat in disgust. The idea of forsaking old friendships for new acquaintances is not agreeable. I am a little warranted in making this supposition by a letter I received some time ago from the wife of one of the Georgia delegates in which she says “Your friends on this side the water cannot be reconciled to the idea of your abandoning America.”
I have never abandoned her in thought, word or deed; and I feel it incumbent upon me to give this assurance to the friends I have in that country and with whom I have always intended and am determined, if the possibility exists, to close the scene of my life. It is there that I have made myself a home. It is there that I have given the services of my best days. America never saw me flinch from her cause in the most gloomy and perilous of her situations; and I know there are those in that country who will not flinch from me. If I have enemies (and every man has some) I leave them to the enjoyment of their ingratitude.
It is somewhat extraordinary that the idea of my not being a citizen of America should have arisen only at the time that I am imprisoned in France because, or on the pretence that, I am a foreigner. The case involves a strange contradiction of ideas. None of the Americans who came to France whilst I was in liberty had conceived any such idea or circulated any such opinion; and why it should arise now is a matter yet to be explained. However discordant the late American Minister G. M. [Gouverneur Morris] and the late French committee of Public Safety were, it suited the purpose of both that I should be continued in arrestation. The former wished to prevent my return to America, that I should not expose his misconduct; and the latter, lest I should publish to the world the history of its wickedness. Whilst that Minister and the Committee continued I had no expectation of liberty. I speak here of the Committee of which Robespierre was member.
I ever must deny, that the article of the American constitution already mentioned, can be applied either verbally, intentionally, or constructively, to me. It undoubtedly was the intention of the Convention that framed it, to preserve the purity of the American republic from being debased by foreign and foppish customs; but it never could be its intention to act against the principles of liberty, by forbidding its citizens to assist in promoting those principles in foreign Countries; neither could it be its intention to act against the principles of gratitude. France had aided America in the establishment of her revolution, when invaded and oppressed by England and her auxiliaries. France in her turn was invaded and oppressed by a combination of foreign despots. In this situation, I conceived it an act of gratitude in me, as a citizen of America, to render her in return the best services I could perform. I came to France (for I was in England when I received the invitation) not to enjoy ease, emoluments, and foppish honours, as the article supposes; but to encounter difficulties and dangers in defence of liberty; and I much question whether those who now malignantly seek (for some I believe do) to turn this to my injury, would have had courage to have done the same thing. I am sure Gouverneur Morris would not. He told me the second day after my arrival, (in Paris), that the Austrians and Prussians, who were then at Verdun, would be in Paris in a fortnight. I have no idea, said he, that seventy thousand disciplined troops can be stopped in their march by any power in France.
Besides the reasons I have already given for accepting the invitations to the Convention, I had another that has reference particularly to America, and which I mentioned to Mr. Pinckney the night before I left London to come to Paris: “That it was to the interest of America that the system of European governments should be changed and placed on the same principle with her own.” Mr. Pinckney agreed fully in the same opinion. I have done my part towards it.
It is certain that governments upon similar systems agree better together than those that are founded on principles discordant with each other; and the same rule holds good with respect to the people living under them. In the latter case they offend each other by pity, or by reproach; and the discordancy carries itself to matters of commerce. I am not an ambitious man, but perhaps I have been an ambitious American. I have wished to see America the Mother Church of government, and I have done my utmost to exalt her character and her condition.
I have now stated sufficient matter, to shew that the Article in question is not applicable to me; and that any such application to my injury, as well in circumstances as in Rights, is contrary both to the letter and intention of that Article, and is illegal and unconstitutional. Neither do I believe that any Jury in America, when they are informed of the whole of the case, would give a verdict to deprive me of my Rights upon that Article. The citizens of America, I believe, are not very fond of permitting forced and indirect explanations to be put upon matters of this kind. I know not what were the merits of the case with respect to the person who was prosecuted for acting as prize master to a french privateer, but I know that the jury gave a verdict against the prosecution. The Rights I have acquired are dear to me. They have been acquired by honourable means, and by dangerous service in the worst of times, and I cannot passively permit them to be wrested from me. I conceive it my duty to defend them, as the case involves a constitutional and public question, which is, how far the power of the federal government extends, in depriving any citizen of his Rights of Citizenship, or of suspending them.
That the explanation of National Treaties belongs to Congress is strictly constitutional; but not the explanation of the Constitution itself, any more than the explanation of Law in the case of individual citizens. These are altogether judiciary questions. It is, however, worth observing, that Congress, in explaining the Article of the Treaty with respect to french prizes and french privateers, confined itself strictly to the letter of the Article. Let them explain the Article of the Constitution with respect to me in the same manner, and the decision, did it appertain to them, could not deprive me of my Rights of Citizenship, or suspend them, for I have accepted nothing from any king, prince, state, or Government.
You will please to observe, that I speak as if the federal Government had made some declaration upon the subject of my Citizenship; whereas the fact is otherwise; and your saying that you have no order respecting me is a proof of it. Those therefore who propagate the report of my not being considered as a Citizen of America by Government, do it to the prolongation of my imprisonment, and without authority; for Congress, as a government, has neither decided upon it, not yet taken the matter into consideration; and I request you to caution such persons against spreading such reports. But be these matters as they may, I cannot have a doubt that you find and feel the case very different, since you have heard what I have to say, and known what my situation is [better] than you did before your arrival.
But it was not the Americans only, but the Convention also, that knew what my intentions were upon that subject. In my last discourse delivered at the Tribune of the Convention, January 19, 1793, on the motion for suspending the execution of Louis 16th, I said (the Deputy Bancal read the translation in French): “It unfortunately happens that the person who is the subject of the present discussion, is considered by the Americans as having been the friend of their revolution. His execution will be an affliction to them, and it is in your power not to wound the feelings of your ally. Could I speak the french language I would descend to your bar, and in their name become your petitioner to respite the execution of the sentence.”—”As the convention was elected for the express purpose of forming a Constitution, its continuance cannot be longer than four or five months more at furthest; and if, after my return to America, I should employ myself in writing the history of the french Revolution, I had rather record a thousand errors on the side of mercy, than be obliged to tell one act of severe Justice.”—”Ah Citizens! give not the tyrant of England the triumph of seeing the man perish on a scaffold who had aided my much-loved America.”
Does this look as if I had abandoned America? But if she abandons me in the situation I am in, to gratify the enemies of humanity, let that disgrace be to herself. But I know the people of America better than to believe it, “tho’ I undertake not to answer for every individual.
When this discourse was pronounced, Marat launched himself into the middle of the hall and said that “I voted against the punishment of death because I was a quaker.” I replied that “I voted against it both morally and politically.”
I certainly went a great way, considering the rage of the times, in endeavouring to prevent that execution. I had many reasons for so doing. I judged, and events have shewn that I judged rightly, that if they once began shedding blood, there was no knowing where it would end; and as to what the world might call honour, the execution would appear like a nation killing a mouse; and in a political view, would serve to transfer the hereditary claim to some more formidable Enemy. The man could do no more mischief; and that which he had done was not only from the vice of his education, but was as much the fault of the Nation in restoring him after he had absconded June 21st, 1791, as it was his. I made the proposal for imprisonment until the end of the war and perpetual banishment after the war, instead of the punishment of death. Upwards of three hundred members voted for that proposal. The sentence for absolute death (for some members had voted the punishment of death conditionally) was carried by a majority of twenty-five out of more than seven hundred.
I return from this digression to the proper subject of my memorial.
Painful as the want of liberty may be, it is a consolation to me to believe, that my imprisonment proves to the world, that I had no share in the murderous system that then reigned. That I was an enemy to it, both morally and politically, is known to all who had any knowledge of me; and could I have written french as well as I can English, I would publicly have exposed its wickedness and shewn the ruin with which it was pregnant. They who have esteemed me on former occasions, whether in America or in Europe will, I know, feel no cause to abate that esteem, when they reflect, that imprisonment with preservation of character is preferable to liberty with disgrace.
I here close my Memorial and proceed to offer you a proposal that appears to me suited to all the circumstances of the case; which is, that you reclaim me conditionally, until the opinion of Congress can be obtained on the subject of my citizenship of America; and that I remain in liberty under your protection during that time.
I found this proposal upon the following grounds.
First, you say you have no orders respecting me; consequently, you have no orders not to reclaim me; and in this case you are left discretionary judge whether to reclaim or not. My proposal therefore unites a consideration of your situation with my own.
Secondly, I am put in arrestation because I am a foreigner. It is therefore necessary to determine to what country I belong. The right of determining this question cannot appertain exclusively to the Committee of Public Safety or General Surety; because I appeal to the Minister of the United States, and show that my citizenship of that country is good and valid, referring at the same time, thro’ the agency of the Minister, my claim of right to the opinion of Congress. It being a matter between two Governments.
Thirdly. France does not claim me for a citizen; neither do I set up any claim of citizenship in France. The question is simply, whether I am or am not a citizen of America. I am imprisoned here on the decree for imprisoning foreigners, because, say they, I was born in England. I say in answer that, though born in England, I am not a subject of the English Government any more than any other American who was born, as they all were, under the same Government, or than the Citizens of France are subjects of the French Monarchy under which they were born. I have twice taken the oath of abjuration to the British King and Government and of Allegiance to America,—once as a citizen of the State of Pennsylvania in 1776, and again before Congress, administered to me by the President, Mr. Hancock, when I was appointed Secretary in the Office of Foreign Affairs in 1777.
The letter before quoted in the first page of this memorial, says, “It would be out of character for an American minister to interfere in the internal affairs of France.” This goes on the idea that I am a citizen of France, and a member of the Convention, which is not the fact. The Convention have declared me to be a foreigner; and consequently the citizenship and the electon are null and void. It also has the appearance of a Decision, that the article of the Constitution, respecting grants made to American Citizens by foreign kings, princes, or states, is applicable to me; which is the very point in question, and against the application of which I contend. I state evidence to the Minister, to shew that I am not within the letter or meaning of that Article; that it cannot operate against me; and I apply to him for the protection that I conceive I have a right to ask and to receive. The internal affairs of France are out of the question with respect to my application or his interference. I ask it not as a citizen of France, for I am not one: I ask it not as a member of the Convention, for I am not one; both these, as before said, have been rendered null and void; I ask it not as a man against whom there is any accusation, for there is none; I ask it not as an exile from America, whose liberties I have honourably and generously contributed to establish; I ask it as a Citizen of America, deprived of his liberty in France, under the plea of being a foreigner; and I ask it because I conceive I am entitled to it, upon every principle of Constitutional Justice and National honour.
But tho’ I thus positively assert my claim because I believe I have a right to do so, it is perhaps most eligible, in the present situation of things, to put that claim upon the footing I have already mentioned; that is, that the Minister reclaims me conditionally until the opinion of Congress can be obtained on the subject of my citizenship of America, and that I remain in liberty under the protection of the Minister during that interval.
N. B. I should have added that as Gouverneur Morris could not inform Congress of the cause of my arrestation, as he knew it not himself, it is to be supposed that Congress was not enough acquainted with the case to give any directions respecting me when you came away.
Letters, hitherto unpublished, written by Paine to Monroe before his release on November 4, 1794.
- Luxembourg 14em Vendemaire, OldStile
Oct 4th 1794
DearSir: I thank you for your very friendly and affectionate letter of the 18th September which I did not receive till this morning. It has relieved my mind from a load of disquietude. You will easily suppose that if the information I received had been exact, my situation was without hope. I had in that case neither section, department nor Country, to reclaim me; but that is not all, I felt a poignancy of grief, in having the least reason to suppose that America had so soon forgotten me who had never forgotten her.
Mr. Labonadaire, in a note of yesterday, directed me to write to the Convention. As I suppose this measure has been taken in concert with you, I have requested him to shew you the letter, of which he will make a translation to accompany the original.
(I cannot see what motive can induce them to keep me in prison. It will gratify the English Government and afflict the friends I have in America. The supporters of the system of Terror might apprehend that if I was in liberty and in America I should publish the history of their crimes, but the present persons who have overset that immoral System ought to have no such apprehension. On the contrary, they ought to consider me as one of themselves, at least as one of their friends. Had I been an insignificant character I had not been in arrestation. It was the literary and philosophical reputation I had gained, in the world, that made them my Enemies; and I am the victim of the principles, and if I may be permitted to say it, of the talents, that procured me the esteem of America. My character is the secret of my arrestation.)
If the letter I have written be not covered by other authority than my own it will have no effect, for they already know all that I can say. On what ground do they pretend to deprive America of the service of any of her citizens without assigning a cause, or only the flimsy one of my being born in England? Gates, were he here, might be arrested on the same pretence, and he and Burgoyne be confounded together.
It is difficult for me to give an opinion, but among other things that occur to me, I think that if you were to say that, as it will be necessary to you to inform the Government of America of my situation, you require an explanation with the Committee upon that subject; that you are induced to make this proposal not only out of esteem for the character of the person who is the personal object of it, but because you know that his arrestation will distress the Americans, and the more so as it will appear to them to be contrary to their ideas of civil and national justice, it might perhaps have some effect. If the Committee [of Public Safety] will do nothing; it will be necessary to bring this matter openly before the Convention, for I do most sincerely assure you, from the observations that I hear, and I suppose the same are made in other places, that the character of America lies under some reproach. All the world knows that I have served her, and they see that I am still in prison; and you know that when people can form a conclusion upon a simple fact, they trouble not themselves about reasons. I had rather that America cleared herself of all suspicion of ingratitude, though I were to be the victim.
You advise me to have patience, but I am fully persuaded that the longer I continue in prison the more difficult will be my liberation. There are two reasons for this: the one is that the present Committee, by continuing so long my imprisonment, will naturally suppose that my mind will be soured against them, as it was against those who put me in, and they will continue my imprisonment from the same apprehensions as the former Committee did; the other reason is, that it is now about two months since your arrival, and I am still in prison. They will explain this into an indifference upon my fate that will encourage them to continue my imprisonment. When I hear some people say that it is the Government of America that now keeps me in prison by not reclaiming me, and then pour forth a volley of execrations against her, I know not how to answer them otherwise than by a direct denial which they do not appear to believe. You will easily conclude that whatever relates to imprisonments and liberations makes a topic of prison conversation; and as I am now the oldest inhabitant within these walls, except two or three, I am often the subject of their remarks, because from the continuance of my imprisonment they auger ill to themselves. You see I write you every thing that occurs to me, and I conclude with thanking you again for your very friendly and affectionate letter, and am with great respect
(To day is the anniversary of the action at German Town. [October 4, 1777.] Your letter has enabled me to contradict the observations before mentioned.)
Oct 13, 1794
DearSir: On the 28th of this Month (October) I shall have suffered ten months imprisonment, to the dishonour of America as well as of myself, and I speak to you very honestly when I say that my patience is exhausted. It is only my actual liberation that can make me believe it. Had any person told me that I should remain in prison two months after the arrival of a new Minister, I should have supposed that he meant to affront me as an American. By the friendship and sympathy you express in your letter you seem to consider my imprisonment as having connection only with myself, but I am certain that the inferences that follow from it have relation also to the National character of America. I already feel this in myself, for I no longer speak with pride of being a citizen of that country. Is it possible Sir that I should, when I am suffering unjust imprisonment under the very eye of her new Minister?
While there was no Minister here (for I consider Morris as none) nobody wondered at my imprisonment, but now everybody wonders. The continuance of it under a change of diplomatic circumstances, subjects me to the suspicion of having merited it, and also to the suspicion of having forfeited my reputation with America; and it subjects her at the same time to the suspicion of ingratitude, or to the reproach of wanting national or diplomatic importance. The language that some Americans have held of my not being considered as an American citizen, tho’ contradicted by yourself, proceeds, I believe, from no other motive, than the shame and dishonour they feel at the imprisonment of a fellow-citizen, and they adopt this apology, at my expence, to get rid of that disgrace. Is it not enough that I suffer imprisonment, but my mind also must be wounded and tortured with subjects of this kind? Did I reason from personal considerations only, independent of principles and the pride of having practiced those principles honourably, I should be tempted to curse the day I knew America. By contributing to her liberty I have lost my own, and yet her Government beholds my situation in silence. Wonder not, Sir, at the ideas I express or the language in which I express them. If I have a heart to feel for others I can feel also for myself, and if I have anxiety for my own honour, I have it also for a country whose suffering infancy I endeavoured to nourish and to which I have been enthusiastically attached. As to patience I have practiced it long—as long as it was honorable to do so, and when it goes beyond that point it becomes meanness.
I am inclined to believe that you have attended to my imprisonment more as a friend than as a Minister. As a friend I thank you for your affectionate attachment. As a Minister you have to look beyond me to the honour and reputation of your Government; and your Countrymen, who have accustomed themselves to consider any subject in one line of thinking only, more especially if it makes a strong [impression] upon them, as I believe my situation has made upon you, do not immediately see the matters that have relation to it in another line; and it is to bring these two into one point that I offer you these observations. A citizen and his country, in a case like mine, are so closely connected that the case of one is the case of both.
When you first arrived the path you had to pursue with respect to my liberation was simple. I was imprisoned as a foreigner; you knew that foreigner to be a citizen of America, and you knew also his character, and as such you should immediately have reclaimed him. You could lose nothing by taking strong ground, but you might lose much by taking an inferior one; but instead of this, which I conceive would have been the right line of acting, you left me in their hands on the loose intimation that my liberation would take place without your direct interference, and you strongly recommended it to me to wait the issue. This is more than seven weeks ago and I am still in prison. I suspect these people are trifling with you, and if they once believe they can do that, you will not easily get any business done except what they wish to have done.
When I take a review of my whole situation—my circumstances ruined, my health half destroyed, my person imprisoned, and the prospect of imprisonment still staring me in the face, can you wonder at the agony of my feelings? You lie down in safety and rise to plenty; it is otherwise with me; I am deprived of more than half the common necessaries of life; I have not a candle to burn and cannot get one. Fuel can be procured only in small quantities and that with great difficulty and very dear, and to add to the rest, I am fallen into a relapse and am again on the sick list. Did you feel the whole force of what I suffer, and the disgrace put upon America by this injustice done to one of her best and most affectionate citizens, you would not, either as a friend or Minister, rest a day till you had procured my liberation. It is the work of two or three hours when you set heartily about it, that is, when you demand me as an American citizen, or propose a conference with the Committee upon that subject; or you may make it the work of a twelve-month and not succeed. I know these people better than you do.
You desire me to believe that “you are placed here on a difficult Theatre with many important objects to attend to, and with but few to consult with, and that it becomes you in pursuit of these to regulate your conduct with respect to each, as to manner and time, as will in your judgment be best calculated to accomplish the whole.” As I know not what these objects are I can say nothing to that point. But I have always been taught to believe that the liberty of a Citizen was the first object of all free Governments, and that it ought not to give preference to, or be blended with, any other. It is that public object that all the world can see, and which obtains an influence upon public opinion more than any other. This is not the case with the objects you allude to. But be those objects what they may, can you suppose you will accomplish them the easier by holding me in the back-ground, or making me only an accident in the negotiation? Those with whom you confer will conclude from thence that you do not feel yourself very strong upon those points, and that you politically keep me out of sight in the meantime to make your approach the easier.
There is one part in your letter that is equally as proper should be communicated to the Committee as to me, and which I conceive you are under some diplomatic obligation to do. It is that part which you conclude by saying that “to the welfare of Thomas Paine the Americans are not and cannot be indifferent. “As it is impossible the Americans can preserve their esteem for me and for my oppressors at the same time, the injustice to me strikes at the popular part of the Treaty of Alliance. If it be the wish of the Committee to reduce the treaty to a mere skeleton of Government forms, they are taking the right method to do it, and it is not improbable they will blame you afterwards for not informing them upon the subject. The disposition to retort has been so notorious here, that you ought to be guarded against it at all points.
You say in your letter that you doubt whether the gentleman who informed me of the language held by some Americans respecting my citizenship of America conveyed even his own ideas clearly upon the subject. I know not how this may be, but I believe he told me the truth. I received a letter a few days ago from a friend and former comrade of mine in which he tells me, that all the Americans he converses with, say, that I should have been in liberty long ago if the Minister could have reclaimed me as an American citizen. When I compare this with the counter-declarations in your letter I can explain the case no otherwise than I have already done, that it is an apology to get rid of the shame and dishonour they feel at the imprisonment of an American citizen, and because they are not willing it should be supposed there is want of influence in the American Embassy. But they ought to see that this language is injurious to me.
On the 2d of this month Vendemaire I received a line from Mr. Beresford in which he tells me I shall be in liberty in two or three days, and that he has this from good authority. On the 12th I received a note from Mr. Labonadaire, written at the Bureau of the Concierge, in which he tells me of the interest you take in procuring my liberation, and that after the steps that had been already taken that I ought to write to the Convention to demand my liberty purely and simply as a citizen of the United States of America. He advised me to send the letter to him, and he would translate it. I sent the letter inclosing at the same time a letter to you. I have heard nothing since of the letter to the Convention. On the 17th I received a letter from my former comrade Vanhuele, in which he says “I am just come from Mr. Russell who had yesterday a conversation with your Minister and your liberation is certain—you will be in liberty to-morrow.” Vanhuele also adds, “I find the advice of Mr. Labonadaire good, for tho’ you have some enemies in the Convention, the strongest and best part are in your favour.” But the case is, and I felt it whilst I was writing the letter to the Convention, that there is an awkwardness in my appearing, you being present; for every foreigner should apply thro’ his Minister, or rather his Minister for him.
When I thus see day after day and month after month, and promise after promise, pass away without effect, what can I conclude but that either the Committees are secretly determined not to let me go, or that the measures you take are not pursued with the vigor necessary to give them effect; of that the American National character is without sufficient importance in the French Republic? The latter will be gratifying to the English Government. In short, Sir, the case is now arrived to that crisis, that for the sake of your own reputation as a Minister you ought to require a positive answer from the Committee. As to myself, it is more agreeable to me now to contemplate an honourable destruction, and to perish in the act of protesting against the injustice I suffer, and to caution the people of America against confiding too much in the Treaty of Alliance, violated as it has been in every principle, and in my imprisonment though an American Citizen, than remain in the wretched condition I am. I am no longer of any use to the world or to myself.
There was a time when I beheld the Revolution of the 10th. Thermidor [the fall of Robespierre] with enthusiasm. It was the first news my comrade Vanhuele communicated to me during my illness, and it contributed to my recovery. But there is still something rotten at the Center, and the Enemies that I have, though perhaps not numerous, are more active than my friends. If I form a wrong opinion of men or things it is to you I must look to set me right. You are in possession of the secret. I know nothing of it. But that I may be guarded against as many wants as possible I shall set about writing a memorial to Congress, another to the State of Pennsylvania, and an address to the people of America; but it will be difficult for me to finish these until I know from yourself what applications you have made for my liberation, and what answers you have received.
Ah, Sir, you would have gotten a load of trouble and difficulties off your hands that I fear will multiply every day, had you made it a point to procure my liberty when you first arrived, and not left me floating on the promises of men whom you did not know. You were then a new character. You had come in consequence of their own request that Morris should be recalled; and had you then, before you opened any subject of negociation that might arise into controversy, demanded my liberty either as a Civility or as a Right I see not how they could have refused it.
I have already said that after all the promises that have been made I am still in prison. I am in the dark upon all the matters that relate to myself. I know not if it be to the Convention, to the Committee of Public Safety, of General Surety, or to the deputies who come sometimes to the Luxembourg to examine and put persons in liberty, that applications have been made for my liberation. But be it to whom it may, my earnest and pressing request to you as Minister is that you will bring this matter to a conclusion by reclaiming me as an American citizen imprisoned in France under the plea of being a foreigner born in England; that I may know the result, and how to prepare the Memorials I have mentioned, should there be occasion for them. The right of determining who are American citizens can belong only to America. The Convention have declared I am not a French Citizen because she has declared me to be a foreigner, and have by that declaration cancelled and annulled the vote of the former assembly that conferred the Title of Citizen upon Citizens or subjects of other Countries. I should not be honest to you nor to myself were I not to express myself as I have done in this letter, and I confide and request you will accept it in that sense and in no other.
I am, with great respect, your suffering fellow-citizen,
P. S.—If my imprisonment is to continue, and I indulge very little hope to the contrary, I shall be under the absolute necessity of applying to you for a supply of several articles. Every person here have their families or friends upon the spot who make provision for them. This is not the case with me; I have no person I can apply to but the American Minister, and I can have no doubt that if events should prevent my repaying the expence Congress or the State of Pennsylvania will discharge it for me.
To day is 22 Vendemaire Monday October 13, but you will not receive this letter till the 14th. I will send the bearer to you again on the 15th, Wednesday, and I will be obliged to you to send me for the present, three or four candles, a little sugar of any kind, and some soap for shaving; and I should be glad at the same time to receive a line from you and a memorandum of the articles. Were I in your place I would order a Hogshead of Sugar, some boxes of Candles and Soap from America, for they will become still more scarce. Perhaps the best method for you to procure them at present is by applying to the American Consuls at Bordeaux and Havre, and have them up by the diligence.
DearSir: As I have not yet received any answer to my last, I have amused myself with writing you the inclosed memoranda. Though you recommend patience to me I cannot but feel very pointedly the uncomfortableness of my situation, and among other reflections that occur to me I cannot think that America receives any credit from the long imprisonment that I suffer. It has the appearance of neglecting her citizens and her friends and of encouraging the insults of foreign nations upon them, and upon her commerce. My imprisonment is as well and perhaps more known in England than in France, and they (the English) will not be intimated from molesting an American ship when they see that one of her best citizens (for I have a right to call myself so) can be imprisoned in another country at the mere discretion of a Committee, because he is a foreigner.
When you first arrived every body congratulated me that I should soon, if not immediately, be in liberty. Since that time about two hundred have been set free from this prison on the applications of their sections or of individuals—and I am continually hurt by the observations that are made—”that a section in Paris has more influence than America.”
It is right that I furnish you with these circumstances. It is the effect of my anxiety that the character of America suffer no reproach; for the world knows that I have acted a generous duty by her. I am the third American that has been imprisoned. Griffiths nine weeks, Haskins about five, and myself eight [months] and yet in prison. With respect to the two former there was then no Minister, for I consider Morris as none; and they were liberated on the applications of the Americans in Paris. As to myself I had rather be publickly and honorably reclaimed, tho’ the reclamation was refused, than remain in the uncertain situation that I am. Though my health has suffered my spirits are not broken. I have nothing to fear unless innocence and fortitude be crimes. America, whatever may be my fate, will have no cause to blush for me as a citizen; I hope I shall have none to blush for her as a country. If, my dear Sir, there is anything in the perplexity of ideas I have mistaken, only suppose yourself in my situation, and you will easily find an excuse for it. I need not say how much I shall rejoice to pay my respects to you without-side the walls of this prison, and to enquire after my American friends. But I know that nothing can be accomplished here but by unceasing perseverance and application. Yours affectionately.
October 20, 1794.
DearSir:I recd. Your friendly letter of the 26 Vendemaire on the day it was written, and I thank you for communicating to me your opinion upon my case. Ideas serve to beget ideas, and as it is from a review of every thing that can be said upon a subject, or is any ways connected with it, that the best judgment can be formed how to proceed, I present you with such ideas as occur to me. I am sure of one thing, which is that you will give them a patient and attentive perusal.
You say in your letter that “I must be sensible that although I am an American citizen, yet if you interfere in my behalf as the Minister of my country you must demand my liberation only in case there be no charge against me; and that if there is I must be brought to trial previously, since no person in a private character can be exempt from the laws of the country in which he resides.”—This is what I have twice attempted to do. I wrote a letter on the 3d Sans Culottodi to the Deputies, members of the Committee of Surety General, who came to the Luxembourg to examine the persons detained. The letter was as follows:—”Citizens Representatives: I offer myself for examination. Justice is due to every Man. It is Justice only that I ask.—ThomasPaine.“
As I was not called for examination, nor heard anything in consequence of my letter the first time of sending it, I sent a duplicate of it a few days after. It was carried to them by my good friend and comrade Vanhuele, who was then going in liberty, having been examined the day before. Vanhuele wrote me on the next day and said: “Bourdon de l’Oise [who was one of the examining Deputies] is the most inveterate enemy you can have. The answer he gave me when I presented your letter put me in such a passion with him that I expected I should be sent back again to prison.” I then wrote a third letter but had not an opportunity of sending it, as Bourdon did not come any more till after I received Mr. Labonadaire’s letter advising me to write to the Convention. The letter was as follows:—”Citizens, I have twice offered myself for examination, and I chose to do this while Bourdon de l’Oise was one of the Commissioners. This Deputy has said in the Convention that I intrigued with an ancient agent of the Bureau of Foreign Affairs. My examination therefore while he is present will give him an opportunity of proving his charge or of convincing himself of his error. If Bourdon de l’Oise is an honest man he will examine me, but lest he should not I subjoin the following. That which B[ourdon] calls an intrigue was at the request of a member of the former Committee of Salut Public, last August was a twelvemonth. I met the member on the Boulevard. He asked me something in French which I did not understand and we went together to the Bureau of Foreign Affairs which was near at hand. The Agent (Otto, whom you probably knew in America) served as interpreter, The member (it was Barère) then asked me 1st, If I could furnish him with the plan of Constitution I had presented to the Committee of Constitution of which I was member with himself, because, he said, it contained several things which he wished had been adopted: 2dly, He asked me my opinion upon sending Commissioners to the United States of America: 3dly, If fifty or an hundred ship loads of flour could be procured from America. As verbal interpretation was tedious, it was agreed that I should give him my opinion in writing, and that the Agent [Otto] should translate it, which he did. I answered the first question by sending him the plan [of a Constitution] which he still has. To the second, I replied that I thought it would be proper to send Commissioners, because that in Revolutions circumstances change so fast that it was often necessary to send a better supply of information to an Ally than could be communicated by writing; and that Congress had done the same thing during the American War; and I gave him some information that the Commissioners would find useful on their arrival. I answered the third question by sending him a list of American exports two years before, distinguishing the several articles by which he would see that the supply he mentioned could be obtained. I sent him also the plan of Paul Jones, giving it as his, for procuring salt-petre, which was to send a squadron (it did not require a large one) to take possession of the Island of St. Helen’s, to keep the English flag flying at the port, that the English East India ships coming from the East Indies, and that ballast with salt-petre, might be induced to enter as usual; And that it would be a considerable time before the English Government could know of what had happened at St. Helen’s. See here what Bourdon de l’Oise has called an intrigue.—If it was an intrigue it was between a Committee of Salut Public and myself, for the Agent was no more than the interpreter and translator, and the object of the intrigue was to furnish France with flour and salt-petre.”—I suppose Bourdon had heard that the agent and I were seen together talking English, and this was enough for him to found his charge upon.
You next say that “I must likewise be sensible that although I am an American citizen that it is likewise believed there [in America] that I am become a citizen of France, and that in consequence this latter character has so far [illegible] the former as to weaken if not destroy any claim you might have to interpose in my behalf.” I am sorry I cannot add any new arguments to those I have already advanced on this part of the subject. But I cannot help asking myself, and I wish you would ask the Committee, if it could possibly be the intention of France to kidnap citizens from America under the pretence of dubbing them with the title of French citizens, and then, after inviting or rather enveigling them into France, make it a pretence for detaining them? If it was, (which I am sure it was not, tho’ they now act as if it was) the insult was to America, tho’ the injury was to me, and the treachery was to both. Did they mean to kidnap General Washington, Mr. Madison, and several other Americans whom they dubbed with the same title as well as me? Let any man look at the condition of France when I arrived in it,—invaded by Austrians and Prussians and declared to be in danger,—and then ask if any man who had a home and a country to go to, as I had in America, would have come amongst them from any other motive than of assisting them. If I could possibly have supposed them capable of treachery I certainly would not have trusted myself in their power. Instead therefore of your being unwilling or apprehensive of meeting the question of French citizenship, they ought to be ashamed of advancing it, and this will be the case unless you admit their arguments or objections too passively. It is a case on their part fit only for the continuations of Robespierre to set up. As to the name of French citizen, I never considered it in any other light, so far as regarded myself, than as a token of honorary respect. I never made them any promise nor took any oath of allegiance or of citizenship, nor bound myself by an act or means whatever to the performance of any thing. I acted altogether as a friend invited among them as I supposed on honorable terms. I did not come to join myself to a Government already formed, but to assist in forming one de nouveau, which was afterwards to be submitted to the people whether they would accept it or not, and this any foreigner might do. And strictly speaking there are no citizens before this is a government. They are all of the People. The Americans were not called citizens till after Government was established, and not even then until they had taken the oath of allegiance. This was the case in Pennsylvania. But be this French citizenship more or less, the Convention have swept it away by declaring me to be a foreigner, and imprisoning me as such; and this is a short answer to all those who affect to say or to believe that I am French Citizen. A Citizen without Citizenship is a term non-descript.
After the two preceeding paragraphs you ask—”If it be my wish that you should embark in this controversy (meaning that of reclaiming me) and risque the consequences with respect to myself and the good understanding subsisting between the two countries, or, without relinquishing any point of right, and which might be insisted on in case of extremities, pursue according to your best judgment and with the light before you, the object of my liberation?”
As I believe from the apparent obstinacy of the Committees that circumstances will grow towards the extremity you mention, unless prevented beforehand, I will endeavour to throw into your hands all the lights I can upon the subject.
In the first place, reclamation may mean two distinct things. All the reclamations that are made by the sections in behalf of persons detained as suspect are made on the ground that the persons so detained are patriots, and the reclamation is good against the charge of “suspect” because it proves the contrary. But my situation includes another circumstance. I am imprisoned on the charge (if it can be called one) of being a foreigner born in England. You know that foreigner to be a citizen of the United States of America, and that he has been such since the 4th of July 1776, the political birthday of the United States, and of every American citizen, for before that period all were British subjects, and the States, then provinces, were British dominions.—Your reclamation of me therefore as a citizen of the United States (all other considerations apart) is good against the pretence for imprisoning me, or that pretence is equally good against every American citizen born in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, or Holland, and you know this description of men compose a very great part of the population of the three States of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and make also a part of Congress, and of the State Legislatures.
Every politician ought to know, and every civilian does know, that the Law of Treaty of Alliance, and also that of Amity and Commerce knows no distinction of American Citizens on account of the place of their birth, but recognizes all to be Citizens whom the Constitution and laws of the United States of America recognize as such; and if I recollect rightly there is an article in the Treaty of Commerce particular to this point. The law therefore which they have here, to put all persons in arrestation born in any of the Countries at war with France, is, when applied to Citizens of America born in England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, or holland, a violation of the treaties of Alliance and of Commerce, because it assumes to make a distinction of Citizens which those Treaties and the Constitution of America know nothing of. This is a subject that officially comes under your cognizance as Minister, and it would be consistent that you expostulated with them upon the Case. That foolish old man Vadier, who was president of the Convention and of the Committee of Surety general when the Americans then in Paris went to the Bar of the Convention to reclaim me, gave them for answer that my being born in England was cause sufficient for imprisoning me. It happened that at least half those who went up with that address were in the same case with myself.
As to reclamations on the ground of Patriotism it is difficult to know what is to be understood by Patriotism here. There is not a vice, and scarcely a virtue, that has not as the fashion of the moment suited been called by the name of Patriotism. The wretches who composed the revolutionary tribunal of Nantz were the Patriots of that day and the criminals of this. The Jacobins called themselves Patriots of the first order, men up to the height of the circumstances, and they are now considered as an antidote to Patriotism. But if we give to Patriotism a fixed idea consistent with that of a Republic, it would signify a strict adherence to the principles of Moral Justice, to the equality of civil and political Rights, to the System of representative Government, and an opposition to every hereditary claim to govern; and of this species of Patriotism you know my character. But, Sir, there are men on the Committee who have changed their Party but not their principles. Their aim is to hold power as long as possible by preventing the establishment of a Constitution, and these men are and will be my Enemies, and seek to hold me in prison as long as they can. I am too good a Patriot for them. It is not improbable that they have heard of the strange language held by some Americans that I am not considered in America as an American citizen, and they may also have heard say, that you had no orders respecting me, and it is not improbable that they interpret that language and that silence into a connivance at my imprisonment. If they had not some ideas of this kind would they resist so long the civil efforts you make for my liberation, or would they attach so much importance to the imprisonment of an Individual as to risque (as you say to me) the good understanding that exists between the two Countries? You also say that it is impossible for any person to do more than you have done without adopting the other means, meaning that of reclaiming me. How then can you account for the want of success after so many efforts, and such a length of time, upwards of ten weeks, without supposing that they fortify themselves in the interpretation I have just mentioned? I can admit that it was not necessary to give orders, and that it was difficult to give direct orders, for I much question if Morris had informed Congress or the President of the whole of the case, or had sent copies of my letters to him as I had desired him to do. You would find the case here when you came, and you could not fully understand it till you did come, and as Minister you would have authority to act upon it. But as you inform me that you know what the wishes of the President are, you will see also that his reputation is exposed to some risque, admitting there to be ground for the supposition I have made. It will not add to his popularity to have it believed in America, as I am inclined to think the Committee believe here, that he connives at my imprisonment. You say also that it is known to everybody that you wish my liberation. It is, Sir, because they know your wishes that they misinterpret the means you use. They suppose that those mild means arise from a restriction that you cannot use others, or from a consciousness of some defect on my part of which you are unwilling to provoke the enquiry.
But as you ask me if it be my wish that you should embark in this controversy and risque the consequences with respect to myself, I will answer this part of the question by marking out precisely the part I wish you to take. What I mean is a sort of middle line above what you have yet gone, and not up to the full extremity of the case, which will still lie in reserve. It is to write a letter to the Committee that shall in the first place defeat by anticipation all the objections they might make to a simple reclamation, and at the same time make the ground good for that object. But, instead of sending the letter immediately, to invite some of the Committee to your house and to make that invitation the opportunity of shewing them the letter, expressing at the same time a wish that you had done this, from a hope that the business might be settled in an amicable manner without your being forced into an official interference, that would excite the observations of the Enemies of both Countries, and probably interrupt the harmony that subsisted between the two republics. But as I can not convey the ideas I wish you to use by any means so concisely or so well as to suppose myself the writer of the letter I shall adopt this method and you will make use of such parts or such ideas of it as you please if you approve the plan. Here follows the supposed letter:
Citizens: When I first arrived amongst you as Minister from the United States of America I was given to understand that the liberation of Thomas Paine would take place without any official interference on my part. This was the more agreeable to me as it would not only supercede the necessity of that interference, but would leave to yourselves the whole opportunity of doing justice to a man who as far as I have been able to learn has suffered much cruel treatment under what you have denominated the system of Terror. But as I find my expectations have not been fulfilled I am under the official necessity of being more explicit upon the subject than I have hitherto been.
Permit me, in the first place, to observe that as it is impossible for me to suppose that it could have been the intention of France to seduce any citizens of America from their allegiance to their proper country by offering them the title of French citizen, so must I be compelled to believe, that the title of French citizen conferred on Thomas Paine was intended only as a mark of honorary respect towards a man who had so eminently distinguished himself in defence of liberty, and on no occasion more so than in promoting and defending your own revolution. For a proof of this I refer you to his two works entitled Rights of Man. Those works have procured to him an addition of esteem in America, and I am sorry they have been so ill rewarded in France. But be this title of French Citizen more or less, it is now entirely swept away by the vote of the Convention which declares him to be a foreigner, and which supercedes the vote of the Assembly that conferred that title upon him, consequently upon the case superceded with it.
In consequence of this vote of the Convention declaring him to be a foreigner the former Committees have imprisoned him. It is therefore become my official duty to declare to you that the foreigner thus imprisoned is a citizen of the United States of America as fully, as legally, as constitutionally as myself, and that he is moreover one of the principal founders of the American Republic.
I have been informed of a law or decree of the Convention which subjects foreigners born in any of the countries at war with France to arrestation and imprisonment. This law when applied to citizens of America born in England is an infraction of the Treaty of Alliance and of Amity and Commerce, which knows no distinction of American citizens on account of the place of their birth, but recognizes all to be citizens whom the Constitution and laws of America recognize as such. The circumstances under which America has been peopled requires this guard on her Treaties, because the mass of her citizens are composed not of natives only but also of the natives of almost all the countries of Europe who have sought an asylum there from the persecutions they experienced in their own countries. After this intimation you will without doubt see the propriety of modelling that law to the principles of the Treaty, because the law of Treaty in cases where it applies is the governing law to both parties alike, and it cannot be infracted without hazarding the existence of the Treaty.
Of the Patriotism of Thomas Paine I can speak fully, if we agree to give to patriotism a fixed idea consistent with that of a republic. It would then signify a strict adherence to Moral Justice, to the equality of civil and political rights, to the system of representative government, and an opposition to all hereditary claims to govern. Admitting patriotism to consist in these principles, I know of no man who has gone beyond Thomas Paine in promulgating and defending them, and that for almost twenty years past.
I have now spoken to you on the principal matters concerned in the case of Thomas Paine. The title of French citizen which you had enforced upon him, you have since taken away by declaring him to be a foreigner, and consequently this part of the subject ceases of itself. I have declared to you that this foreigner is a citizen of the United States of America, and have assured you of his patriotism.
I cannot help at the same time repeating to you my wish that his liberation had taken place without my being obliged to go thus far into the subject, because it is the mutual interest of both republics to avoid as much as possible all subjects of controversy, especially those from which no possible good can flow. I still hope that you will save me the unpleasant task of proceeding any farther by sending me an order for his liberation, which the injured state of his health absolutely requires. I shall be happy to receive such an order from you and happy in presenting it to him, for to the welfare of Thomas Paine the Americans are not and cannot be indifferent.
This is the sort of letter I wish you to write, for I have no idea that you will succeeded by any measures that can, by any kind of construction, be interpreted into a want of confidence or an apprehension of consequences. It is themselves that ought to be apprehensive of consequences if any are to be apprehended. They, I mean the Committees, are not certain that the Convention or the nation would support them in forcing any question to extremity that might interrupt the good understanding subsisting between the two countries; and I know of no question [so likely] to do this as that which involves the rights and liberty of a citizen.
You will please to observe that I have put the case of French citizenship in a point of view that ought not only to preclude, but to make them ashamed to advance any thing upon this subject; and this is better than to have to answer their counter-reclamation afterwards. Either the Citizenship was intended as a token of honorary respect, or it was intended to deprive America of a citizen or to seduce him from his allegiance to his proper country. If it was intended as an honour they must act consistently with the principle of honour. But if they make a pretence for detaining me, they convict themselves of the act of seduction. Had America singled out any particular French citizen, complimented him with the title of Citizen of America, which he without suspecting any fraudulent intention might accept, and then after having invited or rather inveigled him into America made his acceptance of that Title a pretence for seducing or forcing him from his allegiance to France, would not France have just cause to be offended at America? And ought not America to have the same right to be offended at France? And will the Committees take upon themselves to answer for the dishonour they bring upon the National Character of their Country? If these arguments are stated beforehand they will prevent the Committees going into the subject of French Citizenship. They must be ashamed of it. But after all the case comes to this, that this French Citizenship appertains no longer to me because the Convention, as I have already said, have swept it away by declaring me to be foreigner, and it is not in the power of the Committees to reverse it. But if I am to be citizen and foreigner, and citizen again, just when and how and for any purpose they please, they take the Government of America into their own hands and make her only a Cypher in their system.
Though these ideas have been long with me they have been more particularly matured by reading your last Communication, and I have many reasons to wish you had opened that Communication sooner. I am best acquainted with the persons you have to deal with and the circumstances of my own case. If you chuse to adopt the letter as it is, I send you a translation for the sake of expediting the business. I have endeavoured to conceive your own manner of expression as well as I could, and the civility of language you would use, but the matter of the letter is essential to me.
If you chuse to confer with some of the members of the Committee at your own house on the subject of the letter it may render the sending it unnecessary; but in either case I must request and press you not to give away to evasion and delay, and that you will fix positively with them that they shall give you an answer in three or four days whether they will liberate me on the representation you have made in the letter, or whether you must be forced to go further into the subject. The state of my health will not admit of delay, and besides the tortured state of my mind wears me down. If they talk of bringing me to trial (and I well know there is no accusation against me and that they can bring none) I certainly summons you as an Evidence to my Character. This you may mention to them either as what I intend to do or what you intend to do voluntarily for me.
I am anxious that you undertake this business without losing time, because if I am not liberated in the course of this decade, I intend, if in case the seventy-one detained deputies are liberated, to follow the same track that they have done, and publish my own case myself. I cannot rest any longer in this state of miserable suspense, be the consequences what they may.
DearSir: I need not mention to you the happiness I received from the information you sent me by Mr. Beresford. I easily guess the persons you have conversed with on the subject of my liberation—but matters and even promises that pass in conversation are not quite so strictly attended to here as in the Country you come from. I am not, my Dear Sir, impatient from any thing in my disposition, but the state of my health requires liberty and a better air; and besides this, the rules of the prison do not permit me, though I have all the indulgences the Concierge can give, to procure the things necessary to my recovery, which is slow as to strength. I have a tolerable appetite but the allowance of provision is scanty. We are not allowed a knife to cut our victuals with, nor a razor to shave; but they have lately allowed some barbers that are here to shave. The room where I am lodged is a ground floor level with the earth in the garden and floored with brick, and is so wet after every rain that I cannot guard against taking colds that continually cheat my recovery. If you could, without interfering with or deranging the mode proposed for my liberation, inform the Committee that the state of my health requires liberty and air, it would be good ground to hasten my liberation. The length of my imprisonment is also a reason, for I am now almost the oldest inhabitant of this uncomfortable mansion, and I see twenty, thirty and sometimes forty persons a day put in liberty who have not been so long confined as myself. Their liberation is a happiness to me; but I feel sometimes, a little mortification that I am thus left behind. I leave it entirely to you to arrange this matter. The messenger waits. Your’s affectionately,
I hope and wish much to see you. I have much to say. I have had the attendance of Dr. Graham (Physician to Genl. O’Hara, who is prisoner here) and of Dr. Makouski, house physician, who has been most exceedingly kind to me. After I am at liberty I shall be glad to introduce him to you.