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CHAPTER IV. - Gouverneur Morris, The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 1 
The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, Minister of the United States to France; Member of the Constitutional Convention, ed. Anne Cary Morris (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1888). 2 vols. Vol. 1.
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Morris surprised at Parisian manners and customs. Tea in the Palais Royal. Visit to Romainville. M. de Beaujolais. Morris writes verses to the Duchess of Orleans. Careless driving. Made a member of the Club of Valois. Interviews with Judges. Note on the tobacco contracts. The Dauphin’s death. States-General more than ever embroiled. Morris stands for Houdon’s statue of Washington. Strictures on the Bishop d’Autun. Visit to Raincy. The clergy join the Tiers. The Salle des Menus closed. Bath in the Tennis Court. Great excitement in Paris. Morris’s sentiments quoted. His interest in France. Necker offers to resign. The mob at Versailles. Inflammatory publications at the Palais Royal. The nobles join the other orders. Revolt among the guards. The Abbaye broken open. The king terrified.
It is impossible not to see the eyebrows slightly raised and the look of surprise on Morris’s face as he notes the manners and customs of the ladies of Paris. “What would have induced one of my countrywomen to place herself in such a position?” he says, on one occasion, when a very extraordinary request was made to him, hardly suitable for ears polite. While sitting one evening with a friend in the Palais Royal, drinking lemonade and tea, “the waiter comes to tell me that two ladies are without who wish to speak to me. These, I find, are Madame de Boursac and Madame d’Espanchall, whom we had met before at the Tuileries. A good deal of light, trivial conversation, in which these ladies intimate to me that their nuptial bonds do not at all straighten their conduct, and it would seem that either would be content to form an intrigue. As they can have no real want of lovers, and as they can have no prepossession in my favor, this conduct evidently resolves itself into some other motive—probably a view to some jolis cadeaux. As I have a vast fund of indifference on the subject, I say a number of handsome nothings, and as the ladies are relieved by my presence from the scandal of being alone and the ennui of a female tête-à-tête, I shall have the credit with them of being more agreeable, et plus homme d’esprit, than I am, by a great deal.”
To fulfil an engagement made with Madame de Chastellux to visit the Marquis de Ségur, Morris went to her apartments on the day appointed and found her in attendance upon the Duchess at her prayers. She brought a message from her Royal Highness of regret that Mr. Morris had not gone to see her at her apartment, and that she would be glad to see him any morning. “I agree to pay a visit to her with Madame de Chastellux. We get into my carriage, and go to Romainville, the seat of M. de Ségur. The view is very fine from the house and from different parts of the garden, at the foot of which is a charming little cottage. In the garden I remark an obelisk dedicated to friendship. It is erected by the Baron de Besenval (I suppose), who was most intimately the friend of Madame de Ségur as well as with the Maréchal. She, with an unusual degree of candor, avowed her passion to her husband, and all three lived very happily together until her death. The present Vicomte de Ségur is son to the Baron, and his elder brother is supposed to be son to the Maréchal. The Comtesse de Ségur does very well the honors of the house, being a very sensible and, indeed, a lovely woman. The Prince and Princess Galitzen* dine this day at Romainville. He tells me he has been from home now about seven years. We return to town and I visit Madame de Flahaut, who insists on my spending the evening with Madame de Boursac, which I agree to. A good deal of chit-chat, and after supper M. de Boursac comes in, and then M. d’Espanchall, whose lady is also there, and the conversation degenerates into politics. The women prattle a plenty of nonsense about the election of Paris, which it seems is to be disputed, and thereby put their two husbands out of patience.”
The promised visit to her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Orleans, was accomplished on Saturday, May 23d. “At 11 o’clock,” he says, “with Madame de Chastellux I go to her apartments. She is at breakfast, the Vicomte de Ségur sitting next to her. If I guess right his attentions are more agreeable to her than she is aware of. His inquisitive eye asks how I am with Madame de Chastellux, to which I answer by a firmness of insipid countenance perfectly in harmony with the fact that I have never yet harbored an idea respecting her which would derogate from a vestal, and this not from virtue entirely but very much from indifference, and yet she is young and handsome and sensible. What is the reason of this? The Duchess also, by an insinuating glance, seems to say, ‘I find you are vastly attentive there and I am glad of it.’ She is vastly mistaken and I am glad of that. Her younger son comes in, M. de Beaujolais, a fine, sprightly boy. Madame de —, one of her women, enters limping. She had something on the toe which she has been extracting and has cut to the quick. I tell her, ‘Madame, quand on est touché au vif on s’en repent longtemps.’ An old devout lady who is present, taking the thing with great simplicity in the literal sense, adds, in the true matron tone, ‘et surtout au pied.’ There is a conserve on table which the Duchess offers, but I decline, as not liking ‘les choses sucrées.’”
There was keen enjoyment to be got out of a drive with a charming, gay companion like Madame de Flahaut, “through the unfrequented parts of the Bois de Boulogne, where a number of deer skipping about contrast very finely with the belles and beaux who are grouped together in different parts.” Again, to wander, as he says, “alone in the garden of Malmaison before dinner, and dream of my country and converse with my absent friends, and by solitude to bring my mind back to its natural tone. Then in the evening I go to see Madame de Chastellux and write for her some lines that occurred to me whilst driving today, but which I tell her are not an impromptu, though I might give them the air of one. She thinks, or at least says she thinks, them very handsome. I agree very honestly that they are well turned and musical, but I cannot agree that they have so much merit as she seems to allow.
“A few days later,” he says, “when I call at the Palais Royal to say good-bye to Madame de Chastellux, who is going to Raincy for the summer, she tells me she gave my verses to the Duchess, who was much pleased; found them very handsome, but not just. She does not merit, etc. In reply, I beg her Royal Highness to be informed that she has at least the security that they were not a premeditated compliment but the result of my reflections during a solitary ride, and that I shall not think so well of her as I have done if she is not convinced of the justice of my verses, which in my opinion forms their principal, if not their only merit, for she must know better than any other person whether she merits the good opinion there expressed.”
“A day in the country [May 24th]. Very warm weather and dusty. A large company at Lucennes. Among them M. Delville, who speaks of the bad quality of the tobacco sent to him by Mr. [Robert] Morris. I explain to him the nature of the inspection laws, etc., and I tell him that I do not complain of the conduct of the farm, which has been candid and generous, but that the Committee of Berni has occasioned all the mischief. In the evening I drive to Malmaison. Madame Dumolley is very civil, but I must go to see her, I find, only sur les jours de fête. Qu.: Is that because she has not at other times a dinner she would wish to exhibit, or wishes not, at other times, to be broken in upon, or wishes to save the risk of a visit when she is not at home? The last is the reason assigned, but the second is that which I believe in. At a little before ten I set off for Paris; and my coachman, being asleep, I am nearly overset in one of the ditches. After several efforts to make him awaken, he still continuing to drive wild, I stop him and ask if he is drunk. Tell him if he is, then to get down from the box and let my servant drive; but, if he is sober, then to go on and to pay more attention, for that if he oversets the carriage I will instantly run him through the body. This has the desired effect, and brings him to the use of his senses. How idle to suppose that man is a reasonable creature. If he had run into the ditch, which is dry, and about six foot perpendicular, it is a thousand to one that I should have been in a condition not to act, and he not to suffer, but this is a danger to which by habit he is familiarized. The other by its novelty makes impression, and he does not consider, at least until he is fairly awake, that I have no weapon but my cane to execute the threat.”
Morris’s clear views on general subjects, and his particular knowledge of the politics of Europe as well as of France, had already won for him a reputation which was not always to him a wholly agreeable one, for his time was valuable, and yet the interruptions to it, springing from his popularity, were incessant. “To-day” [May 27th], he says, “I am disturbed immediately after breakfast by General Sir How Whitford-Dalrymple and a Mr. Davis. They stay a long time, and enter with much solicitude into politics. As far as their symptoms may go they indicate great attention of the British Cabinet to what passes here regarding the States-General, etc. I tell them that if the King of Prussia were worth a farthing, the English might on the death of the Emperor play a very good game; viz., upon the election of the Archduke, put up the Electors of Bavaria and, giving Saxony to Prussia, take for the Stadholder the Austrian Netherlands, which with some of the little Bishoprics in the neighborhood would form a respectable monarchy, and by this means Britain would form for herself an extensive barrier, including Hanover, and would hem in her enemy on every side almost. Whereas if France establishes a free government, she may easily exchange with the house of Austria for something to be acquired elsewhere, or for money, the right to Flanders—and then, annexing both Flanders and Holland, she will become indisputably mistress of the fate of Europe; that Holland (that is, the United Netherlands) is now in a position that cannot endure, and her fate depends on the measure of the moment; that if France disposes herself to act, the first step will be to secure an alliance with us at any rate, because on our European ally will depend the fate of the West Indies, etc. We shall see at a future day what will be the effect of such suggestions. Go to dine with Madame Faucault, the daughter of my old friend James Leray de Chaumont. She is at her toilette and is, I am told, a woman of gallantry. Dine and chatter politics. Madame Leray de Chaumont* talks to me very sensibly, considering that she is said to be crazy. After dinner I walk in the Champs Elysées, and meet M. de Durfort, who tells me the number of troops in the neighborhood of Paris is to prevent tumult if the States-General are dissolved; laugh at this idea, which shows only the wishes of himself and his friends. After leaving him I call on Madame de la Suze. She is just going to dress, but that is nothing. ‘M. Morris me permettra de faire ma toilette?’ ‘Certainly.’ So we have the whole performance of undressing and dressing except the shift. Finish the evening in the salon of Madame de Flahaut, where I meet Madame de Boursac, who tells me that I am inscribed a member of the Club de Valois on the nomination of M. de Boursac.”
With unabated energy Morris continued his efforts to bring about an accommodation with the farmers-general and Robert Morris in the affair of the tobacco. But the dreaded suit became inevitable, and, in order to urge it forward, he was advised to visit his judges. This he accordingly did, and in the course of the day obtained assurances from the grocer, that the court was “impartial, and alike uninfluenced by farmers and grand seigneurs, that he would do everything in his power for the cause, etc.;” from the vender of skins, who was so surprised by a chariot stopping at his door “and a servant in livery inquiring for him, without anything of the humble suitor in his countenance,” that his “honor was brought into the street” by the unusual proceeding, a promise to do everything in his power; and from the amiable M. Levi, the vintner, a promise to mention the matter to his brethren at the earliest opportunity, with many assurances that “he believes my suit to be good, and that they desire to give the best reception to strangers, etc.; that of course a winter passage of a thousand leagues is not undertaken on light ground by a man of common understanding, etc. I of course assure him that there is doubtless every reason for confiding in the justice of the French, yet a stranger opposed to a powerful company is at a disadvantage.” After interviews with the bookseller, the woollen draper, the goldsmith, and the furrier, Morris says he was quite overcome by the ludicrous side of the picture, “which is so strongly painted to my own eyes that I cannot forbear laughing at myself, and having at length brought this disagreeable scene to an end, as a means of refreshment I utilize a ticket which I have for the Parc Monceau, where I walk a considerable time. It has merit, and has cost at least as much as it deserves. The gardener, an Englishman, and believing me to be one, is so kind as to direct a sentinel to find me out, and then comes himself and offers to show me the hot-house, etc. This is vastly polite and, indeed, kind, but perhaps the expectation of a little French coin from an English pocket may have had some influence. As this, however, would be an ungenerous suspicion, I leave him the full gratification of the patriotic sentiment, lavish a profusion of compliments, but not a single sou. After a very magnificent supper and a game of whist at the house of M. Bontin, I propose to him the supplying of the marine with provisions, and offer him a concern. He objects his office, to which I reply that he need not appear in it, but that, besides, it is a most honorable and praiseworthy pursuit to obtain supplies for the Crown upon easier terms, and thereby to cement more strongly an alliance of infinite consequence to France. We are to talk further on this subject.”
The promised visit was paid to M. de Montmorin at Versailles on Friday, the 29th of May. “His porter in a surly tone tells me I am come too late, just when the Count is going to dinner, to which I reply by desiring he will tell his master I wish to speak to him. Stay in the antechamber pretty late. At length dinner is announced, and I deliver the letter which I have kept so long, with an apology, which is well received. Go up to dinner. Common States-General chit-chat. The dinner lasts long, as we wait for a gentleman who is in session of the noblesse. On quitting the Count he very kindly regrets that he sees so little of me this day, which compliment might have been spared, as it depended on him to have had more particular conversation. He desires a repetition of my visit, and that I would consider his house as my home whenever I am there.”
“This morning [May 30th], being rather broken to pieces by business interruptions, I applied the fragments of the day to seeing curiosities with Madame de Flahaut as my companion. First the Gobelins, which, after all that has been said in their favor, are an idle kind of art, because they produce pieces which are more costly and less beautiful than paintings, and though in one sense they last long, yet in another they do not, because the colors fade. For the rest, it is a wonderful operation. From the Gobelins, in the gallery of which are some excellent paintings, we go to the King’s botanical gardens. Having no knowledge of botany except to distinguish onions and cabbages from oak trees, I can pretend to no judgment of this garden, which is, I daresay, excellent. It is in some respects handsome, and, taking the whole together, plants, buildings, etc., must have cost a great deal. Our examination is very cursory. From thence we go to Notre Dame. The altar piece is exquisite, as are several of the paintings. This reverend Gothic building is well worth examination. Dine with the Maréchal de Castries and explain to him the affair of the claim set up against the farm, and I am to make a note out and give it to him. I tell him that a man of sense, decision, and firmness is necessary to the King in the present moment to extricate him from the difficulties in which they are plunged. Also make some rough sketches of the means. After dinner I call on Mr. Jefferson and sit a good while. General conversation on character, politics, etc. I think he does not form very just estimates of character but rather assigns too many to the humble rank of fools, whereas in life the gradations are infinite and each individual has his peculiarities of fort and feeble. Go to Madame de Flahaut’s, spend the evening, and talk a good deal of loose, light nonsense.”
“On my way to Malmaison to-day [May 31st], passing along the Champs Élysées, I stop a moment to speak to Mr. Jefferson and General Dalrymple. They tell me that the Conciliatory Commission at Versailles have parted without doing anything, notwithstanding a very florid harangue of M. Necker. This man’s vanity must be excessive, to think that he can influence by his eloquence, and especially when the esprit et intérêt de corps are in such powerful operation. At Malmaison meet De Canteleu as I expected. I impart my intention of submitting the decision of the tobacco claim to M. Necker himself, which, under all circumstances, he thinks well of. He thinks the indecision of character which marks M. Necker will prevent him from agreeing to our plan about the American debt. Says the treasury is in blast for June and July; that M. Necker knows nothing of administration, is, in effect, ignorant of mankind, etc.”
The note on the subject of the tobacco contracts, and a future contract for the French claim on America, Morris prepared on the 1st of June. “This is a laborious task,” he says [June 1st], “for me, as it is in French. One of M. Le Coulteux’s principal clerks comes to examine the work and see if it is French. He finds but little to correct.” The next day the note was presented to M. de Castries. “He finds it very well. He distinguishes between the debt for which France is or was guarantee and that which arises from actual advances, and it seems that on the former they would make no abatement. Evidently he has conversed on this subject with M. Necker. He will have the note copied with a small alteration and will give it to the minister. Thinks that, beginning with the pros and proceeding afterwards to the other points, we may finally have the whole connected together.”
Dining, June 2d, with the Maréchal de Ségur at his country-place, Morris met the Archbishop of Bordeaux. “He is, they say, an intimate friend of M. Necker’s. Converse with him a little on politics, and propose that the King should cut the knot which the States cannot untie; viz., that he should prescribe to them the future constitution and leave them to consider it, etc. He says he thinks it must end in some such way. Return to town and in my way take a view (from the heights) of this vast city. It covers an immense tract of country indeed. Take a turn in the Palais Royal and go to supper with Madame de Flahaut. Confoundedly bored and find it extremely difficult to keep myself awake.”
“This afternoon [June 3d] I go to see Mr. Jefferson. We have some political conversation. He seems to be out of hope of anything being done to purpose by the States-General. This comes of having too sanguine expectations of a downright republican form of Government. The literary people here, observing the abuses of a monarchical form, imagine that everything must go better in proportion as it recedes from the present establishments, and in their closets they make men exactly suited to their systems. But unluckily they are such as exist nowhere else, least of all in France. I am more than ever persuaded that the form which at first appeared to me most fit for them is that which will be adopted, not exactly according to my idea, but probably in some better manner. After refreshing myself with a cup of tea at the café in the Palais Royal, I go to the Club Valois, of which I have been chosen a member. There is nothing remarkable here. Call on Madame de Flahaut, where I am engaged to sup. Find her with her feet in hot water, sick, and has had an ague and fever, and her head is very heavy. She desires me to prescribe for her. I recommend a grain and a half of tartar emetic—and after that bark is to be taken.”
“To-day [June 4th] the news of the Dauphin’s death was announced, and Mr. Short tells us that the States-General are more embroiled than ever. Mr. Jefferson, with whom I take a drive, requests, on the part of M. Houdon,* that I would stand to-morrow for the figure of General Washington, to which I consent.”
Houdon was working at this time on the statue of Washington which now adorns the City Hall at Richmond, Virginia, but there seems to have been no particular reason, other than that of friendship and the fact of his being a countryman of Washington’s, that Morris should have been called upon to make a vicarious victim of himself. The fact of his devoted friendship for Washington, however, was reason enough to obtain his consent to stand for the statue, “although,” as he says, “it, being the humble employment of a manikin, was rather irksome. This is literally taking the advice of St. Paul to be all things to all men. Promise M. Houdon to attend next Tuesday morning at half-past eight to have my bust taken, which he desires, to please himself, for this is the answer to my question what he wants with my bust—a question dictated with a view to obviate any future demand of payment on my part. Later in the afternoon I go to the Palais Royal, and pay a visit of respectful inquiry to Madame de Flahaut. She is better. From there go to the Club Valois. The Tiers have agreed to proceed to the verification of the powers, ‘par ordre sauf à considérer par des commissaires les doutes qui—.’ This is ‘une petite victoire remportée par la noblesse, qui s’en glorifie beaucoup.’ From the club go to supper at the Baron de Besenval’s; nothing worth notice, except that in the salon we have a fire, which seems disagreeable to nobody.”
“The States-General seem to approach a little more toward accommodation, I hear to-night [June 6th], in Madame de Flahaut’s salon, from l’Évêque d’Autun, who is one of our company and an intimate friend of Madame de Flahaut. He appears to be a sly, cunning, ambitious, and malicious man. I know not why conclusions so disadvantageous to him are formed in my mind, but so it is, and I cannot help it.”
“At three o’clock [June 10th] I set off for Versailles and visit some of my friends—among them Mesdames d’Angivilliers and Tessé. The former is as angry about the presumption of the Tiers as the latter was at the intemperance of the nobles; both are equally right and wrong. See here two sisters, who show by their gentle glances that they like to have tender things said, at least. I don’t know them. Call on Madame de Flahaut, but find her too unwell to go abroad this evening. A good deal of chit-chat with her. She tells me that I suit the taste of this country, etc., which is a vast compliment to a stranger—I really apprehend much more than I deserve.”
The expressions of regard and friendship made by the Duchess of Orleans for Morris were not wholly façon de parler, and Thursday, June 11th, was the day appointed for him to visit her Royal Highness at Raincy, where he arrived at eleven o’clock. “Nobody yet visible,” he says, “and after some time the Duchess appears and tells me she has given Madame de Chastellux notice of my arrival. This consists with my primitive idea. Near 12 before the breakfast is paraded, but as I had eaten mine before my departure this is no present inconvenience. After breakfast we go to mass in the chapel. In the tribune above we have a bishop, an abbé, the Duchess, her maids, and some of their friends. Madame de Chastellux is below on her knees. We are amused above by a number of little tricks played off by M. de Ségur and M. de Cubières* with a candle, which is put into the pockets of different gentlemen, the Bishop among the rest, and lighted while they are otherwise engaged (for there is a fire in the tribune), to the great merriment of the spectators. Immoderate laughter is the consequence. The Duchess preserves as much gravity as she can. This scene must be very edifying to the domestics who are opposite to us, and to the villagers who worship below. After this ceremony is concluded we commence our walk, which is long and excessively hot. Then we get in bateaux, and the gentlemen row the ladies, which is by no means a cool operation. After that more walking, so that I am excessively inflamed, even to fever-heat. Get to the Château and doze for a little, en attendant le dîner, which does not come till after five. A number of persons surround the windows, and doubtless form a high idea of the company, to whom they are obliged to look up at an awful distance. Ah, did they but know how trivial the conversation, how very trivial the characters, their respect would soon be changed to an emotion extremely different. Madame de St. Simon is the subject of an epitaph by the Vicomte de Ségur, the purport of which is that she is lewd, and that idea is très fortement prononcé. She attacks him in a serious discourse on the folly of his pursuits, which, having only vanity for a motive, tend to inspire a passion where none has hitherto been felt, and merely because of that. He defends himself by observing that a thing of that sort cannot affect his vanity, because the pursuit of a woman is like a game of chess, when in consequence of a certain set of moves the success is certain. She agrees in this idea, and thence draws more certainly her conclusions that such pursuits are ridiculous. I think I understand this conversation in its full latitude, for my own observation had already pointed at the object, not named but, if I mistake not, clearly understood. After dinner the weather, which had been hot, becomes cold, and the fire is by no means disagreeable. More walking, but I refuse to partake of it, being fairly winged, to use the sportsman’s phrase. A little before 8 set off for town, having the company of Madame de Chastellux’s nurse and child. The request to take them would have looked odd in America, but I conclude that it is quite in the order of things here, and readily comply, but indeed for a better reason. I am glad in this kind of way to repay attentions which my heart will not let me meet in any other.”
“This morning [June 12th] Mr. Jefferson, just from Versailles, tells me that the Tiers had called on the noblesse and clergy to join them and proceed to business, which has thrown the former into a rage. He considers the affairs of this country as being in a very critical situation. They are so, but the royal authority has great weight, and, if brought in to the aid of the privileged orders, may yet prevent their destruction. However, he and I differ in our system of politics. He, with all the leaders of liberty here, is desirous of annihilating distinctions of order. How far such views may be right respecting mankind in general is, I think, extremely problematical, but with respect to this nation I am sure it is wrong and cannot eventuate well.”
“To-day [June 19th], I call on Madame de la Suze. She is embroidering with the tambour needle. Is quite out of temper with the politics of the times, but is determined to be of the party which will furnish money, be that which it may, because the husbands of herself and her sisters ‘ont beaucoup sur le Roi.’ Voilà les opinions politiques qui sont bien motivees. From thence go to the club, and read the papers. The clergy have this day by a small majority determined to join the Tiers. This stroke is fatal to the noblesse, for the Tiers having already constituted themselves the National Assembly as representing 96 per cent. of the nation, they will now have the claim to be a majority of orders as well as heads. Unless the royal authority be interposed to save the nobles, they are gone, and of this there seems to be but slender probability. From the club go to Madame d’Espanchall’s (an invitation which I would gladly have evaded) to supper. I am assailed for the copy of an extempore epitaph written at Raincy on the Vicomte de Ségur, which is wretchedly bad. I evade the request till after supper, when I am again solicited by Madame de Boursac to repeat it, and Madame de Warsi, who is a very beautiful and accomplished woman, entreats me to write it, because she understands English only by the eye—having learnt to read, not to speak it. Having her promise to return the scrap of paper, I write for her the wretched lines in question, which had the single merit at the moment of having been written sur-le-champ as a petite vengeance for Madame de St. Simon, on whom he had written an epitaph at breakfast not too delicate.
The applause it met with arose from the pleasure mankind always feel at seeing a tyrant galled. Madame de Warsi begs leave to keep them, which I refuse. She says she remembers them, and, to convince me, sets about writing them from memory, and convinces both herself and me that she cannot. I then take the pencil and write for her:
M. de Boursac tells me (which is the aristocratic consolation) that the King has called a council on the present state of affairs, in which each is to deliver his opinion in His Majesty’s presence. I do not believe that this will produce any effect whatever: for the decision this day will awe those who two days ago were loud against M. Necker, and probably those who called, or prompted the call of this council, will find the event to be in direct reverse of their wishes and expectations.”
It was on the 17th of June that the Commons, after a long and ominously patient waiting for the other two orders to unite with them, decided “to begin the work of national regeneration,” and declared themselves the National Assembly of France. Three days after, when about to assemble to begin their great work, Morris speaks in the diary of the fact “that the different corps of the States-General were prevented from meeting, the chamber being surrounded with guards. The reason assigned,” he continues, “is that the King intends to have a Séance Royale on Monday, and that some alterations are necessary to the salon. After driving and walking a while, go to the club. Meet the Comte de Croix, Duc de la Rochefoucault,* Vicomte de Noailles,† Ségur, young Dillon, and sundry others. Various conjectures about the object of the Séance Royale to be held on Monday. I believe that this step would not have been taken if the Court had foreseen the step of the clergy yesterday. They have very inflammable materials to handle, and must take great heed. The general idea seems to be that the séance is consequential upon what passed in the Tiers, when they assumed to themselves the title of National Assembly. But I conjecture that, however this incident may have precipitated that event, it originates in the idea of arranging the different corps in such a way as that they may act, instead of being as at present an useless horde.”
The schemes of the court and king were not furthered by closing the doors of the great hall against these men—determined upon a new order of things. Several of the more courageous among them led the others to an old tennis-court, where they solemnly swore the great oath, called the Jeu de Paume, “not to separate until a constitution for France had been adopted.”
“At the club this evening” [June 21st], Morris says, “it is said that the Séance Royale intended for to-morrow is postponed. At 5 o’clock on the 20th M. Necker wrote a letter to the lieutenant of police, assuring that it is not intended to prevent the further session of the States. When there is apprehension on one side and determination on the other, it is easy to see how things will eventuate. For my part, I presume that the Séance Royale is postponed that they may come to a new determination consequent on the resolution of the clergé.”
When the news of the Jeu de Paume reached Paris, the Palais Royal, says Arthur Young, “was in a flame; the coffee-houses, pamphlet shops, corridors, and gardens were crowded—alarm and apprehension sat in every eye: nothing was so glaringly ridiculous but the mob swallowed it with indiscriminating faith. It was, moreover, curious to remark among people of another description that the balance of opinion was clearly that the National Assembly had gone too far—had been too violent—and had taken steps the mass of the people would not support.”
“Before starting for Versailles to-day [June 23d] I see the Duchess of Orleans, who says she would ask me to dine if I had not declared that I was going to Versailles. When I arrive at Versailles I call upon Madame de Tessé, who gives me a cordial reception, complaining, however, of my politics. Lord and Lady Camelford, with their daughter, come in. Mr. Jefferson tells me that on the strength of an acquaintance with an acquaintance of Madame de Tessé’s, without being themselves known to her, they had sent and asked a dinner. This is quite as free and easy as the French themselves can be. The King has to-day, in his Séance Royale pleased the nobility and very much displeased the Tiers. I find it difficult to learn exactly what has passed, but it seems to me the nobility have less cause for exultation than they imagine. At dinner I sit next to M. de Lafayette, who tells me I injure the cause, for that my sentiments are continually quoted against the good party. I seize this opportunity to tell him that I am opposed to the democracy from regard to liberty; that I see they are going headlong to destruction, and would fain stop them if I could; that their views respecting this nation are totally inconsistent with the materials of which it is composed, and that the worst thing that could happen would be to grant their wishes. He tells me that he is sensible his party are mad, and tells them so, but is not the less determined to die with them. I tell him I think it would be just as well to bring them to their senses and live with them. He says he is determined to resign his seat, which step I approve of, because the instructions by which he is bound are contrary to his conscience. Before we part I take an opportunity to tell him that if the Tiers are now very moderate they will probably succeed, but if violent must inevitably fail. From Madame de Tessé I go to see Madame Montvoisseux, where the party is aristocratical—delighted with the King. In the course of conversation they tell me some anecdotes which convince me that the King and Queen are confoundedly frightened, and I am thence led to conjecture that the Court will still recede. M. Necker yesterday offered to resign, but the King refused to accept his resignation. This afternoon he waits on His Majesty, surrounded by the common people, who attend him with shouts of applause—to the door of the château. At half-past seven, when I leave Versailles, he is still with the King.”
During the last days of June, the mob, composed of idlers, strangers, the leaders of the coffee-houses of the Palais Royal, and disorderly persons of all kinds, swarmed into Versailles. Daily those whom they called aristocrats were grossly insulted. The Archbishop of Paris was hooted through the streets. The king’s secretary and the Keeper of the Seals were insulted until they were in fear of their lives, and the secretary died in consequence of the excitement.
In the hall where the Assembly sat, nominally with closed doors, Bailey says there were always more than six hundred spectators—noisy, active, and disrespectful, often taking part in the deliberations by applause and hisses. When the result of the Séance Royale was known in Paris, Arthur Young says, “the ferment is beyond description; 10,000 people have been all this day in the Palais Royal. It is plain to me, from many conversations I have been witness to, and the constant meetings, united with the inflammatory publications that hourly appear, that nothing the King or Court could do would now satisfy the people.”
By Thursday, the 25th, a majority of the clergy and a minority of the noblesse had joined the Tiers. “Going to Versailles to visit the Duc de Vauguyon, on a matter of business,” Morris writes, “I hear that the minority of the clergy have constituted themselves into a body, and agreed to the King’s propositions. The majority of the noblesse, who of course continue to be the body, have (it is said) determined also to accept the same propositions, but with some modifications. The National Assembly, or whatever else they may now choose to call themselves, have agreed on a deputation to the King. The question is whether His Majesty will receive it, because thereon depends the ultimate state of the noblesse.”
The opposition of the nobles was fruitless. The flood, sweeping everything before it, brought them nearer and nearer to the ranks of the National Assembly, and on Saturday, June 27th, they took their place among them. Morris says: “The nobles have this day, agreeably to a request of the King’s, joined the other two orders. So that at length the great question is determined, and the votes will be par tête. It remains only for them to form a constitution, and as the King is extremely timid, he will of course surrender at discretion. The existence of the monarchy therefore depends on the moderation of the Assembly. For the rest, I think they will soon establish their credit, which, among other things, will bring the exchange between France and foreign nations to be more favorable. If the money of this country is brought into free circulation, I think it will lower interest everywhere. The sum is immense, and its effects must be commensurate to its activity and mass. At present it lies dead and is poorly supplied by the paper Caisse d’Escompte.”
Since the 23d of June there had been rioting and insubordination in the ranks of the French guards. They declared their intention not to act against the National Assembly. Eleven of the leaders had been confined in the Abbaye, and on the 30th of June these men sent a letter to their comrades, asking assistance. The mob in the Palais Royal, on hearing this letter read aloud, took fire at once and started for the prison. “I go,” says Morris, “to the Palais Royal to see what is doing, and from thence to the club. Find that the mob have broken the prison and released some soldiers, who were confined for their late breaches of military discipline, consequent on their inebriation by those who are debauching them from their duty. This makes, as it ought to do, a serious impression. Probably to-morrow will produce similar and greater excesses. Mr. Jefferson tells me, from the large camp which is forming under the Maréchal de Broglie, and from the air of many who are unfriendly to the present measures of the Tiers, and from the influence of the Comte d’Artois in the Council, very serious events are apprehended, that perhaps the King will be prompted to attempt a resumption of his authority. All this is very well, but, under the existing ideas of the moment, it is very doubtful whether he could prevail on his soldiery to act, and if not, his fulminations will become as contemptible as those of the Church, for in both cases it is the secular arm of flesh which alone renders the anathema terrible.”
The following letter, written [July 1st] to the Hon. Mr. Jay, gives a comprehensive view of the situation in Paris. Morris says: “I am too much occupied to find time for the use of a cypher—and in effect this government is so occupied with its own affairs, that in transmitting to you a letter under an envelope there is no risk. This, however, I am pretty certain will go safe. The States-General have now been a long time in session and have done nothing. Hitherto they have been engaged in a dispute whether they shall form one body or three. The commons, who are represented by a body equal to both the others, and who besides have at least one half the representatives of the clergy, insist on forming a single house. They have succeeded, but the nobles deeply feel their situation. The King, after siding with them, was frightened into an abandonment of them. He acts from terror only. The soldiery in this city, particularly the French guards, declare they will not act against the people. They are now treated by the nobility, and parade about the streets drunk, huzzaing for the Tiers. Some of them have, in consequence, been confined—not by the force, but by the adroitness of authority. Last night this circumstance became known, and immediately a mob repaired to the prison. The soldiers on guard unfixed their bayonets and joined the assailants. A party of dragoons ordered on duty to disperse the riot thought it better to drink with the rioters and return back to their quarters. The soldiers, with others confined in the same prison, were then paraded in triumph to the Palais Royal, which is now the liberty pole of this city, and there they celebrated as usual their joy. Probably this evening some other prisons will be opened, for Libertê is now the general cry, and Autorité is a name, not a real existence. The Court are about to form a camp in the neighborhood of Paris of 25,000 men, under the command of the Maréchal de Broglie. I do not know him personally, therefore cannot judge what may be expected from his talents, but all my information goes to the point that he will never bring his army to act against the people. The Garde du Corps are as warm adherents (in general) to the Tiers as anybody else, strange as that may seem, so that in effect the sword has slipped out of the monarch’s hands without his perceiving a tittle of the matter. All these things, in a nation not yet fitted by education and habit for the enjoyment of freedom, give me frequently suspicions that they will greatly overshoot their mark, if indeed they have not already done it. Already some people talk of limiting the King’s negative upon the laws; and as they have hitherto felt severely the authority exercised in the name of their Princes, every limitation of that authority seems to them desirable. Never having felt the evils of too weak an executive, the disorders to be apprehended from anarchy make as yet no impression. The provincial assemblies or administrations—in other words, the popular executive of the provinces—which Turgot had imagined as a means of moderating the royal legislative of the Court, is now insisted on as a counter-security against the monarch, when they shall have established a democratical legislative, for you will observe that the noble and clerical orders are hence-forth to be vox et præterea nihil. The King is to be limited to the exact sum necessary for his personal expenses. The management of the public debt and revenue to provide for it will be taken entirely out of his hands, and the subsistence of the army is to depend on temporary grants. Hence it must follow that his negative, in whatever form reserved, will be of little avail. These are the outlines of the proposed constitution, by which, at the same time, lettres de cachet are to be abrogated and the liberty of the press established. My private opinion is that the King, to get fairly out of the scrape in which he finds himself, would subscribe to anything, and truly from him little is to be expected in any way. The Queen, hated, humbled, mortified, feels and feigns, and intrigues to save some shattered remnants of the royal authority; but to know that she favors a measure is the certain means to frustrate its success. The Comte d’Artois, alike hated, is equally busy, but has neither sense to counsel himself nor choose counsellors for himself—much less to counsel others. The nobles look up to him for support, and lean on what they know to be a broken reed, for want of some more solid dependence. In their anguish they curse Necker, who is in fact less the cause than the instrument of their sufferings. His popularity depends now more on the opposition he meets with from one party than any serious regard of the other. It is the attempt to throw him down which saves him from falling. He has no longer the preponderating weight in counsel which a fortnight ago decided everything. If they were not afraid of consequences he would be dismissed, and on the same principle the King has refused to accept his resignation. If his abilities were equal to his genius, and he were as much supported by firmness as he is swayed by ambition, he would have had the exalted honor of giving a free constitution to above twenty millions of his fellow-creatures, and could have reigned long in their hearts and received the unanimous applause of posterity. But as it is, he must soon fall—whether his exit be physical or moral must depend on events which I cannot foresee. The best chance which royalty has is that popular excesses may alarm. At the rate at which things are now going, the King of France must soon be one of the most limited monarchs in Europe.”
[*]Prince Dimitri Galitzen, a Russian diplomatist and author, at that time Resident Minister at the Hague.
[*]Madame Leray de Chaumont was Miss Grace Coxe of Philadelphia. M. Leray de Chaumont met her while he was in America after the peace. She is reported to have fallen in love with the Frenchman, and declared that if he refused to marry her it would break her heart. He thereupon told her that his attentions to her were marked by no more fervor than were those he paid to others of her sex, but that if she felt so strongly on the subject, he would write to his parents for permission to marry her. Morris escorted her back to America in 1798, and the subsquent history of her peculiarities would be amusing if it were not that she subjected her children, and Morris, who was by their father, during his absence in France, appointed guardian, to ceaseless annoyances.
[*]Jean Antoine Houdon, a French sculptor, was born at Versailles in 1741. About the year 1785 Dr. Franklin gave him a commission to execute the marble statue of Washington which is now in the State House at Richmond, Virginia. He came to Philadelphia to obtain the model of this work. His reputation was increased later in life by his statues of Voltaire and Cicero, and his busts of Rousseau, Franklin, Napoleon, and Ney. He died in 1825.
[*]The Marquis Simon Louis Pierre de Cubières was attached to the person of the king as equerry and served him faithfully at the risk of his own life in the Revolution.
[*]Duc de la Rochefoucault, a patriot and active member of the States-General in 1789. He favored the popular cause in the Revolution, but was massacred at Gisors in 1792.
[†]Vicomte de Noailles was a deputy to the States-General in 1789, and proposed, on the 4th of August, the suppression of feudal rights and other privileges of the aristocracy. Soon after the commencement of the Reign of Terror he emigrated to the United States. In 1804 he was killed in a naval engagement with the English. He married a sister of Madame de Lafayette.