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CHAPTER VII. - 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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London. The Haymarket Theatre. The Marquis de la Luzerne. Trumbull. The refugees. Lady Dunmore. The Cosways. Hon. Mrs. Damer. Society duties. Strictures on society. Sail on the Thames. Downe Place. Returns to Paris. Critical state of affairs. Madame de Tessé. Lafayette. Public opinion sets against the National Assembly. Finances. Scarcity of bread. The Flanders Regiment. Social life. Prepares a memorandum on subsistence. The queen. Madame de Flahaut. The banners blessed. The opera. Resistance to authority among the bakers. Versailles. Question on the finances. Mirabeau speaks in the Assembly. Meets Madame de Staël. Conversation with Madame de Flahaut. Asked to furnish flour for Paris.
As the traveller neared London, the absence of “those fine trees which give,” he says, “an air of magnificence to the approaches to Paris” surprised him. “The last stage brings me to the Adelphi Hotel, and early next morning Mr. Parker comes to breakfast. He is to get me good lodgings and a chariot, and will send out his servant for these purposes while I dress. He has found lodgings, according to Mr. Parker’s directions, in the same street with him. Cela s’entend. Do not observe it, even by a look. The dealer in carriages enters, and we agree for a carriage and horses, which will cost me four guineas a week, besides a shilling a day for board wages for the coachman. This is pretty well. Go to look at the lodgings. They are very indifferent, at two guineas per week. Go from thence to Frome’s Hotel, Covent garden, where I take rooms at six shillings per day, and one shilling for my servant. This is dear; however, it will do till I can get in a better position. After dinner Mr. Parker goes with me to the Haymarket Theatre. This, it seems, is a benefit night. The pieces and performers, one only excepted, are alike wretched. From the applause lavished by the audience I am led to question their taste, or give entirely up my own. In the box adjoining to us is Lady Dunmore and family. With the aid of rouge she looks as well, I think, as when I saw her in America, near twenty years ago, and then she was pretty well advanced, and rather to be admired for grace than beauty.”
A visit to the Marquis de la Luzerne,* the French ambassador, was among his first duties. “His reception,” Morris says, “is perfectly good.” The next visit was one of business, to Mr. Bourdieu. “I talk to him about a loan. He tells me that nothing of that kind can be done in the city; that perhaps I may meet with people at the west end of the town who are better disposed, but that the name of America terrifies the mercantile part of the community. I receive some letters here, but none from Holland, so that I cannot go to work for relief of Robert Morris’s affairs. Madame de Flahaut, in a letter, gives me an account of poor Besenval’s capture and detention.”
Next day (August 7th) he goes to see R. Penn, who receives him quite en famille. “He tells me the state of the family claims and his own, and desires me to consider myself at home at his house. Call on Sir John Sinclair† at Whitehall. He is out of town. Later go to dine with the Marquis de la Luzerne; several of the Corps Diplomatique. The Marquis de la Luzerne informs me of the organization of their ministry: M. de la Tour du Pin, Minister of War; 1’Archevêque of Bordeaux, Garde des Sceaux, which Malesherbes refused. I am sorry for this refusal. Tell the Marquis that I understood the Bishop of Autun was thought of for it. He says that he has not the right kind of head for this office. Thence I conclude that he is rather visionary in his ideas, and perhaps he is, for that is the common misfortune of men of genius who do not sufficiently mix in the affairs of the world.”
“To-day [August 8th] I call on Mr. Trumbull the painter. He shows me a small piece he has copied from his original Sortie of Gibraltar, which I think very fine. Return home and dine on a composition called turtle-soup, with which I drink a composition called claret. The latter is preferable to the former.” To the refugees who were always to be found in considerable numbers in the drawing-rooms of the Marquis de la Luzerne, Morris tried to administer a little comfort. He says of them: “The refugees talk a little refugee, which is natural. I tell them that all the little commotions—burning castles, etc.—though painful and distressing, are but specks in the great business, and will if they get a good constitution be soon forgotten. M. de Fitzjames inquires of me the news from Paris, but I find that we left it about the same time. I did not recollect him, but it seems that we had met at club. The Marquis de la Luzerne takes me aside, and we converse a little on their politics. I think his object is merely to show an attention before his company which may be useful to me. In going in to dinner M. Cate, the Lieutenant de Police, takes hold of me, and says he will not be parted. Seats himself next me, and at dinner tells me his story. All this requires polite attention on my part, which is paid. Dine on a very fine trout, or rather a part of one, which I think must have weighed about eight pounds. Observe that I am somewhat a favorite with Madame la Vicomtesse. This must be kept up, et pour cause. Inquiries are made, I find, by Lady Dunmore and her daughter about the jambe de bois. Lady Dunmore makes acquaintance after dinner; asks the opinion of my countrymen about his lordship; I tell her candidly. We have a conversation which she is pleased with, and to my surprise, and I dare say her own, we are on terms of great familiarity. La Luzerne and Capellis, I find, remark on it, so that I am obliged to join them and stop the laugh. The French tell him a world of wonders and confusions, upon which I take him aside and tell him to believe nothing of what they say; that it is refugee news, and he knows well what sort of thing that is. The Princesse Galitzen, who shares in the conversation with Lady Dunmore, is, I find, like others totally mistaken with respect to the troubles in France. They all supposed, as was supposed in the American Revolution, that there are certain leaders who occasion everything, whereas in both instances it is the great mass of the people. At going away her ladyship thanks me for answering her questions.”
Among other letters, Morris had one to Mrs. Cosway, the wife of the distinguished miniature-painter. By appointment, one evening was spent in her drawing-rooms, where were a “very genteel company,” he says, “the Dowager Duchess of Bedford among them. Music very good. The arrangement of the company, however, is stiff and formal. There must be in this, as in other countries, the ways of bringing people together, even to intimacy, but it appears at the first aspect to be rather difficult. We shall see. I observe to the Hon. Mrs. Damer* that the French, having no liberty in their government, have compensated to themselves that misfortune by bestowing a great deal upon society; but that I fear in England it is confined to the House of Commons. She seems to suppose the latter part of this observation ironical, and tells me, with an animated smile, that we enjoy liberty in my country. This lady is a great statuary, and is doing the King. Quære, if she copies after nature, for she does it as large as life. Her taste is justly considered as extraordinary, but I doubt whether she is the single instance within these three kingdoms of a fair one who keeps at home a block to work upon. Visit at the assemblée of Madame de la Luzerne. The Duke and Duchess of Luxemburg are there, and the Duke and Duchess of Leeds. After some time the Duke of Leeds makes up and inquires of Mr. Adams. A light conversation ensues. After the Duke and Duchess of Leeds retire, Lady Dunmore, whom I had seen at Mrs. Cosway’s, comes in. A little sociable chat in the small circle until late.”
Together with his very important and difficult business affairs, Morris found that his rapidly increasing society duties kept him more than agreeably occupied. “From the necessity of being my own clerk,” as he wrote to Robert Morris, August 26th, “and the interruptions to which I am constantly exposed, you will easily perceive that my moments are few and precious. Indeed, in the way I now live, I might pass five years in London and yet know but little more of it than when I left Philadelphia.” He regretted much that he had been able to make so little progress in Mr. Robert Morris’s affairs. “But I have had,” he wrote, “the wind ahead of me ever since I left the Capes of Delaware. It will be favorable by and bye.”
The London “rout” was evidently not in accord with Morris’s taste, and he expresses an ever-fresh astonishment at the stiffness of the drawing-rooms and the ladies. “I go to-night to Mrs. Cosway’s,” he says. “She is vastly pleasant, but her ladies are all ranged in battalia on the opposite side of the room. Discuss a little with her the froideur anglaise, and, while she is in conversation with them, throw the pith of that discussion into these stanzas, which I leave with her, being a kind of address to the ladies.
Observe that she is about to communicate this for their edification, and therefore take Capellis off with me.”
Notwithstanding the multiplicity of his engagements, Morris found time to see a few of the sights of London. He speaks of taking a wherry at Westminster Bridge and going down the Thames. “The Bridge of Blackfriars is crumbling to pieces, and London Bridge does not seem formed in a manner to last forever. The famous building of Somerset House, which I had heard vaunted highly, seems to be built in a paltry style, and the front of stone accords but illy with the sides of brick. The shipping are the really curious object here. These give to the reflecting mind a high idea of the commerce and wealth of this great city. Having gone down to the farthest of those which can properly be said to lie in the port of London, we ascend the river again to the Tower stairs, where my carriage is waiting. The wherries of this river are admirably calculated for stemming rapid currents.”
A visit to Downe Place, the country-seat of John B. Church,* Member of Parliament from Wendover, proved most interesting. One day (September 6th) was delightfully employed visiting Herschel. “He receives us,” Morris says, “in a manner which is, I think, peculiar to men of his kind of greatness: simplicity, modesty, mildness. He shows and explains his great telescope; a speculum now polishing for it weighs 1,400 lbs.—that in present use, 2,500. The polishing at present is performed by a machine, but formerly it was done by hand, and twenty-two men were engaged in that work twenty weeks. The concavity of this speculum is about two-tenths of an inch, the diameter about three feet, I think. The substance is a composition of metals. From thence we go to Windsor Castle,” the view from which especially impressed him.
Arrived in town on the 8th, Mr. Parker communicated intelligence which, Morris says, “affects deeply our plan about the purchase of the American debt to France. I must in consequence set off immediately for Paris.” For this M. de la Luzerne provided him with a passport, and Mrs. Penn gave him a guinea to buy rouge for her, and on Wednesday, the 9th, he left London. This return journey was made by the way of Canterbury and Dover, at which place he arrived on the 10th, and hired a cutter to take him across the channel. “After much higgling,” he says, “by the boatman over the price, and having got outside the harbor, find that there is as little of cleanliness as of morality on board. At eight o’clock, being much fatigued, I go below and lie down on a blanket spread on the cabin floor. The bed is hard but wholesome. The vermin, however, have not yet supped and I must furnish them entertainment. The hope of slumber is, from this and other circumstances, soon over.” By two o’clock in the morning, however, he was safely on shore “at a clean house and between clean sheets without the walls of Calais.” While he is preparing to depart thence on the morrow, “a friar comes in to beg, with an air that shows his conviction how improper a thing it is to lay me under that kind of contribution. I tell him it is a bad trade which he follows, and that I understand the National Assembly are about to reform such institutions. He has heard so, but as this is the only mode they have to get a living they must continue at it as long as possible. I give a shilling, and in return for the usual routine of good wishes, (which he runs over with the same easy air which distinguished my friend Dr. Cooper, of King’s College, in reading the Litany) I wish him a better business. This wish is more sincere than his, by a shilling at least. At eleven leave Calais, duly provided with a passport from the new government. Cross the Oyse. Near Clermont, on its banks, is the château of the Duc de Liancourt, to whose interposition is attributed the timely retreat of poor Louis Seize upon the taking of the Bastille.
“Being obliged to stop at Chantilly to repair the linchpin of the carriage, I examine the stables; a magnificent habitation, indeed, for twenty dozen horses, who have the honor to dine and sup at the expense of Monseigneur le Prince de Condé. From thence I take a view of the château on the outside, but have not time for examination. It must have been strong before the invention of cannon. At present the wide, deep fosse which surrounds it, and which is well supplied with good water, furnishes an agreeable habitation to a variety of carp, white-spotted, etc., who come at a call and eat the bread thrown to them. My conductor is a politician, but he is not of the fashionable sect. He is a chasseur of the Prince and finds it very wrong ‘que tout le monde ait le droit de chasser.’ On the way I observe a very uncommon mode of hunting partridges. The chasseurs, armed with clubs, are spread everywhere over the fields. When a bird lights, it is pursued until it is so fatigued it falls a victim to pursuers. Martin thinks it is a sin and a shame, but while he utters his lamentations the postilion turns round to me: ‘C’est un beau privilége que les Français se sont acquis, monsieur.’ ‘Oui, monsieur, mais il me parait que ce privilége ne vaudra pas autant l’année prochaine.’”
“On Tuesday [September 13th], about seven, I arrive at the Hôtel de Richelieu, at Paris. Dress and go to the club. I learn that the Assemblée Nationale have agreed to a single chamber of legislation, and a suspensive veto in the King. This is travelling in the high-road to anarchy, and that worst of all tyrannies, the despotism of a faction in a popular assembly. I am led into a little discussion on this subject, and stay to supper, after which taste some Hungarian wine presented by a Polish colonel, whose name ends with ‘whisky,’ but his liquor is delicious. By one means or another seven bottles are consumed, and two more being ordered, I rise and declare that I will drink no more, which puts an end to the business. The Duke of Orleans comes in during this match, and from some little circumstances I perceive that I may be well acquainted with his Royal Highness if I please.”
“Writing to-day [September 16th] till noon. Then call on Mr. Jefferson. He engages me to dine to-morrow in company with the Marquis de Lafayette and the Duc de la Rochefoucault. I then start for Versailles, and call on Madame de Tot. She is at her toilette but visible. Some conversation on their affairs, by which I find that opinions change. Return to M. de Montmorin’s to dine. Madame is much afflicted by the state of affairs. Madame de Ségur comes in with her brothers. She is in great anxiety; apprehends that the King will fly. I tell her that his flight appears impracticable. She thinks it will set Paris in a flame. There is no conjecturing the consequences. A prince so weak can influence very little either by his presence or absence. After dinner we have a conversation on politics with some of the deputies, in which I endeavor to show them the absurdity of their suspensive veto, and the probable tyranny of their single chamber. I had better let this alone, but zeal always gets the better of prudence. M. de Montmorin expresses a wish to see me often, which I promise, but think it will not be possible to perform this time.”
Calling on Madame de Montvoissieu, he found her “very indignée,” and adds that “she, as well as Madame de Ségur, wishes to be in America.” Thence he went to see Madame de Tessé. “She is a convert to my principles. We have a gay conversation of some minutes on their affairs, in which I mingle sound maxims of government with that piquant légèreté which this nation delights in. I am fortunate, and at going away she follows me and insists that I dine with her next time I come to Versailles. We are vastly gracious, and all at once, in a serious tone, ‘Mais attendez, madame, est-ce que je suis trop aristocrate?’ She answers, with a smile of gentle humiliation, ‘Ah, mon Dieu, non.’ From thence I regain my carriage, to go to the Assemblée Nationale to find De Cantaleu. While waiting there I see, among others, young Montmorency, who takes me round and procures admittance to the gallery. Chance places me next to Madame Dumolley and Madame de Cantaleu. We recognize each other suddenly, with a very pleasant surprise. Madame Dumolley asks me the question which I have already been obliged to answer a hundred times: ‘Et que disent les Anglais de nous autres?’ With a significant tone, ‘Ah, madame, c’est qu’ils raisonnent, ces messieurs-là!’”
“Dine to-day [September 17th], according to my promise, with Mr. Jefferson. One of his guests, the Duc de la Rochefoucault, is just come from the States-General, and at half-past four Lafayette arrives. He tells us that some of the troops under his command were about to march tomorrow to Versailles to urge the decisions of the States General. This is a rare situation, for which they must thank themselves. I ask him if his troops will obey him. He says they will not mount guard when it rains, but he thinks they will readily follow him into action. I incline to think that he will have an opportunity of making the experiment. Mention to him my desire to confer on the subject of subsistence. He says I must come and dine with him; but this is idle, if I am rightly informed, because he generally has a crowd and is but few minutes at home. After dinner go to the club. The opinions are changing fast, and in a very little time, if the Assemblée Nationale continue their present career, a majority of this nation will, I think, be opposed to them. Their adherents, however, are zealous, and if a civil war does not take place it must be from some circumstance which escapes my conjecture. There is, indeed, one thing which promises peace; viz., that from the King’s feebleness of character nobody can trust themselves to him or risk themselves in support of his authority. But if he escapes from Versailles and falls into different hands from those now about him there must be a struggle. A slight circumstance will show how well the present rulers are fitted to conduct the affairs of this kingdom. Lafayette is very anxious about the scarcity of bread, and holds out that circumstance for conversation and discussion. The Due de la Rochefoucault thereupon tells us of some one who has written an excellent book upon the commerce of grain.”*
It would be unnecessary to enlarge here upon the unique, and at the same time pathetic, impulse of the nobles in the Assembly at Versailles on the night of the 4th of August. It seemed a sudden awakening to a sense of love and justice, and a devastating battle ensued between self-interest, the traditions of years, and the great inspiration which, born in that moment, threw a lurid light upon the rottenness of the feudal system and the pressing needs of the people. The decrees and regulations which followed the resolutions of that night are matters of history. Taine says they were but so many spiders’ webs stretched across a torrent. There was excitement and joy in the ranks of the mob, but deep depression and gloom followed the almost hysterical generosity and self-abnegating spirit of the nobles during that memorable night. Louis ⅩⅥ. appeared to receive with gratitude the title of Restorer of French Liberty, which after much wrangling was offered to him en masse by the Assembly, on the 13th of August. They chanted a Te Deum and struck off a medal, but the homage offered reduced to nothing the kingly power.
“To-night [September 18th] at the club, where I take supper, the king’s letter to the Assembly on the subject of the resolutions of the nobles on the famous Fourth of August is introduced. It is very moderate and, like the rest of M. Necker’s writings, too long and flowery, but it will excite much sensation, I believe. It holds out the idea of retreating if pushed hard, which is a sort of invitation to the aggressor. But one thing that perhaps the ministers are not aware of is, that from this moment the King will derive force from every instance of disrespect which is shown to him. Nothing can save the National Assembly but modesty and humility, their share of which is not too abundant. The current of opinion begins to set strong against the Assemblée Nationale. Many who looked on with anxious silence six weeks ago now speak out, and loudly.”
Again, at this time, Morris pressed on Lafayette the question of subsistence for the army. But he was slow to make arrangements, and complaints came to Morris of failures on Lafayette’s part to keep promises. He says of him: “I have known my friend Lafayette now for many years, and can estimate at the just value both his words and his actions. If the clouds which now lower should be dissipated without a storm, he will be infinitely indebted to fortune; but if it happen otherwise, the world must pardon much on the score of intention. He means ill to no one, but he has the besoin de briller. He is very much below the business he has undertaken, and if the sea runs high he will be unable to hold the helm.”
Necker had declared in August that the treasury was empty. The Duc d’Aiguillon showed among the expenses of the State, the debts of the Count d’Artois alone, which amounted to one hundred and twenty thousand francs: the items—gardens, horses, dogs, and mistresses. The August and September receipts were thirty-seven, and the expenditures seventy millions. The finances were at the moment the all-absorbing topic of conversation. “At the club to-day [September 20th] they are in violent discussion about the finances, which seem to be going fast to the devil. Opinions are changing fast, and in about fifteen days we shall hear somewhat of the sentiment the provinces entertain of their present rulers.”
These last days of September were full of terror. There was no money, and there was no bread. At Versailles the king, and those in authority under him, struggled feebly to meet the emergency, with what success the horrors of the 5th of October give a melancholy proof. At Paris the mob struggled against hunger and misery, and died in the struggle. In the midst of their trouble they were told that the king, whom they looked on as their only friend, was to be taken to Metz. Simultaneously the streets filled with foreign uniforms. Green trimmed with red, and black cockades were seen. Enemies seemed to encompass Paris. There was movement and excitement everywhere; a certain ominous agitation as of impending peril. Since the 15th of September some members of the Assembly had known, through warning letters, that the 5th of October was fixed for a decisive blow. On the 18th came the news of the march of the Garde Française to Versailles; on the 23d the Flanders Regiment arrived. Meanwhile the other life of Paris went on. The gayety seemed to grow more giddy and reckless, as if impelled by some unseen force to its destruction. “Indeed,” Morris says, “pleasure is the great business; everybody has his country-seat, and comes to town to do business once in three or four days, and then works not to finish but to get rid of work, that he may again go out of town, making business dealings with them extremely uncertain.” People dined and drank plentifully, and went to the theatre or opera, to forget all care. Morris mentions Marmontel’s “Didon,” which, he says, “is given as well as an opera can conveniently be.” And so in various ways society, so called, closed its eyes to what was enacting in real life, outside the walls of the theatre, at its own doors.
In the midst of constant and varied demands upon his time—for the fair dames of Paris were exacting of the devotion of those who had been admitted to the boudoir and bedroom—Morris found time to prepare for M. de Corney a mémoire on the subject of subsistence. Lafayette, when told by M. de Corney of the note, said that he would push it with all his power—that a plan from Mr. Morris on subsistence merited every attention.
“At the club to-night [September 22d] there is nothing worthy of remark,” the diary says, “except that everyone seems now to be of opinion that queens should be excluded from the regency, on like principles to those by which they are excluded from the throne, viz., la loi salique; and further, that no stranger should be in the regency. This last article is not amiss, if the first can be excepted out of the provision. I tell them my opinion, which is generally disliked, but they will change. One of the company waits, as I am going out, to whisper that he is of my opinion.”
Madame de Flahaut, who was deep in the secrets of the government, chiefly through her intimacy with the Bishop of Autun, was also the confidante of Morris in his plans for the public benefit. “This morning I go by appointment to see Madame de Flahaut. She is at her toilette with her dentist. Show her a list of the Committee of the Finances and take her opinion of some characters; finally, I tell her that I have a project respecting them in which she must participate and must aid in the execution of. She gives me reason to expect that M. de Montesquiou will be Minister of the Marine, and that in such case good things may be done. We shall see. At the club I hear a sketch of Necker’s propositions to the States. They appear to me strange. However, no judgment can be formed till we have the details.”
“Madame de Flahaut has the latest news from Versailles to-day [September 25th]. She says that Necker has made a wretched discourse filled with self-applause; that the Marquis de Montmorin will to-morrow report from the Committee of Finance upon his propositions, and therein will detail his own plan; asks if I will go, as in that case she will procure me a ticket, and for Monday also, when the Bishop d’Autun is to report from the Committee on the Constitution. I agree to both propositions. She has conveyed to Montesquiou an expression of mine, which by the manner of relating is turned into an elegant compliment. She says he was well pleased, and that if he is brought into the ministry I may boldly visit him with the certainty of a good reception; that if he is Minister of the Marine we may do valuable business, in which, as in other objects where she may be useful, she is to participate. At noon take her to the convent to visit her religieuse, and am to call for her again at four. In the mean time I go to see the Marquis de la Billarderie, the brother of the Comte de Flahaut, to tell him how turtle is to be dressed; but we fall on the subject of politics and the question about the tortue is postponed ad inferendum. Going back to my hotel I am delayed by militia, who are going, or have been, to church to obtain a blessing on their banners. Later I visit Madame de Chastellux, and excuse myself for not drinking tea with her. She tells me that the Duke of Orleans is plunging himself into debts and difficulties to support the present faction’s temper, and that the Duchess will demand an appropriation of the revenue to her separate use. The sum fixed on by her is half a million. Many compliments from M. Lafayette; he has not placed Madame de Chastellux’s protégé, and she is extremely vexed. This conduct, which flows from the same source with those things which have brought him up, very naturally tends to bring him down. After a drive with Madame de Flahaut and two young ladies to the Bois de Boulogne, I go to the opera, according to my promise, and arrive toward the close of the piece at the loge of Madame Lavoisier. The dancing after the opera is prodigiously fine. Vestris* and Gardell, who are upon the stage together, are both wonderful; Gardell is second only because Vestris is first. Go to the arsenal and take tea with Madame Lavoisier en attendant le retour de monsieur, who is at the Hôtel de Ville. Monsieur comes in and tells us of the obstination of the bakers. This corporation threatens the municipality of Paris with a discontinuance of their occupation, unless a confrère justly confined is released. Thus the new authority is already trampled on.”
The question of the finances came on in the Assembly on Saturday the 26th. A start at five in the morning and a rapid drive to Versailles brought Morris to the door of the Assembly at eight. “By this means,” he says, “I am still in time and get well seated immediately behind my friend Madame de Flahaut. At ten the session is opened; some trifling matter of presents to the Assembly called the gifts of patriotism, but more properly the sacrifices to vanity; after these a tedious verbal controversy on the reduction of yesterday’s minutes, much heat and noise and impatience, by which means half an hour is employed in what ought to have been settled in half a minute. The Marquis de Montesquiou makes his report; vast respect for the Premier Ministre des Finances, and then sundry details and combinations, which show that the committee understand the business much better than the ministers. At the close, however, of the report, there is a feebleness which they are perhaps not fully aware of, or perhaps it was unavoidable. They appeal to patriotism for aid, but they should, in money matters, apply only to interest. They should never acknowledge such want of resource as to render the aid of patriotism necessary. After the report is read the Comte de Mirabeau objects to the consideration of it, and insists that they should immediately take up M. Necker’s proposition, in which he has a motion to make. He is called to the tribune, and in a tone of fine irony urges the adoption of the plan proposed by the Premier Ministre from the blind confidence which the Assembly have in him, and from that unbounded popularity which he enjoys. ‘These,’ says he, ‘in that dreadful situation which he has exposed, and in the imminency of danger which produces debate, urge, nay, command us to adopt without examination what the minister has devised for our relief. Let us agree to it literally (textuellement), and if it succeeds let him, as he ought, enjoy the glory of it; if it fails, which heaven forefend, we will then exercise our talents in trying to discover if yet there remains any means to save our country.’ To my great astonishment the representatives of this nation, who pique themselves on being the modern Athenians, are ready to swallow this proposition by acclamation. The President, Clermont-Tonnerre, who perceives its tendency, throws into a different form the style of adoption. Mirabeau rises and very adroitly parries the stroke by showing that this form is not consistent with his view, which the Assembly seemed willing to comply with; that certainly a subject of such magnitude should not be carried by acclamation without having the specific form before them, and that if he were to propose a form it would require at least a quarter of an hour to consider it and prepare it. He is immediately (by acclamation) ordered to rédact his proposition, and while he is about it the Bishop d’Autun retires. We remark it. My friend Madame de Flahaut acknowledges that they are in league together. The world already suspects that union. During their absence there is a great deal of noisy debate on various subjects, if indeed such controversy can be dignified with the name of debate. At length Mirabeau returns and brings his motion forward in consistence with his original idea. The Assembly now perceive the trap, and during the tumult Lally de Tollendal proposes that the motion be sent to the Committee of Finance to frame as an arrêté. Here again Mirabeau manœuvres to evade that coup, and while the house are hung up in their judgment, or rather entangled from want of judgment, d’Espresmenil makes a motion coincident with that of Mirabeau in substance, though contrariant in form. There is not sufficient confidence in him, and therefore the proposition drops. But it would seem from hence that he is in the faction with Mirabeau and Autun, or that the same principle of hatred to Necker has operated a concidence of conduct on the present occasion. After this, tumult and noise continue to reign. Mirabeau at length, in another speech, openly declares his disapprobation of Necker’s plan. It is moved to postpone the consideration of the subject at three o’clock, but that motion is lost. At half-past three Madame de Flahaut goes away, and at four I retire, extremely fatigued, in the belief that Mirabeau’s motion cannot possibly be adopted, and that they will postpone at last the consideration. Go to Madame de Tessé’s. She is at the Assemblée. Madame de Tot is so kind as to order some bread and wine for me ‘en attendant le diner.’ At length the Comtesse de Tessé arrives at five. Madame de Staël is with her. I had nearly told this last my opinion of Necker’s plan before I knew her. The Assembly are aux voix on the adoption; the proposition not essentially different from that of Mirabeau, and thus they are the dupes. He has urged, they say, a decision with the eloquence of Demosthenes. While we are at dinner the Comte de Tessé and some members arrive. The adoption is carried hollow, at which Necker’s friends rejoice and Madame de Staël is in raptures. She is pleased with the conduct of Mirabeau, which she says was perhaps the only way of bringing such a wrong-headed body to act rightly; that the only thing they could do was to comply with her father’s wish, and that there can be no doubt of the success of his plans. Bravo! After dinner, Madame de Tessé having told her that I am un homme d’esprit, she singles me out and makes a talk; asks if I have not written a book on the American Constitution. ‘Non, Madame, j’ai fait mon devoir en assistant à la formation de cette Constitution.’ ‘Mais, Monsieur, votre conversation doit être très intéressante, car je vous entends citer de toute part.’ ‘Oh, Madame, je ne suis pas digne de cet éloge!’ How I lost my leg? It was, unfortunately, not in the military service of my country. ‘Monsieur, vous avez l’air très imposant,’ and this is accompanied with that look which, without being what Sir John Falstaff calls the ‘leer of invitation’ amounts to the same thing. I answer affirmatively, and would have left the matter there, but she tells me that M. de Chastellux often spoke of me, etc. This leads us on; but in the midst of the chat arrive letters, one of which is from her lover (De Narbonne), now with his regiment. It brings her to a little recollection, which a little time will, I think, again banish, and, in all human probability, a few interviews would stimulate her curiosity to the experiment of what can be effected by the native of a new world who has left one of his legs behind. But, malheureusement, this curiosity cannot now be gratified, and therefore will, I presume, perish. She enters into a conversation with Madame de Tessé, who reproves most pointedly the approbation she gave to Mirabeau, and the ladies become at length animated to the utmost bounds of politeness. I return to Paris much fatigued; the day has been prodigiously fine.”
“To-day [September 27th] I read M. Necker’s propositions; they are wretched, and I think he is certainly ruined. See Madame de Flahaut, who tells me the plan of the Bishop d’Autun respecting finance, which is in some respects defective. She wishes me to have an interview with him and the Marquis de Montesquiou, and will endeavor to arrange it. Chatting with her upon various subjects we arrange a ministry and dispose of several persons— Mirabeau to go to Constantinople, Lauzun to London. I tell her that this last is wrong, as he does not possess the needful talents; but she says he must be sent away because without talents he can influence in some degree the proposed chief, and a good secretary will supply the want in England. We converse a great deal about the measures to be pursued, and this amiable woman shows a precision and justness of thought very uncommon indeed in either sex. After discussing many points, ‘Enfin,’ she says, ‘mon ami, vous et moi nous gouvernerons la France.’ It is an odd combination, but the kingdom is actually in much worse hands. This evening she is to confer with the Queen’s physician, and set him to work to remove some of Her Majesty’s prejudices. I tell her that she may easily command the Queen, who is weak, proud, but not ill-tempered, and, though lustful, yet not much attached to her lovers, therefore a superior mind would take that ascendency which the feeble always submit to, though not always without reluctance.” To this Madame de Flahaut replies, “with an air of perfect confidence,” that she would take care to keep the queen supplied with an alternating succession of gallants and masses, and Morris comments: “It is impossible not to approve of such a régime, and, I think, with a due proportion of the former medicine she must supplant the present physician.”
Morris grew rather wearied of Lafayette’s procrastination in the matter of the mémoire respecting subsistence. No attention had been paid to it; but while Morris was waiting for his answer, several other men in authority applied to him for aid in supplying flour; “indeed M. Cretel,” he says, “asks me if I would not furnish some flour. I tell him that if Laville will appoint some person to treat with me on that subject I will do anything in my power, and that I think I can be useful, but that I will not throw myself at their heads. I then tell Lafayette that a vessel had been detained some days waiting for the answer to the mémoire; that in a few days more I will have nothing to do with the affair; that some of the persons of the committee have, I presume, been casting about for the ways and means to make money out of the present distress, and are easy as to consequences because certain they shall not be victims!”
[*]Anne César, Chevalier de la Luzerne, ambassador to London in 1788. He had been sent in 1779 to the United States as minister, and, without instructions from his government, performed the responsible duties of the position with credit. He died at London in 1791.
[†]Sir John Sinclair originated the Board of Agriculture, and wrote many valuable books, essays on agriculture, etc.
[*]Anne Seymour Damer, the sculptress, was born in 1748, and was the only child of Field Marshal Conway. Her family connections were of the very best blood in England, and her birth and beauty entitled her to a life of ease and luxury, but she early developed a taste for art and studies, which taste her cousin, Horace Walpole, took great pleasure in directing. David Hume seems to have given her the first impulse toward the art of sculpture when, on one occasion, while walking together, they met a vender of plaster casts. Hume stopped to speak to the lad, looked at his wares, and gave him a shilling. The lively Miss Conway laughed at him for wasting time on such paltry images; whereupon the historian gently reproved her, telling her not to be so severe, that it had required both science and genius to make even such poor imitations, and, he continued, “with all your attainments you cannot produce such works.” After this conversation she set herself to model in wax, and finally to cut the marble. Mrs. Damer was one of the trio of beautiful women who canvassed London during the bitterly contested election of Charles James Fox for Westminster. On the death of Horace Walpole Mrs. Damer found herself the possessor of his Gothic villa at Strawberry Hill, and here, amid the splendid confusion of things valuable and otherwise, and surrounded by her chosen companions, Mrs. Berry, Mrs Garrick, Mrs. Siddons, and, last but not least, Joanna Baillie, she passed the last years of her life. She died in her eightieth year, after an eventful and interesting career.
[*]John B. Church had been Commissary-General under Lafayette in America during the Revolution; an Englishman of very high social position and great wealth, he made himself prominent as a citizen of New York, and while there married Miss Angelica Schuyler, a member of a family who warmly espoused the cause of America. On his return to England Mr. Church found himself out of favor with the Tories, but thoroughly independent in politics as in purse, he soon found friends among the Pitt and Fox party, and was elected to Parliament from Wendover. Mr. Church’s house in London, was the frequent resort of Pitt, Fox, and Burke. Talleyrand sought refuge under his roof, and through Church’s exertions, when ordered by government to leave London in twenty-four hours Talleyrand was enabled to flee to America.
[*]The Abbé Galiani, who wrote the Dialogues sur le Commerce des Blés.
[*]Vestris, an Italian dancer, had made his debut in Paris in 1748. He was popularly styled the “God of dancing.” His vanity was excessive, but amusing, as is attested by the familiar anecdote that he was once heard to observe, that Frederick, King of Prussia, Voltaire and himself were the only great men of the century. He died in 1808.