Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII. - The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER VIII. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
The feast at Versailles. Consternation at Paris. Morris urges Lafayette to attach himself to the king’s party. Disturbance in Paris. Church property discussed. Expedition to Versailles proposed in the Palais Royal Gardens. Excited state of the people. Carriages stopped in the streets. Agonizing night at Versailles. The royal family brought to Paris. The heads of the Body-guard carried through the streets. The royal family installed at the Tuileries. Despatches opened by the mob. Clermont de Tonnerre. The Comte de Narbonne and Madame de Staël. Dinner at Lafayette’s. Conversation with Lafayette on the situation of France. Mirabeau. Madame de Chastellux’s salon. The Duchess of Orleans. The Bishop of Autun reads a motion to be presented to the Assembly. A ministry arranged.
On Thursday, the first of October, the feast was prepared at Versailles for the Flanders Regiment. This superb entertainment had been conceived in an unfortunate moment by the court to bring the loyal regiments to feast together. The queen with all the ladies of the court graced the scene by their presence in the boxes, and increased the brilliant effect. Her Majesty descended from her box, and with her son and husband, graceful and tall, with a truly queen-like dignity, walked through the ranks of soldiers. Excited by wine, by music, and by the presence of their queen, they drank her health, cheered her, dragged the tricolor cockade from their hats, trampled it under foot, and donned the white cockade. Quickly the news of the sumptuous banquet at Versailles reached Paris. It spread like fire among the famishing crowds. Aristocrats had trampled their colors under foot. They had bread and to spare; they feast while we starve. Let us go to Versailles and demand bread. If we once have the king, queen, and dauphin in the midst of us they will be obliged to feed us. We will bring back with us the Baker, Bakeress, and the Baker’s Boy!
The first of October found Morris and M. de Corney at work making estimates for Lafayette for the purchase of provisions at reasonable rates to be served out to the poor of Paris. Fresh pork which was selling at sixteen sous per pound, they offered to transport to Paris and sell at half the price. Next day: “I go to-day to Lafayette’s and ask a dinner,” he says. “I find that even among his military family, there are some who at least wish well to the noblesse. After dinner I take him aside and tell him some of my sentiments on his own situation; that he must immediately discipline his troops and make himself obeyed; that his nation is used to be governed and must be governed. That if he expects to lead them by their affection he will be the dupe. So far he accords; but on the subject of discipline his countenance shows the self-accuser, for he has given the command to officers who know nothing of their business. I mention to him the subject of subsistence. He wishes me to appear before the new committee on Monday, and that Mr. Short should also be there, so as to give it the appearance of a diplomatic affair. This is not overwise, but I desire him to write to me what he wishes, and to write also to Short. We will see how feebleness will manage in arduous circumstances. I tell him the serious truth, that if the people of this metropolis want they will send their leaders to the devil at once, and ask again their bread and their chains; that Paris is, in fact, the dupe of this business at any rate, because her splendor is owing entirely to despotism, and must be diminished by the adoption of a better government. I then urge him, in the great division of parties, to attach himself to that of the king, being the only one which can predominate without danger to the people. He is startled at this assertion. I proceed to demonstrate it, but Mazzie comes in and with his usual self-possession makes a third person in the conversation. Therefore I quit it. Chat a little with Madame de Lafayette, who receives me much better than she used to do. I know not why, but perhaps I have contracted more of that tournure to which she has been habituated. I go to the club. De Noailles tells us that Necker’s proposition as modified will take. Kersau says that letters from the provinces assure the same thing. I am, however, still incredulous. Laborde gives us the fourth of his income (400,000 f.), and the Duc d’Orléans 600,000. I ask Kersau who is the fittest man in this kingdom for military Minister of the Marine. He tells me it is Marignan, his brother-in-law, or himself. Mirabeau’s address to the nation on the subject of the new imposition is said to be superb. Those who contribute their fourth are to receive an interest of four per cent., and the contribution is to be paid in three years. Those who have less than 400 per annum are not to pay but at their pleasure.”
“Much disturbance in Paris,” is chronicled by the diary, October 4th. “The foolish story of the cockades at Versailles and the serious suffering for the want of bread have collected from eight to ten thousand wretches, who go to the Hôtel de Ville. How it will end I know not, but this is certain, that unless they contrive to obtain food for the people they will be constantly embroiled. Bailly, the mayor, is, they say, inept and wishes to resign. They talk of Mirabeau as a successor. Thus every country has its John Wilkes. It is no common combination, that of a heart to devise, a head to plan, and a hand to execute. Dine with Madame de Flahaut and the Bishop d’Autun at the Louvre. She is taken ill at dinner. We converse about the public affairs, and she tells us that if he is minister we must make a million for her. He has many just ideas on the subject of finance, but a defect which he is not aware of. To correct it I tell him that he must get men about him who understand work and who love work. Mention De Corney as the kind of man who would suit him, and observe that there are very few of the kind in this country, to which he heartily agrees, but is not willing to acknowledge that he does not love work himself. He says the present ministry will last forever; that is, longer than he wishes; but Necker’s health and the difficulties he is already plunged in seem to me to augur differently. We cannot even sketch the outlines of a future plan distinctly, but in general we agree as to what ought to be done. On the subject of the church property, I urge that it should be obtained by consent of the Clergy, and only mortgaged at first, but sold afterwards by degrees so as to obtain the full value. State this as security for the principal, and the dîmes [tithes] as security for the interest, of a loan which is to be subscribed instantly by means of foreign aid; and then, instead of insisting on the right to repay to the owners of the rentes viagères their capital advanced (which is his idea), to invite them to a change, by giving the principal which the rente is worth, calculated at an interest of five per cent.—that principal reimbursable, and bearing an interest of six per cent.; then begin to pay the principal with money obtained at four per cent., and force all the public creditors who will not take four per cent. to accept their capital. This scheme is not only practicable but easy. Urge the propriety of obliging the Caisse d’Escompte to settle their accounts before any further extension is given their establishment, and that in future the management should be part by commissioners, to prevent the present mischief; which is, that the ministers who are in the administration make use of it merely as the means to support circulation, by which they raise a fictitious capital and gamble at the risk of the community. This idea he approves of, but does not relish my further idea of having subordinate banks in the great cities. I did not sufficiently explain it, but I have a general idea which might, I think, be executed with great advantage in this country. If opportunity offers for execution I will detail it, but for the present I must think of other affairs.”
In the Palais Royal this Sunday (October 4th), possibly for the first, certainly not for the last time, a woman used her voice to extinction proposing the expedition to Versailles and denouncing the “plaster-of-Paris bread, sacrilegious opera dinners, green uniforms, and black cockades.” Danton “roared” his denunciations, and Marat, equally condemnatory, made “as much noise as the four trumpets on the Day of Judgment.” Acts of violence and cries of “À bas!” were the result of seeing the black cockades, which men ruthlessly dragged off and crushed under foot. So passed Sunday. Monday morning, “the town is in alarm,” Morris says. “I go towards Chaillot to see what is doing, but am stopped at the Pont Royal. Go into the Tuileries. A host of women are gone towards Versailles with some cannon. A strange manœuvre! Walk up to Mr. Short’s; he is just going to dine. We return together to the Place Louis Quinze. This tumult is the continuation of last night; a wild, mad enterprise. Go to the arsenal. Admitted with difficulty. They are at dinner. Madame Lavoisiér is detained in town, as all carriages were stopped and the ladies obliged to join the female mob. While we sit at table, we learn that the militia and the Régiment National are marching towards Versailles. Return home and dress. At eight o’clock go to the Louvre to take Madame de Flahaut to sup with Madame Capellis. Capellis is with her. He says the Régiment de Flandre, the Milice de Versailles, and the Garde du Corps are determined to give the Parisians a warm reception. Lafayette has marched by compulsion, guarded by his own troops, who suspect and threaten him. Dreadful situation! Obliged to do what he abhors, or suffer an ignominious death, with the certainty that the sacrifice of his life will not prevent the mischief. I go to supper. Much discourse about what is to happen at Versailles, and we agree that our Parisians will be beaten and we consider it as fortunate that they are gone. I venture the assurance that from this day forward the French army will return to its sovereign, presuming, always, that the Régiment de Flandre will, as it is said, do its duty this night. A gentleman here tells us an anecdote which shows how well this nation is adapted to the enjoyment of freedom. He walked near a knot of people collected together, where an orator was haranguing. The substance of his oration was: ‘Messieurs, nous manquons du pain, et voici la raison. Il n’y a que trois jours que le Roi a eu ce veto suspensif, et déjà les aristocrats ont acheté des suspensions et envoyé les grains hors du Royaume.’ To this sensible and profound discourse his audience gave a hearty assent. ‘Ma foi, il a raison. Ce n’est que ça.’ Oh rare! These are the modern Athenians—alone learned, alone wise, alone polite, and the rest of mankind barbarians! I learn this evening that several of the provinces are become discontented at the acts of the Assemblée Nationale, but principally with the city of Paris. At Madame de Flahaut’s the company at supper was reduced almost to a tête-à-tête. The guests all decline, from the public confusion.”
At Versailles by eleven in the morning the Comte de St. Priest knew of the approach of the mob, with its advanced guard of seven or eight thousand women—women in the guise of Amazons: the Queen of the Halles, dressed in scarlet, with eyes flashing and hair flying; and sad women, with starving babies in their arms. It was a mob with many unexpressed intentions, but with a fixed, unalterable resolve to find bread. The king, strangely infatuated, hunted that eventful day, and must be reminded of his duty. And even in the face of approaching calamity he found time to make an entry in his journal and to note the forty-one birds killed, and to comment on the interruption occasioned “par les événements.” The queen, while taking a walk—the last she ever took—in the pretty gardens of Trianon, was called to a realization of “les événements,” to which she was more keenly alive than the king.
In the Assembly they squabbled over the king’s response relative to the Rights of Man, quite unmindful or ignorant of the fact that men had come to settle the debated question in their own way. Through the wild gale and the deluges of rain, the darkness adding to the general misery, the mob came. The tocsin sounded, and mingled its voice with that of the tired, wet, hungry mob in the streets. In the château, the Comte de Luxembourg begged the king for orders. “What orders?” asked Louis ⅩⅥ. “Against women? You mock me.”
Hasty preparations were making to take the royal family to Rambouillet, but the king refused to go, and the queen refused to leave him. Fear and apprehension grew insupportable as the night dragged slowly on. The queen heeded nothing; not even the cries of the Dauphin, “Mamma, I am hungry,” elicited any response. Suddenly, about four o’clock in the morning, the agony was increased, if possible, by blood-curdling proposals made concerning the queen among the mob. Then the château suddenly filled with armed men, who found access through the door of the Cour de l’Opéra, which in the confusion had been left open. They followed the passages which led to the queen’s chamber, where she, exhausted by the confusion of the day, slept. Brave Miomandre de Sainte Marie met the mob on the great staircase, and pleaded with them to desist from their mad purpose, but unavailingly; on they went. Then he shouted to the guards, “Save your queen!” Rudely awakened, she rushed, scantily clad, to the king’s chamber by a secret passage, and for a moment she found a refuge; but the crowd demanded that she should show herself, and with her children she appeared on the balcony. “No children,” came the cry; and she stood alone before them, heroic and queen-like. The king must go to Paris, the crowd decreed; and he promised to go “on condition,” he said, “that I shall not be separated from my wife and family.” At one o’clock the melancholy procession set out—a hundred of the deputies and the bulk of the Parisian army, the royal family, and in the midst the heads of the two body-guards murdered during the night, carried on poles. The day was one of rare beauty. It was on such a day and in such a manner that Versailles ceased to be the home of kings.
“Tuesday morning, October 6th, Paris is all in tumult,” Morris says. “Two heads of the gardes du corps are brought to town, and the royal family, who are in possession of the Regiment National, late Gardes Français, are to come this afternoon. I go to see Madame de Flahaut. She wants to visit at the Place Royal. We take her fille de chambre along (to save appearances). The gentleman, M. de St. Priest, is not at home, but is returned from Versailles. On our return we find that among other visitors the Bishop has been there. Madame is alarmed; sends after him. She wants to know the news from Versailles. Presently after, asks if she shall send for Capellis to know the news of Paris. I agree. While at supper Capellis comes in. The Bishop is not to be found. Capellis gives a recital of what has passed. Many circumstances of insult to the royal personages. The Queen obliged to fly from her bed in her shift and petticoat, with her stockings in her hand, to the King’s chamber for protection, being pursued by the poissardes. At the Hôtel de Ville M. Bailly, in reading the King’s speech, omitted in some part the words ‘avec confiance.’ The Queen corrected him, which produced a shout of, ‘Vive la Reine!’ They are to lodge in the chambers fitted up in the Tuileries (as slander says) for her amours. These will now present her but bitter remembrances. Oh virtue! thou art valuable, even in this world. What an unfortunate prince! the victim of his weakness, and in the hands of those who are not to be relied on even for pity. What a dreadful lesson it is for man that an absolute prince cannot with safety be indulgent. The troubles of this country are begun, but as to the end, it is not easy to foresee it. The National Assembly is to come to Paris, and it is supposed that the inhabitants of the Louvre will be dénichés. Madame de Flahaut declares she will go off on Monday. I am very heartily tired of myself and everything about me, and return home, with the one consolation that, being very sleepy, I shall in that sweet oblivion lose a thousand disagreeable thoughts. This day has been rainy and windy, and I believe (at sea) a high gale if not a storm. Man turbulent, like the elements, disorders the moral world, but it is action which supports life.”
“The King forbade all resistance, Madame de Flahaut hears [October 7th] from Versailles, and the Queen, on retiring to her own chamber, told her attendants that, as the King was determined to go to Paris, she must accompany him, but she should never leave it. Poor lady, this is a sad presage of what is too likely. The King ate a very hearty supper last night. Who will say that he wants fortitude? At the club there is a good deal of random conversation about public affairs. Most men begin to perceive that things are not in the best train. There are still, however, a number of the enragés who are well pleased. If my calculations are not very erroneous, the Assemblée Nationale will soon feel the effects of their new position. There can be no question of the freedom of debate in a place so remarkable for order and decency as the city of Paris. I told O’Connel that they must give discharges to all the soldiers who asked them, if they want to have an obedient army, and recruit next winter when they are hungry and cold, because misery will make them obedient. I think he will circulate this idea as his own, because he has a good dose of what is called by different names, but in a soldier is the love of glory. A curious incident has happened this day. The district of St. Roch have opened the despatches to the ministers and read them to the black-guards, to see if they contained anything against the nation.”
M. Le Coulteux, on the 8th of October, again suggested that Morris should have an interview with M. Necker, and propose to him the purchase of flour and wheat. “I receive the proposition very coldly,” says the former, “and tell him that I am going to England, being heartily out of humor with everything in France. Later I proceed to M. de Lafayette’s. He is surrounded. In conference with Clermont de Tonnerre, Madame de Lafayette, M. de Staël, and M. de Semien his friend, are en comité in the salon. This is all petit. I take a few minutes to tell Lafayette what appears necessary as to a change of administration. He has spoken to Mirabeau already. I regret it; he thinks of taking one minister from each party. I tell him that he must have men of talents and firmness, and for the rest it is no matter. Am to dine with him to-morrow and converse on this matter. Visit Madame de Flahaut. M. Aubert is there, and before he goes Mr. O’Connel arrives. He stays till nine o’clock. I then tell her that I want to see her Bishop, and that he pledge himself to support Lafayette; wait for his arrival, but as he does not come in, and M. St. Priest and his daughter arrive, I go away. At M. Le Coulteux’s Cantaleu tells me of what has passed with Necker. They see their way to a supply till March next, but then they must have aid. In conversing with him on the means, he proposed an interview with me, and mentioned that I wished to see him on the subject of the debt from America. Necker immediately observed that perhaps I would take the debt in payment of supplies. Thus we stand. I am to see him between five and six on Saturday afternoon. Lafayette is to desire him to speak to me on the subject this evening. Nous verrons. At eleven I receive a note from Madame de Flahaut. The Bishop is just arrived and wishes to see me. I go to the Louvre. Capellis is there. Madame takes the Bishop and me out, which surprises Capellis not a little. We converse pretty fully on the arrangement of a ministry. The getting rid of Necker is a sine quâ non with the Bishop, who wants his place. Indeed, I am of the same opinion. He gives me every assurance I can wish respecting Lafayette. After arranging the new ministry, we come to finance: the means of restoring credit, etc. Consider his plan respecting the property of the church. He is bigoted to it; and the thing is well, but the mode not so well. He is attached to this as an author, which is not a good symptom for a man of business. However, our friend insists with him so earnestly that she makes him give up one point. She has infinite good sense. After the Bishop d’Autun leaves, Count Louis de Narbonne, Madame de Staël’s lover, comes in; a lively scene of raillery between them, upon an affair of the Bishop d’Autun’s with Madame de Staël. It seems that he and the Bishop are intimate friends. He at bottom is much hurt at the conduct of his friend, and very gayly proposes to her a pleasant vengeance. Asks for dinner. She desires me to stay longer, but my hour is come, and therefore we must postpone reflections till this afternoon. Leave her and go to see De Corney. He shows me his letter to the King on the subject of subsistence. I approve of it, for he has delivered it this morning. His wife, I find, is acquainted with the whole affair. This is the woman’s country. Go to Lafayette’s. A large company to dine. After dinner go into his cabinet and talk to him about a new ministry of more ability than the present. Mention the Bishop of Autun for the Finances. He says he is a bad man and false. I controvert the proposition, upon the ground already given to me. I tell him that with the Bishop he gets Mirabeau. He is surprised at this, and assures me they are enemies. I tell him that he is mistaken, and as my information is the best, he is thrown into the style of a man greatly deceived. I tell him the idea of the Bishop, that the King should immediately have given him (Lafayette) a blue riband. This goes farther towards convincing him that he is an honest man than many good actions. Montesquiou as Minister at War might do. He does not much like him, but he is the friend of M. de Montmorin. Propose Touret for Garde des Sceaux. He owns that he has talent, but questions as to his force of mind. I ask him what he intends to do with Clermont-Tonnerre. He says he is not a man of great abilities. I add that he is a man of duplicity (faux). He agrees that he is; therefore no difficulty with respect to him. I tell him that the coalition I propose will drive Necker away by the very populace which now support him. Necker is already frightened, and sick of the business he is engaged in. The Duc de la Rochefoucault comes in. He tells us that the Assembly are to come to Paris, and that the motion of the Bishop respecting the property of the church is postponed till to-morrow, when he expects to have the clergy with him. I am to see Lafayette again on Sunday morning at nine. I cannot dine with him to-morrow; besides, it is nonsense to meet at dinner in a crowd. Ternant and I have a little conversation. He tells me he is sure of his regiment, and can bring with him six hundred chasseurs from the skirts of the Bois de Boulogne. I ask him if I shall name him as one who can be relied on to a person of my acquaintance. He desires that his name may not be used, unless in the houses where he visits; but that I may say I know an officer who can be relied on, etc., without naming him. Go to Madame de Flahaut’s. Madame de Corney is with her. After she is gone she asks the result of our conversation at Lafayette’s. I give the amount in few words. She tells me that Louis de Narbonne, who, with infinite wit, is ‘un assez mauvais sujet,’ will be the enemy of the Bishop on account of the amour. I am tired and vexed; therefore come home, take tea, and go early to bed. This has been a rainy, disagreeable day.”
“I am to meet the Bishop at Madame de Flahaut’s this evening,” says the entry for October 10th. “I see M. Le Coulteux this morning, and confer about the debt to France. In speaking about the mode in which we are to treat with M. Necker, I mention my determination to act very openly, etc. Laurent le Coulteux wants to higgle, and as I treat this mode of dealing with contempt, we have a pretty smart conversation; in the course of it he discovers how much he is hurt by my indifference. I pursue, however, my straightforward line, and Cantaleu agrees with me in sentiment. We have soon some more company, and go to dinner. His attentions and those of Madame are marked. At five call on Cantaleu, and we visit M. Necker. Madame asks us to dine next Tuesday. We go to the cabinet of monsieur, and after some chat proceed to the consideration of the debt of the United States to France. I tell him the whole truth with respect to it, and assure him that I will not engage in a purchase without such a view to profit as will save me from all risk, and that he must make a sacrifice. Cantaleu reads the note I gave to the Maréchal de Castries, and we finally come to consider between sixteen and twenty millions. He proposes the latter sum, and on Tuesday we are to talk farther about it. Visit Madame de Flahaut, who leaves me reading “La Pucelle” and goes out in my carriage. She returns after a short visit. Stay till near eleven, but the Bishop does not appear, so I quit the field.”
“I go this morning [October 11th] to keep my appointment with Lafayette. He keeps me waiting a very long time. Find that he wishes to avoid coming to any points as to a new administration, therefore carelessly ask him if he has thought on the subject of our last conversation. This leads us on. I state to him the present situation of France, and the necessity of combining men of talents who have principles favorable to liberty; that without talents the opportunity of regaining executive authority will be lost, and that without the proper principles the authority when recovered will be abused; that he cannot possibly act both as minister and soldier—still less as minister of every department; that he must have coadjutors in whom he can confide; that as to the objections he has made on the score of morals in some, he must consider that men do not go into administration as the direct road to Heaven; that they are prompted by ambition or avarice, and therefore that the only way to secure the most virtuous is by making it their interest to act rightly. He tells me that he means to introduce Malesherbes as Garde des Sceaux, and to the objection that he will not be induced to accept, the reply is, that he will accept from M. de Lafayette. I have a stronger objection, which I do not choose to make; viz., that he is not sufficiently a man of business, although certainly well informed and possessed of a great deal of understanding. He mentions Rochefoucault as Minister of Paris, and to the objection that he has not the needful talents, he answers that he will give him a premier commis who has. The Minister of War is in the same situation, but they cannot carry the commis into the council to deliberate and judge. He will himself be in council, and will take care to manage everything there. Unluckily he does not reflect that he himself wants both talents and information. He again mentions that he will have Mirabeau, to which I reply that a man so profligate will disgrace any administration, and that one who has so little principle ought not to be trusted. I do not, as I might, retort on the subject of morality. I know pretty well the man I am speaking to, and therefore can estimate his reasons. He is very desirous to get rid of me, and I take my leave. I am vexed to find that by littleness the little are to be placed where greatness alone can fill the seat. He keeps Necker, whose talents he despises, because Necker is honest and he can trust him, as if it were possible to trust a timid man in arduous circumstances. Visit Madame de Flahaut. She is with her physician, but receives me a little after one, and begs me to dine tête-à-tête with her. The Queen is coming round. This morning the King’s dentist fell dead at his feet. The poor King exclaimed that he was devoted to experience every kind of misfortune. He had, however, presence of mind enough to desire Vicq d’Azyr, the physician, to go and break the matter gently to the Queen, who was not well and might suffer from such a shock. She is highly pleased with the Bishop’s motion. Visit Madame de Chastellux. She is in bed and, I think, very ill; a dreadful cough, which must terminate fatally if not soon relieved. The Duchess comes in, and makes some kind reproaches for not visiting at Raincy. Return home, write and dress, and then go to club. Stay but a few minutes. Go to Madame de Flahaut’s. She is abroad; I wait her return, which is not until after three. She tells me that she has repeated to the Bishop my conversation with Lafayette, of which, by the bye, I told only such parts as could by no means convey his intentions, although they were not communicated to me in express confidence. Mirabeau is to have an interview this evening with the King (private, and unknown to anybody but ourselves).
“I leave her and visit at M. de Montmorin’s. M. de la Luzerne is there. Both very glad to see me, and as they have been at a conversation duly serious, I animate it with a gayety which produces very good effect. It is a pity that these people have not the needful abilities; however, I have labored to keep Montmorin in place, and I think it possible still to succeed. He is very honest, and his situation with Florida Blanca* renders him a desirable member of the ministry, because, so long as these two continue in office, they may count upon Spain with certainty. From hence go to Madame de Chastellux’s. The Duchess is there, and Mr. Short. A light, pleasant conversation; among other things, her picture at the salon, which Mr. Short thinks is perfect. I tell her Royal Highness: ‘Madame, ce portrait-là n’a qu’un défaut à mes yeux.’ ‘Et qu’est-ce donc, ce défaut?’ ‘C’est qu’il ne m’appartient pas, Madame.’ The Duc de Penthièvre is in town, and Madame de Chastellux tells me she is sure I should like him. ‘Il passe sa vie à bien faire. Oui (pointing to the Duchess), elle est bien faite,’ etc. The Comtesse de Ségur comes in, and afterwards the Chevalier de Bouflers;* then the Abbé St. Phar. Madame de Ségur asks my opinion of the affairs. Talk to her sensible observations, but I cannot go farther. She gives me her information, that the Duc de la Rochefoucault is to be brought into the ministry. At half-past nine go to the Louvre to supper. Madame de Rully had come in before I left. She gave us some anecdotes, and also the state of Corsica, where her husband now is with his regiment. At Madame de Flahaut’s we have Colonel O’Connel and Madame Laborde his friend, with her husband. After dinner the Bishop comes in, and the rest go away. I tell him what has passed with Lafayette, as far as is proper, and my future intention, which is to tell him that, having done my duty to him and to his country, I quit the matter and leave him to the course of events. I urge an union with those who are to form the new ministry, and that they avow themselves to the people as candidates and let the Court know that they will come in together or not at all. He thinks this right, and also that the present circumstances have sufficient force to consume another administration before things are entirely fixed. He reads us his motion; it is well done. Afterwards we talk about the best ways and means to effect the intended objects, and I give him a few hints on general principles tending to the wealth and happiness of a nation and founded on the sentiments of the human heart. He is struck with them, as men of real talents always are with the disclosure of real truth, and this, by the bye, forms a principal charm of conversation. Oh, it is dreadfully tiresome to explain down to the first principles for one of those half-way minds which see just far enough to bewilder themselves. Leave the Bishop with Madame.”
“Monday [October 12th], I visit Madame de Flahaut by appointment. She shows me a letter to the Bishop, which is perfect. A deep knowledge of human character, an acquaintance with the world which arises from reflection on the hearts of those who live in it, and the most just conclusions of the regulation of his conduct, enforced by the tenderness of female friendship—all this join to render a hasty production perfect. I thought well of myself, but I submit frankly to a superiority which I feel. She told me some days ago, after seeing Mr. Jefferson’s countenance, ‘Cet homme est faux et emporté.’ The arrangement talked of at present for an administration is to make Necker Premier, the Bishop d’Autun Minister of Finance, and Liancourt Minister of War. Mirabeau (who had yesterday four hours’ conversation, not with the King but with Monsieur, and who is to see the King this day) wishes to be in the ministry; an embassy will no longer content him. I leave her and go to Madame de Chastellux’s. At about eight the Duchess comes in with the Vicomte de Ségur. About fifty members of the Assemblée Nationale, it is said, have retired; among them De Mounier* and Lally-Tollendal.† This will excite some sensation, if it be true. Go thence to Madame de Laborde’s, and sup. After supper make tea for them.”
[*]Count Florida Blanca, a Spanish statesman, and prime minister in 1777. He made great efforts to recover Gibraltar, in which attempt, however, his plans were frustrated—but the Spanish captured Florida, Minorca, the Bahamas, and a fleet of fifty-five merchant-vessels.
[*]Marquis Stanislas de Bouflers, a mediocre French writer.
[*]Mounier was a man of strong judgment and inflexible character, who considered the system of the English constitution as the type of representative government and wished to effect the revolution by accommodation.
[†]Marquis de Lally-Tollendal, a deputy from the noblesse to the States-General in 1789, was one of the minority of his order who united with the Tiers État and favored reform. He emigrated to England in 1792.