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CHAPTER X. - 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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Denis François accused of secreting bread and beheaded. Paris abandoned to cruelty and violence. Martial law passed by the Assembly. The Duke of Orleans liberated. He goes to England. At the club. Chit-chat in Madame de Flahaut’s salon. Belgrade surrenders. Anecdote of the 5th of October. Clermont de Tonnerre proposes going to America. Morris asked his plan for restoring order to France. Necker unable to cope with the difficulties. Dinner at Madame Necker’s. Talk about Lafayette’s connection with Mirabeau and with Necker on plans for subsistence. News from Flanders. Asked to take part in the administration of affairs. Dines with the Duchess of Orleans. Takes the Bishop of Autun to visit Lafayette. The Assembly suspends the parlements. Criticisms on the society in Madame de Staël’s salon. Lively dinner conversation with Madame de Staël.
It was on Wednesday, the 21st of October, that a woman started the cry that Denis François, the baker, had secreted bread. The shop was mobbed, and a few loaves were found put aside for the family consumption.
“There has been hanged a baker this morning by the populace, and all Paris is under arms,” says the diary. “The poor baker was beheaded according to custom, and carried in triumph through the streets. He had been all night at work for the purpose of supplying the greatest possible quantity of bread this morning. His wife is said to have died of horror when they presented her husband’s head stuck on a pole. Surely it is not the usual order of Divine Providence to leave such abominations unpunished. Paris is perhaps as wicked a spot as exists. Incest, murder, bestiality, fraud, rapine, oppression, baseness, cruelty; and yet this is the city which has stepped forward in the sacred cause of liberty. The pressure of incumbent despotism removed, every bad passion exerts its peculiar energy. How the conflict will terminate Heaven knows. Badly I fear; that is to say, in slavery. The court of the Louvre is occupied by cavalry. Go to the Champs Elysées where I see General Dalrymple. He tells me some additional circumstances of what is passing in Austrian Flanders. There is great reason to believe that the Stadtholder, supported by Prussiâ, will possess himself of that valuable territory. While they are about it they may as well take some of the strong posts which France holds there, with some of the little principalities upon the eastern quarter, and then these Low Countries will form a very powerful state. Discord seems to extend itself more and more through this kingdom, which is remotely threatened with a disunion of its provinces.
“There is nothing new at the club this evening, but the Bishop of Autun brought the latest news to Madame de Flahaut. He tells us that the Assembly have passed what they call the law martial, but which is, properly speaking, a riot act. The Garde des Sceaux has defended himself this day before the Assembly tolerably. The Bishop seems to have no great desire for a post in the administration at present. I think this arises partly from disappointment and partly from apprehension. I urge again the necessity of establishing among the candidates for places such arrangements and good understanding as may endure when in office, and contribute to the attainment of it. After dinner the Bishop goes away and Capellis comes in with Madame d’Angiviliers. Some incidents related in the conversation to show that M. de Narbonne, Madame de Staël’s friend, is ‘un fort mauvais sujet,’ which accords well with a certain obliquity of aspect that distinguishes a countenance otherwise good. Go from hence to Madame de Chastellux. The Vicomte de Ségur gives me a book he has written, and desires that I will give him my candid opinion of it. It is a supposed correspondence between Nifion de l’Enclos and her lover, the Marquis de Villarceaux. The Duchess receives a note from the Duc de Biron that the Duc d’Orléans embarked yesterday at nine in the morning with a fair wind for England. It is said that three persons are to be hanged to-morrow, by due course of law, for putting the baker to death. They are wrong to defer the execution.”
“At the club to-day [Oct. 22d] I enter into some discussions with a member of the États-Généraux or Assemblée Nationale, who shows his own imbecility. At leaving the room the company almost commit the indecency, so common in the Assemblée, of clapping the speaker they approve. One of them follows me out to mention that it is in vain to show light to the blind. N’importe. Go to Madame de Flahaut’s. She has with her the Duc de Biron, who soon leaves her. She tells me an anecdote of Lafayette, not much to his honor; he had said in his little society of Madame de Simiane, in speaking of the Duc d’Orléans, ‘Ses lettres de créance sont des lettres de grâce.’ The Duc de Biron who knows all the steps taken with the Duc d’Orléans (his friend), wrote to Lafayette on this subject, and has received an answer in which he tells him, ‘Je n’ai pas pu me servir d’une telle expression puisqu’il n’y a aucun indice contre le duc d’Orléans.’ She says she has seen the letter. Undoubtedly the Duc de Biron will make it tolerably public. I leave when the Marquis de Montesquiou comes in, and visit Madame de Chastellux. The Duchess arrives late, having been to visit the Queen. Madame de Chastellux tells me the position of affairs in this family. We discuss the line of conduct which the Princess ought to pursue, and as she is in the hands of the Vicomte de Ségur and of Madame de Chastellux, I think she will act with a degree of understanding and firmness not natural to her. From thence return, according to my promise, to supper at Madame de Flahaut’s. A good deal of random chit-chat, in which she plays the moqueuse on my bad French. This is not amiss. Stay till twelve and then we all quit. Two persons have been hanged this afternoon for murdering the baker, and there are two or three more; it is said, to be hanged to-morrow.”
“Write all the morning [October 23d], and then take Madame de Laborde and Madame de Tour to walk in the Champs Élysées. General Dalrymple, who joins us, tells me that Belgrade has surrendered; and he also tells me of certain horrors committed in Arras, but to these things we are familiarized. Leave Madame de Laborde and I go to M. Le Coulteux’s. After a few minutes M. de Cubiéres comes in. He gives me a ludicrous account of the conduct of the Duc de — on the famous night of the 5th, and afterwards mentions the interview between Lafayette and his sovereign—the former pale, oppressed, and scarce able to utter the assurances of his attachment; the King, calm and dignified. The first request was to give the custody of the royal person to the former Gardes Français, now Milice Nationale. This was conveyed in the form of an humble prayer to be admitted to take their ancient post. Cubiéres was then obliged to retire, as some persons had entered who had no right to be present, and in leaving the room he was obliged to retire with them. From thence go to Madame de Chastellux’s. The Maréchal and Comtesse de Ségur are there, but a fifth person is present, which prevents conversation of any interest; at a quarter after eight I retire, leaving a message for the Duchess, who has not kept her appointment. By the bye, Madame de Flahaut hinted this morning a wish to be among the women of the Duchess. I think this cannot be, mais nous verrons s’il y a une place qui viendra de vaquer. Visit Madame de Staël. Clermont-Tonnerre is there, and asks whether he can be decently placed in America for 60,000 francs. I observe that he is despondent. I give scope to my ideas respecting their situation, and he feels from thence no small remorse, for, in fact, the evils they feel arise from their own folly. Madame gives some little traits of reproach for the weakness of mind which induces an idea of retreat. I tell him that I have abandoned public life, I hope, forever, but that if anything could prompt a wish for a return it would be the pleasure of restoring order to this country. I am asked what is my plan. I tell them that I have none fixed, but I would fix my object and take advantage of circumstances as they rise to attain it; as to their Constitution, it is good for nothing—they must fall into the arms of royal authority. It is the only resource which remains to rescue them from anarchy. Madame de Staël asks me if my friend the Bishop will sup with her this evening. ‘Madame, peut-être M. d’Autun viendra, je n’en sais rien, mais je n’ai pas l’honneur de son amitié.’ ‘Ah, vous êtes l’ami de son amie.’ ‘A la bonne heure, Madame, par cette espéce de consanguinité.’ The Bishop, it seems, has invited himself and M. de Tonnerre to sup with her. Go from thence to Madame de Laborde’s. A table of tric-trac, and a good deal of chit-chat after it, keep us till one o’clock.
In a conversation on Saturday, the 24th, M. de Cantaleu told Morris “that Necker had sent him word that I may make my propositions regarding the debt on a quarter of a sheet of paper. Cantaleu, like the rest, is very desponding about their public affairs. He says Necker has not abilities enough to get through his business, and that there is equal danger in holding and abandoning his post. This is very true. The Ministry and Assembly are on the eve of a squabble, whose object will be to determine which of them is to blame for the miserable situation to which France is reduced. There is to-night at Madame de Chastellux’s the usual society. The Duchess tells me I must come and dine with her. I tell her I am always at her orders for any day she pleases. She tells me to come when I please. I promise. After the rest of the company is gone, the Chevalier de Foissy and I stay with Madame de Chastellux and chat a little. She says she will make her don patriotique by presenting me to the King for one of his ministers. I laugh at the jest, and the more so as it accords with an observation made by Cantaleu to the same effect, which I considered as bordering on persiflage at least, and answered accordingly.”
Mr. Morris mentions on Sunday, the 25th, spending the evening in Madame Necker’s salon. “M. Necker,” he says, “is much occupied, and I cannot speak to him. See for the first time since I arrived in Europe Count Fersen, whose merit consists in being the Queen’s lover. He has the air of a man exhausted.”
On Tuesday, October 27th, an invitation came to dine with Necker, and converse about the French debt. “I go thither,” Morris says. “M. de Staël is very polite and attentive. After dinner we retire to the minister’s cabinet. Cantaleu and I open the conversation. Tell M. Necker that the terms he seems attached to differ so materially from what I had thought of, that no definitive bargain can be made, and therefore, after fixing the terms, I must have time to consult persons in London and Amsterdam; that he is the best judge as to the sum below which he cannot go; that I will not attempt to bring him lower than what he thinks he can justify, but if it is too high, I am off; that, having fixed the sum, we will then fix the terms, and finally he must be bound and I free; that it is necessary to keep the transaction secret, because, whether we bargain or not, if my name be mentioned, it will destroy the utility of my friends in America, who have been and will continue to be firm advocates for doing justice to everybody; and further, that if it be known in America that France is willing to abate, it will be a motive with many to ask abatements on the part of the United States. He feels the force of these observations, and desires to consider how far he and M. de Montmorin can treat this affair without the Assembly. He does not like the idea of being bound, and leaving me free. I observe to him that nothing is more natural. He is master of his object, and can say yes or no. But I must apply to others, and it cannot be expected that rich bankers will hold their funds at my disposal upon the issue of an uncertain event, much less withdraw those funds from other occupation. He agrees that there is force in this observation. He then talks of ten millions per annum for three years as being a proper consideration. I tell him that I cannot agree to such sum. He says he has been spoken to about it, and is informed that he can discount it in Holland at twenty per cent. I tell him that I doubt the last, because, having been in correspondence with two capital houses in Holland relative to a loan which I am authorized to make, they both inform me that the several loans now opened for different powers, and the scarcity of money, renders success impossible. De Cantaleu presses me to offer terms. I mention 300,000£ a month, to begin with next January, and continue till the 24,000,000 £ are paid. Here this part of the conversation ends. He is to confer with Montmorin. He then asks me about the export of wheat and flour from America this season. I reply that my answer must be much hazarded, but at length estimate that it may amount to a million bushels of wheat and 300,000 barrels of flour. He proposes the question whether there be not goods in France which, sent out to America, may serve for the purchase of flour. I tell him no, for that goods will sell on credit, and flour for cash. He asks whether it would not be well to send ships to America for flour on the part of the King, for such a scheme has been proposed to him from Bordeaux. I tell him no, because the alarm would be spread, and prices thereby greatly raised; that the ships should be chartered in such a way as to be bound to take wheat, flour, or tobacco, and then they might proceed in the usual line of mercantile speculation. Finally I drop the idea that six weeks ago I would have contracted for the delivery of one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand barrels of flour, at a fixed price. He asks with vivacity why I did not propose it. I reply that I did not choose to push myself forward, which is a slight hint that he might, if he pleased, have applied for information. He asks why not propose such a contract now. I tell him that the order he has already given will, I fear, raise the prices too high in America. He says it is a trifle, only 30,000 barrels. I tell him it is 60,000, but he says the last 30,000 is very uncertain. Rather presses me to make an offer. I tell him I will consider of it.
“Leave M. Necker and go to Madame de Chastellux’s. She is in bed and in tears; fears that her brother is killed, or rather dead of the wounds he received at the capture of Belgrade. I give her all the comfort which the case admits of; viz., a hope that it is not so, for, by suspending the stroke a little while, its effect is less forcible. The letter she has received, and which she shows me, looks ill. Converse a little with Madame de Ségur about our friend Lafayette’s connection with Mirabeau. She wishes to know what I would have him do. I tell her that if he did me the honor to ask my advice, I could not give him any good; that he has reduced himself to the situation of making Mirabeau a dangerous enemy by neglect, or still more dangerous friend by aiding him in his views; that it is M. Necker who now plays the handsome part. He will not stay in the ministry if Mirabeau be admitted. Mirabeau insists on coming in, and if he succeeds, M. Necker has the desired opportunity of retiring from a post which at present it is equally dangerous to keep or leave. Being forced out, Mirabeau will be obliged by the general opinion to abandon the place he has acquired, and then a ministry will be chosen entirely new. She wishes much to know who I think would be proper, and mentions the Bishop d’Autun as having a very bad reputation. I tell her that I doubt the truth of what is said against him, because there are facts which show that he has some virtue, and merits confidence; that he has talents, but that, without being attached to him or any other person in particular, I am persuaded that France can furnish men of abilities and integrity for the first offices; that M. de Lafayette should discipline his troops, because his friend Mirabeau may otherwise turn that weapon against him.”
“Dine at the Palais Royal [October 28th] with Madame de Rully, who sits for her picture in crayons. She has a mind to coquet with me, because she has the same mind as to everybody else. A madame de Vauban who is here is a disagreeable looking woman. The interior of this ménage is very much like the Castle of Indolence. Go from thence to the Louvre. The Bishop is with madame; he asked a dinner with her son, who is arrived this day. Quite a family party. He goes away, and I tell her that I am sorry to have interrupted such a scene. She dwells much upon her child and weeps plenteously. I wipe away the tears as they fall. This silent attention brings forth professions of endless affection. She means every word of it now, but nothing here below can last forever. We go together to Madame de Laborde’s and make a short visit, the child being in company. Set her down at the Louvre, and go to Madame de Chastellux’s. The Duchess, who was not well at dinner, is very little better now, or rather she is worse; the usual case with those who suffer from the lassitude of indolence. Sleep becomes necessary from the want of exercise as well as from the excess of it.”
“After dining with M. Boutin, I go to Madame Necker’s [October 29th], where I speak to M. Necker on the subject of subsistence. He catches at the idea of a contract for 20,000 barrels of flour, but will not make the kind of contract which I proposed. He asks me what the flour will cost. I tell him it will cost about 30/ sterling, and I offer to deliver it at 31/; he wishes it at 30/, and desires me to write him a note on the subject, that he may communicate to the King. He will not listen to the idea of importing pork and rice, and giving them to the poor. I endeavor to show him that by doing this and letting the bread be sold at what it costs, the treasury would save, because few would accept the donation, but all derive advantage from the loss on bread. He is wrong, but humanum est errare. Go to Madame de Chastellux’s. Her brother is dead. The Duchess comes in late and the tea is delayed, and finally I am obliged by the various delays to leave them abruptly. At the Louvre madame is waiting for me. We go to Madame de Laborde’s to sup, and M. d’Afry and I are, it seems, each to drink a bottle of wine. I perform very nearly my task, but he declines entirely. The wine is good, but the strongest I ever tasted. After eating an enormous supper to accompany the liquor, I make tea and then chat with the ladies.”
“At dinner I hear [October 30th] the news from Flanders. The Austrian Netherlands seem to be in a fair way of shaking off the yoke, and it is said that they have a great number of deserters, both officers and soldiers, from the Prussian army. It is to be concluded that Prussia is concerned in the business, and if so England may probably be also for something. Indeed, this opportunity is most inviting. There appears to me no good reason why all the Low Countries should not be united under one sovereign, and why they should not possess themselves of all the strong places on the French frontier, Calais, Lille, Tournay, Douay, Mons, Namur, and even Cambray, in which last place there is absolutely no garrison, for the milice bourgeoise have insisted on doing the duty, which they are now heartily tired of. Namur, which is in the Emperor’s dominions, is absolutely dismantled. Go, after dinner, to Madame de Chastellux’s and make tea for the Duchess. She presses me to come and dine with her soon, with Madame de Ségur. I promise for Monday, to which Madame de Ségur agrees. Go to Madame de Staël’s; a conversation too brilliant for me. Sup and stay late. I shall not please here because I am not sufficiently pleased.”
“Saturday afternoon [October 31st] I go to the Louvre, and get Madame de Flahaut to correct my letter to M. Necker. Capellis mentions to me the supplying of Brest, Rochefort, and Toulon with flour, and says he believes they have already ordered it from America. I tell him that M. de la Luzerne would have done well to consult me on the subject; that the different departments sending separate orders to different people necessarily raised the prices upon each other. Take tea with Madame de Chastellux. The Duchess comes in. M. de Foissi tells us that the debate on church property is postponed till Monday, at the instance of Mirabeau, and that it was thought the motion would have been negatived had the question been put this day. The Duchess reminds me of the promise to dine on Monday and then departs.”
“A large party at Madame de Flahaut’s on Sunday [November 1st]; a very excellent and a very pleasant dinner. After dinner Madame’s physician comes in and tells her that a M. Vandermont has said of me that I am an ‘intrigant, un mauvais sujet’ and a partisan of the Duc d’Orléans. He insists not to be named; she tells me that this man is very dangerous, being a mauvais sujet, and wishes me to speak to Lafayette. There is but one thing to be done, if I stir at all, and that is to call on him and tell him that if he speaks disrespectfully of me again I will put him to death; but in times like the present such conduct would only give an air of importance to what must otherwise fall of itself, for I am not of sufficient consequence to occupy the public attention. This man, she says, would not scruple to bring me to the lanthorn, in other words, to have me hanged. This would be rather a sharp retribution for the remark which has excited his rage. On the fifth of last month he dined with me at M. Lavoisier’s, and observed that Paris maintained the kingdom of France, to which I answered, ‘Oui, Monsieur comme moi je nourris les éléphants de Siam.’ This excited the choleric humors of a pedant, and he takes his revenge by saying things which are, luckily, too improbable to be believed. On the whole, I resolve to take no notice of this thing, particularly as I could not produce my author, should M. Vandermont deny the fact, and that would place me in a very ridiculous position. At five I visit the Marquis de Lafayette. He tells me that he has followed my advice, though he did not answer my letter. I congratulate him on what passed two days ago from a gentleman to the Comte de Mirabeau, which was so pointedly affrontive as to ruin him, because he cannot be now placed in the ministry and is lost in the opinion of the Assembly. He asks with eagerness if I think he is lost with them. I reply that the Bishop d’Autun has just expressed that opinion to me. He says he does not know the Bishop much, and should be glad to know him more. I offer to give them a dinner together the day after to-morrow, or if he does not choose it, I will say nothing about the matter. He desires me to say nothing of it, because if he should dine with me instead of at home, it would make an histoire—which is true. He wishes me, however, to bring the Bishop to breakfast with him the day after to-morrow. I promise to invite him. Go to Madame de Laborde’s. M. de la Harpe reads us some observations on La Rochefoucault, La Bruyère, and St. Evremond. They have merit but are liable to criticism. After supper we fall into politics. Monsieur tells us that the municipality of Rouen have stopped some grain intended for Paris. This leads to observation on the many-headed monster they have created in the executive department. He exculpates the Assembly as having been obliged to destroy in order to correct. But the necessity of such an apology augurs ill. Indeed, whenever apology for the conduct of government becomes necessary, they are in the way toward contempt, for they must acknowledge misconduct before they excuse it, and the world is kind enough to believe the acknowledgment and reject the excuse.”
“Monday morning [November 2d] take Madame de Flahaut and Madame de Laborde to walk in the King’s Garden and then to the Church of the Sorbonne to examine the monument of the Cardinal de Richelieu. The dome of the church is fine. Go later to the Palais Royal to dine with the Duchesse d’Orléans. I arrive late and have kept dinner waiting half an hour. Excuse myself as having waited news from the Assemblée Nationale, which is true, because I stayed at the Louvre some time to see the Bishop d’Autun, who did not come in. We dine well and pleasantly, with as little ceremony as possible, at the table of a person so high in rank. After coffee go with Madame de Ségur to the apartments of Madame de Chastellux. The Maréchal reads us a letter from M. Lally-Tollendal to his constituents which is not calculated to do much good to the Assemblée Nationale. It will not do him any good either, for the King, for whom it is meant, will want rather those who can render the Assemblée useful, than those who absent themselves from it. The Duchess comes in and gives us the bulletin of the Assemblée. They have determined that the church property belongs to the nation, or, at least, that the nation has a right to make use of it. This latter expression seems to have been adopted as conciliatory. From thence go to Madame de Laborde’s. After some time the Bishop d’Autun comes in. He is to breakfast with me to-morrow, and go thence to M. de Lafayette’s.”
“Tuesday morning [November 3d] in fulfilment of his promise, the Bishop d’Autun calls on me and we breakfast. He tells me that M. de Poix is to visit M. de Lafayette this morning, in order to make terms for Mirabeau. We talk a little about M. de Lafayette; his worth and what he is worth. At nine we go to visit him. The cabriolet of M. le Prince de Poix is at the porte-cochère, whence we know he is here. M. de Lafayette is closeted with him. A great many visitors and affairs render the minutes for our conversation short. Lafayette makes professions of esteem, and desires to receive frequent visits. There is an émeute in the Faubourg St. Antoine about bread, which leads to a consideration of the means to supply Paris. Lafayette proposes a committee, consisting of three ministers, three of the municipality of Paris, and three members of the États-Généraux, and says there is a man who, acting under such committee, can serve the supplies. The Bishop thinks the Assemblée will not meddle. I am sure they will not, because they act only from fear, and will not risk the consequences of being responsible for the subsistence of this city. Lafayette asks the Bishop what he thinks of a new ministry. He says that nobody but M. Necker can sustain the famine and bankruptcy which appear unavoidable. Lafayette asks if he does not think it would be right to prepare a ministry for some months hence. The Bishop thinks it would. They discuss a little character, and as par hasard Lafayette asks whether Mirabeau’s influence in the Assembly is great, to which the Bishop replies that it is not enormous. We fall back by degrees to the subsistence, and I suggest a hint which Short has given me, viz., to give medals to the poor, representing a pound of bread, and then let it rise to what price it may, by which means the Government will in effect pay for the bread they eat, and for that only, whereas they now pay for a part of what everybody eats. On this the Bishop observes that the ministers, in this moment when the charge of plot is so frequent, will be accused of a conspiracy against the nation if they make largesses of bread to the multitude. I think he sees that their plan would give the administration too much power to be removed, and he is right. His idea, I think, is to come in when the magazines are full, and then to do what he wishes may not now be done. Lafayette in the course of conversation mentions his friend La Rochefoucauld, saying at the same time that he has not the needful abilities, but that his integrity and reputation are important. I think this is the only man he will insist upon, and I think any person we please may be admitted as the price of the duke’s admission. The Bishop says he cannot think of a new ministry unless the change is entire. Lafayette agrees to this, and says that in this moment the friends of liberty ought to unite and to understand each other. At coming away the Bishop observes to me that Lafayette has no fixed plan, which is true. With a great deal of the intrigant in his character he must be used by others because he has not talent enough to make use of them. Go to M. Necker’s after setting the Bishop down. M. Vauviliers receives me in the drawing-room with a compliment as being the person who is to feed France. After dinner M. Necker takes me aside. He wishes to tie me down to fixed periods for the arrival of the flour and for the payment. I tell him I wish to have a house to contract with me. He says I run no risk, and he will have the agreement signed by the King. My carriage not being come, Madame de Staël insists upon taking me where I want to go. Later, when I go to the club, I find that the Assembly have this day suspended the parlements. This is a better blow at tyranny than any they have yet struck, but it will occasion much ferment among the numerous influential characters which they are composed of.”
“At the club there is the usual diversity of opinion on the state of public affairs [November 4th]. Go from here to Madame de Chastellux’s. The Duchess reproaches me for going away early last evening and coming late now. Has been here near two hours, and her son, M. de Beaujolais, is brought on purpose to see me. He presents himself with a very good grace. Is enjoué et empressé. I kiss him several times, which he returns with eagerness. He will make a pleasant fellow some ten or twelve years hence, for the petites-maîtresses of that day. Puisignieu is here, and after some time Madame de Ségur comes in. The Maréchal is afflicted with gout. Madame de Chastellux is to take a bouillon to-morrow with her fair friend. Thence I am led to believe in the possibility of a marriage between her and the old gentleman, which other circumstances give much room to imagine. Go thence to Madame de Staël in consequence of her invitation yesterday. A great deal of bel esprit. The Bishop d’Autun declined coming this morning, when I asked him at Madame de Flahaut’s. I am not sufficiently brilliant for this consultation. The few observations I make have more of justice than splendor, and therefore cannot amuse. No matter, they will perhaps remain when the others are effaced. I think there is a road to success here, in the upper region of wits and graces, which I am half tempted to try. It is the sententious style. To arrive at perfection in it one must be very attentive, and either wait till one’s opinion be asked, or else communicate it in a whisper. It must be clear, pointed, and perspicuous, and then it will be remembered, repeated, and respected. This, however, is playing a part not natural to me. I am not sufficiently an economist of my ideas. I think that in my life I never saw such exuberant vanity as that of Madame de Staël upon the subject of her father. Speaking of the opinion of the Bishop d’Autun upon the subject of the church property, which has lately been printed, not having had an opportunity to deliver it in the Assembly, she says it is excellent, it is admirable, in short there are two pages in it which are worthy of M. Necker. Afterwards she says that wisdom is a very rare quality, and she knows of no one who possesses it in a superlative degree except her father.”
“This morning [November 5th] the Comte de Luxembourg and La Caze come to breakfast for the purpose of knowing my sentiments on public affairs. At dinner I hear the news from Brabant, viz., that the imperial troops had been much worsted, and that the people have declared independence. This latter part is certain, for I read the declaration, or rather part of it.”
“Spend the morning [November 6th] with Le Coulteux adjusting the form of a contract for flour with M. Necker, which is to be copied and sent with a note from me. Return home after three to dress, then go to M. de Montmorin’s. Luckily the dinner has been kept back on account of some members of the États-Généraux or Assemblée. After dinner he asks me why I do not come oftener. He wishes much to converse with me. He is engaged to dine abroad next Tuesday, but any other day, etc. Chat with Madame de Beaumont, his daughter, who is a sprightly, sensible woman, and at six take Madame de Flahaut to the opera, where I am so weak as to shed tears at a pantomime representation of the ‘Deserters.’ So true it is that action is the great art of oratory. Go from the opera to Madame de Chastellux’s; the Comtesse de Ségur has been there with her children; all disappointed at not seeing me; this is civil, but I am sorry not to have met them. The Duchess has left her reproof; all that is well enough. Madame tells me that the Prussian General Schlefer, who commanded the army of 10,000 men sent to quiet the troubles of Liége, after a few executions which restored order, harangued his troops, thanked them for their zeal, and then, by reason of the disordered state of his master’s finances, disbanded them; but in consideration of their former services, left them their arms, baggage, etc., and gave them a month’s pay to maintain them on their journey home. In the astonishment naturally resulting from such an event the patriots of Brabant offered them very advantageous terms, and of course the whole army passed into their service. General Dalton, apprised of this manœuvre, immediately applied to Count d’Esterhazy, commanding at Valenciennes, to know if he would receive the Austrian troops. This last despatched an express to M. de la Tour du Pin, the Minister of War here. A council was held and the answer returned this morning. Go to Madame de Laborde’s. In the course of the evening mention this as a rumor, the authenticity of which I will not warrant. M. Bonnet tell us that such a report being spread, though differing materially in circumstances, inasmuch as it related only to a request to be admitted unarmed in case events should render a retreat necessary, he had inquired of one of the ministers and had been told that they had luckily found an excuse for not complying with Dalton’s request, in the want of subsistence, already so great. This is weak indeed; they should have received those troops, near 10,000 men, and marched them slowly toward Strasbourg, there to wait the Emperor’s orders. The battalions he has already marched to their assistance, joined to these and to the foreign regiments in the service of France, would form an army sufficient to restore order to this kingdom, and discipline to their troops, etc. The idea of those who differ with me is, that the Parisians would immediately assassinate the King and Queen; but I am far from believing in such an attempt, and I am persuaded that a respectable body of troops in a position to avenge that crime would be a cogent motive to prevent it. These, however, are the conjectures of a private man. Unhappy France, to be torn by discord in the moment when wise and temperate councils would have led thee to the pinnacle of human greatness! There has happened this day a very strange incident; a person who says he belongs to the family of Montmorenci (i.e.) a servant of one of them, is arrested for giving money to a baker not to bake. Either some of these persons are mad, or else their enemies have a wickedness of invention worthy of the prime mover of evil. At going away this evening the Comte de Luxembourg takes me aside and asks if I have thought of a person for Prime Minister of this country. I repeat what I told him on Thursday, that I am not sufficiently acquainted with men and things here to hazard opinions; that France has my best wishes for her prosperity and sincere regret for her situation. He is to breakfast with me on Monday. This evening, not being able to obtain cream for her tea, one of the company proposed to Madame de Laborde to try a species of cheese. This odd proposition was adopted, and to my amazement it proved to be the best cream which I have tasted in Paris. I get home late, and find a letter from Cantaleu, desiring my aid to combat a proposition made in the Assembly this morning by Mirabeau. It is to send an embassy extraordinary to America, to desire payment of the debt to France, in corn and flour.”
“This morning [November 7th] Cantaleu breakfasts with me, and we prepare his argument against Mirabeau’s proposition. I hear that M. Necker is making inquiries as to the price at which flour can be delivered here. I tell my informer, who wishes to know my sentiments, that if M. Necker has set on foot such an inquiry it is with a view to chaffering in a bargain he is about to make; that I have told him the price which the flour will cost. Call at half-past three on Madame de Flahaut. The Bishop comes immediately after. The event of Mirabeau’s propositions, levelled at the ministry, has been a resolution that no member of the present States-General shall be admitted to share in the administration. Some measures have been taken to guard the church property, at the instigation of the Bishop. The news which Madame de Chastellux communicated last evening are, I believe, entirely false, and yet they were told to her by a confidential person. To be sparing of one’s faith is in this country to economize one’s reputation.”
“Engaged all the morning [November 8th] writing. At three I dine with Madame de Flahaut. We have an excellent dinner, and, as usual, a conversation extremely gay. After dinner, the company go to cards, and I who have imposed upon myself the law not to play, read a motion of the Comte de Mirabeau, in which he shows very truly the dreadful situation of credit in this country, but he is not so successful in applying a remedy as in disclosing the disease. This man will always be powerful in opposition, but never great in administration. His understanding is, I believe, impaired by the perversion of his heart. There is a fact which very few seem to be apprised of, viz., that a sound mind cannot exist where the morals are unsound. Sinister designs render the view of things oblique. From the Louvre go to Madame de Chastellux’s. The Comte de Ségur and his amiable daughter-in-law are there. Make a declaration of love to her in jest, which I might have done in earnest; but as she expects every hour a husband whom she loves, neither the jest nor earnest would be of consequence.”
Formality seems to have taken no part in the arrangement of dinner guests, for Morris says, “I go to-day [November 9th] to dine at M. Necker’s, and place myself next to Madame de Staël, and as our conversation grows animated, she desires me to speak English, which her husband does not understand. Afterwards in looking round the table, I observe in him much emotion. I tell her that he loves her distractedly, which she says she knows, and that it renders her miserable. Condole with her a little on her widowhood, the Chevalier de Narbonne being absent in Franche-Comté. Much conversation about the Bishop d’Autun. I desire her to let me know if he succeeds, because I will, in such case, make advantage of such intelligence in making my court to Madame de Flahaut. A proposition more whimsical could hardly be made to a woman, but the manner is everything, and so it passes. She tells me she rather invites than repels those who incline to be attentive, and some time after says that perhaps I may become an admirer. I tell her that it is not impossible; but, as a previous condition, she must agree not to repel me, which she promises. After dinner I seek a conversation with the husband, which relieves him. He inveighs bitterly against the manners of this country, and the cruelty of alienating a wife’s affections. He says that women here are more corrupt in their minds and hearts than in any other way. I regret with him, on general grounds, that prostration of morals which unfits them for good government. Hence, he concludes, and I believe truly, that I shall not contribute towards making him uncomfortable.
“When M. Necker has got rid of those who environ him he takes me into his cabinet, observes that I have stipulated to receive such premium as the court may give for other flour on importation of the first 20,000 barrels. I tell him that he must feel with me the propriety of that stipulation, but that I presume he will not give any premium. He says that he disapproves of it, but that so many urge the measure he shall he obliged perhaps to submit, for in the present times they are frequently under the necessity of doing what they know to be wrong. He leaves that stipulation, but he says I ought to be bound in a penalty to deliver the 20,000. I tell him that I certainly mean to comply with my contract, but that he also ought to be bound to a penalty. He proposes £2,000, assuring me that it is only to comply with needful forms. I tell him I have no objection to a greater sum, except that I cannot command the elements, and, of course, do not know how long it will be before my letters reach America. He says that they will not exact the penalty on account of the delay of a month or two, upon which we agree. He pauses in amending the agreement, at the binding of the King to a like penalty. I cut the matter short by telling him that I rely on His Majesty’s honor and the integrity of his ministers. I tell him that I expect he will not extend his orders in America, and he says he will not, but rely on me, for which purpose it is that he wishes the bargain to be such that he may have full confidence in it: Having signed the agreement, which he is to send to me to-morrow countersigned by the King, I go later to Madame de Chastellux’s, make tea for the Duchess and introduce the eating of a rye bread toast, which is found to be excellent. The Vicomte de Ségur comes in and tells us that the Baron de Besenval has discovered that England gives two millions sterling to make mischief in this country. I dispute the matter, which is, I am sure, impossible. He insists with great warmth that it is true, and thence concludes that the tales circulated to the prejudice of the Duke of Orleans are false. There is a great deal of absurdity in all this, and if he makes such a defence for the Duke everywhere, he will convict him. Madame de Ségur takes me aside at going out, to remark on this, and adds her persuasion that the Duke was the distributor of the money given for these wicked purposes. The Comte de Luxembourg asked me, in the course of the evening, what should be done to ameliorate the deplorable situation of France. I tell him, nothing; that time can alone indicate the proper measures and the proper moment; that those who would accelerate events may get themselves hanged, but cannot alter the course of things; that if the Assembly become generally contemptible, a new order must naturally arise from that circumstance; but if they preserve public confidence, they only can restore this country to health and tranquillity, and of consequence no private individuals can in the present moment do good. He says he is afraid some persons will be precipitate, and show an armed opposition. I tell him that if any be so mad, they must take the consequence of their rashness, which will be fatal to themselves and to their cause, for that successful opposition always confirms authority. This young man desires to meddle with the state affairs, but he has not yet read the book of man, and though a good mathematician I am told, may yet be a very wretched politician. M. le Normand, whom I see to-day, considers a public bankruptcy here as inevitable, and views a civil war as the necessary consequence.”
“I hear from Mr. Richard [November 10th] that the Duke of Orleans offered Beaumarchais 20 per cent. for a loan of 500,000 francs, and that he had since applied to their house for a loan of 300,000 francs, but in both cases without success; that their house is so pushed for money, they know not how to turn themselves. Go to dinner at Madame La Tour’s; arrive very late, but, luckily, the Comte d’Afry and the Bishop d’Autun arrive still later. We have a bad dinner and more company than can sit at the table. Everything is ennuyeux; perhaps it arises in a great measure from myself. Go with the Comte d’Afry to the representation of ‘Charles Neuf,’ a tragedy founded on the massacre of St. Bartholomew. It is a very extraordinary piece to be represented in a Catholic country. A cardinal, who excites the king to violate his oaths and murder his subjects, then in a meeting of assassins consecrates their daggers, absolves them from their crimes, and promises everlasting felicity, all this with the solemnities of the established religion. A murmur of horror runs through the audience. There are several observations calculated for the present times, and, I think, this piece, if it runs through the provinces, as it probably will, must give a fatal blow to the Catholic religion. My friend the Bishop d’Autun has gone a great way towards its destruction by attacking the church property. Surely there never was a nation which verged faster towards anarchy. No law, no morals, no principles, no religion. After the principal piece I go to Madame de Laborde’s. I am requested to attend Madame d’Angivilier, and, as the devil will have it, they enter on politics at eleven and stay till one, disputing whether the abuses of former times are more grievous than the excesses which are to come.”
“This morning early [November 11th] the Comte de Luxembourg comes in and stays all the morning. He presses me hard to promise that I will take a part in the administration of their affairs. This is a mighty strange proposition, particularly from a man who has, I think, no sort of interest, though indisputably of the first family in this country. He drops the idea of a combination which exists, and whose intention is to restore affairs to a better situation, and that he is in their confidence. But two questions naturally arise upon this subject: What they mean by a better situation? and whether they be not persons who think they can govern because they wish to govern? It is possible that this young man may be connected with people of greater maturity on some political intrigue, and may be authorized to talk to me, though I doubt both the one and the other, particularly the latter. I make, however, the same answer, which I should do to a more regular application, that I am wearied with public affairs; the prime of my life has been spent in public occupations; my only present wish is to pass the remainder in peaceful retirement among my friends. I add, however, for his own government, that, in my opinion, no change can be operated at present which will be either useful or safe.
“After he leaves me I go to Madame de Stael’s. The Bishop d’Autun is here, and I fix with him to dine at Madame de Flahaut’s with the Marquis de Montesquiou next Friday, for the purpose of discussing M. Necker’s plan of finance, which is then to be proposed.* A great deal of light chit-chat here, which amounts to nothing. Madame Dubourg is so kind as to stimulate me a little into conversation with her, and whispers that ‘Madame l’Ambassadrice fait les doux yeux à M. l’Évêque,’ which I had already observed, and also that he was afraid I should see too much.”
“I dine to-day [November 12th] with M. de Montmorin. After dinner converse with him on the situation of affairs. He tells me that their administration has no head, that M. Necker is too virtuous to be at the head, and has too much vanity; that he himself has not sufficient talents, and if he had he could not undergo the fatigue; that as to great measures the King is incapable of them; and therefore he has no other method of acquiring power but to gain the love of his subjects, to which he is entitled by his goodness of heart. Madame de Flahaut tells me, when I call on her this evening, that she wishes to have her husband appointed minister in America. Has spoken to Montesquiou on the subject, who has applied to Montmorin, but was told that the place was given ten months ago. I had already told her that it could not be, at least, for the present.”
“To-day [November 13th] I am invited to meet the Bishop d’Autun and the Duke de Biron at Madame de Flahaut’s, but first to take Madame de Laborde and my fair hostess to visit Notre Dame. The Bishop d’Autun and the Duke consider M. Necker absolutely ruined. The Duke tells me that Necker’s plan was disapproved of yesterday in the Council, or rather, last evening. Montesquiou comes in and I go away, as there is a little affair to settle between him and the Bishop. Visit Madame de Corney. Leave her surrounded by two or three persons, one of whom is engaged in the discussion of the procès of M. de Lambesc, accused of the crime of lèse nation for wounding a man in the Tuileries on the Sunday preceding the capture of the Bastille. Return to the Louvre. Madame informs me that the affair is settled between the Bishop and the Marquis. Indeed, it could not be otherwise, for it was a falsehood related of the former to the latter, and, of course, a denial put things to rights. Madame being ill goes into the bath, and when placed there sends for me. It is a strange place to receive a visit, but there is milk mixed with the water, making it opaque. She tells me that it is usual to receive in the bath, and I suppose it is, for otherwise I should have been the last person to whom it would have been permitted.”
[*]Necker’s plan of finance, which Morris frequently mentions, was an effort to induce the National Assembly to consent to the conversion of the Caisse d’Escompte into a national bank; the commissioners to be chosen by the National Assembly; the notes put successively in circulation to be fixed at two hundred and forty millions; the nation by a special decree of the National Assembly, sanctioned by his Majesty, to guarantee the notes, which were to be stamped with the arms of France and the legend “ Garantie Nationale.” He also proposed that the capital of the Caisse d’Escompte, which represented then thirty millions in circulation and seventy deposited, should be augmented to fifty millions by a creation of twelve thousand five hundred shares payable in silver. Loustalot opposed Necker’s scheme on the ground that it would simply associate the nation in the bankruptcy of the Caisse d’Escompte, for if the Caisse d’Escompte had the credit, it had no use for a national guarantee, and if the nation had the credit, it was not necessary for the Caisse d’Escompte to establish a Caisse Nationale. Bouchez and Roux mention that Necker’s project made but little sensation, as several of the journals did not even notice it.