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CHAPTER XI. - 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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Exodus from the ranks of society. Many closed salons. Changed state of feeling. Necker’s “plan” for the Caisse d’Escompte. The Pope quarrels with the farmers-general. Opposition to Necker. Mirabeau describes the Assembly. Lafayette’s ambition. A tedious session. Interview with Necker. Tea at Madame de Laborde’s. Plan for dealing with the American debt to France. Necker converses on the constitution then preparing. The Bishop d’Autun asks advice as to speaking in the Assembly. A rumor that he is to be appointed American Minister to the Court of Louis ⅩⅥ. An evening in Madame de Staël’s salon. Tact of the hostess. Clermont-Tonnerre reads a discourse. Necker speculates as to the issue of one hundred and thirty millions of paper money. The Abbé Delille reads his own verses in Madame de Chastellux’s drawing-room.
By November society began to feel the exodus from its ranks. The most brilliant salons of a few months back were closed and silent, and their gay inmates languishing in foreign lands. In the few that remained open the society forgot that persiflage and coquetry which had been its life. The hostess forgot her tranquil mode of dispensing hospitality while listening to the heated debate; and, presiding over her tea-table, was not unlikely, in the excitement of political discussion, ungracefully to spill the scalding liquid over her hands. Men forgot to make love to their hostesses in their eagerness to read to them the latest news in the Gazette, and strangest of all, the women forgot to notice the cessation of compliments and love-making in their zeal to discuss a motion to be made by a deputy, or the latest brochure of a friend.
The salon of Madame de Beauharnais still flourished, and she, with her pretty, very feminine and enjuponné talent, entirely inoffensive to the amour propre of the sterner sex, continued to draw about her a coterie who bemoaned the insensibility of the world to their literary efforts. Here la liberté et l’égalité, those dames d’atours of madame, her counsellors les plus intimes, presided. Madame had herself once made two or three jolis mots, and contented herself by repeating them at intervals. Madame also knew how to listen, or appear to listen when she never listened at all, and here literature was the god to which they dedicated themselves; here Voltaire was crowned. Society must find relief from constant political conversation, and the gaming-table offered the best advantages. It became the resort of the deputy, worn out trying to hear or make himself heard in a disorderly séance, and of the noblesse who played for money for daily expenses; and so it was that the gaming-table, offering so much to so many, continued through all the shiftings and changes of events and people in Paris, and flourished until the days of the Terror.
There was now a general unrest, a murmuring and spasmodic movement in the streets of Paris—one day like those of a dead city; the next awake with a feverish excitement, and orators holding forth everywhere. The National Assembly fought over the constitution, Necker struggled with the finances and subsistence, and Camille Desmoulins wrote about and gloated over the disclosures of the Red Book, with its list of fraudulent pensions and its appalling sum-total.
It was Saturday, November 14th, that M. Necker brought forward his plans for the Caisse d’Escompte, which was to convert it into a national bank. “M. d’Aguesseau tells me,” Morris says, “that Necker proposed his plan with much modesty and diffidence. No opinion can be formed of the reception it will meet with. The Chevalier de Boufflers and the Comte de Thiard, whom I meet at dinner at the Duchess of Orleans’s, are neither of them pleased with what is going forward in the Assembly. They are to sit three times a week in the afternoons. Go to the Louvre; Madame is in bed enrhumée. We have several visitors, Madame Capellis among others, who tells me that the Pope’s nuncio is to be of our party next Monday evening, and gives me to understand that he wishes to be acquainted with me. I do not suppose that this arises from any great devotion on my part to the Holy Roman Apostolic See. While I am visiting I am troubled with spasmodic affections of the nervous system which give great pain at times in the stump of my amputated leg, and, in the other leg, an anxious sensation which I conceive to arise from some derangement of the nervous system, and therefore I must expose myself more to the air and take exercise. The wind has blown all night very hard and continues high this morning. I think it is from the southwest, and I fear that many have fallen victims to its rage. General Dalrymple, whom I visit after dinner, tells me that the gale of wind which we have had within these few days has committed dreadful ravages on the British coast, and that his letters announce the destruction of eight hundred men. He considers M. Necker’s plan as flat nonsense, and tells me that the bankers he conversed with are of opinion that it is good for nothing. I have read the mémoire, and I think this plan cannot succeed.”
“On Monday at half-past nine call on Madame de Flahaut to take her to supper with Madame Capellis. She is in bed and very much indisposed. Stay but a few minutes and then go to supper. The nuncio of His Holiness is not here. It is the day on which his courier departs. Capellis tells me he wishes to bring us together, because the Pope has quarrelled with the farmers-general about the supplies of tobacco formerly taken from them; that he draws them now from Germany, and he thinks an agreement might be made to furnish his Holiness from America. I doubt much the success of the scheme, for the Pope can only contract from year to year, and the distance is such that half the year would be consumed before a leaf of tobacco could arrive. The company here are much disgusted with the actings and doings of the Assemblée Nationale.”
“To-day [November 17th] I hear the latest American news, which were conveyed by the British September packet. Mr. Jefferson has been made Secretary of Foreign Affairs. After some visitors leave, I go to the Châtelet to visit the Baron de Besenval. The old gentleman is much pleased with this attention. We talk politics a little and he takes an opportunity to whisper that we shall soon have a counter-revolution, which I have long considered as inevitable, though I am not sufficiently master of facts to judge from whence it is to arise. Go to club. The Parlement of Metz have, it seems, acted with more pointed opposition than the Parlement of Rouen, and the Assemblée will fulminate its decrees in consequence. The Church, the Law, and the Nobility, three bodies intermediary, which in this kingdom were equally formidable to the King and people, are now placed by the Assemblée in direct hostility, and they have at the same moment, by the influence of ill-grounded apprehension, tied the hands and feet of their natural ally, the King. A very little time must unite the opposition, and when united they will of course place themselves under the banners of the royal authority, and then, farewell Democracy. Go from the club to M. de Montmorin’s. Nothing here worthy of attention. M. d’Aguesseau and M. Bonnet dine with us; the latter wants some information about their affairs in India. I tell him that the way to check Britain in India is to make the Isle of France un port-d armes, and a free port, etc. M. de Montmorin tells us that he proposed this very plan in 1783. M. Bonnet asks me if free ports in France are necessary for us. I tell him that I believe not, but on this subject he must consult Mr. Short, who is our representative. He desires an interview, but M. de Montmorin tells him that Mr. Short can have no precise information on the subject. In effect, when this matter was first agitated, Jefferson consulted me, but I chose to preserve the respect due to the representative of America. Visit Madame de Chastellux. She gives me an account of the interior of her family. The Duchess comes in, and the Maréchal de Ségur. He tells me that Brittany has undergone a sudden change; the Noblesse and people are united, and they will reject the acts of the Assemblée. M. de Thiard had told us that something of this sort would happen. The Cambrises are also discontented. Go from thence to the Louvre. Madame is in bed. The Bishop arrives; he lays down his hat and cane, and takes a chair in the manner of a man determined to stay. He confirms the news from Brittany, and adds that the cochois (?) looks black. This brings to my mind some dark hints communicated by the Comte de Luxembourg about Normandy. I told him, in reply to his apprehensions about the dismemberment of the kingdom, that if Normandy, Picardy, Flanders, Champagne, and Alsace continued true to the King, His Majesty might easily reduce the remainder of his kingdom.”
“This morning [November 18th] while I am writing La Caze comes in. He tells me that there was last night a meeting of the actionnaires de la Caisse a’Escompte. They have named the commissaires to treat, report, etc., on Necker’s plan. The general opinion seems to be opposed to the plan, which, indeed, I do not wonder at. Dine with M. de Lafayette on the Quai du Louvre. He does not come in until long after we had sat down to dinner, and yet we did not sit down till five. After dinner I ask him what he thinks of Necker’s plan. He says it is the general opinion that it will not go down. He adds that the Bishop d’Autun, or somebody else, should come forward with another. I reply that no man can properly come forward with a plan except the minister, because no other person can know sufficiently all the needful circumstances; that the present administration must be kept in their seats, because the late resolution of the Assembly prohibits a choice of ministers in their body. He says that he thinks he can for once take a ministry out of the Assemblée, provided he does not name Mirabeau and one or two others. Upon this I observe that I do not know whether the Bishop d’Autun and his friends will be so weak as to accept of office in the present wild situation of affairs; that nothing can be done without the aid of the Assemblée, who are incompetent; and that, the executive authority being annihilated, there is but little chance of carrying their decrees into effect, even if they could be induced to decree wisely. He says that Mirabeau has well described the Assemblée, which he calls the Wild Ass; that in a fortnight they will be obliged to give him authority which he has hitherto declined. He shows clearly in his countenance that it is the wish of his heart. I ask him what authority. He says a kind of dictatorship, such as Generalissimo, he does not exactly know what will be the title. Upon this I tell him again that he ought to discipline his troops, and remind him of a former question, viz., whether they would obey him. He says they will, but immediately turns round and talks to some other person. Here is a vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself. This man’s mind is so elated by power, already too great for the measure of his abilities, that he looks into the clouds and grasps at the supreme. From this moment every step in his ascent will, I think, accelerate his fall. Leave this place and go to the Louvre. Madame has company. Stay till they are gone. The Marquis de Montesquiou was here when I arrived; he had just entered. He is running round now to smell the incense which will be offered him for his plan of finance, which was this day communicated to the Assemblée. It goes, as I am told, upon the basis of paying off the national debt by a sale of the church property. I tell Madame that, if this be so, it will prove a bubble, for the reasons long since assigned to the Bishop d’Autun. The reliance on this fund was the radical defect of his plan. Go hence to the apartments of Madame de Chastellux. She tells me that the Marquis de Lafayette intends to imitate Washington and retire from public service as soon as the constitution is established. Perhaps he may believe this himself, but nothing is more common than to deceive ourselves. Sup at Madame de Laborde’s. The Comte de Luxembourg tells me that the opposition made in some districts to the recalling of the Gardes du Corps has prevented the execution of a plan. I do not ask him what it is, because I do not wish to know. He tells me that M. de Lafayette committed a great imprudence in telling him aloud, in the hearing of many persons, that he could not be charged with preventing it. I collect from this only that there is much latent animosity against him, and that while he is building his castle others are employed in mining the foundation.”
“This morning [November 19th], while the Comte d’Estaing is with me, I receive a note from M. Le Coulteux. He has been three hours yesterday with M. Necker and the Committee of Subsistence. He says that M. Necker will treat with me for wheat at six shillings, but I can obtain six shillings and sixpence, and that he has fixed an interview for me with Necker at seven this evening. He is obliged to go abroad, therefore desires me to consider of the means of execution, and call on him before I go to M. Necker’s. After a walk through the Champs Élysées, I go to the Palais Royal and dine with the Duchess of Orleans. Thence to the Louvre to get a ticket, which the Bishop was to procure for the Assemblée of to-morrow. Receive it, and go to M. Le Coulteux’s. Converse about the means of executing a contract, if any is made. He cannot furnish credit or money, etc. See M. Necker. He, I find, expects from me a pointed proposal, and tells me that M. Le Coulteux had named the quantity I would deliver, the price, and the terms. I tell him there is some misunderstanding, and take my leave.”
“This morning [November 20th] I rise early and go to the Assemblée. Stay there till four. A tedious session, from which I derived a violent headache. Mirabeau and Dupont are the two speakers on M. Necker’s plan who command the most attention, but neither of them, in my opinion, derives honor from the manner of treating it. Probably it will be adopted, and if so, it will be, I think, fatal to their finances, and completely derange them for some time to come. Sup at Madame de Staël’s; give her my opinion of the speeches of this morning, and show one or two things in which M. Dupont was mistaken. She does not like this, because he supported her father’s plan, which she declares to be necessary.”
“Dine to-day [November 24th] with the Prince de Broglio. The Comte de Ségur dines with us. A pleasant company. The Bishop is of the number. After dinner I give him some hints as to the objection made by many to the opposers of M. Necker’s plan, because they do not come forward with a better. Go from hence to M. Necker’s. The mayor and the Committee of Subsistence waiting to speak with him. Send in my name, and in consequence he comes out to the antechamber. I tell him that I cannot undertake to furnish him with wheat; that I must either ask for it an extravagant price or risk a loss; that I do not choose the first, and will not incur the second; that if he has any other plan for obtaining it, in which I can be useful, he may command me. He is a little disappointed at this intelligence. Leave him, and pay my respects to Madame Necker. Leave here and go to the Louvre. The insurgents in Brabant seem to be in a fair way to success. The Imperialists are in possession of Bruxelles only, and are besieged there. Madame de Flahaut, as becomes a faithful ally to the Emperor, quells all insurgency on my part. Shortly after M. de Thiard comes in. He gives us some account of what has passed in Brittany. Among other things, it happened that the municipalities quarrelled about subsistence, and the matter went so far as to use force on each side. Each in consequence gave orders to a regiment to march against the other, for in each a regiment happened to be quartered. Luckily, a compromise took place; but this is the first-fruits of the new constitution of armies and municipalities. There will be many others of the like kind, for, when mankind are resolved to disregard as vulgar prejudice every principle which has hitherto been established by experience for the government of man, endless inconsistencies must be expected. Sup here. Make tea for Madame de Laborde. Madame de Flahaut complains that she has not a handsome sugar-dish for her tea-equipage. This is by way of introduction to the story that she (who pretends to be very avaricious) would not accept of one as a present from me, and that Madame de Laborde, who pretends to be disinterested, accepted a handsome cup and saucer. In fact, the latter was done in consequence of her urgency. I insist that this conduct arises from pure malice, and write with my pencil the following:
This has been a fine day, clear but cold. The ice remained all day in the shade.”
“Go to see [November 26th] Madame de Bréhan and M. de Moustier, who are just returned from America. Converse with her a considerable time, always inquiring news of my country, and she desirous of obtaining the state of her own; natural on both sides, but of course much variegated. M. de Moustier has much to say about the American debt, and gives reason to believe that no bargain can be made for it. I call on the Maréchal de Ségur, who is ill with the gout. Some conversation about the proposed reduction of the pensions. I disapprove of it, and this disapprobation, which with me is sincere, suits very well with the ideas of the Maréchal, who is one of the most considerable pensioners. See De Moustier again tonight at Madame de La Suze’s. He is now well pleased with America and believes in her good disposition and resources; is charged with the request on her part that this Court will make no negotiation whatever for the debt, but will postpone the instalments for three years longer, and then the interest beginning with the next year shall be regularly provided for. I tell him that I think M. Necker’s plan of borrowing on it in Holland is liable to a great objection; viz., that the Dutch will not probably lend without being so authorized on the part of the United States as to have a claim upon them, because otherwise the Government of America might pay the amount to France, and refuse to pay anything to Dutch individuals. He says he has already spoken to the Comte de Montmorin on this subject, and to some members of the States-General; that he will speak also to M. Necker whenever he desires it. This will certainly interfere with our former plan, and oblige us either to change or to abandon it. After a long conversation with him, and much amity from him and the Marquise, I take my leave.
“See M. Laurent Le Coulteux and tell him the plan which has been digested, of offering for the debt to France as much of the French stocks as would produce the same interest. He is so pleased with it that he offers himself to be the negotiator, provided he can have sufficient security in Holland. This is vastly obliging. Agree to meet at Cantaleu’s this evening. Go to Van Staphorst’s. Tell him the objection brought by Moustier to the negotiation which M. Necker has proposed in Holland. He tells us a proposition made to him by Lafayette to act as spy for discovery of intrigues of the aristocratic party, by which, says Lafayette, a civil war may be prevented. We advise Van Staphorst to decline that honorable mission. Parker adds that it should be declined verbally, so as to leave no written trace of the negotiation. I leave them together and return home to dress. The Comte de Luxembourg comes in and tells me a great deal of news, which I forget as fast as I hear it. He has a world of projects, too, but I give him one general opinion upon the whole, that he and his friends had better take measures for influencing the next elections. This afternoon I see Cantaleu; he seems to think that De Moustier’s intelligence is fatal to our project. We have a great deal of useless talk; at length it ends with my desire to Cantaleu that he should find out the impression made by De Moustier, and my promise to talk to Necker on the subject.
“Dine at the Louvre with Madame de Flahaut. The Bishop and his intimate friend, the Duc de Biron, are of the party. The Bishop asks my opinion of the American debt. I tell him that I think well of it; it is a debt which ought to be paid. The Duc de Biron says that he thinks it will be paid, and I agree with him in opinion. I tell the Bishop that there is a proposition to be presented to M. Necker for liquidation of it with French effets bearing an equivalent interest. He thinks that the offer ought to be accepted. After dinner, visit the Comte de Montmorin; mention to him the proposition of paying the debt with effets. He desires money. He says that they have no doubt of receiving payment from the United States, but that they want now to receive money.”
“The Comte de Luxembourg comes [November 28th], and detains me along time for nothing. Tells me, however, that the party of the Nobles are determined to be quiet. This is the only wise conduct. A message from Madame Necker to dine with her; I presume that this is for the purpose of talking about a supply of wheat which I engaged for. Go to M. Necker’s, and am introduced into his cabinet. He broaches a conversation on the constitution. I declare my opinion that what they are now framing is good for nothing, and assign my reasons. He makes some inquiries respecting the American Constitution, which I reply to. Ask him about wheat and tell him the manner in which I would have executed a contract for it had I conceived, such contract prudent. I tell him that I shall lose by the contract for flour, but that nevertheless it shall be executed. Ask him how he stands as to his loan in Holland. He says he has some propositions. I tell him that I shall make him some which will be agreeable, perhaps, and then go into the salon, that he may read a long piece of writing just put into his hands. Madame de Staël comes in, who reproaches me for forsaking her; I apologize, and promise to sup next Wednesday. We have a good deal of random conversation. Dine, and after dinner tell M. Necker that a person from London gives me information respecting the debt which, added to other things, will enable me to make him a good offer when he has finished with other people. He says we will talk about it in his cabinet when I go away. We retire thither, and then I offer him as much of capital in their rentes perpétuelles as will make the interest of 1,600,000£ now payable by the United States. He thinks the proposition a good one, but says he must have half money. I tell him no, that is too much; he says the sacrifice of the interest is too great, and will expose the bargain to severe criticism. He seems to think that the report of Moustier is not of sufficient weight to prevent the prosecution of his plan in Holland. We finally part, he saying we must wait.”
“To-day [December 1st] I prepare a note to make M. Necker an offer for the debt, which I think he cannot refuse. Dine with M. Boutin;* pretty large company and a very good dinner—très recherché. I have a good deal of conversation with the Comte de Moustier. He is preparing a letter about the American debt, and shows me the heads of it. I tell him my plan, though not in detail, and he likes it because it tends to defeat the views of M. Duer and his associates, Clavière and Warville. I hear that Mr. Short is much pleased that I have determined to propose a plan, and will call on me to-morrow. The Marquis de Lafayette has spoken to Necker, and the latter has promised not to conclude any agreement without a previous communication to Mr. Short. Arrive very late at the Louvre. Communicate to the Bishop my plan for the debt, which I tell him I will show him, and which, if refused by M. Necker, may probably come before the Assembly. On Thursday evening we are to meet at Madame de Flahaut’s, to consider the discourse he will pronounce on Friday morning.”
“This morning [December 2d] Mr. Short calls and I show him the proposition I mean to make to M. Necker. He is much pleased with it. I tell him that if he approves of it I wish he would undertake to recommend it to the United States, as he must see that it will promote their interest. He tells me that his recommendation can have but little weight, as I must know, but that, if necessary, he will urge the adoption of it here. He presses me to make the proposition immediately. I tell him that I mean to show it to Lafayette, and for that purpose to dine with him. He likes this. He sets me down at Lafayette’s, who arrives sooner than usual from the Hôtel de Ville, and has but little company. I communicate my plan, which he also is pleased with. I then tell him something of the Bishop d’Autun’s plan. He tells me that the Bishop is to call upon him Friday evening. He says that Necker must be kept for the sake of his name.”
“Have much conversation to-day [December 3d] with various persons on speculations they propose in the debt. Dine at the Palais Royal at a restaurateur’s. Dr. Senf tells me that the affairs of Brabant are going on well, that the other Imperial provinces will soon join, that a declaration of independence will be the immediate consequence, and that a treaty with England and Prussia will speedily follow. This I believe, because it is probable. Take Madame de Flahaut to the Comédie Française. Return to the Louvre. The Bishop comes in, according to agreement. He asks my opinion whether or not to speak tomorrow in the Assemblée, and tells me the substance of what he means to say. I make some observations on the heads of his discourse. Advise him to speak, but confine himself as much as possible to the line of objections; add some reasons to be given to the Assemblée for not proposing a plan. Urge him to treat the Caisse d’Escompte with great tenderness; to blame the administrators as such for their imprudence in lending the Government more than their capital, but excuse them at the same time as citizens for their patriotism; treat the arrearage to them beyond the first loan of 70,000,000£ as a sacred debt, demanding preference of all others; criticise M. Necker’s plan very lightly if it is like to fall, but if he thinks it will be adopted, very severely; to deal much in predictions as to the fatal effects of paper money, the agiotage (stock-jobbing) which must ensue, and the prostration of morals arising from that cause; finally, the danger which must follow to the public, and the advantage to a future administrator who shall think proper to speculate in the paper or funds; that these observations become him as a clergyman and as a statesman, and they will be the more proper as his enemies charge him with sinister designs of this sort. He goes away to consider, as he says, whether he shall say anything. I urge again that, when he comes into the ministry, he will want the Caisse d’Escompte, and tell him at the same time to remove from the mind of Lafayette the idea that he is connected with the Duke of Orleans.”
“Go to M. de Montmorin’s [December 4th] and meet, according to appointment, the Comte de Moustier and Madame de Bréhan. Show him my proposition intended for M. Necker. He seems not fully to approve. I rather think that he withholds assent because he thinks it like to be very successful, but I may be deceived. At going away the Comte de Montmorin asks why I depart so soon. I tell him that I am going to M. Necker’s, etc.; that if he chooses I will communicate to him my proposition, not as a minister but as a friend. He asks to see it, examines it with attention, requires explanations, and finally approves it much, and offers to speak to M. Necker on the subject. I desire him not, lest M. Necker should think I have been deficient in respect. Go to M. Necker’s; he is gone to council. Converse with Madame in such a way as to please her. She asks me to dine to-morrow. I mention my prior engagement, but say I will come after dinner, as I wish to see M. Necker. She tells me I had better come to dinner. I will if I can. Go to the opera. After a while the Comte de Luxembourg comes into the loge. He has something to say of politics. I take Madame de Flahaut home. The Comte de Luxembourg comes in; he takes her aside and has a conversation, the purport whereof is to offer to the Bishop the support of the aristocratic faction. I doubt much his being authorized to make this offer. Leave them together, and go to Madame de Staël’s. Music here. She sings and does everything to impress the heart of the Comte de Ségur. Her lover, De Narbonne, is returned. Ségur assures me of his fidelity to his wife. I join heartily in praise of her, and truly assure him that I love her as much for her children as for her own sake, and she is certainly a very lovely woman. After supper De Narbonne tells us that he is authorized by Franche Comté to accuse the Comité des Recherches. This committee is very like what was called in the State of New York the Tory Committee, of which Duer was a leading member, a committee for detecting and defeating all conspiracies, etc. Thus it is that mankind in similar situations always adopt a correspondent conduct. I had some conversation before supper with the Comte de Ségur, who disapproves of the Bishop’s oration, and so, indeed, do most others. And they blame particularly those things which I had advised him to alter. He has something of the author about him. But the tender attachment to our literary productions is by no means suitable to a minister: to sacrifice great objects for the sake of small ones is an inverse ratio of moral proportion. Leave Madame de Staël’s early. Set down M. de Bonnet, who tells me that I am to succeed Mr. Jefferson. I tell him that if the place is offered it will be difficult for me not to accept, but that I wish it may not be offered.”
“This morning [December 5th], Mr. Parker calls and tells me that Necker will treat upon the terms I am to propose. He says that he is convinced, from the conversation he has had with Ternant, that Necker would not have been permitted to deal for the debt under par, and that therefore no agreement could have taken effect unless concluded privately. Go to Madame Necker’s to dine. Madame de Staël comes in, and at the instigation of her husband asks me to dine next Wednesday. At dinner we converse pretty freely of political subjects and, in consequence of an observation I make, Necker exclaims in English, ‘Ridiculous nation!’ He does not know that my servant understands English. After dinner in the salon I take him aside, to ask if he has considered my proposition. He tells me that a Colonel Ternant has a plan. I tell him that the one I now give is the same, that my last proposition was the utmost that the houses here would agree to, and therefore what I now offer is without their participation. He asks if we are prepared to lay down the French effets. I tell him no. He says he cannot listen to propositions which give him no solid security. I reply that no house in Europe is sufficient for so large a sum, and therefore security as such is nonsense, but that he shall run no risk, for he shall not part with the effets till he receives payment. He objects that he will still have no certainty of the payment, and wants to know how I shall make the operation. I tell him that it is by means of our connections in America and in Holland, that we can do the business better than he can, and therefore we can give him better terms than he can obtain from others. He insists that the proposition shall be supported by solid security before he will consider it; I tell him that this is not just, that there are two points for his consideration: First, whether the offer is good, and, secondly, whether he is sufficiently secured; that if the offer is not good, it is useless to talk of security, but if it be such as he ought to accept, then it will be proper to know what kind of responsibility will be sufficient. In the meantime it would render me ridiculous to ask security for performance of a bargain not made. To this he replies that if I once get his promise I shall make use of it as a ground to negotiate upon and go about knocking at the doors of different people. This is not a very delicate comparison. I reply in a tone of dissatisfaction, mingled perhaps with a little pride, that I shall knock at no doors but such as are already open to me. Our conversation is loud, he makes it so purposely, and at this point Madame de Staël, with the good-natured intention of avoiding ill-humor, desires me to send her father to sit next to her. I tell her, smiling, that it is a dangerous task to send away M. Necker, and those who tried it once had sufficient cause to repent it. This latter observation brings back good-humor, and he seems inclined to talk further with me, but I take no further notice of him, and, after chatting a little with different people, I take leave. Go to Parker’s and tell him what has passed, which of course disappoints him not a little. We consider of what is next to be done, and, after canvassing the matter a good deal, agree that we will sleep upon it, and give him time to cool.”
“This morning [December 6th] Mr. Parker comes and tells me that Colonel Ternant says Necker shall be forced to accept the proposition. He will meet me this day at the Comte de Montmorin’s at dinner. Go to Madame de Flahaut’s. We converse on affairs; the Bishop regrets much that he did not follow my advice. She censured severely last night his advisers, in the presence of M. de Suzeval, who is one of the principal ones. He acknowledged that he had done wrong, and regretted his weakness. The Comte de Luxembourg, who was to have been of her party for dinner, sends an apology, and we then agree that I shall stay and dine in order to converse with the Bishop about Laborde’s plan of finance. The Bishop arrives, and tells me what has passed on the subject. It appears that M. Laborde has behaved with meanness and treachery. The plan is Panchaut’s. It was delivered to Laborde by the Bishop to consider of the practicability in a pecuniary point of view, and with a declaration that he desired to obtain by that means a provision for Panchauts family, who are indigent. After many conferences, Laborde declared that the two hundred millions required could not be obtained. In consequence the Bishop made the declarations contained in his speech, and M. Laborde came forward the next day with his plan, which requires three hundred millions, and criticised what had been said by his friend. The plan seems to be very much like what I had thought of, and Madame de Flahaut, to whom I had given this morning a few outlines of my scheme, was astonished at the resemblance or, rather, at the identity. Consider some notes, etc., which the Bishop is about to add to his speech now in press. I then communicate to him my plan for the American debt. But first I ask whether a caisse d’escompte will be established, and whether the American debt will be transferred to it as a part of the fund. He tells me that he thinks both will be done. I tell him that I wish they may, and then state to him M. Necker’s conversation with me, and remark on the folly of asking from an individual adequate security to the amount of forty millions. He agrees with me entirely, and I think that M. Necker will sooner or later have reason to regret that he treated my offer with so much contempt. Immediately after dinner I go to M. de Montmorin’s. He is engaged in conversation with a gentleman who detains him until he is obliged to retire to his bureau. Go and sit with Madame de Corney some time, and explain the nature of my agreement for flour, as I find that De Corney had been informed of a contract I had made with the city and which does not exist. He might have supposed that I did not deal candidly with him. Go hence to Madame Dumolley’s. Some political conversation, with a degree of heat that is inconceivable among so polite a people. Thence to the Louvre, where I stay till near twelve. A large company. I tell the Bishop what has passed with De Cantaleu, for which he is much obliged to me.”
“To-day [December 8th], while I am calling on M. de Montmorin, who is trying to discover Necker’s reasons against the proposition, De Moustier comes in. He says that he has just delivered a letter to the porter on the subject of the American debt; that all negotiation upon it must be deferred. I think he has endeavored to throw cold water on my plan. Tell Colonel Ternant so, who says that he should equally oppose it in any other circumstances, but that the distresses of France form a sufficient reason now for the adoption.”
“On Wednesday at three I dine with Madame de Staël. After dinner M. Clermont-Tonnerre reads us a discourse he intends to deliver in the Assemblée. It is very eloquent and much admired. I make, however, one or two observations on the reasoning, which bring the company to an opinion adverse to his. He goes away mortified, and thus I think I have made an enemy. We shall see. Go to the Carrousel, and stay till twelve. The company is large and I employ the time in reading. The Comte de Luxembourg tells me that some persons meditate a massacre of the King, Queen, and Nobles. I tell him that I do not believe it.”
“To-day [December 12th], dine with the Duchess at the Palais Royal. Afterwards take Madame de Flahaut to the opera—’Didon,’ with the ‘Chercheuse d’esprit,’ a ballet. These form anything except rational amusement. M. Necker’s chief clerk, who was the other day at M. de Montmorin’s, assured M. de Montmorin that he thought my proposal for the debt such as the minister ought to adopt. A small company at the Louvre; we sup, and I leave them together at play. The Bishop d’Autun says the committee have been engaged all this evening with M. Necker in considering how one hundred and thirty millions of paper can be issued with the least inconveniency. The affairs are in a sad condition indeed, and I think they will not mend speedily.”
“After dinner to-day [December 13th], go to the Louvre and find my amiable friend in tears. She has been to see her religieuse, who is ill and suffering from a scorbutic complaint, and suffering from the neglect of her sister nuns also. She reproaches herself with not having been to pay her a visit for several days, by which means she was ignorant of her situation. She has given orders for a better treatment. I administer all the consolation in my power, and that consists first in sympathy, which is very sincere; then in attenuating the evil. I then take her to the opera, and leave her there.”
“At Madame de Chastellux’s to-day [December 14th], we have a large breakfast party, and the Abbé Delille reads or rather repeats to us some of his verses, which are fine and well delivered. Go to the Louvre. The Bishop is there; he mentions a plan for issuing billets d’État bearing interest. I show him the folly of such a measure. He says it is a plan of Montesquiou’s, to which I reply that, as none of the plans likely to be adopted are good they may as well take that of M. Necker, since otherwise they enable his friends to say that the mischief arises from not having followed his advice; that, besides, if paper money be issued, that of the Caisse is quite as good as any other. He says that by taking a bad step France may be ruined. I tell him that is impossible, and he may tranquillize himself about it; that whenever they resort to taxation credit will be restored, and, the credit once restored, it will be easy to put the affairs of the Caisse in order. Go to the Palais Royal, not having been able to leave Madame de Flahaut till four. I arrive when dinner is half over. After dinner the Abbé Delille entertains us with some further repetitions. Go to club, and thence to the Comte de Moustier’s. Sit a while with him, and Madame de Bréhan. Go together to Madame de Puisignieu’s. Spend the evening. Conversation chiefly with De Moustier. I find that, notwithstanding public professions as to the public proceedings of America, both De Moustier and Madame de Bréhan have a thorough dislike to the country and its inhabitants. The society of New York is not sociable, the provisions of America are not good, the climate is very damp, the wines are abominable, the people are excessively indolent.”
[*]M. Boutin, who had filled the offices of Collector General of the Revenue, Councillor of State, and Paymaster of the Navy, had made, at an enormous expense, a garden, which he called “Tivoli,” but for which the popular appellation was La Folie-Boutin. It was a ravishing garden, with surprises in the way of grottoes, shrubbery, and statues at every turn, and a pavilion furnished with princely luxury. In this bewildering place M. Boutin gave suppers no less sumptuous than the surroundings.