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CHAPTER XIV. - 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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Journey to Antwerp. Brussels. Reflections on the state of Flanders. Vanderhoot’s committee. Notes on the cathedral and galleries of Antwerp. Supper at M. Cornelison’s. Agreeable society of Antwerp. Notes during the journey to Amsterdam. Evening in Madame Bost’s salon. Political discussions. Force of the Dutch navy. Scene on the Merchants’ Exchange at Amsterdam. News from France of Necker’s resignation. The Hague. The churches at Delft. Crosses to England. Interview with the Duke of Leeds on the treaty and despatch of a minister to the United States. News from Paris. Pointed opposition to Necker. Visits Sir John Sinclair. Letter to Colonel Ternant. Meets Fox at dinner. Mrs. Jordan at Drury Lane Theatre. Warren Hastings’s trial. Criticism on Burke and Fox. Brilliant ball at Mrs. John B. Church’s.
Morris’s journey to Antwerp was not marked by any particular adventures. Rather uncomfortable inns, extortionate landlords, and lazy horses are the principal experiences he notes. “Through France,” he says, “I find that the decree of the Assembly respecting the monks was very much hazarded and is disagreeable to the people in general. The appearance of the houses and people in Flanders announces a milder government than that of the country we have quitted. Parts of the country abound in coal, and the pits are now worked to advantage by the aid of steam-engines. This article seems all which was wanted for the wealth of Flanders, and if in the present ferment they should (by being annexed to Holland or otherwise) get the Scheldt opened, it will be difficult to conjecture what will be the extent of their wealth.
“At Brussels I see in the Grande Place the Milice Bourgeoise. Valor may supply these people with something instead of discipline, but I am inclined to think that their fate must be decided by other force than that of this country. I learn that the popular party, joined to the nobility, begins to show itself here against the clergy, but the monks have the advantage in the villages.”
“At Malines,” says the diary for February 21st, “the people are disposed to subject themselves to the Stadtholder and form one country with Holland. They dislike the conduct of the States, at least so says an intelligent fellow of a waiter, and he seems as likely to understand the sentiments of his fellow-citizens as anybody. I ask him if the religion of the two countries will not form an obstacle. He says it is thought not, for that many of the Dutch begin to become converts to the Catholic faith, ‘which is not to be wondered at, because man cannot continue forever on this earth’.I express my joy at this happy circumstance and add my opinion that the Dutch believe in God; but this is expressed with an air of doubt which requires further information. ‘Yes, sir, they believe in God, but not in the Holy Virgin, and, besides, they eat flesh upon fast days; wherefore you see that they are in a very dangerous way.’ I acknowledge the force of this observation. At Antwerp I overtake M. Grand, who left Paris near three days before me; but by sundry accidents to his carriage he has been delayed for nearly that space of time. He departs to-morrow. Asks the news of Paris, and communicates what he has heard in his way. We converse a little on politics and I give him the result of my reflections on the state of this country, which is, that the true interest of Holland is that it should be a republic and, as such, a barrier against France. The Scheldt will then continue to be shut up for the benefit of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The interest of France is to possess this country, by which means she keeps all enemies at a most respectful distance, and the interest of this country is to become subject to Britain, for by that means only can they enjoy the benefit of an extensive commerce.
“M. Grand tells me [February 22d] that M. Necker wants the money which has been borrowed by the Dutch houses. After he leaves me I visit M. de Wolf, and we enter upon business immediately. Visit M. Van Ertborn and converse with him about the situation of the politics of this country. In the course of conversation he tells me that the people here have more capital than good use for it, but they are wary of speculations and loans, many affairs of that kind having turned out badly. They are generally of opinion here that France must make soon a bankruptcy. It is made long since. Dalton is dead, but it is yet a dispute whether by poison, pistol, or gout. Vanderhoot is of a committee called the Secret Committee. He is to be in town to-morrow. That committee, a kind of self-elected body, have, it is said, made some kind of treaty with foreign powers. I doubt that fact much. A young man who arrives from Brussels, and is in the patriot army, gives but a wretched account of the États-Généraux. Already there has been a riot at Brussels, in which they say one person lost his life. In consequence, Vanderhoot, as the representative of the Nation, has published a placard purporting that the States act only as representatives of the people, in whom the sovereignty resides.”
“Breakfast [February 27th] with M. Dubois. He gives me the French gazettes. The Marquis de Favras is, I find, condemned and executed. He died bravely, and I believe unjustly. But a sacrifice was, I suppose, deemed to be necessary. After breakfast we go to the cathedral, and there view the famous ‘Descent from the Cross,’ painted by Rubens. It is done with dreadful exactitude. Another fine picture in this church is the ‘Beatification of the Blessed Virgin,’ which appears to have been completed by Rubens in fifteen days, and to have been paid for at the rate of 100 florins per day. His receipt has been discovered for this picture charged in that way. From the cathedral instead of going, as we at first intended, to visit some galleries of paintings, we go to the house of M. Van Ertborn to see the triumphal entry of M. Vanderhoot. On this occasion the troops are all turned out under arms, and we have as fine a procession as the city can afford. It is, in fact, very splendid, and the hero of the day enters amid the repeated acclamations of his fellow - citizens. Van Eupon, the Secretary of the States, accompanies him, and is also one of the pillars of the Revolution.
“Go to dine with M. de Wolf. Mr. Westbrook and his lady are here, also a colonel in the British service, a German, whose object at Antwerp is to make a loan for the Prince of Wales and the Dukes of York and Clarence. Mr. Westbrook assures me that the revolution is to be attributed entirely to Vanderhoot. The colonel tells me that Yorktown in Virginia was taken by the French troops only, and that the Americans looked on at a distance. I hope, for the honor of Mr. Vanderhoot, that the one piece of information is more just than the other. I take the liberty to put the colonel right, which might as well perhaps have been let alone, but I could not resist the propensity. We have a very good fish dinner, for this is a maigre day. Go with M. Dubois to a concert. We are in the box of Madame with her sister, the Comtesse d’Otromonde, and their father, the Comte d’Aes, who informs me that news are arrived announcing with certainty the Emperor’s death. The Comte d’Otromonde and his lady repeat a very polite invitation to dine on Monday, as I could not be of their party this day, but I must depart for Amsterdam. After waiting about half an hour Vanderhoot comes in, and is received by loud acclamations, which are repeated at every interval during the concert. After he goes out they continue singing different songs to his honor in the French and Flemish languages. The former are more estimable for the sentiment than for the poetry, and the latter I do not understand. With my pencil I write on a card and give to the ladies my tribute of applause in English, which they do not understand, and are therefore at liberty to believe that it is excellent.
From the concert we take a turn in the coach of Madame Dubois through the town to see the illuminations, and then go to supper at M. Cornelison’s, who married the sister of M. Dubois. The burgundy here is transcendently good, but though of generous quality and generously bestowed, I feel not the desire to pour out large libations. After supper the conversation turns on the politics and revolution of this country. The master of the house, who seems to be much indisposed to the authority assumed by the States, and is not perhaps a very great friend to the revolution, gives us a history of it in his way; and as some dispute arises, I am able to collect from the whole conversation that a much greater portion of the success is to be attributed to the misconduct of the Austrian troops than to the vigor of the patriots either in body or mind. And it seems also to be pretty clear that the members of the States are of that species which is called good sort of men; and, indeed, if I might judge from Vanderhoot’s countenance, he, also, is rather distinguishable for bonhomie than for talents. Those who are called the Tiers État are representatives rather of the sovereign than of the people, from the manner in which the elections are made; and as the nobles are hereditary, and the clergy are more properly a profession than a political order, it must be confessed that such an assemblage (originally possessed by their constitution of a share of the legislative authority, and now by their own assumption possessed of the remainder, and of the whole executive authority) does not seem likely to render the condition of the people very agreeable should this form of government be finally established. But I cannot but think it more prudent to secure the country first against the late sovereign, and afterwards, when the revolution is completed, put their internal affairs in order.
“The English nation seems to be more agreeable to the inhabitants of this country than either the Dutch or French. I do not exactly see the reason of this, nor do I recollect anything in their history which should have given rise to this preference. The shutting up of the Scheldt seems naturally enough to account for a rooted dislike of the Dutch, and perhaps they are too near neighbors for the French to be very much attached to them, for among nations as with individuals near neighbors are seldom good friends.”
“After dining to-day [February 28th] with M. de Wolf we behold the procession of M. Vanderhoot, who is about to depart, and who is escorted from the city with as much pomp as was yesterday displayed to receive him. Later in the evening M. Dubois takes me to his brother’s to sup. After supper the conversation is accidentally turned to religion, and a gentleman present observes that in all countries there is an established religion. I assure him that there is none in America. We are led too far on this head, for this country is too ignorant as yet to understand the true principles of human policy with respect to religion, and too bigoted, so that truths almost universally acknowledged appear almost like atheism. At least such is my conjecture, from the countenances of the company, when I tell them that God is sufficiently powerful to do his own business without human aid, and that man should confine his care to the actions of his fellow-creatures, leaving to that Being to influence the thoughts as he may think proper.”
March 1st, Morris left Antwerp and proceeded to Amsterdam. “My short residence in this city,” he says, “has attached me to the society I was in, so that I leave it with regret.” The business which occasioned his visit was not without result, for he and De Wolf “agreed as to ways and means of operating hereafter in the American debt.” On his way he observes that “the whole country on the right is laid waste, and the greater part is under water. The appearance as we approach is terrible, for it looks like a wide ocean which we are to cross on a strip of land. The fact, I find, is that the dyke was broken down by the river, and the torrent swept away everything. It appears to have been done a year or two ago, and is at present repaired, but this is only a specimen of the state which seems to threaten, though perhaps at a very remote period, this extraordinary country. A great part of it is very much below the level of the water, and therefore the smallest perforation of the bank would let in the inundation at any time. The texture of these dykes also appears to me to be nothing more than the common earth thrown up. If so, a cargo of musk-rats would do them more serious mischief than an hundred thousand men, provided that animal could exist in this climate, and I see no reason why it should not. After we leave this theatre of destruction we go along a very considerable distance with the Haarlem Meer (a very large lake communicating near to the city of Amsterdam with the ocean). On our left and on our right the turf grounds are under water, the road too narrow to admit of more than one carriage for a great part of the way, and the Haarlem Meer (perhaps swelled by the tide) is nearly on a level with us. This is as dreary and disagreeable a ride as can be wished. At a little before four we are set down at the ‘Arms of Amsterdam,’ so that we have been nine hours on the road.”
“Go to see M. Hope on business of the American debt [March 4th]. The envoy from Prussia to Portugal comes in. At dinner the conversation turns a little upon the state of Europe, and the envoy seems to think that the Archduke will be chosen Emperor if he will make the needful sacrifices, one of which (and, indeed, the principal one) is to give up the alliance with the Empress of Russia and make peace with the Turk. He seems to suppose that he may by this means recover the possession of Flanders. Go hence to Madame Bost’s. A very general company and excellent music. The salon is very handsome, and decorated with valuable pictures by the greatest masters. French politics are immediately broached, and I find that they are of the Orange party, consequently glad to see the miseries which the Revolution has brought upon France. I endeavor to show that the state of things in France was such as to necessitate a change of some sort, and although they have, as is natural, gone into an extreme, yet there is reason to hope that, seeing their error, they will return. Insensibly we come toward Holland, and in reply to an observation of Madame I observe that this country appears to me in a situation as precarious as any other in Europe; that they cannot long continue what they now are, but must descend of necessity by the weight of irresistible circumstances. This calls out M. Bost (a man of sense and information), and in the spirit of argument he communicates useful facts, which are nevertheless in confirmation of the opinion he combats. I tell him that the individual wealth of the country resulting from the accumulated interest of money lent is fatal to the public wealth; that it has from natural causes banished manufactures, and that their agriculture, circumscribed within narrow bounds, cannot bear any further impositions; consequently the revenue cannot be increased. And as their commerce, though positively greater than in the last century, is comparatively much less, that source of public wealth is drying up the competition of people whose natural position gives them advantages. For the commerce here, being that of an intermediary between other nations, renders a profit only to the merchant without adding anything to the general mass. M. Bost in reply to this says that the wealth depending on manufactures is not only precarious but a felo de se, and necessarily destructive of itself, because it must so raise the price of labor as to give to other countries an advantageous competition. He is mistaken, but I think it best to let him enjoy his mistake. Besides, it is time to go to the concert.
“We have very good music. I ask an officer of the navy the state of their army and navy. He tells me they have fifty ships of the line and as many frigates; their army consists of 3,000 infantry and 2,000 artillery, and as many cavalry. These last are some of the finest in Europe. I ask Mr. Bost how much the tax of the twenty-fifth penny yielded here. He tells me that it produced in the province of Holland eighty millions of guelders.”
“The news from France to-day [March 6th] is that M. Necker is to go to the Assemblée and propose a plan of finance which will put everything to rights, and this they seem to be convinced of. La Chaise had told me last evening that things were going on very badly in their finances, and that M. Necker has the jaundice; thus the same post brings very different accounts of the same thing.”
“Go to the exchange [March 10th], which is a very curious scene. Jan Willinks takes me upstairs to a window to show it more fully. A general meeting, this, of the representatives of the earth. Each merchant has his stand, and the brokers, who are as busy as it is possible for men to be, keep constantly applying to them on one subject or another. Go to the French Theatre, and sit in the Burgomaster’s box immediately behind Madame Bost and Madame Hasselaer. I find that this latter was acquainted at Spa with my brother, General Morris. She says that his wife is a very amiable woman. Learn the news from France, which is that Necker has announced that he must retire, and proposes to stop payment for a year, also to issue paper money (at least, so says the abstract of his speech). These wild measures must ruin the exchange and stocks.”
“Dine [March 13th] with W. Willinks (en famille). Our company consists of his children, with their private tutors and a professor, who is, he says, a very learned man; also a student under that professor. By this means we are ten at table, and Madame places me in an arm-chair at the end of it. She sits on my right, and Monsieur on my left. Two dishes of cod, one at each end, some potatoes in the middle, the cod’s liver boiled in one sauce-boat and butter boiled in the other, form the first course. With the aid of some mustard, I take in a sufficient quantity of the fish to be covered against contingencies. When this service is removed, the potatoes are replaced by a piece of boiled beef, and the dish of fish next me is in like manner replaced by two miserable chickens, or rather fowls, whose sharp breast-bones complain of the fire by which the little juice they once might boast of has been dried away. A watery sauce which surrounds them can but ill supply the defect of nature and the waste of art. A flat pudding at the other end, and four plates of greasy vegetables at the corners, make up this second course. The dessert is a little better as to quantity, but the quality shows that the principles of a rigid economy have been duly attended to. The wines, however, might give that indigestion against which the due precautions have been taken in the dinner, but from a similar cause, there is little danger of excess. Some insipid Cape Madeira figures in the dessert, with some sweet wine which is called White Cape. The conversation is like the feast, and turns upon business. I have but little reason to be satisfied with it; however, time and chance produce strange revolutions on this globe. We shall see.”
“To-day [March 16th] we embark in M. Willinks’s yacht for Saardam. It is a flat-bottomed vessel, with leeboards, and is broader in proportion to the length than a periauger. It is rigged sloop-fashion. At Saardam I am made to remark the old-fashioned dress, and am struck with what is not pointed out; viz., the manner of arranging the hair as I have seen it in old pictures of the time of Louis ⅪⅤ., in little ringlets on the forehead. A girl of about fifteen, with auburn locks in that style, a clear complexion, and rosy cheeks, looks like one of the woodland nymphs of ancient poesy. Another thing pointed out to me is, I believe, peculiar to this part of the world—a mortuary door, which is never opened but to take away a corpse.”
“I hear [March 19th] that the Committee of Finance have made severe strictures on Necker’s plan, and reprobated in particular the idea of a board of commissioners of the treasury, chosen from out of the Assemblée. They recommend also a paper money, bearing interest, which they think will not depreciate, and in this I think they are very much mistaken. Time only can show the worth of that measure. The exchange in the meantime, and the effets royaux, continue to fall. I go to the older Madame Capadoces, but the young ladies of the family are here. Madame Caton receives well my advances. Madame Sara seems to have more understanding than her sister-in-law. She is equally beautiful, though in a different style, and has an air moins lubrique, but her eyes speak the language of that sentiment which warms and melts the heart. No pulse but the beat of delight, no sound but the murmur of joy. Heaven knoweth best, ye fair daughters of Sion, if ever it will be my lot to behold you again. All which I can do is to raise some gentle prepossessions not unfavorable to future efforts, should chance again place me within that circle where you fill so bright a space. I find that my adorations are not illy received by the fair Sara, and that the delicious Caton is less pleased than she expected at those worshippings. Tant mieux. We retire after one o’clock, which is not the way to preserve health, I believe.”
Morris left Amsterdam on the 22d, with assurances from Mr. John Willinks that if it were possible they would effect his object in regard to the debt question. The Hague was the next stopping-place, and the following morning, immediately after breakfast, he went to Scheveningen, then “a little fishing-village” merely. “The road is straight, level, and paved with brick. We go directly through the dunes or sand-hills, which, viewed in their extent northward along the coast, have somewhat the shape and appearance of a troubled sea. A small ascent from Scheveningen of five or six feet presents to my view the German ocean. Three fishing-vessels lie on the beach. Their leeboards are made of one plank only, and are long; the vessels short, and by no means clean-built. They are not quite flat-bottomed, but nearly so. My guide tells me that they have a great commerce for fish. At present they are packing up skate for Brabant. Returning, we go to the prince’s cabinet of paintings. There are here several very good pieces—and some indifferent; a ‘Venus’ and an ‘Eve,’ both by Rubens. Dine, and depart for Rotterdam. Stop at Delft and visit two churches. In the one are the monuments of Van Tromp and another admiral; in the other church is the monument of the great Nassau, first Stadtholder, murdered in this city by a person whom the Spanish had hired for the purpose. At the feet of the hero is represented his faithful dog, who, when his master was slain, would neither eat nor drink, and so perished in affectionate and sorrowful attendance. Poor, worthy creature! In this church is also the monument of Grotius. Over the Stadtholder are represented two weeping Cupids, but nothing can be more ludicrous than their grimaces. From hence we proceed to Rotterdam, and arrive at half-past six, having been but three hours. Mr. Gregory, I find, has engaged a packet, and the next morning [March 24th] we take a wagon and cross over to Helvoetsluys. The weather is very warm, the violets are in full bloom, and I pick up on a slope of the works which faces the sun a mushroom very large, but too old to be eaten. We disappoint our host in not dining with him, and in taking one bottle only of his wine for our sea-stores. Set sail with a wind directly ahead and the tide almost done, consequently with but little prospect of getting to sea this evening. At low-water it falls calm, and we cast anchor about two leagues below Helvoet. Captain Bridges seems to be a good-natured, honest fellow; his mate, with a sour though not sober countenance, looks ineffable contempt at the passengers; I suppose, because they are not seamen. A fine evening closes this day.”
Fifty hours after sailing Morris was landed safely at Harwich on Saturday, March 27th, whence he proceeded immediately to London. “The season here,” he says, “is very far advanced. The primroses, the violets, and many fruit-trees are in full bloom. The rape-seed, also, is in blossom. Arrive at five o’clock at Froome’s Hotel, Covent Garden. Go to bed at ten o’clock, and am but just fairly nestled there, when my brother, General Morris, arrives. My sister is also at the door, but does not come in. The object was to take me home to supper. Am to breakfast with them at ten to-morrow.”
“This morning [March 28th], at ten, I go to General Morris’s. A very sisterly reception from his lady. Stay and chat till near twelve, then visit the Marquis de la Luzerne, ambassador from France. He tells me the news from Paris, and in reply to my question of who is to replace Necker, he says that the story of his going away is all fabricated by Calonne. I tell him that I am persuaded that he will quit, and that I do not consider it as a misfortune. I find, however, that he is much an advocate of M. Necker and his measures. This is extraordinary, for he has, I think, good sense enough to see the faults which have been committed. Call on the Duke of Leeds, who is not at home; leave a card and tell the porter I will write a note. Go to the Duc de Luxembourg’s; admitted with difficulty; his son receives the letter with which I am charged by his brother, the Duke being in bed. Return home; write a note to the Duke of Leeds, asking to know the time when it will be most convenient for his grace to receive certain communications which Mr. Morris is desired to make in a semi-official capacity to His Majesty’s ministers by the President of the United States of America. Go to the French ambassador’s to dinner. The Vicomtesse says she has a great deal to say about the affairs of France when she sees me with less company. Return home, and find a note from the Duke of Leeds, giving me a rendez-vous for to-morrow at half-past two. I told the Marquis de la Luzerne this morning that I was directed to call on the ministry here for a performance of the treaty, and enjoined him to secrecy. (He told it everywhere.) I think it prudent to be in a situation to say always to the French Court that every step taken by us has been with their privity.”
“Monday [March 29th], at the appointed hour I go to Whitehall, and communicate to the Duke of Leeds* Washington’s letter to me. He expresses himself with some warmth of approbation. ‘I am very happy, Mr. Morris, to see this letter, and under the President’s own hand. I assure you it is very much my wish to cultivate a friendly and commercial intercourse between the two countries, and more, and I can answer for the rest of His Majesty’s servants that they are of the same opinion.’ ‘I am very happy, my Lord, to find that such sentiments prevail, for we are too near neighbors not to be either very good friends or very dangerous enemies.’ After more professions from him I mention the points of the treaty which remain to be performed, and observe that, by the Constitution of the United States, which he has certainly read, all obstacles to the recovery of British debts are removed, and that if any doubt could have remained it is now obviated by the organization of a Federal court which has cognizance of all causes arising under the treaty. He is very happy to receive this information. I then mention that I believe there are two points which remain to be fulfilled on their part: viz., as to the Posts and compensation for negroes taken away; that perhaps, as to the first, they may have sent out orders since the President’s letter was written. He does not exactly know the situation. As to the last, he had long wished that something had been done, but something or another had always interfered. He changed the conversation, which I bring back, and which he changes again. It is evident, therefore, that he is at present confined to general assurances. I tell him that there was a little circumstance which operated very disagreeably in America. He interrupts me: ‘I know what you are going to speak about, our not sending out a minister. I wished to send you one, but then I wished to have a man every way equal to the task, a man of abilities, and one agreeable to the people of America, but it was difficult; it is a great way off.’ ‘My Lord, you cannot want men well qualified, and I am certain that there are many who will be glad to accept it.’ He again changes the conversation. I therefore observe that he will probably choose to consider this matter a little, and to examine the American Constitution, the treaty of peace, etc. He says that he should. I tell him that I shall be glad to receive his answer as speedily as may be. He promises despatch. In the course of the conversation he mentioned a letter he had written to Mr. Adams, in which he expressed the opinion that the performance of the treaty should be article by article, as they stood in order. I reply that my private opinion had always been that it would be proper for us to execute the treaty fully on our part, and then call for execution by them, for that if each were to delay until the other should act, all treaties would be illusory. He agreed in the propriety of the observation. I left [Washington’s] letter with him, which he is to have copied and returned.”
“Mr. Church engages me to dine with him on Friday [March 30th], en famille. He goes to find Charles Fox and ask him to meet me.”
The following sprightly society letter Morris despatched to Mr. Short at Paris, to be by him shown to the disconsolate fair ones he had left behind, and who complained of his silence. “Place me before them gracefully,” he wrote, “and assure them that they can at least own that it is only in my absence that such complaints can have any foundation. But truth is that I did not like to write through Flanders, because the government are by no means deficient in curiosity and not over-delicate in the means of satisfying it. I hereby authorize you, however, to say for me all which I ought to say and to do all which I ought to do. I would deputize you to the handling of Madame de C—’s tea-pot, but, since everything now goes by election, I cannot hazard such encroachment upon the droits de l’homme. Be persuaded, however, of my perfectly good wishes that you may be found worthy to fill the department. You will lay me at the feet of her R. H. Happy position! there to kneel and there adore. Assure her of my lowliest worshippings. To the charming Comtesse de S—, try to say what I have often felt but could never express. In Madame d’H—det—t’s circle, give every assurance which may be proper; I hold myself bound in honor not to belie you. Madame de Lab— will, I hope, always believe in my respectful admiration. You will see then Madame de F—, to whom present my remembrances. Supply on every occasion my omissions, and command me under similar circumstances. I will obey as well as I can.”
“The French ambassador tells me the news from Paris to-day [April 1st] at dinner. Things are going on badly. The Assembly have reiterated to the King their refusal to comply with his wish to choose a treasury board out of their body. The pointed opposition to M. Necker becomes now manifest. He seems much affected by the situation of things, and tells me that within the last six months they have done much evil, in which sentiment I cordially agree. The Duchesse de Biron is here and Madame de Boufflers, to which last I present remembrances from the Maréchal de Ségur, but I believe I have mistaken the person who gave me that commission.”
“Visit Sir John Sinclair [April 4th], from whom I received a note last evening requesting it. Various conversation. Just before I come away I ask him whether they have made any alteration in their American trade bill and intercourse bill. He says they have not. I ask what are their intentions on that subject. He says they are of opinion that trade can best regulate itself. I smile, and tell him that I am very much of the same opinion, but that consistently with it we should abstain from all restrictions.”
Almost as a Frenchman Morris mourned over the condition of France, as he saw how feeble her men were, how little fitted for the task suddenly imposed upon them. In the following letters to Colonel Ternant and Mr. Short, who were both in Paris, he expresses his feelings very forcibly. “The present moment,” he wrote to Colonel Ternant, “teems with great events. Would to God that, in a certain city which you have sometimes seen, there were great men established to meet with proper dignity the greatness of those incidents which will be hourly produced.” And later, writing to Mr. Short, he says: “I have very little doubt in my mind either as to the progress or event of things in France. Early in July I formed eventual opinions, and events in August and early in September rendered them absolute. Hitherto facts have shown them to be just. If the two hundred millions given to the municipality of Paris were what they are supposed to be, value, the consequences you fear might take effect, but they are among those things whose ultimate basis resolves itself into opinion, and opinion cannot be restored until they shall have undone much of what they have done, and done many things of different complexion. Among those who are now at the helm there is neither the mind to conceive, the heart to dare, nor the hand to execute such things. They will therefore continue to pile up system upon system, without advancing one inch. The dreadful primeval curse is repeated upon them all. Paper thou art, and unto paper shalt thou return. I deeply bemoan these things, for I love France sincerely. … It was not from what I found in Amsterdam that I was deterred from pursuing the propositions to M. Necker, but the conviction that his expectations have been so raised as to shut his ears to anything which could with safety be proposed, and I have not enough of the knight-errant in my composition to go beyond that line.”
“If I am not mistaken,” the diary continues, “it will be proper to be intimate at the French ambassador’s, to a certain point. At dinner to-day we have a long conversation on the state of French politics. He tells me that he thinks Lafayette and M. Necker ought to coalesce, as the only means of saving France. I tell him that his idea may be good, but I am sure it will not take effect. He asks if Mr. Jefferson was not much consulted in the beginning of the Revolution. I tell him that I believe he was, and fear that his ideas were in many respects too democratical. He speaks of Jefferson with much contempt as a statesman and as one who is better formed for the interior of Virginia than to influence the operations of a great people. I own that I am rather surprised at this sentiment, because Mr. Jefferson has in general excited favorable ideas of his intellectual faculties. Go from hence to Mrs. Low’s rout; a number of Americans there. Among the guests is Mrs. Mallet, who still looks toward triumph, and has a less unnatural manner than she had about fifteen years ago. She seems not unwilling to extend her dominion, but this will not do for me.”
“A pretty numerous company at Sir John Sinclair’s to-day [April 9th] at dinner—chiefly literati, I believe. A Mr. Irwin of the customs, a statesman, is, I find, decidedly opposed to America, and he is, if an enemy, a dangerous one, because he can always produce just such matter as he pleases. At present his hobby-horse is to force the people of this island, even by starvation, to raise as much corn as they want. I foolishly enter into a little argument with him on that subject; ‘twould have been better to let him enjoy his opinions, and to inculcate them. What I say turns upon the point that the labor applied to husbandry cannot so certainly insure its object as that employed upon manufactures. The favorable or unfavorable season will decide on the harvest, in spite of all human endeavors.”
“Mr. R. Penn tells me [April 11th] that he thinks it probable I shall be appointed minister to this Court. I tell him that if I express an opinion, it will be not to appoint a minister. He expresses his surprise at this sentiment, which I justify on the ground that their present rulers do not wish to form a connection with America. Go from hence to Mr. Church’s. They are just got back; he is from Newmarket, where he has lost money. I promise to meet Charles Fox at dinner on Saturday. Visit Lady Tancred. She seems more indebted for her beauties to art than I had imagined at the first view. I learn that she is sister to my old friend General Montgomery.”
“General Morris calls on me this morning [April 16th] to inform me of a mechanic who can make wooden legs very well. I desire that he may call on me to-morrow. At half-past two Mr. Penn calls, and dines. We then go down to the House of Commons. He endeavors to procure admission for me under the galleries as a foreigner, which the speaker refuses, because I have not been presented at Court. Madame de la Luzerne showed me this evening a letter from her mother, or mother-in-law, mentioning that M. Necker was to be denounced to the National Assembly, and that both parties are violent against him. She tells me also that Lafayette is opposed to him. This I knew before, but appeared not to know it, and even endeavored to account for it on a supposition that they may have differed lately about the taking of a board of treasury out of the National Assembly. My friend the Marquis de la Luzerne is violently opposed, I find, to the Assembly, but in favor of M. Necker. Return home between twelve and one, and sit some time reading the livre rouge which M. Barthélemi gave me the perusal of this afternoon.”
“This morning [April 17th] after breakfast a mechanic arrives who is to make a leg. Upon examination of the stump he says that I shall be able to take the benefit of the knee-joint. If this be so it will certainly be an improvement, but he acknowledges that the machinery will be less solid than the simple stick which I now use.” Morris met Charles James Fox at dinner this evening at Mr. Church’s. “Mr. Fox,” he says, “does not arrive till seven. He has been detained by the Duke of York. We sat pretty late after dinner, and I observe that Mr. Fox scrutinizes me closely to see what I am. I give him all opportunity for that purpose. His manners are simple. He speaks lightly of Chatham, who, says he, was a fortunate man, and that the successes in the war were to be attributed to a measure of his father’s, which was the capture of the French ships and seamen before the Declaration; I observe that it was also to be attributed to the great force sent out to America by Lord Chatham. In the course of conversation I ask him what system the present administration have with respect to America. He says that he thinks they have not as yet adopted any; that he does not imagine Mr. Pitt will take any trouble about the matter, but will leave it to Lord Hawkesbury and Mr. Grenville, who are both of them indisposed to us, whereas Pitt himself is rather friendly than otherwise. I ask him the character of the Duke of Leeds. He speaks of him contemptuously, but says he takes upon himself a little lately. He says that he and Burke are now almost alone in their opinion that we should be permitted to trade in our own bottoms to their islands; that this opinion loses ground daily, though for his part he persists in it. I tell him that it is a solid principle of policy, for that our position renders the islands so materially dependent on us that they should make it our interest to keep them in possession; that further, if we choose to lay them under disadvantages in our ports, we can materially injure their navigation, whereas the admission of our vessels into their islands can do them no harm in that respect. All this is true, but I suspect that we shall be obliged in America to give them the conviction of their senses.”
“This morning [April 20th] I go immediately after breakfast to a leg-maker and have my right leg taken in plaster of Paris, as a model by which to make the left leg of copper. By the awkwardness of the workman I am long detained, and obliged to have a second copy made; in fact, he has not one needful thing, which is a box for taking the model by. Get a model made of the stump also, so as to prevent the necessity of frequent sittings to have the cushions fitted. I am detained under these operations until after four o’clock. Dress, and go to the French ambassador’s to dine. A young gentleman is there who I have often seen at the Baron de Besenval’s. He is just arrived; he came in company with Mr. Crosby. That circle are all in good health. I find that the debates have been very outrageous in Paris, and things seem to be verging fast towards change.”
“To-day [April 23d] I dine with my brother, General Morris. The company are a Lady Cundliffe, with her daughters, Mrs. Drummond Smith and Miss Cundliffe; the Marquis of Huntly, Lord Eglinton, General Murry, Mr. Drummond Smith (who, they tell me, is one of the richest commoners in England), and Colonel Morrison of the Guards. After dinner there is a great deal of company collected in the drawing-room, to some of whom I am presented; the Ladies Hays, who are very handsome, Lady Tancred and her sister, and Miss Byron are here, Mr. and Mrs. Montresor. I am particularly presented to Colonel Morrison, who is the quartermaster-general of this kingdom, and whose daughter also is here. She has a fine, expressive countenance, and is, they tell me, of such a romantic turn of mind as to have refused many good offers of marriage because she did not like the men. I have some little conversation with Mrs. Smith after dinner. She appears to have good dispositions for making a friendly connection, as far as one may venture to judge by the glance of the eye. Visit Mrs. Cosway, and find here Lady Townsend, with her daughter-in-law and daughter. The conversation here (as, indeed, everywhere else) turns on the man (or rather monster) who for several days past has amused himself with cutting and wounding women in the streets. One unhappy victim of his inhuman rage is dead. Go from hence to Drury Lane Theatre. The pieces we went to see were not acted, but instead, ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Spoiled Child.’ This last is said to have been written by Mrs. Jordan. She plays excellently in it, and so, indeed, she does in the principal piece.”
“Two tickets have been given me for the trial of Warren Hastings. Call upon La Caze [April 29th], and take him with me. We wait till past two before the Lords come down, and then, after a decision against the managers upon a former question, much time is consumed in complaint against that decision. A witness being then called up and a question proposed to him, an objection is raised by the counsel as being within the decision just delivered. A long argument on this subject from the managers, which the counsel very properly reply to by their silence, and, the opinion of the Lords being clear, the question is given up without a formal declaration of that opinion. Shortly after, another question is proposed to the witness, which is objected to, and hereupon arises a serious argument. The speakers this day are Burke and Fox. The former has quickness and genius, but he is vague, loose, desultory, and confused. Mr. Fox has not the needful self-possession to make a great speaker. He is obliged to abstract himself so much in pursuit of the matter that he is extremely deficient in manner. He is a slovenly speaker, but he is acute and discerns well. He does not sufficiently convey to others the distinctions which he feels; his mind appears like a clouded sun, and this I believe results from the life he leads. Temperance, application, and the possession of competence with moderation to enjoy it, would render him very great, if unhappily his faculties be not at that point when a continuation of former habits becomes necessary to keep them alive. Go to my lodgings and dress, read my letters, and then (but with no proper emotions for that scene) go to Mrs. Church’s ball. Things here are really magnificent and well conducted. The royal brothers and Mrs. Fitzherbert are among the guests. The Duke of Orleans also is here, with whom I exchange a few words, and converse a good deal with his two brothers, just arrived from Paris. See Mrs. Damer and several other people whom I had before seen. On the whole, the manner of these persons is very well, considering the haughty coldness of the nation and that I am an American. Stay till after three, and then take Mr. Low home. When I get home it is broad daylight.”
[*]In October, 1789, Washington wrote to Morris, and desired him, in “the capacity of private agent and on the authority and credit of this letter, to converse with His Britannic Majesty’s ministers on these points; viz., whether there be any, and what objections to performing those articles in the treaty which remain to be performed on his part, and whether they incline to a treaty of commerce with the United States on any, and what terms?” The office of Secretary of State being at this time unfilled, Washington, to avoid delays, made this communication under his own hand. This letter is the one referred to in Morris’s interview with the Duke of Leeds;