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CHAPTER XVI. - 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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Various undertakings in Europe. Dulness of card-playing in England. Washington approves of Morris’s communications with the ministers. Letter to Washington on French affairs. Interview with the Duke of Leeds. Continental tour before returning to Paris. Civilities from persons to whom he had letters. Difficulties of travel in 1790. Uncomfortable inns and bad roads. Interview with Baron de Dolberg. Paris again. Flatteringly received by the Comte de Montmorin. Morris presents a dog to the Duchess of Orleans. The Duc de Castries’s hotel pillaged. M. de Flahaut wishes to go to America as minister. The play of “Brutus.” Much excitement in the theatre. Dines with the Garde des Sceaux. Apprehends a plot of the Emperor for liberating the Queen and restoring the former government. Criticises the new constitution. Gives his opinion of the condition of affairs to Lafayette. The last months of 1790.
During the year and a half that Morris had been in Europe he had unremittingly labored in behalf of his friend Robert Morris, but the delays and difficulties that beset him were unending. A querulous and quite uncalled for letter from Robert Morris drew from him a list of his various undertakings. In all, they numbered twelve separate and distinct enterprises. “Indian voyages, the liquidated debt, debts to Spain and France of the United States, the Fairfax estates, the sale of land in America,” so he enumerated them; “and last, but much the most difficult task of all, your various debts and engagements. Here I have had to perform the task of the Israelites in Egypt—to make bricks without straw.” Besides all his other responsibilities, he had his farm at Morrisania to think of, for it was at this time more of an expense and care than anything else.
“This evening [August 14th], about nine, I visit the Duchess of Gordon. Presently Lady Chatham comes in, and then the rest of the company. Colonel Lenox and his Lady are here. She is a finer woman than is imagined—quick feelings, I think, and tenderness, which will by and by meet some object more likely to command the heart than the colonel, who seems to be a good-tempered fellow. He speaks to me of my brother with much regard. Dull drudging at cards, which I refuse to partake of. Stay to supper, which, also, I do not partake of, nor, indeed, of the conversation, which turns chiefly on who is and who is not a fine woman. A Mr. Elliot who is here is a very genteel, fashionable kind of man, much beyond the usual English style. I think he must be a Scotchman, although his dialect is pure. Return home at two, well convinced that I shall never do for the tonish circles here, for I will not play, and, indeed, cannot spare time in the morning for such late hours.”
Morris constantly spoke of himself as not a cautious man, but rather as one who must speak out the convictions that were in him; but he was at the same time lenient with those whose opinions differed from his, and his common sense always came out, as such a letter as the following to Mr. Short testifies: “It is perfectly natural,” he wrote, “that your opinions should differ from mine. It will be very long before political subjects will be reduced to geometric certitude. At present the reasoning on them is a kind of arithmetic of infinity, when the best information, the coolest head, and clearest mind can only approach the truth. A cautious man should therefore give only sibylline predictions, if, indeed, he should hazard any. But I am not a cautious man. I therefore give it as my opinion that they will issue the paper currency, and substitute thereby depreciation in the place of bankruptcy, or, rather, suspension. Apropos of this currency, this papier terré, now mort et enterré, the Assembly have committed many blunders which are not to be wondered at. They have taken genius instead of reason for their guide, adopted experiment instead of experience, and wander in the dark because they prefer lightning to light. You are very merry on the subject of personal liberty, but the district has more to say than many are aware of. Is it not written in the ‘Droits de l’homme’ that liberty is an inalienable property of man inseparable from the human character? and if this be so, what better way of securing personal liberty than to secure the person? You wits may sneer, but you must learn to respect the decrees of the municipalities, which, like those of Heaven, are inscrutable, but not on that account the less entitled to obedience and respect. The lady, I am told, is so far from complaining of the restraint she was laid under that, although an aristocrat, she tells the Assembly, with all becoming humility, that she finds their yoke is easy and their burden light, while the young gentleman ordered on duty in her chamber acknowledges that service to be perfect freedom. Short-sighted man that you are! By way of addition and amendment, I would humbly propose that the male aristocrats should be put into the custody of the female Whigs, and I dare say they would come out much less fierce than they were.
“The situation of France is by no means desperate. A torrent of depreciation may inundate the land, and storms and tempests arise, but the one, you know, fertilizes the soil and the other purifies the atmosphere. Ultimately health and abundance succeed the wintry appearance which seemed fatal to both. Adieu. I shall leave this in a day or two.”
In a letter to Washington, dated August 30th, he expressed a hope that in a day or two he might “learn something of their intentions here respecting us. And if I do not hear from them, shall make a final address to His Grace of Leeds. It is very flattering to me, sir, that you are so kind as to approve of my communications with the ministers of this country, so far as they had gone in the beginning of May. I earnestly hope that my subsequent conduct may meet the same favorable interpretation. This you may rely on, that if in any case I go wrong, it will be from an error of judgment. Affairs in France go badly. The national bank which was in contemplation has never taken effect. After deliberating about it and about it, the thing dropped, and they did expect to have made out with their paper currency (the assignats), but my predictions on that subject seem to be verified. Their Assemblée is losing ground daily in the public opinion. The army, long encouraged in licentious conduct, is now in revolt. All the bands of society are loosened and authority is gone. Unless they are soon involved in foreign war, it seems impossible to conjecture what events will take place. For some time past the ministers have been threatened with the lanterne, and they would gladly get out of office. We are in hourly expectation of hearing the decision of the Assemblée on the family compact. The Spanish ambassador has required, in pointed terms, a compliance on the part of France. In the meantime both the Spanish and English fleets were out, and approaching toward each other. Probably each side means only to terrify at present.”
Morris became decidedly impatient of the long delay on the part of the Duke of Leeds in replying to his questions of April 30th, and on September 10th he again wrote to him, and told him that, in expectation of his reply, “I have patiently waited in this city to the present hour, though called by many affairs to the Continent. But my departure cannot be much longer delayed, and therefore it becomes necessary to intrude once more on your grace’s attention.” An interview accordingly was fixed for the 15th, and the diary thus reports it: “I see at once by his countenance, when I arrive at his office, that he feels himself obliged to cut an awkward part. Let him begin, therefore, which he does by mentioning that he understands I am going to America. Set him right, by observing that the expression in my letter of going to the Continent, meant the continent of Europe. He says that he is still earnestly desirous of a real, bona fide connection, not merely by the words of a treaty but in reality. I reply with like general professions. He says that as to the two points of the treaty, there are still difficulties. He wishes they could be got out of the way, and then hesitates and drops the conversation. Finding from this that he is to hold a conference with me which is to amount to just nothing at all, I determine to learn as much as I can from his looks. I therefore begin by observing that I am extremely sorry for it, but that the affair of the posts seems to present an insurmountable barrier to any treaty, because it will serve as a pretext to ill-disposed persons. This, I see, has some effect. I add, therefore, that it gives serious alarm to persons otherwise well disposed, who say that the garrisoning of those posts, being evidently a great and useless expense to this country, can only be done with hostile views; that every murder committed by the Indians is therefore set down to the account of British intrigues; that I do not presume to judge in respect to the great circle of European politics, but, according to my limited comprehension of the matter, I am led to imagine that they could not act with the same decisive energy towards their natural enemies while they doubted of our conduct. He admitted this. I proceed then a little further, premising that this conversation must be considered as merely from one gentleman to another. In case of a war with the House of Bourbon, which, if it does not happen this year or the next, will probably happen within twenty years—which is but a moment in the age of empires—we can give the West Indian Islands to whom we please without engaging in the war at all, and that we shall certainly in such case consider whether it is our interest that they should be subject to England or France, and act accordingly. He feels this observation, and unwarily lets me see that this point has presented itself forcibly to their consideration. Having gone as far in this line as appears proper, I take a short turn in my subject and tell him that I had waited with great patience during the negotiations which were carrying on here, because I supposed that they would naturally square their conduct towards us by their position in respect to other nations. He did not like this remark at all, having too much of truth in it! I added that as the Northern Courts are now at peace, and I suppose they have come to their final decisions with respect to the House of Bourbon, I thought it probable that they were prepared to speak definitely to us. I wait here for his answer, but he has none to give, being tolerably well embarrassed, and that embarrassment is as good an answer as I wish. He changes the conversation a little, and asks me what the United States will think of the undefined claim of Spain to America; I am very willing to be pumped, and therefore I tell him carelessly that I don’t think it will make any impression upon our minds, for that the Spaniards are in fact so apprehensive of us that they are disposed to sacrifice a great deal for our friendship; that the only reason they had for withholding the navigation of the Mississippi River was from the apprehension of a contraband trade, which was the reason why, in my opinion, they must stake the last man and the last shilling upon the present affair of Nootka Sound, rather than admit the right of selling there by British subjects. He owns that the danger of contraband ought to be considered in dealing on this subject, for that nations, like individuals, ought to treat with candor and honesty. I tell him that if they come to any determination speedily, I could wish to be apprised of it. He says that I shall, and offers to communicate with General Washington through me, and for that purpose to address his letters to me in France; but I tell him that his own packets will give a more direct opportunity, and take my leave. On the whole, I find that my conjectures are just. I think they will rather concede a little than go to war with Spain, if France is in force to join her ally, but they want to be in a position to deal advantageously with us in case they should find it necessary. I believe the debates in council on this subject have been pretty high, and that the American party has been outvoted, or else that in feeling the ground they have found themselves too weak to bring forward the question.”
Morris left London on the 24th of September, but before returning to Paris he took a short run on the Continent by way of refreshment and recreation. Letters of introduction opened pleasant houses to him in many of the towns, and his taste for art led him to halt and at least glance at the best sights that Ghent and other cities on the way had to show. The smallest incidents of this, as, indeed, of all his journeys, are carefully jotted down in the diary. At Ghent he was not a little interested in the superstitions of his guide, “who,” he says, “had served a long time in the French Army, which is not the school of most rigid superstition, and who pointed out to me in my walk—which he took care should be through the streets where the patriots and soldiery fought—the marks of many musket-balls in the wall of a house against which was an image either of the Virgin or her Son—I forget which—and, miraculously, not a bullet had touched that sacred spot. Chance might have done this, was the first idea which entered the unbelieving noddle of a Protestant, but, after passing, I looked back, and found that the miracle would have been to have hit it, for it stood on a corner-house exactly out of the line of fire. I might therefore very easily have explained this miracle; but if I should convince him of the folly of the faith he has held for above sixty years, ‘tis ten to one if he could now find a better, and therefore it is best to leave him in possession of his present property.”
“At Bonn [October 19th] I wait on the French minister with a letter from the Comte de Montmorin. He is at the door when I inquire for him, and takes the letter to deliver it. This is a little whimsical, but I am rather en deshabillé, so that he does not, I believe, know what to make of me. However, after reading the letter he is very attentive, which explains itself naturally enough by his urging me to stay to-morrow, that he may comply with the orders of the Comte de Montmorin, qui sont très particuliers. Madame de Chastellux has also mentioned me.”
“Go to dine with the minister the day after my arrival. In the evening there is an assembly, which I find is collected on purpose. The Archduke, late Governor of the Low Countries, is here, to whom I am presented, and converse with him a little about the affairs of Brabant. I have some conversation also with the Minister of the Finances, who is quick and sensible. After the company are gone the Count takes me into his cabinet to communicate a mémoire he has written on the claims of the German princes to feudal rights in Alsace. On the whole, I am persuaded that M. de Montmorin’s letter has contained everything which I could have wished.”
Travelling all day over decidedly bad roads, with slow horses and obstinate postilions, required patience—particularly when a very bad dinner, cooked for the passengers who arrived an hour before, and réchauffé, was to complete the day. The compensation, however, was charming scenery, thoroughly enjoyed because not passed at the rate of forty miles an hour. Morris stopped a night at pretty Schwalbach, nestling in its deep ravine, and already a “watering-place of great resort,” he says. Then on through Wiesbaden and Frankfort to Darmstadt. Not unlike Arthur Young, Morris always noted the condition of the soil, and the prosperity of the countries he passed through, but with occasionally a pardonable comparison not unfavorable to America.
“I reach Diebourg to-day [October 25th]. The Baron de Groshlaer and his family receive me kindly. Shortly after the first compliments and a dish of tea, we retire together. I ask him the character of the Emperor. He confirms the idea I had taken up of him. Heaven knows how or why he shares his confidence between Manfredi, the governor of his children, and ——, who was a long time minister to the Court of France. The first is an artful, sensible, sly fellow, and his turn of mind is suited to the temper and character of Leopold. The other is really a man of sense and a man of business. There is a third, whose name I do not distinctly hear, who is of great genius, but indolent and epicurean. Shortly before he left Frankfort, Leopold seemed to give much of his confidence to Colloredo, but this (as the others were gone away) might have arisen as much from the need of counsel as from any preference as to the counsellors. The Baron is of opinion that both England and Prussia will try hard to gain the Emperor, and will offer him French Flanders, Artois, and a part of Picardy, to desert the Northern League. He says that Leopold is sore on account of the insults offered his sister, the Queen of France, but he does not think the German princes who have claims on Alsace and Lorraine will be able to obtain much aid, if any. Indeed, I think so too, for the contest will cost vastly more than the object is worth. He imagines that the Duchy of Juliers will be the desired object of his Prussian Majesty, and this may be the case, because he is not an able man.”
“At Mannheim [October 28th] I visit the Baron de Dolberg. He says that the Vicomte de Mirabeau had a long interview with Leopold at Frankfort, and pressed him to undertake a counter-revolution in France, but he smiled, and told him that it was an impracticable project. He thinks the administration in France was so bad as to occasion and justify a revolution, but quære; the Baron tells me that the enmity of Austria to Prussia is at the greatest imaginable height; the Emperor has in his possession the original correspondence for exciting a general revolt in his dominions the instant a war should break out with Prussia. I ask if this will not lead the Emperor to avenge the meditated injury. He says that it will probably fester inwardly till a fit occasion offers. He tells me that the Austrian General says there are forty thousand troops ordered to the Low Countries. He showed him the list. This, with the army already there, will amount to fifty thousand men—too much if other powers stand neuter, and too little if they do not.”
“At Strasbourg [October 30th] I learn that the Comte de la Luzerne has resigned and that most of the other ministers will go soon; that the affairs of France are what I supposed they about this time would be.”
“Arrived in Paris on November 6th. I take up my quarters at the Hôtel du Roi. After I am dressed, take a fiacre and visit at Madame de Flahaut’s. She is abroad, but Monsieur presses me much to pass the evening. I go to club, where I find the aristocratic sentiment prevails not a little. Again go to the Louvre. Madame is at the Comédie. She returns, and seems glad to see me. I find that Lord Wycombe is un enniché ici. Dine at Madame de Ségur’s. They put me a little au fait of what is going on. The Comte de Montmorin gives me a very flattering reception. See M. de Lafayette, who affects to be very well pleased to see me. I promise to dine with him soon.”
“When I go to-day [November 8th] to Lafayette’s dinner, he is so late that he does not sit down till we have half dined; retires soon after, and we have not time to hold the conversation which he wished. After leaving here I meet the Bishop of Autun at the Louvre, and desire him to advise Lafayette to the same conduct which I have done in a very delicate circumstance. He has obtained from the King a promise to choose his guard among the late Garde Française, and the Jacobins are violent on the occasion. He says that he has a right, in talking to the King, to give his opinion as well as any other citizen. I tell him he should put himself on different ground, and say that he has earnestly recommended the measure to the King, it being a tribute of gratitude to those brave men who had so signally distinguished themselves in favor of freedom. The Bishop is entirely of my opinion and will speak, but he observes, very justly, that it is much easier to convince Lafayette than to determine his conduct.”
“To-day [November 9th] I have a long conversation with Short on general matters and matters relating to America. I tell him that Robert Morris’s contract with the farm, which Jefferson considered as a monopoly, was the only means of destroying that monopoly of tobacco in Virginia, by the Scotch factors, which really existed. Give him some reason therefor. We have a few words on Lafayette’s subject. He expresses his astonishment at this man’s inaptitude and imbecility. Poor Lafayette! He begins to suffer the consequences which always attend too great elevation. Il s’éclipse au premier. Short also tells me that La Rochefoucault is terribly puzzled about the affairs of impositions. I reply that this is always the case when men bring metaphysical ideas into the business of the world; that none know how to govern but those who have been used to it, and such men have rarely either time or inclination to write about it. The books, therefore, which are to be met with contain mere Utopian ideas. After this I go to the salon of Madame de Flahaut, and stay out the company. The Comte de Luxembourg has, according to custom, much to whisper. I tell him, in plain terms, that the aristocratic party must be quiet unless they wish to be hanged.”
“While in London I bought a large Newfoundland dog for the Duchess of Orleans. To-day [November 10th] I take him to the Palais Royal, where I go to dine and present him to her Royal Highness, who appears much pleased, and the Vicomte de Ségur ‘le prend en amitié.’ Cela s’entend. The Count and I take a turn round the gardens together, and then I go to the club, where I murder a little time. It has been a fine day. I think I never in my life had so many different things agitating my mind as at present, and I cannot commence one affair because another is constantly obtruding. Madame de Bréhan says if the troubles last she will go and live with me in America. I of course agree to the arrangement.”
“After dinner [November 12th], go to the opera. I sit behind my fickle friend Madame de Flahaut, and as, luckily, the music makes me always grave, I keep still in the sentimental style. The Comtesse de Frize is here, to whom I pay my respects in the adjoining box. After the opera luckily I meet Madame Foucault, and luckily she receives me particularly well. I take care, for many reasons, that my countenance shall beam with satisfaction. Luckily she expresses herself to Madame in terms very favorable to me.”
On Saturday, November 13th, the populace pillaged the hotel of the Duc de Castries. This was about the first of this kind of depredation in Paris. The occasion of it, Morris says, “is that the Duc de Castries has wounded their favorite, Charles de la Meth, in a duel, which he had drawn upon himself by insulting the Duke. The history seems curious. M. de Chauvigny comes to Paris for the purpose of fighting with Charles de la Meth, who, as he says, fermented an insurrection in the regiment to which he belongs. All this I learned at M. Boutin’s, where M. de Chauvigny, introduced by his brother, a bishop, related what had passed on the subject. He had called on M. de la Meth, whose friends, at a rendezvous given, told him that M. de la Meth would not fight till the constitution was finished. The other replied that he must in that case, until the completion of it, continue to assert on every occasion that M. de la Meth was a coward. This thing being again in question at the Assemblée, De la Meth declared that he would not have an affair with Chauvigny until he had settled with the Duc de Castries (colonel of the regiment) ‘qui m’a détaché ce spadassin-là.’ De Castries, of course, requires satisfaction, and they proceed to the ground, where the friends of De la Meth, who is an excellent swordsman, object to his fighting with pistols. De Castries, like a true chevalier, agrees to decide the matter aux armes blanches, and wounds his antagonist. The populace in consequence destroy the property of his father. This is rare; I think it will produce some events which are not now dreamt of. The Assemblée (in the hands of the Jacobins) have, it is said, sanctioned the doings of this day.”
“This morning [November 14th] the Comte de Moustier calls on me. We discuss his plan of a constitution together, and he tells me that he stands better at court than ever he expected. He says he is personally in favor with the Queen, and he expects to be consulted on affairs by and by. The King and Queen, he tells me, are determined not to abuse their authority if ever they recover it. He tells me incidentally that both the King and Queen have mentioned me to him, the former twice, and that I stand well in their opinion. This may perhaps be useful to my country at some future period.
“Visit Madame de Flahaut. It seems to me from appearances that Lord Wycombe is expected, and I tell her so, but she says it is the Bishop. Company come in immediately after me—Madame de Laborde and Madame de la Tour, after them Montesquiou; and while we are all here enter Lord Wycombe, who is at once established as the person to whom a rendezvous is given. We all go away, but I presently after return and tell her, ‘Que je lui serai à charge pour quelques moments de plus.’ My Lord is more disconcerted than my lady. He seems not yet advanced to the point which these things tend to. Go from hence to club, where I find there are some who justify the populace for yesterday’s business. M. de Moustier told me that Montmorin had asked for Carmichael as minister at this Court, which might excite opposition to Madison and Short, the present competitors. It is a question in my mind as to this request having been made by Montmorin.”
“I hear to-day [November 15th] at Madame de Chastellux’s the wish of the Garde des Sceaux* to converse with me. I promise to wait upon him. The Duchess of Orleans reproaches me for absenting myself, and I promise to dine with her to-morrow. At eight o’clock I go by appointment to Madame de Flahaut’s. She has not returned from the Variétés, but desires I will wait. I am unluckily obliged to do so, having promised Capellis to spend the evening here. At half after eight she comes in, and Mademoiselle Duplessis* with her. I show more ill-humor than consists with good sense or politeness; at least, such would be the opinion of most observers. She is full of apologies, but I treat both them and her like a Turk. She is very conciliating in her manner and words, and proposes a rendezvous for to-morrow evening, which I refuse to accept of. At length, however, she prevails, but as we go in to supper together I tell her that she will probably fail if a new comedy offers itself.”
“To-day [November 16th], according to my promise, I dine at the Palais Royal, and, as the Princess is alone when I come in, I converse a little with her in a manner to gain somewhat on her good will. After dinner I keep my rendezvous with Madame de Flahaut, but I find her surrounded. Lord Wycombe, the Comte de Luxembourg, M. de St. Foi are there, so I leave. My letters to-day are not pleasant. M. de Flahaut expresses a wish to go as minister to America, and desires me to prevail on his wife to consent to such a step, should it become possible to obtain the place. I promise to speak to her on the subject. Go and sit some time with Madame de Montmorin. She expresses her conviction that Lafayette is below his business, which is very true. She says that the Queen will not consent to make her husband governor of the children of France; that the aristocrats abhor him. At dinner we converse about the play of this evening, ‘Brutus,’ which is expected to excite much disturbance. After six o’clock Bouinville and I go to the play. At leaving the room, as it is supposed that there will be three parties in the house, I cry, in a style of rant, ‘Je me déclare pour le Roi, et je vole à la victoire.’ We cannot find seats, wherefore I go to the loge of d’Angivilliers, and find that I was expected, having promised to come and then forgotten it. Lord Wycombe is established here, next to Madame de Flahaut, in the place which I occupied formerly. St. Foi is here, a cunning observer. I determine, therefore, to play them all three, and I think succeed pretty well. Propose to her to make the old fox believe she is attached to the young lord, which she exclaims against. She is, however, resolved, I think, to attach him, and may perhaps singe her wings while she flutters around that flame. The piece excites a great deal of noise and altercation, but the parterre filled with democrats obtains the victory clearly, and, having obtained it, roars for above ten minutes, ‘Vive le Roi.’ After the play a motion is made to place the bust of Voltaire on the stage and crown it, which is complied with amid repeated acclamations. I write, for the amusement of our party, these lines:
I give them to Madame de Flahaut, desiring her to pass them to my lord. He is well pleased with them, and this, as it enables her to magnify her merits by her friends, must of course please her. She wishes to fix an appointment with me for Friday morning, but I desire her to write her hour in season for me to reply, that, if there be anything to prevent my attendance, I can inform her. She is a coquette, and very fickle.”
“Go to dine with the Garde des Sceaux [November 18th]. His domestics know not what to make of me, a thing which frequently happens at my first approach, because the simplicity of my dress and equipage, my wooden leg, and tone of republican equality seem totally misplaced at the levée of a minister. He is yet in his closet. I find in the circle no one of my acquaintance except Dupont the economist, who never took notice of a letter I brought from his son, and seems a little ashamed of it. The reception of the minister is flattering and his attentions great, so that those who had placed themselves next him feel themselves misplaced. After dinner he takes me aside to know my sentiments. I tell him that I consider the Revolution a project that has failed; that the evils of anarchy must restore authority to the sovereign; that he ought to continue a mere instrument in the hands of the Assembly, etc. As to him, the minister, he should, when he quits his place, go directly from the King’s closet to his seat in the Assembly, and there become the advocate of royal authority. He approves of my ideas, except for himself, and says he has need of repose. This is idle, and I tell him so. Ask him whether he intends to resign (Madame de Flahaut told me so last evening, having learned it from her Bishop). He says that he knows nothing about it; that he shall retire whenever the King pleases. After our conversation the Abbé d’Andrezelle has a long entretien. He tells me of a society formed for a correspondence with the provinces to counteract the Jacobins. I give him some ideas on that subject for which he expresses himself to be much obliged, and asks me to be present at one of their meetings, which I consent to.”
“I am pressed by the Bishop d’Autun to stay to dinner at the Louvre [November 19th], but I go to the Palais Royal. We meet here the Duc de Laval. After dinner I have some conversation with him and the Comte de Thiard, from whence I apprehend that a serious plan is laid for introducing troops of the Emperor in order to liberate the King and Queen, and restore the former government. After dinner go to the Comédie Française, and sit with the Duchess to hear ‘Brutus.’ Thence to Madame de Ségur’s, where I take up Madame de Chastellux. They lament to me that Lafayette has lost his influence. In the way home she tells me that she is persuaded there will be an effort made by the Emperor in favor of his sister. I hinted to the Comte de Thiard the advantages that would result from putting the Dauphin into the hands of governors, and sending him upon his travels. Many of the discontented nobles and clergy of France are urgent with the chief of the empire to avenge the insults offered to his unfortunate sister. So fair a pretext, such plausible reasons, both public and private, joined to a great political interest and personal territorial claims, might determine an enterprising prince. But he is cautious, trusting more in art than in force. How will it all end? This unhappy country, bewildered in the pursuit of metaphysical whimsies, presents to one’s moral view a mighty ruin. Like the remnants of ancient magnificence, we admire the architecture of the temple, while we detest the false god to whom it was dedicated. Daws and ravens, and the birds of night now build their nests in its niches; the sovereign, humbled to the level of a beggar’s pity, without resources, without authority, without a friend; the Assembly, at once a master and a slave—new in power, wild in theory, raw in practice, it engrosses all functions, though incapable of exercising any, and has taken from this fierce, ferocious people every restraint of religion and of respect. Here conjecture may wander through unbounded space. What sum of misery may be requisite to change popular will, calculation cannot determine. What circumstances may arise in the order of divine will to give direction to that will, our sharpest vision cannot discover. What talents may be found to seize those circumstances to influence that will, and, above all, to moderate the power which it must confer, we are equally ignorant. One thing only seems to be tolerably ascertained, that the glorious opportunity is lost, and (for this time at least) the Revolution has failed.”
“The Bishop comes in [November 23d] while I am at Madame de Flahaut’s to-day, and as my carriage was sent away he is grave. Leave them, and go to the Comte de Montmorin’s. Before dinner, the Duc de Liancourt and Montesquiou being there, in the course of conversation on the actings and doings of the Assemblée, I say that the constitution they have proposed is such that the Almighty himself could not make it succeed without creating a new species of man. After dinner I converse a little with Montmorin about his own situation. He feels himself very awkward, not knowing whether to stay or go, or, staying, what to do. Montesquiou comes up, and asks information from me respecting the debt from America to France. In the result of his inquiries it is agreed between him and Montmorin that no proposition shall be accepted without taking first my opinion on it. Go from hence to Madame de Ségur’s. A little comedy is acted here by the children, the subject of which is the pleasure derived to the whole family by an infant of which the countess was lately delivered. The play is written by the father to whom I address in the course of it these lines:
As soon as the piece is finished I slip away. Madame de Lafayette, who was here, reproaches me a little for deserting them. Monsieur has long been giddy from his elevation. When he is a little sober I will see whether he can any longer be useful to his country or mine. I rather doubt it. Go to the Louvre, and find Madame has quarrelled with her Bishop, who is jealous of me. In consequence of the quarrel she is very ill, and surrounded by friends and servants.
“After dining with Madame de Foucault [November 25th] I go to Lafayette’s; Madame receives me coolly enough. I stay some time, leaning on the chimneypiece. He comes out, and as soon as he sees me approaches. Asks why I do not come to see him. I answer that I do not like to mix with the crowd which I find here; that whenever I can be useful, I am at his orders. He asks my opinion of his situation. I give it sans ménagement, and while I speak he turns pale. I tell him that the time approaches when all good men must cling to the throne; that the present King is very valuable on account of his moderation, and if he should possess too great authority might be persuaded to grant a proper constitution; that the thing called a constitution which the Assembly have framed is good for nothing; that as to himself, his personal situation is very delicate; that he nominally, but not really, commands his troops; that I really cannot tell how he is to establish discipline among them, but that unless he can accomplish that object he must be ruined sooner or later; that the best line of conduct, perhaps, would be to seize an occasion of disobedience and resign, by which means he would preserve a reputation in France which would be precious, and hereafter useful. He says that he is only raised by circumstances and events, so that when they cease he sinks, and the difficulty comes in how to excite them. I take care not to express even by a look my contempt and abhorrence, but simply observe that events will arise fast enough of themselves if he can but make a good use of them, which I doubt, because I do not place any confidence in his troops.
“He asks what I think of a plan in agitation with respect to the protesting Bishops; viz., to withhold their revenues. I tell him that the Assemblée must turn them out of doors naked if they wish the people to clothe them. He says he is a little afraid of that consequence. I reiterate to him the necessity of restoring the nobility, at which, of course, he flinches, and says he should like two chambers, as in America. I tell him that an American constitution will not do for this country, and that two such chambers would not answer where there is an hereditary executive; that every country must have a constitution suited to its circumstances, and the state of France requires a higher toned government than that of England. He starts at this with astonishment. I pray him to remark that England is surrounded by a deep ditch, and, being only assailable by sea, can permit many things at home which would not be safe in different situations; that her safety depends on her marine, to the preservation of which every right and privilege of her citizens is sacrificed; that in all possible governments the first care must be general preservation. He tells me the intended ministers; they are all taken from among the people, and thus, without knowing it, the people will find an additional tie to the great envy of their fellows.”
“Dine with Madame de Flahaut [November 27th]. She tells me that the Bishop is well with the Queen. Celas’entend. She tells me that De Moustier speaks illy of me at Madame d’Angivilliers.* He is wrong. Lord Wycombe calls after dinner, and is seated à côté, comme d’usage.”
“At two [November 28th] I visit Duportail,† the new Minister at War, and go from thence to the Louvre. Lord Wycombe is here, and has had the whole morning, say from ten to two. He goes away, being pressed by Madame to return in the evening. She says he told her that she loved me, which at first she laughed at, but afterward seriously refuted. She insists on my partaking of her dinner. Monsieur seems displeased. After dinner she sends me with Mademoiselle Duplessis to visit Madame de Guibert, who gives me a eulogy on her late husband by one of his friends. When we return, my lord is established à côté. The Marquis de Montesquiou is merry at having found them so situated. I leave this society, and visit Madame de Chastellux. The conversation of this last society was quite high in the aristocratic tone. The idea of carrying off the King is mentioned. My fair friend talked to me of presenting to Lord Wycombe the cup formerly given to me, and which I had sent back. I think it probable that she has already bestowed it on him.”
“Dine to-day [November 29th] at M. de Montmorin’s. Lafayette comes in, and Madame de Montmorin observes that he does not seem very glad to see me. She asks the reason. I tell her that I lately told him some truths which differed so much from the style of flattery he has been accustomed to that he is not well pleased with it. Montmorin observes that Lafayette has not abilities enough to carry through his affairs. He says that within a month past things have appeared to him much worse than they were. He seems apprehensive of a visit from foreign powers, and that the Comte d’Artois and Prince of Condé may play a deep game. Nous verrons. I go to the play with Madame de Beaumont, and am placed luckily opposite to my fair friend. I know not whether she observes me, but if she does it will be useful.”
Just at this time more frequent applications were made to Morris for advice about American lands, but he felt that it would hardly do for him to bear the responsibility of “exciting French citizens to abandon their native country.” He was therefore anxious that an office should be opened in Paris where maps could be seen and titles lodged. Writing about this to Robert Morris, he says: ‘Purchasers here are for the most part ignorant of geography. So far from thinking the forests a disadvantage, they are captivated with the idea of having their châteaux surrounded by magnificent trees. They naturally expect superb highways over the pathless desert, and see with the mind’s eye numerous barges in every stream. Le Coulteux was afraid to appear in the sale of your lands lest the fashionable system of the ‘lanterne’ should be applied.”
“I go to the Palais Royal to-day [November 30th] to dine with the Duchess, but she dines abroad and I go to the club. The restaurateur is not a good one; his wine is very bad. Call at Madame de Ségur’s. She is in bed. Wishes to know the purport of my conversation with Lafayette. I tell her that I told him many serious truths, which were not to his taste. I take the Vicomte de Ségur to Madame de Chastellux’s, where he reads a little comedy called ‘Le Nouveau Cercle,’ which is not without merit, but he reads too well to judge of it. For the rest, he has made himself the principal character of the piece. Lady Cary is here, an Irishwoman who has, I believe, the merit of keeping a good house in Paris. Leave this at a little after nine and go to the Louvre. My lord is here, of course; an observation which I make on the assignats strikes him very forcibly. If I am not much mistaken, he will quote it. His manner of seizing it shows a discerning mind. Madame de Flahaut apologizes for having been abroad this morning; had I told her I would call she would have staid at home. I reply coolly that I came late, that I might not interrupt her conversation with her new friend. She feels this cutting sarcasm. She passed the day with the Bishop, whose leg is hurt—a strain of the ankle. I let her make inquiries about the play, where I believe she did not see me, and my answers will be a little disquieting.”
“My letters are extremely disquieting. I rise this morning [December 1st] before day, after a night of sleepless anxiety. Sit down to write by candle-light, and get all my letters finished in season. Receive a note from Madame de Flahaut, desiring me to come between ten and eleven, as she is to visit Madame d’Angiviliers at half-past twelve. I find her ill and complaining. I have not the disposition either to quarrel or enjoy. Monsieur desires me twice to remind her, at a quarter after twelve, that she is to visit her sister. I tell her that every post since I have been here brings me afflicting intelligence. She wishes to know what it is, but I tell her that is unnecessary; I mention it in general, that she may not be surprised at my behavior. At twelve Lord Wycombe calls, and stays. I remind her repeatedly of her engagement to her sister, and stay him out, for which I apologize to her. Go to call on Le Coulteux. He is abroad. Madame is going out, and is half-stripped when I enter. During the few minutes which I stay she mentions a curious anecdote of the Comte de Pilau. He is become devout to a most astonishing degree, and in all the bigotry of the Romish Church; a man who was driven by the priesthood from Spain on account of his religion, or, rather, the want of it; a man who abandoned an immense fortune for the sake of avoiding exterior ceremonies. O God! how weak, how inconsistent, how wretched is man. Go to Mademoiselle Martin’s and buy a pot of rouge to take to my sister in London. I tell the Bishop of Autun to-day that he ought, if possible, to obtain the embassy to Vienna.”
“Sir John Miller visits me to-day [December 6th], and talks of weights and measures. Dine at the Palais Royal. After dinner visit M. de Lafayette. He is in a peck of little troubles. I make my visit short. Madame’s reception is à la glace. Return to the Palais Royal, and take Madame de Chastellux to the Louvre. At coming away Madame de Flahaut desires me to take her to Madame de Corney’s. I am quite indifferent to her, and she asks me the reason. I rally her on her connection with my lord, who is to have this evening again, not having had an opportunity to converse as he wished this morning. She offers me a present which he made her, but I tell her I will accept of nothing but a picture of her now in possession of her Bishop, and that I will have it. I tell her when I go away she will forget me. This she has long known. I tell her that my reception when I last saw her was such that, if Madame de Chastellux had not asked me to bring her, I should not have given the trouble of my visit. Arrived again at the Louvre, I hand her out and am about to return, but she insists on my going up. Arrived there, I take leave, but am persuaded to stay a little while. Her pride speaks a high language. She then either is, or pretends to be, ill. Monsieur comes up, and after a few words I again take leave, but she begs me in English to stay. The Bishop comes in; I speak to him again on the subject of an embassy to Vienna, and mark out the means of succeeding. I tell him that at present it is equally dangerous to be either in or out of the Assemblée; that a foreign embassy is the only means of preserving himself en évidence, and that if he can make himself the confidential man between the Queen and her brother, he will be in the straight road to greatness, whenever circumstances will render it desirable. After he is gone I stay a few minutes, and then follow him.”
“I receive a letter to-day [December 8th] brought by the English mail urging my departure for London. Go to the Louvre, according to my promise, and find Madame de Flahaut in bed writing to her Lord. … In the evening go to the Palais Royal and attend the reading of a tragedy written by M. de Sabran at fourteen years of age. It is very well written, but before it is finished I am called away by M. de Flahaut. Return to the Louvre, and sup. I lend Madame 1,200f. in paper to redeem so much gold, which she has pawned. I do not expect to be repaid.”
These last months of 1790 found Paris in a melancholy way. While the democratic revolution, with heads on pikes, went steadily and surely on, the aristocratic mode of helping a man out of the world went as steadily on in the Bois de Boulogne, turned into a meeting-place for excitements of all kinds; the resort of lovers, duellists, idlers, and tramps of every description. In 1790 a challenge and a rendezvous under the trees there was quite the proper thing, and one word spoken in anger, or the appearance of a cockade, was sufficient pretext for an exhibition of skill with the sword—or the pistol, lately introduced from England, which had met with much applause. In vain the authorities pleaded the aristocratic tendency of this way of settling differences. No one listened. People must be amused. Paris was rapidly emptying; art had gone; the dancer had gone; the marchands de modes went, leaving Paris to the mercy of the provinces for its fashions, from whence came strange things—bonnets trimmed with yellow flowers, with the malicious suggestion that they were “au teint de la constitution,” and there seemed in this deserted town to be only “fagotières“ left. But the roulette-table and duelling consoled Paris. “Their patriotism,” Goncourt says, “they carried in their white cockade, for they whispered and wrote, ‘The king has abandoned us; we are no longer his subjects.’”
[*]M. Duport du Tertre, a member of the electoral body of Paris, became Garde des Sceaux, or, rather, Minister of Justice (for the post of chancellor was abolished soon after he came into the ministry) early in November, 1790. At this time, of the old ministry there only remained Saint-Priest of the Interior, and Montmorin of Foreign Affairs. The advent of M. Duport du Tertre excited great enthusiasm in ministerial circles. He was a simple, modest man with a limited fortune, and of recognized uprightness of character. He signed the order of arrest of the fugitive king, and finally lost his head in June, 1791.
[*]Mademoiselle Duplessis was a member of Madame de Flahaut’s family.
[*]In the salon of Madame d’Angivilliers, so frequented during the eighteenth century, and so full of economic and advanced ideas of all kinds, the Revolution found congenial soil and flourished vigorously.
[†]M. Duportail succeeded M. la Tour du Pin. He had gained distinction in the American Revolution.