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CHAPTER XX. - 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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A visit to St. Cloud. Departure for England. Visit to the Duchess of Orleans at Eu. London. The escape from the Tuileries and capture at Metz. Morris returns to France. The Assembly intend to cover the king’s flight. Madame de Lafayette greatly excited. Conversation with M. de Montmorin. Dinner with the Americans in Paris on the Fourth of July. The fête of Voltaire. The king’s nature discussed. Decree passed declaring the inviolability of the king. Lady Sutherland’s drawing-room. What passed in the Champ de Mars. The mob fired on. Society frightened and within doors. Letter to Robert Morris. The king’s aunts harangue the people of Rome on the king’s escape. Morris meets Lord Palmerston. Pronounces the French Constitution ridiculous. Consultation between M. de Montmorin and Morris. Morris draws up a mémoire for the king. Madame de Staël and the Constitution. Her opinion of the mémoire Morris had prepared for the king. The Constitution presented to the king.
“Call [May 22d] on M. Grand, and walk a while in his garden with him conversing on the state of public affairs. The Kingdom of Poland has formed a new constitution which will, I think, change the political face of Europe, by drawing that kingdom out of anarchy into power. The leading features of the change are: An hereditary monarch, the enfranchisement of the peasants, and a share of the government given to the towns. These are the great means of destroying pernicious aristocracy. After dinner go with Chaumont, his wife, his mother, and sister to see St. Cloud. The situation is fine, and the garden would be delightful if laid out in the style of nature, but it is a perfectly French garden. The view from hence is very fine. We return along the Seine to the Bridge of Neuilly, and thence to Paris. Visit Madame de la Luzerne. M. de Méripoix speaks very harshly of Necker, and I defend that ex-minister. Go to M. de Montmorin’s, and announce my departure for England. Make same announcement to the British ambassador and ambassadress.”
“Write all this [May 26th] morning. Mr. Swan calls, and I tell him my surprise at hearing that I am considered in America as speculating in the debt to France. He assures me that he has never said or done anything to raise such an idea, and that he will exert himself to remove it. Dine with the British ambassador, and after dinner we go together to visit M. de Montmorin. I tell him that the enragés are in despair. He says he could give them the coup de grâce if he pleased, for that he has reason to believe they are in pursuit of the affair of the rations. I tell him that I do not know, but that I shall know. He asks me if I shall be back from London during the month of June. I tell him that I shall. We have an interrupted conversation, and I promise to dine with him to-morrow.”
On Sunday (May 29th), Morris left Paris and journeyed toward London, stopping en route at Eu, to visit the Duchess of Orleans. “I wait upon the Duchess this morning,” he says, “and breakfast in her chamber, with Madame de Chastellux. She sends to her father to announce my arrival, and desire of visiting him. The old gentleman returns a very polite answer, and we agree that I shall dine with them. I find there is much restraint and etiquette here. After breakfast she reads me her letters to and from the Duke, and then we walk till near dinner-time. She tells me the history of their breach from a long time back, and the manœuvres used by him and those about him. He is a mighty strange fellow. She tells me that what the world attributed to fondness in her was merely discretion. She hoped to bring him to a more decent and orderly behavior, but finds at length that he is to be governed by fear only. She tells me of her difficulties in bringing her father to act. He is nervous and trembles at everything like exertion. We have an excellent dinner, and in the conversation at and after it I gain a little upon the old gentleman’s good opinion. They embark after dinner in a large carriage to take an airing, and I go to my hotel. Having nothing to do, I order horses and get off at a quarter past six and at half-past nine I reach Dieppe.”
A dirty vessel, a calm sea, a scarcity of provisions, and an odd assortment of fellow-passengers, rendered a channel passage of several days and nights anything but agreeable; but this uncomfortable episode finally ended, and Morris soon reached London.
“The Russian dispute is, I find, very unpopular,” says the diary of June 3d, “but I do not see how the Minister is to get out of the scrape. The French ambassador tells me that the ministry of this country will go on arming and threatening till the season for action is past, and then disarm in part. I think this very likely. He tells me that the Assembly have determined to form a new treaty of commerce with the United States, and that Ternant has departed.”
“We hear [June 25th] that the King and Queen of France have effected their escape from the Tuileries and have got six or seven hours the start of their keepers. This will produce some considerable consequences. If they get off safe a war is inevitable, and if retaken, it will probably suspend for some time all monarchical government in France. I dine with Dr. Bancroft where is Dr. Ingenhoup. He mentions a late discovery he has made respecting the inflammability of metals, and offers to show me a rod of iron burning like a candle. It is only necessary to place it in vital air.”
In a letter of this date to a friend, Morris mentioned that “the King and Queen of France have made their escape, but we do not yet know whether they are out of the kingdom. This event makes me very anxious to get back to Paris, for I think the confusion will work favorably to the sale of American lands.—Eleven at night: Intelligence is received that the royal fugitives are intercepted near Metz.”
On receipt of this news, Morris set off at once for Paris. Crossing the channel, he says: “I find Lord Sheffield with his family are my fellow-passengers, with whom I make acquaintance; his lordship, who supposes me to be an Englishman, gives free scope to his sentiment respecting America, as all other countries. Am attentive to his family, being a wife and two daughters, and the attentions are well received. His lordship asked my house or place of abode in London, and she reminds me of it when I go to pay my respects to her ladyship after landing. I promise to see them at Paris. Arrived at Paris [July 2d], I employ myself reading the various details which relate to the King’s flight and arrest. Go to see M. de Lafayette, who is not come in, but I converse with his wife, who seems to be half wild. I visited this morning the Count de Ségur also, and saw the whole family except the maréchal. The intention of the Assembly is, I find, to cover up the King’s flight and cause it to be forgotten. This proves to me great feebleness in every respect, and will perhaps destroy the monarchy. M. Brémond calls and communicates what has been done respecting the debt to France. He tells me also that he has had an interview with the Comte de Montmorin respecting public affairs, and desires me to ask his interference with M. Tarbet, the Minister of the Impositions, to give him some material respecting the finances. He gives me the secret history of many things that have taken place during my absence. Dine with Lafayette; then go to M. de Montmorin’s. Apply to him for what Brémond wanted, and he promises his aid. I converse with him on the state of affairs, observing that it appears to me almost impossible to preserve both the monarchy and the monarch. He says there is no other measure can be attempted, and this leads us to discuss the different characters who may be appointed either Regent or to a Council of Regency; and here I find insurmountable difficulties. Of course they must go on with the miserable creature which God has given. His wisdom will doubtless produce good by ways to us inscrutable, and on that we must repose.”
“Madame de Flahaut [July 4th] cannot keep an appointment made with me because of a previous engagement to hear the Bishop read his plan of education. This suits me very well. I dine at Mr. Short’s with the Americans in town, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Paine is here, inflated to the eyes and big with a letter of Revolutions. I learn this day that about sixty of the aristocratic party have resigned, and this under a declaration which stipulates, as a condition of their future agency, those things which have been communicated to them by the Committee of the Constitution as previously determined on. This is a poor trick, and the measure is a dangerous one. The weather has been fine this day. Vicq d’Azyr says that the Queen’s hair is turned gray by her late adventures. Paul Jones called on me this morning. He is much vexed at the democracy of this country. The evasion of the King and Queen has, among other things, produced a decree against emigration which damps the sale of lands.”
“Take Madame de Flahaut and Mademoiselle Duplessis to ride to-day [July 6th]. We go to the upper end of the Isle St. Louis, from whence there is a beautiful view of the Seine. Then we go on the south side of the river and turn up till we get to the boulevards above the King’s garden. We then pursue the boulevards round to the Invalides. I set them down at the Louvre and return home to write. The weather is very fine. I saw this evening a part of Paris which I had never seen before. It is not much inhabited, but there are many fine gardens. Spend the evening with Madame de Laborde, where I see, for the first time, the declaration signed by a number of members of the Assembly, declaring their adhesion to the cause of Royalty. It is diffuse and weak; they might easily be caught in their own trap. Brémond tells me that Bergasse has prepared his work on the French Constitution, which will be shown to me, and he proposes some measures in relation to it which I decline a concurrence in till I shall have seen the object they mean to pursue. As usual, there is a political conversation at Madame de Ségur’s to-night, and I find that the opinions are getting round.”
“Brémond calls this morning [July 11th], and desires me to go to see Bergasse. The treatise of Bergasse will be short, clear, and elegant. I think it will have great merit, but I fear the public mind will not be well prepared for it. Call on Le Coulteux. He is gone to see the procession of Voltaire. I go to M. Simolin’s for the same purpose. It is so late that we return to the Louvre and eat a hasty dinner, after which we go again to Simolin’s and see the fête. It is very poor, and not at all bettered by the rain Go to M. de Montmorin’s. He is shut up with company. I stay a good while with the ladies. Short comes in, and we get into a dispute. He insists that religion is both absurd and useless, and that it is unfriendly to morals. I hold a very different opinion. Call on Madame de la Suze, and condole with her on the death of her friend the Baron de Besenval. His death forms, of course, a subject of conversation, and her connection with him enters as a thing of course also. She is much afflicted. It is, according to Parisian manners, equivalent to the loss of a husband in America.”
Always on hospitable thoughts intent, Mr. Morris wrote to apprise Mr. Constable of the arrival in America of Lord Wycombe, the son of the Marquis of Lansdowne. “Had I been in London,” he writes, “when he took up his resolution, I should have given him letters. Let this serve in lieu of it. Show him all kind of attention which he is deserving of. He may perhaps wish to see Morrisania, in which case you will, I trust, procure him the means of eating a mutton chop there. Tell him that I am vexed to find that he did not communicate to me his determination. … My friend M. Grand being desirous of propagating in his garden the white Indian corn, I have promised him some for seed. Pray direct Gibson, my overseer, to put up a barrel of it, in the husk, and with holes in the barrel, winter it, and ship it to Havre.”
“To-day [July 14th] there is a great multitude assembled in the Champ de Mars when I go there, to celebrate by a mass, the anniversary of the capture of the Bastille. In the Assembly the republican party have treated the King very harshly, but the report which insists on his inviolability will pass. M. de Trudaine mentioned as having heard from young Montmorin that the King is by nature cruel and base. An instance of his cruelty, among others, was that he used to spit and roast live cats. In riding with Madame de Flahaut, I tell her that I could not believe such things. She tells me that when young he was guilty of such things; that he is very brutal and nasty, which she attributes chiefly to a bad education. His brutality once led him so far, while Dauphin, as to beat his wife, for which he was exiled four days by his grandfather Louis ⅩⅤ. Until very lately he used always to spit in his hand, as being more convenient. It is no wonder that such a beast should be dethroned.”
“To-day [July 15th] I dine at M. de Montmorin’s. Montesquiou is there, who asks me if I am not to be appointed minister here. Tell him, no; that Mr. Jefferson wishes much that Mr. Short should be appointed, etc. He says he is persuaded that he could bring the Treasury Board into any reasonable measures respecting the debt from the United States to France. I tell him that difculties would now arise on the part of the United States.
“Paris is in uproar this evening on account of the decree passed almost unanimously by the Assembly declaring the inviolability of the King. The weather has been clear and very warm. There is a great disposition for riot among the people, but the Garde Nationale are drawn out and so posted as to prevent mischief.
“As I lodge near the Tuileries, at the Hôtel du Roi,” wrote Morris to a friend at this time, “it is far from impossible that I shall have a battle under my windows. The vanguard of the populace is to be formed by two or three thousand women. A good smart action would, I think, be useful rather than pernicious, but the great evil rises from a cause not easily removed. It will, I think, be scarcely possible to confer authority on, or, in other words to obtain obedience for, a man who has entirely forfeited the public opinion; and if they lay him aside, I do not see how they can manage a regency. His brothers are abroad, and so is the Prince of Condé. The Duke of Orleans is loaded with universal contempt, and if they should name a council of regency, they would be obliged to take either feeble or suspected characters. Add to this the struggles which must arise in a State where there is a king dethroned, and that for trivial causes. At the same time, the state of their finances is detestable and growing worse every day.”
To-day [July 13th], at eleven, I go to breakfast with Lady Sutherland, and afterwards attend her to M. Houdon’s to see the statue of General Washington. She is a charming woman. Call on Madame de Ségur. The count is in bed, ill with a fluxion on his jaw. Puisignieu and Berchini are here. The former has resigned, but the latter holds his regiment because he cannot afford to relinquish it. He has just left Count d’Affri, who has received orders from the Swiss Cantons to insist on specie payment to the troops of that nation. These gentlemen declare that the discipline of the army is gone, and that is, I believe, very true.
“Madame de Flahaut and I ride to-day, and take up, first, Vicq d’Azyr, who tells us that M. Pétion, one of the three commissioners despatched by the Assembly to accompany the King, behaved in the most beastly as well as most unkind manner. Sitting in the carriage with the royal family he permitted himself to behave in the most unseemly way, and amused himself by explaining to Madame Élizabeth the means of composing a council of regency. I received a note from Madame de Montmorin recommending an unfortunate Irish gentleman. I gave him a guinea, and spoke to the British ambassador to send his children to Dublin. It is a little extraordinary that an American rebel should be instrumental in procuring the return, at His Majesty’s expense, of those who descend from Irish rebels. But such are the vicissitudes of human life.”
“To-day [July 17th] I visit the British ambassadress, who receives me with a charming cordiality. Colonel Tarleton and Lord Selkirk are here, and the conversation accidentally falls on American affairs, which is diverting, as they do not know me. Tarleton says that once on the outposts he obtained a list of General Washington’s spies, and that Clinton, after putting them in the provost, after a few days let them all out, from weakness or compassion. I blame this weakness, etc. Go from hence to the Louvre and in my way meet the municipality, with the drapeau rouge displayed. At the Louvre we get into the carriage of Madame de Flahaut, and, stopping to take my telescope, go to Chaillot, but the time lost there in taking up Madame de Courcelles brings us too late on the heights of Passy to see what passed in the Champ de Mars. On our return, however, we learn that the militia have at length fired on the mob, and killed a few of them. They scampered away as fast as they could. This morning, however, they massacred two men, and this evening they have, it is said, assassinated two of the militia in the street. This affair will, I think, lay the foundation of tranquillity, although perhaps a more serious affair is necessary to restrain this abominable populace. Go to Madame de Ségur’s to pass the evening. Her company are still frightened, and stay away, except the Chevalier de Boufflers. Ségur tells us what passed between the Queen and him, and how he has been deceived by her. He desires me to dine with him on Thursday, to meet the Comte de la Marck at the request of the latter. I think I guess the reason, mais nous verrons. I think one of the finest views I ever saw was that which presented itself this evening from the Pont Royal. A fine moonshine, a dead silence, and the river descending gently through the various bridges, between lofty houses, all illuminated (for the sake of the police), and on the other side the woods and distant hills. Not a breath of air stirring. The weather has this day been very hot.”
There had been a general summons to the friends of liberty, requesting them to meet in the Champ de Mars, Morris wrote to Robert Morris of the affair of Sunday the 17th, “and the object of this meeting was to persuade the Assembly, by the gentle influence of the cord, to undo what they had done respecting the imprisoned monarch. As the different ministers and municipal officers had received it in charge from the Assembly to maintain peace, and see to the execution of the laws, they made proclamation and displayed the red flag. In coming from the Dutch ambassador’s, about seven in the evening, I met a detachment of the militia with the red flag flying, and some of the civil officers. I went shortly after to a height to see the battle, but it was over before I got to the ground, for the militia would not, as usual, ground their arms on receiving the word of command from the mob. This last began, according to custom, to pelt them with stones. It was hot weather and it was a Sunday afternoon, for which time, according to usage immemorial, the inhabitants of this capital have generally some pleasurable engagement. To be disappointed in their amusement, to be paraded through the streets through a scorching sun, and then stand, like holiday turkeys, to be knocked down by brickbats was a little more than they had patience to bear; so that, without waiting for orders, they fired and killed a dozen or two of the ragged regiment. The rest ran off like lusty fellows. If the militia had waited for orders they might, I fancy, have been all knocked down before they received any. As it is, the business went off pretty easily. Some of them have since been assassinated, but two men were lanterned and mangled in the Parisian taste. This occasioned some little stir. Lafayette was very near being killed in the morning, but the pistol snapped at his breast. The assassin was immediately secured, but he ordered him to be discharged. These are things on which no comment is necessary. I think we shall be quiet here a little while, but it is possible enough that, seizing some plausible occasion, a violent effort will be made, and then, if the militia succeed, order will be established. You will have heard, through the various channels, of the King’s escape from the Tuileries. By the bye, he was said to be in perfect liberty there, but yet our friend Lafayette was very near being hanged because he got away, and his justification tends to show that His Majesty, besides his parole given, was so closely watched that he had but little chance of getting off unobserved. This step was a very foolish one. Public affairs were in such a situation that if he had been quiet he would have soon been master, because the anarchy which prevails would have shown the necessity of conferring with authority, and because it is not possible so to balance a single assembly against a prince but that he must prove too heavy for the other or too light for the business. The Assembly also, very strongly suspected of corrupt practices, was falling fast in the public estimation. His departure changed everything, and now the general wish seems to be for a republic, which is quite in the natural order of things. Yesterday the Assembly decreed that the King being inviolable, he could not be involved in the accusations to be made against those concerned in his evasion. This has excited much heat against them. The people are now assembling on the occasion, and the militia (many of them opposed to the king) are out. They have passed a law against emigrations, although by their bill of rights every man has a right to go where he pleases; but this, you know, is the usual fate of bills of rights. How long the restriction may continue is uncertain, but while it lasts no lands can be sold in detail.”
“Dine to-day [July 21st] with the Comte de Ségur, where I meet M. de la Marck and M. Pellin. This last has, I find, nearly the same ideas of a government that I have. Walk with Madame de Ségur after dinner in the gardens of the Palais Bourbon. She asked me this afternoon (I presume with a view to judge for her husband) whether, if the place of minister was proposed to me, I would accept it. I told her, ‘Yes, if they would give me authority.’ She asked then whether I would take the chance of acquiring it if the King and Queen would promise to act according to my advice? I told her that in such case I would consider. Brémond says that it is necessary to have Camus* for sundry affairs, and desires me to contrive it. He and Pellin are to dine with me to-morrow. Dine with Madame de Flahaut. We go to the opera together: ‘Œdipe,’ followed by the ballet ‘Psyché.’ The music of the opera is excellent—by far the best I ever heard—and upon pressing this idea, they tell me it is the best on the French theatre. The ballet is prodigiously fine. Madame de Flahaut tells me that she wants small assignats for M. Bertrand, and that she will gain by it. I of course promise my assistance. M. de Ségur told me to-day that he wished me to fix a day for dining with the Comte de Montmorin, in order to converse with him on the state of public affairs. I promise to do so, but avoid naming the day. I told Madame de Flahaut that I had always known how to appreciate the conduct of her friend the Bishop respecting me; that his manner, which she made me observe, is not therefore surprising, but I mention it to her now because hereafter it may become necessary to remind her of it. She tells me that M. de Montmorin is given up now entirely to Barnave* and Lameth.† This I am not at all surprised at. Montesquiou and he have had a scene une peu vive on the occasion.”
“This morning [July 28th] M. Brémond calls, and tells me that I may make what terms I please in order to have Camus. Go to the Louvre before M. de Montesquiou comes, on an invitation from Madame de Flahaut, to whom I have promised 100,000£ if the business, which she is ignorant of, succeeds. I communicate to Montesquiou the necessity of having Camus, and he promises to try him. I tell him that madame is ignorant of the business. He asks me if I have mentioned it to the Bishop. I tell him that he has been long acquainted with it, but not from me; that I have never conversed with him, neither do I mean to do it, on that subject. I speak to M. Brémond respecting M. Camus, and the promise I have made. Madame de Ségur tells me that Madame Adelaïde has been haranguing the people of Rome on the subject of the King’s escape, about which she was under a little mistake, having been informed that he was at Luxembourg. Visit Madame du Bourg’s, where there is a table of rouge-et-noir. Chat with the British ambassadress, and play for trifles, so as neither to gain nor lose. Tell Madame de Beaumont that Ségur and I shall dine with them to-morrow, and that I want to see her father beforehand. Tell Madame de Ségur that I will not meet her husband there, but that he must introduce the conversation.”
“Dine [July 30th] with M. de Montmorin. Converse with him a few minutes before dinner, to prepare him for a conversation with the Comte de Ségur, who is to meet me here, but he does not come. M. de Montmorin says that he has recommeńded Swan’s memorial to the Minister of the Marine, and indorsed thereon that recommendation; but I would bet that he never has read the memorial. I call on the British ambassadress, and I find that with attentions I should gain the confidence of her lord, who has more abilities than people in general suppose.”
“This morning [July 31st], send to M. de Montesquiou, who calls a little before twelve. Propose to him operations with Camus, and offer him interest therein. He startles at the idea of selling his vote, but I observe to him that it is only disposing of that of M. Camus. He tells me, which I knew before, that he is very much in want of money, and he promises to operate disinterestedly with Camus for the good of the affair. I tell him that I intend to secure for him a share in the ration business. Dine with M. Grand, and as we all find the weather to be very hot, he places a thermometer in the shade, which amounts to 28° of Réaumur, or 89° of Fahrenheit. This is pretty well. At Madame de Ségur’s the Comte de la Marck, who is here, seems desirous of being well with me, and yet of concealing that desire—a sort of male coquetry. He communicated, I find, to M. de Montmorin our dinner at M. de Ségur’s. Thus there seems to be a thread of design running through the whole web. Brémond comes and tells me that Camus has been softened by the golden tincture in the affair of Malta; so that there can be no doubt of him in other things, if the application be properly made.”
“To-day [August 4th] I dine with the British ambassador. As I arrive too early and find pen, ink, and paper on the table, I write for her [the ambassadress]:
Lord Palmerston dines here, who is a very pleasant companion. Go to Madame de Montmorin’s, and find there the Comte de la Marck, whose countenance shows still, I think, the desire of further acquaintance. I observe that he and M. de Montmorin take different routes to meet in the cabinet of the latter. I see the Comte de Berchini. He receives a complaint from the militia camp in the plain of Grenelle, who find the ground too hard and rough to sleep upon. This is quite in character. He gives a description of this corps, which resembles, I find, any other corps of militia, with the single difference that the individuals here differ essentially from each other in point of fortune, and have in general the most profligate manners.”
“Yesterday [August 6th] Brémond brought me the French Constitution to read. Short asks my opinion of it. I tell him it is a ridiculous one. Dine with M. de Montmorin, and converse with him on affairs. He has a pretty just opinion both of himself and others. He repeats what has passed this morning with the King; the recital of the tale brings tears both in his eyes and mine. Poor man, he considers himself as gone, and whatever is now done must be for his son. Go out to Auteuil to see Madame Helvetius. A raving mad democracy forms the society. The Constitution forms now the general subject of conversation, in which I take the least possible part.”
“Call on the Marquis de Montesquiou [August 7th] and converse with him on business. He tells me that a bribe has been offered to Amelot,* who has communicated the matter to the committee; that it was for the affair of the rations; that Camus opened on the subject, and it was decided to call a meeting with the Diplomatic Committee for Tuesday. This morning Brémond brings with him Pellin, and, as he is to be one of our council, I show him the observations I am making as far as I have gone. He seems desirous that they should be speedily completed, in order that such as circumstances will permit may be adopted. Sup with the British ambassadress, where I meet Lord Fitzgerald. He is just returned from America, having made a long tour through the interior part of it. He is a pleasant, sensible young man. Our party, which has only the addition of his brother and Lord Gower, is one of the most pleasant I ever remember. M. Jaubert calls with the small part which he has translated of my work,† and it employs a long time to correct it and bring it up to the force of the original. I call on M. de Montmorin and, in consequence of what Brémond told me this morning, mention the rations. He says that affair is ruined in the committee, which is directly the contrary of what Brémond told me. I find that Montmorin begins to be much mounted against the Constitution. Madame de Flahaut is extremely distressed at the Bishop’s coldness on the score of her interests. I tell her that I am not at all surprised at it, and our conversation leads me to give her his true character.
“It is diverting to hear some people complain that the republican party are getting the upper hand in the Assembly. It would seem as if their opponents, the makers of the Constitution, were a monarchic party.”
“Dine [August 16th] with the Comte de la Marck, who tells me that our meeting at M. de Montmorin’s, intended for to-morrow, is postponed till Friday, at which time Pellin will have prepared a plan also. The Constitution they tell me has been this day adopted. The Prince de Poix, whom I meet, talks aristocratically in the most pointed manner, and though a weak man, yet, as Dr. Franklin says, ‘Straws and feathers show which way the wind blows.’”
“As usual [August 18th] M. Brémond calls, and I make further corrections in tables of finance, the effect of which will be considerable, I think. When I call on M. de Montmorin, he imprudently quits a circle of ambassadors to come to me and mention to-morrow as the day of meeting. He says he has desired Pellin to collect all the popular traits of the King’s conduct since he came to the throne, and put them into his speech. This is very wrong, and I hint as much to him, but a foolish vanity will doubtless prevail on the subject. After dinner we consider the report of M. de Beaumetz on the manner of presenting the Constitution to the King. I wish them to take up the great question of His Majesty’s conduct, but in vain. I find that feeble measures will most probably be adopted.”
“M. Brémond and I to-day [August 20th] go into the discussion of the question, ‘What kind of connection with her colonies is suited to France, and what intercourse can she allow them with foreigners, particularly the United States?’ As we agree in opinion on this subject, we next proceed to the ways and means of effecting our object, and fix on a plan of operation in this respect which will probably succeed. He is to prepare a mémoire, which he is to show me, and in the meantime to procure a resolution referring generally to the colonial, agricultural, commercial, and fiscal committees to report on the powers and authorities to be given to the commissioners who go out to Santo Domingo. These are to be induced to report generally on authority to consult with the colonial assemblies and adjust a plan of union, connection, and commercial regulation with them, to serve as a basis for future determination. And then these commissioners are to do the rest. After fixing this plan I converse with him on matters of private interest, and as he relishes them, he will of course work hard to accomplish the object. He has some notes of reflections on the state of the finances which he says will frighten M. de Montmorin into the adoption of my measures. I show him that these reflections would indeed frighten him, if just, but it would be to a purpose directly contrary to what I wish. The British ambassador and Prussian minister tell me that a convention was signed between the Empress of Russia and the Grand Turk on the 26th of last month, upon the exact terms which. she had always insisted on. Bergasse corrects what I had written this morning. He says he will write to the King to-morrow on the state of affairs, and tell him that, having obtained the communication of my plan in order to correct the language, he communicates it to His Majesty, but under the strictest injunction of secrecy. Go with M. Brémond to M. de Montmorin’s, and meet there M. de la Marck. We examine Brémond’s tables and afterwards I give M. de Montmorin my ideas on some part of this business, and at the same time reproach him for not having made me previously acquainted with the opinions of M. de Beaumetz.* M. Brémond requests me to take part in a speculation in the funds, which I decline, on the principle that this gambling, ruinous to some and dangerous to all, becomes unfair when a knowledge of facts enables an individual to bet with a certainty of gain. Dress and go to the Louvre. Madame de Flahaut tells me she is convinced the King will soon commit another folly, and gives me the reasons. Visit Madame de Staël, who receives me well. She is getting over the illusion she was under about the Constitution. Go from hence to Madame de Guibert’s, where I spend the evening. The amusement is Colin Maillard, or blind Buck and Davy, or blind man’s buff.”
“The Comte de Ségur tells me [August 25th] that one reason why he went into the country is that he expected to be called on to advise the King, and then he tells me the advice he would have given. I think he is mistaken in his motive, for he has at different times shown a strong disposition to be councillor. Make an early dinner with Madame de Flahaut, and go to the Academy. Nothing very extraordinary, but I observe that among the auditors there is more of religion than I expected. This is a good sign. Return to the apartments of Madame de Flahaut, who brings with her the Abbé Delille, who recites to us some charming verses. Go to M. de Montmorin’s, and tell him that I have some reason to apprehend that the King means to make another coup de théâtre. He says he thinks not. We then discuss pretty fully what he is to do, and find that he is getting a little up towards the right point. He expresses much anxiety about a minister of the finances. I tell him that whenever there is sufficient authority I will give him a plan for the finances. Return home early, having paid a visit on my way to Laborde. He is very melancholy about the King’s situation. I tell him that there is no danger, and point out in general the conduct which His Majesty ought to pursue. He begs me to give it to him in writing. This I decline, for the present. He says that the King understands English well, and that he will be perfectly secret, of which I may be certain, as he has been so many years a valet de chambre to Louis the Fifteenth.”
“I am bidden to dinner [August 26th] by Madame de Staël. She requests me to show her the mémoire I have prepared for the King. I am surprised at this, and insist on knowing how she became acquainted with it. She tells me pretty nearly. I read it for her and the Abbé Louis, through whom she gained her intelligence, and they are, as I expected, very averse to so bold a tone. I am well persuaded that a poor conduct will be adopted. The British ambassadress comes in during our lecture, which interrupted it to me very agreeably. Arrive late at M. de Montmorin’s, and we retire into his closet and I read to him the plan I have prepared of a discourse for the King. He is startled at it; says it is too forcible; that the temper of the people will not bear it. We have much discourse on this subject. I leave the thing with him. We are to confer further on it, and he is to show it to the King on Monday. I give him leave (which otherwise he would have taken) to show it to his daughter. I know that she will encourage such a step, having previously mounted her imagination to that point. I go to the Louvre, having so promised. Madame de Flahaut tells me that the Bishop has spoken to her of my work, Madame de Staël having told him that I had showed it to her. She finds it very weak. Madame de Flahaut told the Bishop that this is false, for that, on the contrary, Madame de Staël feared only from its being too strong. A good deal of this sort of chit-chat. I expected that conduct from Madame de Staël, and am not therefore surprised. Go to sup with the British ambassadress. She and her husband are sitting together. We have some agreeable conversation before the arrival of Madame de Coigny. We have some little compliments together, Madame de Coigny and I, and I think it possible we may be friends, but this depends on the chapter of accidents, for she must be at the trouble of bringing it about.”
“Madame de Beaumont [August 29th] tells me that Madame de Staël has told her father that she has seen my work. She is a devilish woman, but I tell Madame de Beaumont the whole story. It is clear that M. de Montmorin cannot and will not make use of my draft. Go to Madame de Staël’s. She is at her toilette yet. I am disappointed here in the expectation of meeting Lady Sutherland. The conversation is dull. I have not an opportunity of saying to Madame de Staël what I intended, for she seems a little conscience-struck and avoids me, but I tell the Abbé Louis that I renounce all interference in the business and shall desire that my plan may not be followed. Brémond wishes me to get him appointed one of the commissioners of the treasury. Give M. de Montmorin a mémoire of the present state of things. He tells me that Madame de Staël once took him in as she did me, and that her father told him it was a common trick with her to pretend to know in order to learn. I tell him that I have caused her to believe that I have given up the idea entirely, and desire him to speak of it lightly, as of a thing I had abandoned. He says that it is now in the King’s possession, who found the discourse prepared for him difficult to swallow, because it acknowledges the loss of the crown; but he replied to this that it was only defective because he had not the command of 150,000 men.”
“The Comte de Montmorin tells me [September 2d] that the peace between Russia and the Porte is concluded, and that he is well informed that different bodies of troops are now on their march, so that, the Emperor and King of Prussia being in a good understanding together, it seems probable that something will be attempted against this country. I tell him that, if this be so, it appears to me the more necessary to make the King declare at least the outlines of the Constitution he desires. He says the Emigrants will hear of nothing but the ancient system. If this be insisted on we shall, I think, have warm work. Visit at the British ambassador’s. Converse a little here with the Comte de la Marck, who either is, or pretends to be, of my opinion respecting the Constitution and the conduct to be pursued by the King in that regard. Madame de Staël, who is here, is in violent disputation with the Abbé de Montesquiou,* and the Bishop d’Autun is in part the subject, to the great edification of M. de Narbonne, who is just arrived from Italy. Montesquiou at supper gives a picture of the finances of this country which is very like the original and which, of course, is not handsome. The Constitution has been presented this evening to the King, who has promised to return an answer speedily. Go to the British ambassador’s, and stay a while at the hazard table, in the joys and sorrows of which I do not participate. Go to Madame de Staël’s. Ask the Abbé Louis what news there is. He says (I think with a view to pumping) that the King’s discourse will consist partly of mine and partly of other material. I tell him there will be nothing of mine in it, and I really believe so. I tell him further that I give up all idea of directing his conduct on the present occasion, and so I do. I follow Lady Sutherland and Madame de Coigny out, and Mr. Short follows me. Lady Sutherland, in getting into the carriage, urges me to come more frequently to see them, and expects me to dine on Sunday, and send in the morning to ask for dinner. She takes no notice of Mr. Short, who stands next to me, and, in turning round to speak to him after she is gone, I find his countenance discomposed and his voice broken. Thus he will go home with ill-will rankling in his heart against me, because he is not taken notice of. This is hard, but this is human nature. He is chargé d’affaires, and I am only a private gentleman. He therefore expects from all, and especially from the corps diplomatique, a marked preference and respect. I wish him to receive it, but that is impossible in this quarter for the present.”
“To-day [September 7th] I dine with M. de Montmorin, where Madame de Staël and her cortége also dine. I find that she and the Bishop d’Autun press him very hard on some subject or another. See Mr. Short, whose countenance is not yet cleared up. Sup with the Comte de la Marck, who tells me that the object of Madame de Staël and her Bishop was to obtain a revocation of the decree which excludes him and others from the ministry, and thereby reduces him to the rank of a très petit intrigant. We have here the Archbishops of Aix and Lyons, that is, ci-devant Archbishops, and we have Madame d’Ossun, one of the Queen’s dames d’atours. The Archbishop of Aix tells me that he is engaged in drawing up a protest against the Constitution on the part of the nobles and clergy, the former of which desire to object against the natural equality of mankind because Kings are of divine appointment, but the latter object to it. I suggest to him that it might be proper to render this protest subordinate to the King’s speech, but he thinks differently. Madame d’Ossun is so attentive that I think a good impression is made in my favor. I went to the Salon to-day to see the exhibition of painting and statuary not yet opened to the public, but which the Bishop d’Autun, charged with this business by the municipality, admits strangers to see. There are some very good pieces.
“The Comte de la Marck, whom I saw at the British ambassador’s, tells me that the King’s observations will be made to-morrow or next day. He seems a little cool and shy on this subject. This morning Brémond calls, and tells me that the King objected to the speech prepared for him by Pellin in consequence of a mémoire he had received in English. Mr. Short tells me that on Friday last in council, M. de Montmorin produced observations written by Pellin, but the King preferred mine, and on this he felicitated me. I lead him off the scent, but he tells me that he is informed of this in such a manner as admits of no doubt, and also that M. de Montmorin is vexed at the preference. He said that he was asked by what channel I could get at the King, and that he said if I had done anything of the sort it must be through M. de Montmorin.”
“To-day [September 8th] the King goes to the Assembly and accepts in form the Constitution. I call at the Louvre. Dine with the Comte de la Marck, where we discuss the declaration (about to be made public) of the Emperor and King of Prussia. Learn at the Louvre the purport of the King’s letter, which is meagre enough. It would seem that intrigue has at length succeeded, and caused the poor monarch to adopt a middle party, which is good for nothing. Go to the opera, which is execrable, but the ballet of ‘Télémaque’ compensates for that ennui.”
[*]Camus, one of the deputies, and council of the clergy, represented Jansenism under all its aspects. The violence and strength of his asceticism were somewhat softened by a love of literature. He was a stoic, and owing to him more than to anyone else was passed the legislative measures through which, under the name of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, came the bouleversement of the clergy.
[*]Antoine Charles Barnave, member of the States-General in 1789, and one of the founders of the club called “The Friends of the Constitution.” He, with one other, was appointed to attend the king in his compulsory return from Varennes. He afterward became a defender of the throne and Constitution, and was executed in 1793.
[†]Alexandre Lameth was one of the deputies of the Noblesse who united with the Third Estate. After Mirabeau’s death the two, Lameth and Barnave, were for a short time the master-spirits of the Assembly, and co-operated with Lafayette in the effort to defend the Constitution after the king’s arrest at Varennes.
[*]Sébastien Michel Amelot, Bishop of Vannes, came of an ancient family who had given a great many magistrates to the Parlement of Paris. He was Ministre de la Maison du Roi under Louis ⅩⅥ., refused to take the civil oath, and many of the clergy in his diocese followed his example. The dominant party, near the end of 1790, foreseeing that, if Amelot were allowed to reside exclusively in his diocese, it would be difficult to introduce the new order of things, raised suspicions against him which exposed his life to the greatest peril, and ordered him before the Constituent Assembly. When that Assembly terminated its session, he went to Switzerland. He died in 1829 at Paris.
[†]A plan of a discourse for the king, which Morris drew up, hoping to influence him in the acceptance of the Constitution.
[*]Chevalier de Beaumetz, a French jurist and member of the Constituent Assembly. He wrote a valuable work on the “Penal Code of the Jurymen of the Chief National Court, 1792.” To escape the Reign of Terror he emigrated in 1792.
[*]Fezensac de Montesquiou, a French ecclesiastic deputy from the clergy to the States-General in 1789, was twice elected President of the National Assembly. He fled to England during the Terror, but after the second restoration returned to France, and received the title of duke.