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CHAPTER XXII. - 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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Desired to converse about subsistence at a royalist dinner. M. de Molleville tells him he has proposed him as Minister of Foreign Affairs. Distress of the Montmorin family. Narbonne, Madame de Staël, and the ministry. Supper at Lady Sutherland’s. Morris gives a dinner. M. de Narbonne finally appointed Minister of War. Vicq d’Azyr says the queen wishes Morris’s ideas in writing on the decree against the princes. Dinner at the British ambassador’s. Préville at the Comédie Française. Sketching a form of government for France. Writes a philippic against the chefs des républicains. Letter to Robert Morris on the failure to effect a commercial treaty with Great Britain. Washington nominates Morris for the mission to France. Confirmed by a very small majority in the Senate. The king in high spirits. Letter to Washington on the paper circulation of France and the general anarchy. The Bishop of Autun to go to England. The Jacobins discover a plan for violent change of the Constitution. Morris prepares for a journey to England. Message from the queen.
“We have a staunch royalist dinner to-day [November 1st] at M. de Tolozan’s, consisting of the Count de Moustier, M. de Malouet, De Vérieux, Mallet-Dupin and M. Gilet. At coming away M. — follows me, to desire I will stay and converse about the subsistence. I tell him that it is unnecessary; that I should ask for six months, which I am sure they cannot furnish. Go to see M. de Molleville. He has not yet tried the provisions sent. He says that many objections are being made against being supplied from America, such as the distance, the uncertainty, etc. He has desired that they should be detailed in writing, and will place his observations on the margin. He tells me that he is determined not to wait for the attack of the Assembly, but will always find them in work. For this purpose he has already proposed to them a great number of decrees, and of such nature that they will be in the wrong if they do not adopt them. He is to send me a copy. He tells me that he proposed me the other day at M. de Montmorin’s as Minister of Foreign Affairs. I laugh at this. Discuss with him the manner of treating their colonies, if they mean to secure their fidelity.”
“Madame de Beaumont tells me [November 3d] that her father has nothing, and seems to be very uncertain about his future destiny. There is over this family an air lugubre et très sombre. M. de Montmorin says that no successor is yet appointed to him, nor has the King at all made up his mind. I ask him what is to become of himself, and tell him that if he has any doubt of the King’s intentions I will write to His Majesty on the subject. He says he should be ashamed both of the King and himself, if he thought him capable of neglecting him. Dine with the British ambassadress. The Princesse de Tarente* is here, who tells me that the Queen often talks to her of me when they are riding together. I reply only by a bow. She repeats it, and dwells on the subject, but I make only the same reply. I give Lady Sutherland some verses, which I think she will be pleased with. M. de — tells me that they have a year’s supply of grain for the troops. I ask him how much bread they give, and of what quality. He tells me that the ration is a pound and a half, of which three quarters are wheat, one quarter rye. The bran is not separated. He says this makes an excellent bread, which many of the officers prefer to the bread of fine flour. It soaks well in soup, which, considering the mixture of rye, is a little extraordinary.”
“Sit awhile [November 8th] with M. de Montmorin. He tells me that his objection to appointing Narbonne Minister of Foreign Affairs is his connection with Madame de Staël. I ask him if the King is fully apprised of the double dealing of his present minister. He tells me that he is. I give him some hints respecting a constitution for this country, and the means of restoring its finances. Visit Madame de Beaumont, and talk poetry and literature instead of politics. Just before dinner I announce myself and it to Madame de Montmorin. After dinner M. de Rayneval comes in, who is in much choler against the Assembly. He says the Diplomatic Committee have it in contemplation to address His Majesty for the removal of the whole Department of Foreign Affairs, clerks and all. He is determined, he says, to defend himself; that he cares nothing for his place, but will struggle for his reputation. Visit for a moment Madame de Ségur, and promise to return and give her the news I shall collect. She is in great anxiety about the colonies, and with her is a person who declares himself to be totally ruined. His spirits are quite broken. At Madame de Laborde’s the same thing presents itself in the Duc de Xeres. I return to Madame de Ségur’s and give her the news, which are yet tolerable as to Port-au-Prince, where her husband’s property lies. Go to the British ambassadress’s. Her countenance shows me that the verses are not thrown away. Afterwards she tells me that she was ashamed, flattered, and delighted. Tant mieux. Tell the Abbé de Montesquiou a part of what I told M. de Montmorin this morning of the means of establishing a constitution for this country. His mind opens to these ideas. We have all the world and his wife here. Madame de Tarente tells me that she loves me because I love the Queen, and her reception proves that my conversation is not disagreeable. I make it short. During supper I observe to the ambassadress that she does not eat, but is merely a dish at her own table, and that not the worst, but that she has not the politeness to ask one to partake of it. Madame de Montmorin wants to know the subject of our conversation, which is in English. Lady Sutherland tells her, ‘Il me dit des méchancetés.’ ‘Ah, il en est bien capable!’ Madame de Staël comes in late, and Madame de Tarente makes mouths at her.”
“I urge M. de Montmorin [November 10th] to prepare a reply from the King to the decree against the emigrants, and leave him engaged in it. Dine with Madame de Staël where I meet the Abbé Raynal.* He makes many advances towards me. I receive them but coolly, because I have no great respect for him. After dinner Madame de Staël asks my opinion as to the acceptance of the office of foreign affairs by her friend Narbonne. I give her my opinion so as not to encourage the idea, but yet not to offend.”
M. de Narbonne, with so able a supporter as Madame de Staël, was quite capable of presenting himself before the queen, and with becoming modesty, suggesting himself as the man in whose hands the king might, with entire confidence, place the government. What wonder that Her Majesty burst out laughing, and only said these words: “Êtes-vous fou, M. de Narbonne?” But there seemed to be no other man for the place, and the king, much against his will, placed him in the ministry as Minister of War.
“To-day [November 12th], at three, M. and Madame de Flahaut come to dinner, the Minister of the Marine shortly after, M. and Madame de Montmorin towards four, and Madame de Beaumont, who was at the Assembly, at half after four, when we dine. A pleasant party, and Madame de Flahaut exerts herself to please; of course, she succeeds. The Minister of the Marine mentions to me again an affair which one of the colonists mentioned at his request the other day, and which I gave the go by. It is to combine the payment of the American debt with the assistance to be given to the Colony of St. Domingo. Promise to attend to it. M. de Montmorin tells me that he wrote to the King his opinion as to the decree against the princes, and offered to prepare a work for him on that subject; that he went afterwards to his council, but he never opened his lips. I find that my poor friend is dropped, but he must not be abandoned.”
“Sit down to cards [November 15th] with Madame de Flahaut while the hair-dresser renews her coiffure. From here I go to see Madame de Staël. She is angry with me. I told M. de Molleville that she had consulted me relative to Narbonne’s acceptance, and he has used it as a pretext against his appointment. I tell her that I see nothing in this to make a handle of; that everybody knows M. de Narbonne has been in contemplation for that office, and therefore it is natural enough to ask the opinion of different people whether, in case the post is offered, he should accept. I then add that he had better not think of it; that the object is merely to fill a gap for a few months and then to drop the person who may have been appointed. She tells me that the ministry is stronger than is imagined, and is about to give me her reasons, which she delivers in part, when M. de St. Léon arrives, and puts an end to the conversation. After him comes M. de Montmorin, and then M. de Chapelier. M. Pétion is, it seems, appointed Mayor of Paris, and this alarms a good deal la bonne société, but I think it is not amiss, provided other people are wise. Moustier has pressed me hard to write on the finances, which I evade for the present, telling him that things change too rapidly and too much. Delessart, it is said, is to become Minister of the Marine. Brémond tells me that, under the auspices of the triumvirate, Duport, Barnave, and Lameth, he and others are about to publish a journal. I tell him not to connect himself too much with them.
“Dine at the Louvre. M. Vicq d’Azyr tells me that he repeated to the Queen the conversation he had with me respecting the decree against the princes, and that she desired to have it in writing, telling him that she knew how to value everything from that quarter. He thinks that this contributed in some degree to the rejection. I don’t believe a word of the matter. He desires me to give my advice as to the conduct they should pursue respecting the decree against the priests. I desire to have the decree and the constitutional acts relating to those unfortunate men before I give my opinion.”
“I see M. de Montmorin [November 20th], and tell him the purport of my letter to the King on his subject. Speaking again of his continuance in office, he says that it was impossible; that he will tell me the reason, one of these days; that the King ought to be obliged to him for concealing it. I tell him that I always supposed he had some reason which he did not mention, because those which he gave were insufficient. Call on the British ambassador. He compliments me on the verses given to his wife. There is here one of the Queen’s women, who desires to be acquainted with me. She turns the conversation upon politics, and I make my visit short.”
“I have a small dinner party to-day [November 25th]. It is whimsical that my little dinner, consisting of three things, is drawn from an immense distance; oysters from Colchester, trout from the Rhine, and partridges from—quære.”
“Mr. Tolozan calls [November 26th], and talks about the situation of public affairs; the union of able, honest men necessary to save the kingdom. I agree to this, but tell him that unless the King and Queen will give their full confidence to such men it will answer no purpose. See Montmorin, who says the King never answers his letters, and asks if he answers mine. I tell him no, and that I do not expect it, because I wish nor want nothing from him. He says he lately communicated the assurances that one of the provinces, with all the troops in it, would be depended on as adhering to the royal cause. He does not tell me which it is. He tells me that the real cause why he quitted the ministry was that he had not the full confidence of their majesties; that they were governed sometimes by counsels from Brussels, and sometimes from Coblentz; that he urged them to adopt a privy council to decide in all cases, and endeavored to convince them that unless they fixed a plan of conduct they would be greatly injured, but in vain. Brémond comes to see me, and I work with him at a pamphlet on the finances. I dictate, and he writes. At four go to dine with the British ambassadress. After dinner, as there are none but the family, we chat together very freely. He puts Mr. Short on the carpet, and she opens against him. I assure her that he is a very sensible, judicious young man, and very attentive to his business. She asks me where he is; that he has not appeared lately at Court. I tell her that he was in the country with the Duc and Duchesse de la Rochefoucault, and is now gone on business of the United States to Holland. She asked if he is Ambassador to all the nations of Europe, and laughs heartily at the idea. I tell her that the business he is employed in there does not require an ambassador. She says he has not the look and manner which such a character requires. I reply that he might not do well in Russia, but at any other court I do not conceive figure to be very important. She puts an end to the conversation by telling me that if I wish to give foreigners a favorable impression of my country, I must get myself appointed. A bow of acknowledgment for the compliment is the only reply which it admits of. She appeals to the Ambassador, and of course he answers, as usual upon such appeals, in the affirmative.”
“Take Madame de Laborde [December 1st] to the Comédie Française, where I have the pleasure to see Préville* perform in the ‘Bourreau bienfaisant.’ He is truly an actor; nothing below and nothing above the part, no false ornament, but the ‘naked nature and the living grace.’ The Queen is here, and is perfectly well received. I sit directly over her head, and somebody, I suppose, tells her so, for she looks up at me very steadily so as to recognize me again; this, at least, is my interpretation. My air, if I can know it myself, was that of calm benevolence with a little sensibility. A letter from the Empress of Russia to the Prince de Condé is shown to me, which is very encouraging to the emigrants. Brémond tells me that the secret council of the King consists of M. de Molleville, M. de Fleurieu, and M. de la Porte. He brings several materials on which to ground an attack of the republican party.”
“Go to see Madame de Staël [December 3d]. While she is dressing, we have some conversation which is not unpleasing to her. We have here a large company. Delessart has been denounced this day by the Abbé Fauchet, and the Bishop d’Autun, who dined with him, tells me that he was so sick he was obliged to leave the table.”
“I send Brémond to Lameth [December 4th] to advise that Delessart retire because he has not firmness enough for the situation in which he is placed. Go to Madame Tronchin’s to a thé, and to M. de Montmorin’s, and while there prepare a little paragraph for him contradicting the report that he has absconded. Madame de Flahaut has been correcting a work of the Bishop d’Autun’s which is an address to the King from the department against the decree inflicting penalties on the non-juring clergymen. She thinks the step improper, and so do I. She says it is well written.”
“This morning [December 6th] I dictate to Brémond a philippic against the chefs des républicains; employ myself in preparing a form of government for this country. At half-past four go to dine with M. de Montmorin. Find him employed in reading the address to the King by the members of the Department of Paris. It is well written in many respects, but the style is rather that of a popular manager than of an address to a monarch. In order, also, to excuse their interference, they inveigh much against the emigrants, and prove that while they talk big they tremble. M. de Montmorin tells me that the Bishop d’Autun pressed Pétion, the mayor, to sign it, who refused, saying that he approved of the thing but would not fall out with the fous and enragés, because it is they and not the reasonable people who support revolutions, and, for his own part, he does not choose to be hanged for the sake of giving triumph to reason. I think he acts wisely, and the other, who constantly places himself between two stools, will never have a secure seat. Call on the Minister of the Marine.* He shows me a sketch of a speech to be made by the King to the Assembly. We converse on public affairs and the means of establishing a constitution in this country which may secure the just rights of the nation under the government of a real king. He promises to sound the King and Queen, and I promise to sketch out some hints.”
“To-day [December 7th], in conversing with M. de Laborde, we go from one thing to another, till at last he communicates to me a journal he is writing and which is distributed at the King’s expense to the lodges of free-masons in the kingdom. He says that the King and Queen, M. de la Porte, and he are the only persons in the secret. I tell him that by the same means he may feel the pulse of the nation and determine from thence what can be attempted with a prospect of success. He prays me to give him a list of the questions which I propose, and I promise to do so. I leave him, to repent of this confidence, for that is the nature of man. M. de Narbonne has been to the Assembly this morning to announce his appointment. I shall be surprised if he succeeds, for, though he is by no means deficient in point of understanding, I think he has not the needful instruction, that he has not acquired the habits of business, and that he is totally void of method in affairs. Nous verrons.”
“Continue [December 8th] preparing the form of a constitution for this country, when a person comes in who tells me that he sent, in July last, the form of a constitution for America to General Washington. He says that he has made such objects his study for above fifty years; that he knows America perfectly well, though he has never seen it, and is convinced that the American Constitution is good for nothing. I get rid of him as soon as I can, but yet I cannot help being struck with the similitude of a Frenchman who makes constitutions for America and an American who performs the same good offices for France. Self-love tells me that there is a great difference of persons and circumstances, but self-love is a dangerous counsellor. After dinner go to the French comedy to see Préville. He is seventy-five years of age and his action is perfect. The best of the others may be said to act well their parts, but he represents his. I find that I had formed just ideas on this subject, for he is free precisely from those faults which had struck me in the others.”
“Yesterday I finished the copy and correction of a plan of government and of general principles to accompany it. To-day [December 14th] we have a good dinner and as much company as the table will hold, at the house of the Minister of the Marine, De Fleurieu. I tell him that I have prepared some notes on a constitution to show him. He says he has sounded the King on the subject, who has recommended him to attend to it. He has recommended to His Majesty the most profound secrecy, and taken occasion to inculcate the necessity, from seeing in a gazette what had passed in council. After dinner go to the French comedy; Préville, in the part of Sosie, in Molière’s ‘Amphitryon.’ It is wonderful. He would be considered an excellent actor, his age out of the question, but, all things considered, he is a prodigy.”
It will be proper here to mention the fact that severe criticisms were made in America on Morris’s failure to effect a commercial treaty with Great Britain, the affairs of which had occasioned several visits to London, many detentions waiting upon the pleasure of the Duke of Leeds, and the consequent loss of much valuable time. He wrote on December 14th to Robert Morris very fully of his feelings on the subject, he says:
“I am by no means surprised that my conduct should be severely criticised, because those who wish to promote their friends generally find fault with every person and thing which may stand in the way of their wishes. It would seem also that they have set down to the account of vanity the act of which they disapprove, for this is the inference to be drawn from what you say—although your delicacy spares me the mention. Believe me, I am not wounded by this imputation. If my errand had become public, if even my brother had known it, I should have been hurt by their charge. You say the French ambassador posted immediately to communicate my business to the Duke of Leeds. There was no harm at all in any communication he could make, for he only knew that I was ordered to call for performance of the treaty, and you will recollect that, if ever we quarrel on that subject, it may be proper to ask the interference of France. You say that the British Ministry have complained, and drawn the conclusion that they can expect little good from negotiations connected previously with France. This is really pleasant. Certainly nothing but their confidence in that English party which Lord Hawkesbury mentions as existing in our councils, and which I flatter myself does not exist, could ever have permitted a complaint so idle. The French ambassador could mention nothing about a treaty of commerce, for he knew nothing about it, and, of course, the only possible inference from what he did say was that he and his court were strangers to that part of the negotiation which was truly interesting to Great Britain—of course, that I did not consult him. And so the fact is; for we never exchanged one word on the subject after the first interview. The reason is plain. He was afraid of being called on to support the demand made, and I chose only to let him know as much as would account for my interviews with the Duke of Leeds, which his spies in the public offices could not but make him acquainted with. But there is another trait in this affair which is still more diverting, and which makes me desirous of having (if possible) this same complaint of theirs authenticated. I will suppose it to be a very good reason to be given to America for not conferring a favor on her, that the man sent to ask it was disagreeable, no matter from what cause—but I trust that they will never avow to the British nation a disposition to make sacrifice of their interests to please a pleasant fellow. It will remain, therefore, for them to justify the refusal of an advantageous connection because not presented in an agreeable manner. Is it not a very sensible sort of speech, ‘I am very hungry, and the victuals are good, but I cannot eat off earthenware?’ If anyone should say so to me, I should conclude either that he wanted appetite or did not like his dinner.
“Seriously, my friend, the obstacle to a treaty was in the British Cabinet. The opposers have since found out that they committed a fatal error, and wish to get clear of the blame. They would have been very glad of any excuse to tread the ground back again, but, unfortunately, none was given, and they have therefore, in fear of French influence, sent you a minister—and they will make a treaty with us as soon as the people are ripe for it and the mercantile interests feel the necessity. All the rest is mere palaver. If you mean to make a good treaty with Britain, support your pretensions with spirit, and they will respect you for it. You must give them visible reasons, because they will have to justify their conduct, and it will not do to say to a House of Commons, ‘The American Minister was such a charming fellow that we could not resist him.’ I rather think it would be at least as good ground to say: ‘The American Legislature would have greatly injured our navigation and commerce if we had not, by this treaty, induced them to repeal their laws; and there was reason, also, to apprehend that the United States would connect themselves still more intimately with France, who, for the sake of such connection, would doubtless support them in their claims as soon as the state of her domestic affairs would permit her to look abroad.’ Place yourself in the position of a British Minister, and ask yourself whether these latter motives would not be most likely to prevail. At the next session of Parliament the administration will be hunted hard, and they will be very glad to shelter themselves from blame on the American business, ere it be long.”
It was to be expected that political enemies in America would be on the alert to magnify the ill-success of the negotiations in England. The abrupt manner with which Morris was reported to have treated the British Ministry, the knowledge of his opposition to the Revolution, and his well-known position in aristocratical circles, were all exaggerated into some grave offence. When, therefore, during the session of 1792, Washington nominated him for the position of Minister, and his name came before the Senate for approval, there was considerable opposition to his being appointed to the Court of France, and he was chosen by only a small majority to be one of the first representatives under the new Government.
While these arrangements were making in America, and Morris was exerting every effort in behalf of order and stability in France, he found plenty of time, without compromising the seriousness or the sincerity of his services, to enjoy what there was of amusement. This centred principally in the theatres, of which there was no lack in variety or number. The demand for that sort of recreation was enormous, to judge from the fact which Goncourt mentions, that nearly each day of 1791 saw a new theatre opened. The life of a large number of them was very brief. “Ouverts vendredi, tombés samedi,” was not inappropriately said of some of the last that were opened. At the Théâtre Français Préville was delighting his audiences, and Morris speaks of the difficulty of getting a ticket. “I wait half an hour at the Théâtre Français,” says the diary for December 19th, “before my servant can get a ticket, and afterwards I get a very bad place, but still I think myself recompensed by Préville, who is truly formed to hold the mirror up to nature and to show to the very shape and body of the time his form and pressure. I meet M. de Bougainville, who has served in Canada in the war of ‘59. We converse on the public affairs of this country. He tells me that I am mistaken in my idea that he is in amity with St. Foi, the Bishop d’Autun, etc.; that he considers them as a pack of rascals, and the King views them in the same light and detests them. He assured Bougainville that he accepted the Constitution merely to avoid a civil war. I tell him that the King is betrayed by the weakness, if not the wickedness, of his counsellors. He says that he is of the same opinion. I ask him what he thinks of Fleurieu. He tells me that he is a poor creature. The Bishop of Autun observes to me at the Louvre to-day that the Jacobins have not been able to raise a riot about their address. I tell him that since the frolic at the Champ de Mars there is little danger of riots, because the people are not very fond of them when they find that death is a game which two can play at. He says that the King is in wondrous high spirits since his vetoes have gone off easily, and says that he will apply them every now and then. Poor King!”
“Dine [December 21st] with Madame Tronchin, and meet here Madame de Tarente. Ask her to procure for me a lock of the Queen’s hair. She promises to try. I think Her Majesty will be pleased with the request even if she does not comply with it, for such is woman. Call at Madame de Staël’s. She is in bed and is glad to see me, and tells me all the news she knows. The Abbé Louis comes in, who is flagorneur au possible (Hibernicé, blarney). Delessart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is at Madame de Montmorin’s this afternoon, and as we turn a good many things over in conversation after dinner, I conclude in going away by telling him that the King is the only piece of wood which will remain afloat in the general shipwreck. He says that he begins to think so. I recommend to the Minister of the Marine the bringing of Swiss troops to Paris, under the pretext that they are too aristocratic to be trusted on the frontiers. They will preserve order here in the general confusion which may be expected. Recommend that under similar pretexts the cavalry be brought to an interior circle. He approves of this.”
“As to the state of things here,” Morris wrote to Washington on December 27th, “I would convey it to you as fully as propriety will admit, but I know not yet by what opportunity this letter will go and the Post Office was never more abused under the most despotic minister than it is at present, notwithstanding the decrees to the contrary. Every letter I receive bears evident marks of patriotic curiosity. This anxious spirit of pettifogging villainy proves the fear of those who make use of it, and truly they have reason to fear, for every day proves more clearly that their new Constitution is good for nothing. Those whom I had warned in season of the mischief they were preparing, endeavor, now that it is too late, to lay the blame on others by way of excusing themselves. But the truth is that, instead of seeking the public good by doing what was right, each sought his own advantage by flattering the public opinion. They dare not now propose the amendments which they perceive and acknowledge to be indispensable. They have, besides, no confidence in each other, for everyone feels a reason against it, and meets, moreover, with daily proofs that his compatriots are no better than himself. The Assembly (as you who know such bodies will naturally suppose) commits every day new follies, and if this unhappy country be not plunged anew into the horrors of despotism it is not their fault. They have lately made a master-stroke to that effect; they have resolved to attack their neighbors unless they dissipate the assemblies of French emigrants who have taken refuge in their dominions. These neighbors are members of the German Empire, and France threatens to carry into their country, not fire and sword but la liberté. Now, as this last word does not, in the acceptation of German courts, mean so much liberty as insurrection, you will see that the pretext is given for hostilities without violating the law of nations. Add to this that three French armies of 50,000 men each are ordered to assemble on the frontiers—one under your old acquaintance Rochambeau in Flanders, one under our friend Lafayette in Lorraine so as to penetrate by the Moselle River into the Electorate of Trèves, and one under a M. Luckner in Alsace. This last has, I am told, but slender abilities, and the other two you are acquainted with. Putting all other things out of the question, it is self-evident that the Empire must bring force to oppose force thus ordered, and in consequence it is not to be doubted that 50,000 Prussians and 50,000 Austrian troops will make their appearance as speedily as circumstances will permit. You have no idea, my dear sir, of a society so loosely organized. America at the worst of times was much better, because at least the criminal law was executed, not to mention the mildness of our manners. My letter predicting their present situation may perhaps have appeared like the wanderings of exaggerated fancy, but, believe me, they are within the coldest limits of the truth. Their army is undisciplined to a degree you can hardly conceive. Already great numbers desert to what they expect will become the enemy. Their Garde Nationale who have turned out as volunteers are in many instances that corrupted scum of overgrown populations of which large cities purge themselves, and which, without constitution to support the fatigues, or courage to encounter the perils of war, have every vice and every disease which can render them the scourge of their friends and the scoff of their foes.
“The finances are deplorably bad. The discontent is general, but it does not break out, partly because the antipathy to the aristocrats and the fear of their tyranny still operates, and partly because no safe opportunity offers. Everyone is bewildered in his meditations as to the event, and, like a fleet at anchor in a fog, no one will set sail for fear of running foul. If they come to blows on the border a curious scene will, I think, present itself. The first success on either side will decide the opinions of a vast number who have, in fact, no opinion, but only the virtuous determination to adhere to the strongest party; and you may rely on it that if the enemy be tolerably successful, a person who shall visit this country two years hence will inquire with astonishment by what means a nation which, in the year 1788, was devoted to its kings, became in 1790 unanimous in throwing off their authority, and in 1792 as unanimous in submitting to it. The reasons given to you in my letter of the 29th April, 1789, and my fears expressed in that letter seem now to be on the eve of reality. The King means well, and may perhaps, by his moderation, finally succeed in saving his country. I hope much from this circumstance, but, alas! the moderation of one who has been so wounded and insulted seems to be but a slender dependence, and yet I verily believe it to be the best, and, I had almost said, the only dependence.
“A courier arrived last night with despatches, which are to be communicated to the Assembly this morning. The Emperor informs the King that he has given orders to General Bender (who commands in the Low Countries) to protect the Electorate of Trèves with all his forces. I did not mention, as I ought to have done, that the Courts of Berlin and Vienna have concluded a treaty for the protection of the German Empire and maintenance of its rights. You will have seen that the Emperor, having adopted the determinations of the Diet respecting the claims of those princes who have certain feudal rights, preserved to them by the Treaty of Westphalia, in Alsace and Lorraine, reminded the King that the dominion of France over those provinces is conceded by that treaty. The Dutch Government has proposed a treaty with the Emperor, as sovereign of the Low Countries, for mutual aid and protection in case of insurrections, which offer is accepted. All this is explained by the intrigues of France to excite revolt in Holland and Flanders, and the completion of such a treaty will place the Emperor at ease, should he operate against this country next spring.”
“This morning [December 31st] Brémond comes, and presents M. de Monciel, the newly appointed Minister to Mayence, who wishes me to point out to him his line of march. I tell him that it will be necessary to have a confidential person at that spot. Show him how he may acquire useful intelligence, and point out the insufficiency of the present administration. Close by telling him that he will do well to have a correspondence by which he will convey useful intelligence to the King. He is very desirous of this, and at his instance I promise to sound His Majesty on that subject. Dine with M. de Montmorin, and desire M. de Molleville to mention the matter to the King, and let me know the result. Delessart communicated this day to the Assembly a message from the Emperor which is decisive of his sentiments. He has ordered his general, Bender, to defend the Electorate of Trèves.”
“The society to-day [January 3d] at Madame le Coulteux’s, receives me with an air of strangeness not pleasant. Stay late at the British Ambassador’s, and have a little sparring match with Madame de Staël, who is vexed at it. Brémond tells me that the King is well pleased with the idea of receiving intelligence direct from M. de Monciel. I inform M. de Monciel that the King accepts of his proposal. He is to show me a mémoire upon Switzerland before it is presented. I tell Madame de Flahaut that I shall go out to America in the spring. This news distresses her, and she exclaims, ‘Then I shall lose all my friends at the same time;’ that the Bishop leaves her in a few days, but as yet she cannot tell me whither he goes. Dine here. The Bishop of Autun comes in, and eats a cold dinner. We play and the women sleep. He observes that the assignats have reduced France to a deplorable condition, which is true enough. I have lived through one paper system and one revolution, and I find myself here in the midst of another revolution and another paper system. I have had occasion to consider the subject for nearly twenty years (for it excited my attention in the year 1772), and therefore, with a moderate share of understanding, must by this time have made some progress. My situation and connections here give me a pretty near view of what passes, and in combining what I see with what I have seen, I have no shadow of a doubt but that the paper money will continue to depreciate. I hear that the Bishop goes to England soon.”
“This morning [January 10th] M. Brémond and M. Monciel call on me, and breakfast. After they are gone I read and write till my carriage is ready, then go to the Minister of the Marine, with whom I have a conference on the Bishop d’Autun’s mission, and on other public affairs. He tells me he has communicated to the Queen his sentiments on the very impolitic step now taken, and that she is sensible to this confidence. He says the King spoke of me in very favorable terms the other day, when he communicated to him the plan of a correspondence with M. de Monciel. I tell him it is time to arrange matters with the Emperor, etc. He says (and justly) that unless he were sure that the King and Queen make no imprudent confidences, he dare not risk himself. The risk is indeed great. Dine with the British ambassadress. She asks me whether in London I favor the ministerial or opposition party. I tell her that when a measure is proposed my sentiment depends on the thing, and not on the proposer. Consequently I am for or against, according to my judgment; but if they will make Lord Gower Minister of Foreign Affairs I shall then wish success to his measures for her sake.
“Tell Madame de Tarente to inform the Queen from me that M. de Molleville is the only minister in whom she ought to have confidence. Go to the Porcelaine with her. We exchange little presents of amitié; she shows me a great deal, and I find it more convenient to give china than time. M. Monciel tells me that he has conversed with M. Barthélemi upon the Bishop d’Autun’s errand to London. He informs me that the object is to make an alliance with England in order to counterbalance Austria, and the offer to England is the Isle of France and Tobago. This is a most wretched policy. Brémond tells me that the Jacobin party have got hold of a plan of their enemies to work a violent change in the Constitution, and brings me a newspaper which contains it. There is reason to believe that some such thing was in agitation. It is very absurd.”
“Madame de Flahaut asks me in a very serious tone if I have advised M. de Molleville to oppose the Bishop d’Autun’s embassy. I tell her that I have. She is very angry at this, and we have a tartish conversation. After this I am very easy and unembarrassed in a conversation both with madame and the Bishop. Marbois told me that he was in hopes the Bishop’s embassy would be stopped. The Ambassador of Venice wished to know my opinion of the state of affairs. I tell him that I know very little about them, and that I choose to know but little. He seems much surprised at this. He tells me that De Staël has leave of absence, and that he thinks the embassy to Britain will be stopped.”
“This morning [December 13th] M. Brémond and M. Monciel call on me. The former sent me last night a piece written by Duport against Mr. Pitt. It is a very poor piece of stuff. They (the triumvirate* ) have given it to Brémond to get it printed, and he wishes to correct some of its badnesses, but I tell him not to change a letter; to have it printed immediately and to keep the original, by which means he will have the author in his hands, for it is written by Duport and corrected by Lameth. Brémond and Monciel had a conference with these gentlemen yesterday on the subject of the Bishop d’Autun’s embassy and, on mentioning the terms to be proposed, Brémond asked how such a treaty could be presented to the Assembly. The others answered that the author would be hanged, and really I think so too. Moustier comes in, and Monciel tries to make acquaintance, but in vain, till I tell Moustier in English that he must be acquainted. M. de Laborde consults me on a proposition made by Beaumarchais to give his only daughter (a most charming girl) to Laborde’s son. He mentions to me Beaumarchais’ fortune, which is very great, and he, Laborde, is ruined. I tell him that Beaumarchais has a very bad reputation, but that is nothing to the girl, seeing that she cannot help it; that in my country such a marriage would be detestable because we do not marry for money, but in this country, where money is everything, if his son behaves well afterwards the world will not complain.
“Madame de Flahaut I find ill in bed to-day [January 14th], so I stay here the afternoon and evening. The Bishop, who is here part of the time, goes off to-morrow. The Assembly have this day, upon a report of their Diplomatic Committee, determined to attack the Emperor unless he begs pardon by the 10th of February. The Bishop says that the nation is une parvenue and, of course, insolvent. He says that their situation is such that nothing but violent remedies can operate, and these must either kill or cure. St. Foi says the Emperor will be angry, but, having more fear than anger, must submit. I ask them what is to become of their finances. The Bishop says that at a certain day, to be fixed, the assignats will be no longer a forced currency and the holders will be left to lay them out in lands as they may. I think that I never heard more absurdity from men of sense in all my life.”
“Call on M. de Montmorin [January 16th], and converse on the strange state of affairs. Advise him to write a mémoire, the heads of which I mention. He promises to do it. He tells me that while the Duke of Orleans was in England he tried hard to obtain an authority to offer a treaty to England, which was, of course, not granted. He tells me the conversation which he had on that subject with the Bishop d’Autun, who hopes, he says, to turn out Pitt, and thinks his success certain if he could have the aid of the Duke of Biron. This is curious enough. Dine with the British ambassador and his wife. We are quite snug, being but four at table, his private secretary being the fourth.* We converse very freely. She again brings up Mr. Short (I know not why she dislikes him so much), and asks if he will ever be a great man among us. I tell her that I think not, as he is not a public speaker, but he may, notwithstanding, be a very useful man here. I say this in a tone which ends that part of the conversation. I find that in this house there is a profound contempt, mixed with abhorrence, for my friend the Bishop d’Autun, and I think the letters written from it will not facilitate the object of his mission.”
“Mr. Short tells me to-day [January 18th] that by his letters he finds that the foreign appointments are undoubtedly made at this moment in America. He declares himself to be totally ignorant of the persons to be named, but at the same time he talks of buying plate and employing a maître d’hôtel, whence I conclude that he is pretty certain of being fixed here. I tell him that I would bet two to one against my being appointed anywhere, and I think it most probable that, if both he and I are named, it will be to the courts opposite to those we had conjectured, and that because the unlucky events are generally those which happen. He says he thinks it possible that he may be appointed to Holland, which would disappoint him cruelly, and he knows not whether he would accept it. Bravo! M. Brémond comes, and tells me that Delessart has sent an express yesterday to assure the Emperor that the embassy of the Bishop d’Autun and the violent speeches in the Assembly mean nothing at all. Molleville confirms this, because they have now no hope from England.”
“This morning [January 22d] I settle my accounts with my coachman and prepare for my departure for England. Vicq d’Azyr comes in while I am at the Louvre and tells me that he has been to my lodgings, at the request of Her Majesty, to desire that, if I learn anything in England interesting to them, I would communicate it.”
[*]It was this Princesse de Tarente (née Châtellon, the wife of Prince de Tarente, of a Neapolitan family) who proved herself such a heroine in the cause of Marie Antoinette during the September massacres of 1792. After two days of unwearying attention to the dying people among whom she staid, she was taken before the tribunal, and there, surrounded by bleeding bodies, they tried to force from her a confirmation of the calumnies against the queen. Failing to shake her courage by threats or promises, they ordered her to prison; whereupon she demanded, in a firm, clear, commanding voice, instant death or liberty. Her courage so electrified the spectators that they carried her in triumph to her house and left her unmolested. As soon as possible she left France, and subsequently went to St. Petersburg, where she died in 1814.
[*]The Abbé Guillaume Raynal, French philosopher and historian, renounced his profession when he went to Paris. In consequence of a philosophical and political history which he wrote, and in which he declaimed against the political and religious institutions of France, he was arrested and exiled for some years and the book was burned. He eventually returned to Paris, and died there in 1796.
[*]Pierre Louis Dabus, called Préville, was acknowledged, by all the critics who saw him play, as near perfection as possible. “Le Bourreau bienfaisant” was one of his greatest successes. Préville appeared first at the Comédie Française in 1753, and became a great favorite with Louis ⅩⅤ. With a pension he retired in 1786, but the French stage being in a bad way in 1791, he consented, although seventy years of age, to appear. His advent was greeted with enthusiasm, for he had seemingly lost none of his physical forces. Again he retired from the stage, in 1792, but appeared again in 1795, when, in the midst of his performance of the “Mercure galant,” whilst he was being vehemently applauded, he suddenly gave signs of mental aberration. He was born in September, 1721, and died in 1799.
[*]M. de Fleurieu.
[*]Duport, Lameth, and Barnave had been known as the triumvirate since the autumn of 1789.
[*]The private secretary of Lord Gower at this time was William Huskisson, of Birch Moreton Court, Worcestershire, who met his death at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway at Parkside, near Newton, on September 15, 1830.