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CHAPTER XXIII. - 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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Morris goes to England. Suspicions aroused by the suddenness of his departure. A political significance given to it. Letter to Washington from London. Morris hears in London of his appointment as Minister to France and receives his credentials. Letter to Robert Morris on the difficulties attending the mission to France. Dines with the Count de Woronzow. Paine’s new publication. An evening with the Duchess of Gordon. Conversation with Woronzow. Bishop of Autun’s mission to England. Letter to Washington on this subject. Mrs. Damer’s studio. She is at work on a statue of the king. Morris writes a verse on her art.
Affairs of a strictly private character demanded Morris’s attention in London during the early part of 1792, and forced him rather suddenly to leave Paris. Suspicions were at once aroused that his journey had some political significance, and it was asserted in a French gazette, and copied into an English paper, that he had gone over as “agent for the aristocrats.” News of his nomination as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France reached him shortly after his arrival at London. It was rumored, however, that the Senate had not confirmed it.
But it is best to return to his own narration of events, both in England and France, for he was kept apprised of the latter, and his advice in regard to them was sought throughout his stay in London by those men with whom he had worked in Paris. The comparative safety of letters in England made it possible for him to send to America much fuller accounts of the affairs of the European world than he could from Paris, and he availed himself of the opportunity.
To Washington he wrote on the 4th of February the following letter:
“Dear Sir: I wrote to you on the 27th of December, but there were many things which I did not write, and some of them I will now communicate. At the close of the session of the National Assembly a coalition was brought about between the Jacobins and the Quatrevingt-neufs. It is proper to explain these terms. The Jacobins, so called from their meeting at a convent or church of that name, were then the violent party; the others, who took their name from a club instituted in the year 1789, were those who termed themselves moderate men. The death of Mirabeau (who was beyond all controversy one of the most unprincipled scoundrels that ever lived) left a great chasm in the latter party. He was then sold to the Court, and meant to bring back absolute authority.
“The chiefs of the Jacobins were violent for two reasons: First, that the Quatre-vingt-neufs would not join with them seriously and heartily—wherefore, not being able to make head alone, they were obliged to use the populace and therefore to sacrifice to the populace; secondly, that the objects of their desire were much greater, though more remote, than those of the first party —for these last had never sought in the Revolution anything else than to place themselves comfortably, whereas the Jacobins did really at first desire to establish a free constitution, in the expectation that sooner or later they should be at the head of it.
“The aristocrats, you will observe, were reduced to insignificancy before the others divided. You will remember that the first Assembly had decreed that their members could neither hold any office under the Crown, nor yet be chosen to represent the people. The first decree was of Jacobin parentage, to disappoint their enemies, who were on the point of succeeding to office; the second decree was carried against the secret inclinations of both. But the consequence was that each was seriously disappointed, and, as the Constitution was clearly unable to support itself, they began to perceive that its ruin might involve their own, and therefore they formed a coalition in which each determined to make use of the other for its own purposes.
“But you will say, perhaps, that both together would be of little use, and this is true, in a degree; for, if the Constitution had been a practicable thing, those alone who were in power under it could have any real authority. But that was not the case, and therefore the plan of the allies was to induce a belief in the Court that they alone had sufficient popularity in the nation to preserve the monarchical authority against the republican party, and, on the other hand, to convince the Assembly that (having in their hands the royal authority) all favors, offices, and grants must come through them. Thus they constituted themselves, if I may be allowed the expression, the ‘government brokers’ of the nation.
“I have mentioned the republican party. This naturally grew up out of the old Jacobin sect, for when the chiefs, finding that all was nearly ruined by the want of authority, had set themselves seriously to work to correct their own errors, many of their disciples, who believed what their apostles had preached, and many who saw in the establishment of order the loss of their consequence, determined to throw off all submission to crowned heads as being ‘unworthy of a free people, etc.’ Add to this the number of ‘moody beggars starving for a time of pellmell, havoc, and confusion.’ It was this coalition which prevented the King from accepting the Constitution in a manly manner, pointing out its capital faults, marking the probable consequences, calling on them to reconsider it, and declaring that his submission to their decisions arose from his belief that it was the only means to avoid the horrors of civil war. They saw that this conduct would render them responsible, and although it was the most likely means of obtaining a good constitution at a future day, and would have bound the King down to the principles he should then advance, yet they opposed, because such good constitution would be established, not only without but even against them, and would, of course, deprive them of those objects which they were in pursuit of. The King contended strongly for that kind of acceptance which I have just mentioned, but he was borne down, being threatened with popular commotions fatal to himself and his family, and with that civil war which he most wished to avoid, as the necessary result of such fatal commotions.
“Shortly after his acceptance it became necessary to appoint another Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. de Montmorin having insisted so strongly on retiring that the King could no longer with propriety ask him to stay. The state of the ministry was then as follows: M. Duport, the Keeper of the Seals, a creature of and sworn adherent to the triumvirate; which triumvirate is another Duport, Barnave, and Alexandre Lameth—being the chief of the old Jacobins. I say the old Jacobins, for the present Jacobins are the republican party. This Keeper of the Seals constantly communicated everything that passed in council to his coadjutors. The Minister of the Interior, M. Delessart, was a wavering creature, one of those of whom Shakespeare says that they ‘renege, affirm, and turn their halcyon beaks with every gale and vary of their masters.” He had been one of M. Necker’s underlings, was brought forward by him, and had connected himself with the triumvirate, M. Necker’s enemies, as being the strongest party, but still kept up a good understanding with the others. Duportail, the Minister at War, of whom I formerly spoke to you when he was appointed and foretold the conduct he would pursue toward his creator, M. de Lafayette, was also completely subservient to the triumvirate. But at that time he was so much embroiled with the Assembly that his speedy resignation seemed unavoidable. M. Bertrand de Molleville had just been appointed to the Marine, an office which M. de Bougainville had refused to accept. He was pushed to it by the Quatre-vingt-neufs, whom he despises, and told the King that he would not be a member of a ministry many of whom he knew to be unfaithful to him. M. Bertrand was brought forward by the same influence, but he is really attached to the Crown, wishes ardently to obtain a good constitution for his country, is an intelligent, sensible, and laborious man—formerly of the robe—and the particular friend of M. de Montmorin. I mentioned to you formerly that M. de Choiseul* had refused the office of Foreign Affairs. While it was in question who should be appointed to succeed M. de Montmorin, the King, of his own head, named the Comte de Moustier, and wrote him a letter on the subject which Moustier has since shown to me. He had the prudence to write from Berlin to decline accepting until after he should be in Paris. When he arrived in that city the King told him that he could not give him the office, because he was considered as an aristocrat. You will observe that the coalition had been at work to get rid of him, and here I must make a digression. The plan was that, as soon as circumstances would permit, a Minister at War should be appointed, faithful to the King, and then Bougainville take the Marine, Bertrand be appointed Keeper of the Seals, and Delessart either kept in or turned out as he should behave. This plan was not known to the coalition at all, but they well knew that if Moustier got into place it would be a step towards the destruction of their influence and authority; they therefore assured the King that they could not answer for consequences, threatened him with popular commotions, with opposition in the Assembly, and the like, so that at last he gave up his nomination and explained the matter to Moustier. A long interregnum ensued in that office, and as M. de Montmorin absolutely refused to continue any longer, the portefeuille was given to M. Delessart, and after some time the Comte de Ségur was appointed. He accepted in the belief of two things, in both of which he was mistaken: one that he had the confidence of the King and Queen, but he had never taken the right way to obtain either their confidence or that of others; the second article of his creed was that the triumvirate (his patrons) commanded a majority in the Assembly. He was undeceived as to the latter point immediately, and therefore threw up the office and went out of town.
“Under these circumstances M. de Narbonne tried hard to obtain that place, and as I have mentioned his name and that of M. de Choiseul, I will in this place mention that of the Abbé de Périgord, afterwards Bishop of Autun. These three are young men of high family, men of wit, and men of pleasure. The two former were men of fortune, but had spent it. They were intimates all three, and had run the career of ambition together to retrieve their affairs. On the score of morals neither of them is exemplary. The bishop is particularly blamed on that head; not so much for adultery, because that was common enough among the clergy of high rank, but for the variety and publicity of his amours, for gambling, and, above all, for stock-jobbing during the ministry of M. de Calonne, with whom he was on the best terms—and therefore had opportunities which his enemies say he made no small use of. However, I do not believe in this, and I think that, except his gallantries and a mode of thinking rather too liberal for a churchman, the charges are unduly aggravated. It was by the bishop’s intrigues principally that M. de Choiseul was formerly nominated to the office of Foreign Affairs, but he preferred staying at Constantinople till he could see which way things would settle, and to that effect he prevailed on the Vizier, or, rather, the Reis Effendi, to write that he thought it much for the interest of France that he should stay for three years longer in that city. M. de Narbonne is said by some to be the son of Louis the Fifteenth by Madame Adelaïde his own daughter, and one of the present King’s aunts. Certain it is that the old lady, now at Rome, has always protected and befriended him in the warmest manner.
“In the beginning of the Revolution he, a great anti-Neckerist though the lover en titre of Madame de Staël, M. Necker’s daughter, was not a little opposed to the Revolution, and there was afterwards some coldness between him and the Bishop, partly on political accounts, and partly because he (in common with the rest of the world) believed the Bishop to be too well with his mistress. By the by, she tells me that it is not true, and of course I, who am a charitable man, believe her. This coldness was however at length removed by the interference of their common friends, and the Bishop labored hard to get his friend Narbonne appointed to the office of Foreign Affairs. But the King would not agree to this, because of the great indiscretion of Madame de Staël. M. Delessart was therefore appointed, he being very glad to get rid of the Department of the Interior, where he had everything to apprehend from want of power, want of order, and want of bread. The next step was to bring M. de Narbonne forward to fill the place of M. Duportail, and to this M. Delessart gave his hearty assistance by way of compensating for the disappointment in the other department. Finally the Interior or Home Department was filled by a M. Cahier de Gerville—of whom I know very little, nor is it necessary that I should.
“This ministry, extremely disjointed in itself, and strongly opposed by the Assembly, possesses, on the whole, but a moderate share of talents; for though the Comte de Narbonne is a man of wit and a very pleasant, lively fellow, he is by no means a man of business; and though M. Bertrand de Molleville has talents, yet, according to the old proverb, ‘One swallow never makes a summer.’ Such as it is, everyone of them is convinced that the Constitution is good for nothing; and unfortunately there are many of them so indiscreet as to disclose that opinion, when at the same time they declare their determination to support and execute it, which is, in fact, the only rational mode (which now remains) of pointing out its defects. It is unnecessary to tell you that some members of the National Assembly are in the pay of England, for that you will easily suppose. Brissot de Warville is said to be one of them, and, indeed (whether from corrupt or other motives I know not), his conduct tends to injure his own country and benefit that of their ancient foes in a very eminent degree. The situation of their finances is such that every considerate person sees the impossibility of going on in the present way, and as a change of system after so many pompous declamations is not a little dangerous among a people so wild and ungoverned, it has appeared to them that a war would furnish some plausible pretext for measures of a very decisive nature, in which state necessity will be urged in the teeth of policy, humanity, and justice. Others consider a war as the means of obtaining for the government the eventual command of a disciplined military force, which may be used to restore order; in other words, to bring back despotism, and then they expect that the King will give the nation a constitution which they have neither the wisdom to form nor the virtue to adopt for themselves.
“Others, again, suppose that in case of a war there will be such a leaning from the King towards his brother, from the Queen towards the Emperor, from the nobility (the very few) who remain, towards the mass of their brethren who have left the kingdom, that the bad success naturally to arise from the opposition of undisciplined mobs to regular armies may be easily imputed to treasonable counsels, and the people be prevailed on to banish them altogether and set up a Federal Republic. Lastly, the aristocrats, burning with the lust of vengeance, most of them poor and all of them proud, hope that, supported by foreign armies, they shall be able to return victorious, and re-establish that species of despotism most suited to their own cupidity. It happens, therefore, that the whole nation, though with different views, are desirous of war; for it is proper, in such general statements, to take in the spirit of the country, which has ever been warlike.
“I have told you long ago that the Emperor is by no means an enterprising or warlike prince. I must now, in confirmation of that, inform you that in the famous conference at Pilnitz* he was taken in by the King of Prussia, for he came prepared to higgle about the nature and extent of the succor to be given and forces to be employed; but the King cut the matter short by telling him that the difference in the extent of their respective dominions, and a variety of other circumstances, would justify him in demanding greater efforts on the part of the Emperor, but that he would meet him on the ground of perfect equality. In consequence of this the Emperor was obliged to accede, but he did so in the view and the wish to do nothing. When, therefore, the King accepted the Constitution, he chose to consider that as a reason why foreign princes should not interfere. The King of Prussia, however, gave to the King personal assurances of his good will and brotherly attachment, and of this offered substantial proofs. The King’s true interest (and he thinks so) seems to consist in preserving the peace, and leaving the Assembly to act as they may think proper, which will demonstrate the necessity of restoring in a great degree the royal authority. The faction opposed to him are very sensible of this, which forms an additional reason for driving everything to extremity, and therefore, with a view to destroy every root and fibre of ancient systems, they have imagined to court the alliance of Great Britain and of Prussia. In consequence the Bishop of Autun has been sent to this country, and, if my information be good, is authorized to propose the cession of Islands of France and Bourbon, and the Island of Tobago, as the price of an alliance against the Emperor. This has a direct tendency to break the family compact with Spain, who has long been courted by Britain; for it is evident that this country will not embark in a contest which is to do France any good, and therefore the game of Mr. Pitt is as clear as the sun, and suits exactly his temper and disposition. He has only to receive the offers made, and send copies to Vienna and Madrid by way of supporting his negotiations, particularly with the latter. He can offer them also the guarantee of their dominions and rights against us, and by this means we should find ourselves all at once surrounded by hostile nations.
“The Minister of the Marine opposed violently in council this mission, stated the consequences, and obtained some useful restrictions. M. de Warville proposed in the Diplomatic Committee the cession of Dunkirk and Calais to England as pledges of the fidelity of France to the engagements which she might take. You will judge from this specimen of the wisdom and virtue of the faction to which he belongs, and I am sure the integrity of your heart will frown with indignant contempt when I tell you that among the chiefs of that faction are men who owe all to the personal bounty of the King.
“This mission of the Bishop d’Autun has produced something like a schism in the coalition. The party of Lameth and Barnave are strongly opposed to it. M. Delessart, who had adopted the scheme on the representation of the Bishop (with whom it originated) and his friends, abandoned it on the representation of the others, and, two days before I left Paris, express was sent to assure the Emperor that, notwithstanding appearances, they meant him no harm. In effect, they were again going to endeavor at an alliance of the nation with him upon a plan which was set on foot about three months ago by those who afterwards fell into the plan of an alliance with Britain. You may judge from hence how much dependence is to be placed on these new-fangled statesmen. The King and Queen are wounded to the soul by these rash measures. They have, I believe, given all needful assurance to the Emperor and the King of Spain. A confidential person has desired me to assure you, on their behalf, that they are very far from wishing to change the system of French politics and abandon their old allies, and therefore, if any advantage is taken of the present advances to Britain, that you will consider them as originating merely in the madness of the moment, and not as proceeding from them, or as meeting with their approbation, but the contrary.
“I shall send this letter in such way as promises the greatest safety, and I must entreat you, my dear sir, to destroy it for fear of accidents. You will feel how important it is to them that this communication be not disclosed. It is merely personal from them to you, and expressive of sentiments which can have no action until they have some authority.”
On the 6th of February Morris says in the diary: “Mr. Constable calls on me this morning, and tells me I am appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of France. Mr. Penn, where I dine, congratulates me on my appointment, but expresses his regret that it is not to this country.” How he regarded his appointment himself appears in the following letter to Robert Morris, dated February 15, 1792:
“I feel, as I ought, the honor conferred by the President in making the nomination, and, whatever may be its fate in the Senate, I shall always count the suffrage among the most flattering events of my life—as a mark of confidence from the person in the world whose good opinion I consider as most estimable. I find that no decision was made down to the morning of the 23d of December, being, in the whole, eighteen days that it had hung by the eyelids. A mischievous consequence of the delay is that foreign powers will suppose there is a great division of sentiment, and, of course, the minister will have less weight, at least for some time, and if a bare majority should eventually approve, that circumstance also will operate in the same way. To obviate this evil so far as the other gentlemen may be concerned, I have declared here to those who have wondered at the delay that I believe the exceptions, if any, are against me. It has been reported that the exception was to making any appointment whatever. But I have declared my belief that this was not the case, for you will observe that such opinion presupposes that the President was precipitate, whereas the law passed on that subject is of long standing. On the whole, I have thought it best to make myself the scape-goat of the flock, because if disapproved of it will then appear all natural enough, and if appointed I must work through the difficulties as well as I can. They will be less important to my country the other side of the channel, and my great object is her interest.
“The mission to France must be a stormy one, let it fall on whom it may. You will have seen that every character both in and out of their country is very rudely handled by their journalists. You will observe that it was not in the nature of things to make an appointment from America which would have been unexceptionable, and to have made none would have been offensive, for the conclusion would have been that America looked with contempt at their present situation. That kingdom is split up into parties whose inveteracy of hatred is hardly conceivable, and the royalists and aristocrats consider America and the Americans as having occasioned their misfortunes. The former charge it upon us as ingratitude, seeing that it was the King who stepped forward to our relief. Should this party get the better in the struggle there are very few Americans who would (for the present) be well received. On the other hand, the republicans consider everything short of downright democracy as an abandonment of political principle in America. To stand well with all parties is impossible, but it is possible, and merely so, to stand well with the best people in all parties without greatly offending the others, and in order to do this a man must make up his mind to hear the virtuous traduced by the wicked, and to listen unruffled to calumny, folly, and even to insanity. I am in hopes, however, that things will ere long come to some more steady bearing, though the present prospect is by no means flattering or fair.”
As soon as Jefferson’s despatches and his credentials as minister reached him at London, Morris set about making purchases and arrangements for the furnishing of his official residence in the style and completeness which he deemed it necessary that a minister from the young republic to the old monarchy should assume. A coach and four horses, and all the trappings thereunto appertaining, were among his purchases, together with large supplies of silver and pipes of Malmsey and Madeira wine.
“I dine with the Russian minister, Count Woronzow,* to-day,” resumes the diary for February 19th. “After dinner the count tells me that he is persuaded that Great Britain will court the United States, in order to deprive France of the West India Islands. He says that Mr. Pitt’s force consists in finesse; that the Spanish ambassador managed wretchedly in the course of the armament against his country, and that the Comte de Florida Blanca, though an able courtier, is a wretched minister, all which he promises to explain to me at another time. He is a sensible, well-informed man. He tells me that it is impossible that the Emperor and King of Prussia should agree; that the Cabinet of the latter power is deeply intriguing, and will, in concert with Mr. Pitt, do everything that is possible to prevent the French affairs from being settled. He speaks well of the Emperor, and, as he says, from personal acquaintance, and from observance of his administration in Milan and his conduct since the death of his brother.”
“I read Paine’s new publication to-day [February 22d], and tell him that I am really afraid he will be punished. He seems to laugh at this, and relies on the force he has in the nation. He seems to become every hour more drunk with self-conceit. It seems, however, that his work excites but little emotion, and rather raises indignation. I tell him that the disordered state of things in France works against all schemes of reformation both here and elsewhere. He declares that the riots and outrages in France are nothing at all. It is not worth while to contest such declarations. I tell him, therefore, that as I am sure he does not mean what he says, I shall not dispute it. Visit the Duchess of Gordon, who tells me that she supposes I give Paine his information about America, and speaks very slightly of our situation, as being engaged in a civil war with the Indians. I smile, and tell her that Britain is also at war with Indians, though in another hemisphere. General Murray observes that the prosperity of a nation can best be determined by the state of the funds, and that ours are very high. I confirm this observation, which silences her grace. She asks me afterwards what the Americans think of Mr. Pitt. I tell her that there can be but one opinion on that subject everywhere, viz., that he is a very able man. She says she understands that he is very high in France, which even wishes an alliance, but that cannot be, and then asks my opinion of Bishop d’Autun, who is, she is told, a very profligate fellow. I tell her he is a sensible, pleasant man, his morals not exemplary, but that matter much exaggerated.”
“Dine with the Count Woronzow en famille [March 6th]. He tells me that it is impossible the King of Prussia should join heartily with the Emperor. He had informed me last Sunday that the King was offered by the emigrant princes a considerable arrondissement on the Lower Rhine, from the Elector Palatine’s dominions, and to make that Electorate whole by the cession of Alsace. He sent immediately to the Emperor, and his messenger, Bischoffswerder, offered to join in procuring the addition of French Flanders to the Imperial Low Countries, but the Emperor replied that if he did interfere in the affairs of France it should be as a friend and not for the spoil. He tells me that the Bishop d’Autun has offered a cession of the Island of Tobago, the demolition of Cherbourg, and an extension of the treaty of commerce, if England will, in case of a war with the Emperor, preserve a strict neutrality. He received for answer that England could not take any engagement whatever respecting the affairs of France. He adds that the Bishop is not now received, because he boasted of a credit for £40,000, which was to do wonders, and because he has frequented constantly the Dissenters. He tells me that young Laborde has written a letter, which he saw, mentioning that they would try the Cabinets of London and Berlin. He says that the British Cabinet mean to establish the independence of Santo Domingo and the other French islands, wherefore the offer of Tobago does not weigh; that they expect the demolition of Cherbourg by the sea in its present unfinished state, and, at any rate, are indifferent about it while the marine of France remains in its present condition; and as to a treaty of commerce, the want of one is now supplied by contraband, which is vastly easy. But the possession by France of the Low Countries is of the greatest moment, and not to be permitted. The Comte de Woronzow inveighed against M. de Lafayette in the strongest terms I ever heard. He said that though bred a military man, and obliged sometimes to order punishments, he never could behold an execution, his nature recoiling from the view of human misery; but yet if Lafayette and the Duke of Orleans were to be broken on the wheel at Falmouth, and he had no means of seeing it done but by going thither on foot, he would set out immediately. This is strong language.”
“This morning [March 13th] M. Jaubert breakfasted with me. He came from Paris to consult me on the part of M. de Monciel, whether he should accept a place in the ministry and which I opine is for the Foreign Affairs comme la seule faisable. He tells me that Narbonne has been guilty of notorious peculations, and, after having sold contracts for the army, has allowed to the contractors the depreciation of their money. He is to be turned out, and M. de Graave is among the persons talked of to replace him. Delessart will go out as the price of his duplicity, and Cahier de Gerville for impotence. Monciel has refused any place until, through M. Bertrand, he was sure that the King approved personally, and then he preferred rather the Department of the Interior, but waits for my opinion and advice. We have a good deal of conversation respecting the state of parties, etc. He tells me that the Assembly is very low, and would have been quite down but that Narbonne’s intrigues have contributed to give them a little lift, at the expense of order and good government, in order to feather his nest. He is well with Brissot and the rest of that wretched and pernicious faction. They desire to know of me what conduct is to be pursued in order to arrive at a good government. I do not choose to enter deeply into this subject for the present, because so much depends on circumstances, but say, in general, that the first step is to produce a general conviction that the present Constitution is good for nothing. He says that this is already done, and that people in general seem to think that the kingdom is ruined past redemption. I do not, however, think that opinion is even near to the needful point. I tell him that they must have for Minister of War a very determined fellow; that such a man will, like any other, work his own ruin, but he will effect the beginning of good. The Chevalier de Graave will do no good in that place; at least, I think not.”
“Visit Lord Lansdowne [March 16th]. He speaks of peculations in ministers as a thing of minor importance, although he himself detests it, and observes that even in my virtuous country it prevailed to a great extent. I assure him very seriously and very truly that he is misinformed. He says that Mr. Pitt and the King are not well together, and have not been so for a long time past. The cause is the Prince’s debts. He gives me two versions of that story, one of which is that Mr. Pitt, having been pressed by the sovereign on this subject, had declined with some offensive expressions. This wounded the father and the mother, who declares it to be the great and only object of her life to conciliate the family differences. Mr. Pitt’s friends, on the contrary, declare the whole story to be an abominable falsehood, and add that if there be any one subject more particularly offensive than another to His Majesty, it is the mention of the Prince; that it never was a question with the King to pay those debts; that the Chancellor did indeed once say something of the kind, but he is a strange sort of man and nobody minds him.”
The Bishop of Autun’s mission to England formed the subject of a letter from Morris to Washington, dated March 17th. Referring to a former letter in which he had spoken of the measures pursued by different parties, including the mission of the Bishop of Autun, Morris continues: “As the Bishop d’Autun has now got back to Paris, it may be well to communicate the result. His reception was bad, for three reasons: First, that the Court look with horror and apprehension at the scenes acting in France, of which they consider him as a prime mover; secondly, that his reputation is offensive to persons who pique themselves on decency of manners and deportment; and, lastly, because he was so imprudent when he first arrived as to propagate the idea that he should corrupt the members of administration, and afterwards by keeping company with leading characters among the Dissenters, and other similar circumstances. He renewed the impression made before his departure from Paris, that he meant to intrigue with the discontented. His public reception, however, furnishes no clue to decide on the success of his mission, because the former might have been very bad and the latter very good. The fact, however, is that he could offer nothing worthy of their acceptance, and that what he asked was of a nature not to be granted. His offer was confined to a cession of Tobago, a demolition of the works of Cherbourg, and an extension of the commercial treaty. He asked a strict neutrality in case of a war with the Emperor. Now you will observe that no Court could prudently treat with France in her present situation, seeing that nobody can promise in her name otherwise than as godfathers and godmothers do at a christening, and how such promises are kept everybody knows. Convinced of this, the Bishop never told his errand to Lord Gower, the British ambassador at Paris, who mentioned that circumstance to me as extraordinary, but yet as so far agreeable in that he was glad not to have been called on for letters of introduction.
“Respecting Tobago, I must make a digression. It is now a long time since it was mentioned to me, in Paris, that some of the colonists of Santo Domingo had come hither to make overtures to Mr. Pitt. Since that period I learnt that the French ministry were in possession of documents to prove not only that he fomented the disturbances in France, but that he was in deep intrigues with regard to that colony. The particular proofs are not known to me, so that I cannot speak positively. Neither can I vouch for what I have learnt further on that subject within this month, but I am assured that it is Mr. Pitt’s intention to bring about, if he can, the independence of Santo Domingo. Mr. Clarkson, the great negro advocate, is mentioned to me as his agent for this business at Paris, and the conduct of a part of the Assembly in opposing succor to that island seems corroborative of such idea. This then being the case, or supposing it to be so, the offer of Tobago was too trifling to attract Mr. Pitt’s notice, even if unconnected with other circumstances. By the bye, my informant tells me also that Mr. Pitt means to coax us into the adoption of his plan respecting Santo Domingo; and I learn from another quarter that he means to offer us his mediation for a peace with the Indians. If all this be true, his game is evident. The mediation is to be with us a price for adopting his plans, and with the Indian tribes a means of constituting himself their patron and protector. It may be proper to combine all this with the late division of Canada and the present measures for military colonization of the upper country, and, above all, with what may come from Mr. Hammond.
“I return to Santo Domingo. If such be Mr. Pitt’s scheme, although we shall not, I presume, engage in or countenance it, yet the success will be entirely for our advantage, and a mere preliminary to something of the sort which must happen to Jamaica on the first change of wind in the political world. The destruction of the port of Cherbourg is no present object with the British ministry, because they suppose it will be ruined by the elements before it can be completed, and because the French marine is, from want of discipline, an object more of contempt than apprehension. The proffered extension of the commercial treaty amounts to nothing, because at present any part of France is open to contraband commerce, and because there is little reason to believe that the stipulations in a treaty now made would be of any long duration. Thus it happens that neither of the objects offered was worthy of notice. But the neutrality required was of a most important nature. By leaving the Austrian Low Countries exposed to French invasion, it would have been a violation both of ancient and recent treaties. Nor is this all, for (as I have already had occasion to remark) the annexation of those provinces to the French monarchy would prove almost, if not altogether, fatal to Great Britain. And when we consider that they are almost in revolt already, and that it is, in fact, their interest to become one with France, there is reason to suppose that a union might have been effected in case of a war with the Emperor. So much, then, on the ground of good faith and good policy. But there is still a further cause which, as the world goes, may be equal in its operation to all others. It seems to be a moot point whether it is the British or Russian Cabinet which directs the other. Perhaps there may be a little of both, but, be all that as it may, this much is certain: that neither feels disposed to counteract the views of its ally in any open manner. Now, putting aside the personal feelings which naturally agitate the sovereign of this as well as of other kingdoms in regard to the French Revolution, it is notorious that, from the very dawn of it, agents were employed to foment a spirit of revolt in other States, particularly in Prussia. The King of Prussia therefore feels for the French Revolutionists all the enmity of a proud, passionate, and offended German prince. Add to this that the Elector of Hanover, as such, cannot wish for a change in the government of Germany. If, therefore, it had been the interest of Great Britain to establish a free constitution in France (which it certainly is not), I am perfectly convinced that this Court would never have made a single effort for the purpose.
“I stated to you, in my last, the French ministry as being extremely disjointed. It was too much so for any durable existence; besides which, the members took effectual means to precipitate each other’s ruin. M. de Narbonne wished to get into the office of Foreign Affairs. This was desirable to him, it is said, on many accounts, but particularly so because it gives command of large sums without account. Whatever may have been his motives, the following seems to have been his conduct. He stood forth the advocate of all violent measures. This would naturally have excited suspicions with thinking men, but not so with the Assembly. He associated himself to the partisans of democracy, and while, by this means, he secured himself against their clamors, he took great care of his pecuniary affairs. This, at least, is affirmed to me, but with the addition that he had the independence to pay off his debts, although it is notorious that his estate (which is in Santo Domingo) is among the many which are laid waste. It is further asserted that, in order to quiet the clamors of contractors who had given him money and found themselves in the road to ruin, he agreed to compensate the depreciation of the assignats. In order to remove a great obstacle to his proceedings he joined in the intrigues against M. Bertrand de Molleville, and at the same time fostered the other intrigues against M.Delessart with a view of getting his place. The proofs of all these things are said to be in the King’s hands. M. Delessart’s conduct I have already in part communicated. I must add that afterwards, imagining that Brissot de Warville and Condorcet were omnipotent in the Assembly, he violated his engagements made with the triumvirate, and wrote some despatches conformably to the views of those two gentlemen. In consequence of this it was resolved to displace him, and they were looking out for a successor. The person applied to was actually deliberating whether he should or should not accept at the moment when Brissot brought about his impeachment and arrest. In this same moment M. de Narbonne was dismissed, and with him was to go M. de Gerville. The Chevalier de Graave succeeds M. de Narbonne. When I left Paris he was attached to the triumvirate. He does not want for understanding, but I think it almost impossible that he should succeed. M. Bertrand, against whom an address from the Assembly was at length carried, has, I find, resigned. There is something at the bottom which I cannot discover without being on the spot, but you may rely upon it he goes out with the full confidence of the King and Queen. My informations from Paris were previous to the news of the Emperor’s death, which has probably occasioned the violent proceedings against poor Delessart, by removing the fears of those who (in the midst of all their big words) were confoundedly frightened. What may be the consequences of this event it is impossible to determine, or even to conjecture. Much, very much, depends on the personal character of his successor, which I am not yet acquainted with.
“It is supposed by some here that Mr. Pitt is not strong in the Cabinet, although the majority in Parliament was never more decisive, and this is said to arise from his refusing to ask money for payment of the Prince of Wales’s debts, which the King (it is said) was desirous of, and which his minister declined with some offensive expressions. Mr. Pitt’s friends insist, on the other hand, that the whole story is false from beginning to end. For my own part, I do not think he will be turned out, because I believe him to be a very cunning fellow, and although he has conducted foreign affairs but poorly, he manages all the little Court and Parliamentary intrigues with consummate address.”
The diary for March 25th resumes: “Take a ride in the park and dine with the Corps Diplomatique at the Count de Rœderen’s. The French Assembly have pardoned the assassins of Avignon. This is dreadful. Go from hence to Madame de la Luzerne’s and sit there some time. The society here, who are all aristocrats, say that not one in a hundred of the French nation is attached to the present government. Quœre: It is certain that many priests who had taken the oath retract, so that religion seems to be embarked in the quarrel, and if at the same moment the artillery of an enemy and the thunders of the Vatican shall be directed against them, many will be staggered; if, in addition, a good constitution be proposed, it may work a wonderful and happy change, which God grant.”
“An express arrived last night,” Morris wrote to Washington on April 6th, “bringing an account of the assassination of the King of Sweden the 26th of last month at a masquerade, and thus another crown falls on the head of a young sovereign. Those who conceive the French Jacobins to be at the bottom of a great king-killing project, approach the deaths of the Emperor, the King of Sweden, and the movements making against France, from whence they infer that the King of Prussia should take care of himself, and be cautious of his looks and companions. Such sudden deaths in so critical a moment are extraordinary, but I do not usually believe in enormities, and cannot see how a club can pursue a path of horrors where secrecy is essential to success. The young King of Hungary has made such reply to the peremptory demands of France as to cool a little the extravagance of joy manifested on his father’s death. I am told that he is a disciple rather of his Uncle Joseph than of his father, and if this be so he will not long remain idle. The death of his Swedish Majesty will, however, make some derangement in the plan of operations. How all these things will end God only knows.”
“Dine [April 8th] with Count Woronzow. We are comme tête-à-tête. We have much conversation after dinner. He says that Mr. Pitt was well enough inclined to a connection with America, but Lord Sheffield’s book banished that idea. He says that for a long time he believed him to be an honest, candid man, but that he had at last detected him in seriously asserting on his own honor things absolutely false; that the British Government have spread all over Europe the most unfavorable impressions respecting America. Desires to have Hamilton’s Reports to Congress. He says the object of Lord Macartney’s* mission to China is to get some exclusive right to the trade, and that money well employed at Pekin will insure success, the Chinese being the most corrupt, as well as the most cowardly wretches in existence. He says that a leading character in the administration of India affairs was heard to say, in the time when they expected to learn every hour of the fall of Seringapatam, that now was the time to turn their arms against China. He mentions the insolence of Mr. Pitt’s menaces to him (in the late armament, finding that he would not basely betray his sovereign, he had the insolence to threaten him with the loss of his place) and the meanness of his subsequent indirect apologies. He says, also, that the Marquis del Campo was so much a tool of this administration that he kept entirely secret from the French ambassador all his proceedings, and that when the Spanish Minister at the Hague published, in the Gazette of Leyden, some observations which had, in the course of that negotiation, been made by Del Campo, they gave him a severe rap over the knuckles and drove him to entreat of the Minister at the Hague that all further publications should be suppressed. He tells me that the removal of Florida Blanca and advancement of d’Aranda has given them very great concern. He says that Lord Elgin is certainly sent over to France for the purposes of intrigue. The conduct they have observed on the taking of the Resolute is, he says, the most impertinent imaginable; that Lord Grenville told Mr. Hertsinger he must be sensible that they had a right to act as they had done by the commercial treaty, to which the latter replied only by expressing his astonishment. Mrs. Church and I go to visit Mrs. Damer. She is at work on her statue of the King, and it is a curious spectacle to see a delicate and fine woman with the chisel and mallet chipping a huge block of marble. She shows me two heads which are very fine. Lady Lyttleton had formerly condemned in strong terms her pursuit, and dwelt on the indecency of those nudities which form a necessary appendage to every statuary’s study. I thought then of a few lines on the subject, and with a very bad pen now write them.
“I dine with Mr. and Mrs. Church en famille to-day [April 24th], and sit with him after dinner. The King of Sweden is dead of his wounds, and Church tells me that on Lord Elgin’s return despatches were sent off to inform the King of Hungary that, let the declaration of war come from whichever side it may, he is the aggressor, and that this Court, notwithstanding their treaty of guarantee of that country to the House of Austria, are determined, if possible, to stand neuter. Church tells me, which, indeed, I suspected before, that he was concerned with the late French ambassador in stock speculations during the Spanish armament. He says that Del Campo made regular communication of all his despatches to La Luzerne. But yet they made little or nothing by the speculation, and should have made a plum apiece if the thing had ended in the time and manner which was expected. He says that Mr. Pitt is a very great rascal, as great as his father, though not by any means so great a man; that, far from being a daring Minister, he is timid, and therefore false; that he is an unblushing promise-breaker, and will descend to any meanness in order to carry a favorite point.”
[*]Marie-Gabriel-Florens-Auguste, Comte de Choiseul, was born at Paris, September 27, 1752. After a brilliant success in society he travelled much in Greece and Asia Minor, and gave to the world an account of all of his adventures in his “Voyage pittoresque.” Louis ⅩⅥ. in 1784 sent him to Constantinople as ambassador. In 1792 M. de Choiseul was proscribed, and fled to Russia. He returned to France in 1802, and died there in 1817, aged seventy-four years.
[*]Conference at Pilnitz, August, 1791.
[*]Count Alexandre de Woronzow was President of the Department of Commerce under Catherine Ⅱ. of Russia, and in this capacity signed several treaties with England and the different Northern powers. Subsequently he became ambassador at London. Under Alexander he was made Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chancellor of the Empire. Highly educated, and with great ability, he was, nevertheless, exceedingly irascible, and not always cautious in guarding diplomatic secrets. He died in 1805.
[*]George Macartney, Earl of Macartney, was appointed in 1764 envoy to Russia, and succeeded in negotiating an alliance between that country and England. Subsequently he was made Governor of Granada, and later of Madras. The same position was offered to him in Bengal, but he declined it. After the fulfilment of a confidential mission to Italy he was, in 1792, appointed the first envoy of Britain to China. Born in 1737, died, 1806.