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CHAPTER XXIX. - Gouverneur Morris, The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, vol. 2 
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. 2.
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Morris aware that his recall is desired. Difficulties of the mission. Letters delayed in transit to and from America. Source of great annoyance. Insecurity of letters in France. Description of his life at Sainport. Distracted condition of France. Returns to Paris in October. Letter to Washington. At Sainport during the summer of 1794. Letter to Robert Morris. Changes hourly take place in the government. Difficulty of doing business. Letter to Washington. The probable event of the opening campaign not favorable to the Republic. Letter to Washington. Fall of Danton. Executions still go on at Paris. Acknowledges a letter from Washington over a year in its passage. Concerning the Lafayettes. New minister arrives in August. His advent a relief. Morris determines to stay abroad.
That a desire had been expressed to his Government for his recall Morris had known for some time, and on the 25th of June he wrote from Sainport to Robert Morris telling him that he knew well that orders had been given to effect his recall.∗ “If” he says in this letter, “I did not mention this to you at the time, it was out of delicacy (perhaps ill-judged), for when I alone am concerned I leave things to the discussion of my enemies. I suspected (but did not say so) that Paine was intriguing against me, although he put on a face of attachment. Since that period I am confirmed in the idea, for he came to my house in company with Colonel Oswald, and, being a little more drunk than usual, behaved extremely ill, and through his insolence I discovered clearly his vain ambition. At present, I am told, he is besotted from morning till night. He is so completely down that he would be punished if he were not despised.
“I have in a former letter explained to you why I could not properly resign. Let me add that if I get through this mission honorably it will be a master-piece, and yet nine out of ten will say it was the easiest thing in nature. So every school-boy thinks he can write verses till he comes to the trial. If I fail, I shall not be ashamed of it, for, to tell you the truth, fortune must be propitious or else . . . As I suppose the Senate have a communication of our despatches so far as may suit the Department of State, you will be able to form some judgment of what my situation has been, and I think the President will do me justice in his opinion, however political consideration may sway his conduct, of which I shall never complain, for an individual should never be placed in competition with the public good.”
Added to the difficulties of his position, Morris’s patience was sorely tried by the length of time his letters took to reach America. In a letter to Washington, also of June 25th, expressing the vexation of this particular circumstance, he says:
“I am mortified more than I can tell you at the delay my letters experience in their passage. I task my mind to its utmost bent to discover those events which are most likely to happen in order that (so far, at least, as my judgment can be relied on) you may be duly prepared, and, after all, you hear of the event before my almanac comes out. I trust that long ere this you will have received what I had the honor to write during the last winter months. Should the present society be able to establish themselves I think M. Genet will have a successor, and if, the Revolution completed, things return to the point from whence they started, I am sure M. Genet will have a successor. It is my opinion that the members of Convention lately arrested will do nothing, for the greater part of them have only parole energy; and if I were called on by any urgent motive to act, it should be in conformity to that idea. In my letter to Mr. Jefferson of this day I tell him that I shall implicitly obey his orders, but this is in reply to the broad hint that my embarrassments may have arisen from inattention to the principles of free government. You may rely, sir, that I shall be cautious to commit the United States as little as possible to future contingencies. I have never thought that three parties could conveniently exist in any one country, and therefore it seems to me that one of those into which those who call themselves democrats are divided must join the royalists. I do not inquire what negotiations are carried on to that effect, for I have no desire to meddle with such affairs, directly or indirectly, and I should be very sorry to have the appearance of siding with any one party or faction whatever, being convinced that I can best do the business of the United States by keeping aloof from them all.”
During the summer of 1793 Morris kept up a rather interrupted correspondence with his friends, although he took advantage of every opportunity which promised the least safety. “But even after all precautions were taken,” he says, June 23d, in a letter to Madame de Chastellux, then at Vernon, “I know not whether my last letter reached you. Indeed, the apprehension that other eyes than yours may read what I now write lays me under a painful restraint in expressing myself. Still, I must entreat you to communicate to your amiable and unhappy mistress my sensibility for her cruel situation. Her fate is so extremely hard that severe afflictions seem yet necessary, not only before she can be restored to peace, but even for that very restoration. In some respects, however, the clouds dispel, and in her children she may meet with consolations unexpected. In her virtuous soul she will find an unfailing source of bliss which neither time nor chance can destroy, which will, I trust, assuage her anguish in this world, as it cannot fail to exalt her transports in the world to come. I am, and for about two months past have been in the country, about eight leagues from Paris, but in the opposite direction from Vernon. I would have paid my respects to the Duchess but for those events which it is needless to mention, any more than the reasons resulting from them. I still flatter myself with the hope that all the broken ends of society will be again tied together, and then the calm will be so much the more pleasant as you have been tossed and tormented by the storm. It bellows loudest on the mountain’s brow, but yet so wasteful and so wide is its range that the sweet violet of the humble vale shrinks at the blast. Little Alfred is so far happy that he has not yet put forth his buds and may hope a milder season for his bloom. That fortune may smile on his youth and gratify with rich fruits your maternal affection is, my dear madame, the sincere wish of your friend.”
Writing at this time to his brother, Lieutenant-General Staats Long Morris, in London, for the first time in many months, he says: “The applications which I made for your liberation, and which, I am told, procured it, have on that ground brought me the enclosed letter to be forwarded to you. M. de Baas asked me when I wrote to you to enclose his letter; I told him, very truly, that since the breaking out of the war I had curtailed very much my correspondence, but would nevertheless forward to you an open letter. Make my affectionate remembrances to my sister. If peace were restored I should press you to enjoy a French air on the banks of the Seine in my hermitage, where you would be in the neighborhood of many objects worth riding to look at, if it were only to gain appetite for a bottle of good claret and a slice of small mutton.”
The following letter to Mr. Pinckney at London, dated August 13th, gives an interesting picture of Morris’s isolated life at Sainport during this summer, and of the unhappy state of society in Paris and France.
“You wish to know the state of this country. There exists a tyranny alike cruel and capricious, and restrained neither by shame nor principle. The body of the people long for the restoration of their former government. The exterior is more formidable in show than in substance. The real administration is occupied in acquiring wealth. As to the news, I might write a dozen pages of newspaper, but you would derive from thence no information. As to what passes in our armies we are ignorant. Some, therefore, conjecture; and as the little information obtained consists of outlines, each fills up the picture according to his fancy, and gives it the coloring of his own disposition. Hence it happens that good patriots see great victories and small checks where the other party behold slight skirmishes and dreadful defeats. Who shall decide when doctors disagree? I am retired to the country for the sake of peace and good air. I receive the newspapers by accident. I know nothing of what passes but by hearsay. I confine my views to the giving protection to such of my countrymen as stand in need of it, or rather to the asking protection. The great revolution wheel rolls on as declivities lead, and the season is as dry as it is conveniently possible, so that nature presents no cheering view, but drives us back into the moral world to shift as we may. My letters, even between Paris and Sainport, are delayed. The Comité de Surveillance have done me the honor to peruse some of them.”
To the difficulty of receiving letters and news was added the danger of moving about, of which Morris spoke in a letter to Mr. Short during September. “By the by,” he wrote, “such is the distracted condition of the times that people experience as much difficulty in passing to and fro near the capital as they would have formerly been exposed to in going to the territory of a power at war. It is also impossible to commit anything to paper without great risks.
“One of my countrymen, on his way from Paris hither having taken up my letters in Paris (most of them brought by the post), was stopped, the letters taken from him, broken open, and sent to the Comité de Surveillance. He was detained two days, till I could apply for his release. Some of my letters were lost, and all received in a mangled condition. Orders have been given to prevent such accidents in future, and I shall not communicate this and other little affairs officially because I will not excite resentments which I do not feel. I mention this to you that you may see why information from this country respecting even private business must be very defective. To write in cipher is the sure way to have the letter intercepted. It was not possible to foresee six months ago the many extraordinary events which we have witnessed in that period, and as every day produces something new, no sober man will pretend to guess the state of things so far forward as only six weeks hence. Therefore writing across the channel, much less across the Atlantic, is totally useless. . . . Pray tell your French friends not to name anyone in their letters, for they will bring their friends to the guillotine.”
About the middle of October, and just before the execution of the queen, Morris returned to Paris, and on the 18th he wrote the following letter to Washington:
“The present government is evidently a despotism both in principle and practice. The Convention now consists of only a part of those who were chosen to frame a constitution. These, after putting under arrest their fellows, claim all power, and have delegated the greater part of it to a Committee of Safety. You will observe that one of the ordinary measures of government is to send out commissioners with unlimited authority. They are invested with power to remove officers chosen by the people, and put others in their places. This power, as well as that of imprisoning on suspicion, is liberally exercised. The Revolutionary Tribunal, established here to judge on general principles, gives unbounded scope to will. It is an emphatical phrase in fashion among the patriots, that terror is the order of the day. Some years have elapsed since Montesquiou wrote that the principle of arbitrary government is fear.
“The Queen was executed the day before yesterday. Insulted during her trial and reviled in her last moments, she behaved with dignity throughout. This execution will, I think, give to future hostilities a deeper dye, and unite more intimately the Allied Powers. It will silence the opposition of those who would not listen to the dismemberment of their country, and therefore it may be concluded that the blow by which she died was directed from a distance. But whatever may be the lot of France in remote futurity, and putting aside the military events, it seems evident that she must soon be governed by a single despot. Whether she will pass to that point through the medium of a triumvirate or other small body of men seems as yet undetermined. I think it most probable that she will. A great and awful crisis seems to be near at hand. A blow is, I am told, meditated which will shroud in grief and horror a guilty land. Already the prisons are surcharged with persons who consider themselves as victims. Nature recoils, and yet I hope that these ideas are circulated only to inspire fear. . . . The plan for the Commissioners, which will probably be carried into effect, is to charge one of those sent with letters of credence, but instructed to conform to the directions of the Board. It is probable that the new minister, on being presented, will ask you to aid in securing the person and papers of the old one. I have favored, or rather excited the idea of this procedure, for several reasons. Such a public act will place in a contemptible light the faction connected with M. Genet. The seizure of his papers, by exposing his connections with prime movers, will give a lesson to others, and the Commissioners who exercise the highest-handed authority will, on reflection, feel the necessity of respecting your government, lest they should meet a similar fate. I have insinuated the advantages which might result from an early declaration on the part of the new minister that, as France has announced her determination not to meddle with the interior affairs of other nations, he can know only the government of America. In union with this idea, I told the minister that I had observed an overruling influence in their affairs which seemed to come from the other side of the channel, and at the same time had traced the intention to excite a seditious spirit in America; that it was impossible to be on a friendly footing with such persons, but that at present a different spirit seemed to prevail, etc. This declaration produced the effect I intended. I find that this Commission will endeavor to get hold of the debt from America to France by anticipation if no other reason. If you were here you would not be surprised that people do not write to their correspondents. The times are very critical, and innocent actions may be misinterpreted. All correspondence with foreign countries gives ground of suspicion.”
The next letter to Washington, dated the 5th of February, 1794, urged the necessity for the Government to arrange for the regular conveyance of despatches. “Six packets would be amply sufficient for the service, and if, as I believe, small schooners could be safely employed as well, the prime cost would not be above three thousand pounds sterling, and the annual expense I should suppose not more than half that sum. In a newspaper of this day I find the translation of your message of the 5th of December to Congress, and observe that, after stating the violation of the treaty by a decree of the National Convention, you tell them I have been instructed to make representations to them on the subject. Now, my dear sir, this is the first I hear and all I know of such instructions. I suppose this arises from the difficulty of communication, but, whatever be the cause, I feel the effect. I beg your pardon, my dear sir, for troubling you with this groaning, scheming epistle. I will not say a word of news, as in supposable circumstances it might prevent this letter from reaching you.
“P. S. I am sorry to see that your love of retirement struggles so strongly against a continuance in public life. I am afraid the Devil (for it is from him, you know, that comes all evil) will put it in your head one day to quit outright, which God in his mercy forbid; for I tell you, and you know me well enough to believe me, it will be a very sad day for America. As to yourself, I know that you will be more happy at home, and I judge from my own feelings how strong must be your desire to get there. Apropos: Whenever you think the United States can gain anything by giving me a successor, let it be done.”
In the early spring Morris again sought the quiet and refreshment of his little home at Sainport, and from there he wrote to Robert Morris on March 10th, asking for information on many subjects. “Neither from the United States nor from you,” he wrote, “has one line come since the month of July, 1793; and six months have passed since the receipt of public despatches. I hope the new Secretary of State, who was formerly an attentive man, will contrive to let the servants of the United States in foreign countries hear from time to time whether their letters are received. I am very disinterested in this hope, for different reports from various quarters seem to concur in the idea that I am to be recalled. On that subject I will here express to you my opinion as coolly as if I were speaking of a stranger, and concerning a transaction of the last century. It will not be wise. If the government here were fixed on any permanent basis, it would be proper for America to have here a man agreeable to the rulers of the country, provided always that he did not, to render himself agreeable, sacrifice the interests intrusted to his care. But during the changes which hourly (as it were) take place, it is impossible for any man to do the business he is called on to perform unless he have the consciousness of support from home, and unless those who are here be well convinced that he cannot be removed at the will and pleasure of any faction or party in the country where he resides. The power to remove is more than equivalent to the power of appointing in its influence on the mind of the agent, and so it will be found in its exercise. On the present occasion, it is lighter than a feather. I will pursue what I conceive to be the true interest of America in spite of faction and calumny in either hemisphere or in both, saving always my obedience to the instructions I receive. M. Genet’s attempts I conjectured beforehand, but I should suppose that his channel was not the best through which to apply for the appointment of a successor to me. Mine on his subject met with every attention which could be desired. . . .
“You are mistaken if you suppose that my habitation merits the name of château. A château was in my offer on most eligible terms, but I am not a lover of show or magnificence. My house, my humble house, in the neighborhood of many superb châteaux, exhibits a plentiful, plain, wholesome table, and commands a cellar of excellent liquors. Temperance and hospitality are the titular deities which preside. If I could receive you in it the former of these goddesses might chance to be neglected for one evening, in the course of which her sister should rule alone; or, rather, I would give them both a holiday, and we would together brighten the chain of ancient friendship which will, I hope, endure as long as we do.
“At this moment I look out of my window and see the pear- and plum-trees in full bloom. The peaches, apricots, and almonds are already formed. The apple-trees are advanced. We have had hardly any winter, and if there comes no frost the season will be wonderful. They dread the moon of April, which is called la lune rousse, i.e., the red-haired moon. Within these few days past it has been so hot that exercise at noon was very disagreeable. This is the best farming country I ever saw, taking it for all in all, but it is badly cultivated. Our country is capable of producing much better fruits, and with far greater certainty. I will not except either grapes or plums; except the nectarine, I may—and, by the by, it is a beautiful, bad fruit.
“You tell me that I can be more useful to the United States and to myself in America than here, which I can readily believe; but I hope this does not mean the putting me in any office. My wish is to pass quietly what may remain of my life when I get home, and to close my little circle at the spot where it began. I do not mean by this to say that if my services were necessary to my country they should be withheld, but I hope no such necessity will ever exist, and I have modesty enough to believe so. I believe that my residence here has been of little use, but that is not my fault. If the present Secretary of State would take the trouble of reading over my letters from the beginning he will find that I have given regularly for months beforehand an account of what would happen. If credit was not given to my predictions, it was not my fault. As to my conduct here, I will neither praise nor excuse it, but confine myself to the sincere wish that my successor, whoever he be, may act with more wisdom in a situation less critical. And for the rest, I leave it to fortune, which is but another name for Providence, knowing that the world judges only from events, and, of course, that the general or statesman who gains one brilliant affair is more applauded than he who exists, with small force or assistance and in a dangerous situation, through the course of a long campaign.
“I am ashamed to have said so much of myself even to you. I therefore quit the subject with desiring my affectionate compliments to Hamilton, and my congratulations that he has such violent enemies; for if it be just to judge a private man by his friends, it is not amiss to estimate a public man by his foes.”
To Washington Morris again wrote a few days later (March 12th): “Every day confirms what is written in my letter of the 18th of last October. But parties are so balanced, and the impending force from abroad is in such threatening attitude, that the present state of things drags on its existence rather from surrounding circumstances than from internal vigor, and, strange as it may seem, the impending changes may arise from a victory, a defeat, or from a famine.
“The gazettes tell us that Mr. Jefferson is coming to Europe—some of them say as my successor; others say it is a secret mission. I have heard it said that he is to negotiate a peace among the belligerent powers. For my own part, I hold in politics the opinions which prevail in physics among some philosophers, viz., that it is proper to determine facts before we attempt to discover causes. I wait, therefore, patiently the event. Major Jackson, who has been here for some time, gave me two successors, first Mr. Bingham and then Mr. Pinckney; giving in the latter case Mr. Pinckney’s place to Mr. Bingham. So it is easy, you see, to fill up vacancies. The probable events of the campaign about to open are not favorable to the French Republic. It will be extremely difficult for them to subsist the armies needful for their defence, and the extreme severity exercised by the present government will, in case of adverse events, excite an universal insurrection. At present the people are restrained by fear from showing any sentiment unfavorable to the existent authorities. But, as is usual in like circumstances, should that fear be removed it will be succeeded by sharp resentment. If, however, the armies of the Republic should prove successful, they would, in my opinion, be the first to overturn the Convention, for such is the usual course of things. A terrible perspective this, my dear sir, for those who are at present in the saddle. No wonder, therefore, if they ride hard. It is not the least of their misfortunes to be fully sensible of their situation, and it results therefrom that as much time is consumed in providing for their defence against adverse factions and contingent events as in preparing for the general defence of the country; more, perhaps. How different was our situation in America. Everyone performed cheerfully his part; nor had we anything to apprehend but from the common enemy. Such is the immense difference between a country which has morals and one which is corrupted. The former has everything to hope, and the latter everything to fear.”
Again, after the fall of Danton, and under date of April 18th, Morris wrote to Washington of the event, recalling at the same time to Washington’s mind a letter concerning Danton which he had written some months previously:
“In a letter which I had the honor of writing to you on the 10th of January, 1793, I gave you some traits respecting M. Westermann, and, as my public despatches had already communicated the plans of M. Danton, you will not be surprised at what has lately happened to them. I wrote to you on the 25th of June that those who rule the roast had just ideas of the value of popular opinion; also, that should they reach a harbor it would be as much by good luck as by good management, and that at any rate part of the crew would be thrown overboard. Those I had then particularly in view were Chabot∗ and company, of which company a part still exists. On the 18th of October I gave you a short view of the nature of the then government, and added what seemed to be the probable termination. I therein observed that whether France would pass to that point through the medium of a triumvirate or other small body of men seemed as yet undetermined, but that I thought it most probable she would. At that period things were wound up very high, and ever since the utmost uncertainty has prevailed as to the stroke which would be given. I enclose herein a copy of what I wrote you the 12th of last month, since which both the Dantonists and Hébertists are crushed. The fall of Danton seems to terminate the idea of a triumvirate. The chief who would in such case have been one of his colleagues has wisely put out of the way a dangerous competitor. Hence it would seem that the high-road must be laid through the Comité de Salut Public, unless, indeed, the army should meddle. But as to the army, no character seems as yet to have appeared with any prominent feature; neither is there so much discipline as would give an aspiring character just ground of hope. It is a wonderful thing, sir, that four years of convulsion among four and twenty millions of people has brought forth no one, either in civil or military life, whose head would fit the cap which fortune has woven. Robespierre has been the most consistent, if not the only consistent. He is one of those of whom Shakespeare’s Cæsar speaks to his frolicsome companion, ‘He loves no plays as thou dost, Antony.’ There is no imputation against him for corruption. He is far from rich, and still further from appearing so. It is said that his idol is ambition, but I think that the establishment of the Republic would (all things considered) be most suitable to him. Whether he thinks so is another question, which I will not pretend to answer, nor how far such establishment may appear to him practicable. If it be supposed that a man in his situation should absolutely despair of the Republic and have so much diffidence, either in his abilities or his influence, as to despair also of obtaining, much less of preserving, the supreme power, then it might be supposed that Danton’s plan would be by such person carried into execution. Yet all this supposition is but conjectural foundation of new conjecture. And what are the Allies about? Forming schemes to be executed, if they should continue to be allies.”
The spring of 1794 was lovely and fruitful. “The weather,” Morris wrote to Robert Morris on April 25th, “continues fine, or, to use a more apposite expression, hot—about the temperature of our month of June. Heaven seems to have decided in favor of the Republic against those who would by famine deprive her of freedom. Such promise of fruits and of all vegetable productions was never seen. It is indeed a miracle in nature, considering the latitude, for at this moment all the fruits are formed—the strawberries in full blossom, the apples are set, the vines, not in blossom, but the future clusters already marked. In the lawn under my eye I have grass lodged, some of it a yard high. In short, it is difficult to persuade one’s self that the dates are just. This advance in the season will probably save us from the horrors of famine. A frost is possible, but there seems to be but little reason for apprehending it.
“Since my last there have been abundant executions at Paris, and the guillotine goes on smartly. It was a matter of great doubt before the blow was struck which party was strongest. Perhaps the victory depended on the first stroke. Danton, when condemned, or shortly before it, told his judges that he had observed in reading history that men generally perished by the instruments of destruction which they had themselves created. ‘I’ (says he) ‘created the Tribunal Révolutionnaire by which I am shortly to be destroyed.’ Shakespeare had made Macbeth pronounce the same dreadful sentence on the wickedly ambitious long ago. ‘But in these cases we still have judgment here; that we but teach bloody instructions which, being taught, return to plague the inventor: this even-handed justice commends the ingredients of our poisoned chalice to our own lips.’ God only knows who next is to drink out of the same cup, but, as far as I can judge, there is no want of liquor. The rest depends on circumstances.”
“Every gazette announces new victories, and gives, of course, hope that France may soon enjoy that freedom from which she derives her name,” Morris wrote, July 4th, to Leray de Chaumont at Nyon. “Let me offer congratulations on this anniversary of American Independence, our country’s natal day. The new Federal city (Washington) will be unquestionably one of the first cities on earth, and when I get back to America I mean to choose a good spot and build a house on it for myself. Five hundred dollars would buy a lot. Ships take building materials cheap from ports of Europe to Washington; and twenty-five thousand dollars would build a very large house in the American way of building, without parquets, carving, gilding, and the like costly ornamentations.”
Morris’s next letter to Washington, dated July 25th, had for its subject the trials of Madame de Lafayette, and also was an acknowledgment of a letter of Washington’s, “which had,” he wrote, “been a little more than a year in its passage. Before it reached me Madame de Lafayette (who, in common with most others of the nobility, had been confined in her province) was brought on to Paris, where she is now imprisoned. As soon as I heard it, which was the day of her arrival, I took the steps which appeared to me most proper for preventing the catastrophe which is to be apprehended. Since that period, finding that whatever may be the inclination of individuals every one remains silent, for fear of compromising himself, I have written to the Commissioner of Exterior Relations an unofficial letter, on the 29th of last month, to which as yet I have received no answer. I tell him that I know not whether she is brought up to be tried or only as a safer place of confinement, and that, moreover, I do not pretend to meddle with matters foreign to my mission, but think it proper to prove on that occasion my attachment to the cause in which the French are embarked, etc. I then assure him that my letter (directed to him, by the by, as a citizen and not as a commissioner) is not official, but amical and dictated by friendly sentiment, etc. After which I state that the family of Lafayette is beloved in America; that without examining his conduct in this country, which would doubtless be condemned, my fellow-citizens confine themselves to the grateful remembrance of the services he has rendered us, and therefore the death of his wife might lessen the attachment of some among them to the French Republic; that it would furnish the partisans of England with means of misrepresenting what passes here; that I cannot but think her existence of very little consequence to this government; and that I am sure its enemies will rejoice at the destruction of anything which bears the name of Lafayette. I conclude by the assurance that I have taken that step from what I conceive to be the true interest of the French Republic. What may be the effect of this application I know not, but if she is preserved for some time I shall have hopes—the more so as I conceive the present rage for executions must at length terminate. The gazettes will give you the details on that subject and spare me the pain of dwelling on it. I will here, however, mention to you what I have done for this unfortunate family of Lafayette. She wrote to me last summer desiring I would officially pledge the United States as security for certain sums due by his estate and which, not being exactly within the line marked out for the creditors of emigrants, might not be allowed in liquidation, and she stated that his honor and hers stood pledged, etc. You will readily conceive that I did not comply with that request, but at the same time your goodness will feel that a flat denial would add sorrow to distress. In this dilemma I informed her that it was inconsistent with the dignity of governments to appear in such affairs; moreover, I had not any right to dispose of the public property, but, as far as my own would go for her relief, she might count on every aid in my power. Not to fatigue you with a long story, this engagement ended by paying her in November last one hundred thousand livres when the assignats were at par (or, indeed, for silver, under par) and when, by the obstacles thrown in the way of all negotiations, it became to me an object of very serious inconvenience. However, I had taken the engagement, and it was necessary to keep it or break my word. When she was brought up to Paris she sent a person to me to communicate her situation and that of her children, and to propose an advance of credit to the amount of one hundred and fifty thousand livres in order to complete some arrangements which they had imagined at Chavagnac. This advance I declined, not only because the plan they had formed appeared to me unwise but because I had not the money to dispose of. Being hard pressed for an opinion of consolatory nature to those poor children, I authorized the person employed to assure them of my conviction that the United States would take care of them. This I cannot doubt of, and I flatter myself that they may all of them be yet united at some future day in our hospitable regions, and that they will have cause to speak with gratitude of the bounty of America.”
In August the new Minister from the United States to France arrived; his advent was an inexpressible relief to Morris, and in the following letter, of August 14th, to Robert Morris he gave vent to his feelings on the subject.
“Presenting my successor, which I did yesterday, to the Commissioners, has given me more pleasure than any event for many months. As soon as the ceremonial is adjusted for his reception, I shall be relieved from a burden which has pressed on my shoulders, and which I am happier to be rid of than you can easily conceive. I am preparing for my departure, but as yet can take no step, as there is a kind of interregnum in the government and Mr. Monroe is not yet received, at which he grows somewhat impatient. The intelligence you give me respecting myself is particularly pleasing. I desired much to be recalled, but I would not ask it because I conceived my honor concerned in seeing the thing through. My only remaining wish is that the measure may be as useful to the United States as it is pleasing to me.”
After seeing his successor installed and disposing of his house at Paris, Mr. Morris’s intention was to return at once to America; and with this object in view he sought, and after much difficulty found, a sea-worthy ship to take himself and his effects across the Atlantic. But events in Europe were so interesting at this moment, and promised so much excitement and stir for the future, that he suddenly changed his plans, and determined to stay at least another year in Europe and watch the great play enacting on that stage. This year lengthened itself into quite four years before he embarked for America.
In October, 1794, however, he sent his steward Bromeling in the ship Superb to New York, “with,” as he wrote to Mr. Constable, “all my books, liquors, linens, furniture, plate, and carriages, which I presume will be admitted free of duty.” Instructions were sent that the “things, when the ship arrived, should be taken from her to Morrisania by periaugers,” and his overseer was directed to take especial care of his liquors and wines. Among the latter was a large quantity of Imperial Tokay sealed in wax with the double-headed eagle of Austria, the wedding-present of Maria Theresa to the unfortunate queen Marie Antoinette. This wine Mr. Morris had bought during the days of the Terror from a cheap grocery shop, where it was exposed for sale at twenty-five cents a bottle. The last bottle of it was opened at a wedding-party in New York in 1848.
[∗]As soon as Washington demanded the recall of Genet, the French Government demanded in return the recall of Morris. Grave charges, in the mean time, had been brought against Morris by his enemies, and accusations of fomenting a counter-revolution, which so alarmed Washington and Jefferson that Morris would probably have been recalled but for Edmund Randolph, who wrote to Washington, February 22, 1793, as follows: “The charges have come in an ambiguous form, half private, half public; and it must be uncertain, until the arrival of the new Minister from France, to what extent those charges are to be pressed. To seize so imperfect an opportunity for dismission might argue an eagerness to get rid of the officer, and before such a stroke is given to the reputation of any man, ought he not to be heard?”
[∗]François Chabot, a Capuchin priest, and the scandal of his native town of Rhodez. In 1792 he was appointed deputy to the legislature. He was one of the chief instigators of the events of the 10th of August. Robespierre had him condemned to death as a partisan of Danton, and he was guillotined in April, 1794.