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CHAPTER XXX. - 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 leaves Paris and France. Resumes his diary. Thinks Monroe takes a wrong tone. Journey through France. Switzerland. Coppet. Madame de Staël. M. Necker. Malet du Pin. Berne. Basle. Hospitality of friends. Incidents en route. Scraps of news. Hamburg. Glad to have left his position in France. Letter to Washington. Extremely cold weather. Princess of Wales goes to England. Madame de Flahaut. Treaty between Prussia and France published, April, 1795. Morris becomes surety for the Duke of Orleans. Verses to Mesdames de Beaurepaire and de Flahaut. Riots at Paris. Morris helps his friends among the émigrés. History of M. d’Angivilliers’s silver plate. Power of the Jacobins broken. Distress in France. Letter to Washington.
On Sunday, October 12, 1794, Morris left Paris for Sainport to make arrangements for disposing of his possessions there, and two days later he bade a final farewell to France and journeyed to Hamburg. The entries in the diary commence again on October 12th, with a description of the journey to Sainport.
“I left Paris this morning at ten o’clock. Instead of four horses I have but three, and my servant mounts behind the carriage. The postmaster says that all his bidets are held at the order of the Comité de Salut Public. This I suspect to be untrue. I reach Charenton, where I find it next to impossible to find a bidet, and so go on as before. The postmaster says it is impossible to procure post-horses; that they are, moreover, very dear and very bad, etc.—all which I believe, being the natural result of a system of paper money, and, above all, of a war like the present, which cannot but exhaust the country exposed to it.
“At Villeneuve, again, there are difficulties about a bidet. I agree to pay three posts for the distance to Sainport, which is more than I ought; but on all such occasions one is at the postmaster’s mercy—one among many bad consequences of doing that by exclusive privilege and minute regulation which should be left to competition and private interest. In how many different ways reflection and experience inculcate the important maxim not to govern too much. The state of husbandry in the country through which I pass is detestable: no artificial grasses, and but little natural meadow; two years of crop and one of fallow, consequently small crops and very foul with all kinds of weeds. The little experiments I have made at Sainport during the summer, upon some of the worst land in the whole country, convince me that intelligent husbandry would almost work miracles here. I am persuaded that France ought (for at least two years to come) to renounce all idea of colonies and commerce. The culture of her soil and the active pursuit of fisheries on her coast would, if she were well governed, raise her to a pitch of prosperity which can hardly be conceived. Corn, wine, oil, silk, flax, and hemp, with a sufficiency of iron, give her the first principles of wealth, and the genius of her people in converting the rude materials into various manufactures would, if well directed, accumulate again, in less than half a century, the immense property expended on the present war. The amount will not be known until after the close of it, but, if I judge rightly, she will be exhausted to a degree beyond what would have been conceived to lie within the power of any government. Constantly successful in the field, she is running to ruin with a rapidity that is as yet unknown in the history of human affairs. Before I left Paris, Mr. Monroe called on me and explained his conduct and his views. He begins to find out that fine words are of little value, and his letters from America show me that something more is expected (and justly expected) there, for many violences committed against our merchants. In my opinion he has taken the wrong tone at first, and will find much difficulty in changing it now. Time must determine a pretty serious question on that subject. So far as I am personally concerned at least, I have the consolation to have made no sacrifice either of personal or national dignity, and I believe I would have obtained everything if the American Government had refused to recall me. I rejoice that I am no longer in the pitiful situation which I have so long endured; for the rest, experience must decide, and I hope that events will be favorable to America. At Sainport, I feel relieved and rejoiced to be for a day without the torment of attention to any sort of affairs, after having been so plagued with a variety of them. The weather is mild to-day and threatens for to-morrow. I must wish for soft weather, both on account of my gout and of my journey. Should it turn cold, Mount Jura will prove a tough morsel. I did not reach Sainport till a quarter after three; say, from Paris, five hours and a quarter. I used to come with my own horses easily in four hours, generally in three and a half.”
“This morning [October 14th] I get off from Sainport at ten minutes before eleven. At Pont-sur-Yonne I am forced to apply to the officers of justice to settle the extortion of the postilion; and then on again through very rich but badly cultivated land, through which the Yonne meanders to Vallogne. Here the landlady of the inn is in the style of the ancien régime, and every ‘monsieur’ she utters is worth five sous at least in the bill. Pass Dijon and arrive at Mont-sur-Vaudray, where there are no horses, and I must wait till others can be refreshed; I am obliged to subscribe to the terms the postilion was pleased to propose, although the law is in my favor; but what signifies the law in this country at present? A half-drunk and wholly insolent postilion takes me one post, where we rise in truth a mountain, but the road is excellent; there is a striking view, which to the approaching traveller is terribly beautiful, if he gives the rein to imagination. In a valley towards which he goes are thrown a parcel of mountains, somewhat resembling cocks of hay but of a mass more great as well as more solid, for they are large and of rock. In the midst of them, as if intended for theatrical decorations, is one on the side of which the road resembles a little ribbon, and it hangs over a vast precipice. Both the beginning and the end are hidden, one by the mountain itself, the other by the base of a brother-mountain which is nearer to us. After descending into the valley we turn to the left, and, having wound round that part which was concealed, we turn to the right, and gain that which was disclosed. Up these roads we go, drawn by three horses, the postilion amusing himself as he walks behind the carriage, and a horse need only sheer a little to throw the carriage and its contents at least a hundred fathoms upon the rocks beneath. To show apprehension would be only to excite mirth, and induce him to try projects, for I observed the fellow looking at me askance to discover whether I am terrified, but a very severe countenance and not a word spoken induces him to take hold of the bridle of his porteur. It was time.”
“Arrived at Morey [October 19th] we are surrounded by the commis of the douane. I show my passport and, to obviate unnecessary cavil and examination, show them also my permission from the Comité de Salut Public to export four hundred louis, telling them it would have cost me only the trouble of asking it to export five times that amount. This quiets a little the bustle. The mayor arrives, bringing in his hands my passport. He observes that it is not signed by me, and makes no mention of my wooden leg. I show him two or three old passports for the interior which I had kept, and these, with the permit of the Committee, obviate difficulties. As we leave Les Rousses we ascend a little, and soon pass the dividing line between the territories of the two nations. It is marked by a stone wall which a pig can jump over anywhere. Shortly after we get into Switzerland, round the point of mountain which shuts in that gap through which we descend, I perceive before us the Alps, and chief among their highnesses—for they at least merit that title—Mont Blanc, at whose foot lie the glaciers filled with the accumulated frost of centuries.”
“Still advancing [October 20th], we see the lake of Geneva and the Pays de Vaud under our feet; a fine coup d’œil, but in this season it wants verdure. The Alps are majestically grand, but they become more awful as we descend, and thence I am led to observe that mountains, like other great folks, inspire less respect when seen from something like their own level. In my route to-day, clambering up hill, I was reminded of an expression of General Putnam respecting Westchester County, which here is literally true. ‘Get,’ says he, ‘upon the highest hill you can find, and you will immediately see another which is higher. There are hills here which we cannot get upon. We reach Cour, in the neighborhood of Lausanne, where M. Chaumont resides, this day and put up at the hotel.”
“This morning [October 21st] at twelve set off to see the Baron de Coppet, alias M. Necker. He is abroad and I am so pressed to remain until his return that I cannot avoid it, although I had ordered dinner at home, and wished for many reasons to return. He arrives a little while before dinner, and is truly glad to see me; so much more so than I can account for, that I conclude there is something behind. Company come after dinner. The French affairs form, of course, the subject of conversation. He wishes to speak to me in private, and I find that Leray de Chaumont has been dealing with him.∗
“This morning [October 23d] I have a smart touch of the gout, in consequence of my yesterday’s walk. Go to dinner at Madame de Staël’s, where I am received with great warmth—the more necessary as I have a villainous ague. A good appetite at dinner, but the ague comes on very strong and then the fever, which is gentle. We have much talk, or rather I have, for they are desirous of information, both public and private, and I am more in condition to give it than most others. There is here a little French society which live at her expense and are as gay as circumstances will permit. The road to her house is up hill and execrable, so that I think I shall not go again thither. On my return, being much out of sorts, I find bed the properest place for me, and my pillow the fittest society.”
“This morning [October 24th] I still suffer with the gout. M. de Narbonne comes after dinner, but Madame de Staël, who was expected, does not appear till later, when she comes and gives me much of her history and plans of life.”
“Leave Cour [November 5th], and stop on my way to see Madame de Tessé, who has quarrelled with Madame de Tôt, and who complains of persecution, and in consequence she is about to quit this country and go, with about ten to twelve thousand pounds sterling, she knows not whither. Advise her to invest in the American three per cents.”
“This evening [November 6th] at Berne Messieurs Malet du Pin and Mounier call upon me. I see in a den made for the purpose one of three bears which are maintained here at the public expense. There is a pension of 4,000f. Swiss, or 6,000f. French, appropriated to the keeping of four bears. Malet du Pin tells me that the Austrian Cabinet is seriously determined on continuing the war if it can be done.”
“At Basle [November 11th] I buy the horses of M. Diodati, and engage his coachman, who seems to be an excellent creature. Dine with M. Diodati and go to the concert. There are arrived in town some Prussian officers, said to come for the purpose of treating about an exchange of prisoners. Two deputies are expected, and the idea is that a treaty of peace is in contemplation. It is possible enough. Many and many civilities from M. and Madame Diodati.”
Morris’s journey from Paris to Hamburg was charmingly diversified by the kind reception of old friends whom he met in the different towns he passed through, and also by many hospitalities shown him by strangers to whom he had letters, who dined and wined him with almost more liberality than he cared for. The relief that he experienced at being once more free he expressed in letters to various friends written along the way. To Mr. Isaac Parish, of Hamburg, he wrote from Basle, November 12th: “The arrival of a successor has at last enabled me to quit the irksome place which I occupied, and I am now on my way to your city.” And to William Short, then at Madrid, he wrote of the “relief it is to get away from my duties as Minister. I hope,” he adds, “you have so much friendship for me as to be heartily glad at my removal from the place I lately occupied. . . . As to the political state of France, it is externally as strong as its best friends could desire, and internally as weak as its worst enemies could wish.”
“To-day,” says the diary for November 13th, “I set off with my own horses, which I see for the first time, having bought them at a venture from the Comte Diodati. They appear to be excellent, and we jog along over execrable roads and I get cheated at the various inns I stop at. The best way, however, is to pay with good humor and jog patiently on. The art of living consists, I think, in some considerable degree in knowing how to be cheated. At Hirschfeld this evening, after taking tea and as I am going to bed, I receive a message from the Landgravine and another from the Duchesse de Bouillon, her sister. It is impossible to refuse, so I embark in a voiture de la cour and wait on the Duchess; then go to the Château and assist at the souper. Madame had known me at the Baron Besenval’s five years ago and, hearing my name, was desirous of seeing me. Je suis comblé de politesses of the right kind, and am pressed to stay and dine to-morrow. The gentlemen assure me that the spring of my carriage shall be mended in the morning. The smith of Monseigneur is to do it. It is near twelve when I get to bed, which is not right for a traveller.”
“The next morning I am off at ten. At Münden [December 2d] I meet a young Austrian officer who dined with me, and who is a prisoner on parole, taken at Maestricht. He tells me that the Dutch troops are detestable, and their fortresses wholly unprovided of provisions and military stores. At Maestricht he says there were no casemates, and two magazines of powder were blown up by the enemy’s bombs. He tells me also that in the French army there are a great number of very young people, and even children of thirteen and fourteen years of age.”
“At Zelle, to-night [December 6th], the Hamburg gazette arrives, which announced the surrender of Luxembourg to the French. If this be true, there remains only Mayence to be taken, and the young Republic is bounded by the Rhine. I agree to take a pair of young sorrel horses of a man on the road, who is driving them before a wagon; the price, thirty-four louis d’ors, and he is to deliver them at Hamburg for five crowns. The fire in the kitchen of the inn where we dine to-day is the first thing of the kind I have seen. The kitchen is in the middle of the house, half-way between the chambers and the barns and stables. It has a square hearth, in the middle of the floor nearly, and without any chimney, but a flooring directly over it all black with smoke, which is to find a way out of the house as well as it can. Against the beams on which this floor rests are suspended beef, pork, mutton, and split geese, which have been pickled, and are now smoke-drying. The dinner consists of a piece of the mutton stewed with turnips. One of my servants recommends it to me, and I find it very good. My horse-seller gives me some white bread (the house not furnishing any), and I make one of the heartiest meals of my life. The servant who recommended it to me, however, eats still more, and the quantity demolished between us is astonishing. What is still more astonishing is that the price for both of us is but four gros, or groschen, equal to about two sterling groats, or sixteen sous of French money. The hay and oats of my horses amount to eighteen-pence sterling for four horses. This is cheap living. Last night, in conversing with my host, I find that the present war is highly unpopular in this country; that the sovereign is much disliked, and that their connection with Great Britain is extremely irksome to them. He tells me that he understands an attempt is to be made to-morrow to raise recruits by force, but he thinks the people will not submit to it. The French cause is greatly favored. They are desirous the French should come among them.”
Morris reached Hamburg early in December, and the following letter to Washington, dated December 30th, explains the reason of his presence there.
“MyDearSir: At this late hour and from this remote corner, I am to acknowledge your favors of the 19th and 25th June. I did not reply from Paris, because I wished for a safe conveyance, and although none offers itself at present, yet I will write what occurs for communication, and take a future chance of transmission. The assurances of friendly esteem which your letters convey are very pleasing; but, indeed, I never doubted of the sentiments you express, and even go so far as to flatter myself that the measure in question was not agreeable to you. It was highly so to me, and although I am persuaded that you will believe me on my word, I will nevertheless assign some reasons why a change of situation was desirable. And first, you will see from what is now publicly known respecting those who administer the French despotism how painful it must have been to represent our virtuous republic to such persons. I had stayed at some risk after the 10th of August, because I thought the interests of America required it, and I did not ask my recall at a subsequent period because it would not have been honorable to abandon a post which, if no longer unsafe, was at least unpleasant. I felt that I was useless, and, indeed, that nobody could be useful until some permanent system should be established. I saw misery and affliction every day and all around me, without power to mitigate or means to relieve, and I felt myself degraded by the communications I was forced into with the worst of mankind, in order to obtain redress for the injuries sustained by my fellow-citizens. During that state of things I was grossly insulted by the arrest of a lady in my house, by order of the Committee of General Safety. I could not resent this as I ought to have done, by quitting the country, because a great number of our citizens were then detained in France, with much of their property, and I knew the violences which those who administer the government were capable of. Moreover, I saw with regret that the temper of America was not such as her best citizens could have wished, and the conduct of Britain rendered a temporizing conduct with France indispensable. My representations obtained a half-apology and promise of satisfaction, but occasioned the order to solicit my recall, of which I was apprised within four and twenty hours after it was given, and might easily have shown whence it originated; but, to tell you the truth, I was inclined to wish that I might be removed on their application. I really believe it was necessary to my reputation. So long as they believed in the success of their demand, they treated my representations with indifference and contempt; but at last, hearing nothing from their minister on that subject, or, indeed, on any other, they took it into their heads that I was immovable, and made overtures for conciliation. At this time I began to apprehend that we should be plunged into a war with England, in which case it would have become my duty to aid the French as far as my abilities might go. But as I knew their temper, I replied to the advances made that I was not to be affected by smooth words, so that they must begin by complying with the various demands I had made, and show me by facts that they were well-disposed. Shortly after this I received a volunteer letter from the Commissary of Exterior Relations (a poor creature who scarce dared wipe his nose without an order from the Committee of Safety), assuring me that he had transmitted my various representations to the Commissary of the Marine, and expected soon to give me satisfactory answers. It was written ten days before the death of Robespierre, shortly after which Mr. Monroe arrived. He was fortunate in not reaching France at an earlier period, for, if I may judge by what fell within my observation, he would have been a little too well with that party to be viewed in a neutral light by their opponents. I hope he may succeed in obtaining the redress of those grievances which our countrymen labored under, but on the 12th of October, when I left Paris, nothing was done. I found my present hopes, however, on Mr. Jay’s treaty, for they will now be somewhat more cautious respecting us than they have been.
“In reply to what you say about my return to America, I must tell you that I could not depart in such season as that my communications could be of much importance; and therefore, as I must have exposed myself to the inconveniences of a winter’s passage, I deferred my voyage, and the rather as I have some affairs in London which I wish to wind up. I should have gone thither for that purpose direct, but the French would have harbored jealousies respecting my journey which for many reasons I wish not to excite; and therefore I came round through Switzerland to this city, in which I am now weatherbound. So much for my history.
“As to the state of political affairs, the Polish insurrection is, as you know, completely subdued, and of course the attention of Europe is all turned to France, which has lately triumphed in every quarter by the extreme misconduct of her enemies. It seems at present that they are coming to their senses, and, if I am rightly informed, they have at length abandoned the idea of dismemberment and mean to pursue simply the establishment of the throne. If they act wisely and vigorously in that direction it seems to me that they must succeed, for the French are wearied and exhausted by the contest. They detest and despise their present rulers, and, as far as I have been able to judge, they ardently desire the restoration of their Prince. You will ask, perhaps, why, then, do they not restore him? It is because they dare not act nor even speak, so that they do not know each other’s opinions, and, of course, each individual apprehends from the general mass. But everything which has taken place leads them to look back with regret to their ancient situation. In judging the French we must not recur to the feelings of America during the last war. We were in the actual enjoyment of freedom, and fought not to obtain but to secure its blessing. The people elected their magistrates during the continuance of the war. The property of the country was engaged in the Revolution, and the oppressions which it occasioned were neither great, extensive, nor of long duration. But in France they have been lured by one idle hope after another, until they are plunged in the depth of misery and servitude; so much the more degrading, as that they cannot but despise their masters. I have long, you know, predicted a single despotism, and you have seen how near they have been to that catastrophe. Chance, or rather the want of mettle in the usurper, has alone saved them to the present moment; but I am still convinced that they must end their voyage in that port, and they would probably reach it, should they make peace with all their foreign enemies, through the channel of a civil war.” “The news from Holland,” says the diary for January 3, 1795, “turn out, as I expected, much less unfavorable to the Allies than was expected. The French, having failed in one of their attempts to cross the Waal, have retired, and with considerable loss. Visit the British Minister and see Mr. Lane, who reads to me his letter from Brunswick communicating the determination of Prussia to make peace with France.”
“The weather [January 23d] is extremely cold; seldom colder, they say, in Russia. The Empress by edict has ordered all public amusements to stop when the cold is at seventeen degrees, because the men and horses exposed to the air must frequently perish. This loss of Holland turns people’s minds very strongly towards America. I observed this day a very strange phenomenon. The sun shone very bright, not a cloud to be seen, and yet it snowed. Several of our company had noticed the same thing, also that it continued to snow this evening with a bright starlight, which I had also remarked. Many of the guests laugh at the idea, and yet refuse to go out and verify it by the evidence of their senses. I dare say that if this were recounted anywhere else it would be considered as making use of the traveller’s privilege. The weather is greatly softened this evening, but in the two last days many persons have been frozen to death. There is no news which can be depended on either from France or Holland, and the communication with England is entirely stopped.”
“The Elbe is opened [March 11th], though the season is very backward, and the fleet of British frigates is arrived at the mouth to convey the Princess of Wales to England. By the gazettes it would seem that the system of cruelty is going more and more out of fashion in France. The Abbé St. Albin tells me of the refusal of the Prince of Wales to marry unless they pay his debts, which appear twice what he announced, and more than Pitt dare propose to the Commons.”
“We learn from France [April 13th] that Paris is far from quiet, and the scarcity of food becomes daily more sensible. Yesterday I plucked a violet on the south side of a steep hill; it is the first I have seen. I present it and some other flowers to Madame de Flahaut, who is lodging at Altona,∗ and write at the same time:
“It is affirmed [April 19th], as announced by five couriers, that peace is signed between Prussia and France. Boyd tells me that Pitt had offered a subsidy to the King of Prussia, but he knows not the conditions.”
“I have company to dine [April 21st] and am told that the treaty between Prussia and France is published, and that the Prussian possessions beyond the Rhine are provisoirement to remain in the hands of France. Walk and visit Madame de Flahaut. M. Thouvenot has told her that a loan can be obtained for the young Duke of Orleans if I will be his surety. I think over the proposition for a day and tell Madame de Flahaut that I will become surety, etc., and form a joint concern. M. Thouvenot calls and takes notes of my proposals. The young man is disinclined to making great engagements, and I am of his opinion. The Princesse de Vaudemont brings the Duc de Choiseul to dine with me. He is just escaped from Dunkirk, whither he had been carried by a French frigate which had taken him on board of a British packet. Call on the Duke of Orleans, who goes off this evening on a journey northward. Madame de Flahaut tells me that she is informed that Paris will soon be the scene of great commotions. By advices as late as the 27th of last month they are reduced to four ounces of bread per day. She also told me last evening that Madame de Beaurepaire was to call this morning in order to get a cap made, and wished me to ask her and her companion, M. de Boursac, to dine, which I agreed to, but this morning wrote an additional invitation:
“I had been informed [May 13th] that Austria negotiated for peace, but I am told that the Emperor has made his solemn declaration at Ratisbon in favor of the continuance of hostilities; that the resolutions of the Cabinet of Vienna were to that effect. The news of a late date from Paris is that they now think of adopting the American Constitution and talk of Pichegru and the Abbé Siéyès as President. The former has his headquarters at Versailles. My landlady tells me there is a rumor in town that the young King of France and his sister are escaped from the Temple, and that it is supposed they are gone to join Charette.”∗
“I learn from Madame de Flahaut [June 1st] that there has been a riot at Paris in which the Jacobins had the advantage the 22d of May, and the Assembly the 23d was completely victorious. It seems that the Jacobins had for some time the upper hand, but were finally crushed, and the Convention was in full train to destroy them. Barère & Co. will experience the same fate. Thus the divine justice singles out its victims, and each shall perish by the other. The famine still rages, and must, I think, destroy the Convention sooner or later, for I know not how a people are to be restrained who are void of principle, and who perish with hunger. M. de Septeuil calls on me this afternoon to settle an affair of M. d’Angivilliers, and among other things asks me if the King did not deposit with me the amount of the Civil List. He understood that they were to be transmitted by M. de Monciel. I tell him, which is true, that I never saw them.”
During this winter, which he passed at Hamburg and Altona, Morris spent both time and money endeavoring to alleviate the distress, and often actual want, of his friends among the émigrés. In his letters to them he encouraged, while he told them plainly what he foresaw they must endure before order could be established in their country. To Madame de Nadaillac he wrote: “Je suis sensiblement affecté en méditant sur la vicissitude des affaires humaines. . . . Il me semble que votre malheureuse patrie doit subir encore plusieurs révolutions avant qu’on ne puisse compter sur un ordre quelconque.” He condoled with her on the great difficulty there was for her to receive any remittances, but said: “Dans cet embarras, j’ai trouvé un petit expédient. La personne qui vous remettra celle-ci, est chargée de vous payer en même temps cinquante louis. Si la fortune vous devient propice, vous me les rembourserez. Si non, laissez-moi la consolation de croire que j’ai pu adoucir un instant vos malheurs. Soyez aussi persuadée, que si mes moyens étaient abondants je ne me bornerais pas à un aussi faible secours.”∗ He gave to those among the more fortunate, who had a little property, advice as to investments, and arranged that the interest on any investments he made for them should be paid to him as a sure means for them to receive it.
Not without interest is the little history of the silver plate of M. le Comte d’Angivilliers, which had been placed under Morris’s care when the excitements of the 10th of August, 1792, sent the count flying out of Paris. After it became known that M. d’Angivilliers had survived the storm and was living in Brunswick, Morris wrote him the following letter of explanation:
“Il y a longtemps, M. le Comte, que je me suis promis l’honneur de vous écrire sur un objet qui vous intéresse. Vous savez comment votre argenterie avait été sauvée et déposée chez moi. Je la gardai jusqu’au temps de mon rappel, c’est à dire, environ deux années. Pendant cette époque je désirais souvent en être quitte, comme vous pouvez bien vous l’imaginer. Mes gens l’avaient vu venir, ils savaient qu’elle y restait, j’avais grande raison de n’avoir pas en eux une confiance entière. Enfin, dans un moment un peu critique, je fis chercher quelqu’un de vos gens d’affaires, et j’en trouvai un qui s’appelle, je crois, M. Armet; il s’était mis alors, comme plusieurs autres, dans une place quelconque pour se sauver la vie. Je lui proposai de le charger de ce dépôt, et il en frémit. Sur mes instances, il fit deux voyages à Versailles pour prendre les ordres de Madame d’Angivilliers, alors gardée à vue chez elle; il obtint difficilement une occasion de lui parler. On vous croyait mort. Je lui avais proposé de faire convertir en louis d’or cette argenterie et de les prendre chez elle quand je devrais partir. Elle était remplie de craintes, que d’horribles massacres n’ont que trop justifiées. Elle me fit dire d’en disposer comme je voudrais, en me priant d’employer le produit au profit du fils de Monsieur votre frère. Je proposai alors à ce M. Armet de faire faire la conversion en louis et de les prendre chez lui, mais il me répondit qu’il y allait de sa vie. Alors je me décidai à le garder encore aussi longtemps que possible. Quand je reçus les nouvelles de mon rappel, ne pouvant plus m’adresser à Madame d’Angivilliers, qui avait défendu qu’on lui parlât de rien, de peur d’être compromise, j’en fis la vente au prix courant du jour, qui était de soixante et seize livres la marc; il y en avait 622, et, par conséquent, le produit en était de 47,272 livres. Il n’y avait point alors de change avec l’étranger, toute opération de cette espèce étant défendue sous peine de mort. Je fis donc des arrangements pour que cette somme fῦt payée à Londres sur le taux de la valeur du louis d’or, en prenant d’abord cette valeur en assignats et ensuite en argent sterling. La valeur d’alors en assignats était de 60 livres la pièce, et, par conséquent, il vous en revient la valeur de 788 louis d’or en argent sterling.
“Avant de savoir que vous existiez encore, mon projet était de placer cette somme dans les fonds publics des États-Unis d’Amérique, au nom de Monsieur votre neveu, dans ce que nous appellons la dette différée, c’est à dire, une créance dont les intérêts ne commenceront à courir qu’a la fin du siècle où nous sommes, et qui, par conséquent, se vend d’autant meilleur marché qu’elle ne donne aucune rente. À présent, je n’ai qu’à me confirmer à vos ordres.”∗
The diary records the settlement of this affair on June 5th. “This morning I settle with M. Septeuil for M. d’Angivilliers’s plate. By the gazettes of Leyden it appears that the question between the Jacobins and the Convention was long in contest before the complete superiority of the former was ascertained. But a further struggle may yet take place, though perhaps under a different banner. The destruction of those who meditated a new revolution will have checked for a time the spirit of insurrection, but I know not any means to repress a people who are perishing with hunger. It was easy to foresee what has happened, and thus, as I think, little difficulty in finishing the gloomy picture for months to come. Let little politicians play over as they please their peddling parts, a strong chain of events binds them fast to their fate, and then strong, manly sense will appear, as it ought, superior to fleeting incident, avouched by truth and warranted by experience.”
On June 5th, and just before leaving Altona, Morris wrote to Washington and informed him of his intended departure for London. “I shall,” he said, “take the liberty of writing to you from that city on the state of things as they shall appear. I can say nothing better on the peace with Prussia than what a French valet de chambre wrote from Paris to his master in this country. ‘It was necessary that His Prussian Majesty should make haste to save our dignity, for in three months we should have been on our knees to beg peace from the Allies on any terms they might prescribe.’ I long since gave you an idea of the Cabinet in that country. I omitted, perhaps, the word corruption, and if so you may write it in capitals. But the half-way talents of Prince Henry may be considered as one cause of that measure, which will, I think, tend in its consequences to melt down the colossus raised by the great Frederick. I consider Holland as a ruined country, more especially if the war should continue for two years longer, and Britain will suck up that commerce which formerly flowed through so many channels to Amsterdam. It seems probable, also, that the war will ere long be felt in this quarter of Europe. But I suspend all further observations for the present, and the rather as I am returned from a tour through this Duchy and am packing up for my departure.”
[∗]Presumably in American lands.
[∗]Altona was the most important city of the Duchy of Holstein, and, immediately adjoining Hamburg, for commercial purposes they were a single town. Altona passed with Holstein into the possession of Prussia in 1867. It is a free port.
[∗]François Athanase Charette—of a noble family of Brittany—left France in 1790, and joined the émigrés at Coblentz. The 10th of August, 1792, he was in Paris, and attempted to penetrate into the Tuileries. He became a lawless character in the insurrections which arose during March, 1793, in La Vendée, and has been called the most ferocious of all the rebel chiefs. He was born, April 11, 1763, and died, March 29, 1796.
[∗]Translation.—I feel strongly affected while meditating upon the vicissitudes of human affairs. . . . It appears to me that your unfortunate country will have to go through several other revolutions before any settled order of things can be hoped for. . . .
[∗]Translation.—It is a long time, M. le Comte, since I promised myself the honor of writing concerning something of interest to you. You know how your silver plate was saved and deposited at my house. I kept it until I was recalled by my government about two years ago. During that period you may imagine how often I wished to be relieved of the trust. My servants had seen the plate brought in, they knew that it was still in the house, and I had many reasons not to trust them implicitly. Finally, at a somewhat critical time, I sent for one of your men of business, called, I think, M. Armet; he was occupying then, so as to save his life, some kind of public office. I proposed to him to take charge of the deposit, but he shuddered at the idea. Upon my entreaties he made two trips to Versailles to receive the orders of Madame d’Angivilliers, at that time kept under surveillance in her own house; he managed with great difficulty to have a talk with her. They all thought you dead, so I suggested that the plate be melted and transformed into louis d’or, which she could take care of herself when I should leave. She was filled with fears, which the horrible massacres have since but too strongly justified. She sent word to me to dispose of the plate as I thought best, and to use the money for the benefit of your brother’s son. I then proposed to M. Armet that he should have the conversion into louis d’or made, and take the money in his charge. But he answered that it might cost him his life. Then I decided to keep it as long as I could. When I received notice of my recall, unable to apply to Madame d’Angivilliers, who had forbidden the subject to be mentioned to her, for fear of being compromised, I sold the whole at the market rate of the day, which was seventy-six livres per marc, so that the total amount was 47,272 livres. There was at the time no money exchange with foreign countries, all operations of the kind being forbidden under penalty of death. So I had to make arrangements to have the sum paid in London, at the market value of the louis d’or, taking it first in assignats and then in sterling money. In assignats the value was sixty livres per louis, and you are entitled thus to the equivalent of 788 louis d’or in sterling money. Before learning that you were still alive, my plan was to invest that sum in the public funds of the United States of America, in what we call the deferred debt, so designated because it will only bear interest at the end of the present century; it sells cheaper, as it brings in no revenue. For the present I have nothing left to do but to execute your orders.