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CHAPTER XXXIV. - 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 passes the winter of 1796 in London. News of the armistice on the Rhine. Letter to Washington. Chosen honorary member of the Highland Society. Dines with the Duke of Argyll. The King’s drawing-room. Goes to the House of Commons. The Princess of Wales, Mr. Adams. Pitt speaks in the House of Commons. Fox. Sheridan. Letter to Washington. Letter to Alexander Hamilton. Mrs. Montague’s drawing-room. The Queen’s drawing-room. French victory in Italy. View of St. Paul’s. Dines with Pitt at Lord Gower’s. The House of Lords. Dines with Mrs. Vassal.
The winter of 1796 Morris passed in London, watching the progress of events on the Continent, and enjoying the society of his many friends among the émigrés. The hospitality of numbers of English friends and acquaintances was always acknowledged in his diary, which daily records an opera-party, a dinner, or a supper. Foreign affairs naturally commanded the larger share of his attention, and rumors concerning the movements of the armies, as well as facts, are to be found in the pages of the diary. “There is nothing new,” says the entry for January 8th, “but I find the people in the City are getting off their high but false opinion of the French plan of finance. The gazette (the London Times∗ ) announces an armistice between the French and Austrians on the Rhine, the account of which reached town at one o’clock, by way of Paris, to-day.”
“Some mails are arrived from Hamburg [January 11th]. The news of the armistice on the Rhine stand confirmed, but no particulars are, it would seem, contained in the letters received.”
À propos of the measures taken in France to establish their finances, Morris wrote to Washington on the 11th of January:
“These measures may perhaps be announced in America as the perfection of human wisdom, but also as inevitably productive of the best effects; in which respect they would differ from those perfections of wisdom heretofore exhibited on that theatre. Our experience in America could have proved (had proof been necessary) that the natural effect of paper money is to consume all the personal property of a country. The assignats were going on in their natural progression, when, after the revolution of the 10th of August, measures of increasing cruelty were successively adopted to force property out of the hands of its owners, or at least to render the possession of it highly dangerous. At the same time the total suspension of foreign commerce shut up all remaining commodities within the country, and the permission to export was only granted in exchange for articles wanted by the government, which gave its paper for those things which it obliged the owner to sell, and which all but its agents were prohibited from buying, by the very same means which compelled the sale. Mankind were pretty generally the dupes of these appearances, and although they were going on to increase the nominal amount of their paper to more than the fee simple of the whole country was worth, people whose habits and profession should have taught them better persisted in the absurd idea that all that mass of paper would be paid according to its specified value. When I left France, that system of terror being for a while suspended, I did not hesitate to declare that the paper would fall rapidly; and being pressed by one of its advocates to say how far and in what period, gave it as my opinion that it might in a year be at a hundred for one. Strange as this opinion then appeared, experience has more than justified it. This is a tedious preface to what I meant to say, but it seemed proper to show, by example, that the idea even of professional men may be erroneous upon this subject, which our experience has (I believe) enabled us to consider more maturely than many others. You will have seen that one of the first plans suggested in France was to issue, under a different name, new paper for the old. As this was not adopted, the absurdity need not be detailed.
Another plan, which does not appear to have been made public, was to call on individuals of property to give to the government their negotiable bonds and then to obtain supplies on the credit of those bonds, the cash to be supplied (in the first instance) at a great discount by societies of moneyed men in Paris, and these to reimburse themselves with advantage by sale of shares in such operations to wealthy foreigners. This plan was impracticable; not merely from the doubt whether foreigners would embark their funds in such speculations, but also from the want of capitalists in France to set the machine in motion. These have been destroyed pecuniarily by the assignats, and physically by the guillotine. I come now to the plan which was actually adopted. This consists, theoretically, of three parts: First, to issue only thirty million livres in assignats; secondly, to fix their relation to specie at one hundred, which would reduce the mass to three hundred millions; thirdly, to exact by force, and under the name of a loan, the contribution of six hundred millions (over and above all other taxes), of which one-half be paid in paper at one hundred, and the other half in specie. The reasoning on this fine system is conclusive. The paper moiety of the loan pays off all the assignats. The specie moiety pays the expenses of the ensuing campaign, which cannot but prove glorious to the republic; and then she opens the year 1797 with a trivial remnant of her ancient debt, much of which was prudently discharged by the guillotine, and with a prodigious landed property on which to issue new assignats and run again round the circle which she will have then just completed.
“This reminds me of a sophism which some one tried to palm on me when I was a child, that if a tortoise had the start of a fox, the fox would never overtake him because it was impossible, though the fox should go ten times faster than the tortoise, but that this must go some distance, viz., a tenth of what the other should move over, and then while he was going that tenth the other would have advanced one hundredth, and so on ad infinitum. My answer was, let the fox make a good jump. Now those who have reasoned in the manner before stated never thought of the good jump. The sum of the argument amounts to this: That France, now exhausted beyond anything of which modern times can furnish an example, should be able not only to defray the expenses of a vigorous war, and that, too, with a most prodigal administration, but also to discharge a debt of twelve millions sterling. This is, at first blush, an absurdity. As to paying the debt it is indeed very easy, for by nominally increasing the amount it will (by the force of depreciation) discharge itself. The assignats are already at about 200, and if extended to 40,000 millions they will be under 400, in which case the amount will be only one hundred millions, or four millions sterling; that is, one-third of what the system-makers calculated. But as to the expenses of the campaign, that is a different affair. Should they retire within their own limits, and openly profess the determination to make peace, provided their limits were secured to them, it is hard to say what might be the extent of those efforts which they might yet make. For in this case we must take into calculation the national pride, her characteristic enthusiasm, and the force of a government the most absolute in its nature, and whose members have everything to gain and to lose. As these circumstances go out of the usual course of financial calculation, I will not dwell upon them. My object was merely to convey some ground for the opinion I entertain that the newly adopted system of finance is radically defective, inasmuch as it appears to my mind self-evident that no force of taxation can squeeze out from the people of France a sum equal to the unavoidable expenditures. So that, if their enemies persist in the war, they must keep the press a-going as long as anything can be done with it, and then resort to the convulsive struggles of despair.
“But, I hear you say, will their enemies persist in the war? I own to you that I am not able to answer that question decisively. I will not speak of the views which I suppose this Court to have, but all the world, except the members of Parliament who are in opposition, see that Britain is gaining more by the present war than she ever did in any equal period of time during her history. Austria cannot but feel that the contest wears her down for the sake of recovering the Low Countries, which, from their remote situation, must ever be an onerous and precarious possession. Should France therefore cede her conquests, I cannot see why the Emperor should not immediately quit the game, and proceed to those exchanges and arrangements which will suit his views. It is true that his engagement with this country and with Russia might stand in the way, but, after making certain propositions to the former, he might hold himself excused by their non-acceptance, and the Empress (by the by, there is a report of her death) would rather have the aid of her Imperial ally to secure the spoils of Poland, against any attempt which might be made by Prussia and Turkey, than furnish a body of her troops to be employed on the Rhine. Will the desire of re-establishing the House of Bourbon in France have any material operation? On this subject I will write to you at my first leisure. This is enough, I fear, to tire your patience.”
“Go to the drawing-room [January 18th] where, being a birthday, is all the world. Their Majesties me font bon acceuil. The Duke of Clarence asks me if I am Minister here from America instead of Mr. Pinckney. I tell him no, and express some surprise at the question. He tells me that he has learned from a lady whom he mentions, and who is a relation of Mr. Pinckney’s, that he told her that he considered himself no longer as minister here. Dine with Lord Grenville. Hammond tells me that both Pinckney and Adams were invited, but neither of them came. Adams sent an excuse after accepting, and I find that the jealousy which I marked in his temper and the suspicious turn of his mind have already disgusted those whom he had to do business with. I am sorry for it. Go to the ball, where I see very good dancing by the members of the royal family. The Prince of Wales, in particular, dances a minuet extremely well.”
“Dine with Sir John Sinclair at the Highland Society [January 19th]. There are three other guests, and on his motion, in our presence, we are chosen honorary members. I write a few stanzas, which I desire Sir John Macpherson to turn into verse.
I leave the stanzas with them and walk quietly off.”
“Dine with the Duke of Argyll [January 21st], where I meet the Lord Chancellor, who has, it seems, desired to become acquainted with me. He is very pleasant and in good spirits. The weather this day is wonderfully fine. The Chancellor, speaking of the state of the morals in this country and consequently of crimes, says that in nine years that he attended Courts of Oyer and Terminer, always in his turn and often out of it, he never had once occasion to pass sentence for murder; also that, having inquired on this subject of the recorder, who had been fifteen years in office, he was told that the condemnations for it in this city during that period were at the rate of one annually. Sundry other things are mentioned to show the horror entertained by Englishmen at the idea of shedding human blood.”
“This morning [January 21st] go to Court. The Duke of Montrose, who is one of my guests at dinner to-night, tells me just before he goes away that he has heard the armament under Admiral Christian is put back. This, which at the first blush would seem to be an untoward event, will probably turn out quite otherwise. The weather still continues very blustering; high wind from the west and southwest. I afterwards hear that one of the transports from Admiral Christian’s squadron or, rather, fleet, which had put back (the Sutton Indiaman) has foundered near Plymouth, but the men are saved. It seems probable that the whole fleet has returned, and probably a number of them have gone down, for these heavy gales must have occasioned a dreadful sea in the chops of the channel. The wind is still high from the west and southwest, but generally southwest.”
“Dine at Wimbledon and stay all night [January 30th]. Mr. Canning, who is one of the guests, tells us that Admiral Christian’s fleet is arrived at Spithead. The Lord Chief Baron Macdonald is here also. He is clever and pleasant.”
“Go to the drawing-room [February 11th]. The King has much conversation with Count Woronzow and me. His Majesty tells me, on the authority of Admiral Pye, that in seven weeks lately spent at sea he had not nine hours at a time in which to set up his rigging; this is a most uncommon storm. See the Duchess of Gordon, who reproaches me for not visiting her. Lord Westmoreland’s conversation is a little in the style of despondency as to the success of the war.”
“Go in the evening [February 12th] to the Duchess of Gordon’s. I am told here that accounts are arrived of a separate treaty of peace between France and the Emperor.”
“Dine at Lord Gower’s [February 13th], and here Mr. Huskisson assures us that the news of yesterday is a forgery; that a French gazette, called l’Éclair, has been counterfeited in this city and sent down to the coast, where it was put into the mail and sent up to the several printers. It seems that a society had purchased on the King’s message more stock than they could pay for, and had invented this mode of inducing others to buy.”
“Go to see Count Woronzow [February 14th]. Throw out to him the idea of bringing Prussia forward by an exchange of Hanover for Cleves and Prussian Guelders, given to Holland in exchange for the Island of Flushing, given with Flanders to England in exchange for Bavaria, given to the Emperor in exchange for Alsace, to be surrendered back to the empire of France. He startles at the idea of strengthening Prussia.”
“Dine en famille with Lord Gower and Lady Sutherland [February 15th]. Go hence to the House of Commons, expecting a long debate, in which I am completely disappointed, for Mr. Fox sits down two sentences after our arrival, and the question is put. The ministers have, as might well be expected, a clear and decided majority. In the debate Mr. Grey was very feeble, running over old and useless ground, but expressed the idea that Great Britain should solicit peace from France, even if the former were in a state of humiliating distress. Mr. Pitt had greatly the vantage-ground, and in a discreet speech of some length said nothing, not being in fact called on to say anything. Mr. Fox endeavored to cover Mr. Grey’s blunder by declaring that he would risk and suffer everything to preserve the national honor.”
“Go to Her Majesty’s drawing-room [February 17th], and see for the first time the Princess of Wales. She has the eye of sense and spirit. In the evening visit at Madame Ciricello’s, where I see the Duchess of Tremouille and her friend Miss Faniani, who has very impressive eyes. The Duc de Castries tells me that the King of France has transmitted assurances fit and proper to calm the apprehensions which his proclamation had raised. Mr. Pinckney, whom I see, shows a paper containing the answer of the President of the United States to the address of the French minister on presenting him a flag. This answer is not what I like, for it commits the President to an approbation of the new French Constitution. It will work rather ill here.”
“Dine at Mr. Pinckney’s [February 22d]. It is Washington’s birthday. He is sixty-four years of age. Doctor Romaine tells me that he is determined to resign his office, and attributes it to his conviction that he would not be unanimously re-elected. He says, further, that the kind reception given by him to Randolph, for many days previous to the communication of M. Fauchet’s letter, and after it was in his possession, has injured him in the public opinion; that Randolph says his heart is black as that of Caligula, and in so saying makes some disciples. I fear that all is not well in our country. Mr. Adams, who was with me this morning, in his wrath and indignation at the conduct of the British Government, seemed absolutely mad. He breathed nothing but war, and was content to run into it at the hazard of our finances and even of our Constitution. Such sentiments arise in him only for the moment and would not certainly influence his conduct; but such language, if held to those who should repeat it, must do mischief here. I tell him, when he asserts that the administration of this country means ill to us, that I think they only mean good to themselves, excepting always two or three men who are personally vexed at our prosperity.”
“Go after dinner, at four [February 26th], to Lord Gower’s, but he not being at home I step up to ask Lady Sutherland how she does. Lord Carlisle is there, and her ladyship tells me that her lord is down at the House already; advises my going thither, and returning if I don’t find him. I go, and meeting him on the way he puts me in. I stay till five before the debate begins, and till three when the question has been taken and is decided in favor of the accused minister. Mr. Pitt is certainly the best speaker in the House of Commons. He explains his conduct in a manner highly honorable to himself, but, on the other hand, Fox and Sheridan, who follow him, make many sharp and shrewd observations.”
“Mr. Hammond tells me [March 2d] that the ratification of the treaty had not reached America, but only a copy of it. He attributes this to a neglect of Mr. Deas, and seems to think that the Americans here in office are not friendly. He also tells me that five thousand horses were to be purchased in America for the cavalry sent out from hence. This is enormous. Mr. Pinckney comes to see me; he seems desirous of information, without asking it. I ask him if he has seen Franklin, and what accounts he brings. He tells me that Franklin seems to know nothing about public affairs in France. I ask him what Monroe says. He tells me that Monroe, he believes, is very little acquainted with what is passing. I say that I have reason to believe he is not now well pleased or well treated. He says that the government have been cool towards him ever since Mr. Jay’s treaty; moreover, that the French are now taking our vessels in the West Indies bound to British ports. On my mentioning my surprise at the number of horses bought up for the West Indies, he tells me that the British are purchasing in America all kinds of live stock they can lay hold of, of every kind. I dine at home and go in the evening to the opera. There is a very fine ballet.”
Private advices from Paris of an alarming nature having come to Morris, he hastened to communicate them to Washington on March 4th, as follows:
“A fleet is to conduct to you the new French Minister, who will be directed to exact in the space of fifteen days a categorical answer to certain questions. What these are I can only conjecture, but suppose that you will, in effect, be called on to take part decidedly with France. Mr. Monroe will no doubt endeavor to convince the rulers of that country that such conduct will force us into the war against them; but it is far from impossible that the usual violence of their counsels will prevail.
“The last letter which I had the honor to write was of the 11th January. On the subjects then mentioned I will only say that the French finances are quite as bad as I supposed they would be, that another campaign seems now unavoidable, and that it is so much the interest of some among the Allied Powers to restore royal authority in France that I think it will now form a real object. If you ask my opinion of the chances, I will tell you that, properly attempted, it must, humanly speaking, be effected.”
To Alexander Hamilton, for obvious reasons, Morris wrote more fully than to Washington, under the same date. He says:
“I have just written to the President to communicate some intelligence just received from Paris. This letter is dated in Paris the 15th of last month. You may be sure, by my communicating this to you, that I have confidence in the sources from which it is derived. Now, my dear friend, I have barely stated to the President the intention as to the new minister. His late declaration as to the existing French Government has prevented me from saying a word to him on a subject where he has, I think, committed himself. To you I will declare my conviction that this government cannot stand, whether the monarchy be restored or not. The people in general are averse to it. The adherents to the royal cause grow daily more numerous. If I knew decidedly the steps to be taken in aid of them, I could tell you almost with certainty whether they would be successful, for the state of that country now presents sufficient data on which to reason soundly. I need not say to you that if the French rulers persist in the measures which are above mentioned America will probably be obliged to take part in the war. On a former occasion, when they talked somewhat highly, I told them that they could certainly force us into the contest, but as certainly it would be against them, let the predilection in their favor be ever so great, because it would be madness in us to risk our commerce against the navy of the world; that to join them could do them no good, and must do us much evil. That time, they believed me. What representations Monroe may make I cannot pretend to divine, and much less the effect of them. Supposing, however, that you should be driven to make this election, you will naturally weigh not only the naval force, but also the financial resources, of the opposed powers. The noisy folks with you will undoubtedly be loud on our obligations to France, and on the long list of our grievances from England. As to the former, I think we should always seek to perform acts of kindness towards those who, at the bidding of their Prince, stepped forward to fight our battles. Nor would I ever permit a frigid reasoning on political motives to damp those effusions of sentiment which are as laudable in a nation as they are desirable in a private citizen. But would it be kind to support that power which tyrannizes over France and reduces her inhabitants to untold misery? Would it be grateful to mix with, much less to league with, those whose hands are yet red with the blood of him who was our real protector? Would it be decent? As to the conduct of Britain towards us, although I see as clearly as others the ground which we have to complain, and can readily account for the resentments which have been excited, yet I give due weight to the causes by which that conduct was instigated, and if in some cases I find it unjustifiable, I cannot consider it as in all cases inexcusable. Provided, therefore, that our honor be saved, I am so far from thinking that the injuries we have endured should become the source of inextinguishable hatred and perpetual war that I would rather seek in future amity and good offices the fair motive for consigning them to oblivion. I have not, my dear Hamilton, any such view of our political machinery as to judge what may be the effect of lofty menace. I apprehend that some feeble counsels will be given. Whether they will be received and pursued you best know, and will doubtless act accordingly. What I have to ask is that you would put yourself in the way of being consulted; I mean locally, for should you be at a distance the time may be too short for communication.
“It is possible, after all, that the demand may turn on a single point, viz., that we shall no longer pretend to claim an exemption from seizure for those goods of an enemy which may be found in our ships. If so, the case is plain and easy. We slide back to the law of nations, which it is our interest to preserve unim-peached. Probably we shall be called on for our guarantee of Santo Domingo; and here many questions will arise, in the course of which we shall see, perhaps, some wise and virtuous slave-masters contending for the propriety of general emancipation, with all its consequent train of crimes. It appears certain to me that the French Directory would not risk high language to us if they had not received previous assurances that the people would force our Government to sacrifice the national interest. These assurances were, I presume, given, and the present plan proposed, while victory seemed yet bound to the French standards, and while you received official assurances of the prosperous state of their internal affairs. The scene is now not only changed but almost reversed, and I presume the language, if not the conduct, of certain persons will experience a similar change.”
“To-day [March 10th] Lord Gower takes an early dinner with me, and we go to the House of Commons. Mr. Grey is speaking, when we arrive, in support of his motion to go into a committee of the whole House on the state of the nation. The general ground of his argument is that thirty-five millions have already been expended under authority of Parliament in prosecution of the war, but that there remain thirty-one millions unauthorized; that in this unprecedented waste of money the nation has gained nothing, and that if a peace were immediately concluded the annual taxes must be raised to the amount of twenty-one millions for a peace establishment. Mr. Jenkinson and Mr. Steele reply (with some others). Jenkinson is the chief, who compares the expense of this war with that of the last, contends that much more has been done for the money spent, and that they have had to contend with a nation who has spent in the contest not merely her revenue but her capital; that, notwithstanding that nation’s unprecedented exertions, her marine is ruined. Mr. Grey makes a very able reply, but on division a great majority join in rejecting his motion. Neither Pitt nor Fox took part in this debate—each reserving himself to reply to the other. I think the former is outgeneralled, for Grey’s speech will make impression out of doors.”
“I go to Court [March 17th], which is very brilliant—more so than on the birthday. As I am about to come away Lord Grenville comes in, with whom I have some conversation. I think there will be no expedition against the coast of France this season. They cannot find force for the purpose here, and they are, I believe, cured of small attempts. I dine at home, and go in the evening to Lady Louisa Macdonald’s rout. Am presented to the noted Mrs. Montague, and by accident to the Archbishop of York. Lady Sutherland presents me to Lady Carlisle, her sister-in-law, as is, indeed, Lady Macdonald.”
“Go this evening [April 9th] to a conversazione at Mrs. Montague’s.∗ It is one of the finest houses in London; and, indeed, there is a room in which we sat that, if less gilt, would be very fine. There is much good company here. The old lady is indisposed, but still indefatigable in doing the honors of her company. The ancient Miss Morris is here, who continues to claim kindred.”
“This morning [April 14th] I go to the Queen’s drawing-room. They are in high spirits. Count Staremberg, who is overjoyed at the answer of the French Directory, speaks of it to the Queen as being a piece of very good news. She prudently answers in German, on which I tell her that I think she was right in speaking that language upon that occasion. ‘I believe it was prudent.’ ‘Yes, madam, much more so than the speech to which you replied.’ The King, however, is very open to Count Woronzow, and to me, who arrive while they are in the discussion. He afterwards talks on the subject of finance with much good sense, but in English, so that Woronzow does not get his share of it.”
“Accounts are received [April 27th] of an important victory obtained by the French in Italy. After sitting a while with Lady Sutherland, who is to go to Court this day, I walk with Lord Gower to the Exhibition Room, and thence from the terrace of Somerset House take a view of London and Westminster. Few things of the kind are so fine. The Blackfriars and Westminster Bridges, St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, the Tower, and shipping whose masts form a grove in that quarter, are distinct and striking features in the view. We go from thence to St. Paul’s to see the monuments of Howard and Dr. Johnson. We hear, also, part of the evening service. The sound of the organ in the dome is prodigiously solemn. Walk home, where I do not arrive till half-past four, and then fatigued. Dress, take a short ride in the park, and go to Mr. Church’s to dinner, where I arrive the first of his guests. The Duke de Laval dines here. Church says the expenditures for the quarter ending the first of April are already fifteen millions. If this be so, and (as he insists) a like expenditure is to continue, this country can by no possibility support the war.”
“I go to Wimbledon to dine with Lord Gower [April 30th], and meet Mr. Dundas. Mr. Pitt is of the party, which is as lively as can be expected with Ministers of State. A list of the Austrian and French armies gives to the former a great superiority of force. It is official, being from the returns of the Austrians, and the last information they have been able to obtain respecting the force of their enemy. I do not, however, believe in it. Mr. Pitt thinks that in the late affairs between the French and the Allies in Italy, the former boast of victories not obtained, and which will prove different, perhaps opposite, to the French accounts. I think he flatters himself too much, though I have no doubt that the Executive Directory have exaggerated.”
“The Duke of Montrose calls on me [May 2d], and sits a little while. At four I take some cold meat with him, and we go down together to the House of Lords, where the Marquis of Lansdowne makes a strange speech, and still stranger motion. Lord Grenville replies very strongly and very well. Lord Lauderdale cracks away in support of the Marquis, at a great rate. Lord Kinnaird stammers out a lame speech, which has luckily the merit of being short. Lord Moira makes a few observations very handsomely in reply to Lord Auckland, who had, as it were, read a puffing note on the state of the country. The Lord Chancellor intended a neat speech, but, being much pestered by the cry of ‘Hear! hear!’ from Lord Lauderdale, he lost the thread of his discourse. However, he said enough to vex both him and Lord Lansdowne. Lord Lauderdale in consequence replied with much of heat and flash, charging the other with marching by crooked paths to the attainment of power. The Chancellor explained, being much hurt, or, rather, he faintly stated why he would not enter into explanation as to his conduct, which was sufficiently before the public eye for the judgment of mankind, and which was, at any rate, entitled to self-approbation. Lord Lansdowne then concluded by a speech in support of his motion, after which the House divided, and the Duke brought me home.”
“The Duc de Laval comes [May 5th], and I take him to M. de Spinola’s, and examine the map of the Maritime Alps territory of Genoa containing the scene of the late action between the French and Austrians. By the accounts, it appears that the latter had suffered severely from having extended their line too much and pushed their left wing too far forward. Dine at home, and then go down to the House of Commons. Lord Gower tells me there will be no debate this day, the business being postponed till to-morrow. Set him down, and then go to Mr. Pinckney’s to get off my engagement for to-morrow’s dinner. Call on Mrs. Marshal, take a ride in the park, and then go to Lord Gower’s, where I pass the early part of the evening with him, the Chief Baron Macdonald, and their ladies.”
“Lord Gower calls this morning [May 6th]. Dine early, call for him, and we go down together to the House of Commons. Mr. Grey makes a violent speech, attacking the Minister as an impeachable offence for that he had left unpaid near two years sums granted for particular purposes, and applied them to other purposes. Mr. Pitt confesses the fact, and triumphantly justifies. His answer is very able, and quite convincing. Mr. Fox replies in a speech full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The Opposition have nevertheless thirty-eight votes. Colonel Bastard and I walk a great part of the way home together. He (as we are speaking of America) says we have bullied them, to which I reply that we had, on the contrary, borne more from them than any one nation ought ever to bear from another, and having mentioned the unjustifiable capture, come next to the incitation of the Indians against us. He, on the part of Simcoe (who is, I find, his intimate friend), denies his concern in it, but admits his desire to keep the posts lately added de novo as the means of extending the British Empire in that quarter. He says that their hopes are now at an end, for that Vermont has connected itself with the United States, and, moreover, that they have used Kentucky very ill, whose agents were in this country, and who was inclined to unite with them. I must (if occasion favors) again turn the conversation with him to this same topic.
“Call on Sir John Sinclair [May 9th], and see a model of a threshing-machine. See, also, Mr. Arthur Young.∗ Mr. R. Penn and Major Barclay dine with me. The latter, as I am taking him home, lets out some bile respecting America, and in particular says that the powers of Europe must certainly prevent it from becoming a great power. Above all, we must not be permitted to have a fleet. I go to Mrs. Montague’s, where I pass the evening.”
“After dinner [May 10th] I go to the House of Commons, and there I hear the close of Fox’s speech, together with the able refutation of it by Pitt. He has the advantage in argument greatly, thanks to the French Directory, and also to ill-judged measures and unfounded principles of his opponents.”
“This morning [May 17th] I walk out to Kensington, and call on Madame de Graave, who tells me of an intended marriage between Madame de Flahaut and M. de Souza; also of a coldness between him and her respecting the Duke of Orleans. I presume that he has been un peu mystérieux, and she un peu légère à cet égard. He is a little compromised, it seems, in Walkier’s bankruptcy. Dine at Lord Breadalbane’s, where is a Mr. McLeod, a man of much interesting anecdote, which rumbles on in a Scotch accent badly concealed. He tries to talk English, and thinks he succeeds. Puisignieu described to me, with a kind of horror, the uncouth manners of two young men fresh from France, their irreverence, etc. Mr. Clavering, who dined at Lord Breadalbane’s, mentioned circumstances in the marriage of the Prince of Wales which show that a story I heard of their extreme disunion is not unfounded.”
“Dine [May 21st] with Mrs. Vassal, and pass the evening there. Her son-in-law, Sir Godfrey something Webster,∗ is here, whose lady is on her route from Italy, accompanied by Lord Holland. Monsieur le mari seems quite unsuspicious and unconcerned. A very large party at cards.”
“I dine with Sir John Sinclair [May 23d]. He has here a Mr. Irvin, whom I remember of a long time ago. It was he who formerly contended that the people of this island should be forced by starvation to provide a sufficiency of bread from their own soil. He has still the same feeling with regard to America. A Mr. Strickland, who has just come from that country, holds different ideas.”
[∗]The Times, with four of the great English journals, appeared about the year 1771, and journalism became a responsible agent in the affairs of the world.
[∗]Elizabeth Montague for many years drew about her, in her beautiful house in Portman Square, London, all the celebrated men of her time. Burke, Johnson, Goldsmith, and Sir Joshua Reynolds were numbered among her guests. She is said to have been the founder of the literary society called the “Blue Stocking Club.” Her principal literary work is an essay on the genius and writings of Shakespeare. She died in 1800.
[∗]The author of Travels through France in 1789.
[∗]Lady Webster, afterward divorced from Sir Godfrey, became the wife of Lord Holland, and was the friend of Sydney Smith, of Macaulay, and of a dozen others of the distinguished men of the early part of this century, and for many years the presiding genius of Holland House.